The Story Spine: Pixar's 4th rule of storytelling
In 2012 Pixar Story Artist Emma Coats tweeted 22 storytelling tips using the hashtag #storybasics. The list circulated the internet for months gaining the popular title Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling. We reposted this list two weeks ago and the response has been phenomenal with thousands of likes, shares, comments and emails.Follow the link and read the whole thing, for a more detailed look with examples, and embedded links for further references.
Since posting the story, a number of people have contacted us regarding rule number 4 on the list, also known as ‘The Story Spine’:
Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
Reports were that this tip did not originate with Pixar but instead with writer/director/teacher Brian McDonald. Intrigued, we contacted Brian to find out more. He replied as follows:
I should clear up that the story spine (Once upon a time…) is not mine. I think many people first learned it from me because of my books, classes and lectures I have given over the past dozen years or so. It did not originate with Pixar either. I looked for the origin of these steps when I was writing my book, but never found it and I say so in the book. It has been used in impov as an exercise where is where I first learned it. I know a guy looking for the origin, but he’s not having any luck either.**
Brian added that in the original story spine tweet a step was actually left out. The final step should be And ever since that day… As Brian says, the list ‘keeps getting copied with this missing step and it’s an important step.’
Brian, an award-winning filmmaker in his own right, has taught his story structure seminar at Pixar, Disney Feature Animation and Lucasfilm’s ILM. For readers wanting to know more about The Story Spine, the following article by Andy Goodman explores in further detail these 7 simple steps for building more engaging stories. [...]