Thursday, March 07, 2013

Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling



"These rules were originally tweeted by Emma Coates, Pixar’s Story Artist. Number 9 on the list - When you’re stuck, make a list of what wouldn’t happen next – is a great one and can apply to writers in all genres. "


  • You admire a character for trying more than for their successes. 
  • You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different. 
  • Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite. 
  • Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___. 
  • Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free. 
  • What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal? 
  • Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front. 
  • Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time. 
  • When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up. 
  • Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it. 
  • Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone. 
  • Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself. 
  • Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience. 
  • Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it. 
  • If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations. 
  • What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against. 
  • No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later. 
  • You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining. 
  • Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating. 
  • Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like? 
  • You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way? 
  • What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there. 

Via aerogrammestudio.com

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