Although I am well aware that most of the advice I attempt to dispense in my scriptwriting columns is not original, I hold out some hope that the suggestions I offer are.
My most recent effort argues against the "wrong!" school of presentation, which has been criticized by magicians well before my own efforts. Now it turns out that the very suggestion I gave to replace this still-frighteningly-common presentation was put in print by Jamy Ian Swiss nearly 20 years ago.
Jamy's first ever published trick was "Hippity Cop", an ungaffed handling for the Hopping Half effect which appeared in Apocalypse circa 1984. This is another trick whose default presentation is "How many coins do I have in my hand? Wrong!" When Jamy wrote up his handling (which is well worth seeking out) for his "An Interesting Application of That Principle" lecture notes, he concluded with the following notes on presentation.
"The common approach would be of the sucker variety; i.e., asking the audience what's in the hand, then proving them wrong. This is in fact the presentation I believe I provided Harry Lorayne with when I gave him the trick to publish.
But quite some time before it saw print, I happened upon the angle I still prefer at present. Rather than building the trite and potentially unpleasant challenge aspect, why not pursue these events as a demonstration of the making of magic.
In other words, sure, ask the spectator what is in your hand, by way of confirmation of reality. Acknowledge that he is correct. Now, make the magic happen. Snap your fingers or provide some other "Intention of Magic" (to use Al Schneider's excellent terminology), then show that you have at that moment made the coin magically return.
I prefer to handle the routine like this, until the last phase. At this point, the spectator doesn't mind hazarding a guess, because the heat's been off him up until now; his response(s) help "sell" the final vanish. Don't simply show him that they're gone ... MAKE THEM DISAPPEAR!
As anyone who has read my article knows, this is exactly the approach I suggest.
All I can say is that any loss of credibility my advice may suffer from lack of originality should be more than offset by the knowledge that it so perfectly mirrors the advice given by one of magic's best thinkers.
Thanks to Jamy for permission to reprint his comments.