If you are not using apparatus you rarely have to worry about angles. If you are, then here again pay attention to detail and see that the trick you want to use is one that can be performed without revealing to part of the audience some secret flap or gimmick that may exist. If you have a prop which is subject to angle trouble, bear in mind that if you keep well back on the stage, you give the people at the side less chance of seeing round the corner.

To end this discussion which concerns good or bad tricks, let us take examples of the best possible tricks, what are they? Again I have to remind you that what I say is simply my opinion and does not have to be taken as Law. But I think that there is no question at all that the very best mental tricks are those you can do anywhere, at any time and with practicajly no preparation. In previous Steps I have given a fair selection of tricks tFTat.fall under this category. The Centre Tear Routine given in detail in Step,Six is worth its weight in gold. Sometimes people tell me it is limited to close up work; they are wrong. If you present it in a big way, you can do it from the stage if you like. A good test for your ability and for your tricks, or those you know and can do, is to be able to go anywhere and suddenly you are called on to perform a short show. You should be able there and then to do a pretty respectable routine with a few pieces of borrowed paper, a pencil, maybe a pack of cards or whatever else you find comes to hand. That is Mental magic at its best and tricks that you can do on these occasions are, I think the very best.


We have talked about the type of trick to do and now we concern ourselves with the handling of these tricks. What is the right way to handle mental effects? The answer is, the way that suits you best.

Many tricks which utilise apparatus are supplied with instructions which tell you how the thing works. Sometimes the instructions go Further and tell you what to do when and what to say as you do it. Cut this part of the instructions away and chuck it in the wastepaper basket; it is a waste of time if you want to learn serious mental magic. We have already said that patter for one person is rarely suitable for another, and the same applies to handling. In the first place, do you want to do and say the same thing as everybody else does? Do you realise that a dealer may sell 500 of a good mental trick—all with the same instructions? If every one of the 500 customers did and said the same thing—audiences would get so used to that effect it would be quite absurd. As a human being you are gifted with the ability to think and originality in patter and presentation is simply a question of thinking for yourself. Only lazy people are satisfied to do just what instructions tell them to do.

The first thing you have to do is to find out how to do the trick. No matter what bright ideas you have of your own, you must be able to do the trick. When you have mastered the mechanics then you start to work on effect to make it suitable for your type of work. You have to get the right handling and this means smooth, clean and natural work. When you pick up a fake slate from the table, you have to know just where your fingers go to get hold of the slate. When you hold a small visiting card in the hand to do a mental prediction with a Swami gimmick, you have to know just how to hold the card. I gave you paragraphs of explanation in Step One which told you just how to hold a card and why. To many readers I have no doubt those words were wasted and considered to be padding. It is now more apparent to my readers that you were given important details.

When you know how the trick works, you are left to find out how to work it in the manner that suits you best. How do you do this?

What suits you is that which suits your character, your personality and your style. If you can't fathom this out, look at yourself. Watch what you do in every day life so that you find out how you behave when you are behaving naturally. Do anything just as you would do it normally, but watch the way your hands hold a pencil, pick up a book, light a cigarette. Watch and observe, you are teaching yourself how you behave! When you know yourself and you know what you do, try to mould the tricks around this natural manner of yours; you are out to achieve something very clever, you will achieve something very clever if you do it. By being yourself you have created the most powerful misdirection in the world. You have made it possible for yourself to relax and do your work in the easiest possible manner and to enjoy what you do.


What is timing? It is doing the right thing at the right moment. Not to be confused with " running time " which we cover later on. It is the factor that co-ordinates movement with speech during performance. Many tricks depend on split second timing when it comes to doing something vital to the making of those tricks. Good timing is invisible, bad timing stands out a mile.

Remember again in the example of the Centre Tear—we arrived at a point where you said a few words and then did something (removed the centre to the pocket). Split second timing of words with action enabled you to make a vital move. If the timing had been wrong, the words said before the hands were set to make the move, before the spectator had been misdirected or before you were standing in the right position, the whole thing failed. In a/ short while we are going to debate what is called Co-ordination; when we do, you will find that one outstanding factor is timing. Unless things are linked together in the right manner at the right time, the picture is out of focus.

How does one acquire a sense of good timing and learn to make use of it? First disregard the timing of showmanship which we shall discuss later, and let us deal now with basic timing; the co-ordination of action with words. Remember a few pages back we were dealing with patter, what to say as you performed your tricks. Now we have to be sure that the words not only suit the action—but go with the action in time. That is to say, it would be ridiculous if your patter, spoken from script, went on 44 Take a card, look at it and simply think to yourself the name of that card "... as you say this, you have handed a pack in the case to a spectator. You continue rapidly, 44 and the card you are thinking of is the three of clubs." The spectator may well reply, 441 haven't looked at one yet." Your timing in this case is vastly wrong. Obviously, you have to watch them and give them time to take a card, look at it, etc., before you commit yourself. It is therefore necessary to pace the patter to suit the actions of performance. If you need more time, you use more patter; if you want to cut down the time, you use less patter or choose words that hurry the spectator.

Because it is essential that actions go with speech hand in hand, it is important when writing a script of patter for tricks that you perform the effects as you devise the patter. If not, what may well happen is that you find yourself trying to do two things at once. It is as though you had your patter recorded on tape and simply mimed the tricks. You would be forced to work

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