Broodax: born in flesh

(from the legendary Penny Arcade, click for bigger)

I discovered this great blog (thanks to CreativeCreativity!). It’s about writing for tv, but a lot of the problems she talks about get me thinking of problems in improv.

Here’s a story I really liked. It’s from a discussion of how colourful to make one’s stage directions;

Once, in a Buffy script (Band Candy), I wanted to indicate that Giles was very embarrassed and self-conscious about something Buffy was talking about. I wrote “Giles finds something interesting on his lapel.” Several members of the production staff came to me to ask about the thing on Giles’ lapel — would it turn out to be the villain of the next week’s episode, they asked?

So be poetic, but careful. If there’s a way to read your direction as literal, someone will do it.

I often find that the kinds of metaphorical and exaggerated language that we use in everyday life will, in an improv scene, be taken literally. Which leads to situations like the above comic. Now of course, this can be awesome sometimes (it works great for the Mighty Boosh), but it’s usually either a gag, or from a misguided belief that if you don’t jump all over every offer you must be wimping. The risk is that players will stop talking like a normal person for fear of being yesanded to crazy town in every scene. (I think it goes with out saying that players talking like normal people is a good thing).

In the end, it’s a matter of developing trust between players. And also just being aware that not every offer needs to be taken so literally.

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