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ymumagic
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These last few days I've found myself performing a story deck quite frequently and I've run into a question that is really bothering me:

Whenever a trick is performed there is always the actual magic that should be taken into consideration even if the audience doesn't see it out right. For example, when vanishing a coin you should know if the coin is turning into smoke or perhaps crumbling away into nothingness. This helps your presentation so that you aren't just opening your hand and showing it gone.

So what is this 'magic' for the story telling deck? I've come up with 2.5 options:
1) A shuffled deck magically rearranges itself to fit the story that you are telling. This lends itself to a more magical presentation where you know the cards and the story even before you turn over the next card. OR
2) A shuffled deck impossibly happens to have been arranged in the exact order you need to tell this story. This does not have the same magic as the first option as there is always the impossible .0000000001 percent chance that just maybe it did work out. So this lends itself to a different presentation where you are more fitting a story to the cards then the cards fitting to your story.
These two options are the only ones available if a spectator shuffled the cards first.
2.5) You manage to shuffle the cards into the correct order. This would be the same effect as #2. Its only a .5 effect because here the magician shuffled, so a spectator could think that you managed to some crazy shuffling to get into this order (depending on your shuffling skills Smile ).

I'm opening this to the floor because the two options have two very different presentations and I'm not sure which too go by.

What do you all think? How do you perform it? And, do you have any other presentations? These are just the two that I came up with and I'd love to hear more.

I wasn't sure if this was the right place for this particular question so please let me know if it should be moved.

Thank you, Michael.
Steven Keyl
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For me, it's neither of those. On the rare occasion I perform a "story deck" I play it as though I'm spontaneously coming up with an interesting and funny story which is being driven by the random order of the cards. Sometimes I'll turn a card or two over and pretend to be thinking hard for a way to work these values into the story and then upon succeeding I feign as much amusement as those listening to the story. It's a VERY different take on a story deck than Malone's Sam the Bellhop, for example.

To answer your question, what is the magic of a story deck? You are!
Steven Keyl - The Human Whisperer!

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ymumagic
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Thank you, I think that's what I meant by the second option, but I'm not sure myself Smile

Also, its true that the magic is created by the magician, but I'm curious what the actual magic effect that I'm creating is.
landmark
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I agree with Steven, and it's one reason I really dislike the routine. Almost no one that I've seen who does the routine acts well enough to actually convince me that they are coming up with the story on the spot based on the random fall of the cards.

Without that, there's no effect.

As far as I'm concerned, the only way to do it is the way that Simon Lovell showed me. I shuffled the cards, and then he turned over the cards one by one and came up with a hilarious, bawdy story. Then he did it two more times. In other words, he did it for real. He had some pre-slugged ideas for certain combos of cards that could possibly come up, but otherwise it was entirely impromptu.

I vowed that I would practice until I was able to do it. And I found it embarrassingly, humblingly hard. I was never able to do any more than a quarter of the deck at my best.
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In one of Doc Eason's old L and L dvds, he did Sam the Bellhop and halfway through the cards were out of order. He had to ad-lib his way through the rest of the routine and it was hilarious.
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ymumagic
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Quote:
On Apr 1, 2016, landmark wrote:
I agree with Steven, and it's one reason I really dislike the routine. Almost no one that I've seen who does the routine acts well enough to actually convince me that they are coming up with the story on the spot based on the random fall of the cards.

Without that, there's no effect.

As far as I'm concerned, the only way to do it is the way that Simon Lovell showed me. I shuffled the cards, and then he turned over the cards one by one and came up with a hilarious, bawdy story. Then he did it two more times. In other words, he did it for real. He had some pre-slugged ideas for certain combos of cards that could possibly come up, but otherwise it was entirely impromptu.

I vowed that I would practice until I was able to do it. And I found it embarrassingly, humblingly hard. I was never able to do any more than a quarter of the deck at my best.


Wow. that's pretty impressive.

But what do you mean by "without that there is no effect"? I've been performing it without the whole pretending that I didn't know what was coming, and people specifically ask me to do that one trick when I perform. In fact, I've done it at one gig and a year later I saw some of the people who were there and that was what they remembered!
ymumagic
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That is really my question behind the original post. Why do you feel that this presentation produces a better effect then the other?

I'm not saying that it does or it doesn't, I honestly don't know, I've just been doing it without the pretending because, as you said, its quite difficult to properly pull it off.
landmark
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Definitely do what works for you, and what people around you like.

For me, as a piece of magic it doesn't do much for me, exactly because of what you've pointed out--the effect is not clear.

