The Steps of Creating a Magic Trick

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by angushall19, Dec 14, 2016.

  1. I am an experienced magician with others tricks and I might actually consider going into some magic shows, but I was wondering how to make tricks. I know how to make basic tricks like starting with a force, getting the card where you want it, then a reveal. I was just wondering about some more specific things from you experienced magicians out there.
  2. Hi there,
    I recommend getting the book Creative Magic by Adam Wilbur. Maybe not for the tricks inside but mainly for his methods of getting into the creative mindset. He gives several creativity exercises which you can do yourself. There are also contributions from other artists who share how they create and how they get themselves into the creative mindset.(Plus the first trick in the book is earbuds which is really clever).
    When creating magic one of two things will come first. Either the method, which you then have to make into a trick, or the idea for a trick which you have to then make a method for. Some ideas come randomly, maybe when you're in bed falling asleep and then BOOM! Brilliant idea! Creating magic takes time .

    Good luck with your creating :)
  3. To create personalized magic, you need to have an understanding of classic plots and a variety of sleights. When I create a performance piece (something I will use in a show) I start with what has already been done.

    Let's say I want to do an Invisible Palm Aces routine. I would start out researching what has already been created. The Invisible Palm routine is a variation of the Travellers routines and you can see many of those here: I typically would then start with one routine and modify it to have the phases that I like and the sleights that work for me. For linking rings and cups and balls routines, I've accumulated books and DVDs on the topic, watched them and designed my own routine using what I've learned.

    Some routines I love the premise, but modify the sleights. I have a routine that requires a card to be forced and then disappear from the deck. The original routine used a double faced card to accomplish this feat, but the deck wasn't entirely examinable. I've used scrapbooking glue to have the selected card stick to another card and disappear in other routines but again, the deck could be displayed in the magician's hands but not examined. Then I used Fiedler's Flyer, but the card couldn't be taken out of the deck and shown to the audience. I finally settled on a classic force and a side steal palm -- more difficlult but cleaner.

    Sometimes, I come up with the effect (what the audience sees) and just need to find a method. That is where knowledge comes in hand.
    The Magic X and CWhite like this.
  4. First step: Need to create something. I don't generally like what comes of creating for the sake of creating (which is, I think, responsible for much of the junk that's on the market)

    As already said, I generally either have a routine I'd like to develop, a scene I want to create, or a premise I want to explore.

    Sometimes they all come together, but one of those is usually the motivation.

    I will often create a script at that point. Before I decide on any methods, I decide how I want it to look to the audience.

    Often at this point I will tell my wife about it. If she thinks it makes sense and sounds interesting, I continue. If it doesn't make sense, I rewrite it until it does. If it doesn't sound interesting, I tweak it until it does, or if I think it's interesting enough anyway, I just continue.

    Then I brainstorm methods to use to create that scene/image from the audience's perspective. I figure out a method that will work, then I do several rounds of playing it through in my imagination to see if I can spot potential problems. After I've made the adjustments I need to make, I re-write the script and blocking to accommodate those changes.

    Then I put it in front of real people.

    Then I go back and change what didn't work and keep tweaking until it's something that I enjoy performing.

    The process of creating a method is about taking what you know already and sometimes applying some lateral thinking to achieve the goal. Also, don't be afraid to change ... well, everything. Method, premise, presentation, script, blocking ... The first run at a new routine is almost never what it will look like when I'm performing it regularly.
  5. Thanks for some basic help. I like the idea of taking famous trick modifying them for your own use.
  6. Nothing to create. Only variations, methods, and principles that we take from others construct what we have now. Only imitation. Different means to the same end.
  7. I am not sure if you mean you have nothing to create, or if there is nothing to create any more?
  8. I have to disagree to some extent, respectfully of course. From day to day our creations look like imitations but I believe that innovation is a slow evolution. Evolution is actually a pretty accurate metaphor in my opinion. It all looks very similar but when we compare vanishing a silk (Created thousands of years ago) and making an image change on a cellphone image (Created within the last ten years) you can see the difference is stark and that something new has been created even if we are not sure when or how.

