There is an improv exercise called One Word Story. For those of my readers that are unfamiliar with it, a line of improvisers tell a story one word at a time. I suppose you could’ve guessed that from the title but specificity is key in improv. More on this later.
One Word Story is a tool for teaching listening and narrative skills. The burden of telling the tale does not fall on one person’s shoulders. Everyone contributes. You don’t need to know where you’re going, only where you’ve been. From that, the story unfolds.
There are two things that inevitably happen in these One Word Stories. The protagonist will go to see her or his mother and they will go to the store. Not to their fathers, always their mothers. Maybe mom give better advice.
Remember when I mentioned specificity at the beginning? So, they go to the store. Not the grocery story, nor the sporting goods story, or even the bookstore. Just The Store.
I have seen this time and time again, with every group who has done this exercise. But the real question is why? Why those two very specifically, non-specific things?
Having given this much thought, I have a theory. Both of those are passive choices, much like deciding, a choice that also delays the forward momentum of the narrative. That’s because then you have to say that they did those things that they had made up their mind about. Very exciting.
Doing improv, especially in the early stages can be terrifying. I don’t know what to say! Everyone is funnier than me! Why didn’t I take that cooking class instead?
We make these passive choices because we’re afraid of making a mistake. But there is good news. There are no mistakes. Just make a strong choice and go with it.
Anyway, this is just my theory. If you’ll excuse me, I have to visit my mother before I go to the store.