Traditionally, there are two types of writers: those who just start writing, and those who plot and outline. Lisa Cron offers a complex alternative. Her thesis is that how the main character perceives the world, his beliefs or misbeliefs, drives the action when he responds to external events. This sounds remarkably similar to the character driven novel.
In order to understand the main character's beliefs, Cron believes it's important to delve into his backstory. Much of this book describes the importance of backstory in designing both the character and the plot. The first half of the book focuses on defining protagonist's beliefs and provides a structured method to nail down the beliefs and how they drive the external action. The second half of the book describes how to use the information generated in the first half to structure the plot.
Throughout this book, Cron engages the help of a friend, Jennie, who has the idea for a novel. In each chapter, Jennie follows Lisa's advice and at the end has a substantial idea of the plot of the novel and some useable scenes.
For me, the major difference between this book and other writing books is the structured method Cron has for nailing down backstory without using the first half of the novel to describe it. Her method is very structured and time consuming. This may be right for some writers, but will cause others to give up. She does acknowledge that some published writers do very well as pantsers, if this is you, the method described here may bog you down.
I like the idea of knowing your protagonist's beliefs before trying to make her come to life on the page, but following all Cron's methodology seems a bit too structured. The book is repetitive and large sections are taken up with Jeannie's attempts to use the method.
If you need help defining your character, this book may be useful.
I received this book for Blogging for Books for this review.