Saturday, June 26, 2010

Tarot for Writers

Tarot for WritersTarot is so wrapped in mysticism that it comes across like a magical code to access another realm. It often seems if you don't lay the cards in the exact right positions, you might as well be laying out Pokemon cards in random ways and just making the whole thing up since it wouldn't be a real key.

And should upside down cards be treated as reversed in meaning or turned upright? It depends which author you read. How could it not make a difference? Oh, but they say, your choice will effect how the cards fall.

Those are cool, mystical concepts for stories but it felt like a barrier to finding new ways to use Tarot for other than personal questions.

Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner presents the cards in more practical language. They're not offered as ways to channel mystical knowledge from a realm beyond our understanding. They're offered as ways to tap the unique connections between random ideas that we each have and may be barely aware of. They're used as ways to get your thoughts out of standard ruts and jazz them up with new ideas sparked by random elements.

She covers the standard spreads and how they can be used for characters and stories. But she also -- and this is very helpful for those who are a bit rule bound ::cough cough:: -- delves into some writing concepts and lays cards out for them. She describes the spread, then an example of how some cards could be read in the spread, and some writing exercises.

For example, to create a protagonist, antagonist, protagonist's foil, antagonist's foil and supporting character, you lay out one card for each.

To create a character's physical description, you lay out one card each for age, ethnicity, height, weight, hair, birthmarks, clothing style .... and so on, getting as detailed as you want. (You could use cards to fill out one of the character questionnaires I've posted here. (Click on Character Development on the right hand side.)

To create a story, you can lay 3 cards: beginning, middle and end. Or lay them out in a pyramid of 7 cards to represent Exposition, Inciting Force, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, Resolution, Denoument.

She covers several approaches each to character creation, story line and plot, setting and description. She provides various techniques to use cards to break writer's block. There are games for writers' groups. There are poetry sparks, both for content and form.

The big barrier, and this is true of all uses of Tarot, is there's a fairly steep learning curve involved in becoming familiar with the ideas tied to each card. Of course you can always use your own interpretation! You don't need to use the traditional associations. If a guy on a horse makes you think "Road trip!" for your characters, go for it :-)
TIP: Use Facade's Tarot Reading. Choose a spread with the same number of cards as the one you want to use from the book. The widget will provide the meanings.
To help with that learning curve, at the beginning of the book, she offers some good generalizations to help you get started. For instance she says all the wand cards deal with spiritual experience, cups deal with emotions, swords with thought and communication and pentacles with the physical and financial realm.

The cards she uses in the book have pictures for the Minor Arcana as well as the Major Arcana which not all decks have. The pictures would help the learning curve a lot! Instead of trying to connect 5 cups to flowing life, spilled milk, the 5 stages of grief and so forth, the images on the cards jog your memory.

The last two thirds of the book are a detailed description of each card in the Major and Minor Arcana. Each card has Key Symbols, Keywords and Writing practice. The Major Arcana also get Myth and Legend, Astrological Associations, Literary Archetypes, and the card's connection to writing.


Anonymous said...

I got this book for my birthday and it has helped with ideas for characters and ideas when I was stuck! I am even making my own layouts and stuff.

You may have to co some tweaking because not all decks look like the Rider Waite.


Joyce Fetteroll said...

Thanks for the tip! That's a good point. The imagery on other decks will be different.