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!


Here are some of the lists I used:

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

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

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:

…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 : )

The Lady of the Lake

In the silence of the night, all Will could see were the dark waves on the water. All he could hear were the leaves of the horse-chestnut rustling in the breeze.

And then came a scuttling. Softly, from the other side of the lake, the sound of insects’ legs clicking, scuttling. A reflection on the water began to glow dimly, and its corresponding cloud in the sky the herald of la luna, mighty Diana, the queen of heaven.

She was the full moon; she came out of the darkness and lit up the whole night. The Lady of the Lake, with an aura of soft white light, in her own mystical spotlight; her gait so graceful, she did not walk, she rolled, like the moon rolling out from behind the clouds.  Her face, her skin glowing silvery blue in the moonlight; her dress, rippling like the water on the lake. This was no ordinary dress. It rippled because it was alive.

Will’s eyes widened. Her dress was being made even as she moved, made by a thousand tiny spiders that ran and span and restitched each gossamer strand in every moment. Spiders leaped from leaf to leaf, spinning wondrous threads that they softly offered to the breeze, to be blown across her skin, draping her body in momentary, light scarves of linen, which flew away and behind to be lost forever. Her spiders, her gymnastic grandmothers, knitted their webs, drop-one, pearl-one, sending them gliding and falling and melting away from her gentle curves. With every gracious forward step, she snapped those tender threads, and a thousand spiders more would spin more illustrious silks in which to clothe her. Sometimes a shoulder, a wrist revealed; sometimes a calf, an ankle, a hip – but all the time she flowed onwards, in complete peace, her gaze unmoving, trusting that her tiny, attentive tailors would never lay her bare. Like sea-kelp waving under the water, her long, dark hair curling, twirling up and out in soft strands, spiralling from her head, lifted by the supple thread of her eight-legged entourage.

The pale moon shone on the water and her reflection rippled in the gentle waves, shivering like the hairs on Will’s neck as he watched, bewitched. She came to the edge of the lake and did not stop; but her spiders, her land-locked ladies-in-waiting, could not follow, and so the Lady of the Lake slipped silently out of her dress and into the dark water.

This is an extract from ‘The Amulet’, the book I am currently working on.