What a movie company thinks about storytelling. I've heard almost all of this stuff before, the one repeated often is (#12) never take your FIRST idea on something, nor the second or third ... Hmmmm. Do you guys and gals do this?

On Twitter, Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats has compiled nuggets of narrative wisdom she's received working for the animation studio over the years. It's some sage stuff...

#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.

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A lot of it is some sage stuff. But I am not sure I agree with all of it totally. 

I can testify to # 17 and 19. And I'm defintely gonig to try #9.

Yeah, #9 sounds like a good trick.

Pixar have the story thing down. I have watched Toy Story Three many times studying the plot. So much work goes into animation that the makers cannot waste a single line or frame. Fiction writers can do well to study anything by Pixar to help with plot. A nice list.    

Not relevant, but I detest Toy Story -- both the animation and the story lines.

I saw this.  It's clear she comes from a different milieu.  Many of those bits of advice do not work for authors. Some are mildly useful when you get in a bind.  For example this business of throwing something at the protagonist that he's not good at or comfortable with.  Of course, the discomfort thing I do all the time already.

#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff but it sets you free

This I agree with. What is that character there for? Is it some character you just wanted to invent or is he or she an important part of the puzzle? Could that character's role be better played by an existing character? I've been guilty of having too big a cast in my books. Combine characters. Make each one essential and don't create a new one to do a job that an exsiting charcter could do.

I like #14 best.

That's hard to answer. My default reaction is, "Because I'm writing it."

Most excellent.  Printing it now for my writer's group.

I like some of Pixar's stuff, but none of it ever struck me as dazzlingly original--even by Hollywood standards.  This explains why that is, I think.  I do like #4, though.  Much of the rest seems like a recipe for story-boarding a Pixar movie.  Which is pretty much what it is.



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