The principle is simple, each atomic item (a moment / a beat etc.) in the story needs to represent a polar change in human values (e.g. Love->Hate, Hope->Despair etc.) - atomic items are grouped into higher levels (scenes), which again have an overarching change in values, and again these levels are grouped into even higher levels (acts etc.) which repeat the same pattern. Finally, at the top level - the story itself from the beginning to end also has the value change idea.
One of the things McKee taught me - if a scene, beat or moment doesn't have a change in values - then it's probably not interesting (filler) and you should think about cutting it.
Hope this helps anyone interested in story structure... I highly recommend reading McKee.
Nighttime. Boromir wanders up to a painting on the wall, depicting Isildur cutting the Ring from Sauron's finger and his sword breaking. He looks in awe at it,
then suddenly turns as he hears a faint noise.
(Changes from peaceful to alarm)
He sees Aragorn reading and looks at him quizzically.
(Changes from alarm to puzzled. B though he was the only human in with the elves. )
BOROMIR: You are no elf
(B politely tries to get information)
ARAGORN: Men of the South are welcome here
(A politely replies with absolutely no information about himself)
BOROMIR: (nods) Who are you ?
(Changes to directly asking)
ARAGORN: I'm a friend of Gandalf the Grey.
(A still doesn't say who he is. Says he a good guy though)
BOROMIR: (nods) Then we are here on a common purpose.
(Says he's also a good guy. Plays a status move to establish his leadership. )
B: (he pauses) friend.
Aragorn just looks back at him.
Boromir turns, a little confused. He notices a statue of a lady holding an elven shield with broken sword pieces on it....
(Attention shifts off Aragorn)
Boromir: The shards of Narsil (he picks up the hilt part of the broken sword) The blade that cut the Ring from Sauron's hand...
(B opened the scene by looking at memories of old ledgends. Legends just changed to reality. )
So behind what looks like a polite conversation between strangers, beat by beat what the character expects to happen as a result of his actions does not happen. We've established that Boromir's confidence is only skin deep, that the legends are real, and that Aragorn is a heck of a mysterious dude. In about 30 seconds, this will reverse and the audience will finally know who Aragorn is and why he is that way....
Channel Criswell did a decent short intro:
having a boring conversation about nothing doesn't make it a series of polar changes.
If you are asking me - how was your day ? I will tell you: Well, I switched on the computer, did some x and y, ate lunch, continued and switched it off again.
Some coworkers of mine can go you on and on about their day and it stays entertaining. There are some things that they do differently, eg focus on people and emotions. But still I have such a hard time drawing out the banalities of everyday into an exciting adventure.
This skill is super valuable - anyone having similar problems and ideas on how to improve it?
What made today different from another day? What, as someone asking, would I not know? I know you probably went and typed on a keyboard and ate lunch, but I don't know that you finally solved that bug in production and feel awesome or that Steve from accounting turned up late, giggling, with Dave and they've been making excuses to see each other at work for the last few weeks.
What's different? What's changed? Over time these things fit into a larger story, the buildup of Steve and Dave's romance has been happening for weeks.
What's relatable for the person asking? If I'm another dev then telling me about that new library you got to use that's fun might be interesting, for others maybe not. Although you can often find interesting ways of talking about it to someone who is inquisitive, I talk a lot about bits of tech to my wife and explain how things work and why things are as they are, sometimes it's relevant to what she's doing. In return she's explained a lot about NMR machines and biology to me.
For practice, perhaps, I'm a developer but probably not using the same tech stack. How was your week? Since I don't know anything about your office or things, imagine you'd already told me what had happened the week before. What's changed, what's new?
Finally, it's also OK if not much really happened. But if nothing really happened, was that good or bad for you? Why? Was it a quiet week and that's different, or are the quiet weeks becoming less interesting? Is it quiet but there's a buildup of expected work coming in a few weeks?
