I just don’t think it’s fair to start Camp NaNoWriMo without some direction of where you’re going. So I thought that today we would somewhat set the stage for our Fool. This is just giving the story a little bit of a guideline so you have a vague idea as to where this is going.
First of all, you’ll want to start off by developing your character. There are plenty of ways of doing this, and I have a spread just for that. However, if you’re somewhat of a pantser when it comes to writing, you’ll want to discover your character as you go along.
Again, you’ll still want some form of outline for your character, just a general shape to get them going in that first scene. I’ve got a vague outline spread just for you.
For this spread, you’re going to separate out the Major Arcana and use the Fool as your signifier. This is more for you than it is for your character. It is for you to be open to what your character might be.
Put your Major Arcana aside and shuffle the Minor Arcana. If you have a genre in mind that you want to write in, think of this genre as you do so.
Now, lay out three cards in a vertical line, starting at the bottom, to the right of your signifier card.
- Card 1: Current position in life
- Card 2: Wants in your first scene
- Card 3: Avoiding in your first scene
Now take your Major Arcana, and shuffle them, focusing on these three cards. When you’re ready, Draw 2 cards.
- Card A: is going to be either the event that is resonating still in your first scene, or it’s going to be what’s kicking off the first scene.
- Carb B: is going to be what is making your MC’s Wants and Avoidance clash. How they meet up.
With what you learn in this spread, you can just keep it in mind for the first scene, or you can let it resonate through the entirety of the story. Even though you’re using the Major Arcana in here, it doesn’t mean they have to be big events. They can be as simple as a scene involving a mother (Empress), demolition of the building next door (Tower), graduation (The World). Or it can be something big, such as finding out your MC is starting a family (Empress), the building next door being demolished damages the building your MC is in (Tower), or graduation (The World)—common, that last one can be a massive event, or something you just go through.
So here’s where you get the basics of your outline. This is going to be really simple, but we’re going to also work on getting it more detailed through the simplicity. Are you ready? I think you might slap me for this one, but just bear with me.
We are going to do a 3-card reading:
- Beginning/Act 1
- Middle/ Act 2
- End/Act 3
I told you you’d want to slap me.
But wait for it. There’s two additional steps to this. I’ll lay it all out for you.
Step 1: The Acts
Keep your Fool out, but shuffle all of your cards together—Major and Minor Arcana mixed together, and a good shuffle on. It might be helpful to divvy the cards up into three or four piles to help mix them up, then shuffle them.
We’re going to use the same format as before when laying them out.
The first three cards are your Beginning, Middle, and End. When you’re doing this, pull all your resources—look at the literal images being shown you, look at the symbolism, the elements, the number meanings, and finally, at the end of it, tap into your definitions.
Spend some time thinking about how these can all run together to create a complete story.
Step 2: Halves
So now what we’re going to do is create the themes of for the first half of the book and for the second half of the book. Shuffle your cards again, though of course leaving out the ones you’ve already laid out.
Pull out two more, placing them in the same positions as A and B in the last spread.
- Card A is going to be the theme of the first half of the book, the lead up to the climax.
- Card B is going to be the theme of the second half of the book, the calm down after the climax.
As you look at these cards, also see them as the blenders of the acts. Look at how Card A blends Act 1 and 2 together, smoothing them out. Look at how Card B blends Act 2 and 3 together.
Step 3: The Climax
You’re going to take the remainder of your cards and remove the remaining Major Arcana. Set the Minor Arcana aside, and shuffle the Majors, focusing on what you have now.
When you’re ready, draw a final Card, and set it in opposition to your signifier, as Card C. This card represents the climax of your story. This is going to be the thing that your MC has to strive to, face, defeat at the top of the mountain. This is what it’s all working toward.
Right, so you have your Acts, your themes, and your climax. If you really want to be prepared, you can figure out the over-all theme of your story right here, right now.
Take a look at all of the cards you have laid out for your plot (not your character). Have a look at all the numbers in them. If you have some court cards, you can choose to ignore them, or you can carry on the count from 10, which is what I do.
- Pages = 11
- Knights = 12
- Queens = 13
- Kings = 14
Add all the Major and Minor Arcana together, and then reduce down to a single-digit number. To do this, look at the number all your cards added up to, and if it’s two digits, then you add them together. For example, if you get 27, then you would add 2+7 and get 9. However, if you get say 28, then adding them together yields 10, in which case you would add the digits together again.
Look at the Major Arcana card this number corresponds to. For example, 9 is the Hermit (as is numbered on the card itself). 1 is the Magician. However, if you have a number that you have to reduce twice as with the number 10, then you can either a) use both the Magician and the Wheel of Fortune (for example), or pick between the two of them.
The card that you get or choose to use in this situation is the theme of your whole plot. It is the lesson that must be learned, the virtue that is tested, the walls that must be broken.
We are going to do the same thing with your character. Add the numbers together in the way that was instructed above.
