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Topic: Storytelling question
Message: Posted by: EggMagic (Sep 11, 2007 06:52AM)
As I am new to this genre, and this forum, forgive me if I ask a question too basic. I have been performing for over 40 years so not new to magic.

Rather than stories based on fairy tale-like themes, or gothic horror, how many of you simply adapt true life stories from your own history, perhaps scripted and embellished for best impact, and weave THOSE into magical presentations?

It seems if the meaning is real for you (though certainly it can be real if it is a foairy tale as well) it will be real (real-er?) for the audience.

Message: Posted by: Jaz (Sep 11, 2007 04:09PM)
Dai Vernon did this very well in 'Emotional Reaction', 'Triumph', 'Cutting the Aces' and several others.
Whether the tales are true experiences or fiction don't matter as long as they are somewhat believable and entertaining.
Message: Posted by: Lynne Kelly (Sep 23, 2007 01:41AM)
I have just developed a routine which I have been perfoming to a good reception. It tells of my recovery from arachnophobia and transformation into an arachnophile.

It is an oil and water routine with three 'horrors' of spiders cards representing three different aspects of arachnophobia. There are also four cards representing a totally calm me. Despite my attempts to divide and conquer the horrors, they keep regrouping on me (oil and water). I eventually get to know spiders and then the horrors disappear. I do that with an Olram Subtlety finish.

I want to work more on it, but I am happy with what I ahve as a starting point. It is very tightly scripted with a strong rhythm, so the rhythms match the oil and water as well as promting me where to twist and turn.
Message: Posted by: Traveler (Sep 24, 2007 12:56PM)
I do. My performance character is based on my experiences and my own wishes. Some of the stories I tell are based on real life experiences.
Message: Posted by: Jaz (Sep 24, 2007 04:50PM)
A lot of what you say and do has to do with the character you portray, your age, who you perform for and who you really are.
I'm an older guy who experienced growing up on the streets of a good sized eastern city, have an interesting family history and incorporate these into my routines and performing personnae. Much of my patter is exaggerated truth, some fictional and some about other peoples experiences I've seen or heard of. At least when performing for those who don't know me really well.
For those who do know me well, I am more truthful and more a 'trick' guy than a man of the world.
For kids I'm more goofy and go for fun.
Message: Posted by: rickmagic1 (Oct 9, 2007 10:05AM)
I've recently begun doing more of this type story-telling after I began studying the magic and styling of Rene Lavand. He is a master at this type of story-telling. I've found that the more personal and 'realistic' a story sounds, the more involved an audience can become!

Message: Posted by: harris (Oct 9, 2007 07:31PM)
I have been using the concept of a life monologue for quite a while.

Much easier to remember and the humor and pathos come naturally.

Occassionally my wife will pause and look at me and say..."That's going in the movie or routine".

Zen and the art of the monologue from magic's own Sankey is a good read. Other books on that subject are also suggested.

The Artist Way by Cameron, Julie(or Julia) is also a good source for exercises and ideas...


Message: Posted by: DanielGreenWolf (Oct 11, 2007 04:01AM)
"An autobiography is the truest of all books; for while it inevitably consists mainly of extinctions of the truth, shirkings of the truth, partial revealments of the truth, with hardly an instance of plain straight truth, the remorseless truth is there, between the lines, where the author-cat is raking dust upon it which hides from the disinterested spectator neither it nor its smell (though I didn't use that figure)--the result being that the reader knows the author in spite of his wily diligences."
-Mark Twain in a Letter to W. D. Howells, 3/14/1904

I have a strange obssesion with the good Samuel Clemens and often look to his quotes for inspiration.

I think the best magic shows are theatrical diaries in which the truth is stretched to its utmost limits of its meaning and, therefore, although spectacular, ends up being very revealing. Those are the shows that interest me and I think many will agree.

Do fairies and magic and ancient spirits exist in my theatrical life story? Of course. But they shall always have a true place in my life and therefore, have real meaning.

Best of luck in creating your autobiography, Egg.
Message: Posted by: Margarette (Oct 12, 2007 10:43AM)
I had a magician tell me that if he watched enough of my magic, he could tell me my life's story and probably be fairly accurate. I've got routines involving my childhood (when my brother handcuffed me to the bed when I was 9) to my "final" final in college where I lost my voice before an oral presentation (exam stress...if I didn't pass, I didn't graduate). My life is strange enough without me having to make up stories for routines!

Message: Posted by: docsteve (Oct 12, 2007 11:07AM)
That's beautiful Margarette!
I'm always humbled reading posts in hear - it's a forum I tend not to 'speak' in - just 'listen'.
Not that's got to be powerful storytelling, right?
Message: Posted by: harris (Oct 12, 2007 11:20AM)
Greeting Margarette...

