Why because? Because! That’s why.

If why is the question, because is the answer. The two go together like…well, like antagonist and protagonist. Or something.

Because precedes the reason for or the cause of.

Because also happens to be the key word in a story-building exercise I learned in improv called “Because of that…” I’ve played two versions of the game. Both have to do with cause and effect, but where one goes forward in time, the other works backward.

Version 1: (going forward)

The game is played in a circle and each person builds on what came before. One person starts with a simple sentence. The next person in the circle adds on using the general form, “Because [cause], [effect happens].” For example:

Person 1: “Bill was hungry.

Person 2: “Because Bill was hungry, he stopped by McDonald’s on the way to work.

Person 3: “Because Bill stopped by McDonald’s, he was late for work.

And so on: “Because he was late for work, Bill’s boss called him into her office.

Version 2: (working backwards)

This version uses the same setup, but takes the form: “[Some effect] because [of some cause].” For example:

Person 1: “Bill was hungry.

Person 2: “Bill was hungry because he had not eaten all day.

Person 3: “Bill had not eaten all day because he was so busy at work.

And so on: “Bill was so busy at work because he was a CPA and it was tax season.

Even though I learned this exercise in improv, the same process can be useful for writing. Sure, the fine detail from the examples above might be overkill for plotting out a story, but the focus can be pulled back. Instead of starting with such an acute thing as “Bill was hungry,” we could start with “Bill is unsatisfied with his life.” What does Bill do as a result?

I’ve always thought the first version is more useful for improv since most stories are told going forward in time. But the second version could be a good way to develop the back story of a character—especially in writing where the story isn’t being invented on stage in the moment. For instance, if Bill is a CPA, answering the why of that might give insight into who Bill is and what motivates him. Go far enough back and you may learn about his childhood or even his parents before he was born.

But even in improv I could see where, if it were possible, a quick imagining of the causes that led to whatever occurs at the beginning of a scene could give the players something to work with.

How do you build your stories?

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6 thoughts on “Because

  • 04-02-2013 at 11:40 am

    Great in a classroom because there is a potential for as many reasons as there are students. Would be fun memory game as well. I write with few words, syllables, simple haiku and poetic meter. Otherwise I really am not a writer.
    Why? Because…

    • 04-02-2013 at 8:34 pm

      I’m glad you mentioned there being many reasons. I had wanted to work that in to my post, but…didn’t. Fortunately, you filled in that gap for me. Thanks!

  • 04-02-2013 at 12:19 pm

    I don’t often write prose, either, just the occasional poem… metaphorically speaking, that tip could work just as well in poetry, though, methinks…
    So far your A to Z posts have been very well done. I’m guessing you will continue this trend and am now a real follower. CU at Z!!!


    I’m going to poke my nose around looking for fractals, before I leave..

    • 04-02-2013 at 8:38 pm

      Thank you for the comment! I don’t write much poetry, and I admit it hadn’t occurred to me that the exercise might work for that type of writing. If you try it, I’d love to see what you come up with!

      I think the only fractals I’ve posted on here are in post, A sampling of non-art. I also have a few on deviantART.

  • 04-02-2013 at 6:40 pm

    Your first line, “Why because? Because! That’s why.” made me think of conversations with my children.

    • 04-02-2013 at 8:39 pm

      I definitely had children’s conversations in my head when I wrote that. It reminded me of the sorts of “discussions” I had with my brother when we were little.


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