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The 22 rules of storytelling, according to Pixar

13 Aug

For those of us who are writers, we are always looking for the secret to the perfect story.  Some believe in the idea that there are seven main plots of literature that writers adhere to, others think it is like chasing a whisp.  For those of you who have never heard of the seven plots, here you go:

  1. [wo]man vs. nature
  2. [wo]man vs. man
  3. [wo]man vs. the environment
  4. [wo]man vs. machines/technology
  5. [wo]man vs. the supernatural
  6. [wo]man vs. self
  7. [wo]man vs. god/religion

(Via 7 Plots)

I believe in the validity of the 7 plots, but think it is more complicated to create a story that resonates with readers than to just look at the list above and choose one or a combination of the plots and VOILA! A Novel! My brother emailed me a few days ago an interesting link from Gawker about a Pixar storyboard artist and her experience at the company. She shared what she had learned about storytelling (at the best storytelling company in the world—-I try to forget Cars or Cars 2) in a list of 22 tips for storytellers. I thought I would share the link for the writers out there searching for the elusive golden key (or whisp)!

Here is what she learned at Pixar, according to the article:

#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 v. different.

#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

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

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

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

#8: 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.

#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

#10: 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.

#11: 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.

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

#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

#14: 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Pixar Touch via Kottke]

 (Via Gawker)
What do you think? Seems easy (HAHA, eyeroll), but there is so much self editing that is encouraged in these tips. Is that not the hardest part of being creative? OH RED PEN, I HATE YOU! I would love to hear your opinions!
Also, for more ideas on what makes a story’s heart beat and flitter, head over to Hogwarts Professor. His theories on Ring Composition and the theological makeup of our favorite stories are worth a read!
What makes you tick as a writer? I would love to hear! PAINT THE ROSES!

The Mad Friday Tea Party

13 Apr

Let’s get to partying!!! It’s been a hard week at school, but I have stumbled across some great articles and youtube parodies! I can’t wait until I have a better grip on my finals so that I can catch up on blog reading!!! Don’t forget to look at my blogroll! It is full of solid gold reading material!

5. The AV Club had an awesome discussion on whether or not dystopian stories need to elaborate on their backstories. Seeing on how frustrated I was with Delirium’s swiss cheese foundation, I found this very interesting. Enjoy all the references to Panem!

4. What could possibly be funnier than the HIPSTER HUNGER GAMES?


3. We have a short list of directors for Catching Fire!!! Alfonso Cuaron for the win!!!! Head over to the LA Times for more information!

2. I loved Maggie Stiefvater’s Scorpio Races , and I was VERY excited to see EW give us a taste of her new book, The Raven Boys! Enjoy the first two chapters here! Thank you EW’s Shelf Life!

1. Remember how I said the HIPSTER HUNGER GAMES were the best? Well…..Beanie Babies for the WIN!!! This is long but VERY WORTH YOUR TIME INVESTMENT!!!!


3 Apr


Here is the CNN article mentioned below. Danielle Tumminio is the same Harry Potter Scholar who wrote “God and Harry Potter at Yale: Teaching Faith and Fantasy Fiction in an Ivy League Classroom. I like these discussions. Not only are they meta–they are pushing those who love the Hunger Games to think about the CENTRAL MESSAGE. This is really gnawing at me!!!! I can’t help but think of Gale. What if we all chose not to watch?

Originally posted on CNN Belief Blog:

Editor’s note: Danielle Elizabeth Tumminio is an ordained Episcopal Church priest and author of “God and Harry Potter at Yale: Teaching Faith and Fantasy Fiction in an Ivy League Classroom.”

By Danielle Elizabeth Tumminio, Special to CNN

(CNN) – “What if no one watched?” Gale Hawthorne asks at the beginning of the first “Hunger Games” film. What if not one citizen of the dystopian post-American country of Panem watched the annual competition where children from 12 districts compete to the death as penance for their insolence against the governing Capitol?

