Pixar “Story Basics”

Pixar story artist Emma Coats has tweeted a series of “story basics” over the past month and a half — guidelines that she learned from her more senior colleagues on how to create appealing stories:

#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.

Presumably she’ll have more to come. Also, watch for her personal side project, a science-fiction short called Horizon, to come to a festival near you.

  1. skylit reblogged this from kellysue
  2. captionread reblogged this from kellysue
  3. sophies-learning-journal reblogged this from merry-miss-magpie
  4. capriciouslysinful reblogged this from kellysue
  5. fillim reblogged this from kellysue and added:
    Cool story telling tips from the masters at PIxar!
  6. sailorsun546 reblogged this from the-talking-absol
  7. the-talking-absol reblogged this from kellysue
  8. coneybear reblogged this from inexchangeforyoursoul
  9. cerulean-dude reblogged this from inexchangeforyoursoul
  10. kyoya-sexual reblogged this from inexchangeforyoursoul
  11. janeypeixes reblogged this from inexchangeforyoursoul
  12. inexchangeforyoursoul reblogged this from kellysue
  13. meowgosaurus reblogged this from rukafais
  14. kaliforniaparadox reblogged this from fearfield
  15. fearfield reblogged this from urbanchimera
  16. rukafais reblogged this from urbanchimera
  17. whereslavi reblogged this from urbanchimera
  18. urbanchimera reblogged this from kellysue
  19. ragabash reblogged this from themightygeebie
  20. kayemarrh reblogged this from kellysue
  21. thepeopleseason reblogged this from kellysue
  22. shinpachimydog reblogged this from kellysue
  23. amypaulettehartman reblogged this from kellysue