A richer tapestry

by Ariel Frailich

This month, I’d like to explain my reasons for using real-life parallels (see It’s what you say), and explain how I try to make presentations more compelling and more memorable.

In general, people remember better the things that have some bearing on their lives. Magic is not part of people’s lives, so the chances of them remembering a particular trick or performance — and, thus, the magician — are fairly slim.

If I present a trick as a demonstration of what the props can do — ‘these Aces can magically turn over‘ — there’s no reason for the audience to remember me or the trick. In the real world, cards don’t turn over by themselves, and most people don’t really care much about playing cards anyway, even if they happen to be card players. The overall effect is of an intellectual nature, but to be memorable, it must speak to the emotions; only then can it fire up the imagination and leave a lasting impression.

As already described, I start by looking at the trick’s effect for real-life counterparts. For instance, for my ‘DIY Ambitious Card’ routine (from my book, Card Stories), I use the analogy of planting seeds and growing flowers. Such analogies aren’t difficult to find; they only take practice.

At this point, you may well ask: are seeds and flowers more interesting than playing cards? The answer, of course, is no, they’re not. To make a presentation interesting, the characters must be human, because people are generally more interested in other people than in anything else (except themselves). In ‘DIY Ambitious Card,’ the story revolves around a little boy’s wonderment. This provides what is called an ’emotional hook’ that will help anchor the effect — and me, I hope! — in the spectators’ minds.

A final element is necessary to make the presentation truly compelling: a reason for the happenings to take place. For this I often borrow a technique from the playwright. It works like this:

  • the hero wants to attain a goal
  • the hero encounters obstacles
  • the hero triumphs

This powerful technique works extremely well for magicians, providing a goal can be defined. Here the magician uses his or her powers to overcome the obstacles.

To finish, here’s a wonderful example of this approach: Don Dunn’s ‘In the News’.

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