I think Nigel and I met you at the Workshop north of KC in St. Joseph a few years back.

Life is a great source of stories. After buying a lot of 100 sensormatic security tags..I found out that they were active..while walking into a Home Depot Store.

Two clerks were amused one was very sewious about me checking my pockets prior to coming in to shop. We ended up going across the street to Lowes to buy the storm door. Had to leave to get the right measurements. This will go into my mechanically challenged routine....along with using too much foam sealer to temporarlily fill a hole made in the siding by squirrels...The yellow ball made me smile till we got the house repaired this summer. I never did get to drawing a smily face on it with a sharpie...

Message: Posted by: EggMagic (Oct 20, 2007 08:31AM)
Thanks everyone for your input! I am enjoying learning more about this Genre.

Anyone know anything about Hauntiques and/ or the book MagicTales?
Message: Posted by: Margarette (Oct 20, 2007 11:20PM)
On 2007-10-12 12:20, Harris wrote:
Greeting Margarette...

I think Nigel and I met you at the Workshop north of KC in St. Joseph a few years back.


Yes, Harris, I did meet you and Nigel at The Workshop a few years ago. I was in the same critique room as you. You never did answer my question if Nigel had a girlfriend! ;)

Message: Posted by: Bob Sanders (Oct 22, 2007 11:56AM)
Many of my magic routines are really just illustrations of story telling with magic props.

My rope routine is over thirty years old but certainly fits a guy from Slapout, Alabama who has dealt with milk cows tied along side the road. I also use it for explaining the perils of management and labor. (As an old university professor who taught marketing, management and finance and entrepreneur it fits!)

Some people don't have to spend much time with me to see why Will Rogers is no stranger to me. I was also raised as a cowboy in show business. (Sometimes we can explain the facts right away! --- However you take that...)

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander
Message: Posted by: harris (Oct 23, 2007 12:28PM)
Ah the critique...I got a case of the Noives..and played better and more relaxed in the halls.

Nigel, the puppet that rocks and talks loves to play the field. At 5 & 1/2 (for the last 7 years) his heart has been won and broken many times. My wife says he is part of my "inner child". We did add a girl puppet to our programs. Grace is the 3rd photo in a new slide show on


The Harpo Character (created for a dance last weekend) led to a new story..
Many people carry on the party with Alcohol. As "non drinkers", my wife and I use Aleve.
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Feb 20, 2008 10:51PM)
Many of the stories in [i]Final Curtain[/i] are based on actual things that happened to Borodin. In fact, the stories themselves are much more effective, I think, because of that.

Many of my own story presentations are based upon personal experience. Sometimes, the character in the story is actually me under an assumed name. Other times, a story will start as a genuine experience, then move into a realm of fantasy.

Be careful, though. Slice of life comedy was all the rage until comics and comedy club owners discovered that by and large, our lives are quite similar. When you have three comics on the same bill who mention the wobbly wheel on the grocery cart and the idiots who feel that a doorway is a place to stand, then you will understand what I mean. I actually heard two comics arguing over which of them owned the rights to the "are you an audience or a jury" line. One said that he did because he was a lawyer. I asked him if his name was Robert Orben. He said it wasn't. I told him Robert Orben had put the line in a comedy book before this lawyer was born. Case closed.

So your stories should focus on the odd, the mysterious, and the weird things that happen to you, or nearly happen to you, that don't happen to others every day.

Look for ways to put a twist in something that happens to you.
Message: Posted by: mindsynced (Mar 11, 2008 07:22PM)
I definately use MY stories in all aspects of my work whether it is Mentalism, Christian Illusion, Speaking, novels, and even preaching. Yep, I know...what a combo. :)

Message: Posted by: iambest (Apr 11, 2008 08:46AM)
Usuakky stories from ones own life are the best material, and original too!
Message: Posted by: iambest (Apr 11, 2008 08:49AM)
Message: Posted by: Solitaire (Apr 14, 2008 02:20AM)
Welcome, Eggmagic to the boards,
I have adapted a few basic facts of the history of my ancesters to form my stage character.

To your question concerning Hauntiques: it is a great and inspiring book, but what I find a bit difficult is the mass of antique props you will need, so you will either spend a lot of time making the props yourself or browsing flea marktes and garage sales, etc.
Message: Posted by: MPMagic (Apr 15, 2008 09:41AM)
[quote]To your question concerning Hauntiques: it is a great and inspiring book, but what I find a bit difficult is the mass of antique props you will need, so you will either spend a lot of time making the props yourself or browsing flea marktes and garage sales, etc.