As a piece of entertainment I really like Simon Lovell's approach--but who of us is Simon Lovell. Smile
Melephin
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The Magic is what you make of it. For me (I have the spectators Shuffle the deck, do a Routine or two during wich I set up the deck and keep "shuffling" myself and then do the Story) the Magic is, that I can guess the next Card an make up the Story according to it. When I turn over the next Card, it turns out, that I guessed correctly (and the Story fits too!)! Sometimes I hesitate to turn over the next Card as if I can't believe myself, that I guessed the Card correctly - but I did. Amazing! The Import Thing is to entertain and amaze yourself while performing it.
mrehula
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The storytelling deck is an entertainment, an interlude. It is what it is. When a magician tells a joke, there is no magic, for example - it's part of the entertainment. Personally, I'm a fan of storytelling decks, whether Lovell or Malone style, and I've developed a few myself, where the story dominates. On the other hand, I have several routines that are more magical than verbal. Just like with any area of magic, if story decks aren't to your style or interest, there's no reason to do them.

On the other hand, telling at least one inappropriately sexist joke is a requirement for all magicians. Apparently.
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Even though I agree that Bill Malone's style takes away from the magic (as in, you know he must be controlling the cards), for me it is still the most amazing and entertaining version.

When I first saw him perform it on television, I was a complete rookie magician and was absolutely blown away. I knew he was controlling the cards, but could not understand how. I knew the fast fancy cuts had to be false, but the zarrow fried me.
It was funny, entertaining, and amazing ("...how in the world is he not screwing anything up, and keeping control of everything?!?").

Although the "make it up on the spot" version is impressive in it's own right, it seems less magical and less amazing to me. I think a lay person looks at it as - wow, he made that into a story - pretty impressive! But they're not blown away. They figure they could do it too if they wanted to practice it enough.

At the end of the day, the audience knows we're using sleight of hand (or some other trickery), no matter how hidden it is. Seeing the "skill" version of the story trick boggles their mind all the same, and garners more respect for yourself as a magician - you're obviously not the guy who just bought a trick deck at the magic shop.
ymumagic
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Quote:
On Apr 8, 2016, Cohiba wrote:
Although the "make it up on the spot" version is impressive in it's own right, it seems less magical and less amazing to me. I think a lay person looks at it as - wow, he made that into a story - pretty impressive! But they're not blown away. They figure they could do it too if they wanted to practice it enough.


Well said, thank you. This is exactly what I'm looking for.
Do you have any actual experience that points to your theory? Its a great point, so I'm curious if you've ever actually heard spectators mention anything along those lines.
ymumagic
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On Apr 8, 2016, mrehula wrote:
On the other hand, telling at least one inappropriately sexist joke is a requirement for all magicians. Apparently.


Apparently. I don't know why. I've been performing for 15 years and while I've come across a few story decks, I've never been able to perform them. A joke like that would end my career for the audiences that I perform for.
Cohiba
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Quote:
On Apr 8, 2016, ymumagic wrote:
Quote:
On Apr 8, 2016, Cohiba wrote:
Although the "make it up on the spot" version is impressive in it's own right, it seems less magical and less amazing to me. I think a lay person looks at it as - wow, he made that into a story - pretty impressive! But they're not blown away. They figure they could do it too if they wanted to practice it enough.


Well said, thank you. This is exactly what I'm looking for.
Do you have any actual experience that points to your theory? Its a great point, so I'm curious if you've ever actually heard spectators mention anything along those lines.


No, sorry - those are really just my own thoughts - what I think when I've seen these presentations. I would consider myself close to a layman when I first saw Malone's presentation on World's Greatest Magic, almost 22 years ago. But presentations like Doc Eason's where he "ad libs" much of the story - I was less of a layman when I first saw that type. So take my opinion for what it's worth.

As an aside, Bill Malone's trick still stands in my memory as one of the most memorable magical moments I've seen. I remember other friends at the time (lay people) also being blown away by it. But it's possible other magicians feel the same way about the "ad lib" presentation. I think you just have to take the one that you like the most and go with it - if you were impressed with it, and perform it well, your audiences will be amazed by it too.
Waterloophai
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You can't compare apples with pears.
Both approaches are indeed "telling a story" but are at the same time two very different things that have nothing to do with each other.
As stated by others a few times in posts above, the "ad libitum" approach can be very entertaining but has nothing to do with magic. It is just a demonstration of how good the executor (I wouldn't call him a "magician" at that moment) is in improvising. He is admired for his fantasy because he can come up with a story at the fly. You don't have to be a magician for that. It can be done by a doctor, a plumber, etc.

The story telling "à la Bill Malone" on the other hand, creates a real magic moment.
Here it is very clear that the story was planned ahead notwithstanding that the cards were used before to do other tricks with and that they were shuffled multiple times.
Technically, it gives the same "magic effect" as ending your performance with a deck that is back in new order. This can only be done by a magician.

Another big difference between the two approaches is that the "Bill Malone approach" is meant to perform in a performance (AFTER other tricks are done beforehand) and that the "ad libitum approach" is certainly not recommended to perform in a formal (paid) performance.
You don't want to run the risk of coming up with a poor story or even worse, get stuck in the story.
ymumagic
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Thank you all for your wonderful feedback, its really appreciated.

