I’ve been thinking a lot lately about character creation, how other people do it (and much better than I do, at that) and how I do it. Most of the time, I just try to get the story on the page and I think that’s the problem right there.
One of the character creation methods I use from time to time is a tarot creation. Now, I’m not a good tarot reader by any means, but it’s a fun way to think about characters in a new way and without getting into your own way. First, I break out my handy dandy tarot deck. I have two of them, a Celtic dragon deck and the Guilded Tarot deck. I prefer to use the Guilded Tarot deck, but that’s only because I’m too lazy usually to walk upstairs and grab the dragon deck out of my dragon hutch. I collect all things draconic, and the deck is in my display, but that’s not really important right now.
The layout I use is called a dragon spread. Because of course it is. I lay the cards and read them one at a time. You can probably lay them all at once if you’d like, but I find I can concentrate on each card better one at a time. The first way I’ll “read” a card is intuitively. I’ll look at it and see what’s physically on it. Is there water? Sky? Forests or rich manor houses? Are there people? Man, woman, child? Young, old? I’ll take the position the card is in and try to answer it with what I see on the card. For example, position #1 is the core issue or problem facing the character I’m creating. So, what’s going on in the card that could tell me what that is? Is it a money issue? Unfaithful lover? An unexpected death? An expected death? The next thing I do is look up the card’s meaning, because I’m not a tarot reader and I don’t have them all memorized. How does the card’s meaning match up with what I intuited? How does it work for the card position? How does it work against it?
*IMPORTANT* Keep a notebook handy. You’ll want to write all this stuff down. Don’t be stingy with it either. Write down as much detail as you can.
Now, you lay your next card and repeat everything you did for the first card. Only now, you’ll examine how it works with the first card you placed. In this way, it’s a lot like a traditional tarot reading, only you’re not reading anyone. You’re creating them. There’s no right or wrong interpretation here. If you see something that sparks something else, use it. Experiment with different tarot spreads. The dragon spread is a bit complex, so maybe a more traditional one would work best to start with. Keep in mind what you’re creating the character for, too. If you’re writing a short story, you might not want all the information the more complicated spreads will give you. If you’re writing a series, though, you might not get enough information from the simpler spreads.
This is just one of many ways to do character creation. I like it because it gives me an excuse to play with my tarot deck and I enjoy that.