Part 3 in the series, “Writing Jumpstarts I Learned Accidentally at Writers Conferences”
I once spoke at a writers conference that featured an entertainment night. A segment of the festivities involved pulling audience members up on stage and dropping them into an improvisation scene. I got recruited. I was handed a note card that said, “You are selling magazine subscriptions door to door. Try to close a sale.” I was not allowed to explain to anyone else on stage what my note card said. I just had to start acting my part. The other four character-assignments were a cop on a beat, a senile old lady who’d lost her way, a dogcatcher in search of a stray mutt, and a robot.
The five of us were videotaped. Viewing the tape later, I was amazed at how smoothly all of us eased into our roles, created humor by way of pratfalls and jokes and adlibs and funny faces, and actually pulled together a silly yet somewhat feasible storyline.
Subsequently, I would often begin writing my novels by jotting short descriptions of six or eight characters on note cards and then jumbling the cards together, forcing myself to find out what these people would do if they were put “on stage” together. Invariably, it led to some clever plot concepts.
Next week, “Create the Physical Scene First”
Dennis E. Hensley, PhD, is director of the professional writing department at Taylor University in Upland, IN. His latest book is Jesus in the 9 to 5 (AMG Publishers). © 2014 by Dennis E. Hensley. All rights reserved.