Mick Napier – Improv at home by yourself (2/5: Exercises for unthinking character creation)

Continued from yesterday, #2 in a series of 5— paraphrased exercises you can do at home, from Mick Napier’s Improvise. Again, buy the book, it’s better than my lame-ass summaries.

Exercises for unthinking character creation

(4) Solo Character Switches

Begin a character monologue. After 30 seconds, without pausing, switch the character to something completely different. Repeat indefinitely. Make sure there’s a chair in the middle of the room, so you can use it/not use it as the character dictates. And make sure there’s lots of variety— if you’ve just done two quiet characters, change things up with a loud one.


(5) Character Interview

Think of ~15 questions you might ask another person. Ex.:

“Where did you grow up?”

“What’s your favorite movie and why?”

“What was a sad moment in your childhood?”

Write them down on strips of paper and put ’em in a hat. (Ignore them for now.)

Begin a character monologue. After about a minute, pull a question out of the hat and answer the question in character. Continue as you see fit.


(6) Styles and Genres in a Hat

On slips of paper, write down 20 styles/genres/authors/playwrights (ex. “romance novel,” “action film,” “horror,” “Shakespeare”) and put ’em in a hat. Begin a character monologue. After 30 seconds, pull a slip of paper out of the hat, and have your character immediately be affected by that style or genre.

Ex.: Your character is an ice cream man. When you pull “romance novel” out of the hat, the character starts talking about his love and passion for Dove bars.

The goal: Your understanding and comfort of literary styles will expand your toolbox for scenes, and bring more variety to your work. (And maybe familiarizing yourself with various authors and playwrights and genres isn’t a bad idea, either.)


(7) Sound to Dialogue

Make a sound, any sound. Let that sound slide into a character dialogue, and go for ~10 seconds. Then make another sound and slide into another character. Do this for about six hours. No, do this for two minutes.

Ex.: “Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhkey-dokey, I’ve packed the shotguns!”




Here’s links to all of ’em:


Part 1: Exercises for thinking faster

Part 2: Exercises for unthinking character creation [You are here]

Part 3: Exercises for physical body and space

Part 4: Exercises to improve scenic improvisation

Part 5: Miscellaneous bonus exercises



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