You’ve probably heard that if you react or behave in a particular way in an improvised scene, you should continue to behave or react in that way throughout the scene. That’s good advice. It’s no fun to see a character react to something in a specific way and then drop it for the rest of the scene. If your scene partner does something and you react suspiciously, you should probably react to other things suspiciously too. That’s how you create a game1 for yourself.
The key though is to let yourself be provoked into these reactions by your scene partner. You shouldn’t have to invent things in the scene to treat suspiciously. It’s far better to be provoked by your scene partners actions instead. You could notice the bookcase and the copy of the Bible, pull it out and glower suspiciously at it. But it would be far more interesting if your scene partner said, I want to show you something and pulled out a book from the bookcase and then you became suspicious.
In rare cases, your scene partner may not be doing anything at all and then you have to actually discover things on your own to provoke you. But most of the time, once you have a template for how this character reacts, you should focus your attention on your scene partner and when your gut tells you “React!” go for it.
For more on this, checkout my posts about Emotional Yo-yo and Behavior is a game.
1. Game as in anything you do more than once, but not necessarily what we mean by game of the scene.
Also, the photo is by miguelb on flicker.
Emotional Yo-Yo is an approach to creating dynamic, interesting improv scenes with games that are playable, surprising and funny.
Last week I wrote about reacting strongly to innocuous lines from your scene partner to immediately create interesting moments. It’s quite easy. Just listen to your scene partner, take what they say personally, and respond in way that is specific, strong and believable. That’s a great way to create a single moment, but to make a great scene you need to learn how to play with it.
Here is an exercise called Emotional Yo-yo:
- Start a simple scene: like two people involved in an everyday activity. Don’t prethink it too much. Just start talking.*
- One player should choose to react strongly to something from the other player. Once someone reacts in this way, they are the yo-yo and the other player is the hand.
- If you are the hand, you should play with the yo-yo. Your job is to do and say things that either provoke the yo-yo or placate the yo-yo.
- If you are the yo-yo, your job is to be affected. Every reaction doesn’t have to be absurdly strong, but often it is. Sometimes the hand will push you away, sometimes the hand will pull you back, sometimes the hand will spin you around. You should be flexible and let yourself be moved.
Some hints and notes
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