PIXAR’S 22 RULES OF STORYTELLING
One of my biggest reasons to get attracted towards the art of filmmaking and/or storytelling was Pixar. I remember, during my 10th, how I would sit in the Internet cafes in front of those painfully slow computers looking out for every damn update that would come out of Pixar & DreamWorks Animation.
My dream of becoming an animator could not be fulfilled but the inspiration that these studios sparked in me took roots.
These 22 rules won’t be new to a lot of people. Specially the Internet savvy ones, but it has been a huge inspiration to a lot of writers including me. I stumbled upon these meme styled 22 Golden Rules of Storytelling on the Internet quite a while ago. It is truly inspiring for any filmmaker/storyteller/writer.
Dino Ignacio, a UX Designer for Games, created this meme. After reverse digging, I found that Emma Coats, formerly of Pixar, currently freelancing in NYC – story, film (as described on her Twitter), tweeted about these 22 Golden Rules of Storytelling at Pixar.
So without further ado, here you go.
- You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
- 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.
- Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about till you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
- Once upon a time there was ____. Every day, _____. One Day _____. Because of that, _____. Because of that, ____. Until finally _____.
- 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?
- Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
- 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 of the way. Surprise yourself.
- Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likeable 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? Stacks the odds against.
- No work is ever wasted. If its not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
- You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best and fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
- Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great, coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
- Exercise: Take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How’d you rearrange them into what you DO like?
- You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
- What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.
– Prathamesh KriSang
Prathamesh KriSang is a management graduate and a self taught filmmaker & entrepreneur. He recently completed his medium-length film, One Last Question. Prathamesh began his career as a graphic designer gradually turning to filmmaking and now focusing solely on making films and developing a technology-product related to the same industry. An avid traveller, he is always on the lookout for interesting things to look at through his camera’s lens and enjoys writing in his free time.
He can be reached on, krisangmotionpictures[@]gmail.com.
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