Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What's the effect?

Magicians hate the word trick; we use effect. We know that magic is not about tricking someone; it's about creating a memorable and extraordinary moment.

But, it hit me that we don't use the word to it's fullest meaning. I'm just as guilty as anyone in using effect to merely offer a description if what happens with the props (e.g. "the Aces turn over" or "the card jumps to the pocket"). But what is the effect on people? What impression are we making on them?

Take for instance the classic Razor Blade Swallowing effect. The typical effect description is something like, "You take five razor blades, slice through a paper to prove their sharpness, swallow them, swallow a thread, then pull the thread back out with all five razor blades tied to it."

Now, what is the effect on the audience? I imagine it would be something like, "The audience wonders if his mouth will bleed; they squirm at the thought the pain and injury that might come from swallowing them; they watch with baited breath as the thread is slowly pulled out; they give a cautious sigh of relief and are left with a striking image of how something like this was even possible." Powerful stuff. And it's a reminder of how critical presentation and structure is to ensuring our desired effect on people is realized.

Do I think magic books should describe effects this way? Not really. Do I think this should be part of the thought process when developing an effect? Absolutely. And I'm sure that's what many of us do, but maybe not as intentionally as we should.

Try this: Open any magic book and read just the effect descriptions. After having a clear image of what happens to the props, ask yourself what the participants are likely saying or feeling? Rather than view the effect just from their eyes, view it through their emotions. I venture to say that the best effects will be those where the audience is most captivated and involved.


Jordan said...

I always remember most magicians would say, "It's the effect not the method that matters..." I definitely have to agree that magic is not about the magician but the audience being amazed. Nice insights you got there.


???? said...

I'll adopt this new way of thinking and embed it into my magic. Thanks!