How Pixar Can Help Improve Your Story

Based on my personal experience, when I get a new story idea, I get really excited about writing. Either outlining or drafting, I want to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and get moving. But, I often get ahead of myself and run into problems later on. Usually this requires a lot of rewriting to correct problems that could have been avoided had I thought seriously about my story before I started writing it.

Thankfully, I can look to the storytelling masters of Pixar for help analyzing my story. You see, Emma Coats, a story artist with Pixar, recently posted her take on the 22 story basics she has learned from senior Pixar employees.

If you look at the pointers Coats lists, you’ll see some common themes: avoid the easy solutions; challenge yourself and your characters; eliminate waste or redundancy, even if you think it’s cool; and don’t be afraid to tinker. All of these are great ideas that will undoubtedly improve your story. Then it’s just a question of making sure your execution lives up to your ideas. But that’s another post.

Of course, this sort of advice is best suited for those who outline a story instead of improvising. Why do I say this? Well, animation is expensive. So Pixar will plan everything out: scripts, storyboards, sketches, the works. Of course, sometimes that’s not even enough. Despite that cost, Pixar has been known to re-write, re-edit, and re-cut.

You shouldn’t be either. There is only so much planning you can do before writing. So don’t be so married to your outlines that you eliminate any opportunity for surprises. If you see something interesting, pursue it if it improves your story. If not, save it for the story it will help.

So I guess what I’m saying is take some time to plan before you begin writing. Make sure your story is robust and well thought out. And when your draft is complete, don’t be afraid to chop it all to hell and start over. It works for Pixar, and it can work for you.

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