Pixar’s 10 Golden Rules of Storytelling

Guidelines & rules on how to create appealing stories from Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats

Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats has compiled a series of tweet sharing the narrative wisdom she’s received working for the animation studio over the years on how to create appealing stories:

1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
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2. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
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3. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
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4. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
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5. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
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6.  Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
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7. 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.
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8.  What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
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9. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
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10. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.
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