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Unnaturalness vs. Naturalness

Oct 24, 2007
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Unnaturalness vs. Naturalness
An Article on Presentation

Unnaturalness is actually very simple to define, and I'm going to since it's good to know the jargon before moving onto the subject. Unnaturalness is anything that is not normal and seems out of the ordinary to a spectator when performing an effect for them. Now, I do not wish to bring any magicians or their effects down, but a wonderful example of this is S.C.A.R.E.D. by Jamie Daws. Let me note, before I continue, that I think the highest of Jamie and I consider him to be a talented magician.

The reason I am addressing this trick is because of it's large amount of unnaturalness, which ulitmately makes the trick less of a "hard-hitter" and "miracle", and more like a "puzzle" of sorts. And since you're a magician, you definitely want miracles instead of puzzles. Puzzles are everyday occurances that do not leave lasting impressions, because people can pick up a newspaper and do a puzzle any time they want. What you want to present to them is a miracle. Something that your spectators will be speaking about twenty years into the future; something that will be with them the rest of their lives and that they will tell their grandchildren about. That is how you want to affect your spectators when performing for them.

Here is a wonderful quote from Derren Brown's Tricks of the Mind, a great book which covers presentation quite well, so I suggest you read it. His example (just to bring you up to speed) is a magician pulling out a coin, placing it onto a table, then picking it up again and making it disappear.

"Firstly, why put a coin down in order to pick it straight back up again? Who other than a seriously retarded individual would enact such an absurdity? Such odd behavior does rather detract from a convincing moment of magic. If you remove a coin from your pocket, place it on a table near you, then immediately pick it up to show that it's gone, then clearly the action of putting it down and picking it up was somehow special and necessary, and its very unnaturalness suggests to the spectator that some derring-do must have occured."

- Derren Brown
Tricks of the Mind, page 24

Suspicious actions and movements bring forth suspicion from the spectator. You must always have a normal reason for doing an action. Remember the old addage, actions speak louder than words. Giving some excuse that you are just doing "so and so because of this", is certainly not good enough. No matter what you say, doubt will creep into the spectators mind. Why should they believe you when you give a verbal reason for doing something? You are a magician trying to trick them and they have no reason to accept your statements about your actions. Your actions should be the ones claiming naturalness, not your words.

Once again, I'm going to bring up S.C.A.R.E.D. by Jamie Daws. I've been getting some heat from thinking that this trick is unnatural and not good to use; I'll explain my reason why I think it isn't an effective trick. In case you don't know, the trick is a haunted deck effect where the spectator picks a card and then the deck cuts to their card without the magician seemingly doing anything. The reason S.C.A.R.E.D. is so unnatural is because while the deck is moving you have your hand on it. As stated before, actions speak louder than words and spectators aren't going to believe everything you say. Spectators will think of the trick in this way. Paraphrasing Newton, "For every action, there is an equal reaction." So naturally, for every reaction there is an action. Spectators will think, "The magician has their hand on the deck and the deck is moving. Something must be making it move and the only thing touching it is the magician's hand. So, the magician's hand must be making the deck move somehow." Remember, spectators don't think we have supernatural abilities automatically, we must convince them that we do. Anything suspicious and unnatural will convince them otherwise. Now I'm going to move on and make some other points; later I will bring S.C.A.R.E.D. back up. As I move on, I want you to remember the "somehow" in the spectators thought stated before. Let's move on to another Derren Brown quote.

"The magic happens not from what you do, but from what the spectator perceives. And it has its home not in the fact that the coin vanishes (that's the result of the magic), but how it vanished (that would be the magic part)."

