We are going to be starting a blogging challenge about Pixar's 22 Rules to Storytelling.  Please check out this blog to see what I will be blogging about for the next 22 days.


Pixar’s Rule #1: Character Struggle
#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

As an avid reader, I feel the key to any good story is love for the characters, feeling their struggle and wish for their success.  You want to be them, date them, or be their best friend.  It keeps you engaged.

Most of my favorite books have protagonist that are strong women with the courage to push through the struggles of life.  Those struggles shape the character into someone you can love.  Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior of the Divergent series by Veronica Roth is appealing because of the strength she doesn’t even realize she possesses.  She knows before her test that she is different and that she struggles with her ways of her faction.  The thought of leaving her family causes her distress, but the thought of not being who she is meant to be can’t be denied.  She has to follow her true self.  She is small and has to work harder than the others in her new.  Every obstacle thrown her way is overcome making someone you respect. 

Really, it is the basics for any story.  Something has to happen to keep us interested.  You add in a little bit of a personal connection to a character and the makings of a beautiful story emerge. 

Be it a struggle you are horrified about like the killing of children for sport in The Hunger Games or life as a slightly odd kid from Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Life no matter how ‘normal’ or how extreme has a set of it’s on struggles, it’s how the character deals with the struggle and come through on the other side that makes the story worth reading—again and again.

So, I agree that you need to admire the characters and their struggle.  Characters are how I personally become invested in a novel or series.  I love to see where they start and were they end up. It’s all about taking that ride and making us want to be in the passenger seat.

Pixar Rule #2
 You gotta keep in my mind what's interesting to you as an audience, not what's fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

Hmmmm!  This is one isn’t quite as easy as Rule #1.  I think the important thing is the ‘can’ in sentence two.  They ‘can’ be very different.  Hopefully they are the same thing, but that would make writing super easy. 

The important thing is to know your audience.  If you are writing MG it’s probably a good idea to spend a little time with some kiddo’s in that age range, same goes for YA, NA, or adult.  Each age group comes with its own set of wants, needs, and even language. 

Yeah, I was a teenage—a couple of years back.  The thing is times change.  New problems emerge.  And the technology.  Just the other day my oldest son was watching Rock of Ages with me and my husband and said, “What kind of cell phone is that?”  I told him, “That was the original cell phone.”  He thought it was hilarious.

And you have to know the language is different by the day.  These kids come up with new ‘language’ to keep us parents and adults on the outs.  Like when I was in teenager they wrote that ‘valley girl’ dictionary. (Wait!  Did I just give away my age?)  The dictionary would be a mile high at this point.  So, it’s our job to figure it out, if you want to be a successful author.  That is the ‘thing’ really—what do you want?

It is important for a writer to know the ins and outs. So, you have to spend time with your audience.  Read books and magazines geared toward your preferred age group, and listen to their music.  If you surround yourself with things teen, young adult, or adult it will make what’s fun as a writer, fun for them to read. If you don’t love the things geared toward that age group maybe you’re not writing to the right age group, maybe you would have more fun writing to a different audience.  It is about loving your craft after all.

Only you can decide what is best for you and your goal.  If you want people to love your words know your audience.  Be flexible.  Take your audience where they want to go, just use your one and only special voice to get them to that end point.  In the end you will have a book you are proud to write and to share.

Pixar’s Rule #3
 Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about until you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.

Theme is important.  You always need something cohesive to pull all of the action together into a central theme.  Should you force a theme?  I think— no. 

In my opinion this rule is telling you to write with a central theme in mind.  Let the story take you on its journey through twists and turn.  Take this journey being ever cognizant of the thread that will tie these wonderful words up into a neat tight bow without unraveling the entire story. 

Look at fashion.  You go into a store or see a runway show and the theme an artist/designer has in mind with his/her pieces almost jumps out at you.  It is their art, their story told with fabric.  It is beautiful when it all moves from point to point seamlessly. 

Go to an art gallery.  When you walk from piece to piece the story is beautifully told with the stroke of a brush or the shape of a sculpture.  If the artist needs to go back and add something to a sculpture or color to a painting, the artist may be able to tie the art together. But, would the individual piece lose some of its beauty?  It could make everything perfect or it could ruin the entire design. 

This is where the rewrite is important.  The writer/artist must step back and see gaps or flaws.  The little thing that doesn’t move the story in the direction it was intended. That little thing that seems like your telling the reader what to think or feel, it could turn the reader off.  And you have to be careful to take delicate stokes.  Don’t go in with an axe.  Let things move naturally. Be mindful and true to the theme. 

