22 awesome lessons from Pixar Animations (especially for copywriters)
Almost everyone is familiar with the American production company Pixar Animation Studios. A company that focuses on making (computer) animated films. Their most familiar successes include ‘Finding Nemo’ and ‘Toy Story’. One of Pixar’s storyboard artists, Emma Coats, opened a book on Twitter a while back (opened a Tweet..? A Thread?) Either way, she shared valuable information about the 22 “rules” that Pixar applies when working on a new movie. Now, you may be thinking: “that’s lovely, but what good is this knowledge for me?” Well, more than you would initially think. These 22 rules for copywriters can be applied much more widely. Oh yeah? Yes, definitely.
Telling stories, which is actually what Pixar does, is very important when creating content and writing texts (copywriters; please read more). Many companies strive to create a story that their customers can identify with. This allows them to attract customers and increase their market share. And of course, you as an entrepreneur also want a unique and catchy story that matches your mission and goals.
A good copywriter can help you shape your story. In much the same way that Emma Coats and the other storyboard artists do. And so we are back where we started, with the 22 rules from Pixar. If you as an entrepreneur want to tell an Oscar-worthy story, then it is always worthwhile working with copywriters who know what they are doing. At Ludejo we know how to create content that appeals to readers and leads to the sale of products and services better than anyone. From web texts and SEO articles to social media posts and audio scripts, the possibilities are endless. We know copywriting like Pixar knows animated movies. So if you want an Oscar-worthy website/award-winning radio advertisement for your service or product, then you know where you need to be.
So, especially for all the copywriters who are reading along, I have selected a number of rules from Emma Coats’ list to show how you can apply them during the writing process.
No. 2: “You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting about you as an audience, not what’s fun about being a writer. They can be very different. “
Simply put, this rule means that you as a copywriter must always think from your client’s point of view and you must be able to move in his or her intended audience. To give an example: when you write a text for a customer (for example, think of a typical Dutch department store where they sell smoked sausages and children’s clothes), it can sometimes be difficult to adopt the ‘tone of voice’ of the company. However, in these cases you still have to adjust your writing style. Ultimately, it is the intention that the end product (the text) meets the wishes of the client. And if you know that your client focuses on the ‘average’ Dutch person (as far as one exists), then you also know that it is important to keep your text understandable and accessible. So do not use a complicated language, but keep it simple.
No. 5: “Simplify. Focus Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff, but it sets you free. ”
In short: keep it short and don’t be afraid to delete. Maybe you are familiar with the phrase ‘kill your darlings’? Every copywriter will agree that this is one of the most difficult parts of the writing process: it often feels a bit of a shame to just throw whole pieces of text into the trash. Still, according to Coats, it is sometimes (read: often) necessary to be critical. Even though it sometimes hurts a little. You can take it as a given that Pixar had to delete a lot of scenes while making ‘Finding Nemo’ and ‘Toy Story’. Ultimately, you cannot expect your audience to stay in their cinema seat for more than 3 hours. And then there are scenes that unfortunately have to die. I have to admit that while writing this blog I have deleted and rewritten several paragraphs. And that is not nice, but in the end it makes the text better (well, at least I hope so).
Perhaps it is comforting to know that at Pixar they apparently also find it difficult to throw away work, because they have also devised an appropriate rule for this:
No. 17: “No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on. It’ll come back around to be useful later.”
Finally, I want to draw specific attention to the nicest rule from the whole list. Because it is an important rule, but above all because it is so applicable to everything that Ludejo stands for and that we work on every day with the entire team:
No. 14: “Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off? That’s the heart of it.”
The core of our story is our mission: the transfer of information and knowledge so that it can be available to, and understood by, everyone regardless of location, language field, educational level and culture. And with that in mind, we at Ludejo strive every day to fulfil the wishes of our current and future customers.
Curious about the other Pixar rules? I have placed them all below this article. This way you can take a look at your own convenience to see if there are any other useful tips. Curious about Ludejo and how we can help you tell your story? Please don’t hesitate to get in contact. We are ready to turn your story into a real bestseller.
The full Pixar list of rules for reference:
- “You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.”
- “You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.”
- “Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about until you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.”
- “Once upon a time there was … Every day, … One day, … Because of that, … Because of that, … Until finally …”
- “Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff, but it sets you free.”
- “What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?”
- “Come up with your ending before you figure out the middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.”
- “Finish your story. Let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.”
- “When you’re stuk, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get unstuck will show up.”
- “Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.”
- “Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.”
- “Discount the first thing that comes to mind. And the second, third, fourth, fifth, … Get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.”
- “Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.”
- “Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off? That’s the heart of it.”
- “If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.”
- “What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.”
- “No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on. It’ll come back around to be useful later.”
- “You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best and fussing. Story is testing, not refining.”
- “Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out are cheating.”
- “Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How would you rearrange them into what you DO like?”
- “You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?”
- “What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.”
by Fenna van der Poel