Tarot for Writer’s Block

In the coming weeks, I will be sharing more tarot spreads for writing. Last week we covered a 9 card spread for a short story. Today we will look at a plot spread to help the writer with the elusive writer’s block.

There are two parts to this spread. First, shuffle your cards until you feel you have shuffled enough. Then lay out three cards according to the picture.

writer's block 1

This first spread is about you and your writer’s block.

AS: This card is your significator card. This card represents you in this moment of stagnation.

Card 1: This card is telling you what is causing your stagnation or your writer’s block. This is the reason why you are having problems writing.

Card 2: This card tells you what you can do to work through your writer’s block. This is meant to help you overcome the problem so that you can continue to write.

Now, place these cards back into the deck, all three of them, and reshuffle your tarot deck. Once you feel you have shuffled enough, you will deal out the cards as follows.

writer's block 2

Card 1: This card tells you about your protagonist, what they are like, how they look, act, job, and so on.

PS: This is the significator for the protagonist. This tells you about a person or a situation that is influencing your protagonist. You can pull more than one PS card if you would like.

Card 2: This card tells you about your antagonist, what they are like, how they look, act, job, and so on.

AS: This is the significator for the antagonist. This tells you about a person or a situation that is influencing your protagonist. You can also pull more AS cards if you want to.

Card 3: This card tells you about the conflict between the two characters, the background, and what is going on.

Card 4: This card tells you about the situation you left the characters in last. This gives you a sort of starting point.

Card 5: This card provides you with a possible solution to the problem and story. This could be your ending or a new beginning.

This is a great way to work through writer’s block, especially the first three card spread. If you are working on multiple projects, you can do a different reading for each to figure out what the stagnation is for each project.

Please, on these tarot spread blogs, share the stories that spread has been able to help you with.

“Books are like Tarot decks. They provide answers and guidance but more importantly, they are doorways and portals to the otherworld and the imagination. They leave their imprint and keep whispering to us long after we close the pages or shuffle the deck.”
― Sasha Graham, Tarot Fundamentals

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. To celebrate the start of spring, get Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles ebook for free for a limited time.

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Short Story Tarot Spread

Welcome back!

It has been a bit since I wrote a blog about using tarot for writing. We’ve done a few easy spreads to help create a quite plot outline and to discover traits about our characters. Today we will do a tarot spread to help you write a short story.

If you haven’t yet, make sure you read my first to blogs and check out my videos about tarot for writing:

https://fahuffman.com/2018/10/29/4-tarot-writing-plots/

https://fahuffman.com/2018/10/02/tarot-as-a-writing-aid/

In other news, let’s get down to what we really came here for.

While I really want to talk about the Celtic Cross spread, it is a more advanced spread. Instead of jumping into something that might be difficult to use, I figured I would cover some easier spreads first. Today, we are going to look at an easy 9 card spread to help to create a short story.

Untitled

To start you spread, shuffle you tarot cards until you feel like that they have been shuffled enough. While you are shuffle, think about the reason why you are shuffling. Let the cards and the Universe know that you want to get a layout for a short story.

Then lay each of the cards out in the pattern shown above. You can place them face down and flip each over as you get to it, or you can lay it out face up, whichever works best for you.

Card 1: This card tells you who your narrator is. This could mean anything that you want it to be. Maybe you want to know if it’s an omniscient being is watching the story unfold or it could be the protagonist. Who knows, it could be the antagonist.

Card 2: This card tells you the outer persona of your protagonist. This is how they present themselves to the world. This may not correlate with how they truly feel.

Card 3: This card tells you the inner persona of your protagonist. This is how they actually feel. This is their inside and true self.

Card 4: This card tells you how the story will start. This is your beginning.

Card 5: This card tells you about the middle of the story. This is the middle.

Card 6: This card tells you how the story will end.

Card 7 & 8: These cards tell you about two minor characters. You can also pull more cards if you want more minor characters. These characters can end up helping or hindering your protagonist.

Card 9: This card tells you about the main theme of the story.

That’s it. The hardest part is interpreting the cards, but it doesn’t have to be. Practice interpreting the cards before you ever do you first spread. (Easier said than done)

Most tarot cards come with a book that explains the cards, but you can also find information online. The more you do these spreads the easier they will become.

“It’s said that the shuffling of the cards is the earth, and the pattering of the cards is the rain, and the beating of the cards is the wind, and the pointing of the cards is the fire. That’s of the four suits. But the Greater Trumps, it’s said, are the meaning of all process and the measure of the everlasting dance.”
― Charles Williams

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. Make sure you keep an eye on Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles. You never know what kind of sale you might find.

