Journey to the center of literary and movie genres

Do you want to tell memorable stories? Do you want your audience to recall your scenes? Do you want every spectator to feel moved by your performance? Then use the power of storytelling! Since thousands of years structures and common elements have backed the most entertaining and lasting stories. Our mind digest tales faster when they follow an already known pattern and makes connection to our childhood, bringing back our strong emotions from those days.

Length: 2 hours per genre is the workshop is held online
Punctuality: Due to the nature of the topic, every participant must understand the elements of each genre, I recommend to close the door after 15 minutes.


The key skills to learn are:

  • The main elements of each genre
  • What possiblities do these elements offer to set up the story plot and the characters?
  • How these elements influence the actitude of the characters? (Common archetypes)
  • What relationships are common inside this genre?

The following games can be done online


  • Ask the students to explain their expectations before starting the workshop. This helps you understand what they are looking for
    • Ask if they have watched any movie or read any book of this genre
  • Ask for feedback after each games to see if the students grasp the goals of them
  • A short break of 5 minutes after 60 minutes gives smokers the opportunity to go outside and reloads the energy of the group or go to the toilette.

Science Fiction - sci-fi

Presentation and warm-up

  • Flock Dance: The group randomly follows one player and there is a give and take. The moderator puts music and everyone turns off their microphones
  • Name + Emotion: One player chooses an emotion and calls the name of other player, the second player calls the first one using the emotion. The emotional state of both players increased until the second player chooses a new partner and an emotion. Then he/she calls him/her. Every time there are two players calling each other with a common emotion
  • Science-Fiction presentation: Each player present himself as he were a character of a science fiction movie travelling to the Earth. Use “Star Wars” if you don't know any character.and presents one object in his/her room which has advanced technology

Elements of the science fiction genre

The goal is to understand how to use them on stage to enhance our scenes.

Image credit: L.E. Spry on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0 The best authors of science fiction turn a "what if?" into a "why not?". It is an demanding genre, in terms of world building, compared to other genres.

Main elements:

  • Use of scientific understanding to explain the universe that it takes place in
    • Authentic world. Those explanations must be reasonable
    • Laws and rules of science can only be broken by a scientific discovery to back it, therefore making it into a new scientific law that works specifically in your world
    • The future advance of the technology and science are extrapolated
    • They include a human element, explaining what effect new discoveries, happenings and scientific developments will have on us in the future
  • The plot usually occurs in the future with the exception of the retro futurist subgenre where technological elements are added to historical epoches like the widespread use of steam machines for space travel in the 1800s
  • Non-human characters like robots, mutants, enhanced humans and alien beings. There is usually an encounter with nonhuman intelligence
  • Characters are familiar with that world while readers find it unfamiliar, strange, new and exciting
    • “An action packed chase scene is always fun, but when it happens in a world that is so unlike our own, it becomes ecstatic”, Georgina Roy

Common themes:

  • Space travel
  • Time travel
  • Use technological concepts and ideas which could rupture the everyday and aren't common today like virtual reality, brain-computer interface, bio-engineering, superintelligent computers, ray guns and other advanced weapons, interplanetary starships and androids
  • Utopias and dystopias and alternative societies
  • Environmental changes. Apocalipsis and post-apocalipsis
  • Sex and gender because works of fiction can present a multiplicity of new arrangements
  • Parallel universes: If a human being broke free from the conventional chains of causality, intriguing metaphysical puzzles ensued

Common conflicts:

  • People and their problems like “Freedom in a totalitarian but happy world” (Brave new world)
  • Machines and their problems like “A good robot gone bad” (Frankenstein)

Playing scenes with the science fiction genre

Games in pairs or quadruplets

  • Yes... and in pair. The goal is to invent a world for a science fiction movie. Please do a second round because the second world will have more details
  • Unfortunately / Fortunately The moderator creates a character (in a scinece fiction setting) using suggestion from the students. Then the students in pairs tells a story with that character.
  • Twin pillars (second description of the game) The players will be divided in groups of 4 players which will play two rounds. The “pillar” players will make a suggestion of a place and one character for science fiction scene.
  • Alphabet ABC-Game in a science fiction place. The players will be divided in groups of 4 players which will play two rounds.