With plots and subplots they all need to work together in a theme.  You develop the story with an intentional direction, but you have to be careful not to force things.  The words should glide across the page moving the reader physically and emotionally along with the main character. 

How do you choose a theme in your writing?  Or do you write and watch as a theme forms?  How do you keep the theme without forcing it?

Pixar’s Rule #4
Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

As a teacher we preach not to formula write.  Don’t follow a pattern if you want catch the attention of raters or graders.  They don’t want to see the same thing over and over again.  It is boring and it will not set you apart from the stacks and stacks of writing.  But, what we mean by formula writing is four sentences, paragraph break, four-five sentences, paragraph break, and at least five paragraphs.  Where every student in your class has a nice neat paper and if you flipped through the stack, it would look as if someone photocopied the same story.  That is not what this rule means.

This is only a guide for getting your story started.  It will help you find direction. I feel this is a great place to start. One of the biggest struggles in writing is sitting down in front of a blank sheet of paper or a blank computer screen.  It is a scary place.  With something like this, you know where to start, where to go, and where you want to end up.  It is a compass giving you direction. The only thing left is set forth on your journey.  A journey you can take without hesitation, fear, or anxiety.  You know the major steps to be taken.  Just sit and write.

Do you think this would give you direction? Or do you think it is just another boring formula?

Pixar’s Rule #5
Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

Twists and turns are fabulous.  The unexpected can be mind blowing.  But, if you have too much going on in your story the reader can’t follow it.  If they can’t follow it, they won’t continue reading, and they won’t recommend it to a friend.  Be true to your writing and to your plot, just cut away the excess fat, leaving the juicy meat.

Keep a tight rein on where you are going and how you will end up.  You don’t want to jump around from action to action for the sake of action.  It has to mean something and take you somewhere specific.  If it doesn’t, cut it out—it isn’t needed.

Combine Characters.
This applies the same principle as simplify and focus.  Too many characters can confuse the reader.  You aren’t as invested in the characters if you spend all of your time trying to keep them straight.  If you have a few strong characters, the reader can come to love the character.  Instead of several shallow one dimensional characters combining characters can make one multi-dimensional character with more complex feelings and emotions that will draw the reader.  This makes for a memorable character you love, love, love.  And it is all about loving the characters.

Hop over detours.
To me if the detour isn’t taking you to your desired end point or molding your main character—simply get rid of it. 

You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
Editing is the hardest part.  As a teacher, I have seen tears shed over editing a paper.  You have worked hard to come up with these words.  It is your work of art.  You don’t want to change it.  Sometimes, change is good and need.  In the end your work will be better.  It will be exactly what the story needs to be the very best story.


Pixar’s Rule #6
What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

The most beloved characters are not boring.  Conflict is how you sculpt and build personality.  It is the things that happen to us in life that make us into the adults we become.  If we go through life easy breezy, how fun is that?  You don’t grow.  You don’t learn.  You don’t stretch your mind you just remain one dimensional.  No fun. People tend to resent people who have life just a little too easy. The challenges thrown at people make them into who they are in the end of the story.  If they walk down a straight path and just wind up at the end, you are not allowed to watch as the character evolves. 

A protagonist has to make you want to cheer for them.  If they just waltz through life, everything is easy, and nothing learned they can’t become anything more.  The road traveled is too easy.  The path is too straight.  Remember this should be the person you want to be, you want to date, or you want to be their best friend.  Give us a reason to want these things.

An antagonist has to make you hate them, but you have to understand why they are part of the story.  They may have started out normal, enduring, lovely, but they switch and become something more, something different, and something evil.  You enjoy seeing them suffer for their crimes or even die.  Or they can start out extremely evil and through their struggle they learn a lesson.  They become someone better.  You actually hate to see them die or suffer.  You almost feel sorry for them.
Pixar’s Rule #7
Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

The best books I have ever read leave you wanting more because the story ends with you amazed.  It can’t be totally predictable and (my overused word) boring.  I tend to be a bit ADHD and with three of my five boys severely ADHD, I am constantly looking for books that keep your attention all the way to the bitter sweet end.  So, endings are super duper important.

As a teacher we teach with the end in mind.  I know it’s a little different, but—it has some of the same importance.  You know what the students need to know, you set a good pace, and you set up some amazing lessons to get them to the end.  Finally, they are prepared for the next grade level.

