Alright! Day 3 and we are already a tenth of the way there! Go you!
If you haven’t had a chance to check out the previous days, You can go to the Challenge Page and get caught up.
Now that you have your story going, it’s time to consider some details about your character. We did a general outline of your character in the Day 0 Prep Work, but we should really take the time to flesh them out. I already have a post on character development, but I wanted to look not just at the depth of the character, but how they are with other people.
Who we are on the inside is only half of who we are. We are also reflected in the people we interact with and how we interact with them. Our own personal character can be observed externally if one pays close enough attention. It’s like that saying of you know the truth of a person by how they treat their servers.
So, to help bring your character to life, you need people in your story that your character interacts with to help the reader gain a better understanding of who they’re reading about.
External Character Spread
If you haven’t already, designate a card that corresponds to your main character. This is about how you feel the character resonates with a card, so this is down entirely to you. It could be that your character is a wizard, and thus you might pick the Magician to represent your character. Or, you might go by looks and have a character with dark features with a strong emotional side, so you might choose the Queen of Pentacles. Likewise, the story might be about a person making it big, and having to learn a particular skill to do so, and thus the 8 of Pentacles might suit your character.
It doesn’t matter. You do what you think is right for your signifier.
For this spread, we are going to make six characters, though you can absolutely do more if you’d like. We are going to pull for two family members, two friends, and two work-related people. The latter can be people in the sphere of what the character is trying to accomplish, rather than work, if that doesn’t fit. For example, if it’s a book about sports, the last two characters could be on their sports team, or if they’re in school it could be classmates, etc.
These are going to be two family members. Column 1 will be one family member while Column 2 will be another. Column 3 and 4 will be friends, and Column 5 and 6 will be work-related.
Each row will talk about a different way that the person of that column responds or views your main character.
Row 1 is the general quality of relationship this character has with your main character (MC). Just because they’re friends, or just because they’re family, doesn’t necessarily mean they have a particularly healthy or loving relationship. Plenty of people have toxic people in their lives, and this gives you the chance to see what kind of people your MC puts up with in their life.
Row 2 is what the character loves or admires about the MC. For the friends, this might be the reason they keep the MC around, for work-associates, it could be something that makes working with them pleasant. If they have a negative relationship, it could be something that they envy.
Row 3 is what about your MC gets on the character’s nerves. It doesn’t matter how much we love our friends, our partners, our siblings, our co-workers, everyone has something annoying about them that really bugs them. This is the chance to see what that is, thus helping you develop your MC even more.
Cards 7, 8, and 9
So this is an opportunity to develop how your characters relate to each other. These cards represent how the two family members interact (Card 7), how the two friends interact (Card 8), and how the two co-workers interact (Card 9).
This can get fun. It might be that these characters don’t know each other at all—maybe one of the family members is estranged, thus they don’t have a relationship with the other family member, but instead might have a hope or an idea of how they might interact. Get creative with this one!
After you’ve read through the cards for each individual character, hopefully shaping a little bit of who they are in relation to your main character, take a step back and pay attention to the rows.
While the rows are going to tell you about the people in your main character’s life and how they see the world, they are also going to tell you the good things and annoying or bad things about your character. They’re going to show where they get too cocky, where they’re too nice that it seems suspicious, where they are aggressive, too clingy, and so on.
Another thing that you can do if you want to see if and how each category of people are related is to add the numbers of Cards 7 and 8, 7 and 9, or 8 and 9 together and reduce them to a single number to get a representing Major Arcana.
For example, if you want to know the relationship between the MC’s friends and family, you would add Cards 7 and 8 together. If those cards were the 4 of Wands and the 9 of Cups, then you would add 4 + 9 to get 13, which would reduce to 4 (1 +3), corresponding to the Emperor.
Since my character is a crafter, and because I’ve used this card to signify them in the past, I’m continuing on with the 8 of Pentacles as my signifier card.
Family Member 1
To represent the first family member, I got the 9 of Wands. I got that they’re a bit old and crotchety, perhaps always on guard. With the second family member I got (I’ll get to that in a minute), I concluded that they were both in a war, and thus have some residual tension.
The thing they love about my MC is that they’re always full of new ideas (Page of Swords), and it seems refreshing. But what bugs them about my MC is that they take on way too much, and always seem to be juggling things (2 of Pentacles).
Family Member 2
My second family member for my MC is represented by the 9 of Swords, and thus, is someone who suffers from past trauma. My first thought on these two 9’s was that the 9 of Wands was a masculine figure and the Swords was a feminine figure, but a good way to create something interesting is to throw out your first idea. If you really want to get creative, throw out your second idea as well. I had thought I might make them both women, but I’m still tinkering with how I can make this the case.
What this family member loves about the MC is that they’re a really hard worker (10 of Wands), but what annoys them is that the MC is always looking to expand and take on more, essentially (3 of Wands).
