Eight Ways To Be Good With The Improv

I had to share this one – I absolutely love the advice. I’ve done improv before , and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I love how this advice can apply to forming a writing group and talking about your fiction – writers also have to be supportive of each other, take notes, and not take criticism harshly. Share your work, whatever form it takes, get that feedback, and get good at giving feedback – that’s the life of any good artist.

People and Chairs

Wherever you are on your improv journey, these tips can help you get more joy.

1. Support the shit out of each other.

When someone makes a move, be the first to support it. Don’t wait to figure out what they’re doing, just respond.

Match their energy, heighten the move, scene paint, narrate…anything to add to it. It should look like you knew the move was coming, and love the idea. Move as a team.

Sometimes support means knowing when to edit. Your gut always knows when it’s time, so don’t hesitate if it’s telling you to sweep.

And support doesn’t stop with your team.

Attending other people’s shows adds your energy to the room, not to mention the show. Even better, bring friends and family from outside the community to share the experience.

And why not buy your favourite improviser a beer after the show? You can’t afford it?…

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“Snow Day” Revisited – The Old Geezer’s Word

One of the reasons I’m posting a lot of work on this blog is that it gives me freedom to revisit and revise anything I post. While I do put in an honest effort to get good work posted here, I also hold myself to a time limit. I aim not to let any work posted here take me longer than two days. I know full well that this means some works won’t be as good as others, but it also means I’m constantly writing and sharing.

Anyway, I went back to my earlier flash “Snow Day”. A good friend on Facebook had asked me “What happens next?” I took it pretty bad. Good flash fiction (or any other form submitted as a complete story) shouldn’t prompt that question! I thought of weaseling out and saying “Oh, I meant it to be part of a series all along!” – and that’s how I got started on today’s piece. Instead of revising that work for a better ending, I thought of looking at it from the burglar’s point of view, and found out he was caught off-guard by both the sudden snow and the presence of two young boys in the house.

I’ll post today’s piece as is, in keeping with my two-day limit (which this has violated by quite a bit). One known issue is the radio at the start of Snow Day that magically turns itself off – today’s piece runs with it being off when the robber comes in. I’ll likely come back to both stories again, but for now:

The Old Geezer’s Word

Damn, I’ve made a mess of this job. Come on, where’d you put the damn necklace?

I look to the window. The snow keeps coming, thickening the blanket over my only way out. I turn pack to the pile of jewelry, running my gloved fingers through the pile of necklaces and rings I’ve removed from small boxes. Gold, a few diamonds, maybe some silver too. A few hundred dollars, a thousand if I’m lucky. The real prize is still missing. Dammit Ellie, you didn’t let Willie take it with him, did you?

One more drawer. I yank it, dump it on the floor. More clothes – stockings and panties, mostly. A younger me might be excited by the sight of her underwear. Ellie had made it clear, twice, that my love for her was unwanted. Two stabs through the heart. Wounds that had only just healed and hardened. I could even get used to the idea of never seeing her again.

Nothing else in this drawer; just clothes. Inspiration hits, and I check the hallow bureau now stripped of its drawers. I check my gloves again before feeling around the inside. Dammit. No clever hiding place here, just the thumps of my fingers on cheap fibreboard.

I dash over to the wardrobe, throw open its white doors. I smile as carefully wrapped presents greet my eyes. I toss the boxes on the bed, taking care not to throw too hard. Donnie and Stevie hardly deserve to have their Christmas ruined by the likes of me. A stink of mothballs nearly gags me once I’m past the presents. There, sitting on the hardwood floor under dresses carefully arranged on their hangers, is a box. I know its size, its black velvet. I can see Ellie’s face as Willie opens it for her, right at midnight of New Year’s.

That happy face had haunted me through a full bottle of Jack’s Finest, generously provided by Old Ralph at the bar in the long hours before dawn. He had listened to my bawling the whole night, had promised to help again if I needed it. I’d have taken him up, rather than get into this mess, but I just couldn’t ask more of the poor geezer.

Back in the present, I open the box. Jackpot.

What’s that? Dear fuck no – is someone else here? I grab madly at whatever silver and gold trinkets I can scoop from the pile, and stuff it all in the overcoat’s large pockets. The real treasure stays in my other hand, embedded into the palm of my closed glove.

As I step quickly down the hall, two small forms dart across the kitchen ahead. They’re supposed to be with you, Willie, you bastard! The door’s shuttering slam punctuates my anger. I tear it open, stepping back on to the porch. Donnie’s leading Stevie over the growing pile of snow, away from me around the house. The loud groan of a bus engine echoes from across the crescent.

