A blog about writing and all things story…
I’m excited to introduce you to my new friend from across the pond. This is a guest post from Toni Allen, one of Surrey England’s premier Tarot readers, author of two non-fiction books, The System of Symbols, and Sex & Tarot and now her debut mystery novel, Visiting Lilly, due out this summer. Toni has performed Tarot and astrology readings for thirty years and brings personal awareness of the paranormal to her fiction writing. Toni has had numerous non-fiction articles published, and won awards for short fiction and poetry. The System of Symbols has been translated and is also published in Italian by Spazio Interore. www.ToniAllenBooks.com
Tarot as a tool for writing – overcoming writer’s block.
Have you ever wondered how tarot can help you as a tool for writing? If you ever suffer from writer’s block using tarot cards to outline a few ideas is a terrific way to kick-start your creative flow. You can generate plot ideas, character profiles, and ask the cards how to improve a story that’s getting a bit sluggish. You don’t need to be suffering from writer’s block to use tarot in this way, simply turn a few cards any time you’re searching for additional inspiration.
The question I can hear you asking is, “Don’t I need to know all about tarot in order to do this?” The answer is no. When using tarot in this way you don’t need to be a competent reader, all you need is a good book, or Google, and you can quickly look up a few brief interpretations. For the purposes of generating story lines these individual meanings will be enough to work with.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with tarot let me outline a few basics.
A tarot deck is divided into two parts, major cards and minor cards.
The 22 major cards represent life’s big issues. Subjects such as births, deaths, shocks, decisions and feeling lost along the way.
The minor cards represent daily events and other people we encounter.
In the minor cards, we also have the court cards, which are people.
When using tarot cards for plot and character it would be best to separate your pack into three sections: major cards, minor cards, and court cards.
The major cards will depict the crisis affecting your protagonist, that main conflict which all good stories require to keep the reader involved. These cards will outline the forward thrust of your story.
The minor cards will depict daily events and how the protagonist goes about dealing with their dilemma, exactly the same as in real life.
The court cards will depict your protagonist and other characters.
When writing some people like to have their character first, while others prefer to have a plot-line and create people to play out the drama. It doesn’t matter which way you prefer, it’s entirely up to the individual, but for this example we’re going to start by looking at plot first and then add our characters.
Firstly take your 22 major cards, shuffle them, spread them out face down and select one card.
This is our protagonist’s dilemma and we’ve chosen The Lovers. For anyone who doesn’t know anything about tarot this card is not about being in love, it’s about standing at the cross-roads of life and having to make a big decision. Which way shall I go? Towards something or away from it? Yes, or no? This gets our story off to a good start. What does our protagonist have to choose between?
To answer this question we’ll take all of the minor cards except the court cards and shuffle them, spread them out face down, and select one card.
We’ve chosen the Two of Cups, which just happens to refer to falling in love. So, this is a romantic dilemma after all. Is this plot going to be the protagonist allowing love into their life after years of promising never to fall in love again? Do they have to choose between two people? I’m getting excited about the possibilities in this plot already.
Next take the 16 court cards and shuffle them, spread them out face down and select one card. It’s the same process each time.
We’ve turned the Queen of Coins. She’s a strong business woman, very practical and hard working. She’s career minded and has a mature outlook on life, so perhaps she’s prioritising her work and doesn’t make time for romance. She’s used to supporting herself financially and isn’t good at asking for help. In fact, people are always asking her for help and guidance, so she isn’t used to being looked after by someone else.
If this is a romantic dilemma, then who has she fallen for that’s creating all of the problems and confusion? To find out who she’s attracted to we’ll need to select a second court card.
This time we’ve turned the Page of Batons. Oh my. This card represents a youngster, so we immediately know that this very capable woman has fallen for a much younger man. Already my mind is bubbling with story ideas. Perhaps she’s 40 and he’s 25. Maybe he’s just starting out on his career and she’s well established in hers. This is bound to create tension and conflict with her friends and family. I can hear them in the background telling her to not be so foolish, and that such a romance is bound to fail. You won’t like the same music. He’ll want to go out every night. How will you keep him satisfied?
From this starting point you can select more cards to start building up scenes, or simply take a card when you’re looking for additional inspiration.
The most important thing is that prior to taking these cards you were stuck and didn’t know what to write about. Now you have a strong writing prompt, some characters to start moving around, and a story-line you can work on.
If you truly hate the scenario you first come up with, don’t panic. Looking at the cards in my example you might well say to yourself, ‘I don’t write romance.’ I could advise you to shuffle the cards again and select some more, but this might divert you into fiddling around and never getting on with any writing. When we suffer from writer’s block we can easily spend time doing everything but writing. Be disciplined and write a short piece, a plot outline, some notes. Spend a few days using tarot to build the story; then have a second go a week or so later.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting more articles on how to use tarot as a writing prompt, showing you how the court card characters interact with each other, and outlining a few plot examples. For more, visit www.toniallenbooks.com
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