Andrew Stanton, Part 5: “The Clues to a Great Story” (TED Talk)

March 16th, 2012 by

This last Sunday, our featured video interview was a TED Talk given by Andrew Stanton, one of the key members of Pixar’s ‘brain trust’ whose screenwriting credits include Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, Wall-E and the current live action movie John Carter which he also directed [along with A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo and Wall-E].

The subject of the TED Talk: “The Clues to a Great Story.” Given the success of Pixar and Stanton’s participation in it, I decided to produce a transcription of the entire 19-minute presentation. I will be posting it segment by segment for the next week or so because Stanton packed a lot of big ideas into his short talk.

Today: Part 5.

In 1998, I had finished writing Toy Story and A Bug’s Life, and I was completely hooked on screenwriting. So I wanted to become much better at it and learn anything I could, so I researched everything I possibly could. And I finally came across this fantastic quote from a British playwright William Archer: “Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty.” It’s an incredibly insightful definition.

When you’re telling a story, have you constructed anticipation? In the short term, have you made me want to know what will happen next? But more importantly, have you made me want to know how it will all conclude in the long-term? Have you constructed honest conflict with truth that creates doubt in what the outcome might be?

An example is in Finding Nemo, in the short term, you were always worried, would Dory’s short term memory make her forget what she was told by Marlin. But under that was this global tension, will we ever find Nemo in this huge vast ocean.

A few things:

* “I was completely hooked on screenwriting… so I researched everything I possibly could”: Read scripts. Watch movies. Write pages.

* “Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty”: Print it. Post it. So you can see it when you write.

* “In the short term, have you made me want to know what will happen next”: That’s one of our ‘micro’ goals as writers.

* “But more importantly, have you made me want to know how it will all conclude in the long-term”: That’s one of our ‘macro’ goals as writers.

* “Have you constructed honest conflict with truth that creates doubt in what the outcome might be”: Constructed. Conflict. Truth. Doubt. Outcome. Print this, too. Post this, too. So you can see it, too, when you write.

For Part 1 of Stanton’s TED Talk, go here.

For Part 2, go here.

For Part 3, go here.

For Part 4, go here.

Tomorrow: Part 6.

One thought on “Andrew Stanton, Part 5: “The Clues to a Great Story” (TED Talk)

  1. […] to Scott Myers at Go Into The Story for pointing the way to Stanton’s TED […]

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