Improv for screenwriters – Yes-And
The basic rule of improv is “yes and.” If someone offers information, you say “Yes…” and then add some information.
A: “Did you hear about the logger?”
B: “Yes and it’s crazy that he went mad and killed those 16 people in that diner.”
A: “Yes, and I was lucky to escape.”
B: “Yes and I’m sorry you lost your leg… and your football scholarship.”
A: “Yes, and now I work in the mines”
B: “Yes, and you always remind us about the logger. It made national news. We all know.”
A: And scene.
You can use yes/and to accomplish any scene you want, just cut out the “yes/ands”
There are nuances to this, but this is something a screenwriter ought to know how to do, especially if they have trouble with scenes.. The better you are at improv, the better your yes and’s will be. I’m sure someone will chime in with exceptions to the rule, and you’ll get to see me wildly try to bend over backwards to justify how this generally helpful simplification is still applicable.
As scenes go, it’s not the best. It’s shaky and expository. But it’s actually more coherent than a lot of beginner scenes because it’s got a clear intent, and every line agrees with each other.
Improv doesn’t necessarily create “finished” scenes, but it helps to create the understanding, character empathy, and immediacy you’ll need to finish a scene.
Here’s the same scene only more polished. Yes and-ing creates the understanding that you need before you can apply more advanced technique.
If you want to test me on this, offer up any line of dialogue you want in the comments section, and I’ll yes and a scene with you. I’ll reply “Yes and ____” and you do the same after, and we’ll continue until one of us calls “scene.”