In doing so, the resulting number is the arch that your character must complete within the story. This is what they have to strive toward or break down in order to grow.
Right, so as promised, I’ll be participating alongside with the #30DayTarotWritingChallenge. I thought about it, and I decided that the genre I want to write in is fantasy. I haven’t written fantasy in a good long while, so I thought I’d give it a go this time around.
Card 1: 8 of Pentacles – my Character is just working on their craft. They make horse saddles, though they’re not good enough to go out on their own, they’re working at honing in their skills.
Card 2: 6 of Wands – he wants success. My goodness, that card was almost a little too easy. But I’ll flesh out what success means for my character a little later.
Card 3: 2 of Swords – There’s an impossible decision that has to be made.
Card A: The Magician – I think I might actually take this literally. This card is going to be a magical individual who makes an offer to my character, that has them torn.
Card B: The Devil—too perfect! I promise I just dealt these cards. So The Devil is about temptation and is likewise about the fears that bind you and stop you from moving.
For my character, I think it’s going to be the Magician and the Devil combined that’s going to make the 2 of Swords happen for him. The Magician is going to offer something he cant refuse, and the Devil is going to scare him so bad that he wants to refuse the Magician’s offer. In the end, my character is going to have to use their gut to make the decision.
Card 1: Beginning – 3 of Cups reversed
So thinking about my poor character having to make a decision, the story begins with the reversed 3 of Cups. Now, to me this sounds like my inciting incident. This is the party being forced to end, there were good times, but now something has changed, and the good times have been toppled over. Wine is spilled, and the MC is forced into the 2 of Swords position. They have to make a decision.
Card 2: Middle – The Queen of Pentacles
Oh man, this one is a little bit harder. I’m going to have to make some decisions here. So the theme of the middle is going to be the Queen of Pentacles, at least, how I see it any way. Either it’s going to revolve around a character who is represented by the QoP, or, there is the figurative matter of the Queen of Pentacles at hand.
Card 3: End: — the Lovers
So I think I lucked out again here. Considering in the beginning my character is faced with not wanting to make a decision, the ending of the story involves a much larger decisions. Sure I could see the Lovers as an actual card about romance, but I think it is far more poetic to link it back to the thing my character didn’t want to do at the beginning of the story.
Card A: Ace of Pentacles
The Ace of Pentacles tells me that my theme for the first half of the book, the thing that melts the fist act into the second act is material wealth. This seems to work. So whatever the Magician has to offer, it puts my character in a position in which they are after wealth. This also corresponds nicely with the Queen of Pentacles as well.
Card B: 8 of Wands Reversed
The theme for the second half is not just the 8 of Wands, which is action and swift movement, but the reverse of this. Tarditionally, I would interpret this card as delays, and I suppose that can work for the down hill of a story, but I think that since the Climax isn’t directly in the center of the book, that I need something a little bit different.
The 8 of Wands is Air meeting fire, it stokes the fire and makes it burn hot. This is why it’s such an action packed card. However, fire can devour air, and I think this is the theme of the story. It’s a matter of the energy that is within the character which is taking over, making it difficult for my MC to think. It is energy overpowering the mind, which also corresponds to the Magician and the Devil combined—the powers that the Magician might have brought into the story are clouding the MC’s mind, bringing forth the MC’s fears.
Card C: Climax—The High Priestess reversed
The High Priestess is the feminine counterpart to the Magician. She represent intuition, the inner self, listening to the voice within. However, she is reversed in this position. I think that the climax of my story will have to do with a distorted and incorrect inner voice. The more and more I think about this, the more I think that the real story is about my main character gaining powers and going mad, and having to battle reality, or rather, understand what reality is.
For my plot, my numbers are 3, 13, 6, 1, 6 and 2. This adds up to 30, or 3, which is the Empress. The Empress is my theme for the plot. I quite like this. This is the positive nurturing aspect within us, and I think that the theme of the whole story is about finging the inner strengths and balance and nurturing the self so that the MC can handle what’s to come.
The Character’s numbers are 8, 6, 2, 1 and 15. This adds up to 34, or 7. This is the Chariot. Oh, I like this. The Chariot is about moving forward with higher information. The lessons that are learned in this will propel the character into actions for a much higher calling…I smell a sequel already.
I now have the basics of story, at least, I have enough that when it comes time to start laying the cards tomorrow, I’m all over it. I can lay the cards and pump out my 1,000 words no problem.
If you’re a pantser or you’re a planner, either way it’s good to have some semblance of an idea of a direction that you want to go when you start out something like NaNoWriMo. Try to get an outline going, just a vague one. It will absolutely help you when you get stuck later on.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? What do you find usually works best for you?
You can jump to Day 1 here if you haven’t already, and be sure to subscribe to catch each day as the spreads roll out. Don’t forget to keep me updated–I want to know how this is working out for you.
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