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Time flies! We’re approaching the end of January and a lot of things are happening. I’ve been practicing mindfulness and focus. This popped into my inbox and I thought it was a good one to share.

So keep calm, carry on and prosper!

Pixar’s Story Rules

Emma Coats, then a story artist at Pixar, tweeted a series of “story basics” over the course of a month and a half in 2011 — guidelines that she learned from her more senior colleagues on how to create appealing stories: 

#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.

(Emma’s character work has since taken a different direction: She leads the editorial “personality” team of Google Assistant.)

Animated: The Amazing Screw-On Head

I’ve always wondered how interesting it would be to see Mike Mignola’s Hellboy art style be animated. It just so happens that I came across this old video of The Amazing Screw-On Head animated pilot. The character is based on a one-shot comic of the same name written and drawn by Mike Mignola in 2002.

It’s really neat to see how the illustrations translate into an animated sequence and not much of anything is lost in translation. Who else would like to see a full adaptation of any of Mike’s stories into a full animated series?

Writing Tips From Stephen King: 11 things every writer should know

The memoir, Stephen King On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is packed with colorful anecdotes and pragmatic wisdom helpful to any aspiring writer. It is written with great poetry and beauty, particularly passages featuring King’s mother, a woman whose love for her children shines even as readers see her worn down by a nomadic life and hard-living.

Here are 11 (brutally honest) insights on writing from a man whose books have sold more than 350 million copies.

1. Be brief
2. It’s okay to be rejected
3. Don’t wait for inspiration. Learn to recognize good stories.
4. Write whenever you can
5. Learn the writing/publishing business
6. Get constructive feedback from friends, family
7. Don’t give up on a good idea just because it’s difficult
8. Write your story, and damn the naysayers and doubters
9. Don’t expect much from writing workshops
10. Don’t go into writing to make money
11. If you’re serious, get an agent

Why Leonardo DaVinci was once a loser

We look at DaVinci’s last supper and we proclaim that this is the work of a prodigy… a genius. But reality tells a different tale. Leonardo had his struggles and failures, and during his “middle-age” was still having a hard time getting work as a freelancer. 

This same thing has happened to some of the best and most renowned people in history. Finding success and purpose late in life is not uncommon. We all travel together yet separately through our own paths. Watch this video essay by Adam Westbrook and be inspired to keep pursuing your dream.

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