What 1337biz might also want to consider from the other answers is the attention to detail. To both find detail in your description of the day, as well as in the details of the person you're talking to. Facial expressions change, breathing changes, eyes shift. There's a constant flurry of happening upon which you react, by altering your story. In IanCal's case about talking about bits of tech to their wife, for example, the wife could be seen trailing her eyes away slightly, meaning she might now already understand what a framework is, or she might frown, when it's just a little bit too technical, or her eyes might shine, when she wants to know more.
I am probably underestimating that there are a million and one different ways to convey something with just one eyebrow, and luckily the human mind is quick to extra-, and interpolate these meanings.
Lame: I was going to school as usual. After I had arrived the bell rang and our biology teacher entered the classroom. He showed us a movie about wolfs.
Better: I was going to school when all of a sudden a wolf started hunting me. It almost got me the second I entered school but fortunately I managed to close the door behind me just in time. When the bell rang our biology teacher entered the classroom and showed us a movie about wolfs! Can you believe it? I grew incredibly nervous when the narrator began talking about wolfs attacking humans. While the movie was still running I turned my head away from the screen for a second and glanced through the door's window. At first I wasn't sure what I was looking at. I only sensed movement. But then it became clear that the wolf which had followed me earlier this morning was strolling down the hall. Somehow he must have managed to sneak in....
Of course, you don't need a wolf chasing you to have material for an exciting story but the general principles still apply I think.
Because the question of your parent is: How do I tell mundane things in an entertaining way if nothing entertaining or exciting is happening in my life?
One could argue: Then do something exciting, but I think what your parent poster wanted to say is: Some people still manage to tell stories about everyday things but make them interesting nevertheless. They don't experience something exciting in particular.
Your example is good, but it actually only works because of the wolf chase.
yes, but that's (somewhat) besides the point. The trick is to look for value in what you've got.
A more mundane example:
Lame: It was so hot this morning that I didn't want to go to work but I knew that I had to. During lunch I heard from my colleague from the other team that their boss had bought ice cream for them this morning. Too bad I wasn't on their team.
Better: It was so hot this morning that I didn't want to go to work but I knew that I had to. The bus I was sitting on drove past an ice-cream vendor. "Man" I thought to myself, "it is so frustrating that I can't get off the bus right now to buy some ice-cream". During lunch I heard from my colleague from the other team that their boss had bought ice cream for them this morning. Too bad I wasn't on their team! When I then finally got out of office the ice-cream vendors were long gone but I still had an an ice-cream hunger to satisfy. So I went to McDonald's and ordered a McSundae. The guy behind the counter sighed and told me "Sorry, we're out of ice-cream since 10 am"
I then gave up on my quest for ice cream and thought to myself: "For tommorrow, I need a plan..."
In the "lame example" you just complain about two things (the heat and you being in the "wrong" them). In the "better example" you turn your appetite for ice-cream into a story instead.
How can it be so hot in the morning that you sweat right after the shower? My first shirt? I immediately sweated through it. On the bus I sweated through the second one too. The only open seats were the ones in the sun. That plastic was on fire! I had to shift around in my seat until it cooled enough for me to sit still. At one of the stops I spotted an ice cream cart. The smoke from the freezer floated out as the dude was reaching in to grab one of those drumstick cone. I would have bailed on work, bought the cart, and took a nap inside if we didn’t have that meeting scheduled.
A couple hours ago I saw John walking with an ice cream cone. I was like “Where’d you get that?”. Turns out his manager has an ice cream social every week. I tried to crash it, but the break room had nothing but empty cartons in the trash. At this point, it’s like God himself is telling me “Go forth my son, find some ice cream.”
So I went to Dairy Queen to get some Blizzard action. You know what? They were out of ice cream! I’m like “How can you be out of Ice Cream? Dairy is in your name!”, He’s smirks and said, “We still have cheese.”. CHEESE?!?!. So I ordered cheeseburger. It’s was good.
This is standard fare in Nova documentaries where the topic can often be fairly dull.
eg: documentary is about dinosaurs, they find a dinosaur fossil, extract it from the surrounding rock and take it back for cleaning and research. Pretty dull stuff.
