Day 4 – 31 Days of NaNoWriMO Prepping with Tarot

Diana Castle, group, characters, NaNoWriMoIn my book Write Faster with Tarot – Creating Characters, I borrowed an exercise from Corrine Kenner’s Tarot for Writers. In the book, Kenner suggests you use the tarot to create physical descriptions for your characters.

Most of the time I already have some idea of how the character looks. I’m sure you do too.

Perhaps my character is short and muscular with dusky skin and a hesitant smile. Curly closed-cropped black hair and sullen brown eyes.

Or maybe he has golden-brown hair and small blue-grey eyes, a large faded tattoo of a bleeding heart on his left calf.

Or perhaps she is tall and spare with sallow skin and a thin, cruel mouth. Unruly, shoulder-length black hair and pale green eyes.

Sometimes that’s all you need. In my readings I’ve noticed that authors vary as to how much physical description they use. Some like to go into great detail while others provide only a cursory description, mostly revolving around hair and eye color, height and weight and general appearance.

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

There’s no right or wrong way in which to address physical description. Like so much in writing it’s a matter of preference. I like to know enough about my character’s physical description so that I can picture him or her in my mind. As a matter of fact I like to find images on the web that match what I have in mind for my character’s physical appearance.

I include these images in the files I keep for my characters and find them very useful. If nothing else, I would suggest at the very least you write down the eye and hair color of your characters. You don’t want a character in Chapter One to have green eyes and then in Chapter Thirteen to suddenly have blue eyes. Unless there’s a reason for the change and that change should be indicated in the story.

When using a tarot card to generate ideas for the physical description of your character you can deliberately choose a card from your deck or randomly choose one. Sometimes I’ll riffle through my deck and if a card jumps out at me I’ll use that. Sometimes I like the surprise of just randomly choosing a card.

For this post, I’m going to randomly choose a card from my Rider-Waite Deck. Once I’ve done that I’m going to select that same card from my Night Sun Tarot Deck.

I’m using both because I want to work with a more traditional deck like the Rider-Waite but I also want to see what I can come up with using the Night Sun Tarot. It’s a visually exciting and colorful deck and since the genre for my NaNo is a futuristic dystopian I’m hoping the Night Sun Tarot deck will provide some visually evocative images for me to play around with.

One of the characters I envision for my NaNo novel is the leader of a religious cult. I know he’s male and I’m going for someone in their late 40s or early 50s.

First I’ll randomly chose a card from my Rider-Waite deck.

King of Cups – Rider-Waite

Next I’ll select the King of Cups from the Night Sun Tarot.

King of Cups - Black Sun

King of Cups – Black Sun Tarot

Both cards show a man sitting on a throne surrounded by water. Both hold cups but on the Rider Waite card the King of Cups has ships in the background. In the Night Sun tarot, there are lilies. The king in the Rider-Waite deck is dressed in voluminous robes. The king in the Night Sun tarot wears plain white robes.

I’ve decided that the cult leader is going to resemble the king in the Night Sun tarot. Bald-headed and tall and thin with pale skin and black eyes. Although he disdains the kingly robe and crown of the king in the Rider-Waite deck, he secretly sees himself dressed so. That is, he pretends to be a pious leader, humble and self-sacrificing but in reality he has a huge ego and in private revels in luxuriousness and sensuality.

Often when I use the cards to describe a character I also wind up discussing the psychological aspects of the character also.

Now you try. Either deliberately or randomly choose a card from your tarot deck and see if you can come up with a physical description.

If the first card you choose doesn’t work, choose another. There are no rules when it comes to doing this. Keep trying until something clicks.

Please feel free to share your discoveries or ask questions in the comments.

Day 5 – The Archetypes Spread

Writing & Tarot Plotting Cover

Writing & Tarot Characters Cover

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Day 3 – 31 Days of NaNoWriMo Prep with Tarot

Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games

Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games

Starting on Day 4 I will refer extensively to the two books I’ve written on using tarot and writing: Write Faster with Tarot – Creating Characters and Write Faster with Tarot – Structuring Plots.

I’ll start with characters first as I totally agree with Chuck Wendig in his article 25 Things You Should Know About Characters featured in  the book Creating Characters – The Complete Guide to Populating Your Fiction published by Writer’s Digest,

The very first thing you should know about characters according to Wendig is this: Without character you have nothing. He’s right. I suppose you could write a story without a character, whether it’s a man, a woman, a rabbit or a robot. But I don’t see how.

