Writing Tips to Stuff in Your Story

In the spirit of the holiday season, I’m sharing more than a few of my favorite storytelling tips. The ones below are from a speech by Oscar-winning Pixar film director and screenwriter, Andrew Stanton. – Jillian

  1. Storytelling is joke telling. It’s knowing your punch line, your ending, knowing that everything you’re saying, from the first sentence to the last is leading to a singular goal.”
  2. Make me care. Emotionally, intellectually, aesthetically – just make me care.”
  3. “…It’s fundamentally making a promise to viewers that this story will lead to something that’s worth your time.”
  4. “The audience actually wants to work for their meal. They just don’t want to know that they’re doing that. Your job as a storyteller is to hide the fact that you’re making them work for their meal.”
  5. “We’re born problem solvers. We’re compelled to deduce and to deduct, because that’s what we do in real life. It’s this well-organized absence of information that draws us in.”
  6. …The Unifying Theory of Two Plus Two, make the audience put things together. Don’t give them four. Give them two plus two. The elements you provide and the order you place them in is crucial to whether you succeed or fail at engaging the audience.”
  7. “Stories are inevitable, if they’re good. But they’re not predictable.
  8. “…All well-drawn characters have a spine. The character has an inner motor, a dominant, unconscious goal that they’re striving for, an itch that they can’t scratch.”
  9. “Change is fundamental in story. If things go static, stories die, because life is never static.”
  10. “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 conflicts with truth that creates doubt in what the outcome might be?”
  11. A strong theme is always running through a well-told story.
  12. “The best stories infuse wonderAnd that’s what I think the magic ingredient is, the secret sauce. Can you invoke wonder? For me there’s no greater ability than the gift of another human being giving you that feeling, to hold them still just for a brief moment in their day, and have them surrender to wonder.”

What are your favorite storytelling tips?


To watch Andrew Stanton’s speech, which has language that some viewers may find objectionable, click on the link below. (Run time: 19 minute 16 seconds)



  1. The 12 days of Christmas, for writers? Good advice!

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