But if you blow up some minor crisis: Scientists are extracting the large fossil but oh my, the plaster-cast looks like it may break (crisis). What can they do ? They gather in a room to decide, there are conflicting opinions (conflict). Finally one person makes a decision - they will wrap the plaster-cast in a wooden cage and use a fork lift. But will it work !? (drama). Tension builds as the forklift truck raises the plaster-cast - and, sigh of relief, it works. The fossil is safe (resolution).
The above scene is completely unnecessary for the documentary but inserting it grabs the viewers attention.
This formula works when giving fairly dull presentations - find something that blocked you in your research, explain the options you had and the choices you had to make and how you finally overcame that minor crisis.
Knowing this formula will, unfortunately, ruin your Nova viewing experience since they use this technique every time.
Another way to put it, and I think it was a quote by Stephen King but I cannot find it back at the moment, is that if you want to convey something don't spell it out, make the person listening/reading your story see/feel it for themselves by the way you describe it.
In my very limited experience, I think this skill is made up of two components: finer details  and emotional expression. 
I find drawing to a be a great way to learn the art of going into finer details. For emotional expression in animation, you will need to study the classic principles of animation. 
A truly boring day can't be exciting. Honestly, I think the only answer to this is the most obvious. Stop having boring days.
Do things you enjoy and you'll gather talking points for people who also enjoy those things. Explore and enjoy more types of things, and you'll be able to interact with more people.
Maybe read an article/book or watch a video at work about something new that you'd enjoy sharing. Personally, I'll sometimes watch PBS Space Time on Youtube and share what I learned with people who also have their mind blown easily. It's a ton of fun.
My nature is to not think anyone is interested in my day cause it is boring as hell to me.
I also found my listening ability greatly improved by simply jotting stuff down..
This thread is awsome by the way.
Nobody wants to watch The Village of the Happy People.
The mundane becomes exciting with conflict.. either physical, emotional or both.
I've also noticed that Coursera has a load of courses that are not free anymore. So it might explain why Pixar chose KhanAcademy. Is it the last resort for free education?
I'm really sad about Coursera as it was the platform that made me discover cryptography with Dan Boneh. And now I'm wondering if the platform's new spin on monetization is the reason Dan Boneh is not releasing Crypto II.
Is there a special reason as to why you're putting these out there? Trying to attract talent, or making the world a better place?
It's probably a Hollywood expectation - "it's not a movie without a flat out terrifying villain"!
Kids that I take to see Pixar movies quake in fear - that's not good kids entertainment.
I stopped worshiping Pixar storytelling when I realized this.
So don't go learn from khan academy how to emulate Pixar, learn to tell kids stories without fear and violence.
There are some mildly scary or tense scenes in many Pixar movies but I think children are more receptive to that kind of experience than you think they are. There is definitely a question of age appropriateness / maturity that you would want to think about before showing one to a very young child, but that's the responsibility of you as the adult, not Pixar. Kids movies aren't one size fits all. And it certainly doesn't feel like a valid criticism of the quality of the storytelling to say that some children are scared by them; tension and investment in the outcome by the viewer are hallmarks of good storytelling, not bad.
Pixar is following a tradition that goes back to the origins of story telling. Ever read Grimm's fairytales? They're even worse. Scare the kids! Teach them to overcome their fears in a safe environment so they don't grow up to be irrational and superstitious. They need to be innoculated against these things so they don't grow up with allergies that stunt them later in life.
To prepare them for life in the magical unicorn fairy-land?
Besides, have you read the original Brothers Grimm stories and such?
Sure, good point. In the video where the story artist talks about simba talking to his dead father, she said that it traumatized her but that she grew up a little after that.
> Besides, have you read the original Brothers Grimm stories and such?
I know we don't know much about what's the best way to raise kids. But history doesn't always teach good lessons.
Yes, in a magical unicorn fairyland.