Think of how important Katniss is to The Hunger Games Trilogy. In fact, she becomes so important to the story that she’s transformed into the Mockingjay, a symbol of resistance and rebellion against a tyrannical and brutal regime which forces children to fight to the death in a televised arena.

So character is what we’ll start with.

In Write Faster with Tarot – Creating Characters I’ve included six tarot spreads I’ve created which I use when I create my characters. The reason I’ve titled both books Write Faster with Tarot is that using the tarot does help me write faster.

I rarely have to bang my forehead against the desk whenever I hit a roadblock in my writing. When a block does happen, I pull out my tarot deck and voila, the block is gone. Destroyed, Demolished. Decimated. And my fingers are once again flying across the keyboard.

I’ve provided instructions in both books on how to use the spreads along with examples. What I’d like to do for these 31 Days of NaNoWrimo Prep is to go through each spread and use them to create characters for my NaNoWriMo novel. And I hope you’ll be interested in doing so also.

Here’s the itinerary for my preparatory journey for my NaNo novel as it relates to creating characters using the tarot.

Day 4 – Physical Descriptions

Day 5 – The Archetypes Spread

Day 6 – Character Circle Spread

Day 7 – Three Aspects of Character Spread

Day 8 – Who am I? Character Spread

Day 9 – The Celtic Cross Spread for Characters – Not included in book

Day 10 – Hierarchy of Needs Spread – Not included in book

Day 11 – The Character’s Tale Spread – Not included in book

Day 12 – Doing a reading for a character using the Tarot

Day 13 – Doing a reading for a character using Lenormand cards

Once we’ll done with characters we’ll then move on to plotting.

You don’t have to own either of my books to follow along on these blog posts, but I hope you may find that having them at hand will help you when you’re working on your own writing.

As always if you have any questions or comments please feel free to include them below.

The only thing I would suggest for today is to think about your writing project, what its genre is and jot down any ideas, scenes or, most especially, characters that come to mind.

Writing & Tarot Plotting Cover

Writing & Tarot Characters Cover

Day 2 – 31 Days of NaNoWriMo Prep with Tarot

nanowrimo2660x963_1Today on Day 2 of 31 Days of NaNoWriMo Prep with Tarot I’d like to briefly discuss how to use the tarot in your writing.

As I’ll be going into more details with the spreads I’ve created, I’ll save more in-depth discussions for later.

The book I credit with introducing me to the potential of using the tarot for my writing is Corrine Kenner’s Tarot for Writers. If you’re interested in using the tarot for your writing, there’s no better book out there than this one. Kenner discusses how to use the tarot for character creation, storylines and plot, setting and description and breaking writer’s block among other things.

She includes not only writing practices for using the tarot in your writing but she also provides a comprehensive writer’s guide to the tarot in which she describes each of the 78 cards in the tarot deck along with their meanings and how to use them in your writing.

ITarot for Writers - Llewellyn publication - read free online purchased my copy back in 2009 and it’s pretty dog-eared from my use of it over the past six years. It’s the definite go-to book for anyone interested in tarot and writing.

An article you might find useful is Tarot and Creative Writing written by Ruth Ann Amberstone. I also found this great Character Profile spread over at Writing After Dark.

Prior to 2009, when I tried to find articles online about writing and tarot there weren’t that many available. But since Kenner’s book was published, there seems to be more and more people discovering how useful the tarot is for writing. I’m glad to see this development and hope it continues.

Today I’ll leave you with a short exercise. Below are three variations of the Queen of Pentacles card. Imagine them as characters. In what ways are they similar and in what ways are they different.

Don’t worry about the meaning of the card right now. Just focus on the images. In what ways can you imagine the women in these cards as characters? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments.

The Robin Wood Tarot

The Illumanati Tarot

The Rider-Waite Tarot

Day 1 – 31 Days of NaNoWriMo Prep with Tarot

tarot, tarot reader, tarot cards, fortune telling, fortune teller,The tarot is a group of cards that are often used for divination. They’ve been around in one form or another since the 15th century. Some tarot historians will say they’ve been around longer than that.

Suffice to say tarot has been around for a long, long time and now, in the 21st century, they are not only around but here to stay.

When I first began studying tarot there weren’t that many decks available. The one I began my studies with is what what is known as the Rider-Waite deck.

Cards from the Rider-Waite Deck

Now there are hundreds of decks with many more being created and distributed whether through traditional publishers such as U.S. Games or Lo Scarbero or what is becoming a growing trend of self-publication by tarot artists and creators.

Some of my tarot decks

Some of the many tarot decks I own and use in my writing.

