Friday, April 5, 2013

Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling: Rule #2-Flings vs. Soulmates

#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.

These rules were originally sent out on Twitter, so for those of you who don’t use Twitter, it has a 140-character limit. The “v” means “very.”

I don’t read much crime fiction. Sherlock Holmes is about the extent of my reading in that area. Writing crime fiction has an appeal, though- it might be fun. It might be fun to do a novel in verse, too, but I’m just not much of a poet. I’ve also thought it would be interesting to write something truly tragic, one of those novels that breaks your heart that you can’t ever forget.

With all the things I could do, it’s tempting to randomly pick one and just go with it. I’ve tried that before, actually, and one of two things happens: I love it for about 10 days and then discover the concept now bores me so I quit, or I love it for 10 days, get bored, and revamp and muscle through, desperately trying to keep the story interesting. Even when it’s finished, it’s just not something I love. It’s not what I hoped it would be.
So much about writing can be compared to relationships. Some of my ideas are exciting and I’m certain they’d be fantastic long-term… until I spend a few days getting to know them. They could be great to goof around with and I could enjoy seeing what’s out there. Most likely I’d even learn from trying it. But if I expect it to be something it’s not, making that commitment and watching it fail can be painful and depressing.

When writing a manuscript and seeing it through to the end is such a huge commitment and takes so much determination, it helps to be certain this concept is one I can stick with, that it’s right for me.
But how do you know? It’s important to stretch yourself as a writer, try new things, build new skills. Through doing all that, you might even discover you’re crazy good at something new. Do whatever you want, however you want, just for fun. Staying in your comfort zone as a writer is a good way to stagnate.


There’s always a “however.” Like with most relationships, you’re more likely to build something stable and lasting if you know who you are first. Get to know yourself as an audience. What do you like to read? To what sort of concepts are you magnetically attracted? What ideas keep coming back to you, outliving the flash-in-the-pan inspiration? What makes you pick up a book in the book store? Pay attention to what you consume and why you made those choices, and it will likely tell you a lot about what you’re truly passionate about writing. Stories that the writer muscled through and wasn’t really invested in long-term are likely going to lack the quality, polish, and charm of a story about which the writer was passionate. What you consume the most, what consistently entertains you and sparks your imagination the most, is probably also the area you know best.

So, when you’re writing, ask yourself if the concept (or the style, the voice, even the characters) is a fling with that oh-so-charming man you just met, or if it has potential to be a long-term, soul-mate kind of deal.
Because, really, it takes more than passing interest or a fun idea to create a story that will impact other people. It takes passion. Get to know yourself as an audience, and you’ll develop yourself as a writer, too.

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