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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » Why This Word Here? (8 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Craig Logan
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The following is a brief essay I wrote that will hopefully prove useful to the members here. I hope you enjoy.

Cheers,
Craig

...

I remember the first time I heard my English professor ask our class this question. It was a creative writing class. Not long after our first poems were handed in, he asked us to take a serious look at our work. “A serious writer should always ask themselves why. Why did I put this particular word in this particular place? Why did I put a line or stanza break where I did? What is this poem trying to communicate, and does it communicate that point?” Essentially, he was asking us to take an introspective lens to our work.

It wasn’t long before I took this advice to heart. I would temper and distill my own work until I was satisfied with the result. I removed words I didn’t like or weren’t necessary. I would analyze each line to make sure it looked and sounded the way I wanted. I played with variations of phrases to make the imagery or the auditory effect stronger. I would then give my words a few days to rest and would repeat the process as needed. I don’t tell you this to portray myself as some luminary or a candidate for the Poet Laureate position; rather to promote this approach to our magic.

Before I proceed any further, let me assure you, gentle reader, I am in no ways claiming expertise in the realm of magic scripting, blocking, or presentation. I am still in the process of taking my own advice. We should want to make our magic as potent and meaningful as possible. For this reason, I recommend we take the advice of my professor and apply it liberally to our magic and mentalism. In regards to our script, we should ask why. Why did I choose this particular word? Why am I performing this particular effect at this particular time? Are the moves and mannerisms I execute well motivated? Does this script and effect best communicate idea I am trying to convey? Does it illicit the emotion I want it to?

The preceding paragraph implies you script the effects you perform. If you do not have a script for all of your effects, that is something you need to consider. I cannot stress enough how useful a full-fledged script can be. By script I mean not only the words you use in performance but also the actions (or blocking) you do during a specific effect.

I suppose it’s best to take a step back to ask a larger question about our magic; what are we trying to accomplish? It is critical to have an answer to this, as it will dictate the how your magic looks, sounds, and feels. The answer can be as simple as “entertain the audience,” but the point is to take the time and parse out what you want to convey. From there, we can make assessments about how effectively we’re accomplishing the task.

In the same avenue, I also believe it critical to personal growth that we listen to and accept criticism. To go back to my poetry class from college, we would spend a great deal of time workshopping one another’s poetry. We were prompting those tough questions of one another and engaging the work. One rule that was helpful in the workshop was the author wasn’t allowed to speak. They would take notes and listen, but they were to remain silent until the discussion was over. We must be willing to accept criticism if we are to grow as artists.

This criticism should come from within as well. Not only should you be willing to create and edit a script, but you may also want to try recording yourself. I personally need to do this more, as it is tremendously helpful in evaluating whether or not a particular effect is flourishing or floundering for an audience. Even just recording yourself in the comfort of your home can help you understand how you look and sound to a prospective audience. This information is invaluable to progress in this craft.

Simply being aware of what you are doing and why will elevate your performance. Asking yourself why you use a particular sleight or a particular turn of phrase will illuminate the portions of script you want to accentuate as well as the bits you could well do without.
"A wizard is not to be made in a day." -Professor Hoffmann (Modern Magic)
Dick Oslund
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Thank you Craig, for that excellent essay!

Where in Michigan? I'm retired in Escanaba.
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Craig Logan
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Thank you for the kind words. I'm just a troll in Waterford (SE Michigan).
"A wizard is not to be made in a day." -Professor Hoffmann (Modern Magic)
longhaired1
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Both as an actor and a magician there is nothing quite like internalizing your script to the point where you can explore and play with every little nuance and detail. Much the same when playing music, except your whole being is your instrument. That was a good read.
thatmichaelguy
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This reminds me of the Mark Twain quote, "Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out all the wrong words."

I agree, a well crafted script or at very least a well thought out through-line makes all the difference between and entertainer and someone just doing some tricks.
Jonathan Townsend
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Bravo for coming to consider the "why" behind the what in our craft. Bravo!

Folks might find this thread interesting:
http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewt......forum=27
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Dick Oslund
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YUP! There's an old 'line' about "...the man who knows HOW, works FOR, the man who knows WHY!"
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danaruns
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About criticism. I think you have to be very careful whom you take criticism from. A bunch of high school poetry students creates a nice exercise for themselves, but for the serious poet or writer that criticism probably isn't very useful.

It's even more so with magic. It's very easy to get criticism from well-meaning people who send you off in precisely the wrong direction. There is so much bad advice out there in magic, sometimes it's hard to find some good advice. Personally, I don't take criticism from peers. I look to those few people whom I greatly admire; those who have decades' more top work than I do; those who truly understand magic and are masters.

Taking one bad piece of criticism can set you way back. Better to be highly critical and selective of who critiques you. Ignore most people. Your local magic club is generally not a good place to take criticism, unless you have true masters there.
"Dana Douglas is the greatest magician alive. Plus, I'm drunk." -- Foster Brooks
ViolinKing
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Danaruns:

I like the sentiment. Online it is easy to expose yourself to the criticism of thousands. At the magic club, it is easy to expose yourself to the criticism of dozens. None of those seem like good odds for the performer.

My question to you is, how did you happen to meet and furthermore respect the people that you take criticism from?
Dick Oslund
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Quote:
On Oct 17, 2017, Craig Logan wrote:
Thank you for the kind words. I'm just a troll in Waterford (SE Michigan).


Hey! I'm late replying! I don't visit this forum often!

Not all of dem trolls is yukky! Some is real good. I think you fall into that SECOND group!
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George Ledo
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Quote:
On Nov 6, 2017, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
Bravo for coming to consider the "why" behind the what in our craft. Bravo!

Folks might find this thread interesting:
http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewt......forum=27

Or maybe this column from a few years ago:
http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewt......orum=173
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
www.georgefledo.net

Latest column: "Sorry about the photos in my posts here"
danaruns
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Quote:
On Dec 10, 2017, ViolinKing wrote:
Danaruns:

My question to you is, how did you happen to meet and furthermore respect the people that you take criticism from?


Well, I am fortunate enough to live in Los Angeles, and I'm a magician member of the Academy of Magical Arts at the Magic Castle, so I meet tons of amazing magicians all the time.I'm not at all shy about contacting folks, picking their brains and getting their help.

On this forum, for instance, is one such person I hit up for help. Pop Haydn is a staple at the Magic Castle, and he has become a mentor and a friend. Pop has a deep understanding of magic philosophy that speaks to me, there is no one better at working from character, and he's a genius-level pro in terms of skill. I've learned so much from him. Aside from being a wonderful man, he has a great eye, wonderful insights, and spot on advice.

So I'm very fortunate.
"Dana Douglas is the greatest magician alive. Plus, I'm drunk." -- Foster Brooks
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