I love STORY GENIUS by Lisa Cron. I recommend it for everyone who is a writer or wants to be a writer.
But I especially recommend Story Genius for those authors who want to be traditionally published, receive requests for full manuscripts from agents and/or publishers, but keep getting pass letters.
This book will help you gain that final layer so necessary for great books. I also give an extra-big recommend for people who are finally sitting down to write that book. You know, that book you HAVE to write? Cron will help you find the heart of your story.
It’s not a final layer that’s missing when a book is missing that spark, but the internal layer. The beginning layer. The seed and drive of the story.
When we read, we read to experience. And we can only share that experience by digging so deeply into character, that the character drives the story.
At the end of it all, a good story will always match up with some sort of plot structure—the heroes journey, 7-Point Plot, Save the Cat beat sheet, and with a million others.
But without that core, that heart, a novel could still be lacking. We need to see characters facing the hardest things that they’re going to face. We need to see the lies that they tell themselves. We need to experience the lies and walls that they’ve used to protect themselves being slowly pulled away.
Our character, and our way of giving that character a voice, is the thing that’s going to set our story apart. There are VERY few, if any, truly original ideas–only new ways of exploring those ideas.
We need to BE SPECIFIC. Not just say – what if a boy who lived in the cupboard under the stairs found out he was a wizard, but something much more specific. What if a boy, whose parents he always missed, learned that he was part of a world he hadn’t even imagined, and that his parents were heroes in that world, and that he was expected to be a hero as well.
No matter how many points of view we have, there is often only one protagonist. One characters growth arc is dominant to all the others.
What internal fear will the character be forced to confront? What long-held desire will give the character no choice but to finally go after it? What are things that the character wants? Keep in mind that most of these things are going to be traced back to an event that happened before your novel begins
P.S. Allie here to add my BONUS takeaway from Story Genius (which I also love, because brain science!).
The Origin Scene. Cron encourages you to actually write the scene when your character’s lie takes root and alters their future.
What happened the exact moment the character made up their mind to believe the lie that your plot is about to challenge? This exercise has changed my world. If you want to know how to do the exercise I’d recommend picking up her book at your fave retailer!