I primarily use the tarot for self-examination and, most importantly, creative work. I use it to create characters, structure plots, brainstorm settings and draft scenes. There isn’t an aspect of writing that I don’t find a use for tarot.

Some may think of using tarot as a crutch. Or even as a cheat. I dispute that emphatically. Using tarot in your writing is not a cheat. It’s a tool.

I think of the tarot as keys by which I can unlock ideas and insights that are lying just below the surface of my conscious mind.

With so many different types of decks being created by so many talented artists and writers, no matter what type of writing you do, I can confidently say you will find a deck that will help to stimulate you when it comes to your writing.

Even if you already own a deck, check out the Aeclectic Tarot website. If you don’t, I strongly encourage you to do so. Not only will you find reviews and sample cards from hundreds of deck, there’s information on how to read the tarot and, most importantly for our purposes, decks that are categorized by topics.

So, for example, let’s say you’re writing a story about zombies. There’s a Zombie Tarot Deck and a Zombie Apocalypse Tarot Deck. If you’re writing a mystery you may find the Sherlock Holmes Tarot Deck useful.

From Zombie Tarot Deck

Or perhaps you’re writing a fantasy. There are many fantasy-themed decks to choose from. The Chronicles of Destiny Fortune Cards is one of my favorites. Or you might prefer the other-worldly Fantastical Tarot deck.

You don’t have to use a specialized deck, however. The Rider-Waite deck I mentioned above is still the best deck for those new to tarot. One of the reasons it is a good deck to start with is because many creators of other decks use the Rider-Waite as their template when designing their decks.

Today I just wanted to introduce you to the Tarot. Most tarot decks are made up of 78 cards; 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana cards. If you want to learn more about the structure of the tarot, The Tarot Lady website has an excellent blog post on the structure of the tarot and a list of books and websites for beginners. I highly recommend it.

You can also ask me questions in the comments below.

If you have a tarot deck, look it over and ask yourself how it can help you in preparing for NaNo. If you don’t have a deck, check out the ones at Aecletic Tarot.

Tomorrow I’ll talk more about using tarot and writing. The day after I’ll specifically talk about the two books I’ve written on using the tarot in writing. After that I’ll use spreads from both books and spreads not included in the books to demonstrate how you can use the tarot to prepare for NaNoWriMo.

Writing & Tarot Plotting Cover

Writing & Tarot Characters Cover

The Finish Line!

Athlete Running Through Finish LineI won! I crossed the NaNo finish line Saturday evening, November 29th. I’d even had to work all day, but I got up and wrote that morning and that evening.

I won NaNo at 50,092. I got REALLY behind the middle of the month and was about to give up. but I put in the effort and even wound up writing almost 10,000 words in one day.

I think a lot of it had to do with the tarot reading I did earlier where The Sun showed up as the possible outcome of my doing NaNo this year. I hadn’t won NaNo the past few years and was afraid I was going to wind up not winning again this year.

ancestral-path-tarot - CopyI kept seeing that Sun card whenever I wanted to give up. It kept me going. Another thing I did is to stop doing certain things.

I got the idea from a book to make a list of things to stop doing. I call it “The To Stop Doing List”. Kind of a mirror image of a To Do List.

One of the things I stopped doing was watching television or surfing the internet when I was bored. If I’m bored now, I walk, stretch, read or, most especially, write.

My NaNo novel needs a LOT of work but it’s a complete story and it’s done.

Hope things went well with your NaNo novels and if not, do like I did and try again next year. And you don’t even have to wait until next November. Every month can be a “book in a month” month.

I’m certainly planning on writing another book in a month! The important thing about winning NaNo is not just writing 50,000 words in a month. It’s setting myself a goal and achieving it, no matter how rough things get.

I’ll always have to keep trying and struggling and making mistakes and even failing. But I don’t plan on ever giving up.

Tarot Thursday – New Tarot Decks!

I opened my Chrysalis Tarot deck today and I wasn’t disappointed! This is one of the loveliest tarot decks I’ve come across in quite some time. The cards are beautifully designed and the images immediately draw you into another realm of awareness. The accompanying booklet written by Toney Brooks is not only a wonderful guide to the cards, but helps to clarify how the cards should be used in a reading. And, I should add that reading the booklet itself is eye-opening and, combined with the cards, I find myself looking forward to doing readings with it.

Needing to pay a visit to the local New Age store in order to buy more incense, I couldn’t resist purchasing two more decks. One is an oracle deck. The Oracle of Visions by a favorite of mine, Ciro Marchetti. I haven’t opened this deck yet, but I have no doubt I won’t be disappointed with it. The Legacy of the Divine Tarot, which Marchetti also designed, is one of my favorite decks.

