Now that I’ve completed 6 weeks of Improv 101 at UCB, the reward is that my class performs at the UC Theater East on Saturday from 3:30-5:30. It’s a two-hour show with monologues and group scenes that begin with a one word prompt from the wonderful instructor Patrick Noth. I have adapted one of the techniques into a writing exercise to deepen character work.
Here’s the exercise:
1. Get into the character of your current hero or heroine. Sit as they would sit, imagine the surroundings and how the character would sound. A tip: I find it useful to select an actor and mimic them. Quickly, the character will become unique because we most easily know what we want through contrast.
2. Imagine that your character is onstage and must deliver a monologue in which they attempt to tell a funny story about their life based on a random one-word suggestion.
For example, in our group, the suggestion was the word, “Bugs,” and when it was my turn to do a monologue, I used the opportunity to play the new character in my series. I told a story about being on a date, and in the middle of a make out session, the characters were attacked by mosquitos. The guy was obsessed with killing them with a bottle of Windex and the date devolved into mosquito genocide. This story got a lot of laughs, and I was relieved since I’m writing a comedy.
What I learned about my character from the story: that she was interested in dating, had a sense of humor about men, and didn’t mind sharing personal stuff.
3. Get into role and make a word suggestion to your hero or heroine. I will often pick up a random book or magazine, open it and put my finger on a page to find a word or phrase. Then I use whatever word I landed on as my suggestion. So just now, I opened a book and got “spirit.”
4. Set a timer for 10 minutes, then write in the first-person tense and tell a funny story from your main character’s life.
5. Then, repeat the exercise for your villain or obstacle.
6. Finally, repeat the exercise for the friend/love interest.
This can be a great tool as sometimes the suggestion will also give you a great plot situation, like a woman dating a man who’s obsessed with killing mosquitos. LOL
Enjoy this exercise, and wish me luck at my virgin performance as an Improv-er!
My friend, Paula Landry, is giving a workshop. She is very talented and you will learn a lot in a short time.
Here’s to your successful writing!
Professor Marilyn Horowitz