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Interrupting Routines

Use routines and interruptions to help build your story.

David Gane
David Gane
1 min read

Keith Johnstone’s book Impro talks about interrupting routines:

If I say ‘Make up a story’, then most people are paralysed. If I say ‘describe a routine and then interrupt it’, people see no problem.

Stories are built around routines.

At the beginning of Act 1, your characters are trapped in routines. They are stuck, because of fear or lack of understanding of how to get out.

The inciting incident is an interruption of that routine. The second half of the act is them responding to that interruption. Eventually, they’ll accept it or resist it, which sends them into Act 2.

This becomes the rhythm of the story. Establishing a routine and then interrupting it, and forcing the character to once again find their footing before interrupting it again.

As Johnstone points out:

As a story progresses it begins to establish other routines and these in their turn have to be broken.

Work, pleasure, or play can all be routine. But so could the constant fight between two people, and interrupting it progresses your story.

So, what are the routines of your story? And how can you interrupt them?

David Gane Twitter

Co-writer of the Shepherd and Wolfe young adult mysteries, the internationally award-winning series, and teacher of storytelling and screenwriting.