22 Rules adapted from Pixar
My take on these wonderful rules. They are good for writing fiction from picture books to adult fiction:
Rule 1: How hard a character tries counts more than his/her success.
I.e. it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all (Bill Shakespeare maybe?).
Rule 2: Make it fun for the reader, not fun for the writer. I.e. keep the reader in mind, keep them engaged. I am sometimes guilty of that.
Rule 3: Themes are important, but they often aren’t apparent until the end of the story. Worry about theme on your rewrite.
Rule 4: Once upon a time…Daily…One day…Because of that and that…Finally. A story progression more for cartoons or picture books than YA or adult.
Rule 5: Keep it simple. Maybe even combine characters. If you stumble on something in your story, go around it, come back later (if you decide to). I heard it as KISS-Keep It Simple, Stupid.
Rule 6: What are your main character’s strengths? Throw the worst at them. Can they handle it? (I always heard it as ruin your POV character’s day)
Rule 7: Figure out the ending then worry about the middle. I’ve been told that at workshops.
Rule 8: Even if it’s not perfect, finish your story. Learn from it. What’s the perfect story look like?
Rule 9: When you get stuck, make a list of what won’t happen next. Hopefully the next step will appear. Take your reader where they’re not expecting to go.
Rule 10: Dissect the stories you like, understand story structure. Your story will be a part of you, but you have to understand it before you can write it.
Rule 11: Don’t leave a story in your head, get it on paper even if it’s flawed. It may be a late bloomer.
Rule 12: Plot twists—don’t use your first idea or the second and so on. Surprise yourself, but make the plot twist believable.
Rule 13: Make your character strong, even opinioned, but never wishy-washy. (Charlie Brown had opinionated secondary characters)
Rule 14: Why do you have to tell this particular tale? If you don’t have a reason, maybe you shouldn’t. (but read rule 8)
Rule 15: You have to experience your POV character’s emotions, feelings etc. as if it’s really you. I.e. suffer or celebrate with them.
Rule 16: Raise the stakes. Even if the character fails in the middle of the story, raise the stakes anyway.
Rule 17: Don’t throw away manuscripts that don’t work. Someday you will find a need for them.
Rule 18: Do your best and don’t worry about failure. Thomas Edison always said he had a 1000 failures for every success.
Rule 19: You can use coincidence to get a character in trouble, but not to solve their problems. I.e. make it believable.
Rule 20: Exercise: Take a story you don’t like. What would you do to make it a good story? Or do the opposite, what would ruin a story you like?
Rule 21: Identify with your POV character. Understand why they act and say the way they do. Be them.
Rule 22: Do you understand the heart of your story? Is your story buried in your manuscript? I.e. have you overwritten? Decide the plot arc and subplots, then and delete that doesn’t advance the plot.
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