Sounds like you either don't have kids or you're prepping them for doomsday.
Yeah, let's produce more fragile snowflake adults that can't handle life, and can't understand movies and art either, unless it is merely "entertainment". Because that has worked so well in this past few generations.
>Sounds like you either don't have kids or you're prepping them for doomsday.
Or you know, am using millennia old best practices of preparing them for life, for which art, storytelling and (this last century) movies has been one of the best ways.
Instead of feeding them the art-equivalent of McDonalds, which is bad for their soul and for their upbringing.
Three little pigs: violence
Little Red Riding Hood: violence with a hint of sex
Sound of Music: sex with the fear of violence from the Nazis.
ALL good stories must have conflict. All conflict originates from sex or violence.
Here's the most basic story in the Aristotlian tradition:
Get a man in a tree
Throw rocks at him
Get him down again
One could argue about what level of explicitness is appropriate for kids -- but there's no such thing as a story without fear, violence or sex.
Look at Fox and the Hound or Bambi, Peter Pan, Cinderella, Snow White -- all varying degrees of sex and violence and the fear and anticipation of each.
What about The Big Short? No sex or violence there. Or what about Spirited Away? I'm sure there's some ostensible violence here and there, but the conflict in that film I think comes from things being out of place, not from overt danger.
Sex and violence are overrepresented in media because they are easy. A writer who has drank too much coffee and is out of ideas for the 10th day in a row can put some sex or violence up without thinking much and get a reaction. That doesn't mean these things are the only source of conflict in the world, or in storytelling. Just the easiest.
Hatred, for example is a form of violence. Sex and violence are the primary colors of a storyteller's palette.
Highly recommend Lew Hunter for a better explaination than I provided: https://books.google.fr/books?id=7VUihxcjzecC&pg=PA22&lpg=PA...
Disney/Pixar probably are just emulating European classical storytelling that we find in fairy stories?
When you see the child in absolute terror, ask yourself "is this the right way to entertain a child, through pure terror?"
Or do the same thing with the Pixar movie "Up", a fabulous and gentle movie until it gets the mandatory part where they go all out to scare the living shit out of the kids watching with attack dogs.
Maybe instead of reaching all kinds of dubious conclusions based on anecdotal evidence on how children look like during certain parts of the movie, you should instead ask the child, after the movie is over, whether he liked it or not. I think you will find that the vast majority of children greatly enjoy most Pixar movies.
The claim that Pixar movies, or the levels of violence depicted in them, are harmful to children or to society, has zero evidence in support of it.
Hansel and Gretel are a young brother and sister kidnapped by a cannibalistic witch living deep in the forest in a house constructed of cake and confectionery. The two children save their lives by outwitting her.
I don't think I was older than 5 when it's been first read to me.
One might think that one is an exception rather than the norm, so here's the beginning of another one (more a ballad than a fairly tale, but no one would think it's weird if an 8 years old read it).
A king is hunting in a forest and encounters a house. He asks for water and a beautiful girl opens the door. He asks to marry her, but she says she needs to ask the step mother, who's in town at the moment.
The king returns later, asks the step mother, she offers him her own daughter, but the king orders her to bring the step daughter to the castle the next day.
The next day the step mother and her daughter take the step daughter to the forest, where they kill her, take out her eyes, and cut off her limbs.
The daughter then impersonates the step daughter and marries the king.
And so on. It ends relatively "well", with the step daughter being brought to life again, and the murderers "blinded, their limbs cut off and thrown to the wolves".
1 - https://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zlat%C3%BD_kolovrat
When the tales are adapted for the kids, the violent themes are often tempered down. The story themselves are often changed. Just visit a book store to see the numerous adaptations are 'Little Red Riding Hood'.
Also, for young kids, the book is filtered through the interpretation of parents. So they can mellow down certain parts based on their kid's sensitivities. Also, in books, the really gory parts are often left to the imagination and not every scene is pictorially represented. Fortunately or unfortunately, each and every fact has to be shown in some form in the movie. Movies tend to be more visually stimulating than books and tend to pull in the kids more.
