(Close Window)
Topic: How to write your own patter
Message: Posted by: prettylady1990 (Jul 19, 2004 03:12AM)
Hello all,
As some of you may know I am a begginer magician and need some help. I have look through google.com but can't find my answer.

I would like to know some tips on how to write your own patter. I'm finding it hard and was wondering if there was any procedures you follow. Any info will be appreciated
Message: Posted by: Peter Marucci (Jul 19, 2004 06:04AM)
There's no actual procedure (at least, none that I'm aware of).
It's mainly a case of trying different stories until you find one that fits; or, conversely, trying different tricks on one story until you find a trick that fits (it works both ways).
The very fact that you want to write your OWN patter is a huge step forward! Well done.
And, with time and persistence, it will happen, too; I guarantee it!
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Jul 19, 2004 08:37AM)
It's not patter.

It's the spoken part of a script.

What are you doing?
What are you saying?
What are they seeing?
What are they hearing?
What needs to be where for you to make the trick work?
* what is your character?
* what is your motivation at the moment?

The written answers to those questions are your script.
Message: Posted by: Whiterabbit (Jul 19, 2004 07:34PM)
How very true Jonathan, especially the doing. I choreograph the motions (not that I dance or anything like that) and then add the patter. It's amazing how many words can have a gesture substitute instead.

The other thing Prettylady is that a fair proportion of your time (I tend to find one third to half) is spent connecting with the audience.

This can be as simple as stopping at the appropriate moment, looking at them with the relevant gesture (knowing smile, shrug, despair etc.) then moving on with the effect. Or you can say something.

Oliver Hardy (the comedic actor)did these moments when he was silent, twiddled his fingers and looked at the camera (suicide normally) and it drew people in to his world. When someone looks at you and speaks they come out into your world. When you say patter without looking directly, it's a cross - more like narration I guess.

Anyway, my tuppence and some of it may be right as patter is a hotly debated field.

I might also add that you must be a pretty sharp beginner to be looking at this stuff so early.

Good Luck.
Message: Posted by: prettylady1990 (Jul 20, 2004 12:57AM)
Thank you all for replying,
I have learnt pretty much all I need to know. Thanks for wishing me luck.
Message: Posted by: dpe666 (Jul 20, 2004 05:02PM)
Thank you all for replying,
I have learnt pretty much all I need to know. Thanks for wishing me luck.

No, you haven't. You can never learn to much about any subject. I have been in magic for over 26 years, and I am constantly learning.

Limit your story telling. Stories suck. Audiences of today care only about three things: What you are going to do, what you are doing, and what you just did. Get to the point. Do not waste their time with a long drawn out story about your grandfather, who met a mystical stranger who told him to wish on a star, bury magic beans in the yard, learned his lesson, and lived happily-ever-after just to make a coin disappear. If you insist on telling a story, make sure that there are effects throughout the story, or make sure that the effect is worth the time it took to get to it. Good luck. :devilish:
Message: Posted by: prettylady1990 (Jul 22, 2004 03:33AM)
Thanks for the tip.
Your right about how you can never stop learning. I just meant that that was the info I was looking for at this particular time, but it was my mistake for writing that. Oh well, I learn from my mistakes

Message: Posted by: stephen secret (Jul 22, 2004 04:49PM)
This may help?

I'm working on the coin effect called 'gaddabout coins' and like you, need to find patter for the effect.

As I go over and over working on the routine I try new lines each time. A few days ago out of my mouth came a real good line for the last part of the effect. With this line came very good misdirection for a move in the routine.

This weekend I'll be working an Art Fair and with the new lines I feel ok trying the routine on live people.
Message: Posted by: Tom Cutts (Jul 22, 2004 05:44PM)
Stories Suck????

I guess that is why no one goes to movies anymore.

Or buys novels...

Or watches TV...

because afterall stories suck. Nosense.

People who can't tell a story convincingly, who then try to entertain with a story, well that might achieve some degree of suckature.