What if …

But the citizens of Panem are forced to watch the 74th Hunger Games, in which protagonist Katniss Everdeen competes to spare her younger sister, Primrose. The Gamemakers hide cameras throughout the arena so that no event goes unseen, and every citizen of Panem must stand in their district’s square to watch key parts…

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Previous Post

3 Apr


Xochitl Alvizo reflects on ritual and the Hunger Games at Feminism and Religion (again…a GREAT BLOG). Touching on Danielle Tumminio’s CNN article (which I will reblog above), Xochitl reflects on the question of whether or not something is missed by a Hunger Games reader by actually watching the movie. I keep wondering about this as well. If you think the series was about political action and inaction, do yo end up being just as bad as a Capitol Citizen?? Is this what John at Hogwarts Professor was touching on? Read the blog and let me know what you think. Paint the Roses! Reviews coming soon! Sorry it has been a week: papers this week have been draining!!

Originally posted on :

Being passive spectators of violence and injustice, even if mournfully so, is not just a thing of Panem, it is our everyday reality.

In The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins takes the reality of an unjust society and gives it an imaginative makeover. In Panem, most people are kept at such extreme levels of hunger that even when they do eat they cannot fill the hollowness that has settled in their stomachs, while others are deciding on the next cosmetic alteration they will undertake – whiskers, jewel implants, or green-tone skin color? The disparate conditions between the rich and the poor, the few and the many are absurdly and starkly portrayed but done so in a way that we can still recognize our world in theirs. And at the center of this world is the state imposed ritual of punishment and control, the yearly Hunger Games – a nationally televised competition…

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YA Highway: Roadtrip Wednesday

28 Mar

The time has come again!! YA Highway has posted their question of the week!

By  de-ice11 at deviant art

This weeks topic: What was the best book you read in March?

I re-read Lois Lowry’s the Giver this month (I had to–the waiting for YOU KNOW WHAT WAS KILLING ME!). With all the hype surrounding The Hunger Games, I couldn’t help but reminisce about my favorite childhood book (and also one of the first  books within the dystopian genre that was geared towards children.

Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back. (from

I remember the first time I read this book. It both thrilled me and creeped me out. Unlike my fairytales (yes…I lived in a tutu and thought I was Ariel well into tweenhood), the world Jonas lived in seemed like mine–but wasn’t. Something was wrong with it. It was topsy turvy. Something was twitching at the wrong pace. This both thrilled me and agitated me. It was an itch I could not scratch. His world was being controlled. It was dark. Questions I had never asked popped up while reading. I was young but I knew I was supposed to learn something from this book–I was supposed to pay attention. I could not put it down.

Years later…the same thing happens. Even in 2012, with the literary world inundated with YA dystopias (some that I love, some that I hate), Jonas and the Giver still stand up to newer and scarier worlds. Their world without colors, feelings, touch, choice, humanity: their world without  love continues to remind me that a world without L.O.V.E.– in all its forms– is no world at all. Lowry doesn’t need a supermodel love triangle, sparkley vampires, or a convoluted virus– she just needed a little boy longing to understand the human condition of having and wanting to be loved.

on a side note: this book is being made into a movie! OF COURSE MY HORSE!

Jeff Bridges as the GIVER!

For more info: MOVIE INFO HERE!



23 Mar


While I agree with the title of the CNN post, I disagree with the sentiment that Bella is an “okay” role model for girls and Katniss is a better one. A girl who says “SAVE ME” to a boy and goes along for the ride is not a role model for anyone….period. A lost girl does not need to be saved by a boy and that message needs to be stopped PRONTO. It is so harmful for girls AND boys. Young girls and women have agency and are perfectly capable of being the persons they were born to be–even when the “odds are NOT in their favor”. They can rise above every circumstance through their own uniqueness and do ANYTHING. SPARKLY VAMPIRES BE DAMNED! Bella may be the worst thing to hit literature and girlhood since the early Disney princesses. Katniss is a fantastic role model for girls (hearts for Katniss!!!!!), but she is not a novelty–and we should celebrate those that came before. She stands in a long line of female heroines and female leads that teach girls (and boys) what badassness looks like. So today I offer a toast to Hermione, Lyra, Luna, Minerva, Molly, Lily, Ginny, Anne, Leia, Juniper, Galadriel, Arwen, and the many other strong girls and women that have paved the path for our GIRL ON FIRE! Have any more? Paint the Roses!!!

Originally posted on GeekOut:

Editor’s note: Colette Bennett, aside from being Geek Out’s main otaku, is an obsessive fangirl. Recently, her love of “The Hunger Games” series led her to call it the “thinking woman’s YA series.” As fans across the country camp out to buy tickets to “The Hunger Games” movie premier, Bennett explains the singularity and relevance of Katniss worship.

