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Earlier this month I told you about my new writing buddy, tarot cards, and how I learned about them in Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner. If you haven’t read the first blog post, make sure you do so before continuing. It provides you will important information about the cards and how to interpret them. You can read it here.
If you still need tarot cards, click the pic to find the one I recommend to beginners.
Beginning, Middle, and End
This is a basic three card spread that provides you with the three main sections that you need for a good story. To perform this spread, shuffle your tarot cards until you feel like that are good and mixed and then lay out three cards from left to right. The first will be your beginning, the second your middle, and the third card is the end. Here’s an example:
Beginning: The Sun – A young child is born during the summer to the reigning King and Queen.
Middle: The 10 of Cups – The young child has grown, gotten married, and had two children of his own. He and his wife are now faced with taking over the kingdom after his parents are killed.
End: The Fool – Since he refused to see the bad in some people, he has now had his family and kingdom stripped from him and he must start anew.
As you can see this gives you a rough outline of a story that you can flesh out to explain how the man moves through these phases.
While the simple beginning, middle, and end is a good place to start, it wouldn’t hurt to take things a step further to help flesh out the story a bit more. You can add two more cards into your reading to help connect the beginning and middle, and the middle and end.
This time, shuffle your cards and lay out your first three. These are still your beginning, middle, and end cards. Next, lay a card down between the first two and then between the last two. This means that you now have you Act I card (beginning), Plot Point 1 card, Act II card (middle), Plot Point 2 card, and Act III card (end). Here’s how it could look.
Act I: Knight of Swords – A young man, in the prime of his life, sets out to fight off the men that have been terrorizing the citizens of his town.
Plot Point 1: The Chariot – He swiftly defeats these men. The grateful townspeople come to him for more help, and he becomes the unofficial “sheriff” of the town. He is determined to fix all of their problems.
Act II: 10 of Cups – He marries one of the townspeople that he is determined to help, and they have children. This slows down his quest to bring happiness and harmony to the town.
Plot Point 2: The Hierophant – Unhappy townspeople start demanding that the man start fulfilling his promises. This leads the townspeople and their “sheriff” to form a structured “ruling” system.
Act III: Queen of Wands – By the end, he has learned his place. He has now become a “king” of sorts to the town. He balances family and the needs of the people, and the town is better for it.
Again, this gives you a rough outline that you can follow. The quotations I used around words, for me, symbolizes a lack of a better word or a word that could be changed given the context of the actual story. For example, if the story were set in the 1600s, the sheriff would likely be king. If it were in the late 1800s in America, the sheriff could a sheriff or a marshall.
Gustav Freytag, a German novelist, came up with Freytag’s pyramid in 1863 to describe the storylines that he had found in successful books. His pyramid is made up of the exposition, inciting action, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution, and denouement.
This is what most English classes will teach their students when it comes to writing a story.
For this tarot spread, you will be drawing a card for each of these spaces in the pyramid. You will lay down seven cards from left to right, and it helps to do so in a pyramid shape that way you can visualize the storyline.
Exposition: 8 of Pentacles – A working-class woman is looking for a new start in life.
Inciting Force: The Chariot – She approaches a mystic for advice and help with her life. She makes a deal with her for love, but with consequences, she didn’t expect.
Rising Action: Page of Cups – The dreamy young woman sets out on her quest for love as laid out by the mystic. What she doesn’t expect are the emotional challenges she will face along the way.
Climax: The Sun – The young women is swept up in a relationship with a young man of the local gentry. A relationship will set her up for the rest of her life and no worries of having to be a working-class woman again.
Falling Action: 3 of Pentacles – During her relationship with the young man, she works to improve the lives of poor single women, but this works against the mystics rules.
Resolution: 4 of Cups – Since she promised to follow the mystics rules, she is forced to sit back and be the doting wife of the man she is with. She is stuck with a life of displeasure and discontent.
Denouement: The Hanged Man – She realizes that through her experiences, she has become a mystic. She can help the women she has longed to help by not helping them. She can end the cycle.
As you can tell, this reading has more detail than any of the others.
The last spread we are going to look at doesn’t have to do with the entire plot, but instead, with a section of the storyline. This will look at the conflict that the protagonist has to face. For this spread, you will draw two cards. The first card represents the protagonist and the second card is the conflict.
Protagonist: Ace of Swords – He is a strong fighter and leader on the battlefield.
Conflict: The High Priestess – A strange woman comes to town with secrets about the protagonist that could destroy his whole world.
You can use this information to build the plot around the protagonist and the conflict that they have to face.
Before I wrap this up, it’s important to note that with tarot you can draw what is known as clarifying cards. These are cards that you place on top of a card you have already drawn. As the name suggests, it is meant to help clarify the previous card.
That means if you drew the 2 of cups for your protagonist and you aren’t sure exactly what it is trying to tell you, you could draw a clarifying card that could help explain it. Don’t go too crazy on clarifying cards though. It’s important that you learn how to interpret your cards in as few cards as possible, otherwise, you could end up getting confused.
That’s it. I’ll have more posts about using tarot for writing, so be sure to keep an eye out. Also, you can easily Google the card names that you draw to learn exactly what they mean, but you can just use the image on the card for your interpretation.
Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. I will be making Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles available for free on Kindle in the coming weeks, so make sure you keep an eye out so that you don’t miss your chance.
“In real life, I assure you, there is no such thing as algebra.” -Fran Lebowitz