These guys have got great advice — and movies.  My comments are italicized.

1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer.  They can be very different.

3.  Once upon a time there was ____. Every day, ___. One day ___.  Because of that, ___.  Because of that, ___.  Until finally ___.

4.  Simplify.  Focus.  Combine characters.  Hop over detours.  You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

I definitely agree with this one.  In certain cases in writing, I think less really is more.

5.  What is your character good at, comfortable with?  Throw the polar opposite at them.  Challenge them.  How do they deal?

6.  Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle.  Seriously.  Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

7.  Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect.  In an ideal world you have both, but move on.  Do better next time.

8. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next.

9.  Pull apart the stories you like.  What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.

10.  Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it.  If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

11. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind.  And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th — get the obvious out of the way.  Surprise yourself.

12.  Give your characters opinions.  Passive/malleable might seem likeable as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

13.  Why must you tell THIS story?  What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of?  That’s the heart of it.

14.  If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel?  Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

15.  What are the stakes?  Give us reason to root for the character.  What happens if they don’t succeed?  Stack against the odds.

16.  No work is ever wasted.  If it’s not working, let go and move on — it’ll come back around to be useful later.

This is what happened with my first novel.  Also, interestingly enough, Disney held onto the rights for a Snow Queen character years and years before they figured out how to make the story work in “Frozen”.

17.  You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing.  Story is testing, not refining.

18.  Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

I couldn’t agree more — this is my biggest pet peeve in movies and books.

19.  Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike.  How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?

20. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’.  What would make YOU act that way?

21.  Trying for theme is important, however you won’t see what the story is about until you’re at the end of the story.

22.  What’s the essence of your story?  What’s the most economical way of telling it?  If you know that, you can build out from there.

I love looking over these rules for help and suggestions, and I hope they help you out too.

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