People who cop to "Audiences of today care only about three things: What you are going to do, what you are doing, and what you just did." are in immense danger of presenting mindless and souless performances.

PrettyLady, the key to finding your presentation, or as in a lot of cases it finding you, is to celebrate the things in life which inspire you. Bands write about what they are interested in. Why is it magicians tell mindless stories to which they have no connection? Why is it other magicians are doing mindless stunts to which their audience is not connected.

Tell the stories of [b]you[/b]. Study the art of story creation and telling. From this fertile soil your presentations will grow almost as fast as you can harvest them.


Message: Posted by: prettylady1990 (Jul 22, 2004 06:37PM)
Thanks Tom and Stephen,
I relly liked your inspiring words Tom. I also think that stories are not pointless but if they don't connect with you they are.

Message: Posted by: Peter Marucci (Jul 22, 2004 09:33PM)
Once again, this is a case of the singer, not the song.
And you are right: A bad story as the framework for a magic trick can be terrible and seemingly endless; a brilliant story, on the other hand, doesn't even need the magic trick to carry it.
For examples, you might want to check out the e-zine Visions (www.online-visions.com), or Dragonskull, or Gene Poinc's page on the Learned Pig site.
Message: Posted by: Sergeant (Jul 25, 2004 11:03PM)
Patter or script writing is one of the most important parts of being an entertainer. You must think in terms of what you want the effect of your trick to be on the audience. Think in terms or a reaction such as, surprise, laughter, fear, wonder, awe, amazement, etc. Then decide what emotional pathway you wish to use to trigger that emotion, such as, dark and mysterious, clever and funny, cute and charming, mysterious and twisted, offbeat funny, dopey and surprising, etc.

If you were to use something as simple as the two in the hand, one in the pocket routine, you must first decide what you want he end result to be. Lets use an example to illustrate the creative process of script writing. We will use (Mysterious and twisted).

The trick is pretty standard, we will assume you can already do it well and only are looking for an effective presentation. If you were going to use Dark and Mysterious and wanted to illicit an eerie and weird reaction from the spectator then you must start from that perspective. What would the objects that you are using in the trick be (hint: no sponge balls) Perhaps eyeballs or pieces of flesh or old rusty tacks, Poison pills, etc.

Now we know what the effect we want is, we know the routine, we have ideas of the props, we can now fire our imagination by thinking in terms of the objects and the emotional response we want from the audience. Ask yourself what would a person use the objects for? What king of person would use them? Would that person be me or am I telling a story about that person . . etc.

You could think in terms of an executioner who would save the eyes of those he killed, but one eye spooked him and he tried to throw it out, but it would only return over and over again.

Now it is time to ask why would an eye bother this guy…hmmm, well maybe because that person was really innocent and the executioner knew it, but did nothing about it. And now that thought haunts him.

The innocent eye keeps coming back and in the end…hmm what would be the final load, empty hand? No that would be boring. A bunch of eyes or different colored eyes? Better but it does not seem to support the story. How about a foreboding of the executioner’s own death. Now that sounds scary and eerie.

As you walk yourself through an effect, thinking about the emotions and reactions you want from the audience it becomes a little easier to come up with ideas for your script. It is also very beneficial to read on subjects other than magic. You want to be well rounded as a magician. People will find you much more interesting that way and you will come up with many more original presentations.

Stories are a great way to present magic but as dpe666 said, I would limit your stories in your presentations. You want a mix of presentations, stories, direct interaction, observations, visual tricks, etc. What you say depends very much on what you do and what you want the reactions of the audience to be.
Message: Posted by: Mark Rough (Jul 27, 2004 11:15AM)
Here's my procedure, or at least my procedure on not so creative days:

1. Wake up, think, "I need to write that script today."
2. Start coffee, while it's brewing, sharpen pencil and get paper out.
3. Pour coffee
4. Sit, drinking coffee, tapping pencil on the table
5. Sharpen pencil again
6. Walk the dog
7. Drink more coffee
8. Make a grocery list
9. Check e-mail
10. Go grocery shopping
11. Come home, make lunch
12. Sharpen pencil again
13. Clean kitchen
14. Mow lawn
15. Call for a pizza, wonder why I bother to go to the grocery store
16. Watch the news
17. Eat pizza
18. Fall asleep on the couch
19. Wake up with pencil sticking in my ribs
20. Go to bed.

