Pride Unpacked

Billy Merritt has written a good note here about pride being an aid to specifics. He’s damned right. Why are so few of our characters proud of stuff? Perhaps in order to chicken out of having to be specific. It’s a chicken and egg problem. It might be useful to break down the pride principle into three more generalised statements:

  1. It’s better (on the whole)* to be positive about things than negative, especially when you’re trying establish details at the top of a scene. Try to like stuff.
  2. It’s better (on the whole) to introduce things your character owns and has control over. Your character can’t remain in complete control of everything, or there’ll be no drama/comedy, but if from the outset they’re in control of nothing then they become weaker and their choices become fewer. Try to have stuff.
  3. It’s better (on the whole) to introduce things your character has a personal investment in, rather than the random contents of an impersonal fictional world. These things will flesh out your character and create something that could be at stake. Try to connect to stuff.

If you start creating a world out of unpleasant, irrelevant, random objects, you won’t get very far. Being positive, in control or emotionally engaged will aid specificity and anchor your characters in a well-grounded scene. Being all three at once will give you stuff your characters are proud of, which is ace. Many scenes begin with characters tentatively exploring an unfamiliar environment full of unknown stuff, because that’s what the improvisers are doing. So much time could be saved by assuming the characters are in a world they are already comfortable with.

* Luke & Michael aims to be an undogmatic improv project. Any rules and laws seemingly expounded on this page come with a hefty set of disclaimers regarding their usefulness, perhaps best summarized by the addendum: “. . . although the opposite is also frequently the case”. No mischief is intended.

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