Games for the whole group

  • The hitch hiker with characters. The moderator gives each player a number, so they know who they have to imitate :!: To follow an order online was confusing :!:
  • Disaster Movie With a disaster in a extraterrestial planet

Calm down

  • Count until 21

Crime and Mystery

Invitation text

Can you solve the crime with your improv skills? - Sunday's workshop

Hallo Rice Grains,

Let's free our criminal thoughts, hone our investigative tactics and withstand interrogation! Let's dive into the underworld of gangsters and detectives like Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie and C. Auguste Dupin and discover how to enrich our scenes with the main elements and characters found in those stories.

Reserve your spot here:


Looking forward to have fun with you!





Get interested in the other players

  • Crime presentation and a second player repeats: Each player tells his/her name and describes in four sentences one crime or mystery novel or movie they remember. Afterwards the moderator names the next player who has to repeat what the first one said. Then this player must present himself and a third must repeat. The goal is to get interested in what other players are saying

Elements of the crime and mystery genres

The goal is to understand how to use them on stage to enhance our scenes.

Main elements of crime fiction, detective stories and mystery and police novels

  • Early in the narrative, A crime was commited, it is planned (bank robbery) or some strange event has happened (robbery from a secure room)
  • Mystery: A puzzle must be solved. The solution must be plausibel. Some authors avoid technology in their novels (historical stories) to make them plausibel
    • There are a variety of suspects with different motives
    • The detective collects evidence about the crimes and its victim
  • The story follows the main character as he/she attempts to solve a puzzle (often a crime). Clues are discovered along the story and the puzzle is solved at the end. This main character could be involved in the crime as a perpetrator or as a victim
  • Suspense: The outcome is uncertain and the suspense resides in the question of who, what, or how. Or the outcome is inevitable from foregoing events, and the suspense resides in the audience's anxious or frightened anticipation in the question of when. It is a major device for securing and maintaining interest

Common characters

  • Detective either professional or amateur, who must figure out who committed the crime and why (and even how the crime was commited). It may be a lawer
  • Each suspect is usually provided with a credible motive and a reasonable opportunity for committing the crime.
  • Criminal: He/She is usually now arrested or punished (possibly by God)
  • Victim

Common themes

  • Gangsters: The crime underworld with it influence on its members, the police and their victims is portrayed
    • Hardbolied fiction: The genre's typical protagonist is a detective who battles the violence of organized crime that flourished during Prohibition (1920–1933) and its aftermath, while dealing with a legal system that has become as corrupt as the organized crime itself.Rendered cynical by this cycle of violence, the detectives of hardboiled fiction are often antiheroes. Notable hardboiled detectives include Philip Marlowe, Mike Hammer, Sam Spade, Lew Archer, and The Continental Op.
  • The caper story and the criminal novel: the stories are told from the point of view of the criminals
  • Spies usually working for an intelligence agency
  • Cozy mysteries: The murders take place off stage, frequently involving relatively bloodless methods such as poisoning and falls from great heights. And the invetigation takes place in a small, socially intimate community. Sex and violence are downplayed on this subgenre.
  • The locked-room or “impossible crime” mystery: The crime (almost always murder) is committed in circumstances under which it was seemingly impossible for the perpetrator to commit the crime or evade detection in the course of getting in and out of the crime scene. Real-life examples
  • Events occurring within a courtroom. The lives of the fictional attorneys, defendants, plaintiffs, or other persons related to the practice of law. Some legal dramas fictionalize real cases that have been litigated (Legal thrillers)

Additional details of this genre (in German)

Playing scenes with the crime and mystery genres

Games in pairs or quadruplets

  • Storytelling with movements :!: It is only possible in-person
  • Describe the crime scene: Two “detectives” say 2 sentences each describing the place where a crime occured. The next pair says 4 sentences each. Afterwards 6 sdentences are said. At the end 8 sentences must give lots of details of the place where the detectives are in.
  • Chain Murder Death LOL Profession, Weapon and Murder in fantasy language. :!: With groups of 4-5 people when done online
  • Gentle manipulation - dressage in a room where a murder was commited. The two players must find out two things about the murder and the victim
  • Hijacker: With one mean of transportation, one object and a goal

