Capture the Magic of Pixar in Your Next Software Project
The creative teams at Pixar might be the best storytellers on the planet. From the childhood-nostalgia-rich Toy Story franchise to the exploration under the sea in Finding Nemo to the heartwarming (and, at times, terrifying) story of WALL-E, Pixar has dominated animated storytelling on the big screen for nearly twenty years.
How do the minds behind Pixar do it? They’ll tell you. Those of you who are familiar with Pixar’s entire catalogue can probably attribute nearly all of the company’s twenty-two rules of storytelling to each of the films you’ve seen. It’s an amazing and inspiring list of ideas for how to tell a memorable story.
Software engineer Blake Callens wonderfully describes in a recent blog post how half of Pixar’s rules can be directly applied to the importance of great storytelling in software development. Each of the rules Callens chose—and his reasons for doing so—are brilliant, but I’ve picked three that ring so true that they’re worth mentioning here.
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.
Many software projects have gone off the deep end, because their developers spent too much time adding features instead of solving problems. Stay focused on the core purpose of the software. Quickly vet and act upon customer feedback.
5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff, but it sets you free.
What gets the user from A to B with the least amount of effort? Would sacrificing functionality, used a small fraction of the time, make it easier to perform a common task?
13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it's poison to the audience.
Give your programs character through user interface and user experience design. Make a statement. The more passive a developer is with these decisions, the more a product feels like boring, enterprise software.
Whitney Quesenbery at WritersUA explains that before developers can begin telling their story, they first need to let the users tell theirs:
The stories you hear from users give you a first-person view of the world from many unique perspectives. They help you understand the goals, motivations, and preferences of the people you design for. They help you understand their personalities and their quirks, which you can use to create a rich, textured experience.
The “rich, textured experience” Quesenbery describes is something Pixar knows all too well. And if these twenty-two rules are how Pixar has written their growing catalogue of amazing tales, then software developers would do well to follow in those footsteps.
After reading PIxar's twenty-two rules, do you know of any others that would benefit developers who are trying to create memorable stories through software of their own? If so, please share them in the comments section below!