The Best Storytelling Tips You’ll EVER Receive


As I’m working on my extended edition of The Man in the Box, I find myself going back to this list. It’s a list of Pixar’s 22 tips on how to tell a great story. I almost don’t want to share this because I’m greedy like that, but then I got to thinking: great stories inspire greater stories. So, here’s to our stories becoming even greater!

Is there anything you would add or take away to this list? What are the most challenging tips for you as a writer? And if you’re not a reader, do you see how well these can play out in stories you read/watch? Weigh in below.


#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

#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 ___.

#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

#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.

#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.

#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

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

#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.

#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

#17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.

#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?

#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?

#22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Written a book? Consider me as your editor. Looking for your next favorite book? Like The Man in the Box on Facebook and eagerly await the extended edition. Book reviewers may contact me at andrewtoy1208 [at] aol [dot] com.

Published by Andrew Toy

Writer when I'm not being a husband or dad. So mostly just a husband and dad.

31 thoughts on “The Best Storytelling Tips You’ll EVER Receive

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. What a great list. #1 reminds me of an observation on Indiana Jones. Did you ever notice that he fails at everything? But he always finds a way around his failures. That’s what makes him a great character.
    #9 – What a brilliant solution.


  2. I have been trying to track down #4, in particular, ever since attending a Pixar presentation at Mattel several years back. THANK YOU for finding and posting this.


  3. I LOVE number 7. One of the ways I work. #8 and #19. Sure I liked the other in between, but those spoke to me. I believe this is a list I will come back to. Thanks for sharing this!


  4. Great post! I found number 8 hit me right between the eyes. I’m very good at putting off the finish, perfectionist that I am. This advice is great for professional procrastinators like me. Thanks again.


  5. Thanks for being unselfish and sharing this with another fellow writer who wishes she had half the followers you have.
    Here’s a quote from Swami Kripalu: Whatever you receive, keep a portion for yourself and share a portion with others. By establishing yourself in the flow of generosity, whatever you give will come back manyfold.”

    Thank you for following my blog.


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