1. Quixote's Biographer
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    Quixote's Biographer Member

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    The 22 rules of storytelling according to pixar

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Quixote's Biographer, Jul 22, 2015.

    Just wanted to share some rules (or guidelines) that should/could potentially help you write more interesting and better stories (I'm not saying your stories are bad by the way :) ). They come from Pixar, who are pretty good at telling stories the last time I checked...

    A few of these in particular I swear by and use all the time and they've really helped me so I wanted to highlight a few:

    #7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

    This really helps me write more creatively and goal-oriented. I used to start at the beginning, write the middle part and then try to write an ending. It was like trying to find my way through a forest without any map or directions and I usually stumbled around, trying different paths and then in the end sitting down in the middle of the forest and call it an ending. Now that I plan out exactly how the story will end first, I have the map, I have the direction, I know where I'm going. That also makes it a lot easier to put obstacles in my MC's way, take some interesting detours, try out other paths, because I know they all serve the ending which is clear in my mind. I know this is a personal preference, but it can't hurt to try right? :)


    #12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

    This rule I use almost religiously. The reason for this advice (I believe) is first of all because the first few ideas you get are usually based on things you've seen many, many times before, even if you can't remember in that exact moment where you've seen them before, and secondly because the first ideas you get are, naturally, the most obvious ones. Whenever I'm planning an ending or I'm just in the middle of a scene and I ask myself 'what happens next?', I write down a list with numbers from 1 to 5. Then I fill in the first five ideas I get and promise myself I won't use any of them. What happens is, often after many frustrating minutes, I come up with the 6th idea, an idea that makes the first five seem obvious, boring and done to death. I'm not gonna claim that all the ideas I end up with are groundbreaking, original and absolutely masterpieces, but trust me when I say that they are at least a lot better then the first idea I had :)

    It's important to note that I'm not suggesting that you should follow all 22 rules (I'm not sure I wanna call them 'rules' even as it sounds like something you must not break!) and depending on who you are you might not want to use any of them. But hopefully some of you can get some inspiration or ideas from them or even improve your stories. I know it worked for me :)


    Edit: I meant to post this in the Plot Development thread and I have no idea how this showed up in the character development... Is there anyway to move it?
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2015
  2. Daemon Wolf
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    Daemon Wolf Active Member

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    Thanks. I knew most of them but it is still nice to see them all printed out.
     
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  3. Clover
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    Clover Member

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    I really like the ones you've picked out. I think those are two of the strongest points given in the article. I've been reading some similar advice lately, as I've been having huge problems coming up with interesting storylines. Characters, ideas and places come to me, but the plot just doesn't materialise! I have yet to try this, but it sounds like a great idea:

     
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  4. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    #19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating

    I think Dan Brown should have read this before he wrote The DaVinci Code - when Tom Hanks googled something outside the Abbey I was like - that's just cheating...
     
  5. dreamersky1212
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    dreamersky1212 Active Member

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    #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.

    I really, need to follow this one. I don't like to share my work until everything is perfect. Then when I do I learn that nope, still problems in there. For me its mostly grammatical...I mean....who needs grammar?:superwink:
     
  6. TheClintHennesy
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    TheClintHennesy Member

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    #4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

    This is like... a really good guideline. Back when I was studying, we were taught about this. A lot of Pixar Stories are based on this outline. :p
     
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  7. Fernando.C
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    Fernando.C Active Member

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    Thanks. All the points were great. I'm gonna bookmark that page so I can come back to it. I especially like
    #7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
    And
    #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.
    But I'm not sure I understand what #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.) is exactly on about. I mean 'a list of what WOULDN'T happen next', what does that mean?
     
  8. jaebird
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    jaebird Active Member

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    #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

    This is so true. I don't know how many times I've started a story with an idea in mind and watched it completely change over the course of writing it.

    I think this is more like a "thinking outside of the box" strategy. If you're stuck and make a list of things you know for sure would not happen in your story, you may find something that actually works really well in that list that you would have never considered otherwise. It kind of plays off:#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself. Sometimes an idea that you think would never work becomes the perfect thing you need for the story.
     
  9. theoriginalmonsterman
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    theoriginalmonsterman Pickle Contest Administrator Contributor

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    #20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d'you rearrange them into what you DO like?

    Sadly I think this rule doesn't work with all movies... *cough* Birdemic *cough*
     
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  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm a fan of Pixar, and I think there are lots of good basic ideas in that link. However, Pixar doesn't write books, they make movies—and writing a book requires a different set of skills.

    If you're writing a movie script, you will decide what characters look like, what settings look like. However, then somebody draws and animates these things into a Pixar-type movie, or casts actors and chooses locations and begins filming.

    Writers don't have these visual tools, so they need to create word pictures instead. And that takes a different set of skills entirely. So writers should be readers, as well as moviegoers. And they need to be reading 'how-to' books written by experienced authors, not filmmakers, in order to hone their craft.

    Again, this link is great for developing story ideas. But after that? You need to be able to translate these ideas into words that snare and keep your readers going. You won't have Pixar's moviemaking tools, so you need to learn to use a writer's tools instead. A writer doesn't photograph or draw a mood, a writer creates images with words that the reader then processes into meaning. A writer doesn't just describe a character, but gets us inside that character's head.
     

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