Sequence 02: The Page and the Stage, Improv and Writing

The Gist

When in college, I spent 3 years performing live stage improvised comedy.  Through the experience, I became a stronger storyteller.  In Sequence 02, I address many of the skills and revelations imparted by my study of improv stagecraft and how they have imprinted upon my writer's craft.

The Roster

  1. Writing and Improv: It's All Stories [01Jul13]
    Storytelling is storytelling regardless of the medium.  Because I view writing as a performance projected across space and time, I have been able to reapply and re-purpose many of the skills learned as a player.
  2. Choices of Establishment: The Spiderman Effect [08Jul13]
    Whenever you create, you control the space of that creation absolutely.  What is established is always right, but everything established comes at a cost.  Choose wisely.
  3. Every Page is a Stage  [14Jul13]
    For any performer, fear of imperfection can be crippling.  In improv, once you step onto stage, there is no going back, but as a writer, there is always the temptation of backstage.  Writing is also dead until it is consumed by an audience.  Will it be perfect?  No, but it will be.
  4. Yes, And...? [22Jul13]
    One of the first concepts taught to improv newbies, "Yes, and..." shows us that it isn't enough to simply acknowledge choices of establishment, but to make our own choices to keep driving the story forward.
  5. No, But... [29Jul13]
    Hand in hand with "Yes, and...", "No, but..." is about acknowledgement through denial and then redirection to keep the momentum of a scene.
  6. Discovering Storyteller's Truths [05Aug13]
    Experimentation has shown me that there are a few storytelling truths that seem to hold true, regardless of the media.  I explore how limiting length and format actually are for me, and the importance I place on practice.
  7. What's in a Game? [12Aug13]
    Improv taught me that if there is no fun in the scene, there is no point to the scene.  Because of this, I'm always on the lookout for the Game of the Scene.
  8. Plotting with Stakes and Ribbons [19Aug13]
    I have struggled with finding the balance between the creator and organizer.  I describe my method of goal-oriented plot development as pounding stakes of plot into the ground and stringing ribbon of prose between them.
  9. Second Act Introductions [26Aug13]
    When I first started playing, I found myself rushing to act, but eventually I learned the importance and strategy of establishing key characters in the second act.
  10. The Energy of the Show [02Sep13]
    Part of successful plotting is managing tension across the course of the book or show.
  11. Why Be Good, When You Can Be More Awesome? [09Sep13]
    When given the choice between being believable and awesome, I will go with the more awesome option.  It's risky, but committing big pays off.
  12. Fully in Character: From Subconsciousness to Shuffling Feet [16Sep13]
    I have found that I, like many other young writers, tend to focus on the face and shoulders when describing emotion.  With the whole body as a means of expression, why not look elsewhere for the queues we show our readers?
  13. The Ace is the Most Important Person in the Room [24Sep13]
    Improv taught me to play status games to help figure out my character's place in the scene.  This same eye to status helps me in both my writing and day job.  Who is the most important person in any room you walk into?
  14. Answering the Call [30Sep13]
    In improv, a “call” is hopeful foreshadowing, an invitation and request for a specific story element.  On the stage, the call may be picked up by a fellow player, but when writing, only the author can answer the call.
  15. If Babies Can Remember, Why do Adults Forget? [07Oct13]
    Object permanence is more difficult that one would think.  Without persistent effort, it is easy to make mistakes that draw attention away from the performance.
  16. Passing the Turing Test [14Oct13]
    Suspension of disbelief is a precious commodity to writers.  Wizards and spaceship admirals are easy to believe, but characters who don't act like people are not.  The easiest way to make characters that pass your reader's Turing Test is to be aware of your surroundings and emulate things you observe in your writing.
  17. Experience is a Matter of Perspective [21Oct13]
    The concept of the fourth wall reminds actors not to break from the reality of the world.  In fiction, this is harder as so much of the reality happens in the head of the reader.  Breaking the fourth wall can be done well, however.
  18. Teamwork is Keeping Your Buddies from Drowning [28Oct13]
    Though creative isolation is important, it is essential for each writer to have a good support structure to help them keep their sanity and their health.  No writer is alone longer than they choose to be.
  19. The Forgotten Art of Play [04Nov13]
    Creating should be an exercise of letting your inner child out to play.  After all, if you aren't having fun, who will be?
  20. Players Train to Improvise [11Nov13]
    The most important thing that Improv taught me was the importance of practice.  If improvisation is trained, then so too must be writing.


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