Nature Vs Nurture: Am I a Story Genius?

I buckled down and got serious about my assigned reading this week, plowing through three chapters of Story Genius. The picking apart of the story writing process prickled my nerves a bit. I’ve never been good at following directions and details bore me to tears, but I pledged to read this book so I powered on.

I found myself, nodding, duh, duh, duh at some points and at other times I underlined sections like I did in American History class, thinking, “This is the part that will be on the test.”

And then I went for a run and thought about it. I don’t have time to read to be reading. My shelves are creaking with books I’m dying to read. So, what is the point here? Why am I forcing myself to read craft books? Can’t I just write?

27833542Maybe that’s my own misconceived belief of my personal writing journey.

Misconceived belief?

In Story Genius Cron writes that the protagonist arrives in the story with a misconceived belief, and must overcome it. But wait! That misconceived belief is the result of some event that occurred prior to the novel. The event that drastically altered the protagonist’s original belief (this all happened in the prequel).


You’re making this much too complicated, I thought.

Three books in, have I been doing this all wrong? I applied the idea to my novel, Practicing Normal, which comes out in June. A novel that is finished, gone, already blurbed and almost bound. (The final cover for which I just saw and WOW. Super excited. I’ll share it soon in my newsletter. Wait til you see who blurbed my book!)

Lo and behold, it’s true. In Practicing Normal, Kate does have a misconception she is building her world around – the belief that her marriage is based on love and her family is a normal, happy family. She arrived at that belief following a rom-com worthy courtship, despite her childhood spent without the example of a happy, normal family headed by an intact couple. She then spends the course of the novel clinging to her belief that they are happy and in love despite all evidence to the contrary.

Maybe Cron does know what she’s talking about (said the not-yet-famous novelist about the best-selling author and writing guru).

Although, I must point out that without the aid of Story Genius, I managed to follow the formula. I’m relieved. And then I’m not. I don’t like to think I was following some formula, because I wasn’t mind you. I was just telling a story. Either I’ve good instincts or dumb luck. My novels to date have all followed the blueprint that Cron writes about. Reading SG has become a sort of pat on the head. It’s also making me more aware of what goes into a successful story. The next time I’m stuck, perhaps I’ll open it back up and figure out where I’ve gone off course. Meanwhile, I’m setting it down. I know, I know, I said I’d read all these books, but this is my blog, not yours. Deal.

the-life-we-buryMy bookclub is reading What We Bury, a fabulous novel by Allen Eskins. I’m enjoying this book immensely – well written, page turner, refreshingly different than anything I’ve read recently, but at the same time I’m analyzing whether or not he’s following the Story Genius plan. I wonder if he intentionally structured his story like that or if, like me, he’s just happened upon it from a lifetime of good stories.

Which brings me to my next thought—how much of writing is learned and how much is natural ability? And is natural ability influenced by genetics or how much you read? Ah, questions for another run. And another book.

Thanks for reading. Always happy to hear from you. If you’re a Story Genius fan, feel free to smack me around in the comments.

If you’d like to read my other blog about fostering dogs or learn about my novels, click here. And if you’d like to receive my (very) occasional newsletter, sign up here.



Oh – almost forgot. I’m giving away a signed copy of my book, I’m Not Her on the blog this week! (and testing out my first rafflecopter!) It’s on the sidebar to your right (if you’re reading this on a computer) or at the bottom (if you’re reading this on a phone or tablet)


Author: Cara Sue Achterberg

I am a writer, blogger, and dog rescuer. I live in the darling town of Woodstock, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley with my husband and three rescue dogs (who rescue me on a daily basis). Find more information about my books, my dogs, and all my writing adventures at

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