One of my favourite things about writing is archetypes. Character archetypes, plot archetypes...they're all a base for something you can develop and shape into your own creation.
How does this relate to tarot cards? Each card is filled with symbolism.
For example, The Fool is my favourite tarot card. It depicts a young man, head held high, setting off on an adventure. He is unaware and uncaring of the dangers in front of him, ignoring all warnings. He just takes a leap of faith. It is a card that depicts optimism and opportunities. Some might see it as foolish, but I see it as inspirational.
Tarot cards can open our minds and help us with storytelling. For me, I view tarot cards as a psychological tool. They're like elaborate ink blots that an individual draws their own meaning from. Even if you learn the set meaning of tarot cards, the way you perceive them in a spread is unique. They allow you to run through I thought process you might not otherwise have considered.
The most basic of tarot spreads is PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE – three tarot cards in a row. If I take one of my characters, Joe the superhero – who I created in Short Stories in 7 Steps – and turn over three tarot cards in this spread, then we have…
- Past: Death
- Present: The Sun
- Future: Ten of Sword
You might be thinking, 'What are you supposed to get from that?'
Well...let's find out.
The Death card represents an ending, which in turn brings about the beginning of something else. It doesn't necessarily mean 'he rose from the dead and became a zombie' but it really depends on the story. I suppose it's one of those 'when one door closes, a window opens' sort of things, but that always sounded like a bit of an alarming option to me.
In the past, Joe was a member of a league of superheroes. However, a horrific event lead to the death of all his other comrades, save one who became a villain and is now Joe's arch nemesis.
See how I have taken my own interpretation of the card and applied it to create a back story for Joe? I could go on, but it's just a start and I can always create another spread later to delve more into his back story.
Present: THE SUN
The Sun is a card of optimism and joy. It may relate to a child. It can also symbolise the person's ego.
On his way home from work, Joe saves a baby. He then becomes the sole charge of this baby, not knowing whom the parents are. Or perhaps the parents are dead and Joe once again feels responsible, like when he lost his comrades. This new event is startling for Joe, but it allows him to explore another side of himself and live a more normal – if not quite stress-free – life.
Future: TEN OF SWORDS
This is not a happy outcome. This card can depict back-stabbing, overkill, and even death. That's right, the Ten of Swords is a far more bleak card than Death. There is usually a silver lining, but you might have to squint really hard to see it. It's the card of being beaten down, and the struggles it takes to rise again.
Hmm... I've decided that Joe’s going to lose his baby. Not to death or social services. The baby shall be kidnapped by Joe's arch nemesis. This baby has become Joe's Achilles' heel. His arch nemesis – who I shall name Theodore but who prefers to be called "Doctor Dread, NOT Ted!" – is now threatening to kill the baby unless Joe does his bidding.
This seems like quite the doom and gloom outcome, but I must remember to think about that squint-of-a-silver-lining. After all, if this baby changed Joe's life, I have to wonder what it might do in turn for Ted.
There are lots of tarot spreads that you can apply to storytelling. Not just the ones you can find that you use to read people's fortunes, but ones specific to the creative process. You can even make up your own!
You can find tarot spreads for writers and artists at Aeclectic Tarot.
Also, I recently picked up Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner from Barnes and Noble.
If you ever feel writer's block creeping up on you, or are on the lookout for a new way to brainstorm, why not try tarot cards? They're a fun, inventive and interesting new outlook on character development and story building.