One Word Story

One: the lowest cardinal number used to refer to a single entity.

The rules of this classic improv game are simple. Sit in a circle with friends or family and tell a coherent story ONE word at a time. Sounds easy, right? Well, it's harder than it seems.
You might have a really fantastic idea where things should be headed, but you must accept what you are given and build on it, even if it's a word that takes the story in an unexpected direction. Because you can’t know what the person before you is going to say, there is no way to pre-plan. It is the ultimate spontaneous collaboration exercise.
Remember, the primary goal is to make sense without taking long pauses to think. Even a short word like “is” or “a” counts as a turn. If anyone says more than one word in a turn, the game is over. Start again.

Here’s a first sentence by my creative students:

One word told lt blue

Variation: Players decide on the story genre ahead of time. Ex: Fairy Tale, Ghost Story, Romance

Here’s the beginning of a fairy tale by my creative students:

One word fairy tale lt blue

Have each player write words on slips of paper and place them in a hat. At the start of the game, the first player picks the starting word. Below are words suggested by my students:one word starters blue


Pick two or three random words that must be included in your story. But don’t forget the primary goal— The story must make sense!

Once you’ve played One Word Story you will really appreciate the skills of these master improv performers from Whose Line is It Anyway.

And now some street art...

4 new sharkStreet Art in Detroit

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We are human. We are creative.

Always Say Yes!

Yes: A word used to express affirmation or to mark the addition of something, emphasizing and amplifying a previous statement.

 No: A negative used to express dissent, denial, or refusal.

That we need physical exercise is an accepted fact. Everyone knows you should join a gym. Lift weights. Go for a run. But the brain needs a workout, too. Especially the right brain. Think of improvisation as mental calisthenics. If you get tired of dinner conversations centered around passing the butter, try playing an improv game. The mother of them all is Always Say Yes!
The rules are simple. Ask someone a question. It's more fun if you act your emotions. For example, if you are asking if the person crashed your car, do so sternly. Act delighted if you’re asking if the person polished all twenty pairs of your shoes. All answers, even if the question is incriminating, must begin with “Yes.”
There are two ways to play this game. "Yes and…" adds information. "Yes, but…" also adds information, but often takes the form of an excuse. Either answer should include specific detail that connects to and builds upon the reality. (Avoid generic responses like: “Yes, but I wanted to.”) Stanford Graduate School of Business (Yes, improv is included in their curriculum!) prefers teaching "Yes, and" because it promotes contribution and forward motion. However, as a game, I find "Yes, but" equally creative. (And we can all use practice in coming up with brilliant excuses, right?)

Examples From My Imaginative Students to Inspire You.

Yes and gorilla

yes but gorilla

When you have mastered the game, try adding characters. Address the person by a character name. The “Yes, and...” reply should connect to the character. Here's some family-friendly characters to get you started: Tooth Fairy, Spiderman, Easter Bunny, Spy, Pirate, Beauty Queen, Giant, Mermaid.

More Inspiration From my Students

yes and Santa

yes but Santa

By saying yes, we accept the reality created by our partners. By connecting to characters and adding new details, we begin the collaborative process. “No” is the easiest word to say, but denial stops the action. So have fun saying “Yes!”

PS: If I haven't yet convinced you of the value of improv, please read this great article by Ai Vuong:


And now some street art...

2 Plant monster newStreet Art in Montreal

Thinking out of the Box no background

We are human. We are creative.

The Value of Improvisation

Improvisation: to compose, utter, execute, or arrange anything extemporaneously from whatever materials are readily available, on the spur of the moment without previous preparation.

Since many of the creative exercises I will offer in this blog require improvisation, I decided to make it the subject of my first post.
We improvise multiple times a day without even noticing. In a traffic snarl, we make a quick route change. Can’t remember someone’s name? We find ways to hide the fact while maintaining a polite conversation. We ad-lib recipe ingredients. Deal with wardrobe malfunctions. Flat tires. Lost phones. Injuries. Any sort of emergency instantly pushes us into improv mode.
Clearly, improvisation enables us to handle the unexpected. But it is also fundamental to creativity. Improvisation requires spontaneity. Spontaneity requires flexibility. Flexibility allows ideas to grow and morph into new ideas. If a path turns out to be a dead end, a flexible person will discover a new one. Thus, the flexible mind–the mind capable of improvisation–is the creative mind.
Improvisation, commonly called improv, is also a popular form of theater in which everything is made up in the moment, based on offers from the audience. In the blink of an eye, setting and characters are created, relationships established, and connections made to the wildest of suggestions. The magic is the spontaneity.
Whether you are a performer or a spectator, there is nothing like improv to put you in the moment. It’s a very Zen-like experience, though, personally, I find it much more entertaining than meditation. Furthermore, improv promotes mental agility, focus and concentration, strategizing and problem solving skills, confidence and the ability to express oneself more effectively. (No wonder top-tier business schools, Duke, UCLA, MIT and Stanford are all teaching improv.)
With the help of Google you can find improv performances and classes all over the world. Here’s a list to get you started in Canada and the US:


In future posts I will share creative improv games you can play with family and friends, (or even by yourself.) Now, thanks to YouTube, you can watch some masters of the art.


Whose Line is it Anyway?

Upright Citizens Brigade Theater NYC

Upright Citizens Brigade Theater Los Angeles

And now some street art…

Butterfly 800pxStreet Art in San Miguel de Allende

Thinking out of the Box no background

We are human. We are creative.