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How to Create Magic Tricks Part Two

So… You want to create magic tricks?

If you haven’t read Part One, then you should.

Picking up where we left off…

Lateral Thinking

This is probably the most important thing when you want to create magic tricks.  Lateral thinking basically means that whatever point you are at, there are an infinite number of different ways you can go.  It represents total freedom of thinking and is a powerful weapon for a creative magician.

The basic way that most magicians create magic tricks is what I call “Hole Think”.  Hole thinking means you are in a hole, looking at the walls around you as dirt, and the only way out is through the opening above you.  It can get you in a habit of only looking at something or someone as “exactly what it is”.  This is the kind of thinking that keeps magicians from inventing new ideas.  You pick up a television remote control and your mind says “this is only for changing my TV channels”.  Hole think at it’s best.  A remote is much more than that.  It’s a plastic casing filled with wires, transistors, electronics,  and endless possibilities to be explored.

I touched upon this in the first post about how to create magic tricks,  but it warrants some more exploration.  Lateral thinking is a whole new way of looking at everything.  When you pick up an object, you start by asking yourself:

What else could this be used for?

What else can I do with it?

Is it a gimmick or an effect?

Lateral thinking means you ask yourself a series of questions and actively explore the answers.  Any situation or object can be looked at, analyzed, and asked the following questions:

Is there another way of doing / writing / thinking/ saying/ playing with this?  What would those things be like?

How would Abraham Lincoln do this?  How would Einstein look at it and use it?  How would Darwin Ortiz do it?  How does David Blaine create magic tricks? How would he create this trick? Run through the list of creative people and think laterally.

What if I reversed this thing or idea?  What if I turned it inside out or upside down?

What happens if I read the safety warning and do the opposite thing?

What if I combine this thing with that thing?

What if I made it bigger or smaller, louder or quitter, brighter, harder, longer, or what if I hid this thing and used it secretly.

Asking these questions help you discover new methods for existing objects… just in the example of the radio frequenter device in Part One of this post.  This is the key to discovering new ideas.  This will help you create magic tricks.  You are a unique person and your way of answering these questions will differ from others.  I challenge you to go to the Dollar Store, Hobby Lobby, or any store and begin this process.  Pick up anything that looks interesting and run the lateral thinking test.  Keep a journal of your thoughts and buy anything that sparks an idea.  Always look for the new angle and stop doing what is expected.

You Have Discovered a new Method.  How do I create the effect?

You have found some great little thing… and no one has though about using that item in your way.  It’s time to turn it into a trick.  It’s time to create magic tricks!  What you need to do is:

Find the Parameters – Are you going to need to hide this device in order to use it?  Or can you use it in plain site?  Is there a time sensitive issue because of batteries?  Find the parameters and you will have a set of rules to help you construct the routine and presentation.  The principle of finding parameters will help you construct a timeline and outline for the trick.

Begin the experimenting – Start using your parameters to build the routine and experiment within your parameters to find the specific effect that your object accomplishes.  Experiment until you can effectively hide your method.  If you cannot hide the method, change some parameters until your method is invisible.

When you work backwards from the method and follow your parameter outline, you will eventually get to the effect.  Now, things are getting clearer and you are getting closer.

Routining–  Your method will have determined your routine to some extent and now you need to polish the routine into a great original presentation.  Make sure it fits your style because your style is always important to keep in mind.  Now the old “practice makes perfect” idea comes into play.  Polish and present, wash and repeat, and eventually you will know where this creation fits into your life.

What About Effect First?

We’ve been looking at this from the viewpoint of method first.  Lateral thinking not only applies to discovering a new method prior to the effect, it also applies to discovering the effect before the method.  Lateral thinking can be used both ways.  Let’s look at an example.

