Friday, November 8, 2019

Pixar To the Rescue!

We at Teaching Authors are looking at messy middles. I so enjoyed April's Messy, Perplexing Journey  There is no way I can follow the genius of that blog post (You should really read it!). So, instead, I offer one of my favorite checklists that I use when I am revising a story, especially shoring up the middle. You’ve no doubt seen these Pixar’s Rules of Storytelling. The article dates from 2013, and was originally tweeted by Emma Coats, Pixar’s Story Artist. There's twenty rules in all. And all of them are pretty handy at helping me get to the emotive core of the story, blending action and adventure with character-driven plots. Fiction is primarily an emotional exchange. The reader stays connected to the hero because she feels the story. The reader wants to see the character succeed, or at least wants to see what happens next. And, true enough, no one does that better than Pixar! I admit it, I cried when Nemo was found, when Wall-E fell in love, and when Coco hugged his grandfather. And I certainly believe toys come alive when no one is watching.

Here’s a sampling of Emma Coats' rules:

1. 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.

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

3. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

And here's a Pixar exercise for the road:

Take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How would you rearrange them into what you DO like?

Remember, "Adventure is out there!" (Russell, from UP)

Wishing you the spirit of adventure, too!

-- Bobbi Miller


Linda Mitchell said...

I do love that fill in the blank really does help! Great post.

Bobbi Miller said...

Thank you, Linda!!

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for the reminder about the Pixar Rules of Storytelling, Bobbi. And for sharing a "sampling." These look like they can really help get the juices flowing.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Bobbi ~ I printed out Pixar's list years ago. Finally, just a few months ago, I recycled it because I'd never used it. I knew I could find it online if I ever wanted to.

Now that you've pulled out just a few things on the list, I realize why I never used it. It was too long. It overwhelmed me. But a few things? I can do a few things.

Thank you for bringing it back to SIMPLE.