Day 7 of 30-Day Tarot Writing Challenge: Making a Problem

30 Day Tarot Writing Challenge

Woo! A full week of Camp NaNoWriMo and of the 30-Day Tarot Writing Challenge! Well done everyone who has made it this far!

At this point I think that it’s good that we reflect on what we’ve accomplished so far in our piece and look at how it’s going to contribute to the bigger picture of our work.

As I did this, I realized as I pushed my way through the first few scenes, that I really didn’t have anywhere that this story was going. I knew what the first problem was for my main character, and even what the second problem was, but I didn’t know what the over-arching goal of the plot was. I didn’t have a problem that needed to be solved.

I had hoped that as I wrote that the problem would just unfold. Well, it didn’t. I had no idea as to where I was taking this thing.

So I came up with this spread.

Making a Problem Spread

The purpose of this spread is to make sure that your MC’s goals at the beginning contribute to the goal of the plot. Sometimes the smaller goal at the beginning of the book or in the first scene is the same as the bigger picture, but sometimes it isn’t.

Choose a signifier, or three, that represents your MC. I personally picked one for my MC, one card to represent where he’s starting out at, and another card to represent where I’d like him to end, that is, where I’d like his character arch to end up. But if you don’t know where that is, that’s fine. You can just pick a card to represent your MC.

Day 7 Making a Problem

Card 1: Personal Goal

Again, this is going to look at first portion of your story. You need to know what the personal goal is for your MC. This might be internal, this might be external, but really, this is something that your character absolutely knows they want to happen and that they are working toward. It could be as simple as getting to work on time, handing in a paper, asking Ashley out, telling Melanie to piss off, whatever (btw, total Gone with the Wind reference there). Or it can be that hey have to win the trophy, have to save the guy from the burning building. Whatever it is, it is the thing that is driving your character in the beginning.

Card 2: Overall Goal of the Plot

This can be the same as the personal goal of the MC, but essentially this is the Plot. This is what everything is building toward solving. This is thwarting the Empire, rescuing the Princess, getting through the storm on the oil rig—whatever. This card represents the big picture problem/goal.

This Card should be looked at in conjunction with Card 10.

Card 3: Internal Obstacle

This is what’s going on inside the MC that is also hindering the plot. This might be their over-confidence, their self-doubt, their fear, their love of x, y, and/or z.

This Card should be looked at in conjunction with Card 8.

Card 4: External Obstacle

This is what’s outside the character that is preventing them from obtaining the goal of the plot. It might be a person, it might be an event, it might be the weather, but it’s something outside of the MC that is preventing the completion of the goal.

This Card also should be looked at in conjunction with Card 7.

Card 5: Disruption

When the problems arise/the new goal for the plot, it should cause enough of a disruption for the MC that it shakes them out of their daily living and forces them to interact with the problem, or at least acknowledge it. This is the how.

Card 6: Object of Desire

This doesn’t necessarily need to be a physical object, but the thing that the MC hopes to obtain by completing this goal, whether it’s safety for the family, the sanctuary city, the emerald talisman, whatever. This is the proof in the pudding that the goal has been accomplished.

Card 7: What Is Needed

This card represents what it is that the MC needs to develop within them in order to achieve the overall goal. This will contribute to their character arch that should be accomplished within the story as well.

This Card should be looked at in conjunction with Card 3 and with Card 8.

Card 8: How this Contributes

This is a reflection of Card 7, and how it ties into the over-arching problem or goal of the novel. This card will help give you more detail to how this can be achieved.

This Card should be looked at in conjunction with Card 4 and with Card 7.

Card 9: What is at Risk for the MC

When it comes to whether or not to accept the main challenge of the novel, whether they should answer the call to action to save the town, to win the game, to fight the dragon, to weather the storm, there has to be something at risk in order to do this. This is what they are risking by answering the call to action.

Card 10: What Else is at Risk.

This is the opposite of Card 9. Card 10 is what’s at risk if they don’t answer the call to action. The team might lose, the dragon might eat more people, the town might perish. However, this should also tie into the internal goals/obstacles of the MC, thus contributing to their own character arch.

Deeper Look

The cards on the right side of the spread correspond to the external matters. Card 4 is the external obstacle, and Card 8 is how the internal manifests into the external world to solve the External Problem.

The Cards on the left side are the internal matters, where Card 3 looks at the Internal problems while Card 7 looks at what needs to develop internally in order to solve the internal problems. As mentioned before, Card 7 combines with Card 8, and should be read together as well as separately in order to give you the solution to your over-arching problem.

Card 2 should be a bridge between Cards 3 and 4, linking them to be related problems via the plot.

Card 10 links Cards 7 and 8, helping to guide what needs to develop both internally and externally. By knowing what they are having to overcome, that is, what’s at risk by taking on the call to action, then you know what it is that they need to develop internally that will manifest externally to solve the over-arching plot.

Finally, the vertical column of Cards 1, 5, 6, and 9 show the very personal scope of the MC during this ordeal. It gives greater detail as to what they want on a small level, and what they’ll obtain by participating in the bigger goal. It shows what they’ll risk, and what is moving them to take on the call to action.

Check out Day 8: Trials – Yes-But-No-And

My Accountability

So, before we get going, know that I messed up a little bit when I was laying out my cards. As a result the picture doesn’t quite match up with the description, but just bear with me.

I picked the 8 of Pentacles to represent my MC, and a starting and end point for him to end up at. I’m not too confident on it being where I want my MC to end up, but I picked the Ace of Coins to begin and the 10 of Pentacles to end up. He’s wanting his finances to grow, and to leave a legacy. That’s his personal goal, though, not necessarily his character arch.


