Wired for Story | Lisa Cron

Summary of: Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence
By: Lisa Cron


In ‘Wired for Story’, Lisa Cron takes us on a fascinating journey into the depths of our brains and reveals the compelling power of stories. This summary will explore how our brains are hardwired for stories, how stories allow us to simulate experiences and better prepare for the future, and how they can captivate our attention with their potential to engage and educate. We’ll delve into the essential elements of engaging stories, how emotions play a crucial role, and the importance of clear goals for a protagonist. In addition, we’ll also examine the significance of imagery, patterns, and setups in storytelling.

The Evolutionary Power of Stories

Stories have always been an essential aspect of human life. They enable us to simulate the future and develop methods to prepare for it. When we listen to compelling stories, our brains release dopamine, which stimulates our focus and enthusiasm. Our love for stories is intertwined in our evolution, with storytelling being the most effective way of transmitting crucial information. Our predecessors relied on storytelling to convey lifesaving tips, making storytelling an evolutionary process. Moreover, modern neurology reveals that our minds process stories as if they were real-life events, allowing us to learn and prepare for danger safely. Although we no longer face dangerous predators like saber-tooth tigers in our modern world, the power of storytelling to educate and engage us remains relevant. Engaging stories have to contain particular characteristics, making them more intriguing and captivating for listeners.

The Three Elements of an Engaging Story

A good story needs a clear focus consisting of three essential elements: the protagonist’s issue, theme, and plot. The protagonist’s issue is their main desire, while the theme communicates the story’s message about humanity. The plot follows the protagonist’s quest to achieve their goal. All information in the narrative should relate to these factors, eliminating any superfluous data. The importance of focus lies in how our brains process information. Even though our senses receive 11 million pieces of information per second, we can only process five to seven in total. Precise focus aids our brains in selecting relevant and significant information. Without this focus, we fail to filter out unimportant data, and our interest in the story diminishes. Therefore, stories such as Hamlet become dull collections of random facts about medieval Denmark without a clear focus.

Emotions and Decision Making

Our emotions play a critical role in rational decision-making, and writers must engage their audience’s emotional side to create impactful stories. Neurological science has shown that our emotions are essential for decision-making, and we cannot rely solely on rational thought. Antonio Damasio’s research showed that a man without emotions was unable to make even minor decisions. When writing stories, authors can connect with readers by inviting them to experience the protagonist’s emotions. This can be achieved by painting a picture of emotional reactions, revealing unknown information, or describing the protagonist’s thoughts through a narrator. Understanding the role of emotions in decision-making and storytelling can help us create compelling stories that resonate with readers.

The Importance of Goals in Writing

A protagonist with a clear goal is crucial to captivating an audience. Our brain’s mirror neurons activate when we know what the main character is doing. Internal goals are the most important as they allow the audience to relate to the character, while external goals add intrigue to the plot without dominating it.

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