TED Talks — Andrew Stanton: The clues to a great story

March 13, 2012 — Leave a comment

“The greatest story commandment is: Make me care.”

Here is a great TED Talk [19:16 min] of Andrew Stanton talking about storytelling. Some great quotes/tips in this one. In case you’re wondering, “Who is this guy?” his TED profile has this to say:

“Andrew Stanton wrote the first film produced entirely on a computer, Toy Story. But what made that film a classic wasn’t the history-making graphic technology — it’s the story, the heart, the characters that children around the world instantly accepted into their own lives. Stanton wrote all three Toy Story movies at Pixar Animation Studios, where he was hired in 1990 as the second animator on staff. He has two Oscars, as the writer-director of Finding Nemo and WALL-E. And as Edgar Rice Burroughs nerds, we’re breathlessly awaiting the March opening of his fantasy-adventure movie John Carter.”

(Side note: Although I haven’t seen John Carter yet, my favorite work of his is WALL·E.)

Update: Another blogger (John Zimmer) had done the wonderful task of typing out the key points from this talk. I have taken the hardwork of this man and transplanted it on this post (Only because I stumbled upon it before I could do it myself :P): 

  • Storytelling is knowing your punchline, your ending.
  • Storytelling is knowing that everything you’re saying, from your first sentence to your last, is leading to a single goal and ideally confirming some truth that deepens our understanding of who we are as human beings.
  • We all love stories; we’re born for them.
  • We all want affirmation that our lives have meaning, and there is no stronger affirmation than when we connect through stories.
  • “There isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love, once you’ve heard their story.” (Quote that Mr. Rogers kept in his wallet.)
  • The greatest story commandment is to make the audience care—emotionally, intellectually, aesthetically.
  • A good story makes a promise that it will lead you somewhere worthwhile.
  • That promise, if told well, will propel you through the story to the end.
  • The audience wants to “work for its meal”. In other words, people are prepared to follow a compelling story without necessarily knowing where it will lead in order to get to the conclusion. They are willing to make the effort.
  • “The Unifying Theory of 2 + 2″: Don’t give the audience “4″; give them “2 + 2″and let them work out the answer themselves.
  • The elements you provide and the order in which you place them are crucial to whether you succeed in engaging the audience or not.
  • A good story is inevitable but not predictable.
  • All well-portayed characters have a goal that they want to achieve.
  • Change is fundamental in story; if things go static, stories die because life is not static.
  • “Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty.” — William Archer, British Playwright.
  • You need to craft your story so that it builds anticipation.
  • Construct honest conflicts that create doubt about what the truth might be.
  • Storytelling has guidelines, not hard and fast rules.
  • A strong theme always runs through a well-told story.
  • The big question: Can you invoke wonder in your audience? Wonder is honest, innocent and can’t be artificially invoked.
  • The ability to instill wonder in others, to hold them still for a brief moment and make them surrender to wonder, is one of the greatest gifts one person can give to another.
  • The best stories infuse the audience with wonder.
  • When developing your stories, use what you know. It doesn’t always mean plot or fact. It means capturing a truth from your experience and expressing values you personally feel deep down to your core.
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