Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tarot for Writers

While the party raged through the hotel's little valley nook in the Tucson Mountains during my Writing Getaway, I was forced to abandon the laptop and find something else to do. On a whim, I had packed the Mystic Faerie Tarot set my mother got me during a rough patch last month. I've used Tarot in the past for generating plots and character arcs, but that was with some cheapo deck I picked up at Borders. It was a good way to get a sense of what Tarot was about and how it could be used, but it really didn't do much else for me. With Mystic Faerie Tarot, I discovered a neat view to narrative structure and devices.

So I brought out the Tarot and tried to ignore the bad karaoke filtering through my patio window. I decided to work with different spreads to get some insight on THUMB and my characters, but none of the example spreads in the Tarot book looked right for that, and I couldn't remember the spreads I had used in the past for writing topics. As I was hunting through the Tarot book, though, a single sentence caught my eye: " can design a spread yourself to answer a specific question." My thwarted creative energies found a new outlet, and I went to work on some ideas.

The best spread I came up with was the Character Arc. I arranged six cards in an arc (think in terms of tracing a rounded capital M and stopping at the midpoint), and I placed a seventh under the curve of the arc. Each card in the arc represented the classic steps in a story arc:

  1. Inciting Incident

  2. Turning Point

  3. Midpoint

  4. Dark Moment

  5. Climax

  6. Resolution

The seventh card represented the theme of the arc or the character's goal or the character's defining quality. Essentially, Card 7 served as the basis of the question I was asking. A unifier of my choosing.

This was a very helpful spread in organizing the thoughts I had already structured in this fashion in my vague pre-plotting, and it also highlighted commonalities that my subconscious had been noticing but hadn't been cluing the rest of my brain about. I don't think I could use this spread (or really any Tarot reading, now that I think about it) to attempt to force an outline on a story before I start writing it, but I can use this to keep my left and right brains communicating a bit better throughout the writing process. And that's remarkably helpful.


Sonya said...

Oh plot! I like the joke about the writer's headstone that says "Finally, a plot." Have you heard of the book on amazon called "I Have This Nifty Idea: Now what do I do with it? by Mike Resnick? It supposedly has plot synopses of sci fi novels....
Sonya from RWA

Kellie said...

Hi, Sonya!

I haven't heard of that book, but I'll be sure to put it on my list of books to buy (which is actually shorter than my list of books I already own that I need to read).

Plot is something that I really only work on in a vague sense until I have a complete draft. Then I can dive in and create a coherent series of events to create a satisfactory plot. The first draft is really a journey to figure out how I can translate an idea into words without losing too much of the idea itself in the process. Then I have to look at the words and figure out to make them into a readable story. Then I can revise.