Rule #22

And the very last one. Finally!

pixar22What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

This should have been the first rule, huh? Why was I wasting our time with all the others…

Today ends our journey through Emma Coats’ Pixar’s 22 Storytelling Rules. She devised the rules after spending time with the Pixar team developing several major, wildly popular, animated films. So, though I may not know what I’m talking about, I trust Ms. Coats does. With that in mind, I endeavored to examine each of her rules.

Here’s the last ‘rule’ (guidelines, really, don’t be fussy):

What is the essence of your story?

Does a princess save her kingdom? Does a woman leave family behind to find herself? Or is she just on a grand adventure?

Knowing exactly what it is your story is about (love, revenge, betrayal), allows you to branch out from that one, fruitful seed. It helps set the tone of your work, applies a focus to the plot, and guides you away from tangents.

To help find the essence of any story, sum it up in one sentence. Once you have the core of your tale, the rest can fall in place.

I hope you enjoyed this series. You can find all related posts here on my Tips page.

Until next year, Happy Holidays!


11 thoughts on “Rule #22

  1. Sometimes, though, we don’t know that that Big Theme is until we finish a draft. So, for me, the Big Theme is what I use in revision. Perhaps that’s why she held it to the end.

    1. I generally start with a theme but, while it usually remains after revision, there is usually a more important theme that emerges for me. I’m not sure that’s a great thing because it probably muddles it a bit but it is what it is.

      Some of the writers in my local RWA chapter, may start with a theme but they save making the theme clear for a late revision, it’s sort of a final step. Maybe that’s also why she lists it last although it does seem somewhat odd to put it at the end,

  2. The one-sentence logline really does focus a story. Too many people think it oversimplifies things (I used to), but the core of a story is no place to be confusing. There are plenty of subplots to do that… 🙂

    Happy Holidays Nila!

  3. This is more or less what I did this week in my Elevator Pitch in summing up my novel in one sentence for Angry Robot. You’re right, once you have this core everything else will fall into place – and I cut out around 10,000 words of what I saw as unnecessary events and characters while allowing the narrative to focus more on the core story .

    1. Good job! I still have to learn this trick. Sometimes I can do it, but sometimes I get bogged down. I know I just need to focus. I’ll go check out your elevator pitch – maybe it will help. Thanks!

  4. Many authors advocate putting that one sentence that sums up your story’s essence in a place where you can frequently eyeball it while writing, just so you don’t veer off course from that main direction. Simple trick yet probably pretty effective.

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