Prompts, prompts everywhere, and not a chance to think

As you might’ve noticed, many of my posts are responses to challenges posted by Chuck Wendig over at Terrible Minds. Why’s that? Short answer is, the challenges are good mental exercise and keep me writing when I’m not feeling terribly creative.

The long answer is because I’ve yet to find another site that has decent challenges. I’ve found some pretty bad ones lately…like comparing the Channel Four version of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” to the Drew Carey/ABC version.

The original Whose Line used a lot of games that did not need extra players, soundtracks or greenscreens. It was just four guys and maybe some props, along with audience suggestions. Suggestions tended to be vague and short. This forced the performers to fill in the blanks themselves. It meant some scenes fell apart, but others were stellar.

Nowadays, the format is so hemmed-in that it virtually guarantees an identical show each time. Wayne Brady will always get a song challenge. At least one of the song challenges will require him to serenade a woman from the audience. Colin Mochrie always get the disgusting green-screen challenge. The group scene games take 5 minutes to explain and set up because of all the “suggestions” that are now requirements.

It’s almost scripted, these days, which defeats the purpose of improv.

And when I see a challenge that goes like this:

“You are 6-years-old and at your best friend’s birthday party. The kids from your class are donned in party hats and on a sugar high from the cake. It’s your turn at the piñata, but things go horribly awry and your best friend ends up in tears. From a child’s first-person point of view, write this scene, the dialogue or actions that cause the dilemma, the reactions from the children and parents in attendance and the fallout. Be sure to include details, such as location, party decor and background music, to set the scene.”

I don’t even know what to say. This isn’t a prompt, this is a plot-by-numbers.

How am I supposed to gauge my progress with this? How is anyone? It’s like using your foosball skills to predict how you’ll do in the World Cup. (Spoiler alert: You’re gonna die.)

So I will stick with Chuck’s challenges, because they actually are challenging.




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