When writing if you get the most difficult job out of the way before you start—you’ve done most of the work.  With the ending ever present in your mind, you can be cautious not to give too much away.  You can also set little traps for the reader and lead them down the wrong path.  This way you will surprise them in the end. But be mindful not to take a trip way off the main road.  

In my opinion, this is a great idea.  Know the ending.  Write an outline.  Use the fabulous ‘fill in the blank’ sentences from Rule #4 and set your story on a good path.  Take the reader on a magical journey and end the story in a perfect place.  In the end, make the reader anxious for the next book.


Pixar’s Rule #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.

Perfection.  As writers we edit, reread, rewrite, strike out, and polish until we feel the work is perfect.  Sometimes you have to let it go.  Let it sit, marinate, then come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes.  When you are ready to change and polish the work into a perfect piece of art your readers will love to read over and over again. 

To me 'the next time' can mean two different things.
One.  You can set the manuscript on a shelf and come back to it at a later time, after perfecting your craft.  The new perspective may produce a much better story.  
Or two.  You can’t make this one perfect.  You don’t have a good grasp of the story and it slips through your fingers.  In this case, set it to the side and move on.  Learn from the mistakes you have made and strengthen your skills through the process.  It will make you a better writer.  In some cases, you learn more from failure than from success. 

Hopefully, scrapping a manuscript completely is never the case.  I would hate to see a true labor of love trashed.  The editing process should always build a better story.  Some stories may need tons more work, but as a writer, I think your story must come out.  It would be hard to let it go. You want your story told.


Pixar’s Rule #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.

There is nothing worse for a writer than getting stuck.  Where do you go?  What path do you choose?  What do you want your character to learn?  Who do they need to be at the end? All of these questions are great.  They tell you where you want to end up?  What do you do when you don’t know?  You work backwards.

Sometimes it is easier to know what you don’t want.  You know where you don’t want the character to end.  You know how you don’t want the characters to act.  So, you eliminate as many options as possible.

Lists are an awesome tool.  When I write, I have a small notebook.  I find pictures to help me describe things.  I make lists of character traits.  They help me with the physical appearance of things or characters.  Working backwards, knowing where you don’t want to go and you hopefully won’t end up in the wrong spot. You eliminate tons of option and narrow your path.  Finally, helping you zone in on the place you want to go. 

If you don’t want you character to be weak.  You make a list of all the things that would make you character weak or even give the appearance of being weak.  Don’t make them weepy or cry too much.  Then, finding ways to make them seem strong will be much easier.

This should give you options and set the wheels in motion—again.


Pixar’s Rule #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.

Pull apart the stories you like. In my early years of teaching we taught a form of ‘writing to read’ in primary school.  The students learn to be better writers by reading and in reverse better readers by writing.  Find stories you love to read.  Dissect them and ask yourself, What do I love about this story?  What do I love about the character?  What do I love about this genre? When you discover what makes pull a book from the shelves at the book stores, then you know what you would be best at writing.  It is always easier to do a job you love.  Writing is your job, so you should love what you write.  It would be easy to get stuck in rut, if you hate what you’re doing.

One of my favorite stories is DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth.  Tris is a strong female.  If you were just given her physical attributes, it might not scream strong female.  It’s her inner confidence and emotional restraint that make her strong.  Four is the male main character.  He is respectful, strong, and confidence.  Two strong characters who complement one another, but don’t rely solely on the other person’s strength.  These are characters, I would love to be, to date, or to be best friends with, and that is what I am looking for in a main character.  So, when I write the traits that are important to me as a reader.  I don’t want a weak female that can only be saved by a strong male main character.  Can her save her?  Absolutely, but I want her to be able to return the favor. Down deep, that is what I like—it’s me.  Knowing this should make it easier for me to write about my characters.  These traits are things I recognize as admirable and they would make my character ‘real’ to me.

When I pull a story completely apart, I like to use story maps, outlines, or flowcharts.  You can easily plug in the story element and work your way through the meat of a book.  Again, in reverse using these tools will help you in writing a great story and working your way through characters, plots and sub-plots. 

Once you pull all these things from your favorite stories, and you feel them resonate with you. Recognize the parts that speak to you—positively and negatively.  Use this information to help you work your way through you own writing.  Write what you love and love what you write.

You immerse yourself in things that draw you.  Those are the stories that are part of you. 


Pixar’s Rule #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.