Games for the whole group

  • Deaf Replay with a crime scene (murder, robbery, kipnapping). What happened and who are the famous people involved has to be guessed
  • Murder Mystery (long form): Murder in a gathering with many suspects which are interviewed individually by a detective who has to guess how was the murder
  • Long form getting to a final scene: With an object as a suggestion from the audience, 4 people play scenes of crimes involving one criminal and the victim. The audience chooses one scene and the four players must play all the scenes ending in that murder

Calm down

  • Count until 21

If there is enough time

  • Pecking order: The three crooks The audience chooses the crime. Status game
  • Backwards Interview of an interrogation where the subjects accepts that he commited the crime. :!: If done online, in pairs
  • Character Quadrant: LOL Using the characters from a science fiction movie. If it is online, the moderator tells what two players are next. The goal is to tell a story by mixing all four scenes
  • Rolling scenes: The moderators defines the playing order by telling every participant who they follow. Player B starts a scene with player A. After 1-2 minutes, player A has to find an excuse to leave the scene. Then player C starts a scene with player B until he leaves the scene. Then player D comes in…
    • Ideally players who have seen science fiction movies follow people who haven't and they choose scenes from movies related to the last scenes played


Presentation and warm-up

  • Flock Dance: The group randomly follows one player and there is a give and take. The moderator puts music and everyone turns off their microphones
  • Name + Emotion: One player chooses an emotion and calls the name of other player, the second player calls the first one using the emotion. The emotional state of both players increased until the second player chooses a new partner and an emotion. Then he/she calls him/her. Every time there are two players calling each other with a common emotion
  • Present one object of your room: Each player takes one object of his room and the sells it as a miracle product for one minute
  • Headlines: The moderator tells who is next. Associating game to help everyone feel good about their own mistakes

Elements of infomercials

An infomercial is a form of television commercial. While the term “infomercial” was originally applied only to television advertising, it is now sometimes used to refer to any presentation (often on video) which presents a significant amount of information in an actual, or perceived, attempt to promote a point of view. When used this way, the term may be meant to carry an implication that the party making the communication is exaggerating truths or hiding important facts. Often, it is unclear whether the actual presentation fits this definition because the term is used in an attempt to discredit the presentation.

Main elements:

  • It is a television advertisement
  • Typically 28:30 or 58:30 minutes in length
  • Significant amount of information
  • It may exaggerating truths or hide important facts
    • Questionable Testimonials from Obviously Paid Actors/Customers
    • Extreme Demonstrations (cut through can/chop wood then thinly slice tomato)
  • Creates a Sense of Urgency (Act now, supplies are limited)
  • Low, Low prices (how much would you expect to pay, not $99, not $79, not even $59, but…)
  • Many Free Added (Ginsu knife, x2, 6 stake knives, more knives, etc)

During the commercial:

  • Make eye contact with the audience
  • Try to seem genuine. Relax your hands. Create a comfortable, personal atmosphere, not a show
  • Highlight Testimonials. Every infomercial will switch from the sales pitch to a montage of use cases and happy customers expounding on how the product changed their lives!

It is good to know that:

  • Are designed to solicit a direct response that is specific and at once quantifiable. For this reason, infomercials generally feature between two and four internal commercials of 30 to 120 seconds, which invite the consumer to call or take other direct action
  • Some infomercials are often made to closely resemble standard television programs. Some imitate talk shows and try to downplay the fact that the program is actually a commercial message
  • The products frequently marketed include cleaning products, appliances, food-preparation devices, dietary supplements, alternative health aids, memory improvement courses, books, compilation albums, videos of numerous genres, real estate investment strategies, beauty supplies, baldness remedies, sexual-enhancement supplements, weight-loss programs and products, personal fitness devices, home exercise machines and adult chat lines
  • Televangelists: They buy television time from infomercial brokers to put religious programming

