[I received a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]
Pretty interesting both regarding the science part (how our brains work) and the writing part (how this translated into fiction, and more specifically creating compelling characters with a ‘fatal flaw’). The author illustrates those points with examples from a few well-known books, like ‘Lolita’ and ‘The Remains of the Day’, an approach that could easily be problematic. On the one hand, illustrating the theory with examples is always better. On the other hand, if one hasn’t read those books…spoilers! (I had read those in the past, so I was good here.) At any rates, these examples were good ones in my opinion, especially where ‘Lolita’ is concerned: Humbert Humbert is clearly not the kind of character one is supposed to root for, so for Nabokov to make him and the story compelling, specific techniques had to be used. And once analysed the way they are in “The Science of Storytelling”, they do make a lot of sense. (Please note that this has likely been explored in studies about ‘Lolita’ as well, but I haven’t read them, so I can’t tell whether there’s anything original in here, or not at all.)
Having plenty of examples, though, was perhaps a little overkill in places, in that it left less room to explore more in terms of neuroscience / how the human brain works. I chose to take this book as one I can go back to for ‘writing advice’, but I admit that I felt a little down regarding the science part (I expected more, in a more scientific way). So best is to approach this book as one about writing rather than as a bona fide ‘science’ book’.
(I also didn’t care much for the few moments when the author went more into political opinions. This I found jarring, and it pulled me out of my funk.)
Probably my favourite section was actually the last one (as in, the appendix), which gives good pointers into creating and fleshing out characters based on what the author developed throughout the book. In hindsight, it’s probably ‘logical’ advice, and I suppose that there are quite a few authors out there who’re doing that (consciously or not) as something that is completely obvious and/or logical to them; for me, it was definitely interesting, and I need to keep it in mind when developing my own characters. Which isn’t necessarily easy when you have more than one main character to focus on, but that’s a whole other conundrum.
Conclusion: 3.5 stars