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Topic: Anyone tried writing an actual 'backstory' for their character?
Message: Posted by: Terrible Wizard (Mar 23, 2015 11:13AM)
I mean, has anyone tried writing their persona's/character's backstory up in literary form (short story, memoir, autobiography, etc)?

Might such an exercise be worthwhile?
Message: Posted by: Pizpor (Mar 24, 2015 11:32PM)
I wrote a complete comic book dedicated solely to that topic. It's also a coloring book (because it's cheaper to get them printed). I sell them at my show to help increase the hat.
Message: Posted by: CJRichard (Mar 25, 2015 01:02AM)
My character has grown out of my 18th century reenacting at a local historical site. My wife and I developed relatively generic Rev. War era personas at first. She wrote out a story as to how we met and who we were. As time went on I started to specialize in portraying a barber/dentist/surgeon with historically accurate implements. From there it was a short side step into quackery and a medicine pitch interspersed with some demonstrations of magic. I'm becoming a somewhat more shady character who is quite removed from who I was fifteen years ago. My wife and I haven't really discussed this in too much detail, but I'm not sure if we should still be portaying a married village couple. Hmmmm.

To remove myself further from real-life Fort Phoenix, I'm considering developing a more wizard-like character that can be performed in other venues. At this point, that's quite nebulous. But I do believe that full character development adds to any presentation.
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (Mar 31, 2015 05:03AM)
I think it is essential.
Message: Posted by: gomerel (Apr 1, 2015 04:01AM)
I know that some people LOVE to write backstories. Yes, I agree that it is a good idea and I'd rather go to the dentist than write one.
Message: Posted by: CJRichard (Apr 4, 2015 10:09PM)
Here's some background on my newer one: [url=http://ezekielthegreen.blogspot.com/]Ezekiel the Green[/url] I have not actually performed as him yet.

There's a link on that page to Ezekiel Boggs, my colonial character.
Message: Posted by: Terrible Wizard (Apr 5, 2015 07:50AM)
Excellent! Love the obscure order write up ... :)
Message: Posted by: DaleTrueman (Apr 5, 2015 12:24PM)
I like it too CJRichard.

I have a character I am working on. I haven't gotten as far as writing a back story as such. He's kind of what I think in America would be called trailer trash but in Australia we call Bogans.
Things I have vaguely pegged out for his history are that he's been unemployed since being made redundant from Kentucky Fried Chicken in the late nineties. His ex wife lets him live in her garden shed because he's a good babysitter for their children. It's there that he experiments with bits and bobs that when put together have surprising results. That and a few other things like where he grew up and stuff. None of it really comes out in the act so far but it's just something to help me form a solid character I guess

So far I have only performed him in public once and have another gig this Friday . It went down well last time and feedback was good. The act was Vortex of Refreshment by David Regal with my own patter about wanting to hide a full glass of beer whilst out in public.
Message: Posted by: Pizpor (Apr 13, 2015 11:45AM)
I think you're off to a good start. It will keep working itself out as you play with it more and more. Eventually you'll hit on the effects that truly match the character. That will make for a unique presentation that will separate you from other acts.

From what I've seen over the years, almost all of the most enduring and memorable acts are the ones based on unique characters. Harry the Hat (Harry Anderson), Lab Man (Ruby Coby), The Great Thomsoni, Jeff Hobson, Pop Haydn, etc. are all rooted in a character. I've been doing my character for over 10 years now. I get booked because of the character, not because I'm a magician.

Keep at it. You'll find what fits you and make it your own.
Message: Posted by: DaleTrueman (Apr 13, 2015 10:48PM)
Thanks Pizpor. The second performance went very well. The number one comment I have gotten at both performances is "so you are a comedian and a magician". It wasn't really my intention to be a comedian but rather a funny magician. I guess because I have a sense of who my character is and the world he lives in I have come up with a funny storyline that I tell whilst performing the trick. The big surprise to me is how much people laugh at lines I didn't think were funny but apparently are because of the character and the context. One of the biggest laughs comes from the end of the performance where I have verbally set the scene that I am outside drinking beer.

"no officer, I am not drinking in public again. I am just watching my son play football on a Saturday morning and there's nothing illegal about that! Unlike what those kids are doing to your car"

The huge laugh I have gotten in my smaller performances for friends and for the two large audiences I have performed for when I say "unlike what those kids are doing to your car" seems disproportionate to me. But discussing this with friends it seems that it's funny because I have painted a world for the audience that has inherent humour which I can't properly explain right now. I only put the line in as it suits for the imaginary policeman to turn around while I grab my beer from the impossible location and slurp it down.

I am wearing a pair of shorts in the Australian colours and a blue singlet by the way (in the act)
Message: Posted by: Pizpor (Apr 14, 2015 01:40AM)
Excellent! Good work.
I know exactly what you about them laughing at stuff I never considered funny. I've had people tell me my jokes that they heard me tell over a year ago. If you have a good character, the magic is almost secondary. It becomes a comedy act with some magic. Which in my opinion is much different than a 'comedy magician.'

Keep at it. You're discovering something!
Message: Posted by: Nekromant (Apr 23, 2015 02:41AM)
Fantastic character CJRichard!
DaleTrueman, it seems you're doing a great job, good luck!

[quote]On Apr 13, 2015, Pizpor wrote:
From what I've seen over the years, almost all of the most enduring and memorable acts are the ones based on unique characters. Harry the Hat (Harry Anderson), Lab Man (Ruby Coby), The Great Thomsoni, Jeff Hobson, Pop Haydn, etc. are all rooted in a character.

