Optimism is NOT Arrogance

Arrogance is the belief that you are BETTER than others. Optimism is the belief that you have the same CHANCE as others. We all have the chance to achieve our dreams. Don't ever let anyone tell you differently.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Story Review - Toy Story 3

Ok, I won't go into great lengths about the story, it's a fabulous movie and if you ever want to study the art of storytelling pick up ANY Pixar movie and you'll see how it's done.  They specialize in, focus on, and work towards the best story telling possible.

One thing that stood out for me that I'll talk about today:  drawing out the tension for maximum emotional effect.

In one particular scene the main characters are facing certain peril.  Now rather than show the peril they're facing, and their reaction, only to be saved, Pixar drew this out for a looooong time.  Slow shots of each character looking at each other, then grasping hands, one-by-one, then looking at the perilous fate awaiting them, then more looks, I mean, it was DRAMA.

Your stories can have that too.  I learned that when my hero was rescued at the last minute but in terms of description in a single paragraph.  Waaaay to short.  After all the reader has gone through with your hero, when they face that final, fateful decision, or all hope seems to be lost, there's no shame in dragging it out a bit.  Ramp up the suspense.  Make it seem truly impossible to avoid.  The reader will figure "holy cow, this may actually be it!" even if, in the back of their mind, their rational side thinks "of course they can't die, they're the hero".

Some famous tense moments like that?  The Empire Strikes Back with Luke having gotten his butt kicked by Vader.  Even when Holden Caufield watches his sister on the carousel in Central Park - it's not a paragraph, it's an emotional heart-tugger the way he describes it.  Not a dangerous moment, but an emotionally tense one.

Take a look at your favorite books, and pay attention to the last fifty pages or so.  See where the hero is in dire straits and how awful things seem for him.  See how long the author drags it out.  You'll see, it's not a quick look and a resolution - it's agonizingly, and especially satisfyingly drawn out.


  1. This is a great post!

    Funny, when I was watching "Toy Story 3" with the kids last weekend, I also noticed the way Pixar tightened up the plot-- especially when Woody was trying to decide if he should go back to the Daycare or home to Andy. The stakes kept ratcheting up!

    Plot is my biggest struggle, so I really appreciate this sort of post.



  2. Thanks, Perri - plot is always a toughie, especially when you SEE the story in your head, but you gotta fill in all the blanks and keep the thing moving. Just remember two words: FORWARD MOTION. If the book isn't moving forward, if the hero isn't moving towards his goal, it's wasted words...



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