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The Why Exercise

Lesson 9 from: Wired for Story: How to Become a Story Genius

Lisa Cron

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Lesson Info

9. The Why Exercise

Next Lesson: The Worldview

Lesson Info

The Why Exercise

The exercise that we will do now is. This is a two part exercise so you can look at both parts. And it's not like you get any more time to do it, however. The first is to ask yourself, what does your protagonist enter the story already wanting? What will getting it mean to her? What does she think it's gonna say about her in the world? In other words, why does she want it? And then, is she right? Is that really what she wants? If not, what does she really want? And then, once you have some idea of that, because that's what's going to create her agenda. That she has from even before you shove her onto the page. And then ask yourself, brainstorm in writing, what do you think her misbelief is. What is her, cause the misbelief is what your story is about. How she overcomes that, that aha moment at the end is where your story makes its point. And it's when she suddenly overcomes that misbelief. So, that is it. You guys at home, again, you are the lucky pups. You have a ton of time. Here, yo...

u know what I'm gonna say. Three minutes, sorry. Okay. Now was that hard? It's supposed to be. But again, as you know I'm gonna say this. There is no one right answer right now. You might've, you might, which isn't to say you might not have hit on it exactly, but that isn't the goal. The goal is to start really digging into it, and ask this question so that you can then ask deeper questions. And you might find out, well, wait, no, I think it's something slightly different. Or wait, I think her agenda might be slightly different. That is fine. But the goal is just to be able to dig and ask more questions and then more specific questions and then more specific questions. Why is your best friend. (chuckles) Always asking why and not giving up until you have an actual deep answer. Cause the first, the first answer to why is always a surface polite one. (chuckles) It's going deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper as we'll discuss. So, let's, let's workshop two of these, and we'll just, you know, move forward. So, Samantha, do you want to say what your protagonist, what they want and what the misbelief is. Sure. So, she wants to feel worthy and valuable and safe, simply because she is alive. And she wants to be valued by herself and society. It's kinda repetitive. And do you want the misbelief now as well? Yeah, and is that, how will she get that? Like, she wants it, do you have any idea what? Well, she wants an outer structure, a home, a house. For herself. So, that she can have, so she feels like she can have that freedom to. Well, there's a lot of elements going on here, but. Ask me the question again. How does that manifest in what she wants. And you were saying she wants a house. Yeah, so she wants a safe, an actual house to live in that is her own. So, the story is she's gone through losing her house and home loss and so she wants to have a structure of safety like a house. And that's what's gonna give it to her? Yes. That's what's gonna give it to her. And now, read what she wants again. I wanna tie these two things together. Well, she wants, she wants to feel worthy and valuable and safe simply because she's alive. Okay, because what you would wanna do is go, and is having the house, and how would the house give that to her? Would be the question. I mean, in other words, she's alive and she's in the house and now all bases are covered? It's that sense of, I think. Stability? Right. And by having that stability, she's able to see more clearly, I think, see herself and be herself more clearly. Not having to go through a lot of instability and change. Or proving something to somebody else, because that's what it sounds like. When you say she wants to feel safe and stable simply by being alive, what you're saying is, I don't wanna have to prove it to somebody else. I don't wanna have to go out and, I mean, that sounds like that's where that. Cause you're always looking for the contrast. And anything that you guys write ever at all, whenever a character wants something or is doing something, you are always looking for where is the undertow. What is it costing them? Why? What is the opposite of that. So, you're always looking. Even if they want something and everything seems like great, oh I want, this is a great thing, there's some reason why they don't. There's those layers of reasoning, and you always wanna dive into that. And so quickly, then, and what's her misbelief? Her misbelief is that she's wrong. That she is not good or valuable enough to keep, well, I went into the detail of keep her dad from leaving, or keep her chronically ill mother alive. There you go, okay. And so that is, but you'd wanna go down deeper. That's great, because you married those two things together. Here's what's gonna make her feel not worthy. But here is that not worthiness, and where did that come from. Like, why does she think that to be worthy, she's gotta be able to do that. And I can feel, you know, I mean that's why, and the truth it's so great hearing one person's story. We can spend an hour on one person's story and make all of these points. Because yeah, that misbelief is she's not gonna be able to, but it also comes down into the notion that that's what makes her unworthy. Which probably came back to something that happened way when she was much younger, that made her believe that that is what's gonna make her seem more worthy. And I so see where you're going. But you see again, the point is there's so many questions we can ask that get down to specifics. And if we had an hour we could talk totally