Why Writers Should Try Improv
This article is a tie in with the review of Sundance’s Writers’ Room.
As an aspiring TV writer, I’m always looking for ways to improve my skills. It’s easy to look at the obvious choices to help with this: write something everyday, read EVERYTHING, take a writing class, these are all things a lot of us have already done. However, there is one thing that I feel has really affected my work for the better and is something most writers seem to not talk about for some reason: improv class.
I know it’s terrifying for us book worms with a relationship with Netflix so strong it threatens our significant others. Us writers who like to work from the comfort of our own bed with a bottle of Sriracha and a bag of Sun Chips close by in case something doesn’t go quite the way we expected, but, believe me, improv classes can be helpful, especially so for those of us looking specifically to go into TV for several reasons:
- During an improv class you will be challenged to throw away all pre-planned actions. Instead, you see what is given to you and have to bounce off of it. This helps you to be more spontaneous. Why is this important? Because as a writer you are writing people, people don’t talk or act always the way we vision as perfect, by learning how to be more spontaneous your characters then will act more like real people. Spontaneity can also help with writers block by helping you let go of things that you think have to happen and find alternatives.
Being creative in a group setting
- Improv is a group class. Terrifying, I know, but writing isn’t always a solo sport. Most TV shows have writers rooms where you will sit for hours a day beating out plots, ideas, characters, and more before going off to write your script by yourself. In the traditional writing classes, you will most likely work on projects alone. Improv classes give you the unique experience to learn how to work with others, say yes to their ideas, and support other creative people. It also gives you a safe place to fail when it comes to group ideas. Failing is important, it helps you grow and if you can make your mistakes in a group setting before you’re getting paid for it, everyone will be happier.
- Dialogue seems to be something either you’re really good with or not so much. It’s hard. It’s something that does not come naturally to me when it comes to my characters. Improv classes will let you rapid fire many different characters and take on their voice. Sometimes it won’t work, but it’s a great way to learn how to develop dialogue as you won’t be doing it alone and you’re not committed to keeping your characters long term. It’s like speed dating and, who knows, you might find some great inspiration.
- Once you can learn to let go and really commit to an improv class it is a blast! We are writers, writing is fun! Keeping the fun in your creative endeavors makes a huge difference and improv really reinforces this.
If you’re an aspiring writer, give it a try. I promise you won’t be disappointed!