Friday, May 2, 2014

The Power of Saying, "YES!"

We hear a lot in this modern age about knowing how to say, "No."

"No" to more responsibilities.

"No" to bringing something to the bake sale at school.

"No" to door-to-door salesmen in the garb of Girl Scouts.

"No" to that impulse buy at Wal-Mart.

And these are all legitimate things to which to say, "No," if the Holy Spirit is leading you in that way.


Yet as a writer, I must constantly exercise the power of saying, "Yes."

When I taught children's theatre, we incorporated improvisation warm-ups. The most important rule of improv is this:


Always say, "Yes."

When your improv partner suggests going to the circus, say, "Yes, let's go."

When your improv partner asks if you could help her fix her screened door, say, "Of course."

When he asks if you want to walk the dog, say, "Sure, why not?"


If you say, "No," during an improv warm-up, you risk stopping the action and you force your partner to find another question to put to you, hoping that you'll say, "Yes," this time!

And, of course, there are {rare} times when you are creating a strange sort of character who might always answer in the negative, perhaps for a comic effect.

But the vast majority of the time, in improv, the actors should support one another - notice I didn't say agree with one another - by saying, "Yes."

Writing is a lot like improv.

The more I write, the more I'm convinced of this. Book scenes compose chapters just as, in a play, scenes combine to create acts. Sometimes, for those of us who combine plotting with fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writing, it's hard to figure out how to get from one scene to another, how to show growth in the character.


Perhaps, though, even saying, "no," turns into a "yes." the sense of saying, "no," to one thing means we say, "yes" to something else. In a very prosaic example, if I say, "no" to having oatmeal for breakfast, I'm saying yes to something else, whether that's another kind of breakfast or just plain going hungry {a VERY rare choice for me!}.


So I've been practicing this principle this week with my current project {details on that soon!}.

My main character has come to a crisis to which I thought she was going to say, "no." I've felt a little stuck-in-the-mud with how to get this character from here to there - I usually know how the story needs to end in the most basic sense. And so I came to that crisis and I thought to myself, What if she says "yes" instead of "no?" I could feel the main character's fear as she answered in the affirmative to something that seemed out-of-character for her... but really wasn't; I had just begun to stereotype my own character, if you can believe that!


The funny thing was, the plot began to move again as soon as she said that magic word.

It opened up all sorts of doors!

{As a sidenote: This is true in the Bible as well. If Eve had said, "No," what kind of story would we have had?!

None, my friends. None. And look at Adam. Now there's a man who would have made an excellent improv artist.

Eve: Would you like a piece of fruit?
Adam: Yes!

I am in no way advocating sin or celebrating the Fall of Man, but there it is.}


We talked a lot about doors last week.

You know, I'm starting to see every opportunity I present my characters with as another door. And I'm also beginning to sense that my main character better answer in the affirmative most of the time because I'm finding that storytelling is a lot like improv.


See, the Good Lord knew theatre would come in handy someday.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on this as well ... Feel free to drop a comment below.

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