As I discussed on Tuesday, there are 56 cards in the Minor Arcana. 16 court cards and 40 suit cards. There are four suits and 10 cards numbered 1 through 10 in each suit. That’s 40 cards.
That’s also 40 ways you can write a scene.
The Minor Arcana, as I stated before, tends to deal with issues concerning day-to-day matters. A Major Arcana card like The Lovers, for example, tends to deal with the idea of love or choice or, when it shows up in a traditional reading, it tends to mean Love with a capital L. It’s love on a cosmic scale, a love that signals a major change in your life. I would, therefore, use the that card as a theme card, or a card for coming up with a plot.
That’s not to say I couldn’t use it for creating a character or writing a scene, because of course I could, but since this is an introductory discussion on using the tarot for fiction writing, I’m going to address each of the components of the tarot separately. Next Tuesday Tarot I’ll talk about the Major Arcana and themes and plot.
The Two of Cups is also about love but on a smaller scale. It could represent, for example, a love scene or a kiss that does or does not happen in a scene or a partnership between two characters who aren’t necessarily lovers. It’s not that cosmic, capital L kind of Love, but it also stands for affection, cooperation or partnership.
Scenes are the essential kernel of your fiction. Scenes are what make up your book or scipt. And scenes, like a book or a script, also have a structure. They have a beginning, a middle and an end. And each scene should also have a goal, motivation and conflict.
I tend to think of scenes as being similar to those Russian nesting dolls. The ones in which you open the larger doll and there’s a medium sized doll inside it, and when you open that doll there’s a smaller one inside that one, and on down to the smallest doll of all, which in this case is your scene.
Your overall plot or story is going to have an overall goal, motivation and conflict. Luke wants to defeat the evil empire, become a Jedi Knight and blow up the Death Star. But within those larger story goals are smaller scene goals, i.e. he first has to leave the farm and join Obi-Wan on his quest, then he has to keep from being made mincemeat by the first thug he meets at the cantina at Mos Eisley, then he has to escape from the Death Star when he and the others are captured, then he has to convince Han Solo to help him rescue Leia and so on and so forth. Each of those are individual scenes within the overall movie, with their own goals, motivations and conflicts.
The Minor Arcana can help you plan out or brainstorm those scenes.
Let’s say you have an idea for a scene. Your heroine has to make some minion of the villain tell her where he’s hidden the documents that will help her put the villain away for good.
Her goal: To make the rat talk.
Her motivation: Because she needs those documents as evidence of the villain’s involvement in having murdered the mayor.
Her conflict: The rat refuses to talk.
What I’m going to do now is randomly draw there cards (and I’m only going to use the Minor Arcana) to see if I can get some help as to how to write this scene.
Remember when I mentioned how versatile a three-card spread is? I need only three cards for the goal, the motivation and the conflict. Here they are
For the goal, the Three of Wands tells me that the heroine is running out of options. If she’s a detective, for example, she may have broken a few rules to get the minion in her clutches for questioning. Maybe she has no probable cause for arresting him. Maybe she’s been told to stop working on the case but she can’t because the mayor was a decent woman who had once mentored the detective. All she knows is that she’s determined to get the answers she needs and fast.
Motivation. Eight of Swords – Because my heroine/detective is operating outside the law by interviewing this person, she knows that there’s only so much she can hope to use in court. She has to be careful, therefore, because she believes she has no viable options remaining but to get the answers she needs, even if it is in this questionable manner.
Conflict. Four of Swords – The heroine is exhausted. She hasn’t had any sleep in the last twenty-four hours. She’s stressed out, she’s not on top of her game. One slip up and this whole case could blow up in her face. She has to keep her wits about her, but her mind is like mush. And the guy she’s about to interrogate? He knows this.
So, now, as a result of pulling those three cards, I have a bit more information as how to write the scene. You see, the way I think the tarot operates is that when you draw the cards with a specific intent in mind, what you come up was there all the time. You just needed something to push it out of the back of your mind, the unconscious or subconscious and into the forefront of your brain.
Granted, you don’t need to pull out a tarot deck every time you sit down to write a scene. But at those times when you’re feeling stuck or you’re not sure what to do with a scene, the tarot might just help. Remember, you can also use the tarot, including the Major Arcana and the Court cards, to cast and describe the characters you want in a scene, or use the cards to describe a setting in a scene, or use them for whatever helps you best.
And, with the diversity of decks out there, some of the wildest stuff might just pop into your mind. For example, in what way could a card like the one below be used to come up with a motivation for a scene?