The Straight and Marrow Path

Some effects point directly to their methods with the vividness of a Sashing neon arrow. Indeed, the arrow image suggests the nature of the problem. The design of the effect is too linear. The method may be hidden, in the sense chat it happens under the surface, but it follows exactly the direct path the audience expects it to.

Imagine a secret tunnel. You see the tunnel entrance and, some distance away, you see thc exit. Since the tunnel is underground you dun't see the passage itself. Buc by tracing a straight line from entrance to exit you can get a pretty good idea of the tunnel's path. Dig anywhere along that line and you're likely to uncover the tunnel.

In a magic effect, the initial condition is the entrance and the final condition is the exit. The method is the tunnel. If it follows a straight line from entrance to exit, there is a risk thar a spectator may uncover the method by following rhe path until he stumbles on a clue. In fact, it's enough that he simply senses thc general path of the method. Either way, there is no illusion of impossibility.

Suppose instead that the tunnel follows a lunar] curve from the entrance ro the exit. A person could dig hole after hole along the straight-line path and never uncover rhe tunnel. If the tunnel incorporates a couple of serpentine twists, it becomes even harder to detect. Ihe more a person digs between the two openings, the more convinced he'll become that there is no way leading from one to the other. Thc quintessential response to magic: "No way!"

At this point, you may be thinking, "But I've always heard that magic should be direct. Now you're telling me that it should be indirect." Cer-oinly, the effect should be direct. It's che design of the method that should ™ indirect,

"Ihe problem with direct methods is that laypeople think in direct methods. A direct method is what the audience is search^ °f Therefore, it's precisely the kind of method they're most likely t0 J"6 Another term for direct methods might be linear methods. Linear thbj*' is intuitive. It's rhe way most people normally think. It's vvhat they 'c" ?g expected to do if faced with an apparent impossibility. Does it make to provide a linear method for them to analyze in their linear way?

Far better ro take a counterintuitive, nonlinear approach. Consider th Copper-Silver Transposition in the spectator's hand. The spectator asks h« self, "How did he make the coin in his hand change places with the coi,^ my hand?" In fact, the two coins never change places. In reality, coin A b exchanged for coin C (which the spectator doesn't even know exists). Thcn coin A is substituted for coin B (which is not even in evidence at the climax of the effect). Because thc spectator is thinking in terms of the copper coin changing places with the silver coin, she looks for a straight line between them. Instead, the magician used a bank shot.

Another good example of the nonlinear approach is The Hitchcock Travelers from Scams & Fantasies with Cards. I place four signed aces lace down on the table. I then immediately remove them from four different pockets. The audience wonders how I made the accs travel from the table to my pockets. In fact, the aces actually travel from rhe deck to my pockets. They were never really on the table to begin with.

Compare this to thc original Vernon Travelers. In that case, the audience wonders how you made the aces travel from thc deck to your pockets which, unfortunately, is exactly what you did. Furthermore, your hands continually travel from deck to pockets, providing the linear path the spectators are looking for.

Now perhaps you're thinking, "This sounds good in theory, but I hate over-handled tricks." So do I. A nonlinear method, however, needn't mean a lot of handling. We're talking about the directness or indirectness of the concept at the core of the method, not the handling that implements that method. Furthermore, rhe amount of handling that matters to an audience is the handling that occurs during the critical interval. That's what will determine whether or not they walk away thinking, "But he didn't do anything!" Switching from linear to nonlinear methods tends to shift handling from the critical interval to the far less sensitive before or after periods.

Consider the Color-Changing Deck. The nature of the effect suggests to the audience some secret switch of thc blue deck for the red deck. In fa«.

u're using a red deck from the outset. Its only disguised as a blue dock. ¡Very coun.enntuu.ve!) This creates a false frame of reference becausc the u ence asks. "When could he have swttched decks?" ¡„stead of, "How f, hf initially make that red deck look blue? A version of the Color-rbanging ¡>«k based sw,tch,,,g «J«*5 wo"ld be a more direct method. , *«uld also be a less deceptive method and would require more handling here it hurts, during thc critical interval. * 1 As we proceed, consider each example I provide of revamping an effect to create a false frame of reference. You'll see that they all preserve a direct, dean handling while utilizing a devious, indirect method.

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