On Twitter, Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats has compiled nuggets of narrative wisdom she’s received working for the animation studio over the years. Here are the ones that resonated with me.
Pixar’s 15 Rules of Storytelling
- You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
- You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to your 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.
- 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?
- 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. Start the clock ticking.
- Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
For the complete list, check out io9 !
I love all of these. Excuse me for one moment while I get them tattooed on my fingers.
And for another moment while I try to work out why I have 15 fingers.
I’ve got them on my forehead. Makes me wish I’d asked them to flip the letters so I can read them on the mirror, though.
A rookie mistake. That is true.
Finishing takes me soooo long because I start editing in my head half way through! But, I like the getting your character in trouble idea!
I’m like you. My first drafts take forever. However, I’m a much faster editor than most, simply because half the work is already done.
Nos. 6, 10, and 11. Excellent! Also the last one. Very interesting, Nick.
Thanks! I thought so, too 🙂
I like #15.
That was my favorite, too 🙂
This is gold dust mate! Loved it, especially the one about working out what doesn’t happen to find out what does.
I wish I’d heard of that one before spending weeks writing certain chapters of my books.
Mwahahaaaaargh yeh. Tell me about it.
When I started reading this list, I thought ‘number 1 is really great advice’. Then I thought ‘number 2 is great advice.’ Then I thought… you get the idea. It’s a damn good list!
Lol – thanks 😀
This is a great list, Nicholas. Tons of wwriting wisdom in here. 🙂
Good tips that will work well for some writers, as well as for cartoonists.
Best wishes, Pete.
Indeed! Thank you, Pete 🙂
Very cool list. Although, I’m not entirely on board with the last one. Personally, I think if a coincidence can get one into trouble then one can also do the opposite. Doesn’t seem right for them to only go one way, especially since luck is a thing.
Lol – I was just telling Joy that the last one was *my* favorite 😀
Should have seen that one coming. 🙂
Then again, your world does have a Luck deity, who can choose to intervene (or not). Mine is supposed to be more “realistic” in that respect.
True, but there is the ‘Law’ to stop her from just doing whatever she wants. The thing for me is that there are lucky breaks in real life. A person in need bumps into someone who happens to give them a job that saves them from losing their home. Missing a train that derails. Stopping to tie your shoelace at a corner, which prevents you from walking in front of a car that runs the red light. Coincidences do happen in reality.
Oh, absolutely. But readers may not appreciate them in fiction 🙂
Kinda of funny that way. We take them for granted in real life and scoff at them in fiction.
As they say, the difference between reality and fiction is that fiction must make sense.
In that case, I’d like to spend more time in fiction. ?
Dystopian one excluded, presumably?
Reality will there soon eniugh
You went there.
And brought it back with me?
And made it dinner.
Actually, that’s kielbasa that’s been marinating in beer for two days and scalloped potatoes.
My favorite is to think of what *wouldn’t* happen next to help get yourself unstuck. Brilliant idea!
Indeed! My personal favorite was the last one 🙂
Oh yes, that’s a great one too!