Pixar Writing Truths

Truths for writing narratives from Pixar.

  • Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating. ref
  • You admire a character for trying more than for their successes. ref
  • Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff but it sets you free. ref
  • Keep in mind what's interesting as an audience, not what's fun to write. ref
  • Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it's poison to the audience. ref
  • When stuck, make a list of what wouldn't happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up. ref
  • Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Endings are hard, get yours working up front. ref
  • Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; recognition is required before use. ref
  • Try for a theme, but you won't see what the story is actually about until you're at the end. Now rewrite. ref
  • Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___. ref
  • What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal? ref
  • What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don't succeed? Stack the odds against. ref
  • 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. ref
  • Writing on paper lets you start fixing. Alone in your head, ideas gloss over the flaws and are never shared. ref
  • Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself. ref
  • Why must you tell this story? What's the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That's the heart. ref
  • If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations. ref
  • No work is ever wasted. If it's not working, let go and move on - it'll come back around to be useful later. ref
  • You have to know yourself. The difference between doing your best and fussing. Story is testing, not refining. ref
  • You must identify with situation/characters. You can't just write 'cool.' What would make you act that way? ref
  • What's the essence of your story? If you know that, you can build out from there. ref
  • Exercise. Take the building blocks of a story you dislike. How do you rearrange them into what you do like? ref

Based on historical twitter archives, the original poster of these rules is Emma Coats and her tumblr.