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Pixar’s 22 Steps To Ultimate Storytelling Under The Microscope

As any veteran Bang2writer knows, I normally don’t stand for so-called writing rules — but these are different!

Pixar have shown, time and time again, their stories and characters will stand the test of time. Their knowledge of story is EPIC and every writer can learn from their movies and shorts, whether they actually *like* them or not.

This is why Pixar’s 22 Rules For Phenomenal Storytelling went viral when it appeared online and continue to be the gold standard for ALL writers, screenwriters or not! I love Erika’s short and pithy additions and alternative views to Pixar’s here – plus there’s a great infographic to check out, too.

Enjoy — and bookmark this, it’s GOLD!


Storytelling is an art. There are several different and complex elements that make up the overall story and when these elements are executed properly, it can make for a memorable and entertaining story.

Although 22 rules seems like an awful lot, when you can follow them, your story is bound to keep your audience intrigued.

1. You admire a character for trying for more than their successes.

Create a balance between success and failure instead of making things too easy on your character.

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.

Put yourself into the mindset of the audience and enjoy your writing.

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.

Don’t let the overall theme weigh you down so much that it gets in the way of the actual writing.

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

This template is called ‘The Story Spine’. Use it to get your ideas and story flowing.

5. Simplify. Focus. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff, but it sets you free.

Keep it simple and maintain your main focus and avoid going too far off the track.

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

Conflicting situations that your character is not used to will not only challenge your character but it will intrigue your audience.

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

Writing the ends of stories is the hardest part. Discover how you want the story to end and find the optimal path between the beginning and the end for your story.

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.

Don’t worry about making everything perfect. Otherwise, nothing will ever be finished.

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.

By finding out what won’t happen next, you are actually exploring things that could happen if you take a more complex view of your character.

10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognise it before you can use it.

What you like will subconsciously make its way into your story.

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.

Don’t be afraid to share!

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

That 6th idea could be the best after all.

13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

Characters need just that — character!

14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off ? That’s the heart of it.

Share your passions, passionately.

15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

Make it seem relatable!

16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

Find a way to get the audience to fall in love with and support your characters.

17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on — it’ll come back around to be useful later.

Always save everything.

18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best and fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

It’s not just write once and you’re done. Re-writes are a major part of storytelling.

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

Don’t take the easy way out.

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

Give it a try to see if ideas start sparking.

21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?

Better grab your Thesaurus.

22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Get to the point in the most beautiful and interesting way possible.

BIO: Erika Clarke is an academic enthusiasts that loves writing more than everything. Check her site where she creates honest reviews on most popular academic writing companies in the world.


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