When you think, “good story”, one of Pixar’s classics surely comes to mind. Whether it’s Up, Toy Story, Inside out, one thing is sure, Pixarians know how to tell a tale. They are one among industry leaders when it comes to heartwarming narrative, which their impressive collection of awards confirms. To be that successful, one has to have a thorough understanding of human emotions, reactions, motivations, and story structure. And they have been kind enough to publicly share their rules of storytelling with us, you've surely seen them around interwebs.
All of those are interesting, thought-provoking and useful, they can even come handy when it comes to product storytelling so we do encourage you to check them out. But, if you’re interested in the Storifyme summary and rundown of Pixar’s guidelines, keep on reading!
Find a Great Story to Tell!
Humankind has storified reality from the dawn of time to make sense of the world that surrounds us. The funny thing is, that there are a bunch of “universal themes” that we seem to encounter all around the world and history. Things like: love, death, life, conflict, motivation, good vs. evil battle, etc. seem to sneak their way into every tale that we hear.
And that’s not a bad thing: the best stories are universal, but they are told in a unique way. Be careful though…. Not everything interesting to you will be readable for your audience. You have to keep in mind that you’re writing for the reader, not for yourself.
Make Sure That Your Story Has a Fortified Structure!
Pixar and many other storytellers use one simple formula to get started:
Once upon a time, there was [blank]. Every day, [blank]. One day [blank]. Because of that, [blank]. Until finally [bank].
Not only does this approach give you a nice framework to build upon, but it also helps your streamline, focus and organize your fable and in the simplest way possible. You don’t want your tale to be riddled with loose ends and inconsistencies, and the best way to prevent that cruel faith is to simplify as you write. It sounds easy, but you’d be surprised how difficult that can be. If you get stuck, write down all the possible solutions that keep your story moving forward.
Moreover, don’t you ever settle for the first solution or idea that comes your way. Brainstorm, see what the other possibilities, plot-twists, complications, and adventures could lie ahead! That will get the creative juices flowing, however:
From the Beginning, Think About the End
The ending is the most important part of your story. If you do everything right, but mess up the ending, the whole narrative will suffer, so make sure you do it properly. When you have the ending figured out, the story tends to “fall into place” by itself if you think about it long enough.
But be careful not to "over tinker" and overthink it. It’s a fine line that you’ll have to learn how to walk, to know when the time is right to let your word-baby go, and start working on the next one. Too much messing around and editing can do more harm than good, so it's more prudent to let it be and move on to the next one, while you remember all the lessons learned.
The Analysis Is the Key
Study other stories extensively. Whether you love or hate a particular movie, myth, storified article, book, tragedy or anecdote, sink your teeth into it. Dig deep and figure out what makes it so wonderful, awful, boring or irresistible. What makes it stick? What makes it drag out? What would you change?
But the analysis doesn’t apply only to external stuff, you have to do a fair share of introspection yourself. Why are you the right person to tell this story? Do you have to be the one to tell it? If not, move on and do find an idea you’re passionate about. Some thought that you have to share and explore, and once you do stumble upon it: Be sure to write it down!
Create Characters Worth Rooting For
Whether you’re creating a storified ad or a video-series, think about characters you’re creating as a part of that mini-world. Make them likable, worthy of people’s affection and interest. The best way to go about it isn't to focus on the success and all the glitz, glamour and admiration that comes with it. Nope. People don’t mind their leads succeeding, but they tend to admire the struggles, heartbreaks and tries along the way so much more. Once again, the old cliche proves to be true: it is about the journey, not the destination after all.
Challenge them, bring them out of their comfort zone, give them opinions, obstacles, bad habits they have to work on and interesting “behind the scenes” life. Make your characters human!
Be Honest and Be True!
As you’re typing away and enjoying the flow, make sure to remember this one above all else. Even if your story is completely fantastical and fictional, it has to make sense. A coincidence is fine to include - but only if it means trouble for your main character(s). Using accidental happenings to “make everything right”, just doesn’t feel… authentic or real, right?
Cross your heart, how many times have stupid or unforeseen accidents ruined your day? How many times did a “happy accident” get you out of trouble? Just like in real life, your characters should earn their solutions, not to have them fall at their feet.
How Does This Apply to Web Stories?
So glad you asked! Well, no matter if you’re writing an epic SF novel or you want to get people to click on your storified landing page, you must have an interesting story behind it. Something that will lead your audience to the satisfying end of the journey whether that’s “they lived happily ever after” or “thank you for visiting our storified microstore”.
No matter what your ultimate goal is, simply just to start writing. We can discuss the specifics and schematics and analyze everything all they long, but if we don’t storify our thoughts, in the end, we don’t have a story at all, do we?
Ready, set, write!