Construct + Connect with Your Characters with Tarot
In this blog post, you will find a useful tarot spread for constructing + connecting with your characters!
This spread mostly focuses on your relationship with the character as a writer and how you can best express your ideas through the character you have created. In short, it’s more of a “meta” spread that examines your voice as a writer and how it comes across in your characters. This post will address each position in the tarot spread and provide focus questions + a sample reading to show you how you can utilize the symbolic imageries to explore your own creative intentions and your character’s personality.
If you are already familiar with the 78 cards of tarot, feel free to utilize this spread however you like. If you are still somewhat of a newbie to tarot, don’t worry! As long as you have access to the internet or a handy tarot app that provides you with the basic definition or key words of the card, you should be able to work with the card. The focus questions and sample readings are written in a way that will help you approach and engage with the tarot card, so it’s all good!
For the sample reading, I am going to use this spread to conduct a reading for one of my favourite characters from one of my half-birthed story worlds: Charlie, the third prince of Felinia, an orange tabby who is an obsessive and impulsive eater. He is generally lazy and unmotivated, but has a quiet introspective side that occasionally shines through.
What do you want to express through this character? Looking at the overarching purpose of this character and how this character factors into the overall thematic picture. Or how your voice, your ideas and your sentiments become embodied by your character.
Card Drawn: The Hermit
Key Words: introspection, solitude, wisdom-quest, silence
Focus Questions: Is this an obvious reflection of what you seek to express in this character? If yes, elaborate on how this particular card captures your intentions for this character. How does each key word capture your intentions for your character? If no, consider if this card offers you an alternative perspective that you haven’t considered before.
Sample Interpretation: Yes, this card does reflect what I want to express in this character. Charlie is often judged to be the most incompetent prince for his appearance and diet, and as a result he spends the majority of his time alone (solitude + silence). As somewhat of an outcast despite being royalty, he gains a perspective that is not immediately accessible to his other siblings, who are favoured and well-loved by their people (introspection), and is more quick to realize how certain societal values play a role in shaping their lives as the royal litter (wisdom-quest). As a writer, I am trying to express “don’t judge a book by its cover”, as well as how despite being dependent and insecure, you can still have a “deep side” that is nurtured by the social and psychological negotiations that you have to go through due to your unique circumstance.
What is the defining trait of this character? The core personality or worldview that is embodied by this character. The gist of your character’s personality.
Card Drawn: Five of Cups
Key Words: loss, regret, disappointment, emotional difficulty
Focus Questions: Does this card appear positively or negatively charged? There are cards that can immediately appear to be positive (e.g. The Sun) or negative (e.g. Ten of Swords), but when you approach the card, do you see a glass half full or glass half empty situation?
Sample Interpretation: In Charlie’s case, the card is more positively charged despite being a card that depicts loss and disappointment. Because he is often discriminated against for being a fat cat (cats are supposed to be lean, agile hunters, so the fact that he can’t hunt properly earns him a lot of criticism and disdain from his fellow felines). Of course, he still suffers from his loneliness and the lack of understanding from his peers, but because of his experiences, he is braver and wiser and knows better how to handle emotional pressure and complexity–much better than his peers. He learns how to find peace and is more adept at navigating across emotional waters.
What is something you might want to watch out for while writing this character? This could refer to your own process of writing this character (don’t get too personally involved, stay away from projecting yourself too much into your characters, etc) or it could refer to specific traits or arcs of this character that you need to address.
Card Drawn: Five of Swords
Key Words: conflict, tension, pettiness, defeat
Focus Questions: As soon as you see the card, do you relate it to yourself or to the character? If your immediate attention is directed at yourself, how does it reflect your personal feelings towards the character? If you feel that this card is clearly a representation of your created character, what is it trying to tell you about your character?
Sample Interpretation: I feel that this card is addressed to both me and my character. Having similar fears about being labelled as the “other” (being Asian in a white-dominant society) and having gone through body image issues (though entirely different from Charlie’s–I have never been overweight, but I did struggle with insecurities related to body shapes), I project some aspects of myself into Charlie. One of my fears that my character also share is the fear of not speaking up, and Five of Swords in many ways is about being silenced harshly and shoved aside after somebody has “dropped the mic” on you. It