Most of us are familiar with the traditional story structure, which consists of a beginning, a middle, and an end. This timeless formula is a staple in educational institutions around the globe. Yet, Pixar, the animation powerhouse, has pioneered a novel approach, known as the Pixar story structure, that not only forms the backbone of their legendary films but also profoundly resonates with audiences across all age groups.
What is Story Structure?
Story structure is the framework that underpins a narrative. It is the organised pattern or sequence of events that make up a story. This includes the introduction of the main characters and the setting, the unfolding of the plot, the climax or turning point, and the resolution of the conflict. A well-constructed story structure helps to organise the writer’s thoughts, keeps the narrative coherent and easy to follow, and enables the reader to understand the storyline and the characters’ development. It is the backbone of the story, guiding the narrative from start to finish, and ensuring that each element – from the characters’ actions to the plot twists – contributes to the overall theme and message of the story.
Introducing the Pixar Story Structure
While the traditional story structure we learned in school is still valid and widely used, Pixar’s approach adds a layer of depth that makes stories more engaging and memorable. This innovative structure involves establishing the story in time and place, showing the ‘world balance,’ introducing an inciting incident, followed by two ‘because of that’ sections, and concluding with an ‘until finally’ stage.
Once upon a time there was…
Pixar emphasises the importance of setting the scene by establishing who the story is about, where they are, and when it is taking place. This basic information is crucial for the audience to understand and connect with the story that follows.
This stage involves depicting the ‘world balance’ or the status quo. It sets the scene for the adventure by showing what life is like for the main character before the inciting incident disrupts their world.
Until one day…
At this stage, something happens that throws the main character’s world out of balance, forcing them to take action. This moment, known as the inciting incident, sets the story in motion and propels the main character towards their goal.
Because of that…
The main character reacts to the inciting incident and starts pursuing their goal. This marks the beginning of Act II or ‘the beginning of the middle.’
Because of that…
Another ‘because of that’ section is necessary to keep the story moving forward. The main character’s initial reaction to the inciting incident may not solve all their problems, so something else must happen to propel the story towards its conclusion.
The story reaches its conclusion, and a new sense of equilibrium is established. This may not be the same as the initial normality, but it is important that the ‘because of that’ stages lead towards a satisfying conclusion.
Applying the Pixar Story Structure
To better illustrate this structure, let’s consider simplified examples from well-known stories:
- Harry Potter: Harry is mistreated by his adoptive parents until he discovers he is a wizard. Because of that, he goes to Hogwarts and learns about his true identity. Because of that, he finds out about Voldemort’s rise and the quest for the Philosopher’s Stone. Until finally, he must find the stone before Voldemort does.
- The Wizard of Oz: Dorothy feels unloved and dreams of a better place until a tornado transports her away from home. Because of that, she must find the Wizard in the Emerald City. Because of that, she learns about the Wicked Witch and must defeat her. Until finally, she can return home.
- The Hobbit: Bilbo enjoys a peaceful life until Gandalf asks him to accompany some dwarves as their thief. Because of that, he journeys with the dwarves to reclaim their gold. Because of that, he gets caught up in a huge battle. Until finally, he returns home.
While these examples are simplistic and omit significant plot details, they effectively demonstrate the structure. For shorter pieces of fiction, one ‘because of that’ section may suffice, but longer pieces typically require two.
The Importance of Character Development
An essential aspect of the Pixar story structure is the focus on character development. The main character’s journey from the inciting incident to the conclusion should involve growth and change. This transformation is crucial for creating a compelling narrative that resonates with the audience. For example, in ‘Toy Story,’ Woody goes from being jealous and insecure to becoming a more confident and selfless leader. This character development adds depth to the story and makes it more engaging and memorable.
Supporting Students with Custom English Exercise Books
A custom English exercise book can be a valuable tool for students learning the Pixar story structure or any other aspect of storytelling. Here’s how:
- Tailored Exercises: Custom exercise books can include specific exercises designed to help students understand and practice each element of the Pixar story structure, from establishing the context to the final resolution. For example, exercises could prompt students to create their own ‘Once upon a time…’ scenarios, or to identify the ‘world balance’ and ‘inciting incident’ in a given text.
- Guided Practice: The exercise book can provide guided practice with examples and step-by-step instructions. For instance, it could include a partially completed story that students must finish by adding the ‘because of that…’ and ‘until finally…’ sections.
- Feedback and Reflection: Custom exercise books can include sections for feedback from teachers or peers, as well as space for students to reflect on their work and what they have learned. This helps students to understand their strengths and areas for improvement.
- Reference Material: The exercise book can include reference material that explains the key concepts of the Pixar story structure, as well as other important storytelling elements like character development, setting, and dialogue.
- Variety of Exercises: A range of exercises can help students practice storytelling in different contexts and genres. For example, one exercise might involve writing a fairy tale, while another could focus on creating a modern-day adventure story.
- Progress Tracking: The exercise book can include sections for students to track their progress, set goals, and note any areas where they need further practice or support.
- Creative Freedom: Custom exercise books can encourage creativity by providing prompts that inspire students to come up with their own ideas, while still following the Pixar story structure.
By providing a structured yet flexible approach to learning storytelling, a custom English exercise book can support students in developing their skills and confidence in crafting engaging and memorable narratives.
In today’s world, storytelling is a fundamental aspect of our culture and communication, making it essential to understand and master narrative structure. The Pixar story structure, a groundbreaking approach developed by the renowned animation studio, offers a novel perspective that not only forms the foundation of their iconic films but also deeply connects with audiences across all age groups.
This structure encompasses establishing the story’s context, delineating the ‘world balance,’ introducing an inciting incident, followed by two ‘because of that’ sections, and concluding with an ‘until finally’ stage. Moreover, character development is pivotal in constructing a captivating narrative that engages and resonates with the audience. It is imperative to support students in mastering the Pixar story structure to nurture their growth as storytellers. Custom English exercise books can serve as invaluable tools in this endeavor.
These specialised resources can incorporate specific exercises designed to help students comprehend and practice each component of the Pixar story structure, guided practice with examples and step-by-step instructions, sections for feedback and reflection, reference materials that elucidate key concepts, a diverse array of exercises to practice storytelling in various contexts and genres, sections for tracking progress, and prompts that stimulate creativity while adhering to the Pixar story structure.
By offering a structured yet adaptable approach to learning storytelling, custom English exercise books can aid students in developing their skills and confidence in crafting compelling and memorable narratives at the same time as supporting students with all aspects of the English national curriculum.
In conclusion, the Pixar story structure provides a comprehensive and innovative framework for crafting narratives that deeply resonate with audiences. It involves establishing the story’s context, delineating the ‘world balance,’ introducing an inciting incident, followed by two ‘because of that’ sections, and concluding with an ‘until finally’ stage, while also emphasising character development throughout the narrative.
Custom English exercise books, tailored to assist students in mastering this structure, can play a pivotal role in shaping the future generation of storytellers. By providing structured, guided practice, and fostering creativity, these resources can empower students to craft engaging and memorable narratives that connect with audiences.
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