On Writing

On Writing: Inspiration from Andrew Stanton

Filmmaker Andrew Stanton (Toy Story, WALL-E) shares what he knows about storytelling–starting at the end and working back to the beginning. Warning: This clip contains graphic language. (It is a rather funny use of graphic language, but if you would rather avoid hearing it, do not click!)

Literature, whether in short stories, novels, movies, or other forms, has always allowed readers/listeners/viewers to partake in experiences beyond their own capabilities. I may never climb Mount Everest, for example, but I can read a book about someone who has completed the journey and experience the climb through his/her words. How do you make this interesting, though, as a writer? How do you capture the core essence of the experience and eliminate the details that would cause a reader to lose interest?

Stanton’s presentation for TED develops this idea: He believes that the audience wants to have these literary experiences–and wants to work for them. Readers/listeners/viewers do not want the information to be “spoon fed” from the characters or the narrator; they want to solve the problems for themselves as they progress through the story. Stanton explains: “The audience actually wants to work for their meal. They just don’t want to know that they’re doing that. That’s your job as a storyteller, is to hide the fact that you’re making them work for their meal. 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.”

I hope that you enjoy this fascinating talk by the man who wrote Toy Story,WALL-E and Finding Nemo.


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