On the other hand, books have the luxury of being able to provide stories tailored to each age group. Movies have no such luxury if they are to be financially viable.
Also each movie wants to have a villain more scarier than all the ones before and visuals (earthquakes, huge torrents of water anyone) much grander. You invariably endup with something frightening for kids.
But above all, kids' imagination are more volatile and fertile than ours. Their view of the world is incomplete and hence their interpretations of the same scenes could be radically different and unpredictable. Case in point, My four-year-old was frightened of 'My Neighbour Totoro', especially, the scene of Totoro on the tree at night and the catbus :) .
But in one of the video, one story artist is talking about her first experience with the lion king and how traumatized she was by simba trying to talk to his dead father. And then I understood one thing:
I always thought that for you to make a long lasting mark into the world, you had to build a castle. But there are other ways: make cute animations targeting kids, but sneakily insert traumatizing sequences.
So this is more like "Max Martin offers lessons in songwriting" than e.g. John Lennon(or Tom Waits or Jack White or Chuck D. or James Murphy, or whatever unique voice you fancy).
Instead of an abstract complaint, it would be more instructive if you could provide concrete examples of children's films that are: not contrived, not cliched, not sappy with no lame humor.
Where to start? The works of Miyazaki, as somebody already mentioned. Anything by Tex Avery. The Nightmare Before Christmas. The Triplets of Belleville. James and the Giant Peach. The Illusionist. And tons of others (haven't even delved into anime). And if we get to overall children's films, e.g. not just animation, there's a whole range too. Heck, old (2D) Disney films were much less contrived as well.
But I'm not arguing with you. I had a different standard of "cliche" in my head so I misunderstood how you categorized originality before you listed your examples. That's fine. I tend to think that everything is cliche and derivative and therefore, those attributes don't bother as much. However, I realize that others weigh it differently.
 Miyazaki: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Anime/SpiritedAway
 Tim Burton: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/WesternAnimation/TheNi...
 7 basic plots: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Seven_Basic_Plots#Receptio...
 Hero's Journey: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hero%27s_journey
I find the TvTropes examples lacking (or worse, BS). I mean their list has stuff like: "Adaptation Expansion" (that the story was based on a poem Burton had once written), "Black Comedy", "The Blind Leading the Blind", "Bogeyman", ""Cassandra Truth", etc. Those are supposed to be cliches?
Those are more like listing all possible states of matter, and calling some part of the universe a cliche for containing them.
So, yeah, TNBChristmas is not some abstract surrealist image sequence -- it's a story and contains aesthetic concepts and narrative similarities with other stories, starting from the Iliad. Those are not cliches -- and I'm not convinced TvTrope author even knows what a cliche is.
Same, or worse, when discussing Miyazaki:
"Adults Are Useless: Well, Chihiro's parents are, hence the need to rescue them"
"Big Eater": Chihiro's parents when they transform into pigs.
Boh eating chocolate.
They even mention "Bittersweet Ending" as a cliche (and I'm sure they have: Ambiguous Ending, Happy Ending, Sad Ending, etc thrown at other movies too).
What I objected to is also not about the "hero's quest" or "the 7 basic plots". Rather, a good movie (or literary work for that matter) is not about the plot at all, the plot is a merely a vehicle, and the movie transcends it. Pixar movies are all about the plot, and they are also all about the plot unfolding linearly and predictably, with big arrows pointing at any "critical moment".
Anecdotally, I never thought I'd be able to draw, I used to think drawing (and art in painting, etc) was just something I wouldn't be able to do, though it's surprising and encouraging what you can do after dedicating some consistent time to practicing.
Also something I've started learning about recently is the art that goes into public speaking (from the Washington Uni Coursera course).
With knowledge broken down and explained by professionals, the mysterious becomes reachable through reasonable amounts of practice.
Why can't the same be applied to skills that have a more mental component? Some people just don't get it.
