What “Finding Nemo” Teaches About Creativity

creativityHow many of you have seen the following films: Finding Nemo, WALL-E, and Toy Story?  I loved the all—the technology and, of course, the stories.  That’s thanks to Andrew Stanton—the director, screenwriter, producer, and even the voices of some of the characters.  In a recent Ted Talk, Mr. Stanton gives great advice to writers and film makers about being creative with stories.


I’ve had five novels published but still work at improving my stories.  Andrew Stanton’s advice was helpful to me and is valuable to any writer or storyteller.  Here are three of the highlights of his talk about creativity:

  1.  At the start of a story, there must be a promise to the audience that the story will lead somewhere interesting.  It must hook them.  But like so many things of value in the world, the audience has to “work for their meal.”  Not only does this make the story interesting it also forces them to get involved.  How does the writer/film maker do this?  They give clues and facts and even leave out things.  This creates interest.  Andrew Stanton defines drama as: anticipation mingled with uncertainty.”  In other words, will the hero/heroine get what they desperately want?  That’s creativity.
  2. Every character must have a “spine”—something that motivates them to act.  Stanton calls it an “itch that can’t be scratched.”  Spine/motivation doesn’t have to be complicated:  The Godfather, Michael Corelone want to please his father.  Finding Nemo,  Marlon wants to prevent harm.  WALL-E,WALL-E wants to find beauty.  Of course, to create believable characters they should include all aspects of humans.  For instance, Woody in Toy Story is often selfish although we still like him.
  3. Andrew Stanton says the best stories give the audience a sense of wonder.  A good story causes the reader/viewer to stop the busy flow of their lives for a short time and let themselves be led into wonder.  It’s a recreating of our childhood where even a racing fire truck or a kite floating among the clouds can give us wonder.  It takes creativity.  A writer/film maker must attach this sense of wonder to the creator’s life experiences and values.  It’s the “pay-off” for the audience in return for them sending their time with the story.

He ends his talk with inspiration:  “Whatever I ended up being good at, I strive to be worthy of the chance given to me.”  Watch the video—it’ll make you a more creative person with direction and success.  It’s certainly helped me.


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About Colin Nelson

Colin T. Nelson worked for 40 years as a prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis. He tried everything from speeding tickets to first degree murder. His writing about the courtroom and the legal system give the reader a "back door" view of what goes on, what's funny, and what's a good story. He has also traveled extensively and includes those locations in his mysteries. Some are set in Southeast Asia, Ecuador,Peru, and South Africa. Readers get a suspenseful tale while learning about new places on the planet. Colin is married, has two adult children, and plays the saxophone in various bands.

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