Friday, May 25th, 2012

Writing Prompt – Using Tarot and Other Divination Tools to Build Plot and Character

Five of Swords Tarot Card from The Artist's Inner Vision Tarot DeckWhat do you do when you’ve got the inclination to write a story, and the time, but nowhere to go? You’ve got nothing: no plot, no character, no idea at all.

Why, to the same place you’d go if you were facing this same dilemma in life!

A tarot card reader, a palm reader, your spiritual advisor, and the like. Someone who will give you direction and/or tell you about those special characters who may be showing up sometime soon in your life.

(Yeah, I started out tongue-in-cheek there, but didn’t want to offend anyone. Kinda gets watered down when you do that… So, don’t do that when you’re writing for real.)

A tarot deck is a deck of playing cards, usually 78 in number, with four suits and a group of “major” cards, all of which have been assigned specific meanings. Generally, a question is asked of the cards before they are shuffled and dealt to their spread. In this case, you could simply ask, “What story should I tell?”

Depending on the spread, or the layout of the cards, much can be predicted (that is, randomly generated) for a story.

I-Ching, Runes, and tossing chicken bones could also be used.

If none of those appeal, you can use the Bible to suggest interesting plots or characters as well. Randomly open the Bible to any section, close your eyes, and drop your index finger down on a passage. Use the single verse you’ve pointed to as a scene or story starter.

For more complexity, open several random sections in the Bible and drop your finger down. Some verses will speak of people (use those to build your characters); some verses will relate events or tell stories (use those for your plot). Combine several different verses to come up with an interesting idea.

The wonderful thing about these tools is that the pieces are plentiful, and the combined combinations offer thousands of plots and characters. Don’t rely on the first one you come up with. Try several different tarot spreads or variations of other tools to find something you really like.

Here’s Your Prompt:

Pull out your trusty deck of tarot cards and lay out your favorite spread. Pretend that what you see isn’t affecting your life, but the life of a character in your story.

If you don’t have your own deck, or just want the convenience of an online dealer and layout, here are several sites you can use to generate a layout:

Facade.com
The Artist’s Inner Vision Tarot Cards
The Tarot Goddess

Use I-Ching, Runes or other tools to find similar ideas.

The I-Ching Online
Flytrap Interactive I-Ching
Free Runes

Use the Bible (with the method described above) to generate a story plot or character sketch.

Likely, a lot of the ‘fortunes’ you will receive will be obscure. You might need to give them some thought before the story reveals itself – but then, you wouldn’t want to be handed a story on a silver platter, would you? Good stories always take some thought!

Good luck!

 
Tarot Card Image from The Artist’s Inner Vision Tarot Deck

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