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Things You Can Learn From Pixar’s 22 Story Basics – Part 1
Posted By John Arcadian On June 14, 2012 @ 12:17 am In GMing Advice | 10 Comments
Recently, Emma Coats – a storyboard artist at Pixar – tweeted a bunch of tips for telling good narratives. They’ve gotten collected into a list of 22 story basics (she has more if you check out her twitter) and they’ve exploded all over the internet. kirkdent even suggested it over on our Suggestion Pot.
The tips are great for any type of narrative, and we’re all big fans of learning things about roleplaying from other mediums. So here is Emma’s list, with some analysis and lessons from Kurt and I. We’ve split this into 2 articles because the list and gnome comments got a wee bit lengthy. So check back tomorrow for part 2.
#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
Kurt: Reward the character for their attempt, either by bonuses or some kind of in-game currency. Another option is to allow them limited success just for audacity purposes. “No, you didn’t catch the plane with your grappling hook, but it did knock out an engine or window.”
#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.
John: While I will extoll the virtues of improv gaming until I’m blue in the face, prep cannot be ignored. Even the process of writing an idea down can change it. What feels awesome as you imagine it in your mind feels blah once it is down on paper. On paper is where you can whittle away at the idea and keep the core of it, improving on things and adding details at the correct pace.
Part 2 (with 12 – 22) is coming tomorrow, but we’d love to hear your insights and takeaway gaming lessons from the Pixar 22 story basics list. What sort of things can you pull from this for gaming? What other narrative tips influence your gaming or what sources have you picked up lessons from?
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