Word at a Time Story

Word at a Time Story


Two improvisers stood opposite each other make up a story together by saying a word at a time each. One player says the first word, the next says the second word etc.

At first you can start with “Once, Upon, A, Time…” or “One, Day..” and then move on top different starting sentences.


Improviser A: Once

Improviser B: Upon

Improviser A: A

Improviser B: Time

Improviser A: There

Improviser B: Was

Improviser A: A

Improviser B: Goblin

Improviser A: Who

Improviser B: Lived

Improviser A: Under

Improviser B: A

Improviser A: Rock

Improviser B: Because

Improviser A: He

Improviser B: Was

Improviser A: Scared

Improviser B: Of

Improviser A: People

Teaching Purpose

  • Listening and being in the present moment with each other.
  • Storytelling.
  • Accepting and building on offers.
  • Being obvious.
  • Teamwork and support.

Additional Tips for Playing

  • Listen.
  • Be obvious. If you try too hard to be clever or funny in this game it slows down and just makes it hard for each other. But try to be obvious instead and the story will start to tell itself.
  • Support where the story is going moment by moment instead of trying to force it.
  • Try moving around as you do it.
  • Try playing it in character, finding a character between the two of you.
  • Make gestures as you speak, be animated.
  • If there is something that needs defining just define it, any idea is good there is no right or wrong.
  • You are in collaboration not competition with the other person, so try to relax body language to help that.


  • Playing with more than 2 people.
  • Playing as the whole group in a circle.
  • Again! Whenever you feel stuck or are thinking too much you both shout again and throw your hands in the air and start a new story.
  • Moving around the room while you play it, picking up objects as if you are exploring a foreign land together.
  • There are also many show versions of this game like Oracle, Three Headed Expert, Wise Wise Wise, Complaints Letter and more.

Show Introduction

“This is called The Word at a Time Story. Two players are going to attempt to improvise a story together taking it in turns to say each word. All they need is the suggestion of a location to get them started.”


This is a widely used improv game used by most improv companies. The earliest version of it we can find is in Keith Johnstone’s book Impro so it may have been invented by Keith back in the 1960s during his work with The Theatre Machine in London.


This exercise is in the following categories:


Yes And.

Warm Ups.

Short-Form Games.

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