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Word Nerds Newsletter, Issue #1 - Magic tricks in a garage
January 13, 2022
When I was in beauty school, I needed a flexible job. We had seminars and extra-curriculars (yes, at a beauty school!) at all hours of the day and night, so I began searching for a part-time or gig type of role.
Back then, Craigslist was a legitimately alright place to find jobs like that. I always searched there because I knew:
1. They were desperate because they’d posted on Craigslist and other sites.
Basically, job postings there checked every one of my boxes for my flexible job needs. And within a week of searching, I was hired as a magician’s assistant and running through illusion tutorials in the magician’s garage.
And I loved it.
I grew up watching those cheesy yet captivating “Secrets of Magic Revealed” type of shows every weekend with my dad, and to this day, I haven’t outgrown my love of magic.
As I began writing more, I was surprised by how much the foundations of a good illusion line up with the foundations of good writing. And that’s what I really want to talk about today.
When you’re creating tricks and illusions for a show, you have to walk such a fine line. You want to… Be inventive. Be memorable. Create an enjoyable world for your viewer.
But at the same time, you can’t be too random. You need to create context and you need to world-build in a way that your audience can relate to. Finally, you can’t be so relatable that your audience not only figures out where the experience is going– they also figure out the mechanics of how you’ll do it.
In magic, this is called telegraphing. If you telegraph the thing you’re about to do, you’ve shown the audience too much. Your sleight of hand didn’t work. They saw you switch out the props. You didn’t move fast enough, and they saw you starting to crawl into the secret compartment (yes, that’s actually how we did a lot of the tricks!).
Now they know exactly what you’re going to do AND how you’re going to get there. And who wants to see a magic show where they already know everything that’s going to happen?
The same is true for writing, in my experience. Whether you’re writing sales letters, blog content, or a novel, you must walk the same tightrope for the best results.
You want your reader to have enough context and relatable detail that they can really fall into the world you’ve built and experience it. You don’t want to give away so much that they anticipate every fiber you’ve woven together, pick it apart, and never think about it again.
You don’t want to telegraph the experience you're about to create.
Obviously, it’s easier said than done. And the exact method you can use to find the balance in your writing varies wildly depending on what you’re writing.
In a sales letter, it often comes down to the specific order in which you present your promise, picture, proof, and push. In a novel, it’s a much more nuanced balance of symbolism and foreshadowing.
Please don’t forget that whatever you need written, I can help you! Feel free to reply with your questions. I’m also all ears for tips, or even stories of awesome magic shows you’ve been to. I love writing and I love talking about writing… that’s why I became a freelance copywriter!
So, I’m here if you ever want to chat. I promise I won’t hit you with a bill for “coaching billed per minute” unlike other newsletters I’ve subscribed to…
Otherwise, thanks for opening this email and reading this far! I’ll be back soon with the next issue of Word Nerds.
Cheering you on,
P.S. Have we connected on LinkedIn? Join my network or follow me to see occasional tidbits in-between newsletters.
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