Many years ago I stumbled across  a collection of tips one of the storyboard artists at Pixar had picked up from Lassiter and others working there at the time and I saved them — excellent points all for anyone with a story to tell.

The 22 rules of storytelling, according to Pixar

  1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
  2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.
  3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
  4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
  6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
  8. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
  9. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
  10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
  11. 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.
  12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
  14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
  15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
  17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
  18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
  19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
  20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
  21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
  22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

And so it begins.


Enjoying a carafe of conservative tears with my morning covfefe; don’t worry, there’s plenty — I’ll share.

Weasel Words and Treason

Here’s how to perpetuate political division (and sell more advertising space) with wishy-washy language and weasel words : “Investigators are also prying into [Glenn Simpson, Partner of Fusion GPS]’s role in compiling the Russia dossier, which was filled with some stunning but also unsubstantiated allegations.”

“Prying into?” Sounds suspicious and sneaky, when in real life his “role” was “partner” at a firm hired to do research on Donald Trump; full stop. Around 8 times out of ten, researchers at other ” firms,” including media conglomerates and federal agencies who have followed in Glenn’s footsteps, found EXACTLY THE SAME THING as Fusion GPS did — Trump’s tainted. Full stop.

The president of the United States is an asset of Russian intelligence services, whether he UNDERSTANDS that or not (he does). Permits for Trump’s proposed Moscow real estate deal were the laser pointer Putin used to toy with Trump (and now I owe an apology to cats worldwide). Putin also made sure there was a bevy of eastern European arm candy, models and pageant contestants for Donald to “grab” when he was in the vicinity. He DID marry one. She IS First Lady of the United States … correct?

A vast majority of allegations contained in the Trump dossier have been independently verified as FACT. While it’s TRUE some of those FACTS might have been “stunning” if not downright salacious, when journalists (or more likely their editors) hitch “but also unsubstantiated allegations” to Trump’s treason wagon, every racist, xenophobic, pro-Russia, anti-democratic voice in America screams “SEE?! They can’t prove he hired prostitutes to trash the presidential suite (because Barack Obama slept there) — and if we can’t see the pee-pee tape, then how do we know if ANY of it is true?”

Because of journalism. Because federal agents were listening. Because there was an FBI mole inside Trump’s campaign (from Day One). Because there are witnesses (most of them still alive). Because nothing else sounds like the truth — and you KNOW most of this stuff is absolutely true … every salacious detail. Those four little words, however, dilute and pollute the selling of our government to foreign agents and the end of the American experiment in representative democracy as we know it.

Last year at this time, the previous sentence (or perhaps the entire post) would have (and should have) been dismissed as nothing more than political hyperbole. Well, it’s a year later, isn’t it?

Now is the time for all good men (and women) to come to the aid of their country. Full stop.

There’s Now Wrong Way

Congratulations, it’s finally arrived: Happy List Season. As we count down to a new year and reflect back on the raging dumpster fire that was 2017, lists and predictions will be all the rage. There will lists of the lies Trump’s told; lists of Obama-era policies reversed; lists of men behaving badly, communities devastated by global warming, victims of gun violence, racial injustice, economic oppression and more.

I keep hearing I need to make a list of all the things I’m going to do in 2018, like I need a reminder or time to reflect on just how bad things have gotten in a mere 341 days, 20 hours and change. I’m already painfully aware of the problems, thanks — and no magical thinking or perfect policy proposal is going to fix what ails us. A random typo on a Banksy meme sent me the message loud and clear: “If there is now way, create one.”

The time to roll up my sleeves and get in the fight has arrived. Words matter; deeds get shit done. Nothing’s changed — our folks just got a might forgetful, is all. Remember that one time, at band camp, when our grandparents took a boat across the pond, punched a bunch of Nazis in the face, saved freedom for the rest of the planet and then came home to build stuff? Like a thriving middle class? Seems we already have our to-do list. We won’t even need a boat.

