How to Improvise a Story.
A simple secret to creating memorable stories on-the-spot.
One of the problems of limitless possibilities is... well... it's limitless!
That can be a bit overwhelming. It can help you to have a structure. If an artist can paint anything and everything, that's a little too much possibility. But, when they have a particular canvas they are painting, that limits them. If the canvas is only 3 feet wide, they won't try to paint a 6 foot wide painting. Hopefully.
They'll work within the boundaries of the structure.
There are a number of ways you can structure a story. Each genre has its own main structures. A mystery story has a typical layout, as does a Sci-Fi story. But, the underlying structure is often very similar. This can be helpful when coming up with something on the spot.
The most basic way of thinking about a typical story is this:
- There are some people.
- They have some problems.
- They fix them and live happily ever after.
Another way we can look at it is...
The Story Arc
The story arc is the basic structure of what happens in many stories:
"Once upon a time..."
"And, every day..."
"Until one day..."
"And, ever since that day..."
"Once upon a time there was a boy who loved his cow. And, every day his family had little food to eat. Until one day his mother made him sell the cow so they could buy more food. And, then, he sold the cow for some magic beans. And, then, the magic beans turned into a magic beanstalk. And, then, he climbed the beanstalk and discovered giant sin the sky who tried to kill him for stealing their harp. Until finally, he killed the giants and was hailed as a hero. And, ever since that day his family has had plenty of money and food."
Or try this on for size:
"Once upon a time there was a boy kept in a cupboard. And, every day his step family treated him like dirt. Until one day he found out he was a wizard. And, then he went to wizarding school and learning he was special. And, then a dark wizard tried to kill him. And, then that dark wizard tried to have him killed a whole bunch of other ways.Until finally he killed the dark wizard in a way that was very fair and really not his fault. And, ever since that day there's been peace for the wizarding world and he married his best-friend's sister."
(The moral of that story is: keep kids in the cupboard so they become magical! At least, that’s what I took away from it...)
The Story Arc can be useful, especially to beginners who are worried about what to say or do next. The challenge is that if you make it habitual, you're stories or scenes can become formulaic.
One trick is that you can start in any section of the arc. For example, in the middle. You can also jump around from one point in the arc to another.
You may want to take some movies and books and see how they fit into the story arc, as an exercise. By learning to utilize it as a tool, you can feel more confident in your ability to generate stories off-the-cuff.
The most important thing you can do to become an amazing storyteller is this: do it a lot! The more you practice, the better you get! And, if you want additional tips, tools and techniques, join me at the next Captivating Storyteller Masterclass!
The Captivating Storyteller Masterclass
If you enjoyed this article, you'll want to check out my full-day masterclass filled with all sorts of valuable tools, techniques and skills. Grab your audience in a powerful way and keep them on the edge of their seats.