This is a spread specifically designed for those of you who have a concept in mind, but no plot. Or, if you have a character in mind but nothing to do with them, this spread is for you.
This will be a six-card spread, though you will want to use a signifier as well.
I don’t think I need to say it, but make sure you have a pen and paper handy. It’s alright if you aren’t a tarot master or are just getting to know your deck. This is designed to serve as inspiration and to get those creative juices flowing.
When you’re picking your signifier, pick something that represents your character and their mentality, or something that summarizes the theme of your concept. For example, if you have a romance theme, you might pick the 2 of Cups or the Lovers. If you have a survival theme you might chose the 7 or 9 of Wands, or perhaps Strength. If you have a horror theme, you might choose the Devil or 8 of Swords (after all, aren’t all horror genres really about confronting our own monsters in some form or another?)
A good go-to when picking a signifier card is one of the Court Cards, but don’t feel limited to these. I won’t spend time on defining Court Cards, but there are plenty of online sources for you, or another good story-writing source is Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner and Mapping the Hero’s Journey with Tarot by Arwen Lynch. I would also suggest Holistic Tarot by Benebell Wen (read my review of her book here) for a real in depth look at the Court Cards. If you want an online source, check out Toni Allen’s blog entry called, ‘How to Build a Character Profile Using Tarot Cards – The Court Cards.’
As you shuffle, focus on your character or concept. Let the pieces of the story you already have roll around in your mind. I like to shuffle until the cards stop letting me—cards fly out from the pack, I can’t complete the shuffle, I keep dropping them, etc. However, make sure you still have them mixed well, whatever that may mean to you.
The Story Concept Spread
Your first card will go over the signifier card, and then be crossed by your second card. This will represent the Situation and the Problem, respectively. The third card will go to the right of the initial two, and be your Solution. Below these three cards and your signifier, you will put down three more, which will act as your events: Beginning, Middle, and End.
- Act 1/Beginning
- Act 2/Middle
- Act 3/End
If you want further details, you can draw an additional 3 cards per Act or stage of the story if you’d like. From there, I would suggest combining the meanings or reading the cards as a sentence in order to gain the detail, rather than divide the Act into three time segments. Instead, look at the additional cards as elements to go into your act.
I have a concept of a character who is adjusting to a whole new way of life, but suffers from extreme jealousy of both her husband and her mother. That’s my concept, but I’m lacking a plot. So I did the reading, selecting the 10 of Pentacles as my signifier card.
- Card 1, Situation: 9 of Swords (reversed) – holding on to/healing from a hurtful past
- Card 2, Problem: Ace of Wands – New beginnings and lifestyle
- Card 3, Solution: 8 of Cups – Journeying to gain something greater
- Card 4, Beginning: King of Cups (reversed) – jealousy
- Card 5, Middle: Queen of Pentacles (reversed) – dependance
- Card 6, End: 8 of Swords (reversed) – being freed from personal restrictions
The situation is that my character is trying to heal from the past which has allowed her to develop this jealousy (indicated by the King of Cups reversed). However, she’s thrown into this new situation which distracts her from doing this healing because she needs to focus on getting her and her family set up (Ace of Wands), during which she is completely reliant on the very people she’s jealous of.
Because she has just allowed them to look after her and has made no effort to change the situation, this is also her problem. She needs to reflect and analyze her situation (8 of cups), either by physically getting away, or doing personal work in order to realize that she is the only one keeping her in her own position.
The 8 of Swords reversed indicates being released of these shackles she thought bound her and allowing her to move forward.
Taking it a step further, there is the element of Water (Cups) and Air (Swords) competing for dominance, showing that matters of intution and emotion are at odds with profession and intellect. The two people my character has issues with are people she loves deeply, but has a professional jealousy of.
The number 8 is also prominant, with the 8 of Cups and the 8 of Swords, which points to the Strength card, which is using compassion as a means of force, or rather, developing inner strength in order to combat the outer world. Likewise, the number 8 in tarot means
Justice. Judgement. Business and wealth. Success. Abundance, harvest. Manifestation. Fortuity. A repeating pattern of eights in a reading suggests a Seeker who is motivated primarily by material achievement. The Seeker’s objective is material abundance or to be in a position of authority and power (Holistic Tarot by Benebell Wen, p. 434).
This gives me the drive and motivation of my character, which fuels her jealousy.
The overall number of the reading is
9+1+8+14+13+8 = 53
5+3 = 8
8 = Strength
(In case you are wondering, I set the King at 14 as it’s the 4th card from the 10, and the Queen at 13).
Of course, this is a very vague version of what I really got from this. I actually have a lot more details worked out in my head that follow this reading, though as it’s a WIP, I’m not going to get too much into the how and whys and the like.
I gave the very briefest of definitions of the cards. They are of course far deeper than the few keywords that I put forward, and thus providing more directions for the reader to go down regarding their own work in progress.
Have you tried using Tarot for creative writing? Did you give this spread a go? What do you think? Tell me all about it!