It is hard to take a chance.  Your mind is a perfect safe harbor for your story.  No bad critique, no rejections, no editing—the story is perfect.  But, if you never sit down in that chair, pull out the tool of choice, pen or computer, and put those ideas to paper they will never be seen or heard by anyone but you.    

Once the story is written down, you can start editing the words.  You can see all of the short comings.  Find those things that don’t quite fit or work, and make them the best they can possible be.  In the mind, things are perfect—no grammatical errors or misused words.  Once you start the process you can find the mistakes and make them better.  Make them the best.  But, until you start the process you can’t perfect the process.

This rule seems pretty straight forward and simple.  You have to write it, first.  Then, do those wonderful things writers do to make it the best it can possibly be.  Last, you share it.  No one will ever know your ideas unless you write them.  If you don’t write them, they can’t be shared.


Pixar’s Rule #12
Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

Write, Rewrite, Rewrite, Rewrite and Rewrite.

On the simple. Each sentence you write can be thought about and made better.  You can express yourself more clearly. We tend to speak simply.  Get rid of those tired overused words and add a few of those underused vocabulary words.  (Just don’t force the reader to reach for a dictionary with every page.)  Strive to make each sentence full of expression, make it visual, and make it come alive to the reader.

On the complex.  Your character isn’t just grief stricken by the death of a family member.  Take your character through the process.  Educate yourself with all the stages of grief.  Research and explore how different people with different personalities go through this painful situation.  Take us through the journey from denial to acceptance.  When the character is in Denial ‘don’t tell us, show us’ how do they deny the death?  In the process of Anger, let loose and show us how they strike out at others.  As the character Bargains their way back to the reality of the death that has left them so devastated, show them making a deal with God.  Let us be sad as they feel the heavy load of Depression.  We want to feel the weight of this stage.  How does it look through your character’s eye?  Last, bring them slowly and fully into Acceptance.  How? Why? When? Where? Did they finally come to this final stage? We will know and love the character and who they become out of this process.

Life is a process.  You go through stages.  Don’t deprive the reader of the journey.  Let the reader know how the character gets from point A to point B.  This doesn’t usually come from your first thought or even the second.  You have to get rid of the obvious and reach down deep to pull out that little something extra.  Then you will surprise yourself and your readers.

Think about it.  Stretch your limits.  Make it better.  Then make it the very best it can be.


Pixar’s Rule #13
Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

Perfection doesn’t mean the character is perfect—without flaw.  Those kinds of people just don’t exist.  Real people have flaws, they say the wrong things and they do the wrong thing.  Sometimes no matter how much you yell at them or give them advice they travel down the wrong path and end up some place horrible.  And that is okay—better than okay, they learn things.  Those are the things that make them enduring, likeable, and believable. 

Those ‘plastic’ girls in high school were never the girls you wanted to hang out with, they were the ones you made fun of.  They floated through life without a hitch.  Everything handed to them on a silver platter.  They never said the wrong thing and worked very hard not to make any waves.  They liked everyone and tried to keep everyone happy.  Yuck! Gag! Where is the fun in that? You may have secretly wished you had a touch of their luck, at times, but did you really want to walk in their perfectly un-scuffed high heels—no.  You wanted to be that badass girl slightly on the outs, who said and did exactly what she thought.  And guess what?  That ‘plastic’ girl, she wished she was her every night as she hung over the toilet with stomach cramps, because she suppressed every one of her true feelings. 

In writing, you want to use character traits that are admirable.  You write about people who are real.  If the character says something horrible about a girl, like she is a slut, prove her wrong.  Make her feel horrible about her words and send her down a road to redemption for the wrong she has done.  You want to see the characters grow.  Don’t just let them go around burning bridges like crazy that is just insane, but give them flaws. Keep them likeable.  They do need a conscious. 

Perfection.  Flawless.  Wonderful.  These are poison to a writer.  No one wants to read about things that aren’t relatable.  Sometimes we just want to feel better about ourselves by seeing these flaws in others.  We want believable. Make them perfect because of their imperfections.


Pixar’s Rule #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.

Creativity.  Are we all this lucky?  Sometimes you have a story burning inside just clawing to get out, and be heard.  It is a certain theme, maybe a lesson, or just a beautiful love story, but you have to tell it.  You have something important to say.  Words that you feel may help someone or that someone will enjoy.  So you sit down and write.  It can be cathartic to get the words on paper.  You will feel great.

