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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » The Magic of Storytelling by Vinny Sagoo (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Vinny Sagoo
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The Magic of Storytelling by Vinny Sagoo

It all starts with a story, something to lock the minds together, something to transport your imagination to a place of wonder and mystery.

So how do we spin this yarn of enlightenment?

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way".

This is the opening to Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities, which sets the tone, mood and general ethos promptly. To me, this opening gambit invokes the good times, the bad, the winter, the sun; and more formidably, our inevitable demise. All this emotion and ability to visualise within a single paragraph is quite remarkable.

So WHY the 'Dickens'' am I babbling on about A Tale of Two Cities when this is a magic blog?

Well, I think we often forget the importance of storytelling within magic, yet in my mind, it is the most fundamental step between a fairly 'average' trick, to something that will captivate the mind and emotionally connect you with your audience.

Let me put this into preservative

I was at a magic lecture a few months back eager to watch a magician from the big US of A. He was a well known magician and I was looking forward to a night of sleight of hand magic, something that I am not that proficient with.

Anyway, after the first 10 minutes...

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funsway
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Some good thoughts. A bit too much sales pitch for your products though. (for me)

But then, the Café' seems to have less concern over self-promotion than a decade ago, so I may be alone.

On theme, good story telling also involves study and practice of diction, voice modulation and pitch, timing and appropriateness.

Most colleges in the USA no longer require any courses in speech or theater and lower grade required participation in verbal presentations vanishing.

You can't require a verbal book report if the kid can't read and has never seen a book.

Maybe in the UK things are better.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



ShareBooks at www.eversway.com * questions at funsway@eversway.com
tommy
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I believe the magician has to assert some nonsense and then prove it true. The assertion had better not be too long winded because it will drown the magic. The nonsense assertion will appeal to the imagination and the magic will appeal to the rational faculties. The nonsense apparently making sense at the climax will be both amusing and amazing. The story of their experience will be theirs to tell others after the show. The way to create the nonsense assertion is to exaggerate the effect of some real or plausible phenomena.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Dannydoyle
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Quote:
On May 31, 2020, funsway wrote:
Some good thoughts. A bit too much sales pitch for your products though. (for me)

But then, the Café' seems to have less concern over self-promotion than a decade ago, so I may be alone.


Not alone.
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Aus
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I've been studying storytelling techniques lately since my favorite insights of Darwin's book Strong Magic introduced me to the psychological concepts of conviction, Surprise and suspense, dramatic structure, tension and anticipation, interest catchers and other emotional and psychological principles.

There seems to be a philosophical debate among magicians as to the threshold of when magic and storytelling becomes subservient to the other depending on the performers sense of priorities. I vaguely remember Pop Hayden talking about this on the Café a few times and seen the same sentiment expressed in Ian Keable's book on comedy magic.

To be honest I haven't explored the philosophical arguments to where the boundary lies in regards to this but have been more acutely focused on the exploration of other techniques along the same vein as the previously mentioned ones.

In my pursuit of this I've watch many YouTube videos and movies of various storytellers trying to extrapolate their secrets and have come up with a few revelations.

The first of these I found was the concept of conflict. Conflict refers to a fight. It's a fight of opposing forces. A fight between life and death. A fight between hate and forgiveness, A fight between freedom and oppression or any combination of these things and others. As long as there are two strong, opposing forces that make the story uncertain, a story will be gripping. It keeps us engaged. It keeps us curious. It makes us ask "What will happen next?"

The blockbuster movie "Titanic" is a great movie because it contains so many different conflicts. The first and the most obvious is the life versus death conflict. When the Titanic sinks we're questioning, "Will we live or will we die?" In fact, a lot of exciting scenes in the movie contain a lot of smaller conflicts. For example, during one scene, we find out that there aren't enough lifeboats on the ship, so the conflict becomes "who doesn't and who does get into a lifeboat?"

The second major conflict in the movie is regarding whether or not the two main characters, Jack and Rose, will manage to stay together. Will love triumph or will society separate them because they come from vastly different backgrounds.

With out all this conflict, Titanic would not be such a great movie. After all, not many would watch it if all that happened was the two main characters met on a ship, fell in love and lived happy ever after.

