When I reflect upon most -- and I do mean most -- of the bizarre magic performances that I have seen over the years, one sad similarity comes immediately to mind: most of the scripts performed needed a great deal of editing. Sometimes for grammar and sentence construction but always for length. Too many words! Too many words before something happens and, especially, too many words after the magic has happened.
This is particularly unfortunate since, for most attempts at bizarre magic to succeed, the story which surrounds the magical effect must itself be an engaging story and one that is well told by the performer. Overwritten stories quickly destroy any real engagement. Yet for many magicians the editing process -- which might transform their overwritten stories into stories with real power -- seems itself to be a thing of great mystery. Many magicians don't seem to know where to begin.
Let's begin with something utterly basic: I think that good writing is always the result of rewriting. Don't expect what you write to have much merit when you first put it down or type it out. The important thing is to get your thoughts down on paper -- and then to start playing with the words. It is at this stage of working on a script that I experience the deepest enjoyment from my involvement with magic. Here, for me, is where the real joy appears. I repeat: Good writing is rewriting.
There is an old Chinese proverb that "One showing is worth a thousand sayings." Consequently, rather than talk about the editing process, I thought it might be instructive for you to see an example of a real edited script from my own work. If you compare the first script with the second, I think you will begin to see how I work when cutting down a script that is too long.
The effect that I have chosen is one that I have been intently working on recently. It is from Bob Neale's thoroughly enjoyable book, Life, Death and Other Card Tricks. This book, I must add, is filled with marvelous examples of how to meaningfully connect card magic with existential, life and death stories. Even if you were never to do a trick in the book, a careful reading of it will teach you a great deal about how to connect your own words in a presentation with your actions.
When I read his effect Thirteen at Dinner, I immediately decided that I wanted to develop this off-beat version of the Six Card Repeat into a performance piece of my own. I spent a great deal of time reading and studying Bob's script and then set about writing a version of my own. At first, I used much of his phrasing. I wrote the first version out and then began editing it. When I was finished, I (mistakenly) thought that I was finished! Here is the first script that I finally developed.
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