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Wired for Story

The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence

By Lisa Cron
13-minute read
Audio available
Wired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron

Wired for Story (2012) takes findings from modern brain science to explain why exactly certain stories suck us in, while others leave us bored and disengaged. By using some fundamental techniques drawn from understanding what makes us tick, writers can craft more compelling stories.

  • Anyone interested in writing
  • Anyone interested in brain science
  • Anyone interested in storytelling

Lisa Cron is a writer, literary consultant and an instructor in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program. She has previously worked as a publisher at W. W. Norton, a literary agent at Angela Rinaldi Literary Agency and as a story consultant for Warner Bros.

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Wired for Story

The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence

By Lisa Cron
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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Wired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron
Synopsis

Wired for Story (2012) takes findings from modern brain science to explain why exactly certain stories suck us in, while others leave us bored and disengaged. By using some fundamental techniques drawn from understanding what makes us tick, writers can craft more compelling stories.

Key idea 1 of 8

Humanity’s love for stories evolved out of our need to survive.

Our TV stations are programmed full of dramas and soap operas and our bestselling book lists overflow with fiction. What is it about stories that we love so much?

Stories appeal to us so much because they are hardwired into our brains. They actually allow us to picture the future and prepare for it.

When a good story captivates us, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released in the brain, which causes our concentration and interest to heighten.

We can actually thank our evolution for this process. Exchanging stories was the most effective way for our ancestors to transfer lifesaving information to one another, so we learned to pay attention to them.

Picture a Stone Age man sitting in his the cave one night, listening to his friend’s story about how his daughter ate some red berries and nearly died. From that story, our ancestor would have learned crucial information about how to keep his own children out of danger.

Modern neuroscience can help us strip this evolutionary practice down further for a deeper understanding. We’ve now discovered that when we listen to a story, our brains process the information just like they process real life. This tells us that stories developed as a simulated learning experience, giving us a safe way of understanding how to deal with danger, without having to actually face it.

For example, if your ancient self wanted to know why you shouldn’t approach a saber-tooth tiger, it was a better idea to listen to a friend's story, rather than go and find out what might happen for yourself. Both methods would teach the lesson, but the story is unlikely to result in your death.

In our modern world, our chances of facing a saber-tooth tiger are pretty low. Yet, the power of stories to engage and educate us endures.

The wonderful thing is, writers can take advantage of this. But a story alone is not enough. Engaging stories need to contain particular characteristics, which we will discover in the following blinks.

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