Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Exploring the Writer’s Subconscious: Writing and the Tarot

As a writer, you think I would know everything about my characters, from hair color to backgrounds, even hopes and fears. Wrong. You see, I don’t “create” my characters. It’s more like we meet and I learn about them little by little.

But these are people from my imagination. How could I not know anything about them? I have vague ideas of course. For example, I knew Karla would have one blue eye and one green eye. And I envisioned Xariel as having blue-violet eyes and long dark hair. Not because long-haired guys are trendy in paranormal romances (which I guess they are and which Death Sword is not), but because that’s how they appeared to me.

Sometimes, though, I’m not quite sure about a character and need a launching pad. One resource I use is the Rider-Waite Tarot deck. Not only do I use the Tarot to set up a (nearly) complete character profile but also to plot the story and delineate any subplots.

Since the Tarot focuses on the reader’s subconscious, the cards I lay out for my characters show how I feel about them, even if I’m not aware of it. I drew the Devil for Karla when creating her profile. Considering she wasn’t the antagonist nor a Capricorn the card made no sense. That is, it didn’t make sense until recently when I was writing the first draft of the third book, The Devil Inside. Then I realized why Karla and Samael were so similar in attitude and yet why their personalities clashed. It also explained why Samael was a misogynist. I hadn’t understood this during the initial reading of Karla’s tarot spread because I hadn’t yet reached the point where it was necessary to put two and two together.

My most recent use of the Tarot helped me work out my plot outline for the Zaphkiel Project.

With the Tarot I can go as far in depth with a character or storyline as I want. I can do basic three-card spreads or a detailed Celtic cross. I’ve even done character interviews based on a card.

Incidentally, it was my husband who first introduced me to the Tarot. But it wasn’t until years later that I realized I could use it to help my writing.


Leatherdykeuk said...

Interesting post.
I have a pack of Archetype storytelling cards (http://www.thecards.com/) but have never really used them. I have trouble keeping characters away from my tales!

Kim Bowman Author said...

You are so right. I have a book called Tarot For Writers that breaks down and describes each card and how to use it!! It helped me so much when I started my upcoming paranormal romance WAYWARD SOUL which, incidentally, is about a spirit guide!!

Arwen Lynch said...

I have taught Tarot for Writers for several years now. Consider using Tarot to plot out the Hero's Journey arc for your next story. It gives you a map, if you will, of where your story is going.

The Jammie Girl said...

Fabulous idea! I'll be digging out my old Tarot deck and giving this a try since I'm in the midst of mapping out a new novel - thanks!

Anonymous said...

I have tarot cards but have never used them for character development or mapping out a story. I will have to try it out.

Teresa Reasor said...

One of my favorite books is Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner.
I use my Rider Waite cards for brainstorming stories.
I like them best, though I have about 8 different sets of cards.
When I'm stuck, I can use them to do creative quickies. You shuffle the cards, draw one, and look at the picture. You write a story that will tell about the elements in the illustration. You could have a whole book of short stories, just doing that.

It gets the creative juices stirring and gets you started.

Teresa R.

PamelaTurner said...

Hi everyone!

Thanks for the comments. :-)

Leatherdykeuk, I also have a problem with keeping characters away. :-) One demanded his own story. LOL

Kim, I have Tarot for Writers too. I use it with a couple of other Tarot books. All best with your paranormal romance.

Arwen, I remember your class. :-) I still use the handout you gave us. And I'm going to follow your advice & plot my hero's inner and outer journeys. (Having trouble w/his motivation.)

The Jammie Girl, Glad I could help. :-) Good luck with your novel.

Anonymous, I hope you enjoy using the Tarot to help with your writing.

Teresa, Writing short pieces is a great way to keep the proverbial creative juices flowing. I plotted a short story using three cards. Now if I just had time to write it. LOL

Sara Reinke said...

I've never used a tarot for writing, but I have a friend who swears by them, too. It's amazing that there are so many different ways that we, as writers, develop our own unique style and craft. I'm constantly learning cool new tips and tricks (like yours, Pam!) :)


Lux Zakari said...

Cool post idea, Pam!

PamelaTurner said...

Hi Sara! (Waves) Thanks. :-) I also find the Tarot a good way to work through any problems in a WIP. Although sometimes I'm dense and the answer's right in front of me but it takes me a day or two to figure it out. LOL

Hi Lux! Glad you enjoyed the post. :-)

V.R. L:eavitt said...

That's fascinating!! I'll definitely have to explore this more. I use Tarot for other things, but hadn't thought of applying it to writing. Thanks for the great info.