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The 22 Rules of Storytelling According to Pixar

writing tips

A former Pixar screenwriter,
recently shared on Twitter some rules and tips she's received over the years working with the studio.
Very interesting!

Rule #1

We admire a character more for his attempts than for his successes.

Rule #2

Keep in mind what will interest the viewer, not what is fun to write. Sometimes it's 2 very different things.

Rule #3

Choosing a theme is important, but you probably won't see what the story is about until you finish it. Now rewrite.

Rule #4

Once upon a time ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Thus ___. Thus ___. Until the moment where ___.

Rule #5

Simplify, stay focused on the essentials. Merge the characters. Avoid detours. You'll feel like you're missing out on important things, but it will set you free.

Rule #6

What are your character's strengths, what does he feel comfortable with? Now give it the opposite extreme. Challenge him. How is he doing?

Rule #7

Figure out the end of the story before you tackle the middle. Really. Writing an ending is very difficult, so make it work as soon as possible.

Rule #8

Finish your story, let go even if it's not perfect. In an ideal world you would have both, but you have to know how to move on. You will do better next time.

Rule #9

When you get stuck, list everything that CANNOT happen next. Very often, elements will appear that will unlock you.



Rule #10

Tell the stories you love. What you love about them will nourish you, you need to identify these elements to be able to use them.

Rule #11

Put your story down on paper to start improving it. If a perfect idea sticks in your head, you'll never share it with anyone.

Rule #12

Eliminate the first thing that comes to mind. As well as the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th. Delete the obvious stuff, surprise yourself.



Rule #13

Give opinions to your characters. Passive or malleable characters may seem pleasant to you, but they will be a real poison for the public.


Rule #14

Why do you have to tell THIS story? What is the deep conviction that drives you and on which the story feeds? You hold the heart of your story there.

Rule #15

If you were your character, how would you react in this situation? Being sincere will bring credibility to the most unlikely situations.

Rule #16

What are the issues ? Give us reasons to support this character. What will happen if it fails? Put obstacles in his way.

Rule #17

No work is wasted. If the story doesn't work, let go and move on, it can still be useful later.

Rule #18

You have to know yourself, and find the balance between doing your best and nitpicking. Writing is trying, not refining.

Rule #19

Coincidences that put your people in trouble are welcome, but those that get them out of these situations are not acceptable: it is cheating.

Rule #20

Practice: Analyze the structure of a movie you don't like. How would you change it to make it something good?



Rule #21

You have to identify with your characters, you can't just write "cool". What would make YOU act like this?



Rule #22

What is the essence of your story? What is the most effective way to express it? You can start building from there.

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