Monday, July 23, 2012

22 Rules of Storytelling, Part Four

Last week, I pulled from Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling and focused on revision. Today, I want to focus on the general craft of writing.

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.
I can’t even begin to say enough about how helpful this is. Pulling apart other stories has helped me understand myself and my writing in HUGE ways. Knowing ourselves is the key to writing amazing stories because of the truth it brings. There’s no faking truth.

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.
All stories have basically been told. It’s now a matter of telling them in new and unique ways. This rule is the key to doing that. If you can figure out why your story is so important that it must be told, that will come across to the reader and he will want to read it.

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.
This is akin to the idea of throwing your character off a cliff and giving them a shoe string to climb back up. I do this by imagining what’s the worst thing that could happen, and then making that happen. After I do that, then I will figure out how my characters will get out of it. Sometimes it’s really difficult to figure out, and most often they don’t succeed the first time they try. And then they have to deal with the consequences of failure on top of that. If your reader is invested in your character, all of this will suck him in and keep him reading.

Rule #20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d'you rearrange them into what you DO like?
This builds on rule #10. Finding the elements that you like is just as helpful as finding the elements that you don’t like. Changing the story into something you do like will go a long way toward helping you understand your own writing style, which will lead to more effective stories.

Rule #22: What's the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.
This builds on rule #14. Once you know the heart of your story, the theme and essence will grow out of that. Once you know the essence, you can build on that. BTW, you probably won’t know this until at least the 2nd or 3rd draft.

That’s all folks! Hope you enjoyed these ‘rules’ as much as I did. Happy writing!


Unknown said...

Wonderful tips, but you nailed it with number 16. Without that sequels wouldn't happen.

Kelly Hashway said...

Stakes are so important. You really can't have a story without them.

Unknown said...

The "why must I tell THIS story" is the very thing I couldn't answer in my previous tries at novels. Finally, I made sure to create a character who has motives that I can deeply relate to, and now I know why I must tell THIS story. :)

Good points!

Unknown said...

Another great post. #20 is one I live by. I read bad books on purpose so I can identify the things I don't want to do in my own writing.

cleemckenzie said...

Read the best. They influence you even when you're only there to enjoy the story and the characters. Great post.

Did you really make all of those cakes? Very impressive baking and decorating.

Nickie said...

I've been doing the 'picking apart stories' thing a lot this summer. I tutor, and I've got my highschoolers reading 'Lord of the Flies' and 'Fahrenheit 451'. Each time I pick those up to read, I find something else to analyze and love about them. It's great, because I see what Bradbury and Golding do so brilliantly, and then my brain goes 'Give it a shot!' I think analyzing awesome books has really helped my own writing.