Writing is hard enough without having to pay attention to things like well-rounded characters, right? If you are working on the NaNoWriMo project, you may agree with that right off the bat. Just getting fifty thousand words down in thirty days is a daunting task. But anyone can do it, right? I mean even a monkey with a keyboard could write a tale!
Of course you know I’m joking. Writing well-crafted stories takes talent and time and tenacity. First you have to have a grasp on the language you are writing in. For the purposes of this post, we will assume English. So you need to know the correct order of those silly things like verbs and nouns. What about those pesky adjectives and adverbs? It’s a never-ending fun fest when you are a writer. I swear the words will switch themselves up after I’ve committed them to paper! Just to make foolish look me.
SEE WHAT I MEAN!
But this is a Tarot blog. So let’s talk about how Tarot can be another tool in your writer’s toolkit. In Marilu Mann’s books, Tarot is a background helper. We don’t write about Tarot readers (yet) but we do utilize Tarot quite a bit. Cai and I will do a hero’s journey spread for a story–sometimes before the story is written but more often than not after we get to a certain point and want a bit more direction.
We love our characters and tend to see them as real but invisible friends. It’s difficult to write characters that leap off the page so that you remember them even after closing the book. One of my favorite authors is Naomi Novik who writes the Teremaire series. Teremaire and his friend, Lawrence, really stand out for me. They have layers and quirks and simply brilliant flaws.
Flaws, you say? Take that back! Good characters do not have flaws. That makes them imperfect!
Yes. It absolutely does make them imperfect. It also makes them more loveable. I mean let’s face it. Think back to that person you knew that could do no wrong. Utterly perfect in every way. Didn’t you just hate them? Didn’t you just pray that they might fall into a mud puddle at some point?
Take Major Frank Burns of the 4077th M*A*S*H unit. He was the perfect soldier. He never did anything that went against orders, right? What made him fun was his flaw of wanting a married woman. Also his flaws of expecting everyone else to be a good soldier just like him made him a great foil for the anti-soldier Capt. Hawkeye Pierce.
But if Pierce had been just an anti-soldier, would we have liked him? Weren’t some of his flaws things that might have made him a social deviant in today’s society? So what about your characters? How can you turn them from fictional imaginary folk to layered, well thought out characters? Here’s how I do it with the Tarot.
Shuffle your cards. Split them into three piles one way and then restack them with the last pile being the first now. Pull two cards. The first one is something your character loves and the other is something your character hates. Just write about what you see in the cards. Don’t worry about “real” meanings. This is your story! The point of this exercise is to free up your imagination and give you suggestions, albeit sometimes very off the wall suggestions, to grow your characters.
I’ll so a few for you so you can see how I do them. I’m using the Faerie Tarot from US Games for this exercise.
Let’s start with Feria. She is a priestess who serves a very dark Goddess. Her role in this book is as reluctant bride-to-be to a neighboring prince. Did I forget to mention? She’s also a member of the royal family of her country which makes her very marketable on the marriage mart.
So Feria’s “Loves” card is the King of Swords. Here we see a man in a winter setting. He’s wearing a blue robe with a curious belt about his waist that looks like three coins hanging from it. A wolf stands next to him as if guarding him. The King holds a sword. I think Feria loves being in control. She likes using her mental abilities (swords) to solve problems. I see her as someone who loves duty for the sake of her people. She likes being royal because she can get things done a bit faster!
Now Feria’s “Hates” card is intriguing simply because it is the beginning of the suit of Swords. The Ace of Swords shows a sword thrust into an ice tundra. An arctic hare sits next to it. In my review of this deck (isn’t up yet, lol) I mention that this animal has to change its color to suit its environment. What a perfect “Hates” card for our girl, Feria. She hates having to change herself so that she fits in. She doesn’t like to blend. In this story, she has to for reasons I won’t reveal here, but it’s a good reason. The Sword represents a new start for Feria and it is one she adamantly doesn’t want. However, because of her “Loves” card, she must take on this project she dislikes.
Another character is Kaderyn, the prince she is being forced to marry. He has several secrets that make him less that willing to take on the problem of an arranged marriage right now.
Oh look at his Loves card! The Wheel of Fortune spins for him. This is a wooden wheel adorned with scarves and vines that lead off the card to who knows where. Kaderyn loves the economy of opportunity. As a prince of the realm, he has so much available to him. He can truly try anything he wants–within reason. They still frown on harming royal flesh.
But his Hates card is a heartbreaker. No really! It’s the Three of Swords. A young girl sadly walks through a wintery world (Swords are the season of winter in this deck). There are swords around her but she doesn’t see them. She looks so sad with her basket before her. I think the Prince hates to disappoint people in his life. This is going to make it very difficult for him to hide things from his intended bride, but he can’t just blurt out his secrets. She would hate him and leave. Then his country would be looking for a new king!
So there you see how I took two cards and layered more things into my characters. I got motivation for both of them on why they might do things they hate but I also got another take on Kaderyn. I never knew he was such a free spirit until I saw that Wheel of Fortune.
So what about you? Won’t you share with me what you got for your characters? I’d love to see!
If you are struggling with this and would like me to help, just email me. I’ll do the first three folks free. After that, if you want to try a Loves/Hates spread with me, it will be $10. I think this is a really fun one for you to do for yourself so do give it a try!