Make Me Care: Pixar Writer Andrew Stanton on Storytelling

In this TED Talk, Pixar director/screenwriter Andrew Stanton (“Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo,” “WALL-E”) shares a few of his ideas about what makes a great story.   Here are a few takeaways from the presentation:

  • Storytelling is “Joke Telling” You have to know what the ending is going to be before you start.
  • Drama is anticipation without certainty. Every action or scene is leading up to a singular goal. Create doubt in the audience about how it will turn out.
  • Great stories affirm who we are, and that life has meaning. A strong theme is always running through a well-told story.
  • The beginning of a great story should make a simple promise: “This is going to lead somewhere.”
  • The audience wants to work to discover meaning, but they don’t want to be aware that they are working. They want to fill in the blanks. Let the audience put things together themselves.
  • The audience should like the main character, but that character should have an itch that they cannot scratch. The character has conditions that have to be met to maintain their likability. When these conditions are not met, their flaw will rise to the surface and conflict happens.
  • The greatest commandment in storytelling is simply: “Make Me Care”

Why should you care?

Every good marketer at least pretends to respect the power storytelling.  You don’t have to be a hollywood screenwriter to write a promotional video script, but it helps to understand the fundamentals of story structure.