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Advice on story structure

Pixar storytellers offer advice on story structure. They suggest working backwards when structuring a story, writing about what's important to you, and being willing to fail and try again. For inspiration, we can read books for ideas, learn from great filmmakers, and simply live life to find stories!

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Video transcript

- Best advice I have in regards to structuring your story is work backwards, know where you want it to end. Work backwards, and then you'll know how you need to set it up. - It's very important to expose yourself to as many ideas as possible. Books can be a treasure trove for great stories. Reading is the foundation for storytelling. It's always a great idea to pick up a book and find a new story. - It's good to study structure, it's good to watch a wide variety of films so that you have some foundation and some understanding of how this would typically go. But then it's up to you to invent the new way. Some of the greatest filmmakers of all time, you know I think of Stanley Kubrick, for example, his movies are very tightly ideologically structured, but they're not, some of them are anti-narrative sometimes. They're not narrative or he applies narrative judiciously and he uses narrative as a tool to get you from point A to point B, but narrative isn't his focus, it's these larger ideological feelings that he has. - You just have to think about, what is very very important to me? And I'll give a very brief personal story. I became a father late in life. I have two young daughters. And so I realized that I have to be a good dad, kind of in a hurry, I don't have a lot of time. So that's on my mind a lot, so at home I'm working on a story that, well hopefully it's funny, it's a little science-fictiony, but I'm working on a story about parents who try to raise their kids really well in a hurry. - In my life the things that I've done that have worked out the best, are the things that I've cared the most about and I'm willing to invest the most in and the things that don't feel like work, and the things that allow me to grow because I've pushed myself further in their pursuit. - Just jump in, do the best you can, commit, put something out, finish something, and then just do it again. - It is really hard to admit that it didn't work, but you have to be willing to come in with a wrecking ball and raze it to the ground and rebuild it, and you learned along the way, so it will get better each time you're willing to do that. But you have to be willing to tear it down and try again. You have to fail and get up again. In development, we always draw the emotional arc on the wall, we actually have these painted walls that make them whiteboards. And you can just sit in your chair, roll up to the wall and draw a big arc and then delineate different points on the arc of what's happening for your character emotionally. That gives it a lot of shape. - It's so important to live in the world, live life, discover things, try things, meet new people, try whatever you want. The world is wide open and that is where our stories come from.