Infomercials: Playing scenes

All these games must be played online

Games in pairs or quadruplets

  • Dumbest Best-Selling Infomercial Products Of All Time!: LOL Divide the group in pairs. Player A starts selling one of the dumbest best-selling products of all time! chosen by player B. After 2 Minutes, player B starts selling a product from that list. Then player A continues with a third product. If you run out of product, you can read this page 10 Infomercial Products that Actually Improve Your Home
  • Guess what you are selling: LOL Divide the group in quadruplets. One players puts his fingers in his ears. The other three choose a product that he has to sell and why it is an innovation. Afterwards two player go on stage and one can only do mimics about the products and what it does. The other player has 3 minutes to guess it. After the first round, the second pair of players goes on stage

Games for the whole group

  • Infomercials toolbox: LOL The audience gives a common bad habit to be solved by the products sold by two players. Every person in the audience looks for an object in his/her room and brings it to the camera. Now the two players have to name and use them to solve the problem selling them to the audience. When an object is used, the person takes it out of the camera. After 5 minutes, two new players and a new bad habit is choosen. Additional players can be called to give testimonials. :!: It took 11 minutes to explain 7 objects. If you do it only, 3-4 objects will be enough to keep this game engaging

To try next time

  • Infomercial Quadrant: The audience suggest four products to be sold. Four players stand on the stage, two on the front and two behind. Those on the front has to sell one product. Then the moderator says left or right and they all turn. The pair in the front stars selling a new product. When the players come back to the same formation, they continue selling the product were they left last time
  • Commercial: Four players show who a commercial is born

Long-form games

  • Armando: Initial monologue based on a product for an infomercial. Then players in groups of three perform scenes related that product. Then it comes second monologue connected to a product which was seen on the first scene.

News programmes und unfolding your voice II

Every corner of life can be used for improv! Let's challenge ourselves using those boring new programmes to create emotional and funny scenes as never seen on TV before! First we will distilled those elements of this genre which can mold our play. Then we will warm-up our brain with fast-paced games. At the end we will jump on stage to create those newscasts we have been dreaming about: with emotional weather forecasters, distracted anchors, loud politics commentators and ex-football players commenting basketball!

Because two hours weren't enough to discover all the weird characters borned from our voice, we will train our voice in this workshop. It will be the cornerstone of our characters!

Presentation and (voice) warm-up

Please review the dimensions of your voice with your students during the start of the workshop

Main elements of news programmes

Main elements found in this type of TV programme:

  • The anchor sits behind a table introducing the news spots
  • The anchor reads from a piece of paper
  • He/She is serious and objective
  • The news are short and the sentences are concise
  • Special programmes on unusual or sensational news
  • Live footage onsite

It is good to know that

  • There may be technical difficulties (no video, wrong news spot, no audio, no connection) or a note is missing or the anchor is confused
  • Usual topics are sports, weather, lotto and politic

Playing scenes

Games in pairs or quadruplets

  • As seen in TV!: Divide the group in quadruplets. With one player playing the channels and the audience yelling a new tv programme name every 20 seconds. This game is high-paced. You can use this random genre picker for this game
  • News programme (in German): Two or three players are chosen. They don't watch at the chat window of the conference programme, while the audience write down headline and sentences describing news. The moderator saves all the sentences in a text document. When the news programme starts the player make a pause when they want a sentence to be read aloud. The moderator says aloud a random sentence and they have to justify it. You can use this random sentence picker for this game
  • Zapping: With four players and one “remote control” zapping on TV programmes on a topic suggested by the audience. For example “penguins” is the suggestion and penguins docu, extinction interview, sports with penguins, how fishing political measures affects penguins, etc.