- Derren Brown
Tricks of the Mind, page 29

As Derren Brown explained above, your presentation should always affect what the spectator perceives. If they perceive everything you do as natural and fine, when the result happens, they are left without a how because for them there isn't one. You have just done the impossible in their eyes! You've removed the how by convincing them that everything is completely normal. This is the basis of magic; this is the true illusion and trickery that you should display as a magician. This is why magicians show their ropes as being normal, and their boxes as being normal, and their cards as being normal. Derren Brown goes on further in Tricks of the Mind, to explain that by taking away the how, you impact the spectator much more vividly. You leave no doubt in their mind that what you did was a miracle, because it couldn't have been a trick, there was no how! It couldn't have been a trick, the magician wasn't doing anything "funny" because everything was completely natural in their eyes.

"To give you an example in magic, if I were to put a coin in my left hand and then pull my right hand away, and then make all kinds of wavy motions with my right hand after I put the coin in the hand, when the coin vanishes the audiences assumes that the waving of my right hand had something to do with it."

- Alan Zingg
Time to Be Awesome Episode 08

With S.C.A.R.E.D. you leave a path to the how, and that how is the magicians hand on the deck. Instead of leaving the avenue of how open, we should keep it closed by doing everything naturally, and S.C.A.R.E.D. just isn't natural. It doesn't matter what you say, your actions are screaming that something is going on; there is some reason for your hand on the deck. This is what makes it more of a "puzzle" than an actual "miracle". It leaves the how wide open.

Now, you might be thinking, what effects are natural in magic? Well, I'll give you an example. Double lifts are used by more magicians than any other sleight because the move flows with naturalness. If a magician does a double lift correctly, spectators just think the magician is turning over one card. They think this because that's what the actions are screaming to them. That's why continuity with double lifts is essential to a good double lift.

In conclusion, look over the effects you perform. Are there an unnecessary moves or actions? If they are, is there a way to filter them out? Trust me, doing this will greatly improve your impact on spectators. Always remember, your actions should speak naturalness, not your mouth.
 
Aug 2, 2008
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Cincinnati
First and foremost, I really like the threads on theory of magic. Tyler, you bring up a good point. I, for one, can totally admit my unnaturalness when perfroming at times, mostly do to the fact that I am always a bit nervous when performing in front of people. but the times that I am calm and collected, my magic is natural and, as you said, more hard hitting.

Its always a good idea to never think your magic is good enough; one should always strive to improve in every facet of their magic no matter what skill level, pro/amateur, etc.

Thanks again for a good read.
 
Mar 29, 2008
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Tyler,

I am not sure that using S.C.A.R.E.D. - is an example of "unnaturalness", or every effect you hold the cards could be considered that. You have to think about the outs that people think, and their rationale. They would consider more obvious methods, like threads, before thinking it is your hand. Your hand is stationary, so even if they think you touching the deck is causing it, they may be unsure how - and because the cards can be spread and hanlded rather loosely, it throws them off. NOW - I am not saying the effect is great, I am just saying that I am unsure how it fits the definition of "unnatural".

Being natural is moving in a way that doesn't arouse suspicion - which I find funny that you mentioned a DL, because so many guys handle singles one way and doubles another - SO, that in itself is unnatural.

I think it is great you are reading books on magic theory, but I am unsure you grasp what Brown is talking about, at least by your comments under his words. Taking away the "how" is a method and handling thing, removing "mental outs", as the audience will ALWAYS think "how", but solid methods and natural looking handlings can make your magic stronger.

I am not sure S.C.A.R.E.D. allows for many outs, that would not be used in ANY other method...I personally choose not to do animated effects because of the easy outs audiences have overall, but this has nothing to do with his handling on it...or that he is touching the deck...hardly. If your point held true, you could say the same thing about any in the hand effect, as audiences would say...oh, well, he is holding the deck.

Moreover, I NEVER show people that "these are "normal" ropes, or "normal" cards - as what do ABNORMAL cards and ropes look like, people don't even think about that. They may think about trick objects, but after letting them shuffle the deck, or hold and tug the rope for "other" reasons than to say "these aren't gimmicked" removes those outs.

Anyhow - I stated my point, I was impressed with the start of your essay and that you are thinking in that way, but it fizzled out near the end. Thanks for the read though.
 
