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PIXAR's 22 rules of storytelling

Got this from a twitter compilation of Emma Coats (@lawnrocket), a story artist at Pixar.

#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 v. 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 guys have any rules of your own that you follow?
 
Excellent!
ITREF

I have difficulty with #13, largely because in real life I DESPISE dysfunction and conflict. And it's in direct conflict with #15.
I often have to remind myself to NOT do what I would do (which is sane and rational), but rather write what THIS character would do (which would be juuuuuust off sane and rational) - within plausibility, of course.
I am somewhat passive and definitely malleable in perspective.
Creating polarizing characters is difficult for me.
I tend to rely on extreme circumstances that regular characters are put into.
 
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That's all good for a Pixar film but personally I like to write anti-heroes. Quite different.
Solid points nonetheless! The one about writing what WOULDN'T happen is a great one.
 
These are great. I like #6, the part about throwing the polar opposite at your character and seeing how they would handle it. Also #13 is excellent advice, nobody likes a wishy washy character.
 
Pixar (and Dreamworks, Disney, etc) only have 1 rule for film:

-Make a family films that follow the exact same formula as every film ever released since Toy Story. Hide repetitive writing with superior graphics.

Just sayin' :) I like Pixar's works, but their "formula" is getting really old.
 
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i was writing story for CG4u
and i got this wonderful stuff,
which i was missing,
thanks for posting it,
it's great
 
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Pixar (and Dreamworks, Disney, etc) only have 1 rule for film:

-Make a family films that follow the exact same formula as every film ever released since Toy Story. Hide repetitive writing with superior graphics.

Just sayin' :) I like Pixar's works, but their "formula" is getting really old.

Wow, really?! I couldn't disagree more. I'm curious what that formula is, because if it exists, I'll totally follow it.
 
#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

I was nodding all the way up to 18. I was even nodding through the first clause, but the second and the following sentence have left me scratching my head. Anyone "get it" and want to explain? I picked back up and "got" the rest, but I still don't know what 18 is supposed to mean.
 
I was nodding all the way up to 18. I was even nodding through the first clause, but the second and the following sentence have left me scratching my head. Anyone "get it" and want to explain? I picked back up and "got" the rest, but I still don't know what 18 is supposed to mean.
I'll take a wild stab at this one.

I believe it means - have you ever written a screenplay, it's pretty much done-done, but you find yourself compelled to just fiddle-f#ck around with immaterial details; gilding the lily so to speak?

It's what I call "moving rice grains about the plate".
You're NOT eating the rice or food any more than moving the furniture about the Titanic's deck changed it's fate, (although that has a bit different generally accepted connotation!)

"Refining" = "fussing" = immaterial changes.

Know when you're making genuine changes to the story - and when you're just fussing around with minor details.



Anyone who's done their homework knows how much changes from script to screen, so at some point some weenie changes just ain't worth the hassle.
People frequently confuse busy-ness for genuine work/labor.
 
That's all good for a Pixar film but personally I like to write anti-heroes. Quite different.

I disagree. Even with an anti-hero, there's got to be something to allow the audience to identify with him/her, or else they have no one to root for in the story. These rules will apply to all writing, it's just HOW you apply them that matters.

Personally, I think #19 is golden.

I hate when the hero gets out of a problem because of dumb luck, although I've seen it happen to good effect too. But mostly, that's extremely hard to write and make it work.
 
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