Among the first concepts taught young players are “Yes, and…” and “No, but…” Though apparently very different concepts, they both focus on the same two ideas. First, the pervious choice of establishment is acknowledged and reaffirmed. Then, a new concept is added to drive the scene forward. Acknowledging and affirming a choice of establishment by saying “No” is a bit trickier in execution, so newbies are encouraged to avoid trying it in front of an audience until they gain some experience with its use in workshop. For the purposes of In Brief, I’ll simply split the concepts into two weeks of discussion.
“Yes, and…” is taught via a game by the same name. One of two players starts by making a definitive statement. “My name is Steve.” The other player then acknowledges and adds.
2: “Yes, and you are one devilishly handsome space pirate.”
1: “Yes, and the only thing I love more than my ship and crew is my first mate’s moustache.”
2: “Yes, and it is quite unfortunate that her moustache is a sore subject.”
This continues until the players run out of steam or the audience gets bored, and a new pair of players is brought forward.
This game can last quite a while between two experienced players. To continue driving a game forward, plot and a conflict need to be established. The next line for a novice may be “Yes, and it is black and glossy.” However, from experience, I would offer the next line as “Yes, and driven by envy and need for possession, Steve the space pirate captain has concocted a plot to abscond with his first mate’s moustache.” This is an important lesson of “Yes, and…” Exposition and description are good to an extent, but eventually, a story needs action to move forward.
“Yes, and…” can also be used by a single individual to help with many different aspects of writing, the most obvious of which is character and plot development. In this case, I am just playing both sides myself. However, “Yes, and…” has been unexpectedly useful in breaking blocks. Let’s say that I’m plotting and I’ve established plot points A and C, but to make the prose work, I need to find some transition point B. Assuming A and C are both true (“Yes…”) what must also be true (“, and…”)? Sometimes, point B becomes obvious. Other times, I need to approach from a different angle. I first figure out which B I want to use and then determine what else must also be true. Is there something that can or should be pre-established to make B more reasonable?
“Yes, and…” is a basic concept, but it is powerful in its simplicity. It helps assure players and writers that, yes, they are right, and, the story will go on. The trick is to eventually drop the need for the phrase “Yes, and…” and simply continue establishment with implicit acknowledgement and affirmation.Tags: Sequence 02: Improv and Writing