Some of the best storytelling in the world is done by the team at Pixar – and now they’ve released a free online course that you can join to learn the fundamentals of storytelling.

Pixar directors, storytellers and animators are sharing insights on how to craft enchanting stories, how to develop characters and much more.

New modules will be released over the course of the coming weeks and months, but the first module titled “We are storytellers” is already available now.

Check it out here



Obama said in Charlie Rose interview that one of the biggest mistakes of his first terms was thinking that being president is about getting the policy right. But in reality, it’s also about telling a story to the American people.

The core idea of this podcast: Trump had a very simple story that people could buy into. Hillary did not.

And how you can bring narrative structure back into your world.

Randy Olson, Author and Independent Filmmaker, joins a special Business of Story Podcast to talk about how Trump intuitively utilized a surprisingly simple story template for creating compelling narratives to win the election.

Southpark storytelling technique: The rules of replacing ands with either buts and therefores. This is at the core of effective narrative.

Very simple. Fractal nature. Out of simplicity you can get complexity.

[Probably derived from a great screenwriting instructor in the 1980’s named Frank Daniel. Read more about his work here and here. Problem we always have with first drafts is that the default nature in our brain is the and and and mode. And then this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened. And the challenge is to go back into that first draft and replace the ands with the buts and the therefores. You could create a metric around this: ratio of ands to buts and therefores (or so)]

How did Trump do this?

Narrative intuition. Storysense.

Work with the rules so deeply that it moves to a deeper level of intuition.

Intuitive feel for how story is shaped in a way that pulls people in and holds people’s interest. Trump has great narrative intuition.

Problem solution dynamic.

Wizard of Oz. Problem: stuck in a place where she doesn’t want to be. Solution: how to get back to Kansas.

Trump is a dealmaker? But what IS a dealmaker? He’s focused on problem-solution.

He’s constantly speaking in ABT (AND BUT THEREFORE) form:

We love Mexicans. But we feel there’s too many illegals. Therefore we need to build a wall.

He gets to the therefore very quickly, without much nuance and without going into too much detail. That was Hillary’s downfall, because she is very intellectual and tried to communicate things in all the nuanced levels of detail, which doesn’t work on a campaign. Connect with the masses.

We got a problem with the tax code. Therefore, we’re gonna get the best people to solve it.

Very high narrative content.

Overarching Trump story: MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.

A: Once upon a time we were a great and mighty nation.

B: But we’ve slipped.

T: Therefore, it’s time to make America great again.


3 fundamental forces in narrative:

  1. Agreement: How we begin a story. Getting everybody on the same page. And, and, and…
  2. Contradiction: But… everytime you hit a point of contradiction, a part in their brain lights up. It stimulates the audience.
  3. Consequence: TK

Great orators have a very high ratio of buts to ands.

ratio of buts to ands = narrative index

Gettysburg address. 3 paragraphs. and but there structure. → one of the most popular speeches in US history.



Hillary’s narrative structure was all: and, and, and… (narrative index: 14)

Trump was ABT. ABT. ABT. (narrative index: 29)

Trump also gave people a label and then consistently stuck with it: Crooked Hillary. Little Marco. Lying Ted. Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd. “Pocahontas” Elizabeth Warren. [Research has shown that the use of noun phrases creates a sense of permanence. It’s the difference between calling someone a chocolate-lover vs. saying someone loves to eat chocolate. The former is a more concrete description. It’s called “essentializing,” which is psychology-speak for coming to see a “trait or quality as an essential and indisputable feature.”]

Hillary was going on and on with facts and information.


Look at MLK I have a dream speech. First paragraph is ABT:

AND: I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

BUT: But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.

THEREFORE: And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.


Give speeches that could have a title to them!


Single narrative. Unified theme. E.g. equality. For Trump it was “Make America great again”.


Sentiment analysis. They throw out all the ands and buts.



Shapes of Stories

February 23, 2014

There’s a great infographic on Kurt Vonnegut’s shapes of stories.

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What are the clues to a good story?

February 22, 2014
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“Those who tell the stories rule the world.” – Native American Proverb on Storytelling

February 22, 2014
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If the story is good, the facts don’t matter

October 19, 2013

Jason Cohen makes a compelling point that if the story is good, the facts (kind of) don’t really matter (that much). He does this by looking at Malcom Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point (yeah, his blog post is from 2008, so it wasn’t outdated then). He quotes Duncan Watts, who has debunked many of Gladwell’s […]

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Storytelling Lessons From Emmy-award-winning filmmakers

April 25, 2013

If you had a chance to learn about the art of storytelling from Emmy-award-winning filmmakers, would you take the time to do so? This is not a hypothetical question. Storytelling The Stillmotion Way: Part 1 from stillmotion on Vimeo. Since you’re interested in the power of stories, my bet is you’re going to love this […]

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6 Quick Story Exercises

March 31, 2013

Gretchen Rubin shared 6 Quick Story Exercises to Spark Your Creativity. Here’s the gist of it: Funny _____Pick a drama, thriller, or horror film and turn it into a comedy. Serious _____Likewise, pick a comedy and make it into a drama. SeriousAnimal House – Drama about cheating scandal at a small university ends in A Few Good Men-like […]

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Storytelling Lessons From Andrew Stanton

March 11, 2013

There are few people who made storytelling in such a successful career like Andrew Stanton – the man behind many of Pixar’s most successful animation movies.

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Interviews With Storytellers on BlogTalkRadio

October 15, 2012

BlogTalkRadio will kick off a series of interviews with storytellers in a show where the guest of honor was the Singer Tony Bennett. You can listen to the full episode on October 25, 2012 on this website.

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