Sep 1, 2007
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I have to say that I disagree. There are countless unnatural moves that hardly have any logical reason behind them. Take the double lift for example; if you would really take only one card and display it, why would you have to turn it back on the deck before placing it somewhere else? Same thing with coins, why would you place the coin in the other hand before making it disappear?

Yes, you should use natural moves to cover up the secret moves, but that doesn't mean that you couldn't use unnatural moves. Then again, that doesn't mean that your moves should look unnatural. The goal should be making the unnatural moves look natural too. Even if you do something with cards that hardly anyone would do, you can make it look natural and that way it will fly right by. You just need to be able to justify everything and use the proper misdirection when it's needed.
 
Sep 20, 2008
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May i bring up something?

Flourishes.

Take the jones change for example, (And i can expose since there is a Tutorial on DnD's website for it) The Trick is done with a simple double lift and a sequence which reveals the 2nd card held whilst the 1st card shown is put into tenkai position.

There is a 'Blind' spot here for the spectator where the card seem to dissappear behind the magician's hand only to reappear to another card a second after.

If following the quote you did above- What was the need for turning the cards 180 degrees and hiding the card in your hand only to reveal it again to turn into a different card?

Also may i add, im not bashing the Jones change at all, i think its a spectacular trick. its was just the first trick that came to my head with regards to Flourishy type magic.
 
Mar 29, 2008
882
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I have to say that I disagree. There are countless unnatural moves that hardly have any logical reason behind them. Take the double lift for example; if you would really take only one card and display it, why would you have to turn it back on the deck before placing it somewhere else? Same thing with coins, why would you place the coin in the other hand before making it disappear?

Yes, you should use natural moves to cover up the secret moves, but that doesn't mean that you couldn't use unnatural moves. Then again, that doesn't mean that your moves should look unnatural. The goal should be making the unnatural moves look natural too. Even if you do something with cards that hardly anyone would do, you can make it look natural and that way it will fly right by. You just need to be able to justify everything and use the proper misdirection when it's needed.


It is nice that you disagree, when you have no real foundation to have an opinion, outside of your youthful experience that lends to your ignorance on the subject, and I mean that in the nicest way.

Here is the deal - "how a card would really be turned over" varies by the individual. The concept of natural, does not mean how a "normal" or "average" person would do it, it means doing it in a way that doesn't arouse suspicion. MANY doubles do that - but more importantly, as they are only as deceptive as those that use them in comparison on keeping the single the same way. Moreover, your method must be poor, as my dl never leaves the deck, so I am only turning it face down. Why would I put it back on the deck? This is about motivation, NOT about being natural. I put it back on the deck to make a gesture to someone to hold out their hand, to move something aside to put the card back on, to readjust my hand...ANY reason - as long as it fit the situation at hand as something that would occur...NATURALLY to what is happening.

As for the coin, the same thing applies with GOOD structure towards being natural - so, I would put the coin in my other hand to pick up and object. Williamson did an entire thing on "the magic wand" or as he called it - the motivation stick - as he would change hands to grab it out from under his arm...as it was impossible to do it with the hand that had the wand in it's pit.

Actually, many moves DO look "unnatural", but this does NOT mean abnormal - it means they look contrived...like you needed to do your little move to accompish your feat. This is reflected if you have EVER had anyone say - I know you did something, I just don't know what - sometimes they expand to say, "I saw something", but it was too fast - OR ANY VARIANT.

The idea of good magic is - fair...fair...fair...all the way along fair - then BAM. Magic has happend, so it looked like you did nothing, and magic occured. This is the ideal - not...a string of moves done to create a puzzled outcome. LIKE VERNON SAID - if they think you did something, it is as bad as knowing EXACTLY what you did...as you gave them an OUT...good for you.

