Wired for Story: Techniques To Write What The Human Brain Craves in Stories, with literary agent and instructor, Toni Lopopolo
LET’S FACE IT. We’re all busy people, no matter what we do, we feel we should be doing something else. So, how will your novel, narrative non-fiction or memoir induce your reader to fall, engrossed, into your story, and forget what’s going on around them?
Neuroscience writer, Jonah Lehrer says: nothing focuses the mind like surprise. So when we pick up a book, what our brains crave, what humans want/need is this: something out of the ordinary is about to take place.
This course will show you examples of how all this happens in recent novels, non-so-recent novels, plus how this year’s award-winning films and TV series succeeded in doing exactly that, and why you, the writer, must cause this to happen in the stories you want readers to buy and get lost in.
We’ll learn how the human brain became wired for story, and that through human brain development, craves how stories must enfold to keep readers interested, to keep them binge-reading, turning the page because they cannot not. We will discuss every element needed to make this happen, read aloud from writing you bring to find out if your story can pull the reader to turn that page, learn how your protagonist’s quest, desire, unconscious desires must make us care.
We’ll go over essential techniques for writing engrossing fiction, and how these techniques crossover to nonfiction, including memoir.
Topics to be discussed:
- How to avoid endless drafts that won’t work
- How your first draft will read like a fourth or fifth
- The brain’s hardwired with the desire to know what happens next
- Analyze what the human brain expects and needs in a story
- Learn why the law of cause & effect becomes your most important tool
- Creating & keeping a sense of urgency; the importance of narrative drive
- What triggers the dopamine rush in a reader (this may be giving too much away)
- The CEN profile for each main character
- Why conflict is the Agent of Change
- Why subtext in dialog is most necessary
The Ability to Communicate
Writing is the art of communication. You need to be able to clearly express your ideas, thoughts, and emotions when speaking or writing. As an author, one of your goals should be to connect with your readers in a voice they can understand and relate to. This requires the ability to listen to and communicate with others, ask the right questions, and clearly express your ideas in your own unique voice.
The Power of Observation
On some level, all authors possess the power of observation. An author is equal parts psychologist, therapist, researcher, observer, and intuitive. You need to be able to figure out what makes people tick. Why do they think, feel, and act the way they do? When creating a character, you have to get inside their head and truly understand why they do what they do.
To hone this skill, become an active observer of the life that is all around you. Dig into people’s inner thoughts and emotional quirks. Listen and watch. Develop your observation and research skills to document the world around you, or even create your own new world!
Reasoning and Problem Solving
As a writer, you’ll need to think of new ideas or come up with creative and original ways to solve problems. You’ll need to develop the ability to analyze your ideas and use logic to understand your characters’ strengths and weaknesses. You will also need to understand new material and information quickly and sometimes combine several pieces of information to draw your conclusions.
To help with this, develop your reasoning abilities to identify and solve problems. Make sure you can identify problems in your characters thoughts, storylines, research, and writing. Review your information, then develop and apply solutions.
Knowledge of Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation
It may seem obvious, but using correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation are important writing skills to develop for effective communication. Your readers will form an opinion of your work based on what they see, not only based on content but also presentation. Of course there are always exceptions; for example, if you are writing dialog or developing a character with a unique speech pattern, you may want to take advantage of “grammatical liberties”.
Don’t be afraid to write from your heart. Be willing to be rejected. Be willing to be terrible at first. Writing takes courage. You need to be able to go deep into your character’s psyche to get to the truth. Embrace the uncertainty fearlessly, and be true and honest in your writing. Be daring!
Practice good writing skills every time you pick up your pen or sit in front of the keyboard. Before long, you’ll master these writing skills and they will become embodied in every piece of work you produce. New York Times Best Seller list, here you come!
Special guests writing coach Toni Lopopolo and editor/publicist Flo Selfman join host Gerald Everett Jones and his co-hosts Cheyenne Cockrell and Thomas Page discuss:
- How can a writer find her voice?
- How do approaches differ for fiction and nonfiction?
- How can an author engage readers?
- What’s the biggest mistake authors make?
- Is a writers’ group a substitute for a coach?
- And more!
And, as ever, there’s lots of advice on how to get published, including the support resources at our website getpublishedradio.com.
This episode aired on Hella Radio, KNNN-FM 87.7 Redding, Calif.
‘The sinister doctor pointed a long emasculated finger …’
(Lionel Fanthorpe as Trebor Thorpe, ‘Voodoo Hell Drums’, Supernatural Stories 39, 1961)
‘I am among the last to retire, brushing my teeth with one drooping eyelid.’
(Tim Dowling, The Guardian, 4 March 2017)
These are published authors.
‘Her nose held the memory of Spanish conquistadors. Her skin was the color of leaves just starting to turn. And beneath her dark eyes were full lips that looked as if they’d never smiled.’
(Weston Ochse, Grunt Life, 2014)
Dept of Inspiration.:
‘An idea suddenly gurgled up in her mind.’
(Kate White, Hush, 2010)
Was It Perhaps Circular?
‘Madame Rosa’s voice dropped to a whisper. “I took Victor’s hand to read his palm. It was the life-line, Doctor … I could see no end to it. They must be immortal, those Brains!”‘
(Sidney J. Bounds, The Robot Brains, 1958)