Those 22 Pixar “Rules of Storytelling” have resurfaced again, this time with imagery calling to mind some of their films. As I mentioned before in the article Genius Doesn’t Know Genius these rules won’t do anything to help you write a better story:
Retweeted and passed around ad-nauseam, many took to the list in the hopes of discovering the secrets to the studio’s long time success. Unfortunately, what they found were mostly superficial tips to help writers during the process of writing—not necessarily the reason why Pixar’s film excel over all others.
In fact, in some cases they may cause more harm than good. Take this “pearl of wisdom” from the original 22 rule posting:
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.
Complete and utter BS. This comes from the “Trust the Process” mentality that ends up dragging morale down on a project. No better way to get a crew to check out than to be six months away from release and the story still sucks.1
Distrust the Process and start being considerate of what it is you want to say before you waste everyone’s time trying to make it up as you go along. You can actually figure out theme before you even write a single word. It’s all about intention and purpose and meaning. Using Dramatica you can identify what it is you want to say and be handed and outline to help you communicate that message.
So many would-be writers stall out of the gate because they read nonsense like these 22 rules and think they have to keep writing to figure out what they’re trying to say. A recent client of mine had this to say about those rules:
Something I’ve been experiencing and I think you can attest to is this: In the original article the author states that you won’t know your theme until the end, now go rewrite. I’ve been resisting the urge to move forward until I have a theme I can work with rather than just diving in and writing my story with confidence in what it is I’m saying. But now I can. And I have you and Dramatica to thank for that.
You can write with purpose and confidence. It’s not a mystery reserved for a chosen few. Understand the psychology and framework behind narrative and you can finally move forward on that passion project of yours.
Trust me, I’ve been there more than once ↩︎