Blog > Improvisational writing

October 29, 2008

I did an amazing workshop at the improv conference on improvisational writing, with Denzil Meyers. Here’s what Denzil did. We were a small group of five or so people. It’s a process I’ll be trying more often…

1. Denzil gave us the word ‘island’ and we spent 5 minutes doing a ‘spoke’ association ie putting the word in the middle of the page and seeing what other words it surfaces

2. Using the same word we did five minutes of ‘brick’ association: this is where the next word builds on the previous word

3. We looked over our two lists and circled the words that stood out

4. Then we wrote for 10 minutes – either a personal memory or a rant, allowing ourselves to be surprised (I was disconcerted rather than surprised by where my writing took me, but that’s another story)

5.We heard what some in the group had written (voluntary, of course). Denzil then invited us to take in EVERYTHING in our field, the other stories, the noise from the other workshops etc, and allow them to influence our own writing. This was a key learning and ah-ha! moment for me 

6. Notice what you connect with

7. Denzil then drew on a Keith Johnstone game called Verbal Chase. He asked us to close our eyes.He said, “It’s early in the morning. What time is it? You go outside and hear a noise behind you. What happens next?” Write for 15 minutes. Slow down. No need to write fast.

8. Now consider a minor character in the story that we’ve just written and write about that minor character for 10 minutes.

WOW! Now I was surprised. What a great process.

And here’s Denzil’s take-aways (based on his experience of improvisation):

1. Start anywhere – while every story has a beginning, middle and end, they don’t have to be in that order

2. Write first, then analyse – let the words pour out, don’t block yourself

3. Improvise, then craft – get it down on paper, then go back and do the crafting, tweaking, correcting spelling etc

4. Notice the re-incorporation – how ideas may come full circle or something is re-incorporated in an unexpected way


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