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Pixar's Rules of Storytelling

Banes at 12:00AM, Aug. 13, 2020
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Pixar has had one of the most dedicated story teams in the business. Here are the Pixar rules of storytelling. I find them to be powerful and sensible! If you haven't seen this list before (I hadn't), here they are!


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 ___. And ever since then ___.

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 a 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 do 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.

have a good one, and happy writing, folks!

Remember that the pitch period for the Drunk Duck Horror Anthology is underway now! Some of these writing ‘rules’ might come in handy with creating your story.

comment

anonymous?

Hapoppo at 10:42AM, Aug. 13, 2020

I feel like a lot of people will actually ignore number 2 (looking at you, Ryan Johnson). To be fair it can be hard to distinguish between what's fun to write/draw and what's fun to read, which is why getting outside opinions is super important.

fallopiancrusader at 7:30AM, Aug. 13, 2020

In number 4, they forgot one thing at the end: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___. After that, there came the sequel!

PaulEberhardt at 5:36AM, Aug. 13, 2020

Insightful advice by the pros. Much of it boils down to "find the courage to discard stuff, no matter how much work you invested into it previously", and that's the soundest advice for writers I could think of. With some films (not just Pixar) I wish they'd heed it more often.

bravo1102 at 2:30AM, Aug. 13, 2020

Amazes me how many of things I already practice. They help immensely getting scripts and comics done. They don't get me readers but hey I get work done.

bravo1102 at 2:28AM, Aug. 13, 2020

So many great ideas here. If you think they don't apply to you, that probably means you need to reread them and reevaluate how you work because you probably do, I mean REALLY DO need them a lot more than you realize.

Gunwallace at 2:01AM, Aug. 13, 2020

Disney's rules of storytelling after buying Pixar : MAKE MORE SEQUELS EVEN IF THEY BREAK ALL OF YOUR RULES!!

hushicho at 12:42AM, Aug. 13, 2020

Some of these are very useful! I feel there may be a few too many for anyone to consider offhand, but reading over them did give me a few ideas. As with anything, a creator will be best served by choosing the ones that work for them and help them.


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