Every time you write you may not be that lucky.  You may not have that story burning to get out.  You might have to fight for the words and press forward when you just don’t feel like writing.  So when that day comes and you have that burning story, then let it out.

This one seems simple—but maybe not so much.  Tell the story you were meant to tell.  Get the words onto paper.  Let the world learn from your passion.


Pixar’s Rule #15
If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

No matter where or when a story happens, human nature seems to stay the same.  People react a certain way in most situations.  You think about how you would react, but the place and the situation don’t have to be our normal.

You come across as more authentic if you write with truth.  What better way to capture authenticity than to draw from within and pull your own true feelings.  You are different than anyone else in the world.

So, how would you feel?   What would it smell like to you?   What things would you notice? What would you do if…
  • you were in an apocalypse.
  •  met a new friend.
  •  you went to a new school.
  • had to kill someone.
  • had to defend yourself from an attacker.

Only you know what you would do, write it down.  Be yourself.  It will be real, honest and authentic. You will love it and everyone else will love it, too.


Pixar’s Rule #16
What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

The easy road well traveled is sometimes a boring trip.  It leads to no surprises.  If things are too easy you don’t get invested in the character and their plight.

When a character struggles and pays a price for each righteous choice, they become enduring—loveable.  When they go through pain you begin to go through that pain with them.  When they fight over a discussion you hope they choose wisely.  Sometimes you hope they choose the easier, knowing they will not.  And when they take that harder road it isn’t just the harder, the writer makes it the worst that could—possibly could never, be imagined.  So we struggle along with them and sit on the edge of our seats waiting, wanting, and needing them to succeed.  This need pushes us through each page and we hopelessly turn pages until the last one comes leaving us breathless.  We flip the pages frustrated, because surely that is not the end.  We want to know what happens next.  It isn’t the end of their story—it can’t be.  That is the way to get a reader excited.  Stack the odd, make them hope.  We all need a little drama in our life and the drama found in the pages of a book are the best kind—we don’t need to clean up after them.

This makes for a perfect story.  The character drives you through struggle after struggle and they push you forward.  You don’t even realize how much time you have spent with them, but you know you need more.  You fall in love with them because of their flaws, struggles, and imperfect perfection. 


Pixar’s Rule #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.

  • Some people believe if you can’t get through a story shelve it and come back to his much later.
  • Some people believe you can just push through the wall.
  • Some people say scrap it and move on.

What is best?  Only you can truly decide what is best for you.  If you start a story, you must have a heart for the story, so I don’t feel scrapping a story is ever the answer.  The other two, I can say ‘yes’ to both.

Sometimes you need a break from a story.  A new story may be filling your thoughts, so shelving the work would be the best thing for you at that particular point.  But at some point go back to the work and tweak it make it better and finish the story you want to be heard.

Sometimes you need to just push through that particular point and go to the next scene, and then you can come back and rework the problem at a later time.  You will be able to make it better—the best.  That is where your intense edits will come into play and help you make the story perfect.  So, you come back around to the problem area and make it better and the writing you originally put to paper will be useful.   It will be useful in helping you know where you want to go or possibly where you do not want to go.

So all work is useful, even if it is completely reworked.  It was useful.


Pixar’s Rule #18
You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

I think this rule is for the obsessive compulsive perfectionist in all of us.  We write and rewrite.  Of course we need to edit and revise, but we don’t need to pick a story apart until we are left with bare bones.  The juice is in the meat—leave some.  You have to know yourself and your personality so that you recognize when you’re being obsessive.  You need to know yourself enough to say, “Okay, I need to back off.  This is really good.” You have to pull out some confidence.  You have to know YOU. So don’t go back and cut and cut and pick until you don’t have any of the good stuff.  Just set it down and walk away.  There has to be that point that you don’t change anything.  It great, so don’t go it back to good.

Testing Not Refining.  I think you should test to see if the work is stands true.  But you don’t have to cut until there are absolutely no flaws.  Flaws can be enduring.

Do you know yourself?

Also, all of you should check out the posts from my blogging friends who are doing this challenge with me! The first posts go up today. Links to Kate Brauning, Talynn Lynn, Mary Pat, and Alex Yuschik’s blogs are located on the side bar. 

We’d love to see comments on our post and share anything you enjoy.  Thank you for reading!