From what I've been asking around I'm hearing similar thoughts, that the Bill Malone approach is the way to go, so its great to hear all your thoughts on the matter.
Cain
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This is a tough nut to crack! Four or five years ago I worked on this plot. My initial disposition was the same as Steven's: the cards are in a prearranged order, but I apparently make up the story on the spot.

I imposed a story on my memstack so I would always have something ready to go, but the results were underwhelming. Maybe I lack the energy and charisma necessary to pull off a full-deck narrative trick, but I think the problems were even deeper. My story employed/"borrowed" some of the silly wordplay from the many versions I had collected over the years, and the cards would come out in a seemingly random order. Of course that randomness was precisely what I had intended, but as someone above suggested, that may only make you seem clever with words and not particularly magical. In my defense, I thought I could split the difference by producing the cards in exciting ways.

The thing about color changes, finger-flinging and other visually-compelling flash-moment revelations is that they'll almost always provoke positive reactions, so it doesn't mean the trick is any good. With the right audience member, a relative novice can elicit a great reaction using a poorly executed double-lift. This is why I say my story trick was underwhelming -- it just failed to achieve an impact proportional to the effort. I knew that for my story, I wanted to constantly be shuffling the deck, but reflecting now it's pretty silly that I would mix the pack to produce two cards that would form a mildly funny pun. With "Sam the Bellhop," Malone produces the four kings all at once, the four queens all at once, and so on. Producing four kings from an apparently shuffled deck is in itself an impressive display of skill. Shuffling the deck multiple times and then dealing the queens off the top is also intrinsically impressive. He's imposing order on a seemingly random deck of cards, then using that skill to weave it into a story.

Compared to a lot of story tricks, "Sam the Bellhop" is also exceedingly straight-forward. I wonder if producing cards in groups of four also moves the narrative along at a quicker pace as opposed to explaining "this is a story about a guy named Hart (get it, King of HEARTS?) and" blah blah blah I'm bored already and losing the will to live.

I have heard about story tricks created for the Aronson stack, but I do not ever recall seeing one performed. It seems to me the story tricks worth doing are stacks designed to suit this one purpose. That's probably obvious to a lot of people, but for me, at this moment in time, I'm just not interested in the plot unless it can be done well with a memstack.
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Waterloophai
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Quote:
On Apr 11, 2016, Cain wrote: ... I'm just not interested in the plot unless it can be done well with a memstack.


A story telling comes usually as a (so to say) afterthought or as a bonus.
At the end of your "normal" performance, you have all the time to do a simple deck switch (and produce a real elephant at the same time Smile )
I think it is impossible to construct an INTERESTING story without a deck that is specifically stacked for that purpose.
ymumagic
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On Apr 11, 2016, Cain wrote:
Malone produces the four kings all at once, the four queens all at once, and so on. Producing four kings from an apparently shuffled deck is in itself an impressive display of skill. Shuffling the deck multiple times and then dealing the queens off the top is also intrinsically impressive. He's imposing order on a seemingly random deck of cards, then using that skill to weave it into a story.


Cain, I love what you wrote. Half way through my story, which until then was just a regular mix of cards, I suddenly deal the 10 through 2 of clubs and you feel the shock ripple through the audience. Then a little later the 2 through 10 of hearts are dealt and you can almost hear the popping of everyone being blown away Smile. Its quite a moment.
Cain
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On Apr 12, 2016, Waterloophai wrote:
I think it is impossible to construct an INTERESTING story without a deck that is specifically stacked for that purpose.


Impossible is a mighty strong word. You're probably right, but I hope not! As far as these "stories" go, I'd hesitate to describe any of them as interesting in themselves. I suppose it's asking too much to create a compelling world or characters (that's probably a recipe for a turgid tale), but I can't recall a trace of irony in the many versions I've seen. Then again, I do not remember them well (maybe because they DON'T have irony!). How many even have setups and payoffs? One of our best, most satisfying plots is the Gambler vs. Magician, which has a great final moment where the magician makes good on his original promise. Invisible setup, unmistakable payoff. Are there any "story" tricks that incorporate that device? "Sam the Bellhop" has repetition, which some might describe as "callbacks"...

Quote:
On Apr 12, 2016, ymumagic wrote:
Cain, I love what you wrote. Half way through my story, which until then was just a regular mix of cards, I suddenly deal the 10 through 2 of clubs and you feel the shock ripple through the audience. Then a little later the 2 through 10 of hearts are dealt and you can almost hear the popping of everyone being blown away Smile. Its quite a moment.


Everybody has their own thing that makes them hard. For some it's paradox card, or torn & restored, or an unbelievable prediction, but for me it's order-from-chaos, so that sounds right up my alley.
Ellusionst discussing the Arcane Playing cards: "Michaelangelo took four years to create the Sistine Chapel masterpiece... these took five."

Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes: "You know Einstein got bad grades as a kid? Well, mine are even worse!"
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