Wired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence
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Imagine knowing what the brain craves from every tale it encounters, what fuels the success of any great story, and what keeps readers transfixed. Wired for Story reveals these cognitive secrets--and it's a game-changer for anyone who has ever set pen to paper.
The vast majority of writing advice focuses on "writing well" as if it were the same as telling a great story. This is exactly where many aspiring writers fail--they strive for beautiful metaphors, authentic dialogue, and interesting characters, losing sight of the one thing that every engaging story must do: ignite the brain's hardwired desire to learn what happens next. When writers tap into the evolutionary purpose of story and electrify our curiosity, it triggers a delicious dopamine rush that tells us to pay attention. Without it, even the most perfect prose won't hold anyone's interest.
Backed by recent breakthroughs in neuroscience as well as examples from novels, screenplays, and short stories, Wired for Story offers a revolutionary look at story as the brain experiences it. Each chapter zeroes in on an aspect of the brain, its corresponding revelation about story, and the way to apply it to your storytelling right now.
which mandates that certain external events must happen at certain specific points in a story. The result is that writers craft plots in which these events occur rather than crafting protagonists whose internal progress depends on said events occurring. Such stories are written from the outside in: the writers throw dramatic obstacles in their protagonist’s path because the timeline tells them to rather than because they’re part of an organic, escalating scenario that forces the protagonist to
specific and the general; why the specific often turns up missing; where writers often inadvertently drop the ball; and why giving too many details is just as bad as not giving enough. Finally, we’ll tackle the myth that sensory details inherently bring a story to life. The General Versus the Specific In October 2006, nearly six thousand people worldwide perished in hurricane-induced floods. Quick, what do you feel after reading that sentence? My guess is, you feel a little confused
find something else to read, pronto. I’ve often thrown up my hands in frustration when reading a well-intentioned manuscript, wishing it came with an interpreter. I could feel the author’s burning intent; I knew she was trying to tell me something important. Trouble was, I had no idea what. Think of how exasperating it is in the real world when someone begins a long rambling story: Did I tell you about Fred? He was supposed to come over last night, but it was raining, and like a dolt I forgot
basement and flips the switch to suck all the remaining oxygen out of the room. But if we’ve watched Donna walk through a wall or two before, preferably when nothing big hung in the balance, then we’re right there with her, breathing a sigh of relief as Wendy turns the lock, knowing that Donna has outsmarted her again. 2. If we haven’t actually seen Donna walk through walls, we must have been given enough “tells” along the way that once she does, it’s not only believable, but also satisfying. No
You know who’s lied to the hero and who’s told the truth. You know which facts are true and which are not. Your characters, on the other hand, often have no idea of what’s actually going on, which means that they’ll do things that presuppose an entirely different world than the one they’re living in. As writers, this is something we sometimes lose sight of. Because we know what the truth is, and what the future will be, we forget that our characters don’t. And no wonder—considering that at any