Pixar’s Rules for Storytelling – as shared by Emma Coats, Pixar’s Story Artist – are almost as relevant for communicating with data as they are to filmmaking. Whether you are a creator of data-rich presentations, infographics, or data visualizations, here’s an abridge list of the most relevant Pixar principles for data storytelling:
#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 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.
#5 Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
#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.
#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.
#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.
#22 What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.