Cracking the Whip

One of the many projects that I’ve been working on is being the webmistress for my university’s Creative Writing Club.


The only thing that should wear this much leather is a cow.

I won’t lie, some mornings (translation: all week) I wake up and I just don’t want to deal with it.  And then I pull up the blog and start in on the day’s writing prompt.

I have not had the chance to write on any of them because of all the other stuff going on.  If you get the chance, you should check them out.  The book I’m pulling the information out of was one I used for my advanced fiction writing class and the end result of the class was the publication of Celia.  These are especially great if you’ve always wanted to write, but had no idea where to start, what to do, or was too scared of ridicule to try.  You have to be local if you want to attend the club’s weekly workshops, but you can participate online almost as much.  You’ll meet people who just started writing and who have been writing for awhile.

Stop on by and then tell me what you think of things.

Tarot Decks and a New Resource

I went to Barnes & Noble earlier today to look for a book a friend of mine was telling me about.  It was Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner, and according to Amazon, I seriously overpaid.  Still, instant gratification and all.  It looks like a great resource to add to my collection and I’m actually pretty excited to get into it.   They also have a couple of tarot decks that looked pretty amazing.  One was the  Tarot of Vampyres deck and book set.  This is not a deck I would normally choose to work with, but I could see it being very handy for writers of vampire fiction.  The other deck that caught my eye was the Steampunk tarot deck and book set.  Again, this isn’t a deck I would choose to work with since I don’t write Steampunk fiction, but I can see this being a great tool for people who do.

This brings me to today’s topic: choosing a tarot deck.

Different decks are going to work better for different types of stories.  Even if you picked up a deck with absolutely no idea what you were doing or how to read any of the cards, you could still intuit means just from the card.  That’s the main reason I don’t use my Celtic dragon deck when I write.  I haven’t written any fantasy stories.  I’m sure I could still use that deck once I’m better at working with the cards, but the deck itself is fantasy, so it would be perfect for a fantasy story.  My Gilded tarot deck is my working deck because it fits well with the stories I’m currently writing.  So, how do you choose a deck?

The first, and probably the most obvious, choice is to look online.  Pro: you will get the largest variety of decks.  Con: You only have the pictures to go by.  Call me crazy, but I don’t like to buy a tarot deck that I haven’t personally handled.  Even though I’m not a reader, I still feel an attraction to certain decks over others.  That’s why, even though it’s a respected deck, I will never own a Rider Waite deck.  It doesn’t speak to me.  I found a dragon deck one time at B&N, and it spoke to me so strongly that I could barely get out of the store without buying it.  I didn’t, and I’ve regretted it ever since.  The dragon deck I have now is a display deck, and maybe I’m giving the cards too much credit, but I think they knew that because they sit in my display and I’m rarely tempted to bring them out.

Find something you enjoy looking at because you’ll spend a lot of time looking at them.  Find something that speaks to you in some way.  Don’t buy a deck you don’t love because you most likely won’t use it and it will be wasted money.  Buy more than one deck.  Like I said, some decks lend themselves to certain types of writing better than others, so the more decks you own, the more versatility you have in using them for your writing.  Invest in an instructional book of some kind.  Most of the decks I’ve seen have books that come with that specific deck.  Since decks can vary in number (some have 1 extra card per suit), you’ll need the book for that deck in order to know how to read the extra card.  My local library has several books on tarot, so I would recommend checking some out, going through them, and then purchasing one you feel is the most helpful.  In fact, I picked up a couple of books from there earlier to go with the one I just bought.  Most of all, have fun.  Remember, you can’t do it wrong.


Cross of Truth Tarot Spread for Enraptured–Plot Point

Yesterday’s blog showed a sample tarot spread for characters.  Even though I had a good idea about the character and his motivations, it still gave insight into his potential character as well as gave me some plot ideas.  That’s the nice thing about doing these spreads for story writing.  You may be specifically looking for one thing and see something else in the bargain.

