Published by ShawnKinley on

orange and brown spiral staircase


A key concept in ending the story

“Yea, I shall return with the tide.”
   ― Khalil Gibran

orange and brown spiral staircaseInstinctively we know that all things are circular. We start somewhere in some emotional state. We journey away, but something in us pulls us back to that beginning idea or image. 

In comedy, there is an understanding that good routines will set up information at the beginning which then will be called back at the end of the routine. “The Callback”.

In pathos, themes loop back to remind us of where we come from, who we are and how life’s lessons tend to bring us back to where we started.

Harry Potter leaves a dysfunctional family environment and returns to a happier family environment. Family is the theme that is constantly reincorporated.

A clown is vacuuming the carpet and sucks up his prized possession – a gold ring, which he placed by the sofa. In his attempt to retrieve the ring, the vacuum bag dust explodes dust all over the house but the ring is nowhere to be found. Dejected, the clown returns to cleaning the bigger mess. As he finishes vacuuming the floor, he sucks up the dust from his shoes, his pants, his pockets. As he remembers that he’d put the ring into his pocket, he hears the metal object being sucked up the tube and the reincorporation brings us back to the beginning of the story. 

Improvisers damage stories by focusing on creating TOO MUCH and AT THE WRONG TIME. The feeling that they must constantly move forward with bigger and better ideas gets in the way of what a story needs. Remember where the story has come from and return physically or emotionally to bring elements of the past into the present.

Consider an OBJECTIVE.  
Knowing what the main character wants tells you where to go and hints at where you will return to.


Your parents tell you not to leave. They want you to stay safe in the quiet village.
You escape through the window.
Off you go on your adventure!

How will the story end?

You return rich to prove you were right… but your parents are dead and you are poor in a bigger way.
(The Promise is fulfilled, The parents are Reincorporated but the emotion has changed.)


YOU RETURN in a great parade honouring you. Your casket is lovely!
The Kings, Queens, Scholars and children from around the world speak of your adventures and heroism. Your parents realize that the short life you lead was more than the small world of protection that they offered.
(The Promise is fulfilled, Your early world is Reincorporated on your return but YOU are in a different state)

or, or, or…

There are many ways to end but I would find it difficult to complete any story in a way that satisfies me without some reincorporation from the first part of the story.

Let’s consider one more ending with the character who is searching for fame and fortune. This is the kind of storytelling that happens frequently on an improvisation stage with no reincorporation.

  • You want fame and fortune. 
  • You escape your family home. 
  • You use your dancing skills to raise money to build a machine. 
  • That machine cures cancer. 
  • Aliens arrive and hail you as the greatest human. And you live happily ever after…

Satisfied? Probably not. It’s not “PLAUSIBLE” – It’s not likely to happen in anyone’s circle of possibilities.

That “story” moves forward BUT none of the events are suggested by previous ones. The events are generated randomly as the improviser looks forward haphazardly instead of looking back to make a world relevant to what already exists.

The term to remember is ARBITRARY INFORMATION!

If you finish your story by creating new, unrelated information, – (ARBITRARY INFORMATION) – you and your audience will almost certainly feel disappointed.

Lazy improvisers often call their arbitrary creations “a twist in the story”. I don’t think so. A great twist is plausible and makes the audience scream, “OF COURSE!!! The truth was sitting there all the time.”

Luke Skywalker is hidden away from the dangers of the universe. He’s being raised by his Uncle and Aunt which has us wondering what happened to his parents. 

Old mystic Jedi, OBI-WAN KENOBI lives nearby. The fact that Obi-Wan knew Luke’s father is plausible in this sparsely populated part of the galaxy and it’s a clue that there’s a larger connection here. The fact that old Obi-Wan is a powerful Jedi living in the outback raises questions and creates promises that something big is possible.

Little hints are dropped in believable ways as we discover the truth of Luke’s intergalactic importance. 

By the time Darth Vader reveals himself as Luke’s true father, (spoiler alert) we can think back to the many clues scattered in the story and feel the outcome is plausible regardless of how surprising this information is.

NEW information rarely feels totally new.

“New” information grows effortlessly from seeds that were dropped earlier in the story. When that information is eventually reincorporated, we are satisfied by the story’s development.

The less arbitrary the information, the more plausible the story.

Improvisers don’t have the luxury of a constantly revised script though. So, how can improvisers create stories without forced manufacturing and arbitrary information.?


“Ya gotta have faith.”

IF you create a rich environment with a lot of specific details early on, a story will present itself.

The belief that a worthwhile story will grow by planting random “seeds of information”,  is too scary for some.  And so, improvisers rush the narrative. They create ‘newer’ and ‘bigger’ ideas that confuse the story when they should be looking back and making sense of what is already here.

Let’s assume you have a healthy beginning to your story. You have lots of colourful details and nothing too strange going on. Good.  What next?

Look at where you’ve been and DON’T worry about reincorporating anything just yet.

Ask yourself if you have unresolved questions and promises. (Finishing the artwork, Finding your cat, Returning the library book,  etc etc). Resolve promises and answer questions. Tie up the loose ends.

If you are near the end of your show, look at what has been brought into the story and use a thing, a lesson, a concept, SOMETHING from the past to move yourself to a resolution of the final conflict and questions. REINCORPORATE.

OR – If you have more time in the show, torment yourself more and create more RELEVANT problems on your path.

When your story is ready to end, remember “the gift” you got when you set out on your journey. Use the “lesson you learned”. Risk the “payment” you earned. See how those previous offers can be the key to solving the last hurdle in your story.


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