Audiences always ask me how I go about creating magic. For myself, there are 6 simple steps that go into creating a magic trick. A good magic trick will always look effortless, but it is only because so much effort went into it.
1. Find the Idea
The “Idea” is always the beginning. How I retrieve these ideas is anyone’s guess. Sometimes they spawn by watching a movie/tv show. Sometimes I read something that really strikes my interest and there are times when the idea literally comes out of the blue. Ideas themselves are real magic. Sometimes you find them, but sometimes they just seem to find you.
2. Convey the Idea
This is the process where I think about the idea and think about what, in my magic took kit, can assist in conveying that idea. Let’s assume, for the sake of this entry, that I want to convey the thought that Free Will is a fallacy and the truth is that everything is based on fate; things are predetermined. In order to convey this thought I have to think about what items will highlight this thinking. Is it cards, coins, rubber bands, string, or a post it note and a pen? Or, maybe I have no idea what items are needed; therefore, I have to sit, simmer and ponder. Like a philosopher I will stare into the sky waiting for an answer. This can take a while.
3. Dance With your Props
So now I have decided. I am not using rubber bands, strings, coins or a stinking handkerchief. I have decided that I will be using playing cards to convey the idea that everything in this world is predetermined. By the way, the answer is always playing cards. I now begin to toy with potential methods of how these playing cards will convey that message. This is typically known, in the magic world, as methodology. This is also the process of where I begin to rethink of all the sleights and principles I know in card magic. For several weeks I will begin to toy with the deck of cards. During this time, I am testing out every strange idea that has ever come into my head. “What if I move 2 cards from the bottom of the deck to the top, what if I let the audience shuffle the cards, what if I add a wine glass to the method?” During this time, the cards are always in my hands, they are dancing between my fingers. I am throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks.
4. Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse
I have an idea; I know what items will convey that idea and I know what “secret” stuff needs to happen in order to create the magic. I am almost there but not quite. For the next several weeks, I will begin to rehearse this trick by myself with props in their exact setting as if it were show time. I begin mixing in the words with the secret actions and the not so secret actions. I think about where I will be standing and where I can create important moments of misdirection and ways to build tension and anticipation. If you were to see this part of the process, you would just think that I am a man with mental illness talking to himself and moving around in weird ways. Rehearsal is of the utmost importance but to outsiders it does look strange.
5. Show It
I have spent months cultivating this idea and nurturing it. This new magic trick is my child that I have protected. It has been safe inside the home for all this time. But eventually, like a new parent, I am going to have to allow my child to go out into the big bad world. It is time for the trick to be judged by others. To be honest, this is the hardest part of the process. I want the trick to be perfect, but I already know that it is far from it. What I have created thus far is only a rough draft and the only way it can finally become ready to be published is by going through several revisions in front of live audiences. I will find a venue, gather a crowd and begin to perform about 4 tricks. Three of these tricks have already been established. They went through this exact process already. However, there is this new trick which will be seeing fresh faces for the first time, and it is normally hidden somewhere in the middle of these 4 tricks. The show is going smoothly, the audience is enjoying themselves by seeing proven tested material, but now we begin the new trick.
The new trick begins and almost immediately the vibe changes. I am not flowing as smoothly as I was before, the words do not come as effortlessly. It almost looks like I am thinking. This is all true because that is exactly what is happening. I move along in the trick doing my best to execute the proper steps I have done during rehearsal. However, these steps are new and they are not as crisp as they will be in the future. Three minutes feels like ten, but the trick has culminated, I got to the end and avoided a complete disaster. In my head, it was a success because I made it, but to the audience the applause elicits a score of 5 out of 10. I am not too upset about that score because the audience was right; in fact they are always right. That trick was only 5 out of 10, but new things have been learned. Because during that trick, I was paying attention to the audience as much as they were paying attention to me. I was seeing if their attention waned, if they were laughing, if they were intrigued by what I was saying and if there were any looks of disbelief.
6. Revise and Repeat
Now it is time to iron out the wrinkles. From this point on, all I am doing is performing this trick in front of live audiences and finding ways to make it better. I want to lift that 5 up to a 10. The only way to do it is by ingraining this routine into my hands and mind so that I am not thinking anymore; I am performing. After each performance, I write down notes on what worked and what could be better. I then go home and focus on fixing what’s broken and what works I leave alone.
So that is it. It is only 6 easy steps to magic a magic trick work. Six steps are not that much to remember, but what is challenging is the time and effort it takes. The completion of these 6 steps can range in time as well. Sometimes, it only takes 4 months and there are times when it takes about 2 years. There are times when I cannot lift up that score from a 5 to a 10. Maybe I can only lift it up to a 6 and let us be honest who wants to date a 6. It is at these moments where I have to end that relationship and go searching for better tricks. The good thing about magic is that there are plenty of tricks in the sea.