I'm sure this is of no help what so ever, but I feel better now.

Message: Posted by: Steven Steele (Jul 27, 2004 11:29AM)

There is not much out there about writing patter, but I would offer you these tips.

1)You have to set aside time and decide to write the patter.

2) Read as much as you can about anything and everything. Widen your experiences to draw on for inspiration.

3) Take a creative writing class or read a book on storytelling.

4) If possible, get the two audio tape series "A Talk About Patter" by Sid Lorraine. It was published in 1983 by Jeff Busby, who is no longer in business, but you might find a stray out there somewhere.

5) Read other magician's presentations and see their approach. If you do card magic, read "Life, Death, and Other Mysteries" by Robert Neale. If you work with larger objects read Punx's "Once Upon A Time..." for his approach to storytelling (It's not me, but still interesting to learn from as to one person's solution).

6) Finally, don't be afraid. You will get good the more you write. A great novel has never been the first draft of an authors first work, ever.

7) Reread Tom Cutt's post above, that is the soul and basis of this post.

Hope this helps you out. Sorry I didn't see this thread earlier, but I was waiting for Tom. :bg:
Message: Posted by: prettylady1990 (Jul 28, 2004 01:09AM)
Thanks for the great reply's. It must of taken you all ages to reply

Mark yours was kinda' funny
Message: Posted by: Mark Rough (Jul 28, 2004 03:31PM)
Okay, more seriouly, just sit down and write and don't worry about anything until you have something on paper. You can fix it later. I've been writing for probably 20 years. If I weren't always trying to get a final draft done when writing the first draft, I'd have written ten times more by now.

Also, write everyday. It's like practicing magic. The more you do it, the easier it is. Even if it's total crap you get in the practice of regularly putting words down on the page. Then it's easier to sit down and work on your script (patter, whatever you want to call it) when you need to.

It's easy to get bogged down in trying to say things correctly. Just say what you want to say (or, in this case, write what you want to say). Find connections between effects and other things that interest or intrigue you. Then edit and proofread, make things sharper, and say things as simply as you can. Don't dumb things down by any means, but why take 10 minutes to say something you can say in 1.

Sorry about my first post. I was the class clown. Hope this is more helpful.

Message: Posted by: Sergeant (Jul 28, 2004 06:23PM)

Great post! Get thoughts down frist then worry about rewriting. I have also killed my own creativity by getting stuck on the first paragraph and tyring to wirte it perfect right out of the box.

In your first post you forgot:

a. Stare out window waiting for inspiration
b. Rearrange magic books
c. Thumb aimlessly through the last magic magazine issue.

Message: Posted by: kOnO (Jul 29, 2004 08:15AM)
Wow such great suggestions.

I would like to add that your patter, story, or script must fit your character’s personality.

Patter comes much easier after a character is developed. What you say and how you say it depends on the thinking of your character.
You wouldn’t want to try to be too dark and mysterious if your character is a comedian or clown.

Keep your patter in character.

Message: Posted by: Mark Rough (Jul 29, 2004 10:17AM)

Oh yeah, I forgot those.

Message: Posted by: prettylady1990 (Jul 30, 2004 11:16PM)
Wow thanks for the new advise everywhere. I especially like the idea about just practising writing everyday and try not to get it perfect on the first go. I tend to do that a bit. At the moment I'm doing a character profile to help me. Thanks
Message: Posted by: Mike Wild (Jul 31, 2004 02:46PM)
I'm always on the outside looking in with these types of threads. My way must be wrong. Numbers don't lie, and counting down the suggestions here, I find my position on this subject to be very singular and separate.

