I thought I’d start out the new year with some much-needed rules. You all have gone rampant lately, and if I don’t whip you hooligans into shape, who will?
Now, before you all get defensive about it, when I say ‘rules’, I really mean ‘guidelines’. I think anyone who comes up with any set of rules know that there are always exceptions, and sometimes it is even better to ignore those rules. But, for now, let’s play along and see what the folks at Pixar like to use as storytelling rules, ahem!, I mean, guidelines.
If you’ve ever seen the documentary about Pixar, called The Pixar Story, then you know that though Pixar’s staff get to do a lot of fun stuff, they are also very dedicated to the craft of storytelling. So much so, that some would say they have perfected the craft, able to produce great stories time and time again. I’m sure there are some Pixar stories that do not resonate with everyone, but you have to admit, they seem to have a successful formula.
I recently saw Brave in the theater.
Actually, I forced my husband to go with me, but he fell asleep a quarter of the way in. So, really, I watched it by myself.
I didn’t go there with my nephew or niece.
I didn’t go there because I had to watch it to appease a younger member in my family.
I went because I love Pixar films. And I knew I’d love Brave. And I did.
“Why?” you might ask. “Why would a grown woman go to watch an animation for pre-adolescent girls?”
Well, we won’t go into what my husband thinks of my maturity level, but suffice to say that the film made me laugh out loud, cry, and hope. Very few movies manage to do that.
To salvage my reputation (I have a reputation?), I’ll also interject that I saw Looper this past year, and loved it, too.
Anyway, the point is that I felt Pixar (along with Disney) created a wonderful story about a girl realizing that listening to her mom might not be a bad thing. And she was a mean shot.
After watching Brave, when I left that theater, a thought skittered across my mind: How can I write stories like that? But like a gnat, my mind moved on to other things and dinner beckoned. I soon forgot about that thought, and went about my life as I did before.
In the later half of 2012, I finished up my novel and submitted it to an editor. She informed me that my manuscript needed another re-write. I had, yet again, failed to write a convincing novel. Soon after that, a writer friend of mine, Jonathon Wagner, forwarded this link to me.
The wonderful folks at PB & J Publishing put together a fun graphic summarizing the 22 rules of story telling by Pixar’s storyboard artist Emma Coats.
If you click on the link and read through all the ‘rules’, you’ll recognize a lot of them. Some of them will sound like a lot of work (because they are), and others you’ll probably exhale a sigh of relief at – knowing that, oh, maybe you are doing at least one thing right. Whether you agree with them or not, you have to admit that these “rules” are nothing new. I know my writing coach did her best to show me how to change my writing so that it fell more inline with guidelines like those offered by Pixar. The fact is, these, and other rules, simply lay the ground work for good storytelling.
So, rather than hash out another revision of my novel that will simply fail again, I decided to consider each of these 22 rules with my novel (or any short story) in mind, and do so in a blog post for each rule. The hope is through hard work and perseverance, my stories will shine through.
And maybe yours will, too. Watch for my 22 rule review posts to be posted on the occasional Wednesday.
(FYI – I’ll be keeping a more relaxed schedule this year, since my last schedule didn’t last).
- Pixar’s 22 Rules to Phenomenal Storytelling [INFOGRAPHIC]
- Pixar story rules (one version)
- The 22 rules of storytelling, according to Pixar