Review: Wired for Story by Lisa Cron.

Review: Wired for Story by Lisa Cron.

I read Wired for Story for the first time in April 2023. Startled at how familiar I found the content, I had to go and check that I had not previously purchased the book at one point—I was so convinced I knew the material.

And I did. Not just because the elements of story are wired in the human brain—although, as Cron illustrates throughout her book, that is no doubt part of why this book was so resonate. I suspect the primary reason Wired for Story seemed so familiar is that I have read a lot of advice for writers. Wired for Story was first published in 2012, and has clearly had a massive influence on the publishing world since.

Cover of Wired for Story by Lisa Cron: a ink pen spills a black blot with the title imposed on top of it


However, Wired for Story provides something that all the other books that share these ideas do not: context. Cron explains the link between various brain functions (is that the correct term? I’m not a neuroscientist) and elements of story in depth, providing understanding that I’ve not encountered elsewhere.

If you’re worried that this means a technical read bogged down with jargon and scientific studies, relax! Wired for Story is engaging and easy to read. I breezed through the book in an enjoyable four hours, including time spent making notes.

In her book. Cron explains humanity’s unique relationship with story, then takes twelve ways the brain is wired and breaks the implications of each of these for story telling down. Each chapter includes examples, practical advice and a checklist to ensure that your work encompasses all these different brain functions.

Most of the advice in Wired for Story wasn’t new to me. Authors are aware that to engage readers they need a compelling character with fears and desires that are relevant to the choices and challenges they face through the plot—even if we don’t know why. Cron provides the why. Reading her description of the magic moment when a story goes off the rails was extremely validating: “Sometimes the excitement of writing is discovering those places where the story suddenly careens into new territory on its own—and you realize its new direction makes even more sense than the one in which it was headed. Of course, in this as in most things in life, luck tends to favour the prepared” (101).

Likewise, Cron suggests that it is worthwhile getting to know your character and a bit about their trajectory, even if you are not a plotter: “following your gut works only if you’ve prepared for the test and know the material” (220).

While this material was not new to me, I consider Wired for Story is definitely worth reading for better understanding of why the various elements of story work.

There is one chapter that consisted of new to me material. I suspect that this is because re-writing and honing a draft didn’t fit with the rapid-release model that has been so popular in publishing in recent times. However, Cron’s advice here is likely to become more recognised as we move away from the gold rush era of publishing to a more settled market (see Becca Syme for more on this).

Cron speaks about the necessity of re-writing and successive drafts to whittle away the unimportant and get you closer to the heart of your story and characters, and warns you of potential pitfalls. I found her advice about coming up with a way to track what character knows what at any given time particularly sound—and will be putting her list of questions for beta readers to good use in the future.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Wired for Story and happily recommend it to writers at any stage of their writing journey.


Find Wired for Story on:

Amazon | Kobo | Apple Books | Barnes and Noble | Fishpond


Lisa Cron



Cron, Lisa. Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science

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