Write your own story Print
Youth Column
Thursday, Sep. 22, 2016 -- 12:00 AM

Imagine a scenario where answering one question correctly could win you untold riches. The challenge is simple: "From a box of DVDs featuring movies you've never seen or heard of, can you pick one that's good?"

The question sounds easy. But, how do you choose? Do you pick based on lead actor? That's not a guarantee for success. Even the most popular stars in the history of cinema have bad roles on their resume.

What about by director? Many consider Steven Spielberg one of the best directors, but even he has a few films that are unwatchable.

In truth, if you needed to select a good unknown movie, there's only one guideline for success -- choose an original Pixar film (some sequels are spotty).

If you doubt me, consider this. According to Rotten Tomatoes, film critics say "Cars" is the worst Pixar movie, yet three-quarters of all reviews were positive.

What makes Pixar movies consistently good? Emma Coats knows the answer, or at least a large part of it. Emma used to work as a storyboard artist for Pixar; a storyboard artist draws scene ideas while a script is being written.

A few years ago, Emma tweeted a list of 22 writing tips learned over her years working at Pixar. While not official Pixar rules, they're based on her Pixar experiences. The rules are easy to find online, but I'd like to highlight three.

To me, they're not just guidelines for writing a good story, they're guidelines for being a good person.

Emma's first rule is universal: "You admire a character for trying more than for success."

What makes Dory in "Finding Nemo" and "Finding Dory" so popular? Is it because she's successful? Of course not. She's a character with no long-term memory. Dory is popular because she continually overcomes her limitations.

We see this sort of popularity every day. Admiration is rarely based on the end result; most of the time it's based on the effort necessary to reach the achievement.

Think about the people you most admire. Do you look up to them for what they accomplished or how they accomplished it?

Never giving up is a core value for good people. They rarely know the end of the path they're following, but they know they won't get there unless they make good choices.

Emma's fifth rule is all about which choices to make. She says, "Simply. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff, but it sets you free."

Obviously, combining characters is writing specific, but the rest isn't. When you're overwhelmed, simplify. Don't get paralyzed by what you feel you can't do.

Instead, focus on what you can do. Help when you can. Once you start making progress, you'll feel less overwhelmed.

Accomplishing small goals when faced with larger tasks sometimes feels counterproductive. How can you find success by ignoring what needs to be done?

Emma's 17th rule basically says don't worry about it: "No work is ever wasted. If it's not working, let go and move on -- it'll come back around to be useful later."

To put that rule another way, have faith. What doesn't go your way now almost always directly leads to something better in the future. Focus less on what you want and more on what those around you need.

In the end, all these rules -- those I listed and those I didn't -- simplify to a two-word rule of my own. It's advice I fully believe, but often find difficult to follow.

My rule? Be patient.

With that motto, who knows, maybe one day someone will offer me untold riches if I can pick a guaranteed good movie from a box filled with unknown titles.


Erick Rommel is one of three writers for CNS' "Coming of Age" column series for and about youth. He is the head staff writer at The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J.

 

 
 

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