Most of these apply to improv & sketch & anything else you want to tell.
Pixar’s rules of story
- Empathize with your main character, even if you don’t like all of his/her motivations or qualities. (For example, Woody in Toy Story initially masked his selfish desires as being selfless.)
- Unity of opposites. Each character must have clear goals that oppose each other. You should have something to say. Not a message, per se, but some perspective, some experiential truth.
- Have a key image, almost like a visual logline, to encapsulate the essence of the story; that represents the emotional core on which everything hangs. (For example, Marlin in Finding Nemo, looking over the last remaining fish egg in the nest.)
- Cast actors with an appealing voice, and whom the microphone loves. Test their voice performance with animation to see if it fits.
- Know your world and the rules of it. (Such as in Monsters, Inc.)
- The crux of the story should be on inner, not outer, conflicts.
- Developing the story is like an archeological dig. Pick a site where you think the story is buried, and keep digging to find it.
- Animation should be interpretive, not realistic.
- “Just say no” to flashbacks. Only tell what’s vital, and tell it linearly. Consider music as a character to anchor the film. Music is a keeper of the emotional truth.
- One universal guideline that Pixar follows is to make the story organic… no jokes that require outside information that isn’t supplied by the film itself.