I don't do specific training on those lifts, but I am approaching those targets. Hard work, eating right, and appropriate training.
To me, eating right means a good balance of carbs, fat, and protein. I target my ideal body weight in lbs x 1.5 as grams (about 260g of protein a day). I don't always get there, but I try to get to over 1/3 of that by early morning with some overnight oats with added protein powder, a protein shake post early morning workout, and something with protein for breakfast right before I start work). If I am building, I eat around 3k calories a day. If I am cutting, I try to stay around 2k.
Hard work means getting my heart going, sweating, and tracking and increasing my percentages. I enjoy crossfit style workouts. I track what my training max is, and lift an appropriate percent of that for given sets. Do varied lifts. Olympic lifts, power lifts, gymnastics, etc.
Appropriate training. Find a program and stick with it a while. A 5/3/1 program can be solid. I got a lot out of a cycle of juggernaut training on my back squat a while back. I went from 240 lbs to 305 lbs in a short window where I thought I had plateaued. I'm currently at 345 lbs. I'm in no rush to add the last 35 lbs to that to hit my 2x target, but I'll get there. If I wanted to get there faster, I'd be back on 5/3/1 or juggernaut again.
There's no way I can deadlift 500 lbs, not after I injured my back anyway. But my best pull after 3 years of lifting was 335 lbs. My best squat was 285 lbs. Both at 196 lbs body weight.
> bench 1.5x
no way I can ever bench 300 lbs, I'm way too far from that mark. I can't even do 225 yet. If I got 210 after 3 years of lifting, it's safe to say my max is probably 250 or 270 or somewhere there, but not 300
I was on starting strength for 7 months, got pretty fat, but also made most of my gains. I stalled multiple times after 6 months so I deloaded for some time and started lean gains. I only improved my deadlift on leangains after 11 months, and ended up spinning my wheels. I only lost weight at the end when I cut my calories more.
I tried UD 2.0 after this and got tendonitis in one of my calves and elbows.
Since about 6 months and many years later, no matter what program I did I only got marginal gains. Maybe bench would go from 185 max to 210 in 2 years.
I took time off and a year later I haven't gotten back to 210 bench. Part of why is because I've had shoulder impingement. So fixing the issue with posture and doing some myofascial release I've gone back to around the strength I had 6 months after I started working out. Probably in a few months more I can just get back to where I was previously.
At the same time, some people in high school are benching 300+
Think of it like any other art. Not everyone is equally good at it, but with practice, everyone gets better.
I used to be a Cub Scout (ages 7-10) leader in the UK. There were definitely certain children who could spin a yarn effortlessly. Though I can't rule out that being nurture it seems more likely to be based on a natural propensity.
Even in toddlers, with almost no language, some seem particularly adept at entertaining, which to me is a precursor for story-telling.
That's not being a novelist though, I think that's a different skill altogether. Novelists can be terrible story-tellers in person.
As a parent I've made up a few stories on the spot, it's really hard. Indeed just the telling part, with a story you think you know well (eg, for me, The Three Bears) is hard work.
>That said, besides Rodney Dangerfield, I can't think of to many comedians whom got better with age.
Louis C.K. obviously.
Maybe this early exposure to fiction influences a developing mind in a way that's much more difficult to achieve once you have grown up. Learning to jump seamlessly between Narnia, Hogwarts, the Hundred Acre Woods, Victorian England, Medieval Europe, the Arabian Nights, and back to the real world is a bit like learning a new language, a new culture. Children learn new languages much more easily than adults do, and the languages you learn in your childhood stick with your accents for the rest of your life.
The first is a good imagination. Most people are born with a good one. Imagination tends to be more born with and can be harder to improve.
The second is understanding how to take what you see in your head and tell it to others. This is the part that needs help. Speech class for oratory story telling, art class for telling stories with images, English class for telling stories with the written word and many others. (These also can overlap.)
The basis behind story telling may be innate but the ability to share with the world is something that needs a lot of practice and training to be smooth.