1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
I created the Story Spine in 1991 and, over the years, I’ve been thrilled to watch more and more people use it, teach it, discuss it, and even modify it in order to make it their own. One of my favorite modifications is the addition of “And, the moral of the story is…” at the very end. Over time, however, some of its permutations have become less powerful, I think, than the original due to a missing link here or a different word there. So, I’m happy to present it here in its original 8-line format along with a brief analysis, a couple of interesting examples, and some tips on how to best make use of it.
A guest post by Brian McDonald. Brian is an award-winning writer and director. He is also a sought after instructor and consultant who has taught story structure seminars at Pixar, Disney Feature Animation and Lucasfilm’s ILM. Here he shares his advice on the natural way to tell stories.
Ever since Quentin Tarantino’s film Pulp Fiction was released, people have talked in awe about how that film and others have played with traditional notions of story structure. That film tells its story out of sequence and is therefore innovative, or so the reasoning goes. This is a mistake. Telling stories out of sequence is actually as traditional as it gets.
The idea that story structure is ruled by linear chronology is a common error. As I have often written, and told students, one must look at how stories are told in real life. One must study stories not in their written form, or some other medium like TV or films, but in their natural habitat.
In 2012 Pixar Story Artist Emma Coats tweeted 22 storytelling tips using the hashtag #storybasics. The list circulated the internet for months gaining the popular title ‘Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling’. We reposted this list two weeks ago and the response has been phenomenal with thousands of likes, shares, comments and emails.
Since posting the story, a number of people have contacted us regarding rule number 4 on the list, also know as ‘The Story Spine’:
Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
Reports were that this tip did not originate with Pixar but instead with writer/director/teacher Brian McDonald. Intrigued, we contacted Brian to find out more. He replied as follows:
Just over a week ago we posted Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling - a list first shared by Emma Coats, a Pixar Story Artist, on Twitter in 2012. To say the response to the post has been huge would be an understatement. We’ve received thousands of comments and shares and the interest in the list continues to grow. On Wednesday The New Yorker’s Richard Brody responded to the story with an article titled ‘The Problem with Processed Storytelling’. Brody says that Pixar films make him feel as if he ‘were watching the cinematic equivalent of irresistibly processed food, with a ramped-up and carefully calibrated dosing of the emotional versions of salt, sugar, and fat.’ What do you think of Brody’s article? Add your thoughts in the comments below.
Warning: this video contains strong language
Last week we posted Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling, a list of 22 golden tips first tweeted by Pixar Story Artist Emma Coats.The article received a tremendous response and since then a number of people have mentioned to us this TED talk by Andrew Stanton.