Pixar Uses a Secret to Make Their Stories Unique—Now You Can Use It Too

Have you ever noticed that most protagonists are…kinda the same?

Whether it’s a children’s picture book or an adult thriller novel, the protag usually falls into one of two categories: a boy (young man, man, etc.) looking for adventure or a girl (young woman, woman, etc.) looking for independence/freedom. The secondary character and/or best friend of the protag is usually pretty predictable, too: either a love interest or someone of the same age and gender. Think about it. I’m right, aren’t I?

But of course, there are exceptions…right? Yes! Some of the most famous storytellers in our world today have been doing it for years, and you might not have even noticed. That’s right: I’m talking about Pixar.

Pixar does a lot of things very right when it comes to storytelling—that’s what makes their movies distinctive from even plain ol’ Disney movies. But one thing that fascinates me the most about Pixar films is their use of non-traditional protagonists and relationships. Just check out this list (and keep in mind, I understand most of them aren’t human, but I use their human equivalent when talking about their relationships):

  • Toy Story: close friendship between two men (come on, how many stories do this?)
  • Monsters, Inc.: another close friendship between two men, but different because they’re also coworkers
  • Finding Nemo: probably my favourite; where else can you find a friendship between a middle-aged man and woman with no romance?
  • The Incredibles: the dynamic between an entire family
  • Up: a developing friendship between an elderly man and a boy
  • Brave: exploring a mother and daughter relationship
  • Luca: close friendship between two boys

Of course, Pixar didn’t come up with these relationship dynamics, but they are rarer than the traditional protag and their friendships.

Now, why does using these unique characters work?

  1. Changes things up
  2. Appeals to a wider audience
  3. Allows the story to explore more complex emotions and experiences
  4. Gives the opportunity for fresh dialogue
  5. Close relationships invite humour

What’s your favourite relationship dynamic in a story? Let me know in the comments! And if you need help creating your main characters, my feedback is just an email away.

Happy writing!

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Photo by Harli Marten on Unsplash

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When you write as much as I do, you have to take frequent breaks from sitting. A standing desk (not a whole desk, but a mini desk that will sit on top of my current desk with my laptop, keyboard, and mouse and extend upward) will allow me to continue working while maintaining that good blood flow to my brain. Thank you so much for your support that allows me to keep producing free content. God bless you! ♥️ E.J.


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