The website of the historical fiction writer.

Festival of Writing 2014 Part Deux: Learning Story Structure from Pixar Films

The first of the workshops that I attended was a repeat of a session from last year that was very well received. Julie Cohen explained that films for children are stripped down and simple and are, therefore, a great way of learning how to structure stories well. They’re fun, too. We were shown extracts and examples from the Toy Story films, Wall-E, Cars, Finding Nemo, Up, Monsters Inc and The Incredibles.

Much of the plot in these films are around the development of the main character using a three-act structure. Act One is the introduction and the inciting event. Act Two is where most of the action happens with life-changing events, a big problem which takes the character back to the start but he overcomes this with a new perspective on life and uses this to become a better person. Act Three is the end where everything is resolved.

The stories in these films are started very fast with the whole set up being established in the first six minutes or so. plot, setting, tone, etc. The backstories are shown in objects and brief actions are shown during the opening minutes and there are repeated motifs (such as Wall-E holding hands showing how he wants a connection. Subplots are part of the main plot and offer more insights into the character (such as Nemo learning bravery from stories about his father). The end of the story brings the story full circle and is both exciting and emotional in equal measure with the ending reflecting the beginning (such as a race in Cars).

Prologues are largely unnecessary and are mainly for the writer, not the reader, although the opening few minutes of Up opens the film up to an older audience as well as a younger one (and no I did not cry when we watched it!)

This was a very entertaining workshop and I can see why it was repeated this year. I’m now going to do the homework we were given which was to add Wall-E to my list of films to watch!

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