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Creating New Magic

Creating New Magic

Posted on May 20th, 2013 by Rick Lax in Articles

Guys like Daniel Garcia, Paul Harris, and Bizzaro think up amazing new tricks faster than the rest of us can even learn ‘em.

Calen Morelli invented a new trick every single day, for 177 days in a row.  How is that possible? How do magic inventors think up new illusions?

There are 3 different ways.

1) Start with the effect, worry about method later. Let’s say you’re working on a TV commercial for an exotic pet store. You decide that you want to make a chameleon appear in a shoebox. Boom—that’s your trick: The Appearing Chameleon. Now you just have to figure out how to make it happen. There are only so many ways. You can secretly load the chameleon into the box or you can begin with the chameleon inside the box, obscured in some manner—perhaps by an extra cardboard flap. So figure out how to secretly remove the flap and go from there.

2) Start with the method, build the effect around it. Stare at the chameleon and ask yourself, “What traits does this thing have that could be exploited for magical purposes?” Before long, it’ll come to you: If given enough time, a chameleon changes color. So put the chameleon in the shoebox with, say, an orange piece of paper on the bottom. Give the lizard time to adjust. When you open the lid, the chameleon will blend into the orange background. Invisible. Close the box, crack open the lid, reach inside and remove the paper. Then open the box again, before the chameleon has time to adjust from orange to beige.

3) Start with a trick you already know, adapt it to your specific need. You don’t know how to make a chameleon appear in a box, but you do know how to make a rabbit appear in a hat: A table load steal. Simply substitute the hat for the box and the rabbit for the chameleon, and you’ll be in business.

If you tried to create magic in the past and you failed, I bet you only used one of these three techniques. Why not go ahead and give the other two a chance?

Oh, and if you can think of a fourth way to think up a new trick, I’d love to hear about it. Tell me all about it in the comments below.

Rick Lax is a theory11 artist and creator of VertigoDetachHighRiseReCord, and Filter. Check out his work on theory11 and on The Wire, with his latest release Soul Paper.



1 year ago
Hey Bud!

Spidey here, amazing article!

I would add a fourth method although this maybe applies more to mentalists

4) Bring a story or theory to life!

I often read about cool scientific findings or studies in the field of psychology and I try to see what relevance it has to magic or mentalism. "Psycho" for example, is my version or the famous Rorschach test that psychologists use adapted to a mentalism effect.

I think this method can bold some pretty interesting results :)


1 year ago
Good call. Yeah, it's always fun to see other works of art brought to life in might argue that this is a variation of the first technique: Start with the effect/story, then find a way to make it happen...


1 year ago
right! good point.

I guess the difference for me is that the focus is no so much on the SPECIFIC effect like a chameleon HAS TO APPEAR in the shoebox but more about the message like: Chameleons are magical!

Like your effect soul paper, an incredible modernization of shamanistic rituals or seances. So reminiscent of creepy rituals and im guessing based on that idea. I just think very original stuff can come from leaving a lot of space but keeping a theme in mind



1 year ago
Really great insight. For most creators in magic, I think it's sometimes a mix of many of these techniques - sometimes having a dream in the middle of the night, other times stumbling on some cool prop in a random aisle of Home Depot. Inspiration, being a plot or method, can strike at any moment.

Particularly helpful in creating new ideas is first imagining a world where ANYTHING is possible. Sometimes that's not the case, but pretend that it is - in the least, as a creative exercise.

Just tonight at dinner with Dan White, we brainstormed a real new effect based on a fake camera trick in a movie. That fake inspiration brought to life a real method, from an outside artform (film) - that gave birth to something real and magical. Inspiration can come from unlikely places.


1 year ago
I love this trio/quartet as a starting point for thinking creatively in magic.

There have been a few forum threads along these lines, and I'm wondering what you all consider "creativity" or a "new effect". For example, if you use the "rabbit out of hat method" but change the props, is that a new effect? To Spidey's point, if you craft a new concept or storyline around an existing effect, does that mean its a new effect?


1 year ago
4ofClubs, That's a really good question and I don't have an exact answer. But a "completely new" trick would have to be a trick with a new method. A new concept or storyline can breathe a breath of fresh air into an old idea, and this is an important thing to do and definitely has much merit, but nothing is better than a totally new method. I just did a dinner with inventor Mark Setteducati and he said that he felt Lubor Fielder was the ONLY creator of NEW magic--the only guy who thought up new methods to stuff. And who knows...maybe he's right?


1 year ago
So then the question becomes "What counts as a method?"
For example, if you come up with a new double lift/replacement/switch, but use it to accomplish a standard transposition effect. The sleight could be unique, but switching out/in an indifferent card remains the method...or is that distinction between sleights and methods cutting it too finely?


1 year ago
Was just having this conversation with somebody else. I definitely think an entirely new method to an old plot counts as a new trick. How about you?


1 year ago
I certainly hope so...otherwise the ship on creativity may have just about sailed. It is hard to argue with the Fitzkee list of possible effects (although they are really broad categories). From my perspective, if the Inner Reality of the trick is different, then it is a new effect, even if the Outer Reality as it appears to the spectators is the same. In some ways, I think this works in reverse as well...presentation will (or ought) to add cover to the effect and obscure the method, so different presentations CAN actually impact the working of the effect. Maybe something is "new" if the way that the spectator is deceived is altered. That could be a new sleight, or a presentational ruse that adds cover, or a completely new effect accomplished using a tried and true method.


1 year ago
Hi Rick:
I've got a question for you... if you combine 2 tricks (without changing anything to those tricks) let's say: "Detatch" and "Pressure from Daniel Garcia", would it be considered a new trick ?


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