22 Rules for Storytelling as Suggested by Pixar

pixar-animation-studios

So a friend of mine posted a link to this list of storytelling tips from the storyboard artists at Pixar. After reading through them, I thought I’d use it as a meme base and plug in my Elaseim story into them and see what I can come up with. This is all going to be stream-of-conscience writing, so hopefully I’ll make some discoveries. Give it a try if you like with your own story! Here we go!

  1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes. I take this as a character’s drive must be for something outside of themselves. This is where the protagonist is separated from the antagonist; a protagonist makes things easier for those around them, even if it makes things harder for themselves, while the antagonist makes things easier for themselves, sometimes purposefully making things harder for those around them. I’ve never really deeply thought about this for my characters. Rana’s purpose in her journey is to eliminate the evil of Inan in the world, considering it her duty as the last Elaseim and guardian of Adalan Eu. She allows this sense of duty, however, to overpower her concern for the people around her, and comes close to making big mistakes in her personal life (and putting those closest to her in great danger) because of this mindset. Now THAT was a breakthrough! As for Inan, his purpose is simpler. I’m not going to get into the details too much, though. But his intent is certainly personal success in his goal, and he will force all around him into his plans to gain that success.
  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 very different. I always view my stories as movies running in my head. I have a very hard time translating that movie-paced image into expanded chapters, especially because I also really enjoy the elaborate narrative of Tolkien, but don’t want to overdo it myself in my own story. Tolkien had a wonder, a perfection in language, to put imagery into long-winded words that still kept you interested and focused. I don’t know if I can do that or not, and just attempting such narrative gets me nervous. Number two is going to push me into the different styles I’ve been avoiding in order to avoid bad reactions. Considering I don’t get much reaction at all for my writing at this point, bad reaction to improve is better than the nothing I have now.
  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. Long story short, I need to get up off my ass and write the whole damn thing, THEN go back and edit and add and subtract. I need to get away from the planning. I’ve been planning for over 8 years, for Sedar’s sake! (wow, that was bad…)
  4. Once upon a time there was the last of the Elaseim. Every day, the world beyond her sanctuary fell farther away from the world she had known. One day a man brought her back to her nature. Because of that, she properly came into her age, and took up duty of her people (while also falling in love). Because of that, she and her new-found friend, the man, rallied the world against the evils suppressing it. Until finally… well you’ll find out whether she succeeds.character_sheet__rana_by_ranaelaseim-d3hdm2m
  5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free. I have found myself combining or switching characters from one story to another. I don’t think I’ve ever lost anything, per se, but I have set myself free in that way. I think I may do some experimentals with some of the characters and possibly post, see if I like some of the changes or not. I am adding a new character and a new set of chapters in Rana and Taren’s journey, so that will be fun to share.
  6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal? This is a unique aspect to Rana, because we really don’t know what she’s good at. When she was one of the original four Elaseim, she had a full development into her the aspects of her character. Now, with her not even in her teenage years before the world crashes in around her, she had not really developed into much of anything yet, and the time she lives with the Equepar, she is not given the chance to become anything but a protected little China doll. She is a blank slate. The closest thing you get to something that is only hers is when Taren is captured by the Equepar for tracking them to the western cliffs. That chapter is actually coming, so I won’t divulge much, but this is when the duty of her people erupts from her, a natural defense mechanism which she has always had itching within her, but never been put in the situation to utilize the feeling before. Because of all this, everything is her polar opposite, and yet everything has a hint of familiarity to it. Where she has her problem is where to the draw the line between Elaseim duty and personal empathy and love. Everything is a challenge, and we learn with her adjustments.
  7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front. I have miserably failed here. The ending has been hard, and to figure it out, I’ve been writing and planning and changing and expanding the middle. By now I ought to know it’s not going to make the ending any easier. One of my next jobs is the stop writing and plan the ending only. Those last scenes. Get it where I do not want it to change, where the ending will erupt the passion of all the emotions within my readers at once. If the middle brings changes to the ending later, that’s fine. But I need to know where I’m going first, and let the final destination change with the journey after it is an actual place to get to.
