Pixar Story Rules

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes. #5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

#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.

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

#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.

These are some of my favorite “rules” from the Pixar storytelling process, as told by Pixar story editor Emma Coats. #11 really rings true for me, since I let far too many ideas bounce around in the old noggin without ever putting pen to paper. But all of these “rules” are solid, solid advice for storytelling. And since it’s Pixar, I’ll listen to just about anything they have to say on the topic.

Pixar story rules (one version)