A Pep Talk For When You Feel Like Quitting

This weeks post is a little different than my others. I think everybody can use a pep talk from time to time. Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. A dark cloud will come through and dampen your spirits. I have a lot of those days, so does everybody else, but the important thing is that you push through.

For anybody who has chosen a career that requires others to purchase something from you or like you enough to take a chance, those dark days can come along quite a lot. As writers, artists, or entertainers, we don’t get a regular check for the hours we work every day.

Somebody has to pay for the work we have already done if they like it. We are judged for what we do more so than any other professional. If not enough people like what we do, we will be eating ramen. This is a tough reality we have to face, but we do it because we love it.

It’s a little easier (I hope) once you have amassed a decent following of people who buy what you do. So when you are starting out, like I still consider myself, and like most people probably do, it’s a bit harder to pump yourself up.

I’m right there with you. The rough days sometimes seem more frequent than the good days. But if we support each other, we will make it through and see the light at the end of the tunnel. To help with those tough days, especially when it has to do with rejection, here are some fun facts about other professionals who weren’t “overnight success”. (Like those even exist)

  1. William Golding’s book Lord of the Flies was rejected 20 times before it was ever published.
  2. Claude Monet, a founder of French Impressionism, was ridiculed for his most famous work “Impression, Sunrise.” He and his family lived in abject poverty until his paintings begin to sell in the 1880s.
  3. Margeret Mitchells’ Gone with the Wind was rejected 38 times before it was ever published.
  4. Walt Disney was fired from a job because he “lacked imagination and no good ideas.”
  5. Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting while he was alive.
  6. JK Rowling was fired from Amnesty International because she spent the day writing stories.
  7. Gertrude Stein spent 22 years submitting poems before any of them were published.
  8. Beatrix Potter had to self-publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
  9. Stephen King’s book Carrie was rejected 30 times before being published.
  10. Madonna was fired from Dunkin’ Donuts for squirting jelly filling on a customer.
  11. Robert Frost had Truman Capote fired from his job at the New Yorker because Capote left in the middle of one of his readings. To be fair, Capote was sick.
  12. Louise May Alcott, the author of Little Women, was told to stick to teaching.
  13. George Orwell was told that is book Animal Farm wouldn’t sell because “there is no market for animal stories in the USA.”
  14. Lucille Ball’s drama instructors tried to get her to follow another profession.
  15. Rudyard Kipling was told he didn’t know how to use the English language.

So there you have it. No matter how down you feel, you are not alone. Every profession has had some tough times. The success you will have will be all the better.

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” – Richard Bach

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. Make sure you keep an eye on Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles. You never know what kind of sale you might find.

How to Embrace Vulnerability and Write Your Truth

We’ve spoken about writing your truth before. As you have probably noticed, it can get very convoluted as to what it really means to write your truth. The reason for that is because everybody has their own truth.

Today we are going to look at vulnerability, which I believe is the key to writing your truth. If you can bare your emotions on the page, then conveying a truth is going to be very hard to do.

Emotions play a huge role in writing. Not only in the act of writing a story, but in everything that surrounds it; publishing it, sharing it, getting feedback, everything.

I would say that I have only been a true writer for a year. While I have been writing for most of my life, it was only last year that I buckled down and chose this as my life. Last year was when I shared my writing for other people to read. Last year was when I put myself out there to be loved or rejected. Last year I experienced more emotions than ever before. In fact, it feels like it has been longer than a year.

When I first started this blog I said I was going to go the traditional route when it came to publishing my books. I was going to an agent and all that, but I switched to self-publishing. One, because I am a bit impatient. Two, I wanted to get my book out there for people now. That doesn’t mean I have given up hope on getting an agent, it just means I’m doing things on my own for now. Emotions played a huge role in this.

There are weeks where I feel confident and excited. Then I will have doubts and thinking about a back-up plan. But I know in my heart of hearts, writing is the only career that is going to make me happy. (That and acting, but let’s not get started on that tangent.)

The reason I am sharing this is that, as a writer, you can’t be afraid of emotions. I would hazard a guess that most writers are introverts. We don’t do well speaking out emotions out loud, thus we write them. So, if writing is how we express our emotions as introverts, how can we express our self if we don’t show vulnerability.

But What Will Others Think?

This is probably the biggest roadblock in showing vulnerability through writing. Everybody is worried about being judged. I could say, “get over it,” but that’s rude and annoying. You can’t just simply get over things. Everybody has to work through their own problems in their own time. That doesn’t mean that you can’t work through them faster, but you still have to work through them on your own.

