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


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 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.

NaNoWriMo Day 6

Did a quick reading this morning to get some advice on how to proceed with NaNo. I’m a bit off the pace because I started late so just wanted to see what I should be paying attention to or avoiding.

Used the Illuminati Tarot, which is another of my favorite decks.

The MoonAce of WandsThe High Priestess

The Moon – This card often speaks of deception or of deceiving one’s self. It’s also the card of dreams, illusions, psychic abilities, the untamed versus the tamed. What I need to do is not delude myself as to how much work and writing I still have to do. Self-doubt is creeping in, as it always does when I write. Am I writing the right story? Is this dumb? Does this suck?

The Ace of Wands – One of the most creative cards in the deck. The will directed toward a goal. This card represents my desire to succeed with NaNo this year. And I can’t help but see the wand as some kind of writing instrument, like a pen, although I’m using a laptop to write. But the pen is the universal symbol of writing.

The High Priestess – This is my Soul Card, so this card is definitely me. Also, look, she’s holding a book. My NaNo novel. Finally finished.

This spread is telling me the best way to deal with any doubts I have about my writing is to keep writing in spite of them. And to find creative ways of doing that. As a matter of fact I’m currently reading Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit. But it’s going to be hard work. The Ace of Wands is a great card for any creative endeavor but it only represents the spark, the initiation of creative effort. There’s still a lot of hard work to be done before the finish.

NaNoWriMo Prep #20 – My 7 Favorite Movies about Writers

Movies3Need  more incentive for NaNoWriMo? Check out seven of my favorite movies about writers. Although some of them may make you NOT want to be a writer, but I’ve enjoyed them all. So grab some popcorn and check ’em out.

Shakespeare in Love – The Bard has writer’s block!

Cross Creek – A little-known movie about Marjorie Rawlings, the writer of The Yearling,and her time spent in the backwaters of Florida.

Sunset Boulevard – William Holden plays a down on his luck screenwriter who agrees to help the aging star, Norman Desmond, rewrite a script for her big comeback. A dark look at Hollywood and the cost of fame.

Possession – I love the book by A. S. Byatt that the movie is based on. I’m not as fond of the movie’s version of the contemporary storyline but I do love the storyline set in the past.

Old Acquaintances – I saw this move a few weeks ago on TCM. It stars Bette Davis as a serious playwright whose best friend, played by Miriam Hopkins, decides to write a book and becomes a big success writing pulp novels, which strains their friendship.

The last two movies are based on books by Stephen King. Probably not the best movies to watch if you’re wanting to be a writer, but they sure are fun!

Misery – A famous romance novelist, played by James Caan, has a car accident and is rescued and nursed by his “biggest fan”. But things start to get really crazy when his “fan” discovers Caan plans to kill off a beloved character.

The Shining – The ultimate movie about writer’s block! A writer takes his family to a hotel which is closed off for the winter and hopes the peace and quiet will help him to write.

Ah, but this movie is based on a book by Stephen King. Peace and quiet? Are you kidding?

NaNoWriMo Prep #18 – Making the Time

Nine O'ClockManaging your time during NaNo is going to be one of the, if not THE, biggest factor in getting 50,000 words completed by November 30th.

Therefore, it’s not a bad idea to start thinking now about how you’re going to manage your time. You don’t want to wait until November 1st to start deciding how you’re going to fit NaNoWriMo in with the rest of your life.

Here are some tips I’ve found useful when I’ve done NaNo. I’ve also included links to articles that address not only time management overall but managing your time if you’re a stay-at-home parent, going to school, or juggling school and work. By practicing these time management tips you’ll free up more time for your NaNo writing.

First, my tips.

  • Time yourself to see how long it takes to write 1,666 words in one sitting, which is the minimum required every day to reach 50,000 words by midnight on November 30th. I’m not saying you HAVE to write 1,666 words a day (there’s something ominous about that 666, don’t you think?). Your intent is to get an idea as to what YOU can do on average.
  • Get a calendar for November, whether it’s paper, online or on your smartphone, table or computer. Mark off the days you know are going to be problematic, i.e. exams, appointments, special occasions like weddings or birthdays, THANKSGIVING. You need to do this so you’ll know beforehand that you probably won’t get much writing done on those days, if any, which means you’ll have to stock up on words at some point. Try to find dates on the calendar where you know you can put in some extra time writing. (I know, I can here you already. Extra time? Really?)
  • Find out what’s your best time for writing. Are you a morning person? Late night? Mid-afternoon? Do you write best by yourself or with other people?
  • If you are at a write-in with the intention to write don’t be afraid to let some of your more chatty companions know that. Kindly but firmly tell them that when you’ve finished your quota of words you’ll talk with them.
  • Treat yourself. Often. Give yourself an incentive to get those words done. Promise yourself something really special whenever you reach a goal. If you’re writing in a coffee shop or café, for example, tell yourself that when you’ve accomplished your goal you’ll order that yummy pumpkin spice latte.
  • When you reach 50,000 words CELEBRATE! Buy yourself something nice or, if you can’t do that, just dance!

Time Management Articles 

Best Time Management Tips for Writers 

How to Fit NaNo into Your Busy Schedule

Quick Tips for Better Time Management