Tag: Storytelling

Re-Writing your #History – #Writing (and Life) Advice from April Thompson

I love this TED Talk! The opening solo bit from Liberty City is a powerful message about telling your own story and not letting others limits, limit you. Something that isn’t easy. The world is filled with “Boundaries, shoulds, woulds, and supposed tos…”  The only real boundary is the breadth and scope of  your imagination.  Now THAT is something to remember.  Check it out and let us know what you think.

The only real limitation is the breadth and scope of  your imagination.

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Pixar #Storytelling Tips – and my favorites

Via Pixar storyboard artist, Emma Coats. I picked my top five seven to include here on Unleaded. But you should check out the full list  here: http://io9.gizmodo.com/5916970/the-22-rules-of-storytelling-according-to-pixar


#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 ___.

(Note from Day: I really like this fun little “blank” exercise above. It just lets you play and at the same time offers a very basic throughline for a story. How fun is that?!)

#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.

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.


Also the image below is Pixar Star Wars. Although not related to the “22 Rules of Storytelling According to Pixar” I couldn’t resist.


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Video Saturday: Advice to #Writers (and #Filmmakers) – Spike Lee

This week’s Video Saturday is from Spike Lee. The loud music in the video is a bit annoying but I love what he has to say about storytelling, and I love even more where he pushes the interviewer about defining his terminology and the importance of being clear.

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Which is more important: Story or Grammar?

Let me make a confession:  I don’t have a copy of Strunk and White’s book, The Elements of Style.  I’ve seen it as a required reference for writers on many lists, and when the question of “What writing books would you recommend?” came up on writing boards, it was always on most of the recommendations.

Sometimes I think writers focus too much on the words, and the grammar.

Sometimes I think writers are still treating grammar as if they are in that high school English class, hoping for a good grade.

It is true that people need to be able to read your material, and that means the words need to be coherent.  That’s where grammar can come in.  I remember a while back this young writer — believe it was a teenager — posted a story on The Writer message board.  The grammar was really bad, to the point where the story, if there was one, was incoherent.  He wanted to send it out right now and said, “Tell me what I need to fix.”  We told him to fix the grammar, which he didn’t want to hear.  He kept telling he wanted to know what needed to be fixed so it would get published.

But, at the same time, having a grasp of grammar might not have helped.  In my last critique group, there was a writer who regularly submitted his novel.  He was 70K into the novel.  The writer had to do a lot of writing in his job, so he was pretty good on the grammar-side.  He even had an agent who was interested in the book (or so he said) if he could work out the problem with it.

He didn’t have a story.  He had a collection of scenes where things were happening, but he couldn’t tell a story.  He could pass an admin assistant’s red pen for a boss, but he would only get rejection letters from agents because he didn’t have a story.

Story is a difficult concept to understand,  and is probably one of the reasons writers fail at getting published.  I used to do query critiques, and I could tell instantly when a writer didn’t know what his story was about.

It’s also not something that can be easily explained by any how-to book.  Or, unlike grammar and punctuation, you can’t go down a list of rules and check them off.  In searching for “What is a story?” I was surprised to find very blogs address it.  The entries quickly evolved into story points, Biblical stories, and non-fiction stories.  But here’s two entries that I did find.

Philip Martin on Jane Friedman‘s blog says this about story:

Stories connect events and create meaning; they also connect people to each other.

Elizabeth Moon says:

Story is a particular kind of narrative that produces a particular kind of pleasure in the listener or reader.

So which is more important?  If you were to wander the writing message boards, it would be the grammar.  Grammar’s got all these nice rules everyone can follow and is easy to define.  Story is shrouded in fog.  Writers really like rules because the industry is way too much like the lawless Old West.

But here’s the catch:

If the grammar’s poor, it will probably keep the story from getting past a first reader, or the first few sentences.  The agents are receiving so much material they’re probably not going to work with someone with poor grasp of grammar.

But if the grammar’s perfectly mastered and the story’s not there, it still probably won’t get past the first five pages.

But if the story’s there and the grammar so-so, it might still earn a rejection, but it could get a personal comment.  It also could get accepted.

RedWhiteTrueThe cover for the non-fiction anthology is out!  The book is called Red, White, & True and features stories by veterans and families.  My story is called “War Happens.” I didn’t have a specific, isolated story that I’m sure the other entries will have.  Mine was more about what the experience of war does to friendships.

It is due out in August, but you can preorder it on Amazon.

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Video Saturday – Zero Dark Thirty with Mark Boal, William Goldenberg, and Dylan Tichenor

Writer/producer Mark Boal and editors William Goldenberg and Dylan Tichenor discuss the making of “Zero Dark Thirty” at the Academy event “Turning the Page: Storytelling in the Digital Age” on May 15, 2013 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Lots of great discussion/thought: Trusting the audience, dispensing with exposition, and taking a page out of All the Presidents’ Men – it isn’t about the history but the personal story (the clash between Maya and Jessica.)

Check out Bill Desowitz’s blog post discussing both last week’s video AND this week’s video.

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Video Saturday – Star Trek: Into Darkness, Storytelling Secrets (Damon Lindelof, Mary Jo Markey, and Maryann Brandon)

The Storytelling Secrets of Star Trek: Into Darkness – Writer/producer Damon Lindelof and editors Mary Jo Markey and Maryann Brandon discuss the making of “Star Trek Into Darkness” at the Academy event “Turning the Page: Storytelling in the Digital Age” on May 15, 2013 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

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