A guest post shared by Lindsey
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Three ways to use tarot for creative writing
I first got into tarot about 9 months ago, after reading some of Beth’s lovely Autostraddle posts. While I would occasionally draw a card to see what was going on for me, I used the cards at first to work on my writing.
Tarot can be a wonderful tool for working through creative blocks, uncovering the deeper attributes of a creative piece, and generating story prompts or character ideas. Here are some of the ways that I’ve used tarot in my creative writing:
1. Better understand characters
As a writer, I’ve used tarot to better understand my characters. This is sort of like finding your tarot birth card, except you get to choose the major arcana card that most suits for characters.
For example, one character I’m working on is The Hierophant. She’s into logic, rules, order, playing by the book. That’s not my favorite card and that’s not my kind of person. She’s an antagonist to the main character. She hasn’t always been that way, though. Her parents got divorced, her little sister started acting out, and she embraced The Hierophant’s energies because she needed something constant to hold on to.
The main character, her sister is The Tower. She’s 15 and angsty. Her parents got divorced, she’s started a new school and doesn’t know anyone, she is starting to suspect her best friend is gay and worries it will change their relationship, and on top of all this change, she finds out that her one “safe space” is closing down. All the rugs pulled out. All the bricks torn down. All of that Tower energy. She doesn’t want to follow the rules, because for her, they don’t matter. Playing it safe didn’t protect her.
Having a tarot card for each character can be helpful by making sure that my characters are consistent in their actions or, if they are changing, that I’ve done a good job of constructing the events that lead to change. A tarot card can also be a good shorthand for describing or even thinking about my character. If I’m not sure how they would act in a situation, thinking about the energies of that card can help. When faced with a difficult situation, the Hierophant would consult the playbook while the Tower would use that explosive energy to fight.
2. Determine the “hidden motivation” in a dialog scene
Dialog is tricky for me. I’m not very good at writing it, I always think it sounds phony and not natural, and I don’t like reading extended dialog scenes. Yet, as a writer, you kinda have to do them. When I know I have to write a big dialog scene, say the one where the main character or uncovers the secret that her boss has been hiding and must decide what to do about it, I’ve found it to be helpful to draw a minor arcana card to represent that “hidden motivation” driving the scene. It’s also sort of like a cheat for me. I draw the card, I get those energies, it shapes the conversation.
For example, let’s say I draw the Seven of Wands. Going into that confrontation, my character might feel she is standing up for what’s right or taking a stand against this deception. The conversation would be charged with her sense of justice or retribution.
Yet, what if I drew the Six of Pentacles for the same scenario? A more murky, give-and-take card, its energies might suggest that my main character leverage the information for her gain, or use it to draw out a concession that would make her life better? (I won’t tell if you won’tÉ) Or, what if she reevaluated and decided not to have the confrontation right then but to gather more information or seek another’s opinion?
3. As a cheat sheet
Finally, whenever I get into a jam and I’m not sure where to go next, I use tarot to draw a card to figure out how to get unstuck. I draw a card, and I channel its energies into determining the next scene and its consequences.
Let’s say my main character is having a fight with her parents over boundaries. She’s full of righteous anger. I draw a card to determine what happens next – does she rebel or withdraw? Does the fight blow over or set the course for a worse relationship? I draw the Six of Wands. Success is within reach. How so? Maybe she comes up with a responsible plan to get what she wantsÉ.or figures out how to go behind their backs and get what she wants without them knowing it.
But what if I draw the High Priestess? Instead of having reassurance, my character might be drawn into introspection and listening to her heart. She might get what she wants in this case, but it would be by going deep within and examining her beliefsÉa much different story!
These are just some of the ways that I’ve used tarot in my own storytelling. While these are specific to writing, I don’t think they need to be. I imagine musicians, visual artists, and all sorts of creative folks could find inspiration from a well-timed card draw.
Lindsey is a freelance and creative writer. She’s had several short stories published and multiple novels in the work, in addition to performing freelance blogging and website writing for clients in various industries.
In addition to learning tarot, she spends her time cooking, home brewing, stand-up paddleboarding, selling vintage home goods, running a small-batch confection shop, and traveling.