Friday, February 22, 2013

On Story Development and Story Engineering

About two weeks ago I was able to go to a special story development workshop hosted by Matthew Luhn.

If you've never heard of Luhn, he is the head of story at Pixar Animation Studios! The guy has an amazing story... Raised Jewish, family business was a toy store... Went to California Institute of the Arts, got a job at 19 years old working as an animator on The Simpsons, went back to school, then was hired at 22 years old by Pixar. Worked as an animator on Toy Story and then worked his way up as a story developer on lots of Pixar favorites, including the rest of the Toy Story trilogy, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, and Cars!

I loved what this guy had to say about crafting stories with strong and believable characters. Some of my favorite takeaways from his seminar were:
  • Character defines action. Know the characters you are writing about!
  • Fear or deeply rooted passion should be what drives character choices in the story.
  • Characters are who they are through their choices when faced with change.
  • Most memorable character arcs revolve around one of two options:
    • A character who must learn to have courage (hardening of a character)
    • A character who must learn to care (softening of a character)
  • The protagonist's choices lead the story. There must be something the protagonist wants more than life.
  • Heroes don't need to succeed in order to be a hero. They just need to try - audiences admire try more than success.
  • The antagonist and protagonist need clear goals that should oppose each other (although sometimes the goals may seem eerily similar - it is how the characters act and the decisions they make that are different).
  • The protagonist is only as compelling as the forces of antagonism compel him to be.
To find out more about Matthew Luhn or to see if he is speaking at an event near you, check out his personal website! I'm so glad I got the chance to attend his workshop. It was very encouraging to my story-luvin' heart!

Another very helpful resource for me lately has been Larry Brooks Story Engineering. I've mentioned the book on the blog before and if you are thinking about writing a book or in the midst of writing one, I highly highly highly recommend his book! And if you're feeling cheap, at least check his blog out. I wish I had read Story Engineering years ago (although it wasn't published years ago so that still wouldn't have worked).

I specifically recommend his blog series on story structure.

I also really loved the last page of Story Engineering. I had to take a picture. It was one of the only times that Brooks waxed poetic (most of his book is clear-cut, a bit humerous, easy-to read, and very practical).

I want to become a story! Yes! :)
Okay, time to stop blogging about writing and get back to writing. For the curiously-minded, I have about 75% of a rough draft finished. I'm bouncing back to story structure and working on cleaning up the climax of my story. Personally, it's been a struggle for me to craft the climax!

I think the answer lies in getting to know my characters a little better and then using character-driven action to fill in the blanks of the necessary plot points.

First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!
- Ray Bradbury

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