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I stumbled across this and it looks pretty decent to me. These are Pixar's 22 rules for good storytelling. There's some awfully good stuff here. Even Pec would agree!

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

#2: You gotta keep in mind what's interesting to you as an audience, not what's fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

#3: 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.

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

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

#8: 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.

#9: When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

#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.

#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.

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it's poison to the audience.

#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.

#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

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

#17: No work is ever wasted. If it's not working, let go and move on - it'll come back around to be useful later.

#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.

#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d'you rearrange them into what you DO like?

#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can't just write ‘cool'. What would make YOU act that way?

#22: What's the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

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Yes! I've found if I have a strong beginning and know where it's going, i.e. what the end will look like in general, then I can write the story. The middle finds itself. But without a solid ending, you're really asking for trouble. Sometimes they appear out of nowhere, but too often they don't. Someone want four or five unfinished stories? Oh, wait -- you have a pile of your own!

C

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  • 4 weeks later...

They are all good, but one stands out to me, and obviously to others, #7.

A story is like a vacation, the best ones are adventures en route to your destination, and the worst are boring meanderings getting you nowhere at all.

I do feel the one about reducing the number of characters a bit 'off' for writing, as I feel that one is more script oriented for movie stories.

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On one of mine, I have the beginning more or less sorted out and the last sentance set in stone, but with everything else, who knows.

Don't you just hate it when you have a clever line or plot and can't build a story to deliver it? It reminds me of that old joke, "and now for the sports scores" followed by only the scores and none of the team names. The ultimate in being out of context.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Graeme,

Good thinking.

The one I'm working on now... 97k and getting shorter. Had its ending from the beginning. I knew where it would end, but then I found that to tell the end properly it had to end twice. I was so shot in the foot!

That was until I realised that I could move one of the endings to the beginning and that it could then hold the rest together as memories rather than a linear tale.

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I wrote my entire short story What I Did On My Summer Vacation based on the final line having occurred to me while thinking of the dreadful task teachers pose to students on their first day of school: write me an essay about what you did on your summer vacation. The last lines were: I was sent to my room. All other activities cannot be divulged in the interests of national security.

I liked that so much, I just had to build a story around it.

C

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