Today, I did a tarot spread called the Cross of Truth in order to help me resolve a plot point that I’m stuck on.   I used my Gilded Tarot deck again, as well.  I don’t have the camera today, so I’ll just have to describe the layout.  Card 1 is the Basis, your starting point.  Card 2 is Desires, hopes or fears, and is positioned above card 1.  Card 3 is Helpful, something that will be of use for the question you’re asking, and it is positioned to the right of card 2.  Card 4 is Challenges, something that could hinder or get in the way of what you’re asking about, and it is positioned to the left of card 2.  Card 5 is Outcome, what eventually happens, and it is positioned above card 2.  When you’ve finished, you should have a giant plus sign with your 2 card at its center.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any good links like I could with the dragon spread.

Since this is about a specific plot point, the “question” I had is who would be concerned about Jeanne, the little girl who has been abducted, and want to search for her.  I had tried with one person and it wasn’t working out at all.  I haven’t talked much about Enraptured, so in a nutshell, a little girl goes missing and her religious small-town community thinks she’s been Raptured.  As a side note, and something I didn’t mention yesterday, I talk to my cards while I shuffle them.  I basically repeat variations on a theme.  For yesterday’s spread, I said, “Buddy is a bad man” over and over as I shuffled.  Today, I said, “Who wants to find Jeanne?  Who wants to protect Jeanne?”  Anyway, let’s get started.

  1. Basis: Eight of Swords–A female is in danger.  Her hands are bound and she is blindfolded.
  2. Desires: Nine of Swords–A female is in bed.  Swords are positioned above her.  She is terrified.  Her life is in danger.
  3. Helpful: The Fool–A man.  This is someone who cares for her and wants to find her.  Father?
  4. Challenges: Nine of Pentacles–A woman.  She has riches.  Spiritual riches?  She refuses to believe Jeanne is missing.  She will stand in the way of a search.
  5. Outcome: Seven of Pentacles–The woman prevails.  They will not search for Jeanne, despite her father’s unease.

So, this fits in pretty much perfectly with where the plot was going anyway.  The added bonus is that I now have the idea that her father should become skeptical of the Rapture and be shot down by his wife.  I’m almost a little ashamed I didn’t just come up with that on my own.

Like I said, I’m no professional card reader.  I simply approach the cards with a problem I’m having, shuffle while stating my problem or asking my questions, and then lay them out to see what I see.  Everything is filtered through the plot or character I’m working on.  If you have no idea what to write about, do a simple spread to get ideas.  Different spreads will allow you to do different things because they vary in complexity.  I had a very specific question today, so I did a very simple spread to address that one question.  Characters are supposed to be complicated, so I did a complex spread for that.

I hope this gives you ideas for your own projects, and if you had fun with this, let me know.



Dragon Tarot Spread for Enraptured–Buddy

Since I talked about using tarot spreads to help along character creation or move a plot point along, I thought I would take my own advice and do a dragon tarot spread for one of the characters in my work in progress, Enraptured.  I used my Gilded Tarot deck for this because it’s the first deck I ever bought and it’s more of a working deck than a display deck (like my Celtic dragon deck).  I wanted to find pictures of the individual cards to show you just how gorgeous this deck is, but I couldn’t find any online and the ones I tried to take were abysmal, to say the least.  I did find a beautiful image of a selection of cards, and one of them appeared in my spread, so you can get an idea of how they look.  I won’t be able to post each individual card, but I took a picture of the finished spread, so stay tuned until the end.

Enraptured is a story of child sexual abuse.  Buddy is a transient who abducts a little girl.  I chose to do his reading because, although I have a good idea about who he is and what he wants, I thought this could give me additional insights into his motivation.  The reading also gave me some possible ideas for the plot that I hadn’t considered before.  This is a rather large spread, so let’s get started.

