A problem I often see with my High School kids is silver bulleting.
In an improv context it means solving a story problem instantly.
One of the ways we teach storytelling (not, to be honest, my favourite) is ‘find a problem, make it worse, then fix it (ideally using reincorporation)’.
Often players will cancel any problem immediately using a silver bullet as a way of preventing the story going forward (forward = scary).
A: Oh no, we broke the vase!
B: Here’s some glue… there! Good as new.
The most popular variant of the silver bullet would have to be the Deus ex machina.
An example I saw today
(From the story of Barry who lives on a desert island)
A:… and then Barry landed on a rock and dislocated his arm.
B: and then a Doctor appeared and said ‘I can fix your arm’.
What I want to say is, if you’ve put your characters in a tough spot. Don’t let them off the hook so easily! Take some time to really make them squirm. And if you’re watching the scene from the outside, let the players onstage try and solve it from within.
Red Riding Hood
Little Red Riding Hood has always bothered me as a story. It’s great most of the way through, but the ending has always struck me as pure D-ex-M. Recently I came across this;
These early variations of the tale differ from the currently known version in several ways… once the girl is in bed with the wolf she sees through his disguise and tries to escape, complaining to her ‘grandmother’ that she needs to defecate and would not wish to do so in the bed. The wolf reluctantly lets her go, tied to a piece of string so she does not get away. However, the girl slips the string over something else and gets away.
It has been noted that in these stories she escapes with no help from any male or older female figure, but instead utilises her own cunning. The woodcutter/huntsman figure, added later, would limit the girl to a relatively passive role. This has led to criticisms that the story was changed to keep women “in their place”, needing the help of a physically superior man such as the woodcutter to save them.
It’s always more satisfying to have your heroes solve things themselves.
Sometimes silver bullets are ok!
On the other hand, scenes about things getting broken can get a bit boring. Sometimes the problem is introduced as a way of blocking what the story is really about.
I remember seeing a scene about a pitcher who was nervous about his first big game. It came time for his first pitch when he discovered ‘there’s no baseball!’ The scene then became about looking for a baseball rather than confronting his fears. A quick ‘here’s one’, probably would have put things back on track.