Writing With Tarot: Shaping Story
Read Part 1.
Imagine flipping to a fresh sheet in your writer’s notebook or clicking on a new project. You’re met with a stark white page. Endless possibilities and directions fill your head like flowers blooming in the spring sunshine. Or, perhaps, the opposite occurs. Nothing occupies your thoughts. The utter blankness of the page freezes you before you jot down a single word.
Sussing out the overall shape of your story can be simple — Even fun! — with tarot as a guide. The key, my fellow wordsmith, is to start small. Two and three-card tarot spreads can offer a direction to focus your creative inklings whether you’re plagued by a particular character, scene, or idea, or you’re beginning with a blank slate.
Shuffle the cards and set your intention. The goal is to pull a story into this world from wherever they originate.
For me, a story takes shape like an oil painting with the broadest strokes at its foundation. Details are added in layers through time and development until the most minute pieces are filled in. Some even materialize in a second, third, or fourth draft.
By drawing only a few cards to begin you can allow your creative mind to wander, asking broad what-ifs. Let your inner child play in the paint, splashing it anywhere they desire. Remember, tarot is fun and so is storytelling. Now is not the time to let the critic in your head or serious money-making grown-up have a say. Put them in the corner. Tell them their skills are useful and appreciated, but not at this moment.
Try any or all of these spreads, drawing one card for each element in a reading.
- Reading 1: Protagonist, and antagonist.
- Reading 2: Character strength, and Character weakness.
- Reading 3: Conflict, and Solution.
- Reading 4: External Conflict, and Internal Conflict.
- Reading 5: Hook (beginning), resolution (end).
- Reading 6: Beginning, middle, and end.
- Reading 7: Act 1, act 2, act 3.
- Reading 8: Obstacle 1, obstacle 2, obstacle 3.
- Reading 9: Story hook, midpoint, climax.
- Reading 10: Setting, main character, conflict.
When you lay your cards down, try reading them together as pieces of the same story. How do the symbols in each card interact with each other? How does each card behave individually? What part of the imagery do you gravitate toward? What colors leap out to you? What creatures pull you in? Be sure to write down all elements of the cards that speak most clearly in your writer’s journal.
If you feel drawn, add bonus cards to any of these spreads or on top of any specific cards to glean more detail. From these broad beginnings, the vines of prose begin to grow, spreading up the scaffolding of story.
Now it’s your turn. Test out your tarot reading and writing skills with one of these spreads. Write down anything that bubbles to the surface whether that’s a character sketch, a short story, or the beginnings of a longer piece of fiction. Get creative and connect to your inner storyteller. Be curious and paint the broad strokes of your story.
Stay tuned for the next post in this series, Building Character with Tarot. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. Tell me about your tarot life, your writing life, or both in the comments below.
Happy writing and reading!
Feature photo by Haley P Law.