Pixar’s Andrew Stanton On Telling A Great Story


After my last post that was so negative, I figured I should post something a bit more upbeat, so here’s a TED talk by Pixar’s Andrew Stanton on what makes a great story. It starts with a dirty joke and ends rather mawkishly, but there are lots of useful concepts in here for anyone looking to tell stories.

‘Start from the ending and work backwards.’

To use George R.R. Martin’s terms, I’m roughly 75% architect and 25% gardener. I know there are writers that plan nothing before starting their stories, but I need to know where my story ends before I sit down to start writing. When I know where the thing is going, then I can let my characters figure out how to get there.

‘Make me care, please, emotionally, intellectually, aesthetically, just make me care.’

You need to make the reader care, or they’ll toss your work aside in boredom no matter how good your ending is. Always something to keep in mind.

‘Don’t give the audience 4, give them 2+2.’

Make the audience put things together, don’t spell it all out for them because they won’t thank you for it. Give them an organised absence of information and it’ll draw them in to your work.

‘Storytelling has guidelines, not hard, fast rules.’

I think Pixar is living proof of this statement. As Stanton points out in the video, when making Toy Story they created a list of secret rules, and even after being urged to break them in favour of tradition, they stuck to their ideals and still managed to create a fantastic story.

So it just goes to show, keep learning everything you can about storytelling, but never be afraid to break the rules to tell the story that resonates with you.

Photo by 楠之逸 licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

2 thoughts on “Pixar’s Andrew Stanton On Telling A Great Story”

  1. “Give them an organised absence of information and it’ll draw them in to your work.” That is a quality piece of advice, and it’s something I intend to sharpen my writer’s knife on. Thanks for sharing!

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