Maybe you’ve heard the idea that knowing the name of something gives power over the thing. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but there is power in the naming of things.
In a creation like a story or improv scene, naming things lends specificity and that specificity can be a foundation on which the rest of the story is built.
An improv teacher once suggested a way to further a scene was to reach into your pocket and pull out a [mimed] object, letting whatever it is be a surprise to both you and your scene partner.
Of course a key piece of that is the naming of the object. Since it’s improv, the identity of the object is only limited by the imagination. It could be a badminton racket. It doesn’t fit, you say? But the pocket is really large. Or it’s a magic pocket and could contain anything.
Yet, in spite of the fact that a player can be anyone, the setting can be anywhere, and an object can be anything, I’ve noticed there can be a funny resistance to naming things during improv scenes.
Maybe we’re afraid of making a “wrong” choice.
Whatever it is, I’ve found that it takes practice to let an idea pop into your head and just go with it, no matter how absurd, boring or incongruous it may seem. It’s worth practicing because naming something is a gift to everyone in the scene. It gives them something to riff off of.
Here’s a silly example.
A: “Hurry or you’ll be late for your appointment.”
B: “Right. I just have to grab the stuff I need and I’ll be ready to go.”
A: “Hurry or you’ll be late for your job interview.”
B: “Right. I just have to grab my chess board and some lubricant and I’ll be ready to go.”
Chess board and lubricant? What the hell? Strange, maybe, but I’m more curious where the second of these will go. Furthermore, I’d rather be in the second scene because it’s already (after only two lines) brimming with interesting offers.
Have you ever had a hard time naming something in your writing or while doing improv?