My act is 90% coin magic, 10% other close up stuff. I don't memorize patter, as I mentioned in another thread. I don't spend time "getting into character", choosing instead to be my wise cracking, coy, and extroverted self most of the time. I never commentate on the coins, that is I don't state the obvious, saying things like, "here's a coin, now it vanished, now it's over here, now there's two coins..." I small talk with the crowd, makes jokes, tell stories, basically whatever comes to me at the time. My routines have premise, but it's so loosely scripted in my head, that any routine could go anywhere, anytime, depending upon the situation. If I'm doing a coin assembly routine, and the idea to take that into a production/vanish sequence strikes my fancy... I do it.

Everyone else seems to put so much time and effort into the routining, scripting, patter, etc. etc., I must be doing something wrong... and have just been extremely lucky up to this point ;)


Message: Posted by: RBerteig (Aug 1, 2004 04:51AM)
Mike, you've nailed the essential difference between a Jazz Gig and an Opera. Both have their place. Both require immense ammounts of practice and skill to carry off. Done well, both are entertaining.

Most of in the scripts are good camp have learned the hard way that without one we get lost.

I follow your plan in one regard. I don't have a set show. Sometimes, I make notes before a gig about what will open and close the show. Usually I just bring what I need for the routines I am willing to do for that crowd, and play it by ear.

So I don't script the show, but I do script each individual effect. I also feel free to interact with my audience, even to the point of wandering off script occasionally, but more often between effects.

But where do the scripts come from? Some are published, but tweaked to fit my character. Some are my own work. A small number are silent, in the sense that I don't have words that must be said, but those are much more carefully blocked and choreographed.

Write about things that interest you. Make the effects illustrate and support the tale. Avoid like the plague the temptation to describe what you are holding and doing. Break any of these rules, but break them on purpose. Above all, remember that you need to have a performance character (even if that is just your "wise cracking, coy, and extroverted self") and that it is through your effects and their presentations that your audience will come to know that character, so remain true to that character in your selections.
Message: Posted by: Mike Wild (Aug 1, 2004 03:58PM)

I think that scripting doesn't work for me because I work in the same bar and coffee shop, and deal with a lot of regulars. I need new things to say and do every time I perform. Additionally, I'm the bartender, so I have a literally neverending stream of material and inspiration coming right up to me and ordering drinks. It's very easy to mix things up, and give the appearance of fresh and new material.

I do perform many of the same effects night to night, but it's all in the presentation... a coins across is not always a coins across, if you take my meaning ;)

If I did stage magic, I would script it out, but working a bar and/or coffee shop is literally a daily crap shoot of people, attitudes, relevence, etc.

I like your analogy though... I'm a "jazz player".

Cool daddy-o, real cool...


Message: Posted by: Big Daddy Cool (Aug 1, 2004 08:51PM)
On 2004-07-31 15:46, WildStone wrote:

Everyone else seems to put so much time and effort into the routining, scripting, patter, etc. etc., I must be doing something wrong... and have just been extremely lucky up to this point ;)

Yes, you have been lucky.
Mike, I am 99% positive that you are really talented and kill your audiences. However, every top pro making major dough says the same thing - develop a strong character and script your performances. I can think of no exception to this.

Here is the thing about jazz - it is not completely improvised. Jazz players follow a chart. They know when they are supposed to play certain notes and how. But, because of their technical skill and the safety net of the chart (script) they are able to taken liberties and improvise from time to time. NO JAZZ PERFORMANCE IS EVER 100% IMPROVISED. And some are not at all. Improvisation is not what makes it jazz. And every famous jazz player is known for a specific kind of style and repetoire - character.

Magic should be the same way. Period. Making it up as you go along is unacceptable. In no other style of performing would you ever accept total improv. Even Improv groups don't perform 100% improv. Second City scripts their sketches! Gasp!