Pizpor I believe that too, one of my personal favorites is Daniel Sylvester Battagline who has an amazing cartoon character 'Silvester The Jester'.
Message: Posted by: DaleTrueman (May 25, 2015 08:30AM)
So here is my character in action. My third time performing in public.
As I said above he's quite low brow and a bit crude. I more or less came up with the act as I know I can get spots performing between bands and at cabaret nights where I thought he'd go down well. Mostly I just rented a rehearsal space and acted like I was this character, came up with a fifteen minute act then cut it down to four minutes. This is the result.

If you are offended by swearing.
If you are offended by swearing during a magic trick.
If you think magic tricks should only be performed in a suit or respectable attire.

Then you might not like this video.

The recordings a bit rough and I swore more than I meant to (I don't at all when I'm rehearsing, it just came out on the night)


He does have a bit of a back story and I flesh it out more as I go...... It's mostly silly though.

Hope you like it.
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (May 31, 2015 01:02AM)
My comprehensive lecture notes from my workshop on acting and character building for magic are now available here:

Message: Posted by: MagicDan3333 (Jun 10, 2015 11:45PM)
Looking forward to seeing you Pop Haydn lecture in Madison this September.
Message: Posted by: Czimmerman (Jun 13, 2015 12:43AM)
Where is he lecturing? I am about 45 minutes north of MAdison.
Message: Posted by: Big Daddy Cool (Jun 8, 2018 05:48PM)
I did. I wrote about it in Theatrical Magic ($10 on Amazon) and wrote an entire novel (1st in a series) called Tales From The Flip-Side based on the character's back story.
A detailed backstory is a key essential element to good character development!
Message: Posted by: Big Daddy Cool (Jun 15, 2018 04:09PM)
[quote]On May 30, 2015, Pop Haydn wrote:
My comprehensive lecture notes from my workshop on acting and character building for magic are now available here:

http://www.popsmagic.com/store/p66/On_Acting_and_Magic.html [/quote]

POP! Just saw this! I'm purchasing immediately!
Message: Posted by: malaki (Aug 23, 2018 08:03PM)
The back story that I created was primarily to satisfy the Laurels, but has developed over the years to actually connect me to certain people in history. My new C&B act was originally written to connect me to Friar Roger Bacon, an alchemist who taught Albertus Magnus. Roger was supposedly my mentor, and later my friend. My back story covers a lot of ground iin about two pages, but gives the reasons for the way I am clothed and the type of magic I perform.

To make the story more suited to a muggle audience, I have changed the mentor/friend to Nicholas Flammell, who is actually a bit post-period for me, but everyone who has seen or read Harry Potter knows about him. His connection to alchemy becomes key to the performance. This actually shortened the C&B act by about three minutes, since I did not have to explain who he was. Unfortunately, it also cost me a laugh line... Alas...

Such a back story gives you a foundation upon which your character stands. It gives you a point of reference for study and research, helping even with the issues of your patterns of speech for your script. It provides you with a comfortable place to stand when dealing with the audience, which makes your persona, and your show all the more believable.
Message: Posted by: drmolarmagic (Nov 19, 2018 03:37PM)
Hi everyone,
So I decided to follow advise of fellow Café-ers and actually write down the backstory of my character, and It actually has turned into a Steampunk style SciFi time traveling magician story. I'm on chapter 3. And I agree that a good backstory helps with performance scripts and stories..... I recommend everyone do this exercise
Message: Posted by: GS121002 (Feb 2, 2019 11:50PM)
[quote]On Mar 23, 2015, Terrible Wizard wrote:
I mean, has anyone tried writing their persona's/character's backstory up in literary form (short story, memoir, autobiography, etc)?

Might such an exercise be worthwhile? [/quote]

In my humble opinion, yes, I believe it would be well worth the effort.

I love doing magic with a story. I believe it makes the magic more memorable. I especially like bringing in historical references so it makes the spectator think, "Hmm, maybe this could actually be true."

Here is a routine I came up with based upon Pop Hayden's Teleportation Transmitter routine. Not that there is anything wrong with his routine, I just wanted to put my touches on it. And yes, I did license the routine and the rights to build his device from him.

Message: Posted by: SpellbinderEntertainment (Feb 18, 2019 06:23PM)
I LOVE that the oferwheming replies are pro-backstory.
If you're new to this I think the "secret" is to imaginatively brainstorm on your forming character without any judgement.
If you're timid about giong into detail, picture the "coming attractions" for a movie about him/her in your mind, you can go deeper later.
Message: Posted by: bdungey (Apr 8, 2019 06:21PM)
This is a worthwhile thread to read - thank you all for adding in. I'm JUST starting to write mine...
Message: Posted by: Pop Haydn (May 10, 2019 10:08PM)
On character and story with the Teleportation Device:

Message: Posted by: Michael L (Sep 20, 2020 12:56AM)
I see Pop Haydn has already replied and linked to the notes he makes available, but I also very highly recommend his episode of the Magical Thinking podcast for those interested in this topic.
He talks quite a bit about his character, why he abandoned his previous persona, and how important it is to him that the character believes what he's saying, even if the things being said make no sense.

The podcast had many stellar episodes, but I found this one the be among the best of them and a fabulous listen.

Message: Posted by: pulpscrypt (Oct 6, 2020 12:28PM)
My love is bizarre magic. Since most of those effects require storytelling and acting, I think a backstory is essential.
I have been developing mine for years. LoL
I think it should also be a work in progress.