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Introduction to structure

Structure is the organization of a story. The order in which we present information impacts audience engagement and the emotional impact, so storytellers constantly experiment with different approaches to story structure.

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  • female robot ada style avatar for user Katey Gordon
    I always had troubles fully finishing a written story I would dream up characters in my head often coming my own environment( seeing others emotions) I want to write story's or animate to make things less scary from where I previously came from.
    Has anyone had troubles with Story Structure and do you have any tips yourself?
    (37 votes)
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    • female robot amelia style avatar for user Colleen
      What I learned is that it's incredibly important to finish a story and pull through with it to the end, even if the characters are completely different from when you started out or the plot isn't recognizable. This is because you never know how the story will develop, and you could end up with something that's even better than what you began with. And even if it does flop in the end, you can learn from the mistakes you made.

      In terms of story structure, every storyteller is different. You could go for the classic 3 act/5 act structure, or mix it up a bit. What you need to pay attention to is avoiding an info-dump: no reader/viewer appreciates too much exposition at once.
      (16 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Evelyn H
    I have a lot of troubles writing characters that are flawed, as often times instead of coming off as developed and likable, they might seem mean or full of themselves or way too sarcastic. Are there anyways to develop flawed, likable characters using the structure of the story?
    (15 votes)
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    • leafers seedling style avatar for user Flore Baten
      It can also help to focus on some good qualities too. Most of the time I find the 'bad' characters that turn out to have some redeeming qualities the most interesting. So for example you can have a character that is egoistic and full of himself, but is overly protective to his little sister. In this case it is maybe even more interesting because it is so contradictary. This character seems to care about no-one but himself... with the exeption of his little sister, for which he would do everything. While you can hate him for his flaws, you can love him for the redeeming part.

      Another tric is to make the readers understand where the flaws come from. Maybe he learned to use sarcasme as a shield against people who hurt him in the past, or maybe he seems full of himself to hide insecureties. Maybe his past formed him to be like this, like with the example of Nemo's father being so over-protective. Knowing WHY he was like this made the audience forgive him this flaw.
      (17 votes)
  • piceratops seedling style avatar for user Sara Biju
    I always find it difficult to finish my stories.It usually starts with a really long intro which i put a lot of work into but as the story goes on,I don't know which way to head and end up going in a very different direction than i first intended.Finally i get really frustrated and end the story with hastily made ending which is almost always ridiculous.Can anyone suggest some tips that might be useful to me and can better the way my stories end?
    (9 votes)
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  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user leo
    The joke didn't need to end when the ladies said yes to the mushroom. you could have made the ladies say wow this mushroom is such a fungi! Because they were having fun dancing with him.
    (11 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Eduardo M. Rodriguez
    "The mushroom, the ghost, and the discotheque..."
    What about the ghost?
    (6 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user suhanad303
    I am looking for story writing classes. I recently started writing a story but I unpublished it because I wasn't satisfied with myself. Can anyone help me with it?
    (4 votes)
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    • female robot ada style avatar for user Andromeda
      Writing classes are a great resource, but I also would recommend books on writing (Go Teen Writers, Spilling Ink, and Writing Magic are all great), and, although I know it's hard, sharing your stories with other people and getting feedback and advice can really help. If you have friends who enjoy writing, starting a group editing each other's stories can strengthen both your writing and editing skills, and help you get more confident. I hope this helps--good luck!
      (4 votes)
  • leaf green style avatar for user tarcizio.carvalho
    Kristin, do you guys always do a preview with random people to test the structure?
    (5 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user khanacademylover76
      I know this is 6 years late and I'm not Kristin but I do know that most animated movies are shown to test audiences in different stages of the film. The audience is then given a questionnaire to see what they thought about specific parts, and how the people think they could make it better.

      This is really important because random people are going to be watching the movie, so getting the best reaction possible from an audience made up of them is crucial.
      (1 vote)
  • blobby green style avatar for user autumn.sherwin
    I’m gonna /crime tax fraud bc of this lovely vid.
    (5 votes)
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  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Alex Day
    this is going back to character but I'm really curious, is there a lesson where we work on villans?
    (4 votes)
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  • marcimus pink style avatar for user shammar dozier
    how did u come up with dori
    (3 votes)
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Video transcript

- Hi, I'm Kristen Lester, a story artist here at Pixar. Today we're going to talk about story structure, the way we organize and tell our stories. But before we begin, have you guys heard the joke about the mushroom that goes to the discotheque? A mushroom walks into a discotheque and he walks up to a lady and he asks her to dance. She says, "Ewww, gross, no, you're a mushroom!" So he walks up to another lady and asks her to dance. "Nah, I'm not interested." Lady after lady after lady, rejected, rejected, rejected. Nobody wants to dance with him. Finally, the mushroom walks over the the bartender and he's so confused, he says, "I don't get it, why does nobody want to dance with me? "I mean, I'm a fungi." (laughs) See, this joke has a structure. It's got an opening, a buildup in the middle, and an ending, which is, you know, the punchline. That structure is a big part of what makes it funny. Structure is the answer to the question, what do you want the audience to know, and when? If you get the order wrong, it could be a real problem, check it out. Hey, can I tell you a joke? Alright, so there's this fungi and, shoot, I messed up the opening. OK, OK, hey, can I tell you a joke? Alright, so there's a mushroom who walks into a discotheque and then there's a bartender there. Aw, darn it. (marker scribbling) I messed up the middle. Hey, hey, hey, can I tell you a joke? Alright, so, there's a mushroom who walks into a discotheque and there's a bunch of ladies on the dance floor. He asks them to dance and they say, "yes." (marker scribbling) Dang. Without conflict, joke over. (sighs with exasperation) See, structure is important. Just as structure is a big part of telling a funny joke, it's also essential to making a movie that has the emotional impact you want on your audience. (shushing) This is a great example. - [Marlin] (screaming) Nemo! - [Kristen] In earlier versions of Finding Nemo, the structure of the story was very different than the final film. The director wanted to interweave scenes of Nemo's parent's lives before they had kids as flashbacks throughout the whole movie. So you would see them meet. - [Marlin] Hello. - [Kristen] Fall in love, and eventually move into their house at the drop off in little scenes throughout the film. - [Coral] Oh honey, it's beautiful. - [Kristen] The main story of Marlin and Nemo and their journey was pretty much the way it is now. But, with the flashback structure, it wasn't until the end of the film that you would find out that Marlin's wife Coral. - [Marlin] Coral, look out! - [Kristen] And all of her eggs were killed by a barracuda. (Marlin grunting) (screaming) - When they showed the movie with this structure, they had one big problem, the audiences, well, they didn't like Marlin. Looking at their story structure, the team realized that, in this version of the film, the audience didn't find out why Marlin was acting this way towards his son until the movie was almost over, so they decided to re-edit the movie and remove almost all of the flashbacks, leaving only the scenes where Coral and Marlin's home is attacked by the barracuda, killing Coral and all of her eggs except for Nemo. They moved these scenes to the beginning of the movie. - [Marlin] I promise I will never let anything happen to you. - This change in the story structure changed the audience feelings about Marlin a lot. They knew right from the beginning how much Marlin had lost and how brave it was for him to go after Nemo, and they loved him for it. In the case of Finding Nemo, finding the problem was a matter of rearranging the story structure. Of course, all our movies are different, and their story structure challenges are too. In this lesson, we'll look at the many different ways we think about story structure here at Pixar and you'll get to try out for yourself different approaches to structuring your story. Hm, I wonder if I told the mushroom jokes in flashbacks it'd be funnier. Probably not.