TLDL: Too Long Didn't Listen

TLDL: Too Long Didn't Listen

Magic scripting suffers from the worst cliché. 

 Elaborate story, demonstrated by a menial or somewhat unrelated prop. 

 Let me explain with an example. 

[ Magician enters stage left ] 
 “I want to tell you story about my grandfather, he was a painter by trade - and he used to paint incredible murals on his bathroom wall, with the most vibrant colours. 
His name was Jeff, he was one of 4 brothers, almost identical looking, but not quadruplets. 
Anyway, one day he decided to tell me a story, of his most iconic painting, the one to the very left of the sink in his guest bathroom. Huge thing, it seemed like it was 10-foot tall to me. But I guess I was just a kid." 


[ Audience falls asleep ] 

 2 minutes later the magician concludes…

“Let me show you what I mean using these 4 jacks” 

 [ Magician proceeds to pull out a deck of cards ] 


Or, something that's even worse…  

“My mother was a seamstress and she used to keep a lucky egg on her workbench.” 
 [ Magician then performs silk to egg ] 


That kind of scripting within magic makes my skin crawl. 



Expectations and reality need to be misaligned during magic, but the reality MUST exceed their expectations. Not the other way around. 

A long, sprawling script with twists and turns, used to frame a simple 4 card trick is grossly unbalanced. It builds the expectations that the reality will not meet. 

Now I’m not saying there isn’t a place for scripting in magic, but there needs to be the right script. 

Peter Turner has a fantastic ‘any card at any number’ trick, probably one of the best I’ve ever seen. 

The script is talking about Santa Claus and belief - and having your beliefs crushed by revelations of truth. 

At the end of the effect, when they deal down to the card at that number, he asks his audience if they want to believe it’s really their card or, like Santa Claus, spoil a potential lie. 

I’ve seen him perform it over 50 times in the decade that I’ve known him - and the majority of people don’t turn the card over. They choose to believe in the magic and the reality becomes more than just a card trick. It’s a regression to a childhood state of belief & wonder.

With this scripting, their expectations are dramatically lowered - and they’re 90% happy to just believe and 10% sure that it wasn’t their card anyway. 

As Pete throws the card back into the deck, he flashes it… It is their card. 

The reality smashes their expectations to bits, and the audience leaves that performance thinking “magic must be real.”  



Now, of course, I’m no expert on scripting magic, or even performing it for that matter... But I am an expert in watching magic.

I see hundreds of tricks per week. I get submitted thousands of presentations & methods per year. 

… and I’m telling you, some of it bores me to death. Because I have to sit through 4 minutes of irrelevant script on the holocaust for an audience member to then be asked to “take any card”. 

 Magic should be better than that. It CAN be better than that. 

The reason David Blaine has made the impact he has on magic, is that he seems to have no script. He is real. He keeps the audience's expectations low. 

Then, the reality of the miracles he can perform is off the charts. It exceeds their expectations by such a large distance, that it becomes powerful. It becomes magical. 



My challenge for you today is to re-evaluate the magic in your repertoire. 

  • Do you have any sprawling stories of irrelevance that can be rewritten? 
  • Are you trying to inject deep meaning into something as simple as a ‘pick a card, find a card’ trick? 
  • Can your script be simpler? 
  • Can you engage your audience better, by saying less & doing more? 
  • Does your plot exist to facilitate the gimmick? Instead of your gimmick existing to facilitate the prop. 


 Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


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I agree.
We as Magi should be creating a sense of wonder and engage our audience in a way which involves their emotions and wonder



I agree that I’ve seen some horrendous scripts – most of which would have been improved twenty times over with a storytelling class or a few hours watching a McCabe lecture. Some of the most impactful effects I’ve seen performed have been emotionally driven by a tight story. Rather than throw the baby out with the bath water, I think we should focus on the storytelling component and how we build suspense, drama, emotion and investment through our words. Yes, there are awesome acts of wonder done with no words. But as Del Gaudio and Berger and others have shown, our words can move and connect people to a feat of wonder in an archetypal way. Personally, (and it is a personal preference) I’d much rather see someone try a scripted piece than to sit through another magician performance where they are just describing to me what they are doing.

Max McQueen

Max McQueen

Too Long To Read, Couldn’t Finish.



Absolutely agree. A great hook should be all we need to stimulate the imagination, not a point that need minutes of elaboration. Would love to read further on this.

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