Saturday, November 04, 2006

Winging It

Nobody is likely to accuse Chris Grabenstein of failing to market himself sufficiently. The former improvisational comic turned author (Tilt-A-Whirl, Slay Ride) is not only interviewed in the latest edition of Mystery Morgue, but he’s “on the bubble” with Elaine Flinn in the Murderati blog. In the Morgue piece, he explains how his improv experience has benefited him as a novelist:

I think the training I got doing improvisational comedy (the secret is to always say “Yes .. and”) in front of a live audience for five years in an East Village basement club has helped all my writing--first advertising copy, now mysteries and thrillers.

Most people know improv these days from
Whose Line Is It Anyway? It’s basically a game where you take what the audience suggests and build a scene, story or song from there. All those years writing advertising, that’s what I did. I’d take the Unique Selling Proposition and twirl it around a hundred different ways.

And now, it’s more or less how I write my books. When I started
Tilt-A-Whirl, I had the seed of the [John] Ceepak character planted in my brain. My dog, on one of our many walks, suggested a straight arrow like John C. needed a “Watson” [to] handle the narration, so Danny Boyle was created. Then, I started playing improv games ... with the title. Tilt-A-Whirl. A ride that, when operated correctly, is completely unpredictable. So, I started weaving a tale with enough spins that it would operate like a Tilt-A-Whirl. When I started Mad Mouse, I did the same thing. Improvised all the different meanings of what those two words could mean. Are you a man or a mouse? Can a mouse go crazy?

I think there is a courage or stupidity that comes from doing all those shows in front of all those late-night audiences, many of whom were feeling no pain due to the availability of alcoholic beverages in the East Village at 10 p.m. on a Saturday. There are no mistakes in improv. You just keep trusting your partners and your instincts and saying, “Yes, and ...”

That full interview can be found here.

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