K. M. Weiland put it perfectly when said something to the effect of ‘theme is the why to the plot’s how.’ What this means is that the theme of the plot is the reason the story you’re telling is important.
Why is it important that the lovers get together in the end? Because love wins (theme). Why is it important that the good triumphs over evil? Because good will always prevail (theme). Why must there be survivors at the end of a horror story? Because we must know humanity wins over chaos (theme).
So, today’s spread is less of a spread, and more of an exercise, though it will still involve tarot. However, unlike the other spreads and writing prompts, we are going to do less of determining what a card means by what the images inspire in us, and more of strictly looking at the definition and messages of the ending card.
Step 1: Day 0
We are going to go back to the prep-work exercise on Day 0 when we created a vague outline involving the 3 acts, and the theme for the first half of the story and the theme for the second half of the story.
If you haven’t done this for your story, take a moment and do this spread, maybe see how your story fits in with the cards you lay out.
Step 2: Add them Together
Now, you’re going to add all the cards that you got for this spread. Look at the numbers corresponding to each card, and add them together.
If you have Court Cards in your spread, I personally subscribe to the system of carrying on the count after the ten:
- Pages/Princesses = 11
- Knights = 12
- Queens = 13
- Kings = 14
The suits don’t make for a different level or form of number, so don’t worry about that. Just look at the number corresponding to the card. You should be adding six different cards together (we aren’t including the signifier in this).
Step 3: Reduce
Once you have your number, unless you got nothing but upper-end Major Arcana, I don’t think you’ll have anything higher than a 2-digit number. Whatever your number ends up being, add all the digits together to create a single digit, or to get the number to 21 and below.
For example, if your number is 67, then you would add 6 + 7 to get 13, Death. You can keep this as a theme or, you can further reduce the number to 4 (1 + 3 = 4). However, if you do choose to do this, then I would recommend using a combination of the two cards, or look and see how they’re related as you develop your theme.
Step 4: Look at the Major Arcana
As you might have gathered from the last step, you’re going to now use this number to get to the corresponding Major Arcana card. Read about it, journal about it, look at it in as many different ways as you can, and from that, determine the theme of your story.
The Major Arcana in the Tarot are the major lessons and events that we have to learn. If you learn about the journey of the Fool, you’ll see the character arch that the Fool has experience through each of the Major Arcana cards. Thus, each card contains a powerful theme that is relatable through different stages of life and learning.
This is why this is a very powerful exercise when considering your story and the bigger picture, big question, WHY.
On my Day 0, the cards I got were:
- 3 of Cups reversed (3)
- Queen of Pentacles (14)
- Lovers (6)
- Ace of Pentacles (1)
- 8 of Wands reversed (8)
- High Priestess reversed (2)
This leaves me with the grand equation of
3 + 14 + 6 + 1 + 8 + 2 = 40
4 + 0 = 4
Thus, for me, my over-all theme is the Emperor IV. The Emperor represents structure and fatherly figures. There is an element of authority and stability in the message of the Emperor.
Thus, when I’m considering my story, I need to know that the overarching theme is finding stability through chaos, order in disorder, and personal authority.
Have you already decided on your theme? Any thoughts on how to tie in your theme to your plot? Any struggles on getting it to do so? Leave a comment, let’s discuss it!
Here are some helpful links: