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6 Rules of Great Storytelling (As Told by Pixar)

Pete Docter

“What you’re trying to do, when you tell a story, is to write about an event in your life that made you feel some particular way. And what you’re trying to do, when you tell a story, is to get the audience to have that same feeling.”

Pete Docter

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Storytelling Is Everything

Whether it's telling inspiring stories to customers or delivering a presentation to executives and the board of directors, being a good storyteller helps us make the leap from Good to Great.

Product managers and designers can benefit tremendously by great storytelling, and so can anyone who is working with product design.

Purpose

Instead of selling products, we need to focus on their purpose and what good it does for the end-user. Focus on the need of the customer and design the product around it.

Three-Act storytelling structure
Three-Act storytelling structure

One of the oldest and most straightforward storytelling formulas:

  • Setup: Set the scene and introduce the character(s)
  • Confrontation or “Rising action” : Present a p...
Five-Act storytelling structure

Also known as Freytag’s Pyramid:

  • Exposition: Introduce important background information
  • Rising action: Tell a series of events to build up to the climax
  • Climax: Turn the story around (usually the most exciting part of the story)
  • Falling action: Continue the action from the climax
  • Dénouement: Ending the story with a resolution.
Before – After – Bridge storytelling formula
  • Before: Describe the world with Problem A.
  • After: Imagine what it’d be like having Problem A solved.
  • Bridge: Here’s how to get there.

Set the stage of a problem that your target audience is likely to experience ( a problem that your company solves). Describe a world where that problem didn’t exist. Explain how to get there or present the solution (i.e. your product or service).

Rules of storytelling, according to Pixar
  • Emphasize trying more than success.
  • Having an initial theme while writing is important but don’t get too attached to it.
  • Cutting things out