Conviction

1. The Dynamics Of Conviction The Expository Phase

Virtually all close-up magic tricks can be divided into two parts which I'll term the expository phase and the magical phase. Robert-Houdin said that before you change an apple into an orange you should make sure the audience knows it's an apple. Changing the apple into an orange is the magical phase. Making sure first that they know it's an apple is the expository phase.

The expository phase always comes first, for example: having a card selected and returned to the deck; placing four coins on the table under four playing cards; having the four aces signed and buried in different parts of the deck; or dealing the aces in a T-formation and dealing three cards on top of each one. Then comes the magical phase: making the selected card rise from the deck; making the coins travel from card to card; producing the aces from four different pockets; or making the aces gather together in one packet.

At first glance, some tricks might seem like they don't fit this format For example, does producing a coin at the fingertips have any expository phase? Isn't it all magic? Admittedly, this is a case where the exposition is so brief, it almost seems nonexistent. Still, the u 3 °°in at your fingertips won't have much impact unless havf* * B°ne before 10 ,ead ^e audience to believe you dont have a com in your hand.

a!^lTffeCt* Uke "0il and Water" the "Ambitious Card" also seem like exceptions. The fact that they're not becomes clear 50

u ,.ealize that, a multi-phase effect is n series of discrete when y cffeCtg conlbined. Therefore, each phase of the trick has ita lua&lC" itory phase and magical phase. In "Oil and Water." each °Wn ? begins with the performer alternating the colors (exposition) ph!|Sends with the colors separating (magic). In the "Ambitious Card," v time you insert the card in the middle of the deck you're CVer"einR in the expository phase; every time it rises to the top you're enSacing in the magical phase. In any case, there's no need to debate , the few seeming exceptions since almost all effects divide very aasily and naturally into these two phases.

One might almost term these two phases of a trick the boring part and the interesting part. This isn't really accurate since the xnository phase can and should be interesting to your audience too. (Indeed, if you can't make the expository phase interesting, your magic is bound to fail since the audience won't be paying any attention by the time the magical phase arrives.) Nevertheless, it is true that the magical phase is inherently interesting while the expository phase is not inherently interesting.

This leads many magicians to treat the expository phase as a nuisance to be gotten out of the way as soon as possible. They act as if the exposition is of no importance. A typical example is the magician who says, "It doesn't matter how you control the selected card. The audience doesn't care how you control the card. They're only interested in how you reveal it."

The fallacy of this attitude becomes obvious when you realize that the expository phase and the magical phase in magic are exactly analogous to the setup and the punchline in a joke. It's the punchline that gets the laugh, but it's not the punchline that's funny; it's the entire joke that's funny.

To put it another way, the setup determines how funny the punchline will be. Imagine a comic who stood before an audience and only recited punchlines. Do you really think he'd get lots of laughs? Do you think it doesn't matter what he says during the setup because the audience is only interested in the punchline? Not only is the setup necessary, the setup must be done just a certain way for the joke to work. Any professional comic will tell you that if a gag isn't set up properly it will die.

In the same way, the expository phase of a magic trick is not merely a necessary evil, it's a pivotal element of the effect. In fact, it's only a shght exaggeration to say that the expository phase is what determines how strongly the effect as a whole will play. Admittedly, ^ important to make the expository phase as interesting as possible. e talk about that later in the sections on Substantive Meaning,

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