Mon, September 09 2013

The rules for phenomenal stories

Caryn Stein's avatar

Director of Content Strategy, Network for Good

Filed under:   Writing •

When you’re making the case for giving, a powerful story is hard to top. At the same time, putting together a vivid and compelling story is typically more difficult than it sounds. The good news is, the results are well worth the work.

To help you get your storytelling mojo working in time for year-end fundraising season, you can learn from the same storytelling masters that brought you Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Up. The talented folks at PBJ Publishing created this wonderful infographic of Pixar’s storytelling rules

These are all great guidelines to keep in mind for any writing or storytelling project, but I think #11 is my favorite: “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.”

What’s your favorite storytelling tip?

Pixar's Storytelling Rules

  • Comment: (13)   


Hi Caryn,

I’m loving your posts! It’s really good. I’d definitely go for tip 8. It’s awful when we can’t finish something.

Please keep posting! Bookmarked your blog. smile

Posted by Mario  on  09/09  at  08:26 PM

This is a great info graphic, I really enjoyed number 12.  I find a key element is passion, if you are passionate about what your story is that you are trying to convey, it will be be felt.  Thanks

Posted by Marsha McCullough  on  09/09  at  08:46 PM

I don’t know. I have a problem with storytelling advice for nonprofits that takes a fiction-writing perspective. This is beautiful advice, don’t get me wrong, in terms of story craft. But most nonprofits are trying to tell stories from lived experience, stories that already exist, stories whose hearts and heroes and endings are already present but might require a bit of crafting to make them connect with their audiences. They’re not creating characters and plot points.

Posted by John Capecci  on  09/09  at  11:04 PM

I love this post because it falls right in line with my thesis research. I think my favorite Disney/Pixar idea for story telling is the idea of “plussing.” I personally feel that plussing can be implemented in any organization, nonprofit or not. Plussing is a form of a brainstorming, only possibly more effective. I’m conducting research right now to see if plussing is more effective than brainstorming, but so far it appears to be. What is plussing? It’s taking every idea introduced in a creative session and building off of all the ideas to create the best possible, highest-quality content. Many people use brainstorming sessions which are great, but brainstorming usually only settles on one creative idea introduced in the session from one person. This idea is deemed as “good” and is put into motion the way it was introduced. Plussing challenges creative teams to push the envelope when it comes to thinking outside of the box and innovation. By producing higher quality content rather than just average content, nonprofits are more likely to get noticed. Disney and Pixar have obviously been very successful using this method, so I think if someone can find an exact formula on how to execute plussing, many organizations could implement it to better their organizations and creativity when it comes to content and storytelling.

Whitney Godwin

Posted by Whitney Godwin  on  09/11  at  10:56 AM

I like 17 that no work is ever wasted. Thanks

Posted by Seeth  on  09/11  at  04:04 PM

for me number 7 is very important, not only in writing but also in life

Posted by Renata  on  09/12  at  08:01 PM

Love the tips in this infograph writing can feel so complicated but this really simplifies things down. It all about the characters and connecting with your intended audience.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/06  at  06:50 PM

I love the tips especially number 18. Know yourself. Easy to say difficult to manage…

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/07  at  01:25 PM

I’ve always found number 16 to be the most important. Readers find it hard to engage with a piece of written work where they can’t root for someone. It’s part of the reason sports are so popular. The same teams play the same games each year but by giving people something to root for the sports effectively write a whole new story and keep people engaged.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/26  at  06:06 PM

I love your posts, and I really enjoyed number 12.  I find a key element is surprise yourself

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/02  at  10:39 AM

“Phenomenal” story telling sounds a bit hyperbolic. Hell, the first few Pixar films followed the same plot: normally inanimate, non-speaking or non-existing cast of characters go on an adventure to find or restore a character who is lost. Thankfully they eventually made The Incredibles and started doing something new. Though WALL-E is their best yet, and probably will never be topped.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/08  at  02:56 AM

Thanks for sharing this Caryn.  Indeed, number 11 is a great one.  I’m not sure that I have a favourite, maybe number 9 “make a list of what wouldn’t happen next.”  There are some great storytelling tips in here.

Posted by Ben Sarma  on  01/31  at  07:56 PM

Hi Caryn
I like 7 not only in writing but also in life, Thanks

Posted by Saran  on  02/17  at  11:04 PM

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