Scriptwriting (2)

1.2 The Archive

“Writing never starts on a blank page.”

This is so true, and any serious writer will agree on that. When you script a routine, you never really start from a blank page (and so you don’t have to fear the “writer’s block”). You build on whatever is in your archive: may that be digital, physical or just in your brain.

In fact, when confronted with writing a script for a particular trick, your brain will dive into the depths of its own web of knowledge and come up with some surprising ideas and bits.

Therefore, create an archive, or pool of what I call writing bits, ideas, funny lines, excerpts, quotes and whatever you intend to put into a presentation. I found these categories practical:

– funny one-liners, jokes, wordplay

– gags, sight gags

– funny props

– collection of interesting topics

– quotes (of famous people from all times of history)

– classic literature

– interesting short stories

– fairy tales

– interesting physical principles

– mystery, mythology

– puzzles, riddles

– news

I use a simple tag system to organize every bit of information I enter: #riddle, #puzzle, #oneliner, #shortstory, and so on. When I want a certain topic, I enter the tag in the search field and the computer presents me with all the stuff I have saved in the archive.

Once you set up your knowledge archive, you will soon notice a difference in how you look at information. You will develop the ability to scan and evaluate everything that might be useful in the future for a presentation. You then just jot this down into the notebook, or the digital device at hand. So, in time, you build a solid pool of bits ready to be used for your scripting. It should become a habit, ideally.

Here are some tools you might find helpful for your archive.


1.2.1 Zettelkasten (Zettlr)

This is a note-taking software that imitates the classic file cards archive. You can quickly add entries in form of digital file cards. The advantage is that you can tag the single cards, and you can hyperlink them with other cards. It is quick, easy and perfect for adding information.

It is very easy to set-up a file folder structure that will help you navigate your archive. Migration is totally easy, just copy the files and folders, and that’s it. The files are in Markdown, which is preferable if you want to include headings or text formatting. But plain text is sufficient, don’t worry about that.


1.2.2 Zettelkasten (analog)

Of course, being an old-timer, I love using real file cards, which are stored and organized in a file cabinet. Often, I do an entry in the Zettelkasten software, and immediately print that onto a file card, which goes into the cabinet. This makes it easier for me to take out the cards for a writing project and lay them out on a table, rearrange them, and so on.

Especially when injecting funny lines or bits of business into the script, the use of real file cards makes a real difference and is a lot easier than searching for the jokes in the digital ocean of your computer.

So put the jokes and lines down onto the table!

The final tip is very important. In order to take notes efficiently, make sure the tools are at hand literally. In my case, I keep my laptop, tablet and notebooks open and easily accessible. No need to open an app—I can take notes immediately whenever I want.