Elliott Terral

Simplicity: A Keynote to Good Magic

Theoretically any trick that is deceptive should be a good magical effect, but unfortunately this is not the case in actual practice. This is particularly true of a great many card tricks. More often than not they give the impression of being puzzles rather than magical effects. Since this is definitely not the impression a magician wishes to convey, it is important that he be able to analyze the cause.

A puzzle may baffle by its cleverness or its intricacy but its solution manifestly lies within the actions that have been shown. It does not suggest the operation of something outside of normal cause and effect. Since the only pleasure to be derived from a puzzle lies in the satisfaction of solving it, its reaction is that of challenge to the intellect rather than an appeal to the imagination.

The illusion of magic is an idealistic fantasy; it exists only in the imagination of the spectator. Its appeal is to that natural love for the strange, the mysterious and the fantastic which lurks in the minds of everyone possessing ordinary imaginative powers. One of the most important factors conducive to creating the impression that magical forces are at work is simplicity of effect. It is significant to note that those effects which get over best with an audience invariably are very simple in their conception. Their presentation is always straight to the point and the methods employed are likewise the simplest and more direct that it is possible to conceive.

Therefore, when working out a new trick, or for that matter any trick, pattern it along the lines of those tricks which have proved themselves time and again to be effective. Simplicity is the keynote of every worth-while effect in magic.

Long drawn out effects are never good—no matter how clever or subtle the methods might be. Never complicate an effect merely for the sake of trying to devise a fool-proof method. Such things rob an effect of its surprise and reduce it to the status of the common puzzle. Remember there is no such thing as a perfect trick. The only way to improve a trick is to find a simpler and more direct way of doing it. Stress only those things which have a direct bearing upon the effect and don’t try to prove every point. Keep the effect crystal clear. Audiences are not interested in inconsequential details. They want to see things happen and they want to be surprised when they do.

All the tricks described here are streamlined to obtain the maximum effect with the minimum of prolixity. Many have been in my programs for years and all are thoroughly practical. The methods may seem, to some, to be a bit too difficult, but they are the best that I have been able to devise without sacrificing any of the simplicity of the effects. Should easier methods suggest themselves, by all means adopt them, but take care that they do not obscure or confuse the effect.

LePaul, Paul. The Card Magic of LePaul, pg. 129. LePaul, 1949

Elliott Terral

As a cofounder of ArtofMagic.com, Elliott is dedicated to advancing our art and honing our craft. While not a professional magician, his enthusiasm for intimate performance and his attention to detail, coupled with his knuckle-busting chops, have provided him valuable insight into why good, powerful magic is essential to elevating the public's perception of our community.

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