NaNoWriMo Prep #23 – Structuring Your Plot with Tarot

Writing & Tarot Plotting Cover

Today I’m going to share an excerpt from my book Write Faster with Tarot – Structuring Plots. 

Plot. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the plan or pattern of events or the main story of a literary work (as a novel, play, short story, or poem) comprising the gradual unfolding of a casually connected series of motivated incidents.”

There’s a famous quote from E. M. Forster, the English novelist, who wrote a book about writing called Aspects of the Novel.

The king died and then the queen died is a story. The king died, and then queen died of grief is a plot.

Forster’s point is you can write a series of events that are not casually connected and you’ll have a story. But you won’t have a plot unless there is a connection between those events. In this case, the queen dies as a result of the king’s death.

In this book I’ll share some of the tarot spreads I’ve created and use regularly for plotting my fiction.

I’ll speak briefly about the plotting theories the spreads are based on, but my focus in this book will be on using the spreads. I’ll provide a list of resources, however, if you want specific information on how to plot your story.

Tarot Plotting Brainstorm

The first spread is called Tarot Plotting. This is a spread I use to uncover what I like to think of as tent-pole scenes.

Tent-pole scenes are the scenes that hold your storyline up and that will keep your story from sagging.

To show you how this spread works, I will lay out the cards and brainstorm a plot. My genre will be contemporary romance.

It’s important to have some idea as to your story’s genre when doing a spread because it helps the focus of your reading.

I’ve decided that my main character is a woman in her early 30’s who has recently suffered a breakup with the man she thought she was going to marry.

Tarot Plotting Spread

Plot Spread


Beginning – The Ordinary World – This is where the character starts; the situation she’s in when the story begins.

The card I pulled for Beginning – The Ordinary World is the Knight of Wands.

Knight of Swords

That’s the guy who left her. He was fiery and passionate but he realized at the last moment he didn’t want to be tied down. So he left her.

The Trigger Event – Introducing Goal – This is the event that starts the character on the story journey. It’s called a trigger event because it sets everything in motion.

The card I pulled for this position is the Queen of Swords.

Queen of Swords

You may find when you’re doing the spreads that some ideas will spring instantly into your mind as soon as you see the card, as what happened when I saw the Knight of Wands. I knew right away it was the heroine’s former lover.

Other cards, however, may require a little more thought, which can involve considering the images on the card or looking up the card’s meaning (and it’s not cheating to do this!). I haven’t tried memorizing all the meanings for the cards and don’t have any intention on doing so. I have enough stuff rattling around in my brain. So don’t feel you have to memorize them either. Any time you’re stumped on a card, don’t hesitate to use the booklet of meanings that came with the card, look the meaning up online or buy a book that specializes in providing interpretations for the cards. You’ll find a list of them in Resources.

I’ll look at the card first. I see a woman on a throne holding up a sword. One of her hands is outstretched as if she’s beckoning to someone. Or perhaps she’s in the process of administering justice or a verdict.

Nothing jumps out at me yet. I’ll try the booklet of meanings. It says the Queen of Swords is someone who has survived adversity. That sounds like a description of my heroine. She has survived the hardship that came with the breakup of her relationship.

Or has she? I’m going to pull another card to see if I can find out more. Don’t feel as if you can only draw one card per the position in the spread. You can draw as many cards as you want for any position in a spread. Professional tarot readers do this when they want additional clarification about a reading for a client.

In the photo for the spread I laid out you’ll see I did exactly that.

If you’d like to read more you can find Write Faster with Tarot – Structuring Plot at the following sales outlets:


Barnes & Noble