Not going back that way. I take to the back yard, scrambling as fast as I can manage over the snow. One wrong step, and I’m in ankle deep, cursing as slush fills the crack between wool sock and boot. I pull onward, getting myself to the fence between Ellie’s place and Old Ralph’s. I follow the fence, more careful with steps. I’m at the back corner, ready to scramble up, when Ralph’s voice cuts across the yard.

“Stop it there!”

I open my palm, and the sharp weight drops silently over the lip of the fence. I continue to climb, knowing full well that the man behind can easily reach me before I can throw myself over.

I’ve got one leg swung over the fence, just as the old man’s rough hand finds my other ankle. I look down into Old Ralph’s weathered face. He’s stoic as he glances behind him, looking for the small crowd that followed him. They are just coming around now – they’ll be here a few more beats of my overworked heart.

An icy glare passes between us. His sage brown eyes blink once. Then, with a sudden thrust from his arm, I’m tumbling over the fence. Air gasps out of me as my back hits an icy patch on the other side. Without even realizing it, I clasp my hand out at a shiny object, clutching it to my chest as I pull myself up. Somehow, through maddening pain, I can shuffle off the ice.

“He got away, the sonofabitch!”

Old Ralph’s curse echoes from over the fence as I scramble away through the small, snow-blanketed forest surrounding the suburb.


After a second’s hesitation, I let him in. Don’t know how he’s tracked me here, but I’m not surprised. With the two of us taking up its space, the tiny motel room grows even smaller.

“Cops won’t bother you,” Old Ralph said as he sat on the corner of the stripped bed, “Checked in with some old friends in the precinct. Yer wanted for questioning, but they’re off looking the wrong way thanks to a tip I may have dropped.”

I shake my head. “Why?”

“You remember the whiskey? My promise?”

He leaves the question hanging in the cold air between us, as he takes me in with a hard stare. Slowly, I nod.

“Consider it paid. My word is my word, dammit. You could have asked for money, I suppose, but we both know I can’t give as much as that necklace will fetch.”

I shake my head in wonder. “God. Still can’t believe the kids were there when I took it – they’re okay, right?”

“You’d be in the slammer now if they were anything but.” His stare remains, unmoving. “You couldn’t have known – I already figured that part out. Don’t worry about the damage or the loss, either. Insurance will cover that just fine – Ellie’s seen to that, and I might have pulled a few strings with old contacts myself.”

“I … well, thank you, I guess.”

“You leave. Never let me or anyone of us see you. That clear enough, son?”

I lift the corners of my mouth against the weight of guilt.

“Clear enough, old man.”

Fear averted – My boy’s going to be alright

My wife and I are especially happy tonight – after a long day of fretting and fear, our little boy has left the hospital with only a few stitches in his nose.

During those hours when we didn’t know, when we were waiting for the CT results, my thoughts came out as the following piece. I always say that I don’t write poetry, and yet, sometimes my writing looks just a bit like it.

Fear averted

My boy is in their care
Men wearing masks study
Seek inside, analyze, diagnose
Fate in their hands, fear in my head

Pacing linoleum halls,
Blind to all but my own

The fall repeats in fevered memory
That damned second my hands weren’t there

A messenger at last. My heart misses a beat.


Fates have been kind to mete out this goodness
Despite hours lost, anticipation spent,
Relief is all I need to feel.

We leave the sterility
Our blessings plain,
Our joy immeasurable.


Recovery Through Words

Under needful eyes, I tend to those I love.
There is happiness, laughter at times. Moments of mirth.

One second, all is at peace. Then, I slip.
I missed something. I forgot. I reacted improperly.

Scorn. Disappointment.
Another failure, a scrap torn from the tattered tapestry of my soul.

Forgiveness comes, more laboured with each little wrong.
Determined, I pull on, speaking through keys rapidly tapped in the dark of night.

Expression is my saviour, sharing is my deliverance.
For only paper or screen serves as canvas for my inner self.
Only with a palette of 26 colours can I paint its beauty.

Writing Workout – Snow Day

Source: Wikipedia

So I was on a website called Writing Workout, (www.writing-workout.com) today, and I tried out one of their exercises. I tried a recently added exercise, which got me to describe aspects of a certain type of weather, and then combine them with a crime that happens in that weather. I was given “A sudden snow” and “A burglary” to combine into a story.

