Monday, May 28, 2012

Pixar Story Rules (Some of them, anyway)

I find the most interesting things via Twitter. Today, I was trolling through my feed, smiling at all the Memorial Day (U.S.) messages to soldiers and vets, when I ran across one that mentioned Pixar's story-telling "rules". Of course, I had to click on the link and found THIS awesome blog post on the

Pixar stories are the kind of stories that appeal to both young and old audiences with each story filled with humor, drama, and plain ole good storytelling. So, Pixar story "rules"? Yes, please.

Here are my top ten favorites from the list Pixar story artist Emma Coats tweeted. She learned these guidelines from her colleagues and they translate well to any genre or medium.

(from THIS post by David on the blog)
#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: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
#4: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
#5: 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.
#6: 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.
#7: 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.
#8: 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.
#9: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
#10: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

Of course, no rule is hard and fast--they depend on the story and the writer as well as the situation. Personally, I like lists like this because I can say, "Yeah. That's right!" or "Ooh, let me try that and see if it does work.". Plus, Pixar knows storytelling so I'm more than willing to take writing advice from them.


  1. these are all great rules to write by - and I'll take advice from Pixar anyday.

  2. Wonderful storytelling rules told in a way that we can all understand. Thanks for sharing the list!

  3. Those are completely awewesome! :) Pixar rules, well, Rule! :)