In the era of obsessive young adult literature fandom, a new heroine towers above all the others — Miss Katniss Everdeen.

Friday marks a great day for avid fans of “The Hunger Games,” as they anticipate public vindication for their devotion to the book’s 17-year-old lead character, who has a handsome boy on each arm and a political uprising to lead.

The first movie adaptation of the popular book series opens Friday night, and the trailers have already whipped fans into a frenzy. The madness is sure to soar…

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Early Reviews Positive For The Hunger Games

13 Mar

The Trio

Quick Update: I will review Divergent tomorrow! Life got in the way today……

And the reviews are starting to trickle in!

According to the Huffington Post, we have nothing to be worried about HG fans!

Some of the highlights were:

I‘m getting in line behind my colleagues to say that The Hunger Games is terrific, thoughtful, thrilling, well-acted & emotionally engaging- Todd Gilchrist

I can now tell you all that I’ve seen — and really loved — THE HUNGER GAMES. It’s not just a great adaptation. It’s a new sci-fi classic- Silas Leslick

Completely surprised by THE HUNGER GAMES. Loved it. Dark, exciting, ambiguous sci-fi allegory. Another amazing performance from J. Lawrence.- Jeremy Smith

And brief review: I enjoyed The Hunger Games movie a lot – Donald Sutherland is wonderful. Maddy liked it, but she much preferred the book- Neil Gaimen.

I can’t wait!! My costume is almost ready…..

Review up tonight for Divergent!

Peeta’s Interview: Special MTV Rough Cut Clip

12 Mar Peeta_Mellark_5

I still can’t make up my mind about the movie anxiety I feel. I want to scream at someone that I am willing to bite if you Twilight me with this movie. Please don’t do it.  What I will say is that I like Mr. Mellark. Decent fellow, right? So smart. Witness below how smart…..



The folks over at MTV Rough Cut shared this new exclusive video of Peeta’s Interview with Caesar Flickerman! Sneak a peek at Katniss in her “Girl on Fire” dress and witness the moment where Peeta changes the rules of the game. Enjoy!

Also:  We have reviews coming this week for Divergent, Wither, and Fever. The Family Fang is also coming soon. Happy Monday! Paint the Roses!

Shatter Me

3 Mar

Shatter Me, Tahere Mafi

Title: Shatter Me

Author: Tahereh Mafi

PublisherHarper Teen

Date: November 15, 2011

Pages: 354 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Teen, Romance, Supernatural, Superhero, Comic Book

ISBN: 9780062085481

Publisher Description:

“You can’t touch me,” I whisper.

I’m lying, is what I don’t tell him.

He can touch me, is what I’ll never tell him.

But things happen when people touch me.

Strange things.

Bad things.

No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal, but The Reestablishment has plans for her. Plans to use her as a weapon.

But Juliette has plans of her own.

After a lifetime without freedom, she’s finally discovering a strength to fight back for the very first time—and to find a future with the one boy she thought she’d lost forever.


Book Trailer:

Cover and Title Critique: Um….I am conflicted about this cover. It makes this look like Prom 2012. Are we going to prom? Do I need a poofy dress and no one told me??! This is a DYSTOPIAN novel which starts off in an insane asylum, moves on into a totalitarian government compound, and has a total super hero vibe by the time you finish. Just because there is a dress on page 243 (don’t quote me on that–I’m rounding numbers here) does not mean you portray this as a novel where the girl spends most of her time in ball gowns. Again, why the cover a model with a a wind machine? That is not who Juliette is. Who is this PR person? Could you imagine if they had put a picture of Katniss trying on her interview dress on the cover of the Hunger Games (this is no Hunger Games…but still). There are dresses in the Hunger Games, but the Hunger Games are not about dresses or pretty girls….you see what I am saying? AM I MAKING SENSE HERE? I mean…it is pretty…but ugh (le sigh)…I don’t hate it…but I think there was potential for a more commercial cover. Does that make me a horrible practical person–that I think in commercial terms as well?

This book is not meant to be pretty–it is meant to evolve into kickassness (Just thinking of you Mafi–I really like where you are going by the end of the novel). In regards to the title–I get it, but this book has been optioned as a movie by Fox (congrats to the author–YA lit is the new cashcow fountain of youth for movie studios). I am not sure the title is strong enough for a movie–I am kinda thinking they might change it (sadface–I hate when they do that).  Can I just categorize the entire marketing of this as too glittery, too romance novely (is that a word–or should I just make one up–crappy romnovely)?

