Pixar’s 22 Rules Of Storytelling

Back in 2011, then-Pixar story artist Emma Coats tweeted a series of guidelines she learned from her more experienced colleagues on how to create appealing stories.

Having rediscovered them again recently, 10 years later, it’s remarkable how so many of them still hold up – underscoring the fundamental nature of great storytelling! As a corporate storyteller, I might also add that some of these apply to telling one’s company narrative as well, especially the ones highlighted in bold:

  1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
  2. You gotta 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.
  3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
  4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
  6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
  8. 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.
  9. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
  14. 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.
  15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
  17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
  18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
  19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
  20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
  21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
  22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Which ones spoke to you? Which ones do you think could be co-opted in building one’s company narrative?

Nike’s “No Excuses” TVC

My brother has been mocking me with this ad every time the subject of exercising/working out comes up. 🙂 I’d offer him a witty comeback – but I just can’t seem to argue against the inspiring example of Matt Scott.

It’s a well-written ad – hitting directly on Nike’s target audience while also embodying perfectly the brand’s credo to “Just Do It.”

Guess I’ll go jump into the pool or hit the gym or something now…

Brands Are The New Religions

Thou shalt not worship false iPhones

As I was fiddling with my iPhone today, I started thinking about how some of the rabid Apple fans I knew spoke about Apple and its related iProducts with almost-religious fervour in almost-religious terms. I mean, though I don’t consider myself a “rabid” Apple fan, but even I am guilty of this: I talk about my recent purchase of the iPhone4 and subsequent adoption its technology in religious terms! I frequently mention to my friends about how I’m now a “convert” and have “seen the light”… and I even go around proselytizing – telling everyone about the “Good News” that I’ve found in the iPhone!

And then,  I stumble upon this article over at Fast Company that talks about how a university study reveals that the Apple Logo Is an Agnostic’s Crucifix, Star of David! The study by Duke University reveals that:

The brand name logo on a laptop or a shirt pocket may do the same thing for some people that a pendant of a crucifix or Star of David does for others.

Continue reading “Brands Are The New Religions”

DTAC TVC – Cellphone Myopia

(I don’t normally post on weekends, but I’m making the exception here because 1) this is a great ad and I want to keep it here for reference and 2) it’s something light just before we start the weekend! Enjoy!)

I like this ad. To me, it’s a great, creative ad that speaks volumes – telling a great brand story that resonates across cultures. It doesn’t matter that the ad is in Thai and I can’t understand a lick of the language.

What really gets to me is that I get it. I get the message and it causes me to respond – viscerally, mentally, emotionally.

This, to me, is what great advertising and brand storytelling is about. Tell me what you think:

How 10 Brands Came About

I’m currently doing some thinking on “brand storytelling” (more on that as it comes), and thought this was an interesting article via Graphic Design Blog on how 10 brands originated. It got me thinking about the evolution of a brand – from what it originally was to where it is today. If anything, it also makes for great introduction fodder during presentations!

Cool facts about how brands came about:

Continue reading “How 10 Brands Came About”