Pixar’s 22 Rules of Story: Introduction
In 2011, Pixar employee Emma Coats published a series of story-writing principles that became known as “Pixar’s 22 Rules of Story,” based around skills and knowledge she picked up while working with the studio.
Subsequently, another Pixar employee, Stephan Vladimir Bugaj, published a series of posts on his blog that explored Emma’s tweets in more detail, with the understanding that these guidelines are up for discussion rather than being strict “rules”. Stephan eventually collected his blog posts into one fantastic document which is still available to download: ‘Pixar’s 22 Rules of Story (that aren’t really Pixar’s) Analyzed’ as a PDF eBook.
I love Pixar and their films and, because of this, I am keen to acknowledge the brilliance of this uber-successful studio and the amazing work they consistently produce. Work that we can all learn from.
What better way to do this than to explore these “rules”. Although the rules have been around for a few years now, and many of us are familiar with them, they can still be a very useful tool for writers old and new.
What I want to do with this series of posts is to look at each rule in turn and explore what it means to me as a writer and how it might help you. This is largely my opinion, and my interpretation so, if you see things differently, or have something to add, please do so in the comments below.
So, please join me over the next few weeks and explore the rules of story telling, Pixar style! I’ll be putting the first post up next week just to give you a chance to read the rules in full, if you haven’t already and want to – or you can just read along as we go! I will plan subsequent posts for Wednesdays.
With thanks to Emma and Stephan.
And additional thanks to Alex Eylar who has put together some great Lego-themed photos related to some of the rules and has kindly agreed to letting me use them in these posts. Keep an eye out for them, they are fantastic and I think you’ll like them. And check out his page on FLICKR where there are a lot more, amazing Lego photos!
(NB, this series of articles were originally published by me on The Black Board writing forum but have been checked and updated for reproduction here.)
- Rule #1 – Characters you Admire
- Rule #2 – Know your Audience
- Rule #3 – Your Theme Will Out!
- Rule #4 – The Story Spine
- Rule #5 – How do you Cut?
- Rule #6 – Conflict and Emotional Arc
- Rule #7 – Start with your Ending
- Rule #8 – Knowing when you’re finished!
- Rule #9 – Avoid the Obvious Choices
- Rule #10 – Finding your Voice
- Rule #11 – Don’t be afraid of failure
- Rule #12 – Experiment!
- Rule #13 – Passive is Poison
- Rule #14 – Theme: The Heart of your Story
- Rule #15 – Know your Characters (part 1)
- Rule #16 – Raise the Stakes
- Rule #17 – Practice!
- Rule #18 – Don’t sweat the small stuff
- Rule #19 – Coincidentally Speaking
- Rule #20 – Deconstruction
- Rule #21 – Know your Characters (part 2)
- Rule #22 – Pare it down and Build it up