Improv Writing

How It Works

By Annette Rey

There are many techniques a writer can use to get himself going, to break the block. I have experimented with improvisational writing and find it to be very effective in getting my mind racing forward and my fingers flying on the keyboard.

This is an easy and casual exercise to perfect.

Sit yourself down in front of your keyboard. Take a breath. Be aware of yourself and where you are sitting. Relax your shoulders. Pause your hands above your keyboard and take as much time as you need to truly listen to yourself, to your own mind. Create one scenario, a brief opening idea, like the one below.

And then go with the flow.

Suppose:

You’re in an alley.

Mentally ask yourself or actually type the question, what happens next? You create the options of questions you ask yourself. You then make a choice. Hear is mine.

I personalize this and become my character.

  • My character is in an alley. What happens next? I hear a sound? Or a voice just right behind me where I feel the breath of the speaker on the back of my neck. What does that do to me? Scare me? I also feel something as if of fur or hair tickling my neck accompanied by a foul smell. So the “thing” behind me that spoke is an animal! What is my next thought? An animal that speaks? What is my next response? Run? Duck? Turn to face it? I choose to turn. What do my eyes see? A horrible face? Or a dreamlike angel whose delicate hair has brushed my neck? What happens or is said next? The angel speaks. Gentle melodic air pressure escapes her throat, what is said is a form of speech but is not actually. Yet, I hear and understand what she is saying. What happens next? What does she say? Does it spur me into some action? Do I experience a floating sensation? Is part of my rational mind functioning that tells me I must be losing my mind? This kind of thing is just not real! What happens next?

I wrote this just now, shooting from the hip. Listening to my mind. ASKING myself these questions as my fingers moved along on the keyboard. I just played out the beginning of a scene as an example of how improvisational writing works.

This exercise can grease your blocked up writing wheels.

What I am telling you sounds so elementary as to possibly insult your intelligence. But often the basics are what we ignore throughout our lives! We miss the obvious.

My goal is to slow you down, to give you methods of relaxation to apply to your writing. Open your mind and allow yourself to hear your own mind. Pick a scene you want to write. You know where your character is. In a rushing river. Stranded up a tree. In her bedroom and an intruder is breaking her living room window. But you’ve had trouble proceeding. You know how you want it to proceed but you are stopped at the keyboard.

Follow the above tactic. Once you get a grip on it, your own creative powers will open up. You will write pages using this. The technique will fall away and you won’t notice when autopilot takes over. You will be uplifted when you see the full pages on your screen.

When you feel blocked, give this a try. It really does work.

One thought on “Improv Writing

  1. I do this all the time except I start with words. Say my character is in school. First I jot down all the school words I can. Words become sentences and soon I am back in the story. I don’t ask questions because that is sometimes part of the block. Love the tip
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