Improv Flow

Improvisational writing is a great way to hone writing skills and beat writer’s block. But even improv can cause blocking, so I’ve implemented what I call “Improv Flow”.

A single prompt is all that’s needed for some kids, but I’ve found that we all benefit with an occasional boost midway. We start with a prompt, then follow it up with a new one every 5 minutes or so. I use an iOS app called Writing Challenge or sometimes the StoryCubes app. Other times, the prompts come out of my nutty mind. The kids never have to write about the prompts – they can do all, some, or none!

My middle school Creative Writing Club meets most Wednesdays, and it goes something like this:

  • Share our struggles or ask questions about our writing process.
  • 30 minutes of improvisational writing time
  • Several kids share their work
    • There’s never enough time for this, so we also have a group blog where we post and respond.

Here’s what we wrote about this week:

  • Takes place in a stable
  • Include dialogue that begins with: Don’t drink it!
  • Include dialogue that begins with: What are you doing here?
  • Add a character who receives a gift.
  • Include this sentence: He put on his hat.
  • Add this word: waist
  • Add a character who wants to leave as soon as possible

Remember that improv writing is supposed to be awful, so we always cut ourselves some slack. This is an excerpt from my work:

It wasn’t the best place to raise a child. Jillian knew this. Stop telling her – she’s heard it enough, dammit.

The stable had its good things though. The hay was soft and fragrant. There were bedrooms… sort of. Plenty to eat, if you like carrots. Um. The neighbors were friendly. HA! NEIGH-BORS.


Sadie liked it here. She truly did. The horses did her good. Every morning, she would greet each of them, running her hand over their soft muzzles and scritching their chins. Without fail, they returned her affection with soft whinnies and nickering, nuzzling back.

There was one little horse in particular. Rushes. He was a runt. Not very bright either. Not that there was anything wrong with that. Not that Jillian cared. Not that anyone should care. About anything.

Rushes found plenty of ways to get into trouble – Sadie thought maybe his eyesight was bad. But she’s not a doctor. Or a veterinarian. And she’s only seven, so, whatever.

“Don’t drink that!” She would shout. “Can’t you see it’s full of rotten stuff?”

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