  1. THE HEART OF THE QUESTION: Two of Wands–There is a fork in the road.  He has a choice which path to take.  One leads into darkness, the other to the light.  He wants to take the light path, but like the birds, he’s drawn to the darkness.  Dominion achieved by forceful action and powerful will.  He requires a partner to achieve his goals.
  2. WHAT CROSSES THE QUESTION: The Hermit–An older man carrying a lantern.  He tries to bring light to the darkness.  He’s on a narrow path.  One step to either side and he falls into endless darkness.  The Hermit presents an obstacle to getting what Buddy wants.  He needs to be wary of him.
  3. THE FOUNDATION: Four of Wands–An adult couple with their child.  The woman watches the man, but the man watches the child.  There are a pair of rabbits in the lush greenery.  The season of lust?  The woman holds the child to her.  Protection?  The man is reaching for the woman’s arm.  To remove it?  This is a card for happiness–but for whom?  Buddy with his parents?
  4. OUTSIDE INFLUENCES: Seven of Cups–Seven cups with water and sky.  Each filled with something.  Outside influences.  Drinking?  There is a rainbow in one cup, a dove in another.  Someone actively working against Buddy’s darkness?  The card represents choices.  Which choice to make and not get caught.
  5. THE SHADOWTAIL CARD: Ten of Pentacles–Money.  Money will influence the whole situation, but whose?  How much?  Is the money being offered to Buddy or to someone else?
  6. YOUR HOPES: Eight of Cups–His back is turned to the knocked over choices.  One choice removed as one is made?  Some are still standing.  Is he turning from them because he’s already made his choice or because he can’t face them?  Abandonment.  Disappointment.
  7. YOUR FEARS: Knight of Wands–A protector, a champion.  This person could ruin everything or could even harm Buddy.  It’s Autumn–death is coming.  The knight brings urgency.  Buddy needs to leave.  Now.
  8. THE WING OF LIGHT: Four of Cups–A man being fed from a cup by the hand of God.  The best possible outcome: his actions are sanctioned by Heaven and he is normal.  He’s not bored, as the meaning suggests.  He’s enraptured.
  9. THE WING OF DARKNESS: Ten of Wands–A man carrying a large burden in the dead of night.  The task is difficult, bulky.  He’s exposed.  He risks detection.  This is a warning.
  10. THE PAST: Five of Swords–He has taken other men’s treasures and he boasts as they weep.  He’s taken them all and he’s never satisfied.  He still wants more.  This man has made Evil live.
  11. THE PRESENT: Page of Pentacles–Right now, he feels safe and happy.  His shield protects him from harm and his peacock is his captive beauty.  He is content.

12 & 13. THE FUTURE: King of Wands and The World–A man and a woman in opposition.  A king is one and the world is many.            The king is darkness and the World is light.  Only one of them can win.

Enraptured Spread-Buddy

Like I said, I’m not professional tarot card reader.  Most of the above I got from looking at the cards with my particular book in mind.  Some I’ll use, maybe some I’ll discard.  I have new considerations now, so I consider this a successful exercise.  As I do the reading, I write down each card name along with its position in the spread before I write down any interpretations.  That way, if I ever want to recreate this spread for any reason, I can do so.  This picture really doesn’t do this deck justice, but you have an idea of what it looks like when finished.

Plot–One Way to Get Unstuck

Yesterday’s post talked a lot about using a tarot card spread for character creation.  I wanted to keep going with that and talk about how you can also use a tarot spread to help develop your story/plot or to create one from scratch if you’re low on ideas.  The premise is basically the same as for the character creation.  You may want to try out some different spreads for this.  You may like one spread for character creation and a second spread for plot.  Play around with it.  Also, something I didn’t mention yesterday but should have is that you might want to consider investing in more than one deck.  I think they’re beautiful, so I don’t mind doing this, but the advantage of multiple decks is that the different artwork may give you different information.  If I was writing a book with dragons, I might make that extra trip upstairs and use my dragon deck.

How this is different:

Because you already have your characters in mind, particularly your protagonist, you do a “reading” for that specific character similarly to how a real person would get a reading.  You can do a single, broad reading; you could do several readings, narrowing each one in scope based on choices the character can take.  It’s all up to you.

I used this method to outline a fantasy series.  I did a new spread for each book.  I haven’t written any of it (mostly because I doubt my abilities and I let the scope of the fantasy world intimidate me), but I have 4 books outlined.  Let me know how this works for you should you decide to give it a go.

Character Creation

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.