I went to the Magic Castle in Hollywood last Saturday where I saw lots of magic with cards, coins and cups. I left scratching my head and wondering how did they do it? How did the nine of clubs show up exactly nine napkins down in a stack of napkins? How did those balls jump from one cup to the next? How did that four of hearts get pulled from inside the card deck that was inside a balloon? Magic!

Some of the performers warmed up with what they called simple tricks. Tricks anybody could learn. Tricks anybody could buy at a magic shop. But, they said, we didn’t come for simple tricks; we came to see magic! Coins appeared like magic out of thin air; folded cards magically showed up in unexpected places; symbols switched by magic; a tiny straw figure stood by magic. Story played a big part in each performers’ magic; each had his or her unique patter to go along with the performance.

Novels are imbued with their own unique magic. Good writing takes readers on a journey with imagined characters and places drawn out of thin air like that coin. Any good magician will tell you a believable performance takes disciplined time and practice. Novices can make slips that unintentionally allow the audience to see behind the curtain into the mechanics of the magic. One magician, who is learning coin magic, told me he started by holding a coin for an entire day: feeling the weight of the coin in his hand; experiencing its shape and size. No matter what else he was doing, he kept a hold of that coin.

Novel magic starts with the basics as well: learning the facets of story, character and scene development; the novel’s mechanics constantly turning in the back of the author’s mind despite everything else she’s doing.

Magic gives the appearance of objects effortlessly appearing out of nowhere. But, like novel writing, it’s the discipline of devoted time and practice that provide the foundation for believable magic whether its with cards, coins or stories.