  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. My Elaseim story is the nearest and dearest thing to my heart in my writing, and has been for almost a decade now. But I need to let it grow up and make it something of my past. It will be harder than my kids moving out of the house (in about 25 years or so, when I have kids at all), but things must always come and go.
  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. A very good tip! I think I’ll use this when developing the ending!
  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. I’ve pulled Lord of the Rings apart in every way possible. The origin of the Elaseim, and specifically Rana, was the OC for my LotR fan fiction, and found every possible thing she could do to adjust and change the series of events within the LotR trilogy, as well as many of the back stories from The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales.
  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. I’m working on it, I swear…
  12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself. After 8 years, I’m pretty sure I’ve been going through into the dozens of ideas at this point. BUT, that doesn’t mean I don’t bother with making new ideas constantly, just to see what will come of it.
  13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience. Trust me, my personality is always as passive and malleable as possible, and so I always try my best to make my characters distant from the way I would end up going about their problems. If anybody wants to argue that, by all means go for it. That’s what the comments are for!
  14. Rana_by_RanaElaseimWhy must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.  Rana is part of me. There are shadows of me in her, but mostly she is the epitome of my old dog of the same name. She was the best thing of my childhood, and aside from my boyfriend, she was the best of my life. The character is her spirit reincarnate on paper, immortalized for the world to know and love as I loved. My story has evolved around her, and she in turn is evolving with the story, which I have just as much passion for as I do for Rana. It is my heart and soul live in this story, and even if someone else could tell it better, they would not feel the way I do as the words hit the paper from my pen, appear on the screen through my fingertips. This is my story, and that’s just that.
  15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.  This is one of the areas where I do the, “How many ways could this turn out?” kind of writing exercises. I work every possible response the characters could make at the situations I use in the storyline. That’s really it for that.
  16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.  The changes and additions I’ve been making to the story have mainly consisted of challenges for the main character(s). Sometimes it’s for the sake of the challenge, sometimes it’s just to find out little nooks and crannies of the characters’ personality I haven’t yet found. Thinking about it a little more, I realize that the changes I’ve made have actually made things harder, not on myself, but on my characters. I’m thinking I’ve been trying to keep them safe in a way over the years, and have finally moved into the acceptance of making my characters experience the difficult aspects of life without my lightened touch.
  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. I couldn’t agree more. I keep every note I make I keep. If anything else, it shows the progress I’ve made, and allows me to compare ideas from then and now, to see which ideas were good or bad, and decide why (which isn’t the easiest thing, when the whole story and all the ideas to develop it are your own).
  18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining. This goes back to the last answer. Watching my development as a writer, as a storyline developer, etc. through my notes and my drafts really lets me get to know myself, pieces of myself that only comes out on the page. My poetry does the same, and allows me to put the worst of myself out in the open instead of bottled up inside. The work on my novel is the same, just more expansive.
  19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating. Haven’t really thought about this… Personally, I always find coincidence to be cliche in some way, especially when the characters know each other and just happen to show up in the same place at the same time to the detriment of one. Doubly especially when nothing actually comes of the coincidence at all.
  20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How do you rearrange them into what you DO like? I can’t tell you HOW many times I’ve done this… That would be another whole blog post SERIES to cover them all.
  21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way? The fear and confusion I’ve been putting Rana through, making her so young during the fall of the Elaseim, has brought no end to ‘uncool’ reactions. It was an experiment that went quite right, and this is precisely what it was about.
  22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there. The fantastical aspects of Tolkien’s genius is where the essence of my story originated. I’m still not completely convinced that the novel is the only way this story can be told (as I see this movie running in my mind every time I think of any scene), but I’m sure that it feels great to write, and when I write, it feels so right.

