How do you make a trick your own?
By Joshua Jay - Sunday, November 28, 2021
I get this question a lot, and I suppose I am seeing it more at the moment because we’ve just released my own trick, “The Trojan Deck.” This is a straightforward trick in which two shuffled decks (one by the performer and one by a spectator) are shown to match entirely in their order. Simple enough. But the presentation I developed is a (true) story about how my parents met. And some magicians might want to—and are strongly encouraged to—find a presentation for this trick, or any trick, that feels as customized to them as the "Trojan Deck” feels, to me.
So, how do you create a presentation that feels completely unique to you?
I suppose it starts with focusing on the stories in and around your life that are interesting to you. I’m certain that there are interesting moments or things that have happened to you that would translate well to magic. Have you known anyone who survived an incredibly odd accident or injury? Did you ever see someone you know on the other side of the world? Does your grandmother have a recipe that she won’t share with anyone? Is there a family secret that most people don’t know about you?
I think that basing our presentations in truth is helpful. It adds a layer of authenticity that is hard to replicate. But I am not a Puritan in this way. I believe that we can add artistic distortions to make our stories shorter, better, and punchier. In “The Trojan Deck” I tell the story of how my parents met. It’s basically the truth, but I had to condense the storyline and change a few locations to make the story tellable in a five-minute window. I tried many different versions, and each one was too long. Eventually, I found a way to tell the story very quickly, in a way that (I hope) moves people.
The hardest part of all this is paring a story with a trick. You can’t simply slap a presentation onto a trick and expect it to work. I had been thinking about this story about my parents for years, and asking myself, What is this really about at its core? And the story, to me, is about things falling into place perfectly, against the odds. And that is, not coincidentally, the theme of two shuffled decks matching.
In the end, the way you strike gold is by digging a lot. I think you have to mine your life for all the best stories. Don’t become too attached to any one story or any one trick. Instead, allow good tricks and interesting presentations to float in your head, and onto the pages of your notebooks. Occasionally a story and a trick will coalesce, and call out to you to be told together. Then follow that lead, and you might be surprised at how perfectly they fit together.
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