The other new tarot deck I bought is the Paulina Tarot by Paulina Cassidy. One of the reasons I can’t resist buying new tarot decks is that every artist brings a vision and voice to their cards that may or may not resonate with me. Most of the cards I own that resonance definitely exists. This was a deck I initially hesitated to purchase when I first came across it as I thought it too whimsical for my tastes. But having bought it and gone through the cards, I’m glad I did. Ms. Cassidy’s artwork may not be to everyone’s taste, but I discovered not only an airy lightness of being to the cards which was refreshing, but an ethereal beauty which was profound. I also have Ms. Cassidy’s Joie de Vivre Tarot, and she has a new one out called Witchlings, which I hope to get at some point.

As a tarot reader and collector, I can’t begin to express  how grateful I am so many talented artists and writers are designing tarot decks. Not only are we as readers and collectors enjoying a veritable cornucopia of tarot decks (I remember back in the day when there were only a handful of decks being published!), but we’re lucky to have so many decks to fit so many perspectives. Depending upon my mood that day, I don’t doubt I’ll find a deck to work with that will either reflect or challenge my mood.

Kudos to all the hard-working tarot artists and writers! Thank you!

Tarot Tuesday – 365 Tarot Spreads

Yes, I repeat. 365 tarot spreads. That’s what you’ll find in the book 365 Tarot Spreads – Revealing the Magic in Each Day by Sasha Graham. I recently received my copy and I can’t say enough about this book. It literally has 365 spreads (or 366 as there’s also a spread for February 29th).

Each spread (or day) has a brief anecdote about that day, which also makes it a very informative book. And each day (spread) gives explanations of cards from the tarot.

For example, since today is May 20, the spread is called The Slow Down Spread. Why? Because on that date in 1899 a New York cabbie was arrested for driving his horseless carriage 12 mph down Lexington Avenue.

I decided to do the Slow Down Spread today because I’ve been feeling a bit hurried and stressed.

I used the Deviant Moon Tarot, which is not only one of my favorite decks, but it’s fantastical imagery is perfect for the particular mood I’m in.

Position 1- What do I need to slow down and pay attention to? Card I got – The World – That card is very appropriate. I definitely need to get out of my own head and start paying attention to what’s going on around me. That may sound contradictory, because if I’m wanting to slow down, the last thing I need is to be paying attention to all the tumult and chaos that’s going on in the world, but since a lot of my feeling hurried and stressed out is more internal, it just might help me get my perspective back if nothing else.

Position 2 – What am I trying to avoid? – Card I got. – Six of Swords – On the Deviant Card Tarot it shows a person sailing across an ocean in a balloon. He’s escaping a burning city and heading for what he hopes will be a safer place. I’m probably trying to avoid the fact that if I want to change my life I’m going to have to take a risk. To move beyond where I’m currently existing and search out new vistas. Not literally, I’m assuming, but more internally. I’m trying to avoid the inevitability of change.

Position 3 – How can I enjoy my ride more? – Card I got – Seven of Swords – The card shows a harlequin swallowing swords. Yikes. I get the feeling I’m not going to be able to really enjoy this ride, but I also have no choice. I have to keep going forward and do the best I can.

Position 4 – What is my reward for stopping to smell the roses? Card I got – Queen of Cups – I take this to mean that if I take the time to listen to my inner self I’ll be granted more creativity.

Ten of Swords – Deviant Moon Tarot by Patrick Valenza

Position 5 – What will happen if I don’t slow down? Card I got – Ten of Swords – Hmmm. A lot of swords in this spread. But that fits in with the fact its my own thoughts and inner doubts that I’m struggling with. I’m going to share this card because the imagery is pretty evocative. Slow down or go crazy!

Position 6 – What toll does this take on my physical body? – Card I got – Ace of Wands – Reversed – Definitely a lack of energy. Feeling drained and lethargic.

Position 7 – What small adjustment shall I calculate on my internal GPS – Card I got – The Emperor – What a great question! The Emperor is telling me I need to be more focused and structured. If my thoughts and ambitions are running in twelve different directions, it’s because I have no real plan. How the heck can I hope to get anything done without a plan! I can’t!

I highly recommend this book. The spreads in the book are great if you’re reading for yourself and would like to tap into your inner resources or if you would like to come up with new spreads for clients.

Since I use my tarot cards for creative writing, I see a lot of potential in these spreads for coming up with story ideas, creating characters and plotting stories.

Big thumbs up!