tolkien

Haikus again

Last kind memory

counting the turned autumn leaves

hilltops’ jade turned brick

Rust melts to scarlet

nothing to remember but

Crimson and the dark

Bare, crackle umber

surrounds me, consumes my world

ashen heart buried

A linked haiku inspired by Rana, my main character for my Elaseim novel (for those who haven’t been following for long). I’m quite happy with this for now. This may likely evolve into a real series of sorts. We’ll see if I take it farther. Any critique is, as always, welcome and encouraged! ^_^

A quick question, and back to writing…

Okay, so for my Elaseim readers, I’m working out a new chapter! The story of the fall of the Elaseim! Finally! I’m writing it up on Goodreads and will make a blog post on it as soon as I’m finished. It may not be until tomorrow, as it is getting late for me, but it will be posted by tomorrow night. I’m promising myself this time!

les_miserables_ver11

If this movie doesn’t bring you to some kind of emotional or spiritual revelation, I don’t know what will.

In the meantime, I want a question discussed. Now you’ll remember my little post about my mother’s reaction to me not going to church anymore. I’m not re-reading to see if I mentioned this, so I’ll just mention it here. I managed to outline to my mother in those five minutes that I felt disrespectful when going to church. I have great respect to those who do feel a passion, a closeness with god when in church. I understand that feeling. But I do not get that feeling in a church, during a mass. In fact, I feel farther from that feeling when I’m sitting in for a mass. If I find no meaning in the actions during the mass, how rude is it to go through the motions blindly when there are people around me experiencing something heart felt? I feel as if I am insulting those around me. It is the same if I am enjoying a good movie, like Les Miserables for instance. I can lose myself in a wonderful place of awe and observation when watching a movie like that, or listening to some Bruce Hornsby in the car. That moment for me is that closer connection to the world around me, to the place where I find god in my life. When I’m watching that movie and someone is throwing popcorn, whispering and giggling to their friends, and texting on their phone in front of me, I feel upset that they can’t respect my enjoyment of the movie, even if they don’t understand what I’m experiencing while watching. It’s hard to make someone understand that feeling, but then again it’s hard for a religious person to explain how they feel when in a church when there are so many who just call it any other building, right?

Anyway, the point is I tried to explain to my mother that I’d rather not go to church and live a good life without that hour every Sunday than to be a disrespectful hypocrite and go to church and have no real connection to what was going on in there. My mother tried to create some odd excuse that going to church is not hypocritical. I don’t how she explained it, it didn’t come out in any amount of sense. The reason I bring this up is that on yet another one of my Yahoo escapades, I had someone post, “Better to sit among the hypocrites than to join them in hell.” (I believe it got so many downed views it is now unviewable.) You can see the response I made on the link.

My question is, what the hell is this argument anyway? Why is it better to LIE about your belief to everyone around you and secretly think it’s all bullshit, than to live a fulfilling and good life and not go to freaking church? Someone explain this to me in normal terms, please. Because I don’t know how to answer this anymore other than, “You’re argument is contradictory and therefore invalid. Have a nice day.” I want to understand this mindset. The contradiction just seems to blatant to me, I don’t get it.

Okay, religious talk over again. Next time, Elaseim chapter! 😀

A call for advice on character development: Rana

OKAY! So the religious babble is being put to the side, and it’s back to discussing writing!

I’ve been focusing on the Elaseim novel lately, although life has been keeping me from putting too much time into it. I have quite a few chapters partially finished, but no where near edited or refined to my liking. The biggest thing is this: I’m changing Rana’s story a bit. It figures that this change is going to force me to re-write a couple of the origin chapters, but a lot of that will likely just be name changes, with the plot staying put (for now).

