Some of my clearest memories as a young player are the feelings of enthusiasm as I received my suggestion. I, like many novice players, would dive headfirst into the scene, with no time to consider what I was going to do. I viewed myself as being spontaneous, but rather, I was giving my creator all the control over my actions. My scenes suffered for this choice.
As I gained experience, I began to see the value in waiting. By holding back, I was able to predict the show’s arc as it emerged. From this perspective I could spot the characters and actions that would best drive the plot, and heighten the characters and games already in play.
I remember one show in particular, a long form show, where I held back for the first set of scenes. During the last scene of the set, one of my fellow players made a call for a particular character named “Ricky”, as he noticed that I had not yet participated. My training taught me to honor this choice of establishment, but I felt that it was not the strongest choice. Instead of accepting the gifted character, I exercised a subtle “No, but…” and waved them off. I still believe that I made the strongest choice available to me.
When the second set of scenes came around, I took control of the stage and quickly established a new character, before I could be addressed as Ricky. I then made a joke of the situation and inquired after Ricky’s wellbeing. Because I had waited, the character I established was able to fill a gap that I had seen developing while watching the first round of scenes. It would’ve been much more difficult to carry the arc without the choice that I made. By hanging a lantern on my choice, I was able to set up a game, one that we used as a reoccurring joke as we looked for, and we inquired after Ricky on and off for the rest of the show.
When plotting and then again when I reach the end of the first act, I step back and consider the second act. Is there a stronger choice to be made somewhere? What character, event, or piece of milieu can be moved from the first act to the second? Am I overwhelming my audience with exposition or character introductions? Do my readers have enough information to start developing sympathy? All these questions play an important role in my decisions.
In the first sequence, I spoke about my smoke and mirrors technique, how choices of establishment can be used to give depth to milieus. In this sequence I spoke of making strong choices, and an author’s creative responsibilities. These two concepts come together when I look at holding elements in reserve for later use. I’m not talking about not using awesome ideas, but rather looking at my story as a whole, and deciding if I’m reaping the maximum reward.Tags: Sequence 02: Improv and Writing