I Must Be Doing Something Right: “Pixar’s Rules of Storytelling” by Readers+Writers Journal

As a writer, I often find that I am a strange combination of extreme arrogance and utter insecurity. One minute, I’m supremely confident in what I’ve written: the next, I’m supremely confident that it’s crap. That’s why it’s very reassuring to find out that a resource I admire agrees with what I’ve written (or, more likely, has said the same thing without ever realizing I existed).

Pixar’s Rules of Storytelling” by Readers+Writers Journal is exactly what it sounds like. They have taken the tweeted rules of one of Pixar’s employees and put them into a full list of 22 story-writing tips. Every time I read one and realize that I’ve written similar advice, I get a little heady rush. Of course, since I was raised on the Golden Age of Disney movies, Looney Tunes, and Pixar, I suppose it’s not too surprising that I absorbed some pointers.

All 22 tips are worth reading, but here are my favorite 11 from the article:

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

#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.

#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.

Like what you see? You can read the rest of the article here.

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