Pixar Rules of Story #2 – Know Your Audience
Keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
When we are writing movies, it is clear that we need to have an idea of the audience we are aiming for. Although we SHOULD be writing stuff that we enjoy writing, we also need to be writing stories that are interesting and enjoyable to audiences other than just ourselves.
With Rule#2, Stephan Bugaj takes a small step back and thinks about another audience for your spec script, not just the one enjoying the finished movie. Before we can wow the cinema audience, we need to impress the readers and industry professionals to whom we wish to sell our script.
This is where the advice about not (necessarily) doing what is fun as a writer comes into play. As writers we love words and the construction of prose. We love to write meandering, beautiful descriptions and deep and meaningful accounts of internal thoughts and emotions.
Great if you are writing a novel.
But movies are a visual medium and, as Stephan argues, we are writing the Blueprint for a finished film. He talks about the importance of writing in a filmic way to ensure the finished script provides a film-like experience. For example, using concise description, writing visually, using a filmic structure and avoiding “unfilmables” – those aspects of writing that just don’t translate to screen, such as internal thoughts and emotions.
(I’m going to come back to unfilmables in more detail soon)
This is possibly most relevant when you have Hollywood in mind and the idea of selling a script to one of the big studios. If you are writing a script that you are financing and filming yourself, you can write the script in any way you like. But if you are going for a commercial film sale, you might want to avoid writing in that “way writers enjoy” to ensure your screenplays are as filmic as they can be to give you the best shot at getting it made.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can never do any of those writerly things that we all love, but be cautious and be sparing in your use of ‘rule’ breaking… like all screenwriting ‘rules’ there is flexibility in when you chose to follow or ignore them. Ultimately “unfilmables”, in-depth description and other “writerly” things are like any screenwriting rules; okay in moderation, and knowing about them and when you can best use them, means you are perfectly placed to know how to employ them to your story’s advantage.
When writing your spec scripts, do you write for the “audience” who can influence your chances of a sale, or do you just write to please yourself?
Where do audience considerations come into your writing process (if at all)?
Feel free to comment below and remember to come back next week for Rule #3 – Your theme will out
Please also check out the Introduction to the series if you missed that!
And, if you missed it, check out Rule #1 – Characters you Admire
(Thanks again to Alex Eylar for permission to use his great images)