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 Post subject: "How Did You Do That?"
PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2006 10:32 am 
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I originally posted this in response to a question, but at the suggestion by Sunnydolan I made it into an essay.

I don't think anyone here can say that they haven't been faced with the question, "How did you do that?" I've had a thought about the best way to tackle answering it and I present my thoughts to you:


There are two types of people who say, "How do you do that?" One is the person who says it out of astonishment and can't think of anything else to say. The other is the person who seriously want to know how to do it. If it's out of astonishment, take what they said as a compliment and just smile at them without saying a word, and then move on. Treat is just as if they'd said, "Man, that was a great trick." That's pretty much what they meant. Now, obviously that won't work if they actually want to know. Younger children fall into this category. They won't be satisfied with a smile as an answer. They really want to discover the secret.

If they genuinely want to know, I'll either say, "Magic," "I'm not gonna say," or "I'm not really sure," depending on how I feel at the time, or what kind of people I'm with. There are a bunch more of these kind of things to say littered about the Outs and One Liners Forum. One line that crops up frequently in that forum, which I disagree with, is, "Very well, thank you." I used to use that but as I matured I realised that it was a rather arrogant thing to say, and just plain annoying.

If they don't like your answer and persist with the questions, I move onto phase B, which involves giving bogus explanations that are clearly fake, like "Magnets," "It's a stooge," (quite funny if there's no one else involved other than the one spectator) "Mirrors" etc. I personally act as if I've rapidly though of the explanation on the spot.

At that point, some will give up.

The remainder of people left are those who either want to know for the sake of knowing, or those who actually do want to know because they are magicians, liked your effect and want to use it themselves. If they genuinely want to know, I may point them in the direction of the magic dealer I bought it from. I still won't reveal the secret. If it's the kind of person who wants to know for the sake of knowing (i.e. children), I'll either act like a broken record and say, "I'm not gonna tell you," as this is a tried and tested was for getting rid of people, or I will question why they want to know.

If they want to know for the sake of knowing, I'll tell them to go away and live with it, probably in nicer words. If they want to know because they want to show their friends at school/work/the bar then I'll tell them that if they want to do tricks for entertainment they have to start at the bottom like everyone else. I might point them in the direction of a beginner's book of self-working that most people know anyway. That's enough to put anyone off, as people who aren't serious about learning the trick wouldn't want to spend years practising just for one trick.

That's my definitive way for dealing with people who want to know "How I did it".


Last edited by Lawboy on Fri Apr 07, 2006 3:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2006 7:51 pm 
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i say
"Quite Well Dont Ya Think"


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 Post subject: Re: "How Did You Do That?"
PostPosted: Fri Apr 07, 2006 4:11 am 
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Lawboy wrote:
One line that crops up frequently ... which I disagree with, is, "Very well, thank you." I used to use that but as I matured I realised that it was a rather arrogant thing to say, and just plain annoying.

As I say it's generally a good idea to stay away from that kind of line. Whenever I hear anyone say it (including myself when I was younger) they always deliver it in an awfully smug way, and this kind of thing just screams, "Boasting," to the crowd. There are, however, a few situations where you can get away with it:

Firstly if you are doing a routine where the magic happens in a spectator's hand, like a sponge ball routine. When the sponge ball multiplies in their hand, you look surprised and ask them how they did it. They'll usually shrug their shoulders, or generally not be able to reply. You save them by telling them that they did it very well, and then thanking them for being a good assistant. Audience applauds them and spectator returns to seat. In that instance the line was used to compliment the spectator rather than to make yourself look better.

Secondly, If you get a good reaction from the spectator and they ask you how it's done, you can say, jokingly, "Well, from the look of your expression I'd guess, very well!" Again, back it up with a thank you for them appreciating the trick.

In those two situations you aren't making yourself look better, which is good. You're complimenting your audience. NOTE: I'd never consider using the line to someone really wants to know the trick. The two scenarios above are when you are asked the line out of astonishment.

Another line I like to stay far from is, "Can you keep a secret? So can I." That may only ever work on very young children as kids' parties. Even then I wouldn't give the answer as a response. I'd ask the children myself if they want to know how I did that. They'll probably scream, 'Ye-e-e-e-es!" Then I'd deliver the line. It's always important to deliver it jokily rather than smugly. If you are too young to be able to tell the difference then I'd suggest you stay away from using it.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 08, 2006 4:21 pm 
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Wow. Great essay, Lawboy! Lots of good advice.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2006 2:21 pm 
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i still thin mine is the best thing 2 say.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2006 3:30 pm 
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Whatever works for you.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 11, 2006 7:03 am 
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A short amendment to the essay:

Yesterday, I received Derren Brown's books, "Pure Effect," and, "Absolute Magic," both of which I recommend you pick up. These books are not about magic tricks, but merely about magic (but they do have a couple of tricks in there too). One of the topics they touch on is you, as a magician, making the experience for the audience better. If you present a trick as a puzzle, it will be treated as such. Imagine if someone comes up to you can gives you a logic puzzle. If you don't know the answer, you want one. If the person who set you the riddle decides not to tell you, it makes you genuinely angry. On the other hand, if you see something like an optical illusion, especially one like this, although you can't explain it you just accept it for what it is - something that looks pretty awesome. You don't try to solve it because to you it doesn't need solving.

