Meeting the monster


When I teach improv to kids, the one rule I set down is that they have to be brave.

Here’s an exercise that I use to get this idea across (cribbed from Keith Johnstone).


First I teach them word at a time story.

Me: Ok, now everyone get into pairs, we’re going to play a Word at a Time Story. Here’s the plot, you are walking through the forest when you meet a monster. The rest is up to you.

<All of the pairs play their scenes at the same time>

Me: Ok awesome. Now, tell me, what happened in your story?

<most of them will have run away from the monster, I’ve done this with many different groups and they it’s always about 70-80% running away>

Me: Ok (I saw ‘ok’ a lot) nice work. Now let’s play the same scene again, but this time you are not allowed to run away from the monster. You can do anything else, but you can’t run away. (if you didn’t run away last time, do something different again)

<they play again, and this time when I ask there’s a bunch of different stories, they fought the monster, or befriended it, or got eaten by it.>

Me: Which story did you like better? Your first one or your second one?

<the second one>
Me: It’s natural to be scared of things in real life, it’s logical to run away from things that are dangerous, if we didn’t, we’d probably all be dead.

But in a story, it’s more fun to be brave and see what happens. In a story nothing can hurt us if we don’t want it to.


2 Responses to “Meeting the monster”

  1. jill bernard Says:

    I’m totally stealing this, thanks.

    BTW, here in Minneapolis, word-at-a-time story with just two people is called “Shatner.”

  2. improbable Says:

    ‘Shatner’, that’s perfect.

    Sometimes I try and play word at a time story by myself, but really I’m just talking like Bill Shatner.

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