One thing that can be easily said about writing—there’s no shortage of resources to help writers hone their craft.
In general, that’s a good thing. But this abundance also adds to confusion as writers try out different rules and formulae, determining in one way or another that there are “have-tos” involved in this enterprise. There’s your archetypal approach—hero, mentor, guardian, shapeshifter. There’s your thirty days to Name Your Goal—mystery, memoir, bestseller. Thirty chapters in thirty days. Thirty books in thirty days. (No, I’m not making that up. It’s real “craft” title.)
Writing by the numbers has a way of making your writing stale, of leaching the excitement of discovery from the process. Yet there are tips and tricks that can help to frame your thinking about a project.
One of the best of these is Lisa Cron’s concept of building stories around a character’s misbelief. I met Lisa when we were both on faculty at a writer’s conference a few years ago. She takes a smart psychological approach to story. Lately, I’ve recommended to several editorial clients her Story Genius, in which she details ways to structure stories around character misbeliefs.
Internalized misbeliefs are helpful in framing stories because they’re universal. We all acquire them as we mature, and we often cling to them without realizing the havoc they wreak in our lives. Misbeliefs also have origin stories. From a writer’s perspective, these origin stories help decide which aspects of backstory are vital to the narrative. In the misbelief, there’s also inherent tension, struggle, and the potential to overcome.
But don’t take my word for it. Check out Lisa’s book and read for yourself.
Deb Vanasse is the author of seventeen books with six different publishers. Among the most recent are Write Your Best Book, a practical guide to writing books that rise above the rest; Cold Spell, a novel that “captures the harsh beauty of the terrain as well as the strain of self-doubt and complicated family bonds; and the “deeply researched and richly imagined” biography Wealth Woman. After thirty-six years in Alaska, she now lives on the north coast of Oregon, where she continues to write while doing freelance editing, coaching, and writing instruction.