    Take the Iphone for example. Is it new when compared to the history of the world? Sure. Is it new when compared to its contemporaries, not so much. Computers existed, and cellphones existed before and the Iphone isn't all that different from them. It is very different from stone tablets though. Sure the principle is the same, each is a method to use some sort of symbols to communicate through space and time. That said, it would be silly if the thousands of innovators that all contributed to the different principles in an Iphone used that as an excuse, "Meh, why do we need paper, I can just engrave pictures on these cave walls."

    So, while I get it, everything is a product of the set of circumstances and the tools available that lead to its conception. There is still innovations to be made because we have different tols and circumstances available to us then was had in the past.
    ProAma likes this.
  9. I'm very passionate about creating, this last year I have created a ton more than I have performed. I work with Rick Lax and create much of the magic that you see on his entertainer page. This has lead to some other consultation work with other television. Over the last year I have become, as Jim Steinmeyer would say, "invisible". It has been a blast.

    Having so much expected of you and on such a consistent basis I believe it would be unwise not to have some semblance of a process. I have created a process and while I don't always follow it, it has saved me a few times when a deadline looms.

    1. Consider Parameters: What can I do, what can't I do? What resources do I have? What is my venue?

    You might skip this step but if you do you will miss a framework that can really help in the creative process. If you want a usable effect that you can actually perform than you have to know what you will be able and willing to do to pull it off.

    I created a poker chip trick a few years ago. I decided from the begining before I even knew what the props were that I wanted it to happen at eye level and I wanted it to work without a table. Those are parameters.

    2. Consider Methods: What methods work given my parameters?

    Some magicians prefer to look at effects first, and I admit that I sometimes do this, but I believe that more originality and more volume comes from method first creativity. "Spidey" Akelain claims that magic creators can be split into 2 groups, method first and effect first creators. Jay Sankey is a method first creator. He finds a method he likes and milks it for all it is worth, that's why you get whole DVD's on the bill switch or Paperclipped. It is because he looks at a practical method and asks himself what it can do.

    I would consider myself to be a method first magician. I think it is easier to find methods that fit parameters than it is to find effects to fit parameters. There is also the pitfall that many effect first magicians fall into. They start repeating old worn out methods. They fall back on the double lift or a false transfer. The double lift is a great move but it might be unwise to have 15 effects in a routine that all use this same method. I find that method first creating provides more variety.

    3. Consider Effects: What types of effects can these methods create?

    This is where the clouds part. Effects seem to fall out of the sky when I have a method in mind. Once you get a method in mind go crazy, what could you do with this method? Really brainstorm. Could you replicate an old piece of magic? Could you aproximate a movie effect? Is there a dream effect that this just happens to fit with?(This happens more than you might think). Once you have a method the possibilities start to lay themselves out.

    4. Consider Presentation: How can I mesh the method and effect together to be easy to follow and entertaining?

    After all of this you have to be able to present this. This might be the hardest step. This might cause you to need to kill your ideas in the previous steps. You might have a killer method that just doesn't work. You may have to lose it and start over to some extent. At this stage, trim away the fat, get some outside advice here. It is less important to get input at the other stages, the presentation part is what makes it entertaining.

    So that's my process. Integral to all of this is to always be studying things that inspire you. For me, I am inspired by puzzles, mathematics, science psychology, language, magic, movie making and storytelling. Maybe for you it is something different, imerse yourself in these things and ask yourself what you can create with that knowledge.
    RealityOne and Maverick85 like this.
  10. Interesting dichotomy. Do you think that the difference is between creating for performance or creating for sale? Most of my performance pieces start with the thought "wouldn't it be amazing if I could do....?" I'm inspired by a story, an idea, a prop or a routine. That becomes the base with my efforts being directed at making the effect come alive. The effect dictates the parameters and the parameters dictate the method.

