Pixar Rules of Story #10 – Finding your Voice
Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognise it before you use it.
Rule #10 is, essentially, another writing exercise that is both vital for our development as writers but, more importantly, fun! It talks about the importance of analysing our favourite films to work out what it is about them that appeals. The scenes, beats, tropes, plots, devices and pacing. All those things you like will help inform your own writing and identify your own “Personal Thematic” that will come across in your writing as you incorporate those elements.
The good thing about identifying your Personal Thematic in this way is that it is not genre specific. If your personal thematic is friendship, you can work that into all sort of films, across all genres. For example, thematically, Stand by Me and The Hangover are about friendship but couldn’t be more different tonally.
Knowing and understanding your own thematic preferences and influences leads to developing your own voice from the stories you tell, and that is what makes you stand out as your own self, rather than just another writer.
Although I can see the advantages to doing this, I would add one simple caveat – don’t just pull apart your favourite stories, or the ones you like. Watch as much as you can, whether it is within a genre you normally gravitate towards or to areas where you may rarely tread. All films, whether good or bad overall, may have aspects to them that you connect with and that can help you understand your own thematic leanings.
And this isn’t just about copying, it is about understanding how stories work and how they can help you to tell your’s.
Or, put it another way, Rule #10 is simply telling you that one of the most important things that will lead you on a path to great screenwriting, after getting words on paper, is:
So go on… forget work and go switch on the TV!
Do you regularly watch and analyse films in relation to your own writing?
Do you see influences from the films you watch in your own stories?
Feel free to comment below and remember to come back next week for Rule #11 –Don’t be afraid of failure
Please also check out the Introduction to the series if you missed that, where you can also find an index to all the posts.