I challenge you Mike, to move your magic to the next level. I want you to succeed. I want you to make more money performing than you ever imagined! An intentional, well defined character and a well written, solid script will help get you there.
Message: Posted by: Mark Rough (Aug 1, 2004 09:04PM)
BDC is right. 9 out of 10 magicians I've seen that don't script suck to the highest degree (and I mean that in the nicest possible way). Yes, some people can do it, and if you can I bow to you.

It's funny you should mention jazz. I've been lucky enough to see some of Lionel Hamptons old charts. It's amazing how much of this amazing improv artists stuff wasn't improved at all. Also, in another vein, Robin Williams. 99.99% of the stuff you hear him say on stage is scripted, no matter how spur of the moment it sounds. I can actually think of only two people in jazz or comedy that improved to the degree that people think all people in those areas do- Keith Jarret (although some people hate his stuff, I think he's a freakin' genius), and Groucho Marx (there must be something wrong with people that don't think he's funny).

That's not to say that if you have a script that you can't go off it. I do all the time. Yeah, you need to be able to flow with what's going on around you or you'll sound like a robot. But, you have to start someplace.

Just my .02

Message: Posted by: rikbrooks (Aug 1, 2004 09:32PM)
Here's what I do. I find a routine that I like. Penguin has a lot of demos but they aren't really good. There are others that you can google for. See how the magician does his patter. If it's an effect that you do then mimmick him. Memorize everything about it. Once you can do it as slick as he does forget the whole thing and make your own, it will come easy then.

As you are memorizing you'll find yourself asking, "Why did he say that and not this?" You'll find answers such as, "because it leads into this" Eventually you won't look anything like your hero but you'll be just as good.
Message: Posted by: Mike Wild (Aug 2, 2004 12:13PM)
Big Daddy,

I mentioned in another thread that I was going try an experiment, and script out an evenings worth of short sets... which is what my evenings usually consist of, memorize the script, and keep to it as much as is possible. This being done to see and take note of the differences, better or worse. I do have a character, it just happens to be my actual personality, true, a bit more tattooed biker wise ass than I am at home, but still, pretty much me.

I DO NOT go into shows totally improv and/or unprepared. I just tend to let things go where they will. I review moves, lines, positioning, patter samples, premises, etc. But not to an obsessive degree... loosely, casually, as if reviewing a do's and don'ts list at a summer camp.

But, I'm going to refine the character traits and persona, memorize lines and routining, and stick to a plan next week... I really do wonder if I do it wrong sometimes, so this little surrealistic pillow of an experiment should be very interesting... and enlightening.

If nothing else, it will put me in an unfamiliar and uncomfortable place, and I want to see how I perform under those conditions :)

Best to the Cool one, et al.

Message: Posted by: prettylady1990 (Aug 3, 2004 03:21AM)
I like the discussion which is happening about scripting and non-scripting. It was very interesting.

Personally I would probably script it but I agree with Mike saying how the routine could suddenly change. I think a script is a good idea but I wouldn't say it word for word.

In my drama class at the moment we're learning about improvisation and I think it's quite hard and that's only for a small class. But doing mostly improvisation for a bar without writing at least some notes would be very hard.

Message: Posted by: el toro (Aug 3, 2004 06:28AM)
It seems to me that many of the successful close-up magicians are really stand-up comedians doing some magic. I think performers like Doc Eason, Bill Malone, Greg Wilson and countless others are very skilled comedians. They certainly have a script, but they don't necessarily follow it. They interact with the audience and they take it from there. I am not sure this is something that can be rehearsed without performing. But I am sure that this comedian style is not for everybody. So my advice is: Find your way! Stay true to your personality. I really can't picture Bill Malone as the "mysterious stranger". Or vice versa.
Message: Posted by: RBerteig (Aug 5, 2004 03:52AM)
As a beginner, I was lucky to have a teacher that believed that scripts were mandatory. I bristled a bit, but quickly realized the advantages of not needed to know what I was going to say next while trying to concentrate on slights and moves.