Indeed: tracking down the stuff for some of Christian's more complex routines (The Host, Time Trap...) can be daunting, but the book is not strictly a "technical manual" with tricks to be copied and performed as described, but it should rather help you and inspire you to create your own stories and your own "virtual fantasy" with objects you may find. Christian explains (chapter 3) how he created one of his most complex pieces of theatre when he found, by chance, the day pass for the World's Exhibition of the Duke D'Ursel. This apparently meaningless item helped to create a very complex routine, of which the ticket is just a small part, not the centre of the story.

I think that by realizing that an item is just a small part, sometimes insignificant, of the bigger picture, is a step forward in creating interesting stories. Often magician concentrate too much on the "item", the object of the trick: I believe that for storytelling magic, the item is just what triggers the story, but the real magic happens inside the spectator's mind.

My two cents... :)
Message: Posted by: Ringo (Apr 18, 2008 10:33AM)
I believe that mr. Chelmans books are meant to be an inspiration, not a "licence to perform" his routines. Come to think of it, there are very few people who COULD perform the stuff in hauntiques. Amazing book it is !
Message: Posted by: link8822 (Jul 1, 2012 08:52PM)
I'm a big fan of using personal stories too. I remember Wayne Houchin spoke of this at his lecture. He said there's two options, you can either learn to act & be a good actor, or you can simply be yourself & use personal stories. But the personal stories don't need to be 100% accurate but the base of the story is true with entertaining tweaks to enhance the presentation. (or to make it fit in with the specific effect)
Message: Posted by: ApprenticeWizard (Sep 9, 2012 04:59PM)
I thin k there are many possible sources for good stories. The funniest one I've come up with so far is based on a parady of a well-known fairy tale. But the most touching and hopefully inspiring one is derived from an experience of a close relative. Very good stories can come from many many possible sources. Personal experience is one great source but I would quickly expand that to include all the "personal stories" you've ever heard anyone tell you about, or have ever read about.
Message: Posted by: w_s_anderson (Oct 20, 2012 11:12PM)
I perform a show called Operation: Magic. Every routine in the show is based on my real life experiences throught my world travels with the military. The response we get is 10 times what we used to get before switching to that format.

Message: Posted by: Yoram Bar-Sela (Oct 31, 2012 01:19PM)
Magical-Tales' "birthday surprise In Las Vegas" and "The Fortune Teller's Prediction" are based on almost daily life stories, but adapted to generate fun and laugh, as well as high visual impact. You may check them at http://www.magical-tales.com
Message: Posted by: Leslie Melville (Oct 31, 2012 03:26PM)
By way of clarification, may I point out that the above 'Magical-Tales' posting has nothing at all to with my storytelling website:
http://www.thestorytelling-resource-centre.com/magictales.html, my book entitled 'Magictales' published by Leaping Lizards in 2006 or my shortly to be published 'Magictales Two' by the same publisher.

Leslie Melville.
Message: Posted by: edshern (Nov 17, 2012 10:55AM)
Check out Paradoxmagic's post in this forum.
Message: Posted by: Lawrence O (Nov 23, 2012 05:40AM)
Get something emotional that as large an audience can identify with: make it dramatic and include a protagonist that is not "I" and not "you" but "we" and "magic". No challenge (even unadmitted) and a sharing of how magic does actually help in real life.

Using Ikea nuts and bolts I wrote a kind of two in the hand one in the pocket routine with them but designed ot fool magicians as well as lay people.
The story runs about the fact that small event like the cable of the breaks in a car can end up in very dramatically runninng over a child. Then by association, the fact that sometimes Ikea is not delivering a full set of nuts and bolts can degenerate into a huge loss of life time and a dramatic matrimonial dispute
Thus the easily recognized black Ikea nuts and sometimes the bolt coming back illustrate how magic can save us pretty large spans of life time.
For the climax, the bolt is placed in the pocket with three nuts left in the fist, and upon opening the left hand, the bolt reappears with the three nuts deeply threaded on it... (Magic is saving life time not only on mishap but on the mounting of Ikea furnitures)
Message: Posted by: SheldonR (Nov 28, 2012 09:04AM)
Cool. You know telling a story while doing some magic tricks has always hooked audience time and again. I don't remember one that didn't, so far. Once you start a personal story, you won't have that much of a hard time explaining things and connecting the dots to the story because you are in control. Unlike of you invent one, no matter how original it is, you may make a mistake at some point if you're not able to practice it that much.
Message: Posted by: birdman69 (Feb 20, 2013 06:49AM)
I travel a lot with work, so many of my magic effects revolve around things I have picked up along the way. I have found that it is easy to segue into the setup of a magic effect based on the conversation. I have been told that sometimes it was difficult for people to know if I was having a conversation or just setting up for a magic trick. Not sure if that is a good or bad comment?