Too often people write off these types of issues as just being in your head. They don’t think there is a real issue. But fears are fears. They are all important and everybody has the right to be afraid of things. The important thing is that you figure out what those fears and work through them so they don’t hold you back in life.

I will dedicate another post on working through these types of issues. For now, let’s look at some of the best ways to show vulnerability in your writing.

Be Open

The key to showing vulnerability is to be open. You can write a one-sided story. Even children’s books have a good side and a bad side. You can’t have light without the darkness. There is no good without the bad. A day always has a night.

When you write with openness, you allow the story to guide you. It will naturally show you where it needs to go. I don’t know how many times my outline has changed once I started writing the story because what I had planned didn’t feel right once it was put on paper.

Trust

Writing with openness and vulnerability means that you trust the process of writing. If you can’t trust the process, you will end up holding yourself back and censoring yourself. I’ve already talked about how censoring yourself is bad for writing your truth. You have to trust that the story is going to lead you to where it needs to go.

This could mean that characters you hadn’t planned on killing are going to die. Your story could plummet to depths you never imagined, but as you work your way back out, your story is going to be better for it. Trust is hard, but it’s what makes for a good story.

DO NOT CENSOR

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, you can’t write your truth and censor yourself. This is also one of those fine lines. There is a way you can go too far with your writing where it can end up causing a lot of backlash. This, in my opinion, is when you write with the purpose of being mean and hateful. If this is you purpose going into a book, do us all a favor and stop. There is enough hate already, there is no need for any more.

With that said, you can write without censorship and not be mean and hateful. If your story tells you that it needs something that many people would consider taboo, put it in there. It will be a better story for it. It can be written in a tasteful manner as well.

A big taboo subject that people are sometimes afraid of touching on is abuse. This could be domestic, sexual, what have you. It’s a touchy subject, but if stories about these things aren’t shared, then nobody is going to learn about them. People who aren’t afraid to write about these things are people who help to change the world for the better. The same goes for injustice as well.

These three tips are heavy subjects, and I understand that. Being vulnerable isn’t something anybody likes feeling. But it is a fact of life. If you don’t feel vulnerable at some point in the writing process, then you need to take a step back and see where you are holding back. Be vulnerable and change the world with your writing.

“If the book is true, it will find an audience that is meant to read it.” – Wally Lamb

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. Make sure you keep an eye on Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles. You never know what kind of sale you might find.

How to Create a Believable World

No matter the types of stories or novels you write, all of them have to have a world. As the writer, you have the ability to shape and mold that world to whatever you want it to be. You get to God to your characters.

While the plot, characters, and all that other stuff are important, if you don’t have a world for your characters to live in, you don’t have a story. Create a believable world where your characters live and work is fun, hard, and exciting all wrapped into one. Let’s look at some ways to help you create your world.

Map it Out

The first thing to do in creating your world is to map out what it looks like. You don’t have to physically make a map, but jotting down some notes as to what it looks like, where things are located, and how things work helps to solidify your world. This will also save you hours of writing time. You won’t have to stop every few pages to figure out where the local drug store is located or if there is a hidden dragon cave down the street.

Look for Inspiration

Maybe you already know exactly how you want your world to look and work. Maybe you are going to place your characters in the exact world you live in. This is great. But for those of us who don’t already know what we want, we can find inspiration in different places.

First, other books. The smallest element from another writers book can help spark your world creation. This doesn’t mean you recreate what they have used, but it can help lead you towards your own world.

Another great source of inspiration is through movies. This is perfect for those who want to create fantasy worlds so that you can physically see common elements of fantasy lands. Movies like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, How to Train and Dragon, and Avatar can help you come up with ideas for your own world.

Set Rules

Once you have a good idea of how things look and the direction you want to go with your world, create rules for the world. People are going to want to know the whys of your world. Is it a realistic world with regular humans who have become extremely technologically advanced to the point where they almost seem magical? Do your characters actually have the ability to use magic?

If you are writing a realistic story based in the regular world, you still need to set rules for what is the norm for your worlds society, or at least make sure the reader knows that you characters play by the same rules that regular society plays by.

Create the History

The history of the world shapes what it is. Just because you are starting your story in the years 3058 on Mars doesn’t mean people aren’t going to want to know how the characters ended up there. Plus, your characters are going to need to know this information.

Things in your worlds past are going to affect your characters today. For example, in my book Loved by Death, my characters know why it is best to try and hide the supernaturals from human knowledge. While the reader doesn’t find out directly, the way the characters act is shaped by this information.