That's just a little something for you to think about. If you do your magic right, then no-one will have to ask you how you did it. Or you'll get people saying, "How did you do that?" out of astonishment rather than out of actually wanting the secret.

Another situation I didn't consider is when you've just done a trick or a show, and someone takes you to one side and casually mentions, "I'm still thinking about how the ... you did that trick where you ...". Don't go into your thing about fake solutions or smug one-liners. They're not asking you for the secret. That falls under the first category, so counts as a compliment. I'd answer that kind of thing by smiling at them and telling them not to lose much sleep over it (not in a smug way - a nice way). They should smile and walk away.


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 Post subject: ..
PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2006 9:36 pm 
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I just say... "Okay I will try to explain....maybe you can't do this because it uses special forces ......I think everyone got this inside their system but it takes years to develop this....and maybe some people just can't...."

Off course it depends on the trick what (fake) explanation you give....Be creative and make up a sort of vague explanation.....like you must really concentrate and all sort of stuff....or you must let all energy flow to your finger with concentration or meditation....and then the astral energy will make it bend or something....sometimes when you make up a perfect fake explanation they will be more amazed

With some effects it's hard to do cause it's too impossible.....and then they will not take it serious....
Than I say...."well I don't know it myself either....it's crazy isn't it....The shaman who learnt me this just gave me the power by doing hypnose.."


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2006 5:12 am 
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It definitely will depend on the type of magic you do and to whom you perform it as to what kind of responses you give. If you do manipulations, you can say that it is sleight of hand. If you do PK or mentalism then you'll be more likely to travel down the route of more spiritualist things.

But then again theres not really much point in doing a PK effect so someone who bases their life on cold hard fact and has no belief in psychic forces, because they'll most likely say, "Well, it was done with magnets or strings or something, wasn't it?". If that's how you did the trick then you'll be screwed. On the othr hand, show the same effect to someone who believes in that sort of thing but hasn't seen it be done in person, then what you'r doing will be a treat for them and they'll so want to believe in it that they won't question you, or if they do they'll be more ready to believe what you tell them.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2006 7:17 am 
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Location: An amatuer practices until he gets it right, a professional practices until he can't get it wrong...
Lawboy wrote:
But then again theres not really much point in doing a PK effect so someone who bases their life on cold hard fact and has no belief in psychic forces, because they'll most likely say, "Well, it was done with magnets or strings or something, wasn't it?". If that's how you did the trick then you'll be screwed. .


Not always true, sometimes spectators try to guess methods. Sometimes their right, most of the time their wrong. If their right, i just play it off like thir wrong. Even if they don't believe in magic, you can still fool them, and most people like to be fooled.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2006 7:54 am 
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Sunnydolan wrote:
Even if they don't believe in magic, you can still fool them, and most people like to be fooled.

I'm not sure I totally agree with that. People in general don't like to be fooled because it makes them feel vunerable. Instead, they like to be entertained. I forgot where I read this (it could have been the Penguin Magic blog) but someone was saying about how he was watching a film, which had spectacular effects but not much of a storyline. He said that he could totally believe the effects were real, but for some reason they just weren't doing anything for him. The same is true with magic. You can have an astounding trick, but the way you present it may fool the spectator without entertaining them.

I saw a younger friend of mine perform Jay Sankey's "Killer Key". The actual sleights were fine, and I couldn't tell at all how it was done. I was fooled. However, the way he presented it made the trick dull. I wasn't impresed by the trick as a whole.

I saw a magician perform a trick to a friend of mine, where everyone but my friend got to see exactly how the trick was done. Were we fooled? No. Were we entertained? Immensely.

Food for thought.

As a final constructive piece of criticism on your last post, Sunnydolan, "their" is not a suitable substitution for "they're".


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2006 8:32 am 
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This is in another topic but Lawboy thought i should include it here...

Your aim should not be what to say when they say "how did you do that?", your aim, as performers, should be to make them not ask the question in the first place.

This can be done a number a ways. The best way is to give the effect meaning to the spectators, make them feel so engaged that they dont care "how" you did it, just that you did it and it was the best thing that they have ever seen. If you can do this then they will not care as much how it is done. (this doesn't apply to everybody of course.) Other ways are to subtly hint at plausible methods (obviously not giving the true method) before doing the performance. or even during the performance.

