One of the most important things for a proper theatrical performance piece in magic (or Mentalism) is the plot. Many routines lack of a plot. They seem like a useless demonstration of clever principles, designed and put together to showcase the performer’s cleverness, dexterity or ‘skill’ – or whatever is good to fulfill this wish of some ego-driven individuals.
Many magicians experience difficulty in finding and identifying plots for their routines in order to create an effective presentation. But the whole thing is not as difficult as it seems. Common sense and an understanding of people is what we need. Magic is a performing art for real people, and therefore we should have an understanding of what real people are interested in and about what they really care for.
In order to give you some inspiration and (sometimes controversial) ideas and methods, I will start a mini-series of articles concerning this topic and dealing with it in a short, snappy and clear way.
What is a plot?
Well, it is the story, motivation and motif behind trick demonstration. But I am not talking about story-telling magic. I talk about the underlying theme, which must be emotionally interesting to people. Themes that get their attention and hold the interest. Richard Osterlind put it absolutely right in one of his books, where he talks about the underlying plot an effect has and what it means for an audience. Read what Richard Osterlind has to say about it.
Some of the simplest and most basic human wishes seem to be very strong plots for a performer. For a mentalist/psychic this could be a goldmine:
- Being able to read someone’s mind.
- Being able to read body language of other persons.
- Being able to foresee the future.
- Being able to see things others do not see.
- Being able to find lost things.
- Being able to escape or free oneself from restrictions.
- Being able to repair things (see Uri Geller and the watches).
- Being able to influence a person (without her knowing or noticing it – hypnosis or influencing).
- Being able to expand one’s senses (seeing without the eyes, using touch, etc.)
- Being able to manipulate objects (metal bending, telekinesis, etc.)
- Being able to spot dangers (Russian roulette kind of tricks)
- Being able to communicate with dead persons.
- Being able to foresee one’s own death time.
- Being able to understand/conquer death.
- Being able to know what’s after death.
- Being able to time travel (in order to righten things out, find things out, etc.)
- Being able to become rich.
Sure there are many more which could be added. Note that the search for a plot is much easier, if you start the sentence with the words ‘Being able to’ …
With that technique, it is a simple task to find plots for almost any topic (love, health, travel, success, fear, gambling, etc.).
Here an example: gambling is something many people are attracted to or find interesting. Using the ‘Being able to’ technique, just imagine visiting a casino and then let your mind go wild:
- Being able to know the opponent’s cards in his hand in a game.
- Being able to know the outcome at the roulette table.
- Being able to follow operator with the three shell game, in order not to be cheated and win.
- Being able to predict the outcome of the lottery, Bingo, (name it).
Another example, dealing with the topic of ’metal bending’. Bending metalware is fine, it shows the ability to wield some sort of mind power over objects (same as telekinesis).
But then, you could combine that with another plot (repairing things). So, a key bending demonstration could be performed the other way round: a borrowed key is put into a bench vice and bent. Then, the mystery man uses the ‘psychic powers’ to restore it back to a good and usable condition. Thus, it makes sense and fulfills the spectators’ deep wishes to be able to restore broken things.
(to be continued …)