Relationship Between Family Members
This is the Emperor, which says to me that they are the head of the household. Keeping in mind that my World-Building Spread yielded an environment in which there are regular re-partnerings, I don’t think that this is a standard parent situation. I have a couple options here:
- It’s a case of father and step mother (or mother and step mother, or father and step father)
- It is a father and mother positioning, but in different houses
But since the Emperor is their relationship, and not their positioning, I think that I’m going to say they are both the head of the same house. What’s more, they’re both head strong, and want to take the lead, so to speak, as head of said house. Thus there’s some head-butting (as rams are want to do).
My main character’s first friend is represented by the Chariot, and thus, is a traveler. I don’t know yet if they’re going to be a traveler in the sense of what we have as modern day travelers, or if they’re going to be someone who travels for a living because they’re a merchant or something along those lines. Either way, movement is something they love and enjoy, and will happily do it until their last breath.
What they love about the MC is that the MC is always down to try something new, and is always looking for the next great thing (8 of Cups). What really bugs them about the MC is that they go through bouts of depression that the friend just doesn’t get. They see the MC as a Debbie downer from time to time, and will generally leave the MC to it during these states.
This person is represented by the King of Cups. The nice thing about this character is that they’re represented by a Court Card, which in theory should make this easier. But I don’t want to play into stereotypes of the cards, too much at least. So I think that this person is a potion merchant, and specializes in black market love potions.
What they love about the MC is that they seem to know a lot. Because they’re open to new experiences, they do a lot of things, and thus they seem to know a lot (The World). What bugs them about the MC is that they have a really good family life (4 of Wands). It doesn’t matter how many rotations that have gone through the family, they always seem to keep it together and get along really well, and it reflects the crappiness of their own family life, or lack thereof—which serves as an irony since they sell love potions.
Relationship Between Friends
This card is Judgement. I thought I might take the image of this a little bit more literally, and say that they play music together. Really good music, and are known for it in the area.
They get along because neither of them adhere to the law of the land, which is the marriage-swapping thing. Friend 1’s excuse is that they are only in the land part time, and thus they don’t need to partner accordingly. The second friend just simply can’t seem to make anything work, and thus, while they are married, they never participate in the marriage, to the extent that they never had children.
Business/Work Associate 1
This person is a worrier, as represented by the 8 of Swords. They are strict to the letter of the rules, and are somewhat of a conspiracy theorist.
They dig the same thing they despise about the main character, as represented by the Page and Knight of Cups. They think that the MC is ridiculously friendly, and it’s somewhat suspicious, yet it’s additionally annoying because on some level, this associate can’t help but like the MC.
Business/Work Associate 2
Of course, of course! Just to tie in to basically all of my readings, I got the 9 of Pentacles. And unfortunately, I can only ever see this card as the initial character that the MC is going to make a deal with, the woman in the garden. Since there is a deal going on with her, I think it is very safe to classify her as a business associate.
What she finds appealing about the MC is the King of Wands, the passion that drives the MC. They want what they want and are willing to do what it takes to get it. But annoys her about my main character is that they have too many new ideas (Ace of Swords), and it makes them scattered. Thus, while driven, they can’t keep to one task.
The Relationship Between Work Associates
I got the Hermit for this placement, which tells me that these two people don’t actually know each other. They’re separate, which is fine by me.
The Bigger Picture
What I’ve gained from Row A is that my main character is industrious, very hard working, open to new experiences, always on the move, passionate and friendly. These are my good qualities for my character.
What I have from Row B is that they take on too much, exhaust themselves to the point of depression, are really likable and have a good family life, and are scatter-brained.
I might draw a few more cards for negative traits for my character, though I’ll do that in my character development spread. As it sounds to me so far, my main character is a little bit of a Mary Sue, that is, a character who’s only flaw is that they care too much, if that makes sense. They’re the type of character who has no flaws that they can overcome. I don’t want that, so I’ll have to be adding some more traits.
I don’t know how much I want to use this, but I’ll put it down just in case, if for no other reason than for an example. But the relationship between family and friends is represented by either the Lovers (Emperor (4) + Judgement (20) = 6) which is quite interesting. That could be that either a choice must be made by the main character between the two, or it could literally be the lovers in that there have been affairs or past relationships within the dynamic.
The relationship between the family and associates is The Emperor (Emperor (4) + Hermit (9) = 13/4) or possibly Death. I personally don’t really see any need for there to be a connection there, other than that Death is what represented the opposition to the re-marrying customs, and I had been toying with the idea that the woman in the garden’s family would be those in opposition, or maybe just she, herself would be in opposition to it. So there is that connection.
Then the last relationship dynamic is between the friends and the work associates, which is Justice or the High Priestess (Judgement (20/2) + Hermit (9) = 29/11/2). I think that could be apt, that there’s an element of judginess between the two groups, though I don’t think it’s necessary for my story. There’s little need for the two to overlap as it stands so far.
How is your cast going? How’s Camp NaNoWriMo going?
Keep me posted in the comments on how your story is evolving, even if you’re not doing the spreads. I love to hear writers’ WIPs.
Here are a few helpful links:
- Day 0: Prep Work
- Day 1: Opening Scene
- Day 2: World-Building
- Day 4: 3-Act Life Spread
- Character Development Spread
- Protagonist vs. Antagonist Spread
- Story Conept Spread