Card 1: Personal Goal

For my MC’s personal goal (my MC is named Percyval, since I know you were itching to know), I have the Knight of Pentacles, which goes along nicely for what I set out as his personal goal with the signifier cards.

Card 2: Overall Goal of the Plot

I kind of got a little bit annoyed at this card, though of course it’s not the card’s fault. In the past I keep getting the 2 of Pentacles regarding Percyval. He juggles jobs, works hard, has to keep balance, or at least, wants to balance everything. So, when I got Temperance for this position, I just had to roll my eyes. More balance.

But seeing as this is a Major Arcana, there is a deeper need for it, a balance of higher and lower things. Right now Percyval is looking at monetary goals, but he needs to be able not only to attain higher things, but balance between the two.

Card 3: Internal Obstacle

Percyval’s internal problem is that the 9 of Pentacles reversed. Now, if you’ve been reading My Accountability at all, you might have caught on that I associate the 9 of Pentacles with the lady in the garden, that is, the woman who Percyval makes a deal with to help him.

So his Internal Obstacle is not necessarily the woman herself, but what she opens up within him. As much as I said I wouldn’t do it, I think he’s going to resist developing a thing for her, but in will have to acknowledge his feelings for later on. So basically, his Internal Obstacle is that he has and emotional blockage of the romantic kind.

Day 7 30 Day Tarot Writing Challenge
Card 4: External Obstacle

The World. That was my card. The World. The World is the problem. Again, I had to shake my head at this. However, then I thought about Robert Wan’s description of the World in Tarot Psychology, which deals with the Jungian Tarot. He writes:

One of the catch phrases of Western mysticism is “as above, so below.” In this regard, The World contains all of the active elements that were potential in The Magician. Here is the totality of the individual in a world where opposites are expressed with the greatest polarity. The card describes the waking consciousness, and the mechanisms of the public self, the Persona, which each individual develops to deal with society (p.49).

The External Obstacle is that nothing is as it seems. There are hidden things, masks, essentially, being worn.

In my story, Percyval makes a deal with the woman in the garden to help with a task. Seemingly unrelated, people are disappearing. The deal and the disappearance of people are related, though Percival needs to work that out.

Card 5: Disruption

For how the External and Internal Obstacles disrupt my MC, I got the Wheel of Fortune. No, they don’t bring good luck, and no, it’s not just how that rolls (which is sometimes how I interpret the Wheel). The Wheel is being turned by a devil, and I think that’s the key. Way back in one of the first readings, I had the Magician and the Devil pinned against each other as far as how Percival developed. Specifically, it was what made him have to deal with the thing he wanted to avoid in the first scene. But, since it worked out nicely, he’ going to essentially be torn between good an evil, right and wrong, so and so forth.

So that there is a little devil on the Wheel says that it’s the knowledge that he’s been dealing with a darker entity that is going to move the story forward. It will be a conscience thing that disrupts him, though this disruption might not appear until later in the story.

Card 6: Object of Desire

Day 7 30 Day Tarot Writing Challenge

What the end goal is for my MC is the 8 of Wands reversed. In the basic outline of the story, this was the theme for the second half of the story (which, by the way, since doing that reading, I have turned all the cards upright and shuffled read with them several times and let them turn organically over the week). I’m considering that there have been eight people who have gone missing, and thus, the second half of the book and the Object of Desire, is to find/solve the mystery of the eight people.

Card 7: What is Needed

What Percyval needs to develop is the Knight of Cups. This relates back to the Internal Obstacle of needing to acknowledge his development of feeling for the woman in the garden. He needs to find some form of romance within him. By doing so, he’s gaining an understanding and realization of the world around him, which allows him to have some accountability for his actions. We learn about ourselves when we share ourselves with other people. The people we choose to surround ourselves with, to give part of us to, is a reflection of us. Thus, in developing these romantic feelings, and allowing himself to develop these romantic feelings, he’s gaining a wider picture of the world he lives in and the consequences his actions have had (again, related to the missing people).

This relates back to the very first reading when we were doing our NaNoWriMo prep work, and Act III was represented by the Lovers. I still view this as a card of choice. However, as things have developed, the woman in the garden is going to be my villain.

The final decision he has to make is going to be a decision of the heart and of ethics. Does he choose who he loves who is also the baddy, or does he choose what is right and thus thwarting the baddy?

Card 8: How this Contributes

This might seem like an anticlimactic and even completely off card, but I think that the 4 of Cups works for how this contributes. There is an element of leaving behind the new and taking on something new. There are three cups that are before him that are boring him, but behind him there is something new. Now, I think that it’s less of a matter of being bored, but being stuck on these three things. But there is another option, and that option is that he develops beyond himself, and thus sees the bigger picture.

Card 9: What’s at Risk

If Percyval takes on the Call to Action, he’s going to be loaded up with sticks. He’s got the 10 of Wands. He’s going to have a lot on his plate, and as a result, it might take him away from his initial goal. It takes him out of his daily living. But when he realizes this is the case, he doesn’t really have a choice.

Card 10: What Else is at Risk

However, if he doesn’t take on the challenge is the inability to develop that sense of external self, as seen by the Page of Cups.

How’s your WIP going so far? have you managed to keep up the momentup thus far? It’s alright if not, Camp NaNoWriMo is a toughie! But the more you try, the easier it gets, I promise.

Here’s some helpful links if you find that you’re stuck at all:


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