Abracadabra! The ever famous magical incantation. No one is 100% sure of it’s true origin, however many believe it comes from the Hebrew; “ebrah k’dabri” which means “I create what I speak.” Many have become accustomed to how the old saying “sticks & stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is a work of fiction, words can & do hurt. No one truly understands the power words have better than script writers & magicians. Words (and sometimes lack there of) are a magician’s secret weapon.
Why should you even bother writing a script for your magic? Doesn’t that take away the “spontaneity” of magic? No. A magician is an entertainer first, an actor second & a wizard last. Many don’t bother scripting and their performances are subpar to what they could be with just a little work behind a word processor. You are NOT obligated to use the script word for word, scripts are to help you map out your presentation so if you stumble or mess up, you have a way of getting back on track. No one is 100% married to their scripts, not even A list Hollywood actors! Scripting your magic gives the magic you present meaning, it helps direct your actions and it also helps you to prepare for and prevent anything that might mess you up. Magical effects are tricks but what separates a trick from magic is how it is presented & scripting is the BIG element. Scripting not only gives you proper preparation for prevention of poor performance, it gives your presentation an emotional boost. Much like how orchestra gives a motion picture an emotion, words the magician speaks are the soundtrack to the show.
How do you go about writing? I won’t go into character building here, but when it comes to writing a script, ask yourself – is the magic supporting the story or is the story supporting the magic? Are you, as a artistic choice choosing to perform silently? If so – what bodily expressions are you using to help support the magic / story? Much like all story telling – magic has a beginning, middle & end. It is your choice to use words or not, either way the magic is telling a story. How interesting that story is is dependent on your word choices. Probably the easiest storytelling tactic is to use experiences you had personally as a plot.
Okay, you have a basic script. Don’t bother memorizing every word in the script. Your script is at this point a simple outline. You got a general idea of what you are going to be saying. The work is not done. After a few performances, you should go back and adjust the script. This will involve taking words out. I follow the Toyota model, Lean Six Sigma when it comes to scripting. If the script is too wordy, I will condense it OR find better alternatives. ACTION! The Actor’s Thesaurus is a great resource for finding actionable words to substitute with. As a magician, you are also a wordsmith, words will carry different meaning or have a different emotional impact depending on how you say it. One is not simply “tired”, one is “exhausted!”.
Silent scripting. Not saying anything is also saying something. A complaint a British magician peer of mine had about American magicians is that American magicians talk way too much. This could be nerve on the American magician. Sometimes saying too much can subtract from the presentation. It’s unnatural to say 1,000 words every 60 minutes. Silent scripting is your bodily expressions and actions. How you stand, where you walk, where you sit, where your eyes go – all can have equal impact or greater than the spoken word. Some times in a performance, where you THOUGHT a word might do, for a particular moment with a particular member of the audience, you may find that saying nothing will work just as well.
Scripting as misdirection. Earlier I said word are a magician’s secret weapon. I meant that also in the execution of a sleight or illusion. Words can direct or divert attention. If I say “look at my right hand”, you are more than likely going to look at my right hand, which can in theory give the left hand time to do some dirty work for a brief moment. Now you don’t even have to say anything either! If you choose to go silent, silent script (your facial expressions, body language, etc) can also direct attention. There have been exhaustive scientific tests and articles on the miracle of tracking eye movements. Our eyes look in the direction other people look. Here is a fun experiment when you are in a crowd. Stop. Look up and hold and then slowly excuse yourself- you will find that other people are looking up simply because YOU were looking up. If you utilize BOTH the script & the silent script, your misdirection, or rather – attention directing – will have twice the insurance for success.