Before we begin…
In this post, you will find a couple of useful exercises to help you jump-start your tarot writing journey. Each exercise contains two parts: the first part serves as the primary exercise, while the second aims to aid you in engaging deeper. The exercises are designed to guide your mental and interpretative process and are meant to be progressive, but feel free to pick and choose where you dip your toes in the water.
Relating the tarot card to a story moment or movie scene
In Part One of the Tarot Writing Series: Introduction, we have already looked at The Tower, the sixteenth card of the Major Arcana, which is a card about foundational changes, paradigm shifts, and emotional/traumatic reactions from these changes. We have also looked at several iconic story moments and movie scenes that embody the spirit of The Tower, such as Oedipus’s tragic realization, Luke Skywalker’s sudden knowledge of his relationship to Darth Vader, and the sacking of Troy.
For this exercise, think about what The Tower represents, as well as the kind of moment that would be considered a “Tower” moment. Is there a moment like the examples above, in a story you have read or a movie you have watched? Can you think of more examples other than Oedipus, Luke Skywalker and Troy?
If you wish to engage with a different tarot card using the following exercise, by all means do so. 🙂 Maybe you feel like this card is too dramatic and does not speak to you–that is totally fine! There are 77 other cards to choose from! I would recommend that you choose a card from the 22 cards of the Major Arcana. The Major Arcana represents “bigger moments” in life. They are archetypal in nature and they are easier to work with if you’re just beginning on your tarot journey. 🙂
Exercise #1.1: On a blank piece of paper, write down three more “Tower” moments, as well as why you consider them to be Tower moments.
Exercise #1.2: If you feel like digging deeper–think about the other possibilities of a Tower moment. This does not necessarily have to be in a story or a film. If you are trying to portray a Tower moment, what kind of scene or story would you write?
Expanding and exploring the image of The Tower as a whole
Now that you have brainstormed a few Tower moments, take a few moments to engage with the image of The Tower. What is your impression of the card? What can you say about the artwork, or the style of the artwork? What do you think the image is trying to capture? What does it remind you of?
Exercise 2.1: On a blank piece of paper, do a free-association exercise. There is no need to come up with something “profound”; simply explore and take in the details of this card, and write down your observations. For example:
- Dark backdrop–scary
- Artwork is very stark and powerful
- The Tower= unexpected disaster that destroys everything you know
Exercise 2.2: To dig deeper, think about The Tower as a story’s “middle”. A story has a beginning, middle and end. If The Tower is the “middle”, what would the beginning had been? What would its ending be and how would it conclude? What are the possible moments leading up to this point? What would be the moments that ensue?
Engaging with specific images in The Tower card
For this exercise, look at the image of The Tower. Allow your eyes to wonder as you absorb the various parts of the image. Don’t think too much; allow your thoughts and feelings to flow. Which part of the card are you drawn to? Is it the lightning? The crumbling structure? The people falling out of the tower? The expressions on their faces? The dark sky and backdrop? The barren landscape?
This is not a race, so give yourself time to absorb the details of the card. Do you find yourself gravitating towards one thing? Do you feel strongly towards a particular part of this card? Whatever your thoughts and associations are, allow them to emerge naturally from you.
Exercise #3.1: Isolate one thing from The Tower card. Do a free-association session in which you “branch out” from that particular image. Use a mind-map and track your ideas with a graph, or brainstorm using textual methods such as a list or free-writing. For example: people falling- gravity-broken bones-pain-hospital.
Exercise #3.2: If you feel like digging deeper, here is the second part of exercise 3. Symbolism and figurative language are tools writers frequently use to enhance meaning. What are the symbolic possibilities for the image you picked? For example: people falling-mental/emotional disorientation, powerlessness, letting go, inevitability, a hero’s downfall, abandonment, exile, a literal accident.
And the moment you’ve been waiting for…time to start writing!
Finally, the moment you have been waiting for. 🙂 It is time to start writing, using a tarot card as prompt! By now, you should have developed a basic understanding as well as relationship with The Tower card (or whichever card you picked!). If you have gone through all of the exercises, it is likely that you have a scene inside of your head already. When you write, don’t worry about structure, don’t worry about diction. Treat it like a free-writing exercise, and just stop whenever you feel like it. No time limit, no set word-count, just flow.
Here are a couple of suggestions and prompts based on the Tower card:
- Write about the archetypal “Tower” moment in storytelling in which a character is forced to go through a violent transformation either as a consequence of his/her own actions, a result of unforeseeable circumstances, or a necessary moment of dramatic education.
- Write from the perspective of one of the figures that are falling out of the tower. Who are they? What have they done (or haven’t done)? Why are they falling out of a tower? What are their relationship with each other, if any? What is going through their minds as they fall?
- Write from the third-person omniscient perspective and address the various images and objects on the card. How do they contribute to the overall dynamic? Is there one image or object that is more powerful or more important than the other? Together, what do they represent? (E.g. Where did the lightning come from? The crown? Where is the tower located and what kind of tower is it?)
- Write about what preceded The Tower. What may have contributed to this dramatic scene to take place? What is the history behind this moment? What is its past?
- Write about what ensues after The Tower. What happened after this scene has taken place? What are the consequences of The Tower? Are the lessons, if any, learned? What is its future?
- Write a poem utilizing one or more images present on the card, tapping into their symbolic representation and possibilities.
Thank you for reading thus far! You have reached the end of The Tarot Writing Series: Introduction [Part Two]. However, this is not the end of the Tarot Writing Series. Stay tuned (subscribe? 🙂 ) for more Tarot Writing goodness and writing exercises/prompts! 🙂