The Rules of Storytelling According to Pixar

Yesterday I caught the beginning of Finding Nemo. I’ve seen it at least a dozen times now and I always tear up at the beginning. “No, this time will be different,” I tell myself. “I know what’s coming.” But damnit, every time Marlin holds that little fish egg my lip starts quivering. Sometimes I think Pixar is out to make adults weep as much as possible.

Even if their goal isn’t to steal the tears of every living adult and child, Pixar does know how to tell a good story. So even if you’re not a screenwriter, you should probably check out this list of storytelling rules by Pixar artist Emma Coats. A few that I really liked:

“#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.

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

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

To me, these are all about pushing yourself as a writer. In early drafts, I tend to give my characters easy outs or not insert enough tension to really fuel the story. You want to make things hard for your characters because a) life is hard and b) drama is compelling. And if you can think of an easy way out for your characters, the audience has probably already thought of that as well, which isn’t compelling for them.

Make sure to check out the whole list. It’s a fantastic resource for writers of all levels.

(Also, who’s excited for Brave?!)

(via 109)(image: Pixar Wiki)

0 thoughts on “The Rules of Storytelling According to Pixar

  1. Rebekah says:

    I am all tingly in anticipation for Brave. I’m inherently attracted to anything Pixar does. They tend to do it better than almost anyone else. UP was a revelation to me. Wall-E taught me to care for the Earth. Toy Story made me never want to grow up. Shall I go on?

  2. Jennifer says:

    Loved #19. I CANNOT wait to see Brave!! Every time I see a trailer or poster for it, I always get more excited to see it. For me, it’s like that whenever Disney comes out with a new movie, because…well, they just make the best movies ;]

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