Alice says: Like it!

I really liked this book. I’ve read other reviews and seen some of the complaints but I want to start off with the pros–who doesn’t like to be complimented first before being told they were too this or too that? Tahereh Mafi is an AMAZING writer. YA is littered with writers that are JUST. SO. BAD. Mafi is not just good–she is immensely talented. She uses words beautifully. I love when I find an author I am excited about. Mafi–I am excited about you. You are going places.

So what did I think of the plot, the characters? I like Juliette. Look–if you’re looking for a character that is cut and dry, Juliette is not your heroine. She is in an insane asylum when the book starts off (and has been for way too long) and she reads like she is in an insane asylum (get this girl an ATAVAN). She is one step away from writing on the walls in her own blood.  Her thoughts are jumbled, she is hurting and her world is bleak. Mafi works you through her layers of thought, careful to unravel a raveling person–which is wonderful and novel. She takes time to do it too. I heard complaints about how this is a slow process–um…no. It takes time to do this…and I appreciated it. It is realistic and well written. The government is erasing all things–religion, art, language, music, nature….and she is stuck in a room hearing about it. Let her have her moments to lose her mind, ok?

Juliette is cursed  has a power that is at the center of the entire plot story–one that I think any comic book reader will immediately trace back to its origin–ROGUE from X-Men (yay X-MEN!!!). I could not write a decent review for this book without acknowledging, without spoiling too much, that Mafi borrows heavily from X-men mythology/ idontevenknowhoworwhattocallthis. I’ve noticed this type of borrowing/being influence in many of the books I love so I will leave it at that. Does this bother me? I don’t know. I will compare it to sampling in music. I think there is X-men sampling here–but at least in the first part of the trilogy, I will say it doesn’t bother me–much (because it is only sampling so far. Juliette is Juliette. She is not Rogue–yet. 

Mafi’s dystopian world is one of her strongest features in the book. There are so many descriptions of what went wrong that I wanted to dogear and discuss with people. I loved it. It is dark and ominous–and still full of discussion and teeming with people who are angry and not sure what went down exactly. It is still falling apart! YES!!! Most dystopian worlds are already set. Authors just show you. Not this world–its crumbling, revolutions (yes–multiple forms) are still everywhere, and everyone is still in shock and trying to grapple with what is. No one has adapted to the new ways of living, new ways of eating, the new governments–this is what you want to see if you are a dystopian fan. You want disorder. You do not want it wrapped up in a neat bow. It was like dystopian porn. This world was a nice surprise.

So, were there character’s to fall in love with? Yes–but they would be a spoiler for you (SADFACE). But when you meet him, you will know and love him too. You will love his whole street (don’t say I didn’t warn you!!). I think the relationship I am referring to (damn cryptic writing) is Mafi’s strongest writing–relationship speaking. Juliette and Adam (the inevitable love interest) were an interesting choice. He is not your typical YA boy toy–no sparkling skin or fangs here readers (sorry….I will try to keep my Twilight distaste to a minimum at RHR–once a post, ok?)! He has tattoos and is a military boy! Gasp! Swoon! Could it be readers–a bad boy? I laugh as I write this–all that was missing was the motorcycle and a lip ring. Their relationship and history is worth the read (you just have to get through some of the heavy metaphors that run through Juliette’s lovesick traumatized mind. There is quite a bit of metaphor written into the prose in this novel, but I think it is part of the charm (most of it revolves around the dreamboat, sexypot, terminator, Adam. Sorry, my sarcasm has ended. I did like this novel, I swear. It is just early on Saturday–and I never get to cross words out. I now know why Mafi had so much fun doing it in the novel!

Ok–so…on the serious note…fantastic dystopian world and setup, great setup for a second novel, good heroine (though in major need of love meds).

Rabbit says: Grades 9-12

Harperteen has this at 13+. I would leave it at a grades 9-12. This is a violent book. I would say if you let your kids read the Hunger Games, this is somewhere in there. The world is bleak, the government is incredibly violent, and the themes of torture are not without needing to be discussed with younger kids. The reading level, like I have said before–might be younger than a 9th grade reading level, but the themes would have me leave it at a grades 9-12. There is an attempt at rape, overt sexualizing of the main character, severe  torture and violence, and the way it is written itself may be a bit confusing for those who are younger (from an emotional level).

