Do You Even Script, Bro?

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- Guest Post by Rick Holcombe -

Good scripting can turn a simple effect into something really memorable. And it can make a memorable effect a legend to be shared for a lifetime!  

A script can clarify your effect for the audience and it can keep them engaged in what’s happening. Scripting makes your practice time more efficient and it puts all your hard work into a presentation that is worthy of watching…But, how many tricks do you perform where you’re literally just "talking off the cuff" and explaining what you’re doing?  

I think of that as “patter.”  

In typical patter, you’re talking a lot, but not really saying anything.  With scripting, it’s something much richer.  A script takes thoughtful planning and creativity. It tells a story.

Simply said, a Script is a framework for your trick.

It is your roadmap, your blueprint. You know where you are going, how to get there, and what it should look like at completion. This includes everything, not just your speaking lines, but this is the area we will focus on for this post.

I will argue, a bounty of coin magic shows best when nothing is said at all.  But when it comes to performance, even if you don’t use words, you still have a “script.”

Sometimes, very little is needed. David Blaine’s early TV performance comes to mind when he would just say, “Watch.” In contrast, when you watch the late Eugene Burger, he could take a trick that only needed 30 seconds to perform and transform it into a 3 minute theater production!

All these approaches can lead to amazing, emotional appeal for you magic. A couple of important considerations to keep in mind are:  

Where is the line between silence and talking? I don’t know the answer, because this is individual to you. You need to actually perform your script and see if it works. 

If you want to perform completely non-verbal, evaluate your decision: Does the magic have enough impact to stand on its own without anything being said? Is the trick short enough to stand on its own?  The trick may be too long to not say anything. Nevertheless, you should still "script" the words you are not saying. Some have called this "internal dialog."

My rule is:  The shorter the trick, the less talking needed. 

As well, it’s important that the script doesn’t overtake the magic that’s happening. I try to plan my words to coincide with my actions. This way, the two pieces are in constant movement together.  You wouldn’t want long pauses in your action while you’re yammering on about some story…that could lose your audience.

Finally, you need to be who you are.  If you’re not the “storyteller” type of person, then take a different angle on the script.  Maybe relate the magic to an experiment or a perplexity to be observed. In other words, you don’t need to present an elaborate “Once upon a time,” but you still should strive to have the “framework” mentioned above. 

Be you. If you turn into somebody who you are not to perform a routine, your audience may get a second, undesirable effect, “The Quick Changing Character.”

The main point I want to make is that a good written script will not hurt even the shortest routines.  In a pinch, you can choose to deviate from it, but you will always have it. And if you practice your script, not just your sleights, your magic will grow to the next level!

I would love to hear your thoughts, and stay tuned for the upcoming Part 2, where I share, Super Story Lines for Amazing scripts!

Watch and Subscribe to follow Rick Holcombe and his amazing scripted routines on Youtube!


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  • David Fuller

    Scripting Magic, volumes 1&2, by Pete McCabe are valuable resources to help further delve into the scripting mindset. Thanks for the wonderful insights.

  • Bobby Nelson

    I agree completely. Some of my favorite tricks to perform are cannable kings and brothers Hammond. I like being able to tell a story and then use magic to accent it and make it more of an experience for everyone. Great article.

  • Chris Storz

    An important point, I think, is that scripts—be they stage, screen, or magic—are not just dialogue. There is also stage direction. I write out everything. Patter, sleights, “blocking”. As Darwin Ortiz says in Strong Magic, if you work out everything before hand and rehearse it until you can do it in your sleep then you are free to focus on the audience interaction which is the part that takes a generic magical experience and transforms it into an intimate magical experience.

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