Category Archives: Story Tips

Is There a “New” Pixar?

The other day, I was talking with some friends about the idea that Pixar Animation Studios has changed. Some people have been disappointed with their recent work, while others find that it lives up to their best films. One friend went so far as to say there was an “Old” and a “New” Pixar.

I happen to be in the camp that believes, as I said during the discussion, that Pixar is Pixar. That is, there hasn’t been a change.

I know what you’re thinking. “Jordan, what does this have to do with storytelling?” Bear with me and I’ll get to some takeaways for storytellers from how Pixar works, but first I need to explain why Pixar hasn’t changed. Continue reading Is There a “New” Pixar?

Even More Loglines from The Black List

Back by popular demand, here’s part three of a series breaking down (and often fixing) loglines from The Black List. For ten more loglines, check out part 1 and part 2.

Story of Your Life: Based on the short story by Ted Chiang. When alien crafts land around the world, a linguistics expert is recruited by the military to determine whether they come in peace or are a threat. As she learns to communicate with the aliens, she begins experiencing vivid flashbacks that become the key to unlocking the greater mystery about the true purpose of their visit.

Those who have read my previous logline breakdown posts or who have had my help with loglines before will know right off the bat what I’m going to say here: A logline is one sentence, not three. Other than that, though, the bones of a good logline are here. Let’s make it follow the rules.

“When aliens land and she is recruited to communicate with them, a linguistics expert begins experiencing vivid flashbacks that hold the key to learning the purpose of the extraterrestrial visit.” Continue reading Even More Loglines from The Black List

More Loglines from The Black List

My post about loglines from The Black List only covered five out of the enormous list of choices. I’ve decided it would be good to see more, including some that I think are excellent loglines (can’t be negative all the time!). So, without further ado, here are five more loglines from the 2012 Black List.

Americatown: In a China-dominated near future, a former LAPD officer attempts to save his family from destitution in Los Angeles by working for a crime lord in the American ghetto within a thriving Hong Kong.

While I don’t find this logline compelling to me personally (not my kind of story), it is a well crafted one. We have a setup (“In a China-dominated near future”), a main character who is well described (“former LAPD officer”), and a good grasp of the situation (“working for a crime lord” to “save his family”). All of the necessary elements are here, and this is pretty much perfect. Continue reading More Loglines from The Black List

Why Nobody Should World-Build

Howdy! Aubrey Hansen here. If you’re a fan of Jordan’s, you’ve probably seen my name in passing. We’re what you might call partners in crime when it comes to storytelling. He produced my first short script “A House for Marge,” and I’m a story supervisor and screenwriter for his web series Month of the Novel. He’s mentioned in the special thanks of my latest book, and I’m mentioned in his. Basically, if I’ve written it, he’s helped me develop it, and if he’s written it, I’ve either helped develop it or raved enthusiastically about it.

So it should come to no surprise to anyone that he asked me to write a guest post for his shiny new blog. Anyone who knows me also won’t be surprised by his requested topic—world-building. What will hopefully surprise most of you, however, is the thesis I wish to present:

You shouldn’t world-build.

That’s what I said. Don’t. Don’t world-build. Whatever other writers tell you, don’t listen to them! If you’ve already started world-building, get out while you still can. It’s a slippery slope into a dark crevice with no foreseeable bottom; once you get in over your head in world-building, you’ll never get back out. Continue reading Why Nobody Should World-Build

Loglines from The Black List

Every year, a list called The Black List is made of Hollywood executives’ favorite, unproduced screenplays from the past year. The 2012 list is out and I’m scrolling through it. Some of these loglines could use some help, so I’m going to break down some of the entries to help you see what would make a great logline.

Before I jump into this, I want to make something clear. I can’t do the back-and-forth with the writers that I would normally do when helping someone with a logline. Instead, I’m just going to be giving a brief analysis of what needs to change to make each logline a good one.

With that out of the way, here are five instructive loglines from The Black List. Continue reading Loglines from The Black List

Six Types of People to Ask for Story Feedback

No writer lives in a bubble. Every one of us has an audience we need to reach to be successful, but we can’t let our audience see our work before it’s ready. We need to find ways to test it out on a smaller, understanding-of-mistakes-and-unfinished-work audience before we let it out the door.

One of the best ways to do this is to have a group of trusted people who you ask to give you feedback. But who should you have in your circle of confidants? Here’s a list of six types of people you’ll want to make sure see your work before you call it done. Continue reading Six Types of People to Ask for Story Feedback

Wait… Two Prologues?

Back in June, I saw the new Pixar movie Brave, and I enjoyed it a lot. A couple weeks ago, I watched it again at home and sat up straight in my chair with amazement at the first ten minutes. Why?

The movie has two prologues!

I’ll say it again, because it completely flabbergasted me… The movie has two prologues!

That shouldn’t work, right? A prologue should be one set-up sequence at the beginning of the story, then we should move right into the rest, right?

So what was Brave doing with a prologue scene of Merida’s birthday, followed immediately after the title card by a voiceover prologue? And even more mystifying, why does it work? Continue reading Wait… Two Prologues?

Getting Away With Your Christmas Story

It’s the time of year when everyone starts thinking about Christmas. And if you’re a storyteller, you’ve probably had thoughts like these:

“Maybe I can take my existing characters and do a short Christmas story.”

“This year, I’m writing a Christmas screenplay.”

“Christmas novel!”

That’s great! Although there are plenty of Christmas stories out there, I think there’s always room for another good one. Let me encourage your Christmas writing endeavors with a quick pep talk.

I want you to consider something very special about this time of year. It’s a gift to all storytellers, especially for the holiday season. Here it is: Suspension of disbelief is less important at Christmas. Continue reading Getting Away With Your Christmas Story

Let’s Do the Twist

The other day, I was asked how I would logline the movie Hugo. But right there on the spot, I couldn’t do it. That’s pretty strange for me, because generally with a bit of thought, I can logline a story lickety-split.

At the time, I attributed it to trying to formulate a logline verbally, but when I later sat down and attempted to actually write a logline for Hugo… No go. It was as if the film didn’t want to be loglined.

This, of course, would not do. Every story can be loglined, right? That’s what I tell every storyteller I meet. So why wasn’t this working?

After some thought, and some research with a few other stories, I believe I have figured it out. It’s simply this: Hugo has structure issues. Continue reading Let’s Do the Twist