Think About How they Act, Talk, and Interact

Take a moment and think about the different regions of the country you live in. Think about the different accents you heart when you travel. If you live in the US, the way people talk in Texas is vastly different from how people talk in New York. Think about all the different British accents. This holds true for your world.

Is it normal for your characters to shake hands when they meet somebody? If not, why? Do they walk like normal people, or do they have to walk backward or on their hands? This may seem arbitrary, but trust me, it will help you, in the long run, to figure this out now.

What are Their Belief, Social, and Political Systems?

This plays into the world’s history. This is what dictates how they act and behave. Maybe the characters of your world were never exposed to organized religion; how did this affect them?

There may have never been a civil rights movement, so things still work like they did in the 1800s. What would happen if your world had no political system and everybody did as they pleased?

*Side note* writing these what-ifs are making me excited. I don’t know about you, but just sitting down and thinking about the world would work with these little changes makes me tingle.

Alright, back to our regularly scheduled program.

How Does it Look

Next, think about the flora and fauna of the world. Is it a barren wasteland? Are their beautiful flowers and animals everywhere? Is it post-apocalyptic or is it heaven on Earth?

How do your characters live in this world and interact with everything there?

Pulling it All Together

Once you have the bits and pieces figured out, you have to bring it all together in a way that’s believable and interesting for your reader. This is where plot comes into play. You have to make sure that you actually story will fit into your world.

If your plot doesn’t fit within the parameters of your world that you have just created, you better have a really good way to explain it or rework your plot. You may be the God of your world, but if you confuse the crap out of your editors and readers, you are going to have a lot of rewrites.

Even if you are writing a fantasy novel, you can’t just make it a free-for-all. There have to be some rules that everybody plays by. While Greek playwrights may have gotten by with using a deus ex machina, that type of plot devices doesn’t work as well today.

Get to writing your novels and stories. Create a fantastic world that is believable and makes people want to live there as well.

What books have you read that you wish you lived in?

“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” – Orson Scott

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. Make sure you keep an eye on Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles. You never know what kind of sale you might find.

Series of Unfortunate Events – My Thoughts

I’ve not done a post about a book in a while, so to make up for it, this book will talk about all 13 books in the Series of Unfortunate Events book series. Don’t worry, this won’t be a long post, but there may be spoilers.

Now, I had read these books when I was younger. When Netflix came out with their series for the books, I decided to re-read them so that I could refresh my memory. I didn’t allow myself to watch the series until I had finished reading the books, so that was fun.

For those who are not familiar, these books are aimed towards younger/middle age children. I don’t typically care what age group books are aimed at. I read what I want.

The first book, The Bad Beginning, starts out with the three Baudelaire children being told by Mr. Poe that their parents had perished in a deadly fire. This is just the start of the children’s unfortunate lives.

One thing you will quickly notice about the books is that Lemony Snicket enjoys alliteration. He also tries very hard in every book to convince the reader to stop reading the books, or to turn their attention to something different.

In The Grim Grotto, which is the 11th book, he repeats information about the water cycle. While it may sound like these diversions from the main story would be annoying, it really isn’t. (At least not to me) To me, I think they are fun and make Lemony a character. It is meant to be a retelling of a story, so it makes sense that Lemony would get to have his own attitude.

Book after book, the children have to face Count Olaf. Each time they discover who he is right off the bat, yet no other adult in the books ever recognize him. It becomes frustrating at how dense the adults are.

If anybody reading these books ever think that maybe things will change for the Baudelaire and that they will get to live a happy life, you are sadly mistaken. Lemony Snicket even assures you that nothing is going to change for them.

Guardian after guardian is killed by Count Olaf. They get accused of murder. They have to run around the hinterlands and hitchhike with strangers. Sleep in an unfinished hospital wing. Sail in a broken down submarine. Get separated from each other. And almost thrown down a mountain. Those aren’t even the worse things that happen to them.

But, finally, you make it to The End. A small glimmer of hope shines inside of you. “Maybe,” you think to yourself, “Things will change for the Baudelaire children.”

Well…

You wouldn’t be completely wrong, but you won’t be right either. Count Olaf is there and some dumb adults that don’t think for themselves. The island turns out to be a safe place for the children. They believe them about Count Olaf. They even lock him in a cage on the coastal shelf.

Yet, something is fishy about the island and Ishmael, and it’s not just the ceviche.

Ish turns out to know everything about the children and he claims that everything he does is to “protect” the villagers. The children could stay as long as they “don’t rock the boat,” but they are Baudelaires and they can’t stand injustice. So, of course, they rock the boat.

