Vectors Part 2: Fields

On Cloud Nine
3 min readApr 28, 2024

This is part 2 of a 4-part VECTORS series. See Part I for the basics.

Part I: The Basics

Part II: Fields

Part III: to be announced

Part IV: to be announced

Now that we have established some basics in Vectors, we can figure out why some scenes are more enjoyable than others.

In Part I, I talked about momentum as a smoothened sum of previous offers. I also said improv is about the path not the final destination. But it’s also true that you want to reach somewhere (Figure 1). For this purpose, let’s just assume a long Euclidean distance between Suggestion and Edit d(s,e) is good. That happens when you make bold choices while respecting the momentum (Figure 1 left).

The “bad” scenes (bad in theory, still could be enjoyable!) might fail at building up a momentum in two ways. One is a slow scene being too cautious (Figure 1 middle) — the vectors are very small and the scene felt like it never takes off. Two is the opposite — too chaotic (Figure 1 right) — you have huge random vectors going in Brownian motion such that the net effect is zero.

It’s curious to think of why we enjoy our favorite performers or why we sometimes struggle in these terms. A seasoned performer works less hard because they observe the momentum and trust it — that surrendering to the force will lead them to an unplanned destination. (“jump out of the plane, figure it out on the way down”). A slow scene is often caused by fear: fear that momentum would lead the scene to the unknown. Fear of being outside our comfort zone. So we have defensive measures like blocking, cancelling, bridging, etc. A chaotic scene is caused by unawareness or impatience. We don’t listen enough to the scene, or, we don’t trust the forces that are already there. We try a new direction every third line. We don’t even trust our own choices.

That’s why we are taught that characters should have Wants. Wants can also mean character / motivation. This simplifies our choices, and make them consistent. In physics, I think of Wants as electromagnetic fields (Figure 2). Simply put, our Vectors move along the general direction as our Want field.

Figure 2 shows two different Wants from the same offer (“Son, let’s play football” has two components: Football + Father-Son dynamic). The scenes that come out from different fields will be different.

With a strong field, your total vector adds up. Even if many offers are aimless, the scene will still get somewhere (Figure 3). When both player have a perpendicular want, the scene build up really good momentum in both directions. You can get to a far and unexpected destination, often entertaining.

But does this mean Wants have to be in the same direction, or not go against each other? Is there no tension between the characters? … We’ll discuss this in Part III.

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On Cloud Nine

An Impro Neuf blog. Evolving thoughts on improv from Aree Witoelar, teacher/founder of Impro Neuf International in Oslo, Norway.