Pixar’s Rule #19
Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

Coincidences. Things happen.  It isn’t always a long road to the trouble your character gets into and it can just be ‘coincidences’ that put them into this horrible or terrifying situation.  If they just coincidentally get out of the situation, you lose too much.  You don’t develop your character.  The character doesn’t evolve or change or learn.  Thing just happen to them and they don’t make anything happen.  Where is the fun in that?  It is cheating. 

Keep it simple.  Not words to live by as a writer.  Don’t get me wrong it can’t be so complex that the reader throws it down, never to look at it again.  You need them invested.  Don’t drag them along, slowly tug them by the heart.  Make them love the character as much as you do.  They need to pull for the characters and yearn to see them succeed.  They have to need more and flip pages like they can’t get enough.  If things just happen to the character that page flipping frenzy will never happen.  The book will be a lump on a coffee table that they just turn their nose up at as they walk past.  Writers want people to run to that book ever free moment, sometimes stealing a moment under onn their lap under the table during dinner, that is what we live for. 

In a world where, “We want more. We want more…” We need people to want more of our writing, more from our characters, and more of our books.  That is the best.  That is the thing I am striving for, and I hope it happens soon.


Pixar’s Rule #20
Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?

Practice makes perfect.  First you break the story down.  Map out all of the sections of the story.  Then find and choose the parts that just do not work for you.  Every story has great parts, thing you just love, pick those out.  Keep them.  Then rework the bad scenes or plots that don’t work.  Or a movie you just don’t see that it has a plot. 

Now comes the fun part.  You get to put your own spin on this bad story.  Give the story a new voice.  Make sure it is going someplace and make that an awesome place.  Then go to the next scene that ‘just wasn’t workin’ for ya.’  Rewrite it.  Make it better.  Then move on.

In the end, take all those ‘blocks’ and use them to build a story you would want to see at the movies.  Then, work on them just a bit more.  Make this the story you would watch over and over again.  And then you have a great final project.

Exercise builds a good body (or body of work). The final product has taken you through a process.  You were able to be objective, since it was not your own work.  It is tons easier to ‘fix’ someone else’s work because you don’t love it.  You can see the flaws.  I think this is why every writer needs to have a good critique group or beta reader.  You possibly need to go through a professional editor.  You get to hear the opinions of someone who isn’t so invested in the project.  Make sure you surround yourself with honest, not too brutally honest, people who will really let you know what they think.  You need an outside eye to help you build the perfect story.


Pixar’s Rule #21
You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?

It all in the WHY...

WHY is the Dos Equis man interesting?  They tell you all the reasons he is identified as the Most Interesting Man in the World.  He is the only man to every ace a Rorschach Test.  Everytime he goes for a swim, dolphins appear.  If he were to mail a letter without postage, it would still get there.  When it’s raining, it is because he is sad.  At the end they announce, he is the Most Interesting Man in the World.  With all the lovely words, there is no need for the last announcement.  You already know he is interesting.

WHY is your male main character cool?  He is the guy with smooth fluid motions.  Everyone watches as he speaks.  The girls blush when he says, ‘hello.’ (That one could be because he is so darn cute.  Or? He had brown eyes that search deep inside you for answers.)  He breaks into the school computer to change everyone’s grades.  He scores the winning touchdown.  He picks up your books, when the goofy guy knocks them across the hall.  He drives a 1965 red Mustang.

This is one of ‘show me’ don’t tell me situations.  You know he is cool and you have a million reasons in your head.  Put them on paper and allow us to come to that realization without being spoon fed with adjectives.


Pixar’s Rule #22
What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Essence:  the choicest or most essential or most vital part of some idea or experience.
                 the central meaning or theme of a speech or literary work.

What is your central theme?  What are you writing about?  What is telling about it?
You have to know the answers to the vital question.  You have to know what make your story unique.  You need to know the market.  You need to know who you are writing for. 

You need to be able to answer these essential questions before your story can come alive.  If you can’t find a theme, we cannot find a theme.  You know the story you are trying to tell or you should.  Without that knowledge, it isn’t really a story and no one else can follow the story. 

Ask yourself the hard questions.  Answer the questions honestly.  Only then can you move forward with your final draft.



  1. "You want to be them, date them, or be their best friend." YES!

  2. My comment disappeared! What is it with blogger doing crazy stuff like this to me all the time. (grrr!)

    I love how you wrapped up this post. Ending in the right spot will encourage the reader to beg for book 2. Wonderful thought!

  3. Loved your post on #10! :) It's true that there's a lot of different ways a story can speak to you, and I love your idea of using maps to sort through what goes on. Nice!