specifically. Really good. Yeah, thank you. Laura. My protagonist is coming out of grief, so she wants to kind of regain her emotional footing. And her misbelief is that security is found outside of herself in other people or community. So, that's where she kinda goes looking for it. Got it. So, in a way, in a way if she's dealing with grief and she wants to come out of it, and she's thinking the way that I get a sense of self is to go out and help people and be part of a community. It's actually also a way to mask the pain, and to not deal with it. You know, it's a way to go, okay, I, this is so painful I can't sit with it or be with it. If I go do this other stuff, it's gonna be a diversion, and then that will wash away the grief. I'm just guessing. (both laughing) It feels, but another point is, and I can be totally wrong, like, I'm not going there. What are you even talking about? I have no idea. But it sounds like that would be. Cause she's gonna discover she's got it in herself, right? Yeah. At the end of the day. That she's actually got the power to. And what's gonna make her, just, again, because whether you've already written it, I will pretend you didn't if you already have. But I mean, the question would be, as the plot's gonna disabuse her of that, is she gonna come in and realize she doesn't need that, or that that's great but it doesn't, like where do you see that? That really the safety is in herself. The security's in herself. And is there something she's not facing with that, with the grief? Is there something she's not? Well, the grief kind of blows up, because the person she's grieving is actually alive. (gasping) Uh-oh. And she thinks they're dead? Yeah, yeah. And so she finds out that they're not, and that's who she had put her security in before, so. That kind of uncovers the lie of putting her security in other people. Wow, you see if only we had an hour. We could tie into that, too. You could help me pull it together. Yeah, yeah, but no that's real, that's very interesting. And again, it stems from just the dealing with grief. You've already got plot twists going, yeah, she's got grief because this horrible thing happened. But guess what? It didn't actually happen. Imagine that you didn't have that. That might get you there. Again, this is something you've clearly already worked on. I just thought of all that in three minutes. Yeah. But. But yeah, I mean, that makes sense, and that would be the depth of what she would have realized about the grief. Right up to the time where she realizes that this person isn't actually dead. And that would probably turn it on it's head. You know, and you can start to feel where plot would start to come into it. And again, then it would be, who was this person, and why and what happened and why did she put her faith in that person? But yeah, I mean, I think that both of those completely play off of each other well. Again, though, both of them, if you didn't have anymore than that, are very general. And so it would be digging down into the, okay, she feels grief, why, for who, what does that tell her about herself. What is she avoiding by going out and being, you know, in the. By mistakenly thinking that, that it's by being outside and helping other people that you're gonna overcome this. Necessarily. Really good. Okay. Okay, I wish we could do more. And I wish we could spend longer, because as you, but that's the whole point. The whole point is that diving into these gives you questions to ask, it gives you places to go. And as we'll talk about all the way through, the answers are always in your story's back yard. The answer's always digging into what we're talking about. As opposed to looking at something in a big grab bag of pseudo surface dramatic things that are gonna now, you know, make your protagonist feel awful or put them to some kind of a test that has nothing to do with the story that you're telling. What you've got there, and you know, and Samantha, what you had too is like that gives us stuff where we can keep asking questions. It's gonna bring us into the story itself. Not some weird plot thing that's gonna, that's gonna make a surface dramatic thing happen. You know drama, all drama comes from the past. But that's really good.

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a Creativelive Student

A woman with a wealth of information to share and who is totally engaging. Lisa was like a really good book that you didn't want to put down. I watched this course over two days, eager to press the play button on the next lesson. Passionate but to the point, everything Lisa had to say was interesting and meaningful. I am just starting on my first novel and her knowledge and insights are invaluable. Highly recommend.

Lacey Heward

This was hugely influential to my writing. I don't actually think I knew how to write until this class. Lisa Cron is a great speaker and teacher. She is well prepared and does an excellent job getting through all the important material. Everything I learned in this class could be applied to a book, essay, and even possibly one's own self-reflection. Who doesn't want to understand the point of life's story? Cron does an excellent job of getting to THE POINT. I have already recommended this class and will reference it again and again as I write. Thank you!

Tracy Holczer

I'm going to go back and watch this course every time I begin a new novel. It took me six years to figure out how to write my first novel, discovering many of these concepts as I went. I can't imagine the time I would have saved had I been able to consider them more carefully before I began. I recommend this to anyone who is just starting out, but also, to established writers. Every book is a different house to build and this course really helps set down a good foundation.

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