As I read (and re-read) through the outlines, scenes, and various narrative that I’d been working on, I started to see something I didn’t like. My protagonist was being dragged along by the plot–and I had been very cognizant of this I thought! My story needed to be character-driven, not plot driven, and try as I may I was not doing this successfully. I sat down, and after a bit of dread, apprehension, and uneasiness–I decided I needed to make my character’s want/need and misbelief a little more ironclad.
To the rescue comes Lisa Cron‘s book Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel. Let me tell you, I hated this book, and not because why you might think. This book was frustrating because it forced me to look at everything with a fine tooth comb, the what if, the who, the cause and effect, plot and even subplots. I thought I had done this already! All of this information can and will tie into your story’s electric third rail (which will supply your story with the electricity needed to propel it forward, like a train!), which is directly related to “how the protagonist is making sense of what’s happening, how she struggles with, evaluates, and weighs what matters most to her, and then makes hard decisions, moving the action forward.”
Lisa’s book asks tough but important questions, here’s a few that stuck with me:
- Why does this story stick with me?
- Why do I care about writing it?
- What is the point of my story?
- What do I want my readers to go away thinking about?
- Who is your protagonist before the story even starts?
- What does your protagonist want before the story even starts?
- Can you envision the moment in your protagonist’s life when their misbelief took root?
The book is a goldmine for questions like these. I highly recommend following along with the book using the PDF resource: Story Genius Novel Writing Method Worksheet. Whether you’re stuck, just starting out, or want to make that narrative indestructible, consider using this book as a resource, I highly recommend it.