The Nicer Ways of Living and Writing

Lady-&-magnifierToday we’re taking a look at Emma’s RULE #5.

Emma Coats is a storyboard artist working toward her career as a director at Pixar Animation Studios. Emma Coats tweeted twenty-two rules-for-writing which she gleaned from the master storytellers with whom she works.

Then there’s me. I’ve been taking a focused look at Emma’s authoring tips and expanding them to real life practices. There’s always a connection. Let’s start with Emma’s advice about editing stories:

RULE #5 – Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

Okay. What IS that valuable stuff?

Backstory? Character and location descriptions? Secondary characters?

Yes. All of that. And Emma’s asking, how much of it do you really need?

One of the first things I learned about building a structure was this: If you can eliminate a scene from a plot without the reader losing the thread of the story, you didn’t need that scene.

“But I DO need that scene!” you exclaim. “I need to tell the reader about the history of my people before my story begins. Without details, my yarn will fall flat.”

Agreed. You need background and description to bring your work to life. But exposition should be woven into your active scenes. If you’re telling stuff about Princess Perla without any means of SHOWING it, without those pages setting up later calamities, your explaining scenes are just that, explanations, and they end up a yawn.

For example, you tell us Perla’s gorgeous. So what? But then you elaborate somewhat, describing the princess as incredibly vain. Maybe Mirror-mirror-on-the-wall vain. Humm… Narcissism just might affect a cute girl’s choices. Forget prince charming. I’m betting Perla gets hooked on Mister Control who would feed her vanity. Yep, you could plot it that way. How ‘bout a shouting match with plenty of princely put-down’s, flowing princess tears and a sprint out the castle gate.

Give me that! It’s way more interesting than mirror-mirror words with a psychic head behind some glass and a handsome perfect prince to the rescue. (Sorry Snow White.)

Again, exposition merged with action, like a charged argument, reveals Perla’s character, her flaws, her vulnerability and potential choices all focused into one scene.

So, getting back to Emma’s rule #5:

SIMPLIFY. Hop over expository scenes which act like detours around the story thread.

Said another way, focus your intentions. Make it clear what the story is about, what the goal is, what’s needed to be won and what each character wants.

Before you start writing, figure out WHAT’S THE POINT…

  • Of the scene.
  • Of the chapter.
  • Of the story.

Of all your literary ducks that need lining up, the most important step is streamlining your objective. If you still can’t decide where you want to go having typed your last page, you will forever wonder Storybook Land without ever finding Home.


DetourThis obvious truism, indecision leads nowhere, is the strongest success inhibitor in reality as well. You can’t build the story of your life unless you know what you want.

Most people do not know what they want.

They know what they DON’T want. Or they THINK they know what they want and aim for an outcome. Problem is, they don’t understand WHY they want that outcome – for example, fame and fortune.

Getting paid for popularity is not the real goal. Feeling validation or the expression of love and respect, THAT’S the goal. And beyond that, there’s the question, why do they seek public admiration?

This quest, looking for love, is one of thousands. We all have many goals: such as advancing our careers, finding time for tennis, making connections with our kids, saving for that new car or house, finishing our novel.

These pursuits overlap. Yet, to excel in anything one goal must take priority over the others. You know what I mean. How many moms and dads are first married to their careers? They do well there, don’t they? How many sports stars are also winning writers? Three? How many novelists score gold as Olympic skaters?

To achieve excellence, one pursuit will always take seniority over the rest, even in shopping.

But being the best of the best demands even more than ninety percent of our time. Making it to the top takes passion, and lots of it. Passion, fearlessness and devotion, the three key ingredients for success.


Yes, there’s something else we need, even more than passion, even more that focused time. We need CONFIDENCE and an unshakable BELIEF that we will make it to NUMBER ONE no matter what.

All world winners believe they deserve the gold, that it’s just a matter of time before it comes. Mistakes and failures along the way aren’t failures at all – just steps in the process. Quitting is not an option. Losing lives in someone else’s life. RISK is a friend.


 There’s a popular philosophy that has been written about for years. Today it goes by the name of the Law of Attraction. This model of reality says that whatever you focus upon, with charged emotion and repetition, you invite into your life.

This means we summon the good stuff AND the bad stuff. If we dwell on the bad stuff, we get that too.

But we all want the good stuff, and to snatch that, there’s no room for doubt. We’ll never hear an Olympic champion say, “I think I can win, BUT anything can happen.”

It’s that “but” that gets in the way of those who miss their target.


  • I’d love to make a million dollars but… (insert your limitations here)
  • I’d love to find my one true love, but… (insert reasons why you can’t trust people)
  • I’d love to have a best selling novel, but… (Insert what you’ve read about the competition)


It’s futile to think of the reasons why we WON’T get something and why we WILL get it at the same time. Remember, whatever we focus upon, we manifest. So if we’re contemplating winning and losing with equal conviction, we’ll create a combination of having and not having, which is generally more like NOT having.



You want to know why people with bad marriages usually end up marrying the same kind of person? It’s because they are running from jerks, and so they’re thinking about jerks, which means they bring more jerks into their lives.

This is why my wife continually reminds me, “Think positively! Don’t worry about things that haven’t happened.”

She’s very wise. That’s why I write these blogs: to remember those nicer ways of living, to keep my life more focused and simple, to hop over the detours of all those “buts” and to be set free by not sweating the small stuff.

How about you. Are you applying Emma’s Rule #5?


Originally published on Curiosityquills.com.



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