I’m no preacher, but I know “I gotta see them folks that’s gone out on the road. I got a feelin’ I got to see them. They gonna need help no preachin’ can give ’em. Hope of heaven when their lives ain’t lived? Holy Sperit when their own sperit is downcast an’ sad?” See, we forgot, is all. “Two men squat on their hams and the women and children listen.” It’s almost 2018 … I’ll listen to the women, too.

75% of us said no — and they did it anyway. Poll after poll, protest after protest (from both the far left and the far right) — and the political machine bought and paid for by “the great owners” is set to flatten the family farm again. It’s a big country, but we’ve got no place left to go — there will be no great migration west. This time I’m headed east — to D.C.

Join me? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

My secret wish …

With apologies where necessary:

Hey! If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I’d like Donald Trump, the “president”, right here tonight.

I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there at Mar-A-Lago with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is! Hallelujah!

Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?

Let’s Have a Party.

I don’t have brown skin or speak Spanish, but my brother does. I won’t face another day of condescending comments or assumptions of ignorance; my sister will. When the social safety net collapses (separating life-changing medications from your healthcare dollars like wheat from chaff), my life goes on as usual; my friend’s won’t. I’d like to tell you all about it and share some real news from a liberal perspective, but I don’t know how. Heaven forbid I play favorites. Besides, this wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been blacklisted — so let’s just start with a blank slate.

More than once I’ve dipped a toe into the clicks-for-cash world of news and social awareness, but when it came time to divvy up the spoils, I always walked away empty-handed. I’m certain there was money on the table (feel free to check my math), but I’ve profited exactly zero dollars from any of this nonsense. If that was your table: you’re welcome.

I thought the whole idea was sharing. I figured the importance of waking people up, sharing the truth, and getting ourselves organized was the point of all the noise — but I always forget to factor in the greed. “You’re starting up something of your own? Allow me to lend a hand.” That was it. I had no ulterior motive. I find it amusing we’ve come to place where it needs saying out loud.

I heard myself repeating, “I really had no idea how naive I was” over and over while talking with a friend, but then that’s really Tom for ‘ya. Steinbeck’s protagonist isn’t Springsteen’s ghost — and we’ve projected an awful lot on the later as well. Tom’ll get “mean mad” and fly off the handle — me, too. Tom’ll try and pass along the message, but I “never seen so many guys with guns. Don’t know if they’ll even let a fella talk.” Me, either.

I’ve liked a lot of things about and on Facebook (try not to read too much into a sentence fragment, okay?), and I’ve shared some amazing messages from other inspired authors. That was fun. I’ve chased clicks for cash and watched what scratching and clawing for the almighty dollar does … even among big-hearted progressives. That wasn’t much fun to witness. Don’t think I’ll do that again.

“I have a little food” plus “I have none.” If from this problem the sum is “We have a little food,” the thing is on its way, the movement has direction.”

The movement has direction: July 4, 2018, meet me on the Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C., for an “Independence (From Trump) Day” rally. I’m either going to be celebrating his resignation, or plan to find out what happens “if all our folks got together and yelled.”

Trust me, I’ll be thrilled to tears when I learn that The Late Show with Stephen Colbert or Trevor Noah turn this idea into an elevator pitch and get Comedy Central or CBS to pay for the whole shebang. I’ll even buy a ticket — IDGAF. If there’s a MAGA party already in progress? … I REALLY think we should crash. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Image(s): National Mall Coalition, July 4th, Tom Wachs Photography, His Royal Baldness, Donald Trump and me. Oh, yeah … #ThePresidentIsAnAsshole

My pal, Al

I’ll just say, “Governor Franken” has an awfully nice ring to it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Working on behalf of Minnesotans in the United States Senate has been the honor of my life. I’m taking to the Senate floor to give my final speech.

Posted by U.S. Senator Al Franken on Thursday, December 21, 2017