This parlor trick of a dollar bill breaking a pencil
uses fundamental rule #2.
Here are some notes on two of the magician Levent’s “Fundamental Rules of Stage Magic.” Levent developed these rules by studying the magic of magician Roy Benson, which he wrote about in his book Roy Benson by Starlight. You can go to Levent's site and read his complete list, but the link where you have to click on the page to find the rules is a secret.
Levent's billiard ball manipulations
Roy Benson's comedy magic
Two of Levent’s Fundamental Rules of Stage Magic
1. When making a steal, the visible movement should have a natural motivation.
In other words, if you want to steal an object, your movements should have motivations, or a logical reason for why you’re moving the way you’re moving.
A steal is when a magician secretly takes an object from a secret location without anyone knowing that he’s taken something. If a magician wants to produce an object from his empty hand, he must first steal the object. But how does he steal it? Children might try to “steal” something by moving their hands very slowly to get the object. But a movement, even if it’s a very small movement, is noticed. What good magicians do is cover the steal by making sure that the movement to steal the object has a motivation, or, in other words, making sure that there’s a reason for the movement. If there’s a coin in my pocket and I want to steal it, I have to go into my pocket to get the coin. If I just reach into my pocket for no reason, my movement is suspicious. But if I reach into my pocket for a pencil, and steal the coin into my hand at the same time, then my movement into my pocket makes sense and the audience thinks: “Oh, he was just getting out his pencil.”
2. The big movement masks the smaller, secret movement.
Big movements hide smaller movements, which means that big movements will hide small, secret movements.
Try this in front of a mirror. Stick out two fingers: your pointing finger and your middle finger. Open and close your fingers like a pair of scissors. Of course you can see your fingers moving like scissors. Now continue making the scissors open and close and move your arm around in a wide circle. The larger movement of your arm hides the smaller movement of your fingers. A magician can have a card “back-palmed” or hidden behind his hand. To retrieve it he has to move his fingers in a certain way. It’s more deceptive if he moves his hand and arm while at the same time retrieving the card behind his fingers.
These rules apply both in the magician’s world and in other deceptive realms as well.