Pixar story artist Emma Coats has worked on the company's feminist animation Brave. She recently tweeted a list that has been making the rounds, and we spotted it on website Open Culture. Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling is great advice for any writer, really — and in some cases, great life advice in general.
Open Culture played a game of Mad Libs with rule number four, which could be a fun way for someone with writer's block to become unstuck: "Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___."
The list proves why Pixar's character-driven films are emotional, memorable and so damn likable. Some rules seem like common sense, but are often totally ignored by green screenwriters, like: "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."
Here are the first 10 on the list, but visit Aerogramme Writers' Studio for the rest. It's well worth a click. Every studio has its own set of rules, and this list is a fascinating peek into the minds of one of film's most successful creators working in the industry today.
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 very 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.