Friday, May 24, 2013

Make Me Care: The Components of a Great Story

Based on his opening joke, you might have a hard time guessing Andrew Stanton wrote films like Finding Nemo, WALL-E, and the Toy Story trilogy. If Andrew’s film-making success has taught him anything, it’s that all great stories share a few things in common. In his TED Talk, he explores these ideas, using memorable scenes from his movies to illustrate various points. So, what can we learn from the following video?



Here are some of the thoughts that stood out to me:

#5 “This story is worth your time.”

Great stories make a promise early on; they promise to be worth your time.  The promise can be subtle or obvious, but it’s there. A simple phrase—once upon a time—or a secret treasure map can be used to tell you, Hang on—this is going to be good. And there are a million ways to do that.

#4  “Two Plus Two”

Humans are born with an innate desire to solve problems. We like to figure things out. A story should make you want to figure things out, rather than give you the solution. Audiences don’t want “four,” they want “two plus two.”

#3 “Well-drawn characters have a spine.”

All characters have an inner drive that guides their decision making. Whether it’s Marlin’s drive to prevent Nemo harm or Al Pacino’s character in “The Godfather” to please his father, characters in films and books are under the influence of these underlying motors.

#2 Main characters, even flawed ones, should be likable.

Most characters are neither black nor white, they’re somewhere in the middle, even villains. When placed in certain situations, they reveal various aspects of their inner-selves. Some of these aspects may be flaws that readers and viewers hope change as the character grows. Nevertheless, as a whole, the character should be likable. (Here, Andrew shows us a really obnoxious version of "Woody." Very funny.)

#1 “Make Me Care”

All of these devices help create a story that induces “wonder,” that captures the imagination. A great story quickly answers the question, ‘So what?’ We should be drawn into characters and want to know how they will overcome challenges—sticking with them to the very end and rejoicing with them when they grow.

Andrew's dirty joke catches your attention from the start and he keeps you hooked until the very end.  Definitely worth watching, especially if you’re a storyteller.

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