I encourage my readers to stop by Writing Workout – the exercises there are great when you’re faced with a blank page and the dreaded writer’s block!

This is what came out of my prompts:

Snow Day

Our gleeful giggles stop as the back door creeks open. We stare to the back of the kitchen, shivering both with fear and the breeze cutting through the cracks in our shelter. The announcer goes on, droning through the school closings. Finally finished with distant counties, he goes through more familiar names of nearby schools. A crazy voice inside me is angry, and wants to keep listening. As an unfamiliar boot forces through the opening door, I ignore the voice and whisper to my little brother.

“Living room, now!”

As the rest of the stranger creeps in, Stevie doesn’t fuss like he usually does. He’s in the living room ahead of me, and we both run to the sofa. We push it forward as we squeeze in behind. My back sweats as a warm belch from the furnace blasts behind my feet, up the back of my sweater. There’s a faint stink of burnt gasoline, tickling my nose, but I try to hold my breath. We both breathe out after the booted clomps follow the hall away from the living room, toward Mom’s bedroom. We’ve got to call her, I think. I’m too scared to try the phone in the kitchen – the burglar has to leave that way.

I peel the curtain from the living room window. A grey world, blanketed under white. The snow is thicker every minute. I imagine being buried in it, right up to my neck. I can just see the front door of the house from this angle. The top window of the door is barely visible – even if I could get it open, the snow is too deep for a quick getaway.

More thumps from Mom’s room now. I imagine drawers, torn from Mom’s favorite antique dresser and turned upside down as the burglar looks for her jewelry. An icy wind blows through my hair. It’s from the kitchen – the door’s still open!

Could we? I look to Stevie, getting him to peek over the old sofa. He follows my eyes, but he shakes his head quickly. Another loud thump sounds from Mom’s room.

I grab Stevie’s hand, yanking as I dash. His hand slips, but I run anyway. I’m at the open door in a few steps. Stevie’s stranded in the middle, looking between our hiding place and the door. Booted thumps sound as the burglar approaches. Stevie chooses the door. We’re out, slamming it so hard that the back porch shakes.

White continues to pile up around us. I think briefly how the burglar’s footprints aren’t even visible now. My brother and I shiver, dressed only in our sweaters and jeans.

The door creaks open again. My brother and I run. My toes get number in my cold, wet socks. I whisper a thanks to the snow anyway – we only sink a little as we run over it. We’re around the house, coming to the front.

Our school bus! Its yellow paint shines instead of today’s missing sun! The driver, Mr. Roberts, has the door open, and is shouting at neighbors gathered around. Some of them are behind the bus, pushing and grunting as Mr. Roberts spins the wheels on the snowy road. Kids laugh and tease as they press their faces against the insides of the bus’s windows.

Seeing our crazy run, the driver stops. He jumps out, and he’s joined by many familiar faces turning to us in astonishment.

“Burglar!” I yell, shivering as I stop before him.

Good Old Ralph, our neighbour, only needs the one word. He leads a small pack of neighbours back the way my brother and I ran. I imagine the robber, trying to get through the snow in our back yard. He might make it over the fence, I think, but Ralph is super fast when he’s angry.

The driver and the other neighbours lend us jackets, taking us inside of the school bus. It’s noisy and only a little warmer than outside. Other kids point and laugh, but they move away when the other parents yell at them. Stevie and I get the seat behind the driver’s chair, shivering even with the big jackets on. One nice old lady, Ms. Carlyle I think, tells us that Mom called her. Mom’s on her way, but traffic and snow are likely to keep her a bit.

“Our school didn’t get canceled?” I ask Ms. Carlyle and Mr. Roberts.

“It did, but I heard too late,” Mr. Roberts said, “I was already turning into the crescent when I got the holler on the radio!”

I grin as I look turn to Stevie.

“Yes!” we shout as we trade high-fives.

One-Minute Writer – Ancient Life

This prompt over at One-Minute Writer asks about the job you see yourself having if you had lived hundreds of years ago.

My answer:

I could see myself as a travelling merchant. Wandering into shoddy inns and taverns, seeking the local gossip and learning which wares are most needed or popular.

At the same time, I’d take in so much of common folks’ lives. I’d have tales to share, which might even get me in good with the managers of the taverns I patronize. If I could read and write, I’d be writing up my tales on the side of all my work. If I couldn’t, I’d seek out the scribes of all the cities I visit – perhaps they’d find some interested eyes for my tales.