Some Thoughts on the Pixar Rules

A friend linked me to a post on Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling–something I’d come across a while ago, and hadn’t really responded to at the time. But I’m currently in “editing and revising” mode, and it spoke to me in a different way this time, and I wanted to get some thoughts down on virtual paper.

These are great rules–principles to keep in mind when you’re creating a story. I wish I could have them all mastered, but I don’t.

The problem I run into is that I don’t think about rules when I’m writing. I don’t sit down and say “Don’t do this–it breaks rule 42.” In some ways, I can’t help but think my writing would be better if I took the time to think about those little details. But in other ways, I think my writing would be ruined.

One of the worst obstacles I have to get over whenever I’m writing is my natural inclination to dismiss what I’m writing as bad. I’ll get something down on paper, and I’ll just think it’s awful. Chock full of flaws. And here’s the thing–the more rules I try to keep in mind at the same time, the more I think what I’ve written is garbage.

I wonder sometimes how I’ll be as a writer farther down the road, when I have even more practice. I do think I’m getting better, and that it’s a craft that can be honed and refined over the years. I think I might get to the point where some of the things that I have to consciously force myself to do now come naturally to me in the future. For example, right now I have to really work hard to get all the descriptions of a scene in and do it well. What does the setting sound like? Smell like? What’s the temperature? Things that really transport a reader to a place, but do it in a way that isn’t jarring or intrusive. That’s just plain hard for me to do. I’m better at it than I was, but still . . .

When I get to the point that I’m better at that–that I have more consistent practice with it–maybe I’ll be able to start focusing on some other elements of writing. Step by step. A process.

So on the one hand, I love things like these Pixar Rules. They’re simple statements I agree with. But on the other hand, I often have to do my best to ignore them. If I have one more rule in the back of my mind, nagging at me to follow it . . . it just might be too much.


Leave a comment