Here's a list of Pixar story rules. You know, the cool geeks who make original movies that don't suck.
Some of my thoughts ...
#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.
No, those fields overlap almost completely for me. I'm all about writing the kind of stuff I want to read. If I read something new and awesome, I'm likely to try it out in writing.
#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.
It rarely takes me that long to identify and refine the theme. My revisions are usually, "Did I put all the pieces in the right order?"
#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
I love doing this.
#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
Dudes, I'm an interdimensional anthropologist. By the time I'm surprising myself, I'm usually so far beyond human range that it won't fit into the English language without a crowbar and an air compressor. That makes a good story only once in a while.
What I often do instead is lay out stuff that's commonly done and look for gaps. That works really well.
#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
Only works if that character matches you on that trait. If your characters are diverse, this yardstick only works occasionally.
#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
Vitally important. Also, there's no such thing as an overpowered character, just underwhelming odds. The more powerful the character, the higher you can stack the deck against them without it turning into a rout.
#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
This is a brilliant distinction. Must remember it.
#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
I have gotten a great many ideas from TV shows or movies that went right up to a great idea and then stopped short, or did something idiotic. Hey, if you're not going to finish that, I'll take it.