Here is the thing Ineski - you can't make something unnatural look natural...it's like saying - grow wings on your back, but make it look normal. Something is natural, or it is not - the test is not if others do it that way, but if when you do it, it looks like what someone would do if they were handling the deck in a natural way. SO - a one hand pop out move created by Aaron Fisher, or the Diving Board Double by Lee Asher is not "Unnatural" just because others can't do it - however, doing a spread pass...and JUTTING out your right thumb does not mimic the natural motion of closing the deck. Also, any movements done in a way that doesn't fit what SHOULD be happening and arouses suspicion could be unnatural.

What it boils down to is a common misconception of what "unnatural" means, and how that plays out in an effect. Hope this clears some things up.
 
Mar 29, 2008
882
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Thanks Josh, that is all I could ever ask. It is a hard subject to write about - Tyler put form a good effort.
 

Deechristopher

theory11 moderator
Moderator
I think a lot of great points have been brought up here, The Vernon quote above says it all really.

In my magic and mentalism, I do my best to look like I've done nothing - I remain casual and relaxed and I make a note not to do any fancy shuffles or flourishes. I don't look like a klutz with the cards, but I don't put effort into cutting and shuffling in an impressive way.

It's really dependent on the effect and your character though.

on my business card it says "Contemporary magic and Psychological entertainment" and I like to play on the psychological reference in my mentalism, allow people to think maybe he did something there - was that some kind of mad NLP shiznit?

I'll purposefully say and do a few un-natural things throughout my scripting and choreography of effects like "Bang-On" for instance (which with a little memory is a pretty self working, very clean named card in wallet effect) to allow the spectators to feel like they could have perhaps caught something...

So to counter, while I believe that stuff should generally remain natural, to throw in a little something here and there can really enhance people's perception of your character and what you do... Also, if people believe you are using no more than psychological influence they're blind to any moves you do along the way.

D.
 
Sep 1, 2007
279
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It is nice that you disagree, when you have no real foundation to have an opinion, outside of your youthful experience that lends to your ignorance on the subject, and I mean that in the nicest way.

Here is the deal - "how a card would really be turned over" varies by the individual. The concept of natural, does not mean how a "normal" or "average" person would do it, it means doing it in a way that doesn't arouse suspicion. MANY doubles do that - but more importantly, as they are only as deceptive as those that use them in comparison on keeping the single the same way. Moreover, your method must be poor, as my dl never leaves the deck, so I am only turning it face down. Why would I put it back on the deck? This is about motivation, NOT about being natural. I put it back on the deck to make a gesture to someone to hold out their hand, to move something aside to put the card back on, to readjust my hand...ANY reason - as long as it fit the situation at hand as something that would occur...NATURALLY to what is happening.

As for the coin, the same thing applies with GOOD structure towards being natural - so, I would put the coin in my other hand to pick up and object. Williamson did an entire thing on "the magic wand" or as he called it - the motivation stick - as he would change hands to grab it out from under his arm...as it was impossible to do it with the hand that had the wand in it's pit.

Actually, many moves DO look "unnatural", but this does NOT mean abnormal - it means they look contrived...like you needed to do your little move to accompish your feat. This is reflected if you have EVER had anyone say - I know you did something, I just don't know what - sometimes they expand to say, "I saw something", but it was too fast - OR ANY VARIANT.

The idea of good magic is - fair...fair...fair...all the way along fair - then BAM. Magic has happend, so it looked like you did nothing, and magic occured. This is the ideal - not...a string of moves done to create a puzzled outcome. LIKE VERNON SAID - if they think you did something, it is as bad as knowing EXACTLY what you did...as you gave them an OUT...good for you.

Here is the thing Ineski - you can't make something unnatural look natural...it's like saying - grow wings on your back, but make it look normal. Something is natural, or it is not - the test is not if others do it that way, but if when you do it, it looks like what someone would do if they were handling the deck in a natural way. SO - a one hand pop out move created by Aaron Fisher, or the Diving Board Double by Lee Asher is not "Unnatural" just because others can't do it - however, doing a spread pass...and JUTTING out your right thumb does not mimic the natural motion of closing the deck. Also, any movements done in a way that doesn't fit what SHOULD be happening and arouses suspicion could be unnatural.

