Showing posts with label Pixar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pixar. Show all posts

Sunday, October 13

Finding the Theme of Your Story: The Vomit Draft

Finding the Theme of Your Story: The Vomit Draft

Hi! Welcome back. A short post today. I’m not being lazy, I’m working on three much longer ones, but that’s for next week. Today, I thought I might update one of my more popular older posts: 22 Ways to Tell a Great Story. But then I read tip number three and realized I needed to do a post about the virtues of writing a vomit draft/zero draft.

Three Reasons to Write a Vomit Draft

1. A vomit draft will show you what your story is about, it will reveal the theme

This list of 22 tips comes from the fabulously creative brain of Emma Coats who used to work for Pixar. A few of these points jumped out at me. They communicate a certain picture of how to create a story, one that I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically agree with. Here are the tweets in question:

“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.”

Yes! (3) had me hopping up and down. I totally agree. This is what I’ve been saying about the advantages of a vomit draft or Zero Draft (I didn’t invent that name!).

(The Zero Draft: How To Beat Writer’s Block)

I keep a writing journal and I always write my first draft out longhand. There’s something about the motion of my hand skimming along the rough surface of the paper, the feeling of cradling the pen between my fingers, the feeling of the jaggedness of the pen’s contact with the page.

Anyway. That’s not what I want to talk about, what I want to talk about is ONE of the benefits of writing a vomit draft, one that Emma Coats touches on: It will help you find your theme.

Let me try to unpack that.

I remember watching one of John Green’s videos where he discussed the writing of his marvelous and immensely popular book: The Fault in Our Stars. As you probably know, this book reached the number one spot on the New York Times Bestseller list, as well as various others. It was also TIME Magazine’s number one fiction book pick for 2012. AND it was made into a movie. It’s safe to say it was successful. I think we’d all settle for that kind of response to our work!

I mention this because John Green said -- in a YouTube video I can’t find the link to! -- that essentially nothing in his first draft made it into his final draft. It was simply a place to start from, it was something that helped him figure out what his book was about.

2. Flawed Ideas on Paper Beat Perfect Ideas in Your Head

“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.”
That’s really why I’m such a big fan of writing a vomit draft, it gives you space and time to flush your ideas out of your brain and get them out into the world where they can be examined, played with. You can’t improve nothing. Start with whatever scrawled idiotic nonsensical blather you can come up with and then make it better! (And, whatever you do, NEVER show anyone your vomit draft. I like to ritually burn mine.)

3. Endings Matter

“7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.”
Perhaps this doesn’t belong in an article about the advantages of writing a vomit draft, but IF you have a general idea about how your story ends -- you don’t have to! -- it helps. And of course your idea regarding how the story ends can change as you write. This is a vomit draft, that’s okay! There are no rules EXCEPT: just write.

And that’s it! Thanks for reading, and if you’d like to help keep this blog going head over to my Patreon page. You can donate as little as one dollar a month and have my eternal thanks as well as the knowledge that you are unconditionally awesome. Also, if you’d like to send me a story or a portion of your WIP for me to critique, head on over to my Patreon account or just contact me.

Articles you might like:

How Many Drafts Does It Take To Write A Novel?
The Zero Draft: How To Beat Writer’s Block
Pixar: 22 Ways To Tell A Great Story

Friday, November 16

Pixar Luminary Andrew Stanton's TED Talk: Make Your Reader Care

Pixar Luminary Andrew Stanton's TED Talk: Make Your Reader Care

Andrew Stanton was "the second animator and ninth employee to join Pixar Animation Studios".
He was designer and writer on Toy Story (1995), for which he was nominated for an Oscar. He went on to write and direct such worldwide hits as A Bug's Life (1998), Finding Nemo (2003) and WALL·E (2008), the latter two both winning Oscars for Best Animated Feature. (Andrew Stanton, IMDb)
Not many people can say they've won two Oscars. Here are some of Mr. Stanton's words of wisdom for the struggling wordsmith:

Everything Must Lead To A Goal

Everything you write, from the first to the last, leads to a singular goal. Ideally, it confirms some truth, it deepens our understanding of who we are as human beings.