They get themselves isolated on the coastal shelf with Olaf and stranded Kit Snicket.

Oalf manages to enact one more crazy plan and releases a deadly poison on the island. The children find out that the apple tree on the island can help, but they can’t get all of the others to believe them. Instead, they ship out with Ish.

I won’t go into any more detail. I will say, the exact outcome of the Baudelaires or any of the other characters that didn’t die aren’t shared. You’re left to wonder how things worked out for them. If they were about to go back into the world without being chased by the police. Or if they joined VFD. Of if they found the Quagmire triplets.

This seems to be a problem for some people. I update my Goodreads when I finish a book. When I added The End, I noticed there were a few people who didn’t like how he ended the series. They didn’t like the mystery that was left. They wanted it wrapped up in a pretty little bow, and that the kids lived happily ever after.

I get that, but, I also understand why it was wrapped up the way it was.

Lemony Snicket never hid the fact that the Baudelaires’ story would be a series of unfortunate events. (It’s the name of the books.) Plus, the books are supposed to be written by a person sharing what he has learned. I feel the way the last book wraps things up fits in with the whole premise of the books. Diaries and journals are rarely wrapped up into pretty little bows, and that’s basically what these books are supposed to be.

I love these books. I always have and always will. When I have children, they will read these books. They may seem morbid to some, but I think they also teach a lot of valuable lessons for adults and children alike.

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. Make sure you keep an eye on Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles. You never know what kind of sale you might find.

Best Way to Develop and Build Characters

Welcome to the first post of 2019. I hope your holidays were fantastic.

I’m starting off the year by talking about characters. You can’t have a story without characters. No matter how hard you try, there are going to characters, human or not. Even if there is just a person describing a scene, that narrator is a character.

Stories have characters (duh obviously) but it can be difficult to create well-rounded characters that people enjoy reading. The key part of any character is to make them human. Now, that doesn’t mean they have to be human, they just have to act like a human. That means they have human ideas and characterizations and the like. They are driven by beliefs and dreams.

One of my favorite blog posts about character development is The Writing Cooperative article, How to Create Authentic and Powerful Fictional Characters written by Valerie Black. Click the link to read. It’s a good read.

As with the article I just shared, there are lots of archetypes for your main protagonist, which I will probably dedicate a blog to later on. For this blog, we are going to look more at how to build a character.

What’s in a name?

The first thing you need to do is figure out a name. Coming up with a cast list for your book is a good idea. As a rule of thumb, try to make your names as pronounceable as possible. Also, the names need to fit with your story. If you’re writing a story set in 17th century England, the name Payton is going to fit very well.

Now, I know, coming up with names can be difficult. It’s like naming a child. You want to make sure it works for them when they first come to fruition and when you write their last line. When push comes to shove, you can always use source material. Search online, grab a book, magazine, whatever you have around you to find names. Be careful not to accidentally use the same names in different stories that aren’t meant to have the same characters.

Another tip for names and this isn’t something that I do, but it is a good idea. Write out a long list of possible names for your story that way you will have some if a new character were to pop up. You never know when a random person will appear in your story.

But what will I wear?

Names are fine and dandy, but you still have to know what your character looks like. You need to know things like their age, height, weight, eye color, hair color, race, all those things.

It’s easy to come up with your character based on their social and educational status. The trick comes when they are from specific locals. If you are writing about people in Atlanta, Georgia, you need to know how those people act and speak. Unless you are going for something funny, you want to try to avoid stereotypes of what you think people sound like. That’s where research comes in.

Putting it all together.

You’re going to have characters that come together easily you know them down to their blood type. Then there will be others that you just have a mental image of. No matter how detailed you have your characters, you have to make sure you know them. If you don’t know them, you can’t convey their story. This is especially true if you write in a POV.

One great way to get to know your characters is to answer a bunch of questions from their point of view. This will put you in their mind so that you get to the essence of who they are.

Are they important?

Lastly, you have to figure out if the character gives to your story. Ask yourself what each of your characters mean to your story. This should be something you do for every character, no matter how long or short their time is in your story. All characters should grab your reader’s attention.

If a character isn’t adding something to your story, get them the hell out of there. It’s better to lose a character than make your readers stumble through a scene with confusing characters.

Now, this is by no means the end all be all information for character development. These are just three tips that can help you get started. We will look at more character development information in coming blog posts. But this should get you started.

FYI:

Grab your copy of Loved by Death on Amazon. Make sure you keep an eye on Loved by Death: Book One of The Wolfsbane Chronicles. You never know what kind of sale you might find.