You have thought of a new effect but have no method.  You have done the research and found that no one has ever solved your method or any portion of the method.  You are starting from scratch.  Use lateral thinking and find a method.  First, search though the classic methods that are in print.  Do some research.  Read books, blogs, and call your magic buds.  If you cannot draw from the classic methods in print, you will have to invent one.  Search through other tricks that are similar.  Use portions of other tricks that are already out there.  Borrow from other magicians and piece the answer together.  Ask your trusted magic friends to help.  Keep pushing until you find something that works.  Then, keep pushing until you find a better answer than the first.

Example:  You want to levitate an airplane.  You don’t know how to do it.  You spend some time searching through you tube videos only to find out that someone can levitate a person using some method.  Aha!  You use that method.  Oops… the airplane is too heavy to use that method.  In fact, all your research indicates that the airplane is too heavy to levitate by conventional methods.  Now you ask yourself, “Do I need to use a fake airplane that looks real but only weighs a fraction of the weight of a real plane?”  Or you ask, “Maybe I can fool the audience into thinking it is really levitating… but it isn’t.”

I’m sure David Copperfield had to ask many questions when he wanted to vanish the Statue of Liberty.  I mean, the statue is embedded in concrete.  That statue cannot really move anywhere!  David (or rather his trusted magic advisor) used lateral thinking to find the solution that accomplished the illusion.  And it WAS an illusion!


Find the best method–  By best, I mean that it should fall into the following categories:  Undetectable, reliable, and the most direct method.

It should also be easy if possible.  I’m a big fan of finding an easy method to complicated tricks.  This approach allows me to focus on presentation and not “moves”.   If the only way I can accomplish an amazing trick is by using a stooge… I will.  Because EFFECT is EVERYTHING!  I also advise cutting out unnecessary steps to keep the focus clear.

Test the method- And keep testing the method until you can cover every angle, answer every question, and create a powerfully hidden method for the trick you have created.

I Have Created a New Trick…Now What?

You have invented your trick, created the best method, and now it’s time to focus on routining and creating perfect pictures.

Routining is all about making sure the effect matched your character as a magician.  The routine also walks a spectator though the experience.   The way YOU routine it will decide how well it plays.  Again, go though many ideas on routines.  This is where your artistic self gets to come out.  If you do a good job on routining, you will accomplish these things:

1.  The routine will solidify your character as a magician.

2.  The routine will clarify the steps taken to achieve the miracle… in the spectators’ mind.

3.  The routine will have a great 3 part structure.  Beginning, middle, and end.  There have been many books written on the subject of routining magic tricks.  Buy one.

4.  The routine will create perfect pictures of the effect.  This will create an overall picture of “what happened”.

Focus on making pictures – Images stick in the spectators mind.  My friend Aaron Fisher speaks about this a lot.  Create moments where the spectator can burn the image of your trick in his head.   Focus on finding moments that will stick out (when they remember the trick) and hit those moments hard.  If you build great moments and pictures, and only the ones you want them to remember, the overall thing will be much better.  When the spectator tries to replay the trick in his head, he will remember the moments you created.  It will help the spectator get a clear idea of what happened… or rather the spectator will remember the pictures you WANT him to remember, and at the same time hide anything you don’t want them to remember.  Check out Aaron Fisher’s website (Search and Destroy is a free DVD if you sign up for his list and teaches this philosophy well) for examples of tricks that have great moments.  He’s really good at creating pictures.

Practice – Practice hitting those moments and practice the overall routine.  Think about your patter, re-write it, and make it fit your character.  Practice the whole thing until you can hit everything exactly when you want.  When you have practiced enough, it is time to perform.  And you must perform.

Why Do I Need To Perform The Trick If I Just Want To Sell It?

Because no one wants to buy a trick that hasn’t already proven itself as a reliable routine in front of an audience.  This is non negotiable!

Decide What To Do With The Trick.

Now that you have done all this hard thinking and working, it’s time to decide what to do with it.  You may want to keep it as your own creation and slay audiences all over the world.  You may want to sell it to other magicians.  You may want to give it away for free.  By the end of all this work, the answer should already be in front of you.

Congrats!  You should be proud of a job well done.  In the next part we will look at the options you have if you want to sell the trick to others.  Next part coming soon…