What it boils down to is a common misconception of what "unnatural" means, and how that plays out in an effect. Hope this clears some things up.

You just basicly explained what I wrote in a more complicated way. Don't be so ignorant. Wanna clear a little bit why I wouldn't have a real foundation to have an opinion on this?

OP had the Derren Brown quote about vanishing a coin. There is no natural explanation for placing the coin on the table only to pick it up a moment later. Same thing goes for double lifts. There is no natural reason for turning the card back on the deck. Never I said that these actions shouldn't be done: everything just needs to be justified. One of the strongest tricks (and the simplest) you can do is to show a wrong card and then have it change into the selection. The simplest and the best way to do is probably with a double lift. However you need to justify and hide the moment when the illogicality occurs. Vernon solved this with his fingerprint trick and also added the extra surprise element of magician seeemingly failing. Everything was justified there.

Even if your double "never leaves the deck" you are turning it on top of it. Why the hell would anyone right minded do this really to display a single card? There's no explanation for it. But it is very easy to make it seem natural. The magician is the experienced one, so spectators automatically assume that the expert knows the best way to handle his props. This is a good way to cover up some illogical actions. Also gesturing or using the other hand can be used as a justification for having the card on top of the deck.

You can make unnatural things look natural. Think about some illogical turnovers for example. Or a cross cut force. The cards are not suposed to handle that way in reality but because they are handled so naturally they become seemingly natural.

Oh and Morgician, read my first post again. You didn't seem to get the point there.
 
Oct 24, 2007
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Morgician:

I am not sure that using S.C.A.R.E.D. - is an example of "unnaturalness", or every effect you hold the cards could be considered that.

For most other card effects it would not be considered natural to hold the deck. For S.C.A.R.E.D. it is unnatural, because the whole trick is the deck supposedly moving by some special ability you have out side of your physical abilities, so it's weird to have your hands all over the cards. But, I do see what you're saying. If you take my point to the extreme it could apply to just holding a deck during an effect.

You have to think about the outs that people think, and their rationale. They would consider more obvious methods, like threads, before thinking it is your hand. Your hand is stationary, so even if they think you touching the deck is causing it, they may be unsure how - and because the cards can be spread and hanlded rather loosely, it throws them off.

I have thought about the outs that people think. In fact, I create my own effects and I have fourteen people I perform them for after much practice. As a test, I did S.C.A.R.E.D. for them, using the "reasons" that Jamie Daws supplied for having your hand on the deck. After the performance, I asked everyone what they thought about it and all but one answered that my hand was moving the deck somehow. They did think it was impressive because they didn't know how I did it and it seemed like I wasn't doing anything, but they knew something was going on with my hand. So, not only have I thought of the outs and rationale, but I've also asked other people that I've performed this for.

Being natural is moving in a way that doesn't arouse suspicion - which I find funny that you mentioned a DL, because so many guys handle singles one way and doubles another - SO, that in itself is unnatural.

I understand that being natural is moving in a way that doesn't arouse suspicion, which is exactly why I mentioned a double lift. It's also why I mentioned continuity being important when doing a double lift, because really, continuity is what makes a double lift convincing. Everyone is different and people do things differently. Turning a card over and putting it back onto the deck before placing it into the middle of the deck, are actions that do not seem suspicious because everyone is different in that aspect. You take different people and have them take a card off of the deck, they will do it different ways. But, if you took someone and told them to make a deck move with some special ability outside of their physical body, the last thing they would do is place their hands on the deck. Also, these things do not happen during the climax of the effect, when people are watching very closely and associating everything you do as the method. During the climax of S.C.A.R.E.D. however, your hand is all over the deck (why would it be if you had the ability to make the deck move), and therefore it's unnatural because there isn't a reason for it. It is very suspicious. It is moving in a way that arouses suspicion.