So right now Rana is one of the original four Elaseim, alongside Salocar, Veroa, and Kido. She survives with Kido against Inan after he slaughters the rest of the Elaseim. Kido rallies an army from the free creatures of Adalan Eu, and together with Rana they go to war. Rana sees Kido killed by Inan and falls in the battle, overwhelmed by his death. She is found by the Equepar and taken away from the Inan’s reach. When Taren finds her, she is still held in that overwhelmed, dazed state by the Equepar, who are trying to brainwash her into fighting and purposefully losing to Inan, so as to reunite the souls of the Elaseim and re-create the Elaseim part of the Sedar. The Equepar believe the return of the Sedar is the only way to defeat Inan and bring the original balance that Salocar and Veroa held over Adalan Eu back to the world. Taren manages to convince Rana otherwise and she goes with him to bring an army against Inan once again.

My problem is, Rana’s character is far stronger than this. As a full-grown Elaseim, she should know better than to fall into a depressive state, especially for so long. So here’s the new plan. Rana and Kido are not the oldest Elaseim, but the youngest. Kido is Rana’s older brother, and she is not even a ‘teenager’ in Elaseim development when Inan comes and kills the Elaseim. She is left at the base camp of Kido’s army while he leads them to fight. She, not understanding all of this, goes after him, wanting to go back home to Ea Mornen, where the battle takes place. On the battlefield she sees Kido fall and is knocked out while mourning over him. The Equepar find her and take her in. They weave an elaborate lie about Inan and convince Rana to trust them. She does not realize their true intentions, which are not completely clear until later in the novel.

I want her to have more of a reason to trust the Equepar. It also gives a greater impact when her instincts as an Elaseim spur her to leave them behind and go with Taren. I’d like to know if people agree with this character development change or not. At least give me a little dialogue to get some back and forth going on it. I can give more insight later. I’m actually in a bit of a rush right now. Comment below please! Cheers!

I’m back! And starting back with a meme :P

I love the word hiatus and hate the fact I use it so often. -.- But I’m back! At least for as long as I can make time to keep staying back. New job and new living space is still getting worked out. Anyway! Saw this writing…meme? NOT that I don’t know what memes are, but this seems more like a list of questions… But whatever! Question time!
WHAT IS THE WORKING TITLE OF YOUR NEXT BOOK?

 

THE LAST ELASEIM (working title…)

 

♦WHERE DID THE IDEA FOR THE BOOK COME FROM?

 

You all will know this is the one I’ve been working on forever. The main character is the origin, who was created as an OC for a never-written fanfiction of Lord of the Rings.

 

♦WHAT GENRE DOES YOUR BOOK FALL UNDER?

 

Fantasy with a little sprinkle of Science Fiction

 

♦WHAT ACTORS WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO PLAY THE PART OF YOUR CHARACTERS IN A MOVIE RENDITION?

 

I love this question!

Rana – Cobie Smulders, Taren – Nathan Fillion (that was was SO difficult…), Kido – Hugh Jackman, Salocar – Jeremy Renner, Veroa – Liv Tyler (?), Schiska – Michelle Rodriguez, Earolen – Neil Patrick Harris, Kalorn/Inan Stellan Skarsgard (more characters to choose, but I’ve spent WAY too long on this question now.)

 

♦WHAT IS THE ONE SENTENCE SYNOPSIS OF YOUR BOOK?

 

A woman who is the last of a race of peace-keepers must rally the creatures of the world against an evil that has reigned for thousands of years.

 

♦WILL YOUR BOOK BE SELF-PUBLISHED, OR REPRESENTED BY AN AGENCY?

 

I’d like to be represented in the hope this story will become a big hit, but I’m very comfortable self-publishing, at least to get it off the ground.

 

♦HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE THE FIRST DRAFT OF THE MANUSCRIPT?

 

Don’t ask.

 

♦WHAT OTHER BOOKS WOULD YOU COMPARE THIS STORY TO WITHIN YOUR GENRE?

 

Definitely a Lord of the Rings style story, with some tones of Avatar: The Last Airbender (not because of the ‘last’ thing). Full on recreation of the world we know. With a little touch of futuristic twist.