Games for the whole group

To try next time

  • Newscast with one clueless reporter: One player is a reporter onsite. He minimizes the window with the conference programme. The moderator shows where he is and members of the audience give him hints. A video like the following is shown: FIXME I still have to find how to change the background of other participant on a Zoom conference room

Calm down

  • Count until 21

Western and historical fiction

This workshop contains games which can only be done face-to-face

Presentation and warm-up

  • Samurai (Hi-Ha-Ho) :!: Not for online improv
  • Increase and decrease in circle
  • Bunny Bunny :!: Not for online improv
  • Circle-up
  • Walking with different Western characters like cowboy, bandit, bounty hunter, buffalo soldier, Native American, gold seeker, missionary priest, rich owner of a saloon, dancer of the saloon, pianist of the saloon

Elements of westerns and historical fictions

The goal is to understand how to use them on stage to enhance our scenes.

The cowboy, the quintessential symbol of the American frontier, c. 1887 (Public Domain)

Stories in the Western genre are set in the American West, between the time of the Civil war and the early twentieth century.

Main elements:

  • The location is the American West or other wilderness or uncivilized area
  • Set primarily in the latter half of the 19th century
  • Focus on the contrast between civilization or society and the untamed wilderness
  • Common locations are ranches, small frontier towns, saloons, railways, wilderness and isolated military forts of the Wild West summerged in the arid and desolate landscape of deserts and mountains
    • Apart from the wilderness, it is usually the saloon that emphasizes that this is the Wild West: it is the place to go for music, women (often prostitutes), gambling (draw poker or five card stud), drinking (beer or whiskey), brawling1) and shooting. In some Westerns, where civilization has arrived, the town has a church, a general store, a bank and a school
  • The society is organized around codes of honor and personal, direct or private justice–“frontier justice”–dispensed by gunfights.
  • This genre overlaps with historical fiction FIXME What is historical fiction

Common characters:

  • Cowboys and gunslingers2)
  • Native Americans, Spaniards, Mexicans
  • Bandits, lawmen, bounty hunters, outlaws, gamblers
  • Soldiers (especially mounted cavalry, such as buffalo soldiers)
  • Settlers (farmers, ranchers, and townsfolk)

Common plots:

  • The life of a nomadic cowboy or gunfighter armed with a revolver and a rifle who rides a horse
    • He wanders from place to place on his horse, fighting villains of various kinds and bound to no fixed social structures, but only to their own innate code of honor. They frequently rescue damsels in distress
  • Ranchers protecting their family ranch from rustlers or large landowners, or who build a ranch empire
  • Revenge stories, which hinge on the chase and pursuit by someone who has been wronged
  • Stories about cavalry fighting Native Americans
  • Outlaw gang plots
  • A crime is depicted, the wrongdoer is pursuited, ending in revenge and retribution, which is often dispensed through a shootout or quick-draw duel
  • Stories about a lawman or bounty hunter tracking down his quarry3)
  • The construction of a railroad or a telegraph line on the wild frontier

Playing scenes with Westerns

Games in pairs or quadruplets

  • Unfortunately / Fortunately The moderator creates a character (in a Western setting) using suggestion from the students. Then the students in pairs tells a story with that character
  • Alphabet ABC-Game in a Far West location. The players will be divided in groups of 4 players which will play two rounds

Games for the whole group

Long form

Choose one based on your groups preferences and experience:

  • Long form getting to a final scene: The audience proposes a topic. 4 short scenes are played and one is choosen by the audience. The players have to play many scenes which end in the choosen scene LOL
  • Charakter-Reigen Chain of characters LOL
  • Armando: Initial monologue based on the suggestion of the audience. Then players in groups of three perform scenes related to the monologue.

Calm down

  • Count until 21

Coming soon genres

  • Thriller
  • Black comedy (or dark comedy):
  • Adventure
  • Action
  • Romantic drama
  • Teen drama
  • Amour fou Film
  • Romance
  • Horror
  • Fantasy
  • Saga and Epics
  • Sitcom: Short for situational comedy, a generally lighthearted genre that features characters having to deal with odd or uncomfortable situations or misunderstandings.
  • Roadmovie
  • Absurdist/surreal/whimsica
  • Paranoid fiction

LOL The group enjoyed these games

a noisy quarrel or fight among a group of people
someone who is very skilful at using guns, especially a criminal
the person or animal that you are hunting or chasing


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