I think it is great you are reading books on magic theory, but I am unsure you grasp what Brown is talking about, at least by your comments under his words. Taking away the "how" is a method and handling thing, removing "mental outs", as the audience will ALWAYS think "how", but solid methods and natural looking handlings can make your magic stronger.

True, people will always think "how", but if you give them no way to come to a "how", it will have greater impact on them. Let me explain myself further because I don't think I'm explaining my opinion well. I think you're not fully grasping what I'm saying, and I believe that's my fault because I'm not communicating my thoughts well at all. You're agreeing with my thoughts, just not my misused words. Forgive me, I'm exhausted. Anyway, people will always try to think of a "how". People know we don't actually have special abilities and can do things with our minds and so forth. But, it is wonderful if we can make people think, "How did he do that? That's impossible!", so that they come up with ridiculous notions or reasons of how we did what we did. It's better for them to come up with ridiculous notions because they will always slightly doubt their notions. This is better than, "It was his hand.", which would be true in the case of S.C.A.R.E.D. And may I point out once again, that the many people I've tested it on have mostly said it was my hand moving the deck, because it's a very suspicious action.

Moreover, I NEVER show people that "these are "normal" ropes, or "normal" cards - as what do ABNORMAL cards and ropes look like, people don't even think about that. They may think about trick objects, but after letting them shuffle the deck, or hold and tug the rope for "other" reasons than to say "these aren't gimmicked" removes those outs.

Like I said before, I'm exhausted so I'm not actually getting my words out correctly. I'm using the wrong words when trying to say something. But, magicians SHOW things as normal all the time. A magician has a box with four sides on the stage, what does he do? He opens all four sides and spins it around to show it's normal. NOW, you should NEVER, EVER verbalize that something is normal. But, as I explained in my article, not very well by the way, actions speak louder than words. By your actions you should show things as normal. The magician with the box doesn't say to the crowd, "A normal box!". No, he just opens it and spins it around, showing it by his actions. So, what you were saying about them shuffling the deck and holding or tugging the rope is correct, because you would be SHOWING them instead of telling them. You would be diffusing any of their notions without making them suspicious.

Anyhow - I stated my point, I was impressed with the start of your essay and that you are thinking in that way, but it fizzled out near the end. Thanks for the read though.

Thank you for being impressed with the start of my essay. Really, I'm not trying to make excuses, but I was exhausted when writing this (I wrote it at 2:00am), and I'm exhausted now while I'm writing this. Finals are next week so I'm studying, staying up really late, and working a lot. Combined, I have only had 6 hours of sleep in the past two nights. I think later today I'll take a nap. Hopefully I can get my studying done quickly. Also, I read your second post and you basically said what I was trying to say a whole lot better. (lol) So that's pretty funny. Peace!

Tyler
 
Oct 24, 2007
314
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You can make unnatural things look natural. Think about some illogical turnovers for example. Or a cross cut force. The cards are not suposed to handle that way in reality but because they are handled so naturally they become seemingly natural.

This is a good point Ineski. But, just as I said before, this isn't during the climax of the effect. The unnatural action of having your hand on the deck during the climax of S.C.A.R.E.D. will be linked with the how of S.C.A.R.E.D. People don't associate turning over a card in a different manner (because everyone is different), with the how of the effect. Gosh, I'm so tired I don't know if I'm making sense, so I'm just going to shut-up now. (lol) :p Peace!

Tyler
 
Mar 29, 2008
882
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Hmm, interesting Tyler - so, just touching it links it with the method. Wouldn't this be an example of the "Too Perfect Theory" versus being unnatural, as I still don't see touching one side of the deck (maybe to transfer energy, if that is your presentation style aka you like making crap up that isn't true at all as filler) as "unnatural".

Ineski, if there was any failure to understand your concepts - perhaps it was your conflicting ideology - where you say you don't agree...but then that you do? Sorry, if I mistook your words.

Regardless, we all seem to undersand the importance of creating naturally occuring movements and hiding method in this movement for deception to occur.
 
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