 

♦WHO, OR WHAT, INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THIS BOOK?

 

My OC, Rana. Her part in the fanfiction I had her living in was not enough justice for her, and so the story developed around her. She herself was inspired by my dog of the same name.

 

♦WHAT ELSE ABOUT THE BOOK MIGHT PIQUE A READER’S INTEREST?

 

This story encompasses anthropomorphism in a way that, to me, gives it purpose. Many stories I see use it just for image’s sake, which is fine, but with no explanation as to how the human and creature sides ‘interact’ as one being. I try to incorporate that in this story and make it a pivotal part of the events and actions of the characters.
Also, there are just a lot of awesome creatures in this story, as characters and as creatures. This is a story I see as a movie rolling in my head all the time.My biggest ambition for this story is to see it on the big screen.

 

Well, that’s a little of that. Believe it of not, I’m working on a few chapters too! I’m bouncing between them, which I’m sure is bad practice, but I’m still enjoying it and getting quite a bit accomplished. Hopefully I’ll have a few finished and ready to post on Goodreads sometime soon! Until then, cheers all!

 

~SVG

[end action scene]

Okay, so after another long bout of quiet, I’m back with some updates and some questions.  I’m struggling to work more on my Elaseim story and actually get the ball rolling on the main manuscript.  It’s not easy with all the major changes going on in my life right now, but I’m trying my best on such a sporadic schedule to make a random time every day to write.  It hasn’t worked out every day, so the writing is getting inconsistent, which makes me not want to write the next day or gets me caught up in editing the previous days’ writing, which is an evil cycle of hell for me.  I have an awful habit of editing while I write.  So my first question to you all is how do you break that hideous habit? What tricks can I use to keep myself from editing while the words appear, and how do I keep the stream flowing instead of editing before its even on the paper? I take forever to write because I want that perfect word sometimes, even though I know I can put that perfect word down at any time, erase or scribble and make it pretty later.  For some reason I just can’t convince myself of that while the pen is in my hand.  And as for typing the first draft, there’s a combination of my love for hand-written drafts, to see something tangible of my work, and a lack of time to boot up the computer and sit and avoid all the distractions of computer bs to get a couple pages done.  Despite the pace I have to take while writing, I still don’t type my work faster than I write it.

My other problem I run into coincides with my pace.  My brain works very fast.  I can see my whole novel finished in my mind, practically page for page, but not in the same format.  All my stories, even the little short stories I’ve written, and heck, even my poetry I can sometimes see as film playing through my head.  I don’t know how many of you have the same thing going on when you write, where your story is a movie you just watch over and over, but this is me in a nutshell, and it’s obnoxious sometimes.  I see the main fights, the first encounters that make the bulk of the movie, and I can imagine immediately how the writing will play out to show that scene to others the way I see it.  But then I realize that scene is only about 20 pages of writing, 10 or so if it’s only a low-action first encounter.  Then there’s travel sections where I know the next big scene is across the continent, but they have to get there, and perhaps it would be a good idea to introduce some other, less significant characters along the way so they can show up later without introduction, but how much time do I want to take up, and how many should I include, and is this getting too long or is it still not long enough, and… and… AND!!!!! AHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!