Imagine these two serinios; Spec thinks of a card. Mr magi says "look at me... Think of your card... Your card is the Queen of Spades" SPEC: "how did you do that?" Mr Magi: Magic! (or whatever)

The spec HAS to ask "how did you do that?" because there is no possible way it could be done. (apparantly) When spectators witness powerful magic/ mind reading, like that, they have a rush of emotions, (mainly confusion) if they cannot get out of this confusion themselves (by working out how you knew what their card was), then they will look to you to help them out of this confusion, therefore, asking "how do you do that?" You must know because you did it, is what they are thinking. You can't tell them how you did it, so they are still confused and pester for the method to make sence of what just happened.

Most will not pester you for the method, they will leave you alone but when they tell their friends, their friends will try are work out the method. This is the last thing you want your spectators to be talking about. You want them to talk about how much they enjoyed your performance and your company, and how you are a great magician who they should go and see. Not that you showed them shome tricks that look like anyone could do them if they knew the secret. You want them to think there is no secret.

Now imagine the same effect performed a little different. Spec thinks of a card... Magi: "Look at me... dont say anything outloud ok? Just say the value of the card to yourself over and over again..." (magician 'picks up on unconcious movements' as he does through out the effect) "now if your having trouble saying the value then I would imagine it is a picture card" Spec: "yeah!" Magi: "Ah, be careful, dont say anything.

Ok, now imagine the card infront of you and see the card nice and bright and vivid..." "Again if your having trouble seeing it bright and vivid, then I guess it's a black card" Magi: Ok so you have a black picture card, what is it? Jack Queen King, Jack Queen Kin... Queen, thank you"

Ok Spades or Clubs, Spades or Clu... Spades, Thank you. Was your card the Queen of Spades?" Spec: Yes, Wow, Oh my god I cant believe you did that, that looked impossible"

If the spectator was to ask now "how do you do that?", then they havn't been paying attention.

In both effects, obviously, the queen of spades is forced. In the first effect you simply name the card after you tell them to think of it. There isn't even time for you to read their minds even if you could, so they know you must have knew the card before they looked at it. In the second effect you are apparantly showing how you read their mind through out the effect. (by picking up on unconcious face movements, ect...)

The same needs to be applied to all of your effects. If you give one or more plausible methods (subtly, or course, you dont say "well some people do it like this. ect...." you need to communicate this through subtly hinting in that direction, never openly state plausable methods) Basicaly if the spectator goes away knowing how it "might" have been performed, they will not need ask themselves how you do your tricks. Insted they can focus ther attention of your performance or as you as a performer.

I could go on and on about this subject and many others I hold close to heart such as magicians creating effects by working out a very good sleight and trying to add a performance and effect for it to be used in. Many of you already know that this is thr wrong way to create effects. When creating effects the first thing to have in mind is the actual effect! What do you want to achieve? then work out how you can do it.

I'm aware that most of you will not need to pay attention to this last point, but I thought i'd mention it anyway. If you start out creating a trick from a cool sleight, then you need to remember this. The secret sleight is never seen by the audiance... you try and make an effect coz u like the sleight. It may just be something as simple as a new pass or something and you will create poor effects that are just based around that sleight. (card jumping to the top of the deck ect...) You think it is a great effect because the pass was perfect, wasn't seen ect... but that is the whole point. it shoudn't be seen.

Theorfore, creating an effect around something that the audiance cannot see is a very serious mistake. (dont get me wrong, this isn't always the case, sometimes it may necessery to start with a sleight but if so, I would say 19 out of 20 of your effects should be created by first knowing what effect you want to create. (sounds logical huh?)

I would elaberate but I have gone on for long enough and people will probabaly loose interst before they read this anyway... (sorry for the long post)


Last edited by wallis666 on Thu Jul 27, 2006 8:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Apr 28, 2006 1:21 pm 
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I always refer them to my local shop, caus ethe owners loves it when new bussiness comes in and gives me a discount!


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 Post subject: Re: "How Did You Do That?"
PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2006 9:01 pm 
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Lawboy wrote:
"Very well, thank you." I used to use that but as I matured I realised that it was a rather arrogant thing to say, and just plain annoying.

Yes, me too. I think a better rendetion of that would be "very carefully."


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 08, 2006 5:25 am 
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bhbowhunter wrote:
I always refer them to my local shop, caus ethe owners loves it when new bussiness comes in and gives me a discount!

I have just finished reading "Strong Magic" by Darwin Ortiz (good book!) and it mentions that in order to gain the respect of your audience, a good thing to have on your side is prestige. That's why famous people get paid a lot of money for something someone else could do just as well.

To say that you bought your tricks from a shop is not prestigious; to say that you have spent time with other magicians and shared secrets is moreso. Therefore, bhbowhunter, I must disagree with you.


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