Style

t oersistent concepts involved in the various definitions •Oneoftj16"10., sty{e j3 cioseiy linked to the personality of the 0/style is tM ia*

artist" p. Cowles Strickland, The Technique of Acting

"Style, of course, is ultimately tied to the psyche."

William Zinsser, On Writing Well

Norman Mailer

The Elements Of Style

This is a good time to talk about performing style because style is a subtle but very important tool in conveying the performer's character to the audience. One of the few magical writers who has been brave enough to tackle the subject of style in print is Eugene Burger. He spends almost half his book, The Craft of Magic, on the topic; yet he begins the discussion by saying, "I'm not sure that I could tell you—in words—exactly what style 'is.'" This difficulty in defining style is not limited to the field of magic. It arises in virtually every art. I think that what makes it so difficult to pinpoint what constitutes a magician's style is that every element in a performance contributes to style. However, while major elements such as characterization and woice of material may be analyzed separately, style also encompasses elements which are individually so minute that they defy separate

Darwin Ortiz analysis. It's the cumulative effect of all these the infinitesimaUy small ones, that we usually if B

speak of a performers style. " ftav® in tain^"^

As a starting point for our discussion, the TV k definition of style will do fine: "The way in which & s I), done as distinguished from its substance So,nethiae 1^

Suppose you must have a card selected and return may spread the cards between your hands to t|le df a<* that mmetrjCaUv ^ one W

hands and removed. \ ou may thumb the cards into a svmm then hold it out for the removal of a card." You' „ , ■ ~«t,, squared in your hand and ask the spectator to pull u5 du peek at a card. You may spread the cards on the tahl"'to! hold them in your hand. If you do, vou may spread th ral!l<!r tW crescent, or in a precise straight line, or in a sloppy mav instead leave the deck squared on the J afrven tow v..

spectator to reach m and remove any card he wishes Or >ht hun to think of any card then look through the deck nnj ®a-v till card. a re®«t that

Similarly, if you wish to introduce four half dollars for may spill them out on the table from a purse, or place th eÍfen' neat row, or produce them in a coin star between your fingere "1 In each case you've been faced with an array of choices and th hasn't even begun yet. To the unthinking performer the diff between the various approaches may seem trivial tauallv choice conveys a slightly different message about the perfiZPr"í his magic: that he is precise or casual, calculating or spontaneot-concerned with aesthetic considerations or not, that he his props in order to control them or not.

These examples should make clear how very many small choices aal decisions a performer has to make in routining an effect. It's to» these decisions that style emerges. Each small piece of the mosaic can contribute to the overall picture that is a performer's style, but onlyif each 13 pointing in the same direction. This leads to a fúndanla truth about style: style is a function of consistency in the counta minute elements of a performance.

But suppose the various elements point in different directions? Here we come to the most common problem most magicians have vib style: not that they have a bad style or a good style but that they han no style at all. If you perform "Coins Through the Table'' like Slvdinl Jlamx like Al Schneider. "Spellbound" like the guv who taught it tt ri.LiL'r f club "^'ins and "Copper/Silver" exactly as it was htu TI m 00k' there ™m be ™ consistent guiding intelliget.« behind the countless small decisions comprising your performance.

Strong Magk lives the average magician too much credit b0Ve esa,nP „listicallv consistent at least within each t.e" esuia'9 hC 13 writers arc continually exhorting the reader ¡'„1 eff«"- T^T his own style. Since the average magician >'"'7 each tr«* » ,le 0f WB own. how is he supposed to follow

"" Hcians jokingly imitate Tony Slydini or Harry

»■" n many them perform you can probably do a decent

,ne 111— yourself one that would be instantly recognized af either one imitating one of your magician friends

F ost fflas'"3"6 club Chances are you wouldn't even know your lK®! ®tawould be like trying to paint a picture of the fvhet^ ^