Now, I strike a balance. I script my routines because I ordinarily work in the realm of bizarre close up, where the stories are intertwined with the effects. However, I rarely walk into a performance with an absolute plan for what effects will be done and in what order. I also never script the seques and other small-talk that inevitably happens... that is all driven by audience reactions and interactions.

Of course, my venue of choice is suited to this style. I perform as an invited guest at small gatherings, usually as a friend who would have been invited in any case, but increasingly as a friend of a friend invited because of my magic. I have yet to take the leap of faith required to charge for it... so I don't feel guilty if I am social as well as entertaining. I prefer to walk around and present things to small groups. Not everyone sees everything, and I like the conversations that result as people compare notes.

If I were working on a stage or another setting where my segment has a fixed alotment of time then I would expect to work very differently. In TV especially, it is an advantage to know to the second the length of your act, and to be able to adjust that length by substitution of effects to fit the available time. For that you need scripts, blocking, direction, the whole nine yards. That isn't my cup of tea, so I don't try to do it.

In short, I suspect Mike's approach works for him precisely because it is suited to his venue and his character. I also suspect he already has more scripted effects than he realizes. He might have to rig a hidden camera for a few nights to find out, though.
Message: Posted by: Mike Wild (Aug 5, 2004 05:59PM)
:) You know, I do believe you're correct sir. After some thought and reflection on the matter, I'd have to admit that through repetition and time, I know quite a few effects verbatim, and a few different ways to present them as well. If I ignore scripting... it just happens all on its own anyway ;)

I do need a short video for something else... maybe I'll see about getting someone who knows which end of camera is which to help me out.


Message: Posted by: prettylady1990 (Aug 6, 2004 02:52AM)
Best of luck to get someone to film you mike

Message: Posted by: RBerteig (Aug 6, 2004 03:34AM)
I would gladly volunteer except for the small matter of most of the U.S. sitting between us. :)

You probably have a regular who owes you a favor and has a camera they know how to operate... asking other regulars at my usual haunt for their card is how I locate all sorts of random services. At least I know they are friendly.
Message: Posted by: onebark (Aug 25, 2004 06:24PM)
On 2004-07-22 18:44, Tom Cutts wrote:
Stories Suck????

I guess that is why no one goes to movies anymore.

Or buys novels...

Or watches TV...

because afterall stories suck. Nosense.

People who can't tell a story convincingly, who then try to entertain with a story, well that might achieve some degree of suckature.

People who cop to "Audiences of today care only about three things: What you are going to do, what you are doing, and what you just did." are in immense danger of presenting mindless and souless performances.

PrettyLady, the key to finding your presentation, or as in a lot of cases it finding you, is to celebrate the things in life which inspire you. Bands write about what they are interested in. Why is it magicians tell mindless stories to which they have no connection? Why is it other magicians are doing mindless stunts to which their audience is not connected.

Tell the stories of [b]you[/b]. Study the art of story creation and telling. From this fertile soil your presentations will grow almost as fast as you can harvest them.




Thank you, Tom, that was very well said...and quite true.
Message: Posted by: jrbobik (Aug 27, 2004 08:07AM)
I agree with a lot of the post here. My influences for patter come from many places.

1. Read a lot and not just mindless reads find books that make you think or challenge the way you think.

2. After a performance go home and write down everything you can remember. What jokes they liked. Did you hush the audience with an amazing ending? What lines did they look confused about?

3. Now review all of it and see what worked and what did not. Then go and rewrite your patter.

4. Just have fun at what you are doing. It can be serious but you have to enjoy what you are doing first. This will help the patter flow better and make it sound real.

I guess what I am getting at is it is not just sitting down and putting words to paper then just repeating it. It requires a lot of other factors and thought.

Just my 2 cents

John B
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Aug 27, 2004 09:46AM)
I try to write patter in my dreams.
I can get the visuals, the feelings and the pacing...
But the words are all dyslexic and in color.