November 28th, 2012

Me typing?
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Writing Excuses 7.48: Pixar Rules for Writing a Compelling Story

Writing Excuses 7.48: Pixar Rules for Writing a Compelling Story


Key Points:
1. You admire a character for trying more than for their success.
"Try-fail cycle has to have fail." Trying again after you fail is heroic. And raises the stakes.
2. You gotta keep in mind what's interesting to you as an audience, not what's fun to do as a writer. That can be very different.
When you are crying on stage, the puppet is probably dead.  Avoid guest appearances.
3. Once upon a time, there was a ____ every day. ____. One day, ____. Because of that, ____. Because of that _____, until finally ____.
Event story, from the MICE quotient. Something upset the status quo, and the end is when the status quo is restored or a new one established.
4. Simplify, focus, combine characters, hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff, but it sets you free.
Kill your darlings! Stay focused, don't toss in the kitchen sink. Decide what the heart of your story is. Don't overdo the events, either. Or characters.
5. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them, challenge them. How do they deal?
Good way to build a story! Force everyone into someone else's role.
6. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard. Get yours working up front.
Come up with your ending, let it excite you, but don't be afraid to fine-tune it or replace it when you get there.
7. 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.
"Shoot for 100%. Learn to be happy with 80." Your next one will be better.
8. When you're stuck, make a list of what wouldn't happen next. Lots of times, material to get you unstuck will show up.
Multi-tentacled space goats!
9. 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.
Another good way to build stories. Focus on what's fun for you.
10. 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.
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[Brandon] We are out of time. We did 11 of the 22, which I think is pretty admirable, considering how much we like to talk. I do want to give credit where credit is due. That's Emma Coats. Her twitter is @lawnrocket. I think she may actually be leaving Pixar from things I've read. But anyway, she has some great rules. Hopefully they're helpful to you. You can go look up the other 11. I don't know if we'll do another podcast on them. But we might. Who knows? Anything can happen at Writing Excuses. I want you guys to go write a story about a space… A multi-tentacled space goat that can't save people again. This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses, now go write.

[Brandon] Hi, all. This is Brandon. Hope you enjoyed today's episode. I just wanted to give you a special reminder. Audible has my novella, Legion, up for free in audiobook. So since they're a sponsor of the podcast, I thought I'd give an extra shout out to it. They actually have, if you go to, they have Legion up there. You… There's no trial, there's no strings attached, you just get it for free. So I hope you guys go give it a listen if you haven't already. You can go to to download it and give it a try.
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