Caterpillar says: Ecology on the brain…

So much about this book made me thing about Ecological anxiety in YA and children’s books. I should preface that I just watched the Lorax movie, and read the book, and have been thinking about how much anxiety there is in books aimed at teens and children about ecological issues and political issues. Shatter me  had paragraphs dedicated to ecological anxiety and political unrest. So did Anna Carey’s Eve, the book I read last week. So does Lois Lowry’s the Giver (one of my favorites). So do so many others that everyone is reading today….

Are children anxious about the environment? Are they anxious about our political models? Are authors? Are we, the readers? We buy these books. They are constant NYT Best Sellers…..something in them must be striking a chord within our subconscious….it must be either comforting us or hitting that place that causes anxiety and pleasure (hello Freud).

Maybe this is a better question–will children grow up to be concerned with these things if they have grown up reading these things? I remember how influential Charlotte’s Web was to so many of us who read it when we were younger. Maybe 10 kids in my class went vegetarian for weeks after reading it. Now–many of us are actual vegetarians or vegans. Remember Stuart Little….did he not make you think about mice traps? If Dystopia is the current trend (and it is), and it is FULL of ecological (and political) anxiety–will it awaken more awareness for environmental issues and political issues in our children–in ourselves?? I can seriously list at least 20 books on the Children’s and Young Adult best sellers that are riddled with this type of ecological anxiety and political questioning. It is not subtle. It is not subversive. It just is…….

Thoughts? Discussion? PAINT THE ROSES!!!

If animal rights were the cause of my generations children’s books, there is an underlying anxiety subconsciously being written into so much of today’s literature…..and it is certainly wrapped up in ecology and the functionality of capitalism to best serve the planet and its inhabitants.

The Hunger Pains

21 Feb

The Hunger Games. The Harvard Lampoon

Title: The Hunger Pains

Author: The Harvard Lampoon

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Date: February 7, 2012

Pages: 176 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Spoof, Dystopian, Comedy

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6820-9

Publisher Description:  When Kantkiss Neverclean replaces her sister as a contestant on the Hunger Games—the second-highest-rated reality TV show in Peaceland, behind Extreme Home Makeover—she has no idea what to expect. Having lived her entire life in the telemarketing district’s worst neighborhood, the Crack, Kantkiss feels unprepared to fight to the death while simultaneously winking and looking adorable for the cameras. But when her survival rests on choosing between the dreamy hunk from home, Carol Handsomestein, or the doughy klutz, Pita Malarkey, Kantkiss discovers that the toughest conflicts may not be found on the battlefield but in her own heart . . . which is unfortunately on a battlefield. from (

Alice says: Love it!!!

So….I don’t think there is much to say about Harvardl Lampoon. This was hysterical. It is a fun, fast read for any Hunger Games fan. I read their Nightlight  parody of Twilight a few years ago and was not let down by this new attempt at sheer mockery of YA lit. The snark, humor, and sheer smarts it takes to pull off a chapter by chapter spoof is pretty incredible. I could have been bored by page 10 but I was not. I could not put this down. I read parts out loud to my husband (who is really proud of himself because he has spent MONTHS calling Katniss Catpiss–one of the names used to describe my beloved Mockingjay). I laughed out loud  when I saw him represented by Harvard Lampoon. So here is my endorsement: read it! We all need a little laughter lately! I know I do.  I am knee deep in Victorian literature and ecological feminist texts….anything for a great laugh! 

Rabbit says: Grades 9-12

Because of the jokes and the irreverent tone, I am going to say that this is for highschoolers. The publisher did not give a reading level but I will say at least 13+. I know highschoolers. I know their humor. They will get this and find it really funny. If you have younger readers just pick and choose what you read to them. Make their day by reading certain passages to them–be their standup comedian!

Caterpiller says: A Picture is worth a thousand words…. 

One simple question here: Why is satire such a powerful tool in the face of the worlds horrors? Why does it reach the human heart in ways that drama sometimes does not? Why do we laugh when we want to scream or cry? Thoughts? Paint the Roses RED!

Enjoy my Hunger Game Satire spoof :)


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