Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling #ThrowbackThursday

Pixar's 22 rules of storytelling

Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling

This post originally appeared three years ago, on July 22, 2016. I’m reposting it for #ThrowbackThursday

Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling

Pixar Studios has developed wonderful stories in the past twenty-five years. These include the Toy Story series; UP; Wall-e (my favorite), Finding Nemo; Monsters, Inc. We can identify with many of the characters and situations.

There isn’t much difference between writing for the screen and writing for print. The objective is to have the reader empathize with your characters, worry and despair over their troubles and cheer when they overcome insurmountable difficulties.

How does Pixar hit all these points? How are they so successful? Well, it seems they have a formula, or rules. 22 of them, in fact.

These rules were originally tweeted by Emma Coats, Pixar’s Story Artist.

As a beginning writer (many years ago), I started with #3, I’ve since added many of these to my arsenal, specifically, #6, 7 and 16. Pixar’s rules can be applied to writing fiction, and I urge you to review and adopt some, if not all, of these strategies:

  1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
  6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
  14. 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.
  15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
  17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
  18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
  19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
  20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
  21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
  22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Do you use any of Pixar’s 22 rules of storytelling? If so, which ones?

Happy writing,

Cheryl

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Five Plot Elements Every Writer Should Use #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop

Five Plot Elements Every Writer Should Use

Five plot elements are necessary to build a story. Each must happen for the story to succeed, and they must happen in the order given.

Exposition.

This is the beginning of the story, often the first chapter, when the main character is introduced. The reader relates to him through small details—his quest to find the perfect birthday gift for his daughter, the way he watches another family at the mall and wishes his own family was complete. Whatever tool you use to establish the reader’s connection, his sympathy with the character, it must be done quickly, before he loses interest.

Setting is also introduced at this point, anchoring the reader in the location, time period, flavor and mood of the story. Is it a western? Set in the American nineteenth century or modern times? Is it a comedy? A murder mystery? Clue in your reader so he can quickly establish himself in the story.

The initial conflict is also introduced at the beginning. The storm is headed toward the small boat with no land in sight. The patriarch of the family has died, pitting son against son. Show the stakes involved in your character’s life. This is where he moves from the ordinary world and receives the call to action.

Continue reading

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Seven Tips to Edit Your Rough Draft #ThrowbackThursday

If editing is your least favorite part of writing, this post is for you!

I will show you seven tips for editing and proofreading your rough draft and take your book to the next level.

I’ve just finished the final, final, final edits for Snow White and the Eighth Dwarf. Proofreading it was a long, laborious process, as I wrote 56K of the story last July in a rough NaNo like session. The first draft was not pretty.

Let’s face the ugly truth. You’ve spent months, maybe years, writing a book and you have a big, sloppy mess of a first draft. How do you clean it, revise it, and make it look good?

Look for inconsistencies.

Did your main character change names, eye color, or gender? Did you mention magic in the first chapter, but no one casts any spells? Does your forest setting change to a desert for no reason? Check your timeline to verify your protag and antag are on the same day. Because of the time involved in writing a book, many details can get lost. Look for inconsistencies and fix them.

Fill in the holes.

Seven tips for editing. When proofreading, fill in the holes of your story. My first draft looks like a tic-tac-toe game.

My first draft looks like a tic-tac-toe game.

I write very fast because I don’t want the bright, shiny light of inspiration to dim. Get the words down, get them down fast is my motto. Fill in the holes later. My first draft is full of XXX’s, my all-purpose placeholder for research I need to do, nameless characters (example from my current WIP: “Name1, Name2, Name3, Name4 and Name5, thank you for coming here today.”), or descriptions that need filling in (example: more here of her physical trauma xxxx.) My first draft is a tic-tac-toe game. Revising is the time to do the research, decide on the names, and fill in the holes. Continue reading

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