Even outside famed improv theater troupes like The Second City, The Groundlings, or the Upright Citizens Brigade, actors use improvisational exercises and games to expand their understanding of a character or to loosen up before a performance. But why should actors have all the fun?
In Improv for Writers, Jorjeana Marie – a playwright, screenwriter, voiceover actress, and improv instructor – shows how writers can also use improv exercises to improve their craft.
“Improvisation is a baring of the soul. The good news is that I’m going to share it with you in a way that doesn’t require your going onstage and doing cartwheels, pantomiming making waffles, or pretending you’re a pickle manufacturer,” Marie promises. Instead, Marie offers dozens of spins on improv games both classic and new to spur a writer’s creativity.
In one example, readers are encouraged to write from an inanimate object’s point of view; in another, they’re asked to set a timer for five minutes and create a list of their character’s resolutions for the upcoming new year. Each game is followed by a bulleted list of easy-to-follow instructions as well as a section called “Why on Earth Would We Do This?,” which explains how each exercise will help a writer, character, or project grow.
While most games are designed to be played solo, some enlist the help of a writing partner or colleague. Throughout the book, Marie’s periodic “Quick Tips” offer additional guidance and craft instruction. (Example: “Be willing to let go of some of your ideas. Only time and reader/audience response can tell you if your idea is a fantastic one or one that just hasn’t caught on. So don’t try to shoehorn something into your story just because you think it’s the bee’s knees.)
“Here’s the beauty of all this fooling around and acting like a goofball,” Marie writes. “The beauty is, you can change it all later. You, my new friend, writer of things, creator of compelling stuff – you can go back and edit. What I’m saying is ‘PLAY WITH ME!!’ You have absolutely nothing to lose, and freedom, joy, and exhilaration at new discoveries to gain.”