Make Your Reader Care

We connect to other people through stories.

Your readers want you to make them care. They want to care emotionally, intellectually and aesthetically.

The Promise Scene

A promise scene is a scene at the beginning of a story that assures your readers/viewers that your tale will be worth their time. For instance, some stories begin with a storyteller, a guy at a bar saying, "Here, let me tell you a story." That's a promise.

Andrew Stanton remarked that a well told promise is like a pebble being pulled back in a slingshopt. It propells you though thestory to the end.

Make The Reader Work For It

Your reader wants to work for their meal, so to speak. They just don't want to know that's what they're doing.

We're born problem solvers. It's what we do. We deduce, we deduct. It is the well organized ABSENCE of information that draws us in.

Andrew Stanton calls this the Unifying Theory of 2+2. Make the audience put things together. Don't give them 4, give them 2+2.

Stories are inevitable, if they're good, but they're never predictable.

Well Drawn Characters Have A 'Spine'

Judith Weston talks of characters having a "spine".  Andrew Stanton describes this as an inner motivation, a dominant unconscious goal they're striving for. It's an itch they can't scratch.

For instance, Wally's inner motivation is to find the beauty, Merlin's is to prevent harm. Woody wants to do what's best for Andy.

(To read more about this idea see Judith Weston's book The Film Director's Intuition.)

Like us, characters often aren't consciously aware of their inner motivation. A major thereshold is passed when we mature enough to acknowledge what drives us and to take the wheel and steer it.

As in life, change is fundamental in story because life is never static.

Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty.

 Honest conflict creates doubt in what the outcome might be.

Pixar's Rules of Storytelling

 Since it's beginning, Pixar had certain rules:
1. No songs
2. No 'I want' moment
3. No happy village
4. No love story
5. No villain.
In the first year, Pixar's story wasn't working and Disney was panicking. But they believed in themselves and they figured it out.

Remember: Storytelling has guidelines NOT hard and fast rules.

Some people will tell you there's no secret to storytelling. That's hogwash. There is a secret and this is it: Instilling WONDER in your audience. Wonder is honest and innocent. Watch Bambi. The very best stories are infused with a sense of wonder.

Here's another secret:

Capture a truth from your experience and use it to drive your story

Andrew Stanton's parents told him he had been born so premature their doctor didn't believe he would live. But he did. He was given a second chance, a chance he is grateful for. Andrew Stanton used this private truth to infuse emotion into a pivotal scene in finding Nemo.

Don't be shy, use the values you personally hold.

Andrew Stanton's TED Talk

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NaNoWriMo Update: I'm at 29,012 words and hope to reach 31k tonight. (Yea!) Last night I tried Jeffrey's Scott's outlining method in Excel. Wow! It was a revelation. I'm kicking myself for not doing something like this before. (See: Using Excel To Outline Your NaNoWriMo Novel: Defeating the sprawl.)

Other articles you might like:

- Andrew Stanton's advice is very similar to that given by Donald Maass: Donald Maass Talks About How To Make Your Readers CARE About Your Characters On The First Page.
- Story tips from Pixar: 22 Ways To Tell A Great Story.
- 8 Do's And Don'ts Of Writing Fiction From Neil Gaiman

Photo credit: "0216" by Cia de Foto under Creative Commons Attribute 2.0.

Monday, June 11

Pixar: 22 Ways To Tell A Great Story

Pixar: 22 Ways To Tell A Great Story

Who doesn't like a Pixar movie? Pixar's films have made almost 8 billion dollars worldwide and have won 26 Academy Awards.

Want to know how Pixar creates riveting stories? Here are 22 pearls of writing wisdom from Emma Coats and the creative minds at Pixar:
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. (Pixar story rules (one version))
Emma Coats (@lawnrocket), a storyboard artist at Pixar Studios, originally published each of the above as a tweet.

Thanks to the Passive Voice Blog for posting a link to Emma's tweets.

Other articles you might like:

- How To Write Short Stories
- Write A Novel In A Year, Chuck Wendig's Plan: The Big 350
- 7 Tips On How To Get Your Guest Post Accepted