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The "What If?"

Lesson 5 from: FAST CLASS: Wired for Story: How to Become a Story Genius

Lisa Cron

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Lesson Info

5. The "What If?"

Lesson Info

The "What If?"

the what if and that. What if, as we just said, it straddles that end medias for us. And when writers first get an idea is that blush of Ah Oh, my gosh, What would happen if it's an expectation broken? That's what stories air about. I thought this one thing was gonna happen, and something else happened instead. I mean, the riders were curious. We want what would we do with the unusual thing happened. So we get that idea and we tend to want to do is we want to go forward and see what would happen. But we're smart. We're not going to do that. We know instead of writing forward plot wise, we're gonna come back and we're gonna try to figure out Okay, Well, why would that matter? Why would that make any difference to who? Whose Whose story is it going to be? But let's talk for a minute about that expectation broken, which is what pulls us forward. What pulls us in as readers is what grabs us as writers as humans. And the reason is because the human brain has an divinity for pattern Isett e.

And I know it's like what the hell is that? This is what you don't want to use $50 words, by the way, because it might make you look smart. But nobody knows what you're talking about. So what? It's in divinity, for pattern necessity means that we are constantly looking for causal connections. If this, then that if I do this, I can expect for that to happen. And it's something that we come were born with it. It's like when you're a baby, you learn very quickly. If I cry really, really loud, that nice lady is gonna come in and give me milk. Got it? But but here's the thing. Once a pattern becomes familiar once we get it, we really understand that if I do this, that's gonna happen. We don't have to think about it anymore, and it gets relegated to what's owners are cognitive unconscious, which makes the vast majority of the decisions that we make every day we make you ready for this number. This is a big number. We make 35, decisions a day, 35,000 decisions. Most of them obviously have to be made by our cognitive unconscious, although I think most of those decisions because you think how is that even possible are on the level of your driving. It is like the road is turning a little bit. I better turn my arms. Though the road is turning that way, I better. I mean, you never think that when you're driving, you're too busy talking on the phone. So So that is what that is or when you're typing. If you had to figure out where every key was on the keyboard and what you know how to spell everything, you'd never be able to do it. It's decisions on that level, and that frees our brain up to be able to make decisions for things that we don't haven't like an automatic answer to. I think most of those 70 decisions, though, are on the level of Do I where the yellow socks or do I wear the green and blue paisley socks? In other words, let's face it things that don't really matter. But the biggest problem that we have with that is that once something does get relegated to our cognitive unconscious, it becomes like the air that we breathe. We don't think about it at all anymore becomes well, that is reality. It's like I bet that none of you either here or you guys at home. I bet none of you went to bed last night thinking I have a really busy day tomorrow. So I sure hope the sun comes up because if it doesn't, I'm gonna be in big trouble, like you never think that Did you ever go to bed and think, Of course not. Because every single day in your entire life, the sun has come up. That's just what happens. But imagine what would happen if the sun didn't come up. Now there's an idea for a story, and you want to go galloping off and write about it. The problem with something that has been relegated to our cognitive unconscious because we tend to think of it as that's the way it is, is it's very hard to change something. It's very hard to realize that there's something that we take for granted that isn't in fact, true. And that's why I'm hitting on this hard, because we really have been taught since we were in kindergarten to get an idea, and they just right forward with it as a premise because, as cognitive psychologists will tell you, absolute freedom is not liberating. Absolute freedom is paralyzing because you have no idea what anything means or what to do or where to go. First question to ask once you've got some basic idea is what is your point? All stories make a point, beginning with the very first sentence you cannot write forward to figure out what that point is. You need to know it so that you can write a story that actually makes it when I'm talking about a point. I mean again, Ah, point about human nature because we come to story wired to ask one thing, What am I gonna learn here that's gonna help me make it through the night in terms of what makes people tick? If you don't know what it is, you can't write a story that makes it very clear. I'm not saying that you know what the point is. You step forward and say, by the way, reader, here is the point I'm making. But your story builds toward it, and actually, the way it makes its point is when you're protagonists, gets to that Ah ha moment at the end. So the question that you always want to ask yourself about the point is what inside intel do you want to give you readers about human nature? What are you looking for there? How do you want to change the world? That is what you're looking for. What does it mean to you? How do you want to change the world? What is that thing that you're saying? And to be really clear stories only make one point one point. You don't want to go. If the if one point is good, five points would be even better. One point we'll build, it will escalate. It will complicate. But what is that point? What do you trying to say? How do you want to change that? And it could be something really simple. It's not again because this is the first step. It will get deeper and deeper and deeper as you go forward. It could be something as simple as better to have loved and lost than never to have loved it all. You're not looking for something super deep, and that's deep, obviously, but but But at this moment, you want to figure out exactly what that is. And don't don't shame yourself. If it is something that you think that is even as good as a bumper sticker that's so obvious. That is fine. That is your stake in the ground. Once you figured that out. The next question is why is it important to you to write this story? Why are you burning to write this? Where you the one to do? What does this mean to you? And this is something that you want to ask and ask. On a deep level, you need to be vulnerable, vulnerable about it. What has brought you to this? You want to be personal? You want to try to find some reason that really goes deeply into who you are and has that deep meaning that maybe you haven't been told anybody because it will make you feel vulnerable. You're not looking for something. We're not looking for something surface like I hate seeing Children go hungry. So I'm writing a novel that's gonna make people feed kids because while yes, we totally don't like kids going hungry. If we told you want to feed them, that's not deep enough. You want to go really deep and think, Why is it important to you to see this change in the world? Because you can change the world and the reason is is because that's what's gonna keep you writing.

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Marianthi Tzanakakis
 

I was introduced to writing tools and techniques, I didn't know existed. Now I feel I have a much better grasp in what it takes to write a truly great novel.

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