The best improv and writing tool ever

Are you stuck for ideas for your scenes and stories? Want a tool to help you start now, with no thinking required? Want to instantly find a character, activity, situation and sense of urgency?

This might be the tool for you!

In my opinion it is the best improv and writing tool ever.

I found it by accident while improv-swotting for the Wurzburg Improv Festival. I haven’t improvised for a while, so was searching for a way to practice by myself, before I meet other improvisers and ruin their lives.

After reading a wonderful article on improv by Dan Goldstein, I was inspired by the idea of starting scenes with an ATTITUDE, and an ACTIVITY on a SPECIAL DAY.

Then I remembered the fantastic Brainstormer App! Simply input three lists and they will display on three spinning wheels. Spin each wheel and receive a unique random scene-starter!

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Here are some of the lists I used:

ATTITUDES
Mischievous, depressed, angry, jealous, moaning, virtuous, vain, suspicious, confused, elated, drunk, grieving…

ACTIVITIES
Dancing, hiding, tickling, writing, drinking, polishing, practising, copying, stretching, jogging…

SPECIAL DAY
Olympic final, anniversary of Hitler’s death, our wedding day, the day I admit I love your brother, your birthday, grandma’s 100th birthday, driving test, the day I get knighted…

So a random combination could be:
CONFUSED, COPYING, OLYMPIC FINAL…

…which prompted this scene: the Saudi Arabian team have entered us at short notice into the Diving Finals. We have never dived before! So I put on a video of Tom Daley and we watch and figure out how to dive like a champion!

I tried combination after combination and really enjoyed creating an entrance and first line for the scene it prompted. It also occurred to me how awesome a tool this was for writer’s block or for story generation.

You can make your own categories and lists using the Brainstormer App. If you don’t have a smartphone or iPad, make cards, or simply print your lists, close your eyes and point!

Well happy storytelling, folks!

Let’s see if this simple tool makes us better writers and improvisers : )

Tools for provoking the imagination – 1

Which are the best tools for provoking the imagination?

New creative links can be made by drawing new comparisons or building metaphors.

Random word pairs can be useful, especially if focused around project keywords. This can help refocus a project or even stimulate new ideas. Try writing a topic statement, e.g.
“We want to develop a reception space that promotes our values and is pleasing to customers.”

Keywords:
develop, reception, space, promotes, values, pleasing, customers

Random word pairs:
space-customers
develop-values
promotes-reception
develop-pleasing

From these random pairs, we can ruminate on their new meanings. “Space-customers” might spark a conversation about where customers sit, and how much space they have, for instance.

To get even more food for thought, try listing synonyms for keywords.

You could also choose verbs, nouns, prepositions and conjunctions that fit with your project.

Returning to the reception area idea, you might choose:

Relax, greet, inspire (verbs)
Around, in, between (prepositions)
Plants, colour, invention (nouns)

Random word selection from a text can also be useful. Ask a person to choose a book, without looking. Person 2 chooses the page number from a given range. Person 3 selects the paragraph or line of text. The facilitator chooses the first verb or noun from that line or paragraph, e.g. “waterfall”. Discussion then starts on how our topic (the reception area) is like a waterfall.

For these activities, you might want to set a time limit. You might also ask small groups to consider different analogies and then feed back to the group.

During this kind of thinking the sheer quantity of connections is more important than quality. We are seeking to be creative by accident in the hope that serendipity will guide us to new perspectives. Therefore, criticism and saying ‘no’ are not allowed during this phase. Evaluating ideas at this stage will close too many doors too soon. Instead, look to create, combine and improve ideas.

A separate phase for analysis of ideas can follow afterwards.

Try these techniques when you really want to open up the way forward. They are a great way to get everyone involved. Metaphorical thinking is limitless.