“Storytelling is joke telling. It’s knowing your punchline, your ending, knowing that everything you’re saying, from the first sentence to the last, is leading to a singular goal, and ideally confirming some truth that deepens our understandings of who we are as human beings. We all love stories. We’re born for them. Stories affirm who we are. We all want affirmations that our lives have meaning. And nothing does a greater affirmation than when we connect through stories. It can cross the barriers of time, past, present and future,and allow us to experience the similarities between ourselves and through others, real and imagined.
The children’s television host Mr. Rogers always carried in his wallet a quote from a social worker that said, ‘Frankly, there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story.’ And the way I like to interpret that is probably the greatest story commandment, which is ‘Make me care’ — please, emotionally, intellectually, aesthetically, just make me care. We all know what it’s like to not care. You’ve gone through hundreds of TV channels, just switching channel after channel, and then suddenly you actually stop on one. It’s already halfway over, but something’s caught you and you’re drawn in and you care. That’s not by chance, that’s by design.”
Two time Oscar-winning writer/director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL-E)
TED talk The Clues to a Great Story
P.S. I just realized if you took Stanton’s “Make me care” and added UCLA professor Richard Walter’s one unbreakable rule “Don’t be boring” you’d have a total of just six words that may be all you really need to focus on. If you need more toss in Limitless screenwriter Leslie Dixon’s one-sentence screenwriting manual, “Do they want to turn the page?” and David Mamet’s “INVIOLABLE RULE:THE SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC.” All the screenwriting books, blogs, magazines, podcasts, seminars, workshops, and college classes piggyback on these four simple concepts:
1) Don’t be boring (conflict-conflict-conflict)
2) Make me care
3) Do they want to turn the page?
4) THE SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC
Still want one more helpful tip to make it a handful? On the road to being a better writer? Okay, here it is;
5) “Writing and reading. That’s all that there is. There’s nothing else.”
David Mamet (The Verdict, Glengarry Glen Ross)
Writing “Finding Nemo”
Screenwriting the Pixar Way (Part 1)
Screenwriting the Pixar Way (Part 2)
Everything I Learn in Film School (Tip #1) The single best way to address numbers 1-4.