Moving on from that, storytelling shares a variant of the axiom that magicians often tell each other among themselves. The quote "the magic happens in the mind of the spectators" is equally true to storytelling as it is to magic. How they do this however is nuanced in a number of ways.

One of the many significant ways storytellers do this is by understanding the difference between showing and telling. By going into specifics on the sensory aspects of your story helps create that picture in the minds of your audience. The sensory aspects you need to hit are the five senses that we use to experience the world which are sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. By providing descriptions that use as many of these senses as possible, you can create a mental motion picture in your audiences mind of the story your telling.

Another technique of storytellers is adding credibility by specificity. Instead of saying , "The Man was tall" say "He was about 6 foot and five inches." Instead of saying, "I was talking to a large group of people" say "I was speaking to large group of CEO's." Do you see how the specific details help your audience see things in their own mind.

There are heap of other storytelling techniques that I'm exploring in my magic. One of them is the concept that dialogue is more powerful then narration. Dialogue allows you to use vocal verity - to slightly change the pace, pitch and volume of your voice to reflect the emotions and speech of different characters and emotive situations makes delivery of your presentations more dynamic and engaging.

Anyway, those are just some of my thoughts on storytelling and the principles that I've derived from observations of great storytellers that I've observed. The fun part is adapting these concepts and applying these concepts to my magic in a way that creates a more emotional impact for my audience.

Magically

Aus
funsway
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Good, Aus. The concept of "tension and re;lease" may be better than "conflict," as this can occur in the presentation of a magic routine
with or without dialogue. Thus, a story can support a magic routine without being "patter" in the usual sense, or the verbiage detailing the action.

Thus, a story can prepare an audience for expectation and surprise without being synchronous to the magic effect itself - or even directly connected.
Given the "lack of focuses attention" of many general audiences today, this may be an ideal lead in/overture to your magic routine.
Of course, to do this one needs the presentation skills you call "dialogue," more traditionally "presentation skills" in speech communication (or thespian)
( word meaning is changing, but for me 'dialogue' is conversation between two or more people regardless of presentation skill involved)
But your point is critical - one must practice these skills just as much as sleights and prop handling.

Good vocal presentation can capture, hold and mystify and audience even with a poor magic effect, just as music can.

The mystery is why magicians will purchase endless new tricks but never spend a moment practicing lowering their annoying voice,
or using voice modulation or timing. Nope, they just mimic the video and stumble on.


The same can be true when a magic effect is used to support a story or a lesson in a classroom. It can be a special visual aid or a discordant means of focusing attention.
For example, a classroom teacher in need of a piece of chalk, looks around in dismay, then snatches one out of thin air and continues. The students strat paying attention.
Some might say this is not "our magic" in the sense it is not for entertainment or money, but the use of performance magic techniques belongs within "Mystic Arts."

A third use of story is one "about magic," either the mystical, desired kind, or a presented pretend event. The key is that you and your audience should be "on the same page"
as to what magic is (what you pretend at" and what they expect in a performance. If one views that the task of a magician is to "create the conditions under which magic might happen,"
then story might be essential. If I am approached by strangers at a function and someone says, "I understand you are magician, show us a trick." I always tell a story about performing magic
before deciding if I will perform and what.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



ShareBooks at www.eversway.com * questions at funsway@eversway.com
tommy
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A nonsense assertion cannot possibly be true. The audience receives the nonsense assertion with absolute incredulity. However, the audience go along with the nonsense for their amusement; that state on mind is a form of self-deception called the suspension of disbelief. Then the audience is confronted with the cold, brutal facts of the experiment, which proves the true! That conflict between the opposites is the drama. No conflict no drama. However, in magic, unlike a normal drama/story, there is no denouement, no explanation, after the climax.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Luke Wolf
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Really nice points being made here imho. I would stress again the point made by Derren Brown in absolute magic: how can we make it less ego-centered? It's always been a problem to me when we see a magician doing impossible things just because he can do it. The first question I asked when creating my show was "What can I do?" and the second one was "what can I NOT do"? By answering those two questions you can easily create drama, especially if you made it explicit that magic is something that happens TO the magician.
Pop Haydn
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My newest routine, first time out. It is the Chinese Sticks with an original story:

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