The power of improv!

Three of the stories I’ve worked on recently have used improv to solve plot problems. Not that I used improvisation, but the characters did.

In Mage’s Masquerade, for example, I’d straightened out most of the plot problems with the original story but one remained: the villain’s method of murder was absurdly cumbersome. My solution was to throw in added elements that showed his original scheme had come unstuck and within a couple of days would unravel completely. His solution was to pull a murder plan out of his butt, so understandably it’s not a brilliant plan.

In Bleeding Blue magic has returned to the world and menstruating women work like a dispel magic spell. This has led to women getting drafted for “shield duty” with the cops and getting an absurdly limited amount of training. My explanation was that the draft system is cobbled together and like so many political projects, not well designed: nobody wanted to spend money training millions of women before they were drafted and once they got a bad draft number they didn’t have time for training.

I think this is a legit approach. Certainly other writers have used it. Steve Englehart, for instance, had the final battle between the Ultraverse heroes the Strangers and their archfoe the Pilgrim wrap up in the Night Man Annual (yes, the same character who showed up on TV in the late 1990s). The Pilgrim had a perfect plan for dealing with the Strangers but it didn’t factor in the Night Man getting involved. As the hero puts it (IIRC) “You had to imrprovise — and jazz isn’t your thing”

However I don’t intend to make this a constant feature of my work. It would get annoying and probably turn into too much of a hand-wave. It’s convenient but like any shtick, I shouldn’t overuse it

#SFWApro. Cover by (I believe) Rick Hoberg.

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Filed under Short Stories, Story Problems, Writing

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