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22 Rules of Storytelling from Pixar

29 Nov


Every single marketer out there is a storyteller. It is often overlooked and replaced by fancy terms picked up in business school or seminars, but ultimately a marketers job is tell the brands story. A brands narrative is what makes it unique, it engages emotion and most importantly consumers are more receptive to storytelling than they are advertising.

People have been telling stories for as long as they have been on the planet, from ancient Greece to the Hollywood Hills storytelling is engraved in our DNA. But storytelling isn’t something you’re born with, its an acquired skill and a practiced art. Luckily for us Emma Coats, formerly a storyboard artist with Pixar and now with Google, tweeted out 22 rules of storytelling from Pixar.

Pixar is one of the largest and most profitable studios on the world, and that reputation was built on telling incredibly engaging and relatable stories. These 22 rules will help you in creating a brand narrative that pulls customers in and engages them, so they are truly listening to your message.

22 Rules of Storytelling from Pixar

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

2. You got to 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 until 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 cope?

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.

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.

12. Discount the first thing that comes to mind. And the second, third, fourth, fifth – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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