„.visible ma11- are so easy to caricature because they're both

Slviioi and lorag with unique approaches. It's the same in every soperl»^'6 5 - . Jampoon Ernest Hemingways writing style but Jell!. Il's ""f1 tbe same to the average hack writer of potboiler f! because there is nothing to lampoon, paperbacks u

Developing A Style a .nhieve the consistency of approach in minute details HiW ,°Jkev ¿style in magic (or any other art)? Magical style is the a strong philosophy of magic, a strong aesthetic theory, a ^.nLyidual vision of what good magic should be. When you fTsuch a vision, it provides the touchstone for determining the met choice (for you) from among the many different approaches tat can be taken at virtually every point in an effect. I've woken before about the prevalence of prejudices among magicians the belief that their approach is the only right one. In the realm of style we find the one legitimate place for such prejudices. By »av of illustration I'll discuss some of my own prejudices, not to athmate them, but only to suggest how one's own (well-thought out) biases can provide a foundation for a personal style. I specialize in card magic and there are a number of things I don't like to see in card magic. I dislike tricks in which playing cards are used merely as counters, such as certain "Cards Across" routines or effects where the performer keeps counting a packet of cards, always getting the wrong number.

Here are two things that make playing cards fascinating and unique as a prop. The first is the many ways they can be categorized: into two whirs, four suits, thirteen values, "and fifty-two unique identities, as «11 as distinguishing between faces and backs. The second is the

Stroo'

When you've finished, you may well end up dee d want to change a single thing about the way you h 8 that y» you'll still have learned something of value from th ° tll° have a better understanding of why you do what v e*erci8eCy come closer to developing a strong performing phjj d°' k ! be better able to make stylistically consistent deci8080phy an'1 c any subsequent effects you may add to your repertoire"18 You may not wish to go through this exercise with eve (although the more you do it, the more you'll benefit) 6ffect Von to try it with at least one effect if you want to reallv j 1 ^Re. style is all about. yUnd^tand^

Style As A Conscious Act

Some may feel that the kind of work suggested above unnecessary. There is a common belief that artistic style is 18 ^ that just evolves automatically with time—that it just hSOtBeft"is that it just comes naturally. The more successful the artist^6"8 °r likely that his work will foster this notion. ' e ®0ri

Ernest Hemingway was one of the great stylists of modern lite His exceptionally clean, spare writing style appears so simple th* readers are inclined to think it was his natural means of expre« 31 perhaps even the result of a limited education or limited vocabu] °^ Actually, literary scholars know that it took a great deal of hard work and deliberate effort for Hemingway to develop the extreme simplicity and apparent artlessness that mark his unique style. The French author Gustav Flaubert is said to have tried whenever possible to avoid using the same word twice on any one page. You can be sure this stylistic feature required a great deal of work on Flaubert's part. In every art you will find that a tremendous amount of thought and plain hard work goes into achieving what the public assumes just comes naturally.

Consider an example from the field of magic. René Lavand has written, "I have spent three months, not just to create a routine, but just to find the right words for the climax, and another three months trying to find the correct tone of voice for each of the words." Does that sound to you like someone whose style has just evolved unconsciously?

I consider Tony Slydini and Harry Lorayne to be great magical stylists in much the same way that Hemingway was a great stylist of mainstream fiction and Lord Dunsany, Clark Ashton Smith, and Raymond Chandler were great stylists of genre fiction. Neither ones style is the result of accident.

Appeal^y°ur9Uof the countless ^ result of

SSf;^ instinct.

Considerations Affecting Style dedsions should be consistent with your character Would your character be more likely to overhand shuffle or riffle shuffle the cards?

Style should also support substance. The hardboiled writing style of Dashiell Hammett would be as inappropriate in a fantasy set in an imaginary kingdom as the extremely ornate style of Clark Ashton Smith would be in a private eye novel. (Indeed, a standard technique of literary lampoons is to apply an author's style to content for which its totally inappropriate. The result is invariably humorous.)

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