At Blacktop we love telling a good story. Improvisers are storytellers. We're actors, and actresses, and we have lots of stories that want to be told. I fell in love with improv because we don't know what stories we're going to share, until that moment happens. We're all discovering this together! Audience and performer are on the same "where-is-this-going," page. Yes, we definitely love making the audience laugh, giving them something to talk and smile about the next day, and we've found the best jokes are tied in with a story. "Well, how do we best tell a story?" good question! Blacktop Comedy definitely has our techniques and methods, but those always evolve. There's no one way to tell a story. Our performers take classes, read books, and listen to new ideas. We study the approaches of UCB, iO, Annoyance, BATS, and many, many more. We also come across some real gems online, and want to share everything we learn with you.
Pixar are masters of storytelling. They've created many classics (Toy Story, Up, The Incredibles, WALL E). I recently came across a list of 22 Rules of Storytelling. The website, io9 was nice enough to compile the list from the tweets of Emma Coats, Pixar storyboard artist. It's a really brilliant list, and I hope it helps you in your storytelling and improv!
22 RULES OF STORYTELLING:
#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
#2: You gotta keep in mind what's interesting to you as an audience, not what's fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.
#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won't see what the story is actually about til you're at the end of it. Now rewrite.
#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
#8: Finish your story, let go even if it's not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
#9: When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you've got to recognize it before you can use it.
#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you'll never share it with anyone.
#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it's poison to the audience.
#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What's the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That's the heart of it.
#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don't succeed? Stack the odds against.
#17: No work is ever wasted. If it's not working, let go and move on - it'll come back around to be useful later.
#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d'you rearrange them into what you DO like?
#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can't just write ‘cool'. What would make YOU act that way?
#22: What's the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.