Book Review: Wired for Story

Wired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron arrived in my collection by way of Christmas.  I did not break my resolution not to buy more writing books before I finish the ones I have in order to get it (besides, this was before New Years).

It looked right up my alley, putting a science spin on the whole writing game.  And neuroscience?  All the cool kids like neuroscience these days.  I can say without reservation that Wired for Story has a great hook.

Sadly, the neuroscience didn't go much farther than that.  Not to say it isn't a worthwhile book (it is, and we'll get to that shortly), only that I was a little disappointed how shallow the brain science element was.  Other people might disagree - I do have a degree, job, and great interest in biology.  But this is my review, so here's my opinion - it read like a layperson read a couple pop neurology books (do those exist?) and then applied it to their own pet writing theories.  The information might be based on great science and great knowledge, but the author only shared the generalities that form the tip of the neuroscience iceberg.  Not being an actual book on science, maybe this is OK.  But I was sad not to see more of what I hoped would make the book special.

Still, there are many things this book does absolutely right.  To start, it covers the basics well.  And although it didn't engender bolt-of-lightning revelations in me, it was non-traditional enough that it probably will do so for other writers.  Different people respond to comparisons and deconstructions in different ways, and though the ones in Wired for Story didn't rock my world, they are totally valid and come from a fresh perspective.

The most valuable parts of this book, and what makes it totally worth my time, were the parts regarding specifics, vague writing, and the balance between reveal and mystery.  I have long had a struggle with how much to give away, and have been calibrating my stories based on feedback from the Wordslingers.  I can't say that this book cured me, but it did give me the first detailed guidance I've seen.  Trial and error is great, but I'm sure my writing group will be glad that I'm not shooting in the pitch black anymore.

None of the other books I've read have covered it as well.  In fact, most other guides say things like "a story can't be suspenseful if the reader doesn't understand the situation."  This is true, as far as it goes.  Wired for Story spent a chapter expanding on that idea and relating it back to suspense, effective reveals, and character development.  Hooray, I say!

In conclusion, Wired for Story is a solid writing book all around, and a worthy read.  Just don't expect deep insights into the human psyche!

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