So my other question for you all is how many of you have this kind of problem? Do you see your stories play out before you? When do you know that you’re writing something that is more for the big screen and not for the progression of the story? And have you ever made your story into a screenplay or vice versa because of the conflicts you come upon writing the novel? Some of my stories, like the Elaseim novel, I know will stay as novels, and perhaps someday I will expand into the world of film with them, but not before the whole story is told. But there are other stories, such as my WWII idea, which I’m now thinking is actually more meant for the theater, simply because there aren’t enough scenes to fill a book.  Perhaps I could make a novella, but even that would be stretching it a bit too far.  A nice thing about that is that I love writing screenplays, I really do.  But I’m not in the zone for it right now. That is something that I sit, I work on every night for a couple weeks, and I’m done.  I can spit out screenplays when I know what I’m doing.  Novels, for some reason, do not work that way. I have to portray all of the emotions and scenery and personality that the actor would develop for the audience in writing, because I am all the actors, the stage director, the background and makeup artists all in one as a novelist.  Knowing how seemingly easy that comes to me as a screenplay writer and then how hard it is as a novelist sets me back.  It’s even more aggravating because I haven’t written a screenplay in over a year.  Perhaps once my schedule actually becomes consistent I will make my first new project a new screenplay to get me back in the swing of things. Would anyone be interested in a screenplay from me? Anyone have any ideas on what I should write? Write some comments on your ideas of what you’d love to see and I’ll make sure you get credit for the idea. 😉 Until next time, and hopefully again with my more consistent schedule I’ll be posting and writing more often. Cheers!

 

~SVG

Thank the Universe for re-writes

This is my favorite pastime. 😀

Okay, so as I said on my last post, I’m re-writing all of my notes and chapter work into new, labeled notebooks.  I’m still working on Elaseim notes right now, which is much more daunting than I ever expected.  Good grief did I have a lot of ideas for this story.  It is actually scaring me some of the ideas that I had.  They are so pitiful!  I mean, for a long while I didn’t even have a creation story.  Here is how it was going to work out. Don’t laugh at me. 😛

The Wakening/ Pritus

  • all the creatures of Adalan Eu were asleep, woke up with only the memory of their names, names of those they were close to
  • Rana wakes up next to Salocar
  • when she meets Kido, instantly knows he is her brother
  • Rana and Salocar- possibly lovers before Wakening, but only very close friends after

War Before the Wakening

  • caused by de-evolution back to human nature/imbalance among human form creatures
  • human imbalance overwhelms some of animal’s nature
  • weaker, simpler creatures succumb
  • battles between human forms and animal forms begin
  • Elaseim avoid battles
  • Salocar and Rana watch final battle between all creatures
  • wolf/Elaseim instinct takes over Salocar, releases ‘power’ that puts everyone to sleep
  • he is overpowered by his own ability and falls asleep as well, everyone asleep and forgets

 

I mean, seriously, how sad is that?  No explanation of why Salocar has this random power, no explanation of why the hell it puts everyone to sleep, let alone why they forget.  This was supposed to be the beginning of the book and already I want to put my notes down and burn them!  Die, stupid plot with holes like cheese, DIE!

Okay, okay. I’m being mean to my younger self.  But there is a point to it all.  How does one know when their storyline is full of holes?  When do you stick to your guns and say, “This is a good story, no more changes.”  When do you know where explanations are not needed? When is the mystery of a creature’s power acceptable and when is it just dumb?  I know this old plot idea is bunk, I know it’s sad and full of holes and useless.  But how do I know the one I’m sticking to right now isn’t the same? Have I fallen in love with a stupid plot and just don’t want to admit it?

And don’t get me wrong. I want to put this out there. I do NOT write for my audience.  I write to tell my story, and those who like my style, my story, they become my audience.  If it a small audience, that is okay.  But I will not change my story to get more readers. I want to improve my story so that it is the best it can be.  I want to be happy with what I have created.  When I make a big change, it is because I have found what I consider a big hole.  As an example, I’m considering whether to keep Rana’s current plot position or make her the youngest Elaseim instead, more vulnerable mentally and more malleable.  But I haven’t decided if it would be more impacting for her with all her experience to crash mentally from the loss she suffers.  There are little holes in each of these possibilities, but that is the fun of it.  Figuring out which is the lesser of two holes entertains me, and makes my writing worth while.  And all the steps that get me there are worth it in the end, no matter how sad and pathetic when I look back.

And so I thank my sad little writing self of the past.  I thank all the stupid plot options I’ve given myself to get to the great story I will cherish, even if I’m the only one.  Thank you, bad writing, for giving me the ability to re-write and re-write until I get it right.

 

~SVG