    I agree about the repeating old, worn out methods. That is where knowledge comes in. I know several methods for anything I do and am able to select the best method in designing the effect.
  11. It's interesting to say that people who create with the method first have more variety - I find they tend to fall back on the same kinds of presentations over and over. I have often felt that a lot material by Sankey and Lax feels repetitive.

    Taking the theory that someone who creates effect first, tends to use the same methods, I would posit that those who create with method first tend to use the same presentations. Which often include "I do this, then I do this, and then this happens!"

    When I create I would be what you label as "effect first". I get inspired to create a certain scene or emotional response, and I build from there. Then I generally aim to have several methods for the same effect. At least one for stage, one for close up, and one impromptu. And something I have been doing more lately is also coming up with a 'mainstream' version of a trick that I'd be willing to sell.

    Also I avoid using the same method for multiple tricks in a show as much as possible.
  12. It is definitely good to have a system. Though, in my personal opinion, folks who crank out stuff like Lax and Sankey do, tend to get really repetitive. Yes they explore a method very thoroughly, but they also tend to have the habit falling back to pretty bland presentations. This is, of course, my personal opinion based on my preference for more story telling based magic.

    From my end, when I create something I do go from the effect first in almost every case. I then come up with multiple methods to achieve the same effect from the audience's point of view. Usually one for stage, one for close up, and one impromptu if possible. So whereas Sankey might do 20 different tricks using the same method, I come up with multiple methods to do the same trick.
  13. Rick Lax is not a creator or a magician lol. He is a sellout. Sankey has some amazing ideas but most of his stuff that he creates is really dumb, impractical, and all he really does is use the same concepts and principles with random items. Penetrating a coin in a plastic bag is not magical. If you were magic you would penetrate something through a brick wall.
  14. I personally like you steps of laying out the trick with what is personally possible. I must say I am a reveal type thinker as in I think of what will give the biggest wow in the end of it all. It has been a lot of help from all you guys in the magic community, thanks.
  15. I love creating! I do not really have a process, I just do it. At one point, I followed this framework:

    1. Imagine the effect you want to achieve playing out in your mind.

    2. Thinks of the necessary moves you need to do in order to achieve this effect, even if it makes the effect impractical/convoluted.

    3. Imagine the effect playing out in your mind again, keeping in mind you know the secret.

    4. Think of all the variables that do not make sense, and try to mask them.

    5. Imagine the effect playing out, without the convoluted variables taking place, even if it looks stupid.

    6. Now, instead of starting at the beginning of the effect and working up to the end, start at the end and work to the beginning.

    7. Repeat steps 1 through 5, with this logic now in place.

    At this point, you should have a good idea on what you should do in order to achieve your desired effect
    Levent Suberk likes this.
  16. Well, yes and no. Having the greatest impact at the end is important but not for the biggest wow. By the immediately before the end of an effect, the audience should realize what the end will be (just like a good movie, the end makes sense the instant before it is revealed), should realize that the end they are thinking of is impossible but nonetheless they should want you to be able to show them the impossible ending they have imagined. Thus, the wow isn't the last reveal but the culmination of the build up to that reveal.

    The step you forgot is to ask why the audience should care.
  17. Hello RealityOne, angushall19 was asking how to create magic, in which he was refering to the method. Why the audience should care lies within the presentation, not the method.
  18. I guess I read the question about how to come up with "magic." Magic is an effect (what the audience sees) or series of effects (the plot of an effect or routine) acomplished by a method (which the audience doesn't see) accompanied by a presentation (which allows the audience to care about the effect and includes both blocking and scripting). In designing "magic" you have to consider all three components. In your steps, I'd add a new Step 2: Develop a presentation for the effect.

    @DKEEN My comment wasn't directed at your method, but just meant to bring up a consideration in creating magic. You can have a chewed, signed piece of gum appear between your toes, but does anyone want to see that?
  19. @RealityOne, I apologize for the mis-understanding.
  20. No worries. My terse comments sometimes come across the wrong way. I like how you visualize performing the effect in your method. I often visualize an effect hundreeds of times before actually performing it.

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