Ricky Gervais

Write What You Know:
"Being honest is what counts. Trying to make the ordinary extraordinary is so much better than starting with the extraordinary…As a creator or director it’s your job to make an audience as excited and fascinated about a subject as you are. And real life does that."
See more from Ricky Gervais here.

Guillermo del Toro

Know The Stories That Came Before:
"In order to have a voice you have to reach inside you and be completely yourself; but, to paraphrase Stephen King, all the songs have been sung. It helps if you're aware of all the singers that came before you so you can be rooted in tradition and then push it to a new place. That's the only thing we can offer: a new voice in a really, really old tale."
Read more from Guillermo del Toro here.

Joss Whedon

Do the Fun Part First:
“Some people will disagree, but for me if I’ve written a meaty, delightful, wonderful bunch of scenes and now I have to do the hard, connective, dog’s body work of writing, when I finish the dog’s body work, I’ll have a screenplay that I already love. I used to write chronologically when I started, from beginning to end. Eventually I went, That’s absurd; my heart is in this one scene, therefore I must follow it. Obviously, if you know you have a bunch of stuff to do, I have to lay out this, all this dull stuff, and I feel very uncreative but the clock is ticking. Then you do that and you choose to do that. But I always believe in just have as much fun as you can so that when you’re in the part that you hate there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, that you’re close to finished.”
Have a look through more of our interview with Joss Whedon here.

Former Pixar Artist Emma Coats

"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."
See the rest of Pixar's 22 rules of storytelling here.

Know The Power of Stories

"So this is the most fundamental challenge we face in the attention economy: how do we pin down the wandering mind? How do we override the natural tendency for a mind to skip away from whatever we are showing it? By telling stories. In normal life, we spin about one-hundred daydreams per waking hour. But when absorbed in a good story--when we watch a show like Breaking Bad or read a novel like The Hunger Games--we experience approximately zero daydreams per hour. Our hyper minds go still and they pay close attention, often for hours on end. This is really very impressive. What it means is that story acts like a drug that reliably lulls us into an altered state of consciousness."
Read more about the science of storytelling here.

Paul Feig

Playing With Genres Can Make Clichés Fresh:
"The fun thing is taking a genre and switching it up--taking a male-driven genre and putting women into it. In some ways, it makes you want to go towards those clichés and see where you can twist them. One of Katie Dippold’s motivations for writing the script [for The Heat] was Running Scared--this Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines cop movie. There’s some montage in that movie of the guys with different girls in bikinis on the back of their scooters. And Katie thought, “Why can’t women have that?” So that's why we have these scenes where Melissa McCarthy’s character keeps running into all these guys she can’t get rid of. The different dynamic allows you to play with those tired old tropes."
Read more from our interview with Paul Feig here.

Nicole Holofcener

Let The Characters Reveal Themselves To You:
"I get to know the character as I'm writing and I change her as I go along, but I absolutely get to know her. I don't mean to sound like I'm channeling God or anything, but it's more like the character reveals herself to me. I either like what she's revealing or I don't. I have the power to edit it, but I just kind of let it flow and see who I'm creating in an unconscious way."
Read more from Nicole Holofcener here.

Margaret Atwood

When Envisioning The Future, Start With Breakfast
This may sound silly, but I like to wonder what people would have for breakfast--which people, as their breakfasts would be different--and where they would get those food items, and whether or not they would say a prayer over them, and how they would pay for them, and what they would wear during that meal, and, if cooked, how, and what sort of bed they would have arisen from, and what else they might be doing while having the breakfast--talking to someone (who), in person or on a device (what?), and who would be allowed to do that, and what they might feel safe in saying. Breakfast can take you quite far.
Read more from our interview with Margaret Atwood here.

Neill Blomkamp

Write Visually:
I hate writing the script. It’s like having root canal surgery. So what I would do is think of visual ideas that reinforced the story or theme or characters. Then I’d sketch them or write a description and send that to WETA to photorealistically sketch it out. They then sent [the designs] back, and when I’d see that, it’s like, Now I’m inspired. At the end of the design process, I had a stack of 60 or 70 images that essentially told the story of the script, from beginning to end, just as a by-product. I bound those pages and gave them to Matt and Jodie because it explained the look and feel of the film."
Read more from our interview with Neill Blomkamp here.

Bobcat Goldthwait

Focus Only On What Helps You Get To The Last Scene:
"There’s definitely a block and you have to spend as many hours as it takes just pacing or whatever. Sometimes I do the opposite and go on a tangent, and then I have to remember, 'Well, this dialogue isn’t helping me to get to the last scene.' That is something that’s good for writers to ask themselves: 'Is this helping me get to the last scene?' And if it’s not, then maybe take those scenes or ideas and cut them to use for other projects."
Read more from our interview with Bobcat Goldthwait here.


Tell Better Stories In 2014: Storytelling Insight From Margaret Atwood, Ricky Gervais, And Many More

Take a look back at the stories about stories published on Co.Create in 2013, including pearls of wisdom from Ricky Gervais, Margaret Atwood, a former Pixar artist, and the rest of the best.

The audience Q&A is very much a part of most directors', writers', and other artists' live appearances. In just about every case, someone from the audience will ask the same question, and the artist will sort of cringe internally, even though he or she probably expected it. That question is "Where do you get your ideas?" and there is no good answer. Where does anybody get their ideas from? It's a naturally occurring phenomenon based on all the pieces of data you've acquired bumping into each other in your subconscious, perhaps colliding with a current observation. The worst part about this question is that it misses the point entirely. The innate quality of an idea for a movie, book, or TV show is relative. The true value of your idea is in how you tell the story at its core.

The mere premise of the original series The Office sounds interesting, but it took the imagination and stylistic control of Ricky Gervais to make it into the landmark show that it was. In the wrong hands, Margaret Atwood's premises might play out like alarmist claptrap, but the way she parcels out information makes the worlds she creates nightmarishly realistic. This year, Co.Create talked to some of the greatest storytellers in television, movies, and the literary world to get some tips on their technique. Whether it's Joss Whedon describing how to get started, or Bobcat Goldthwait explaining how to finish a screenplay draft in just a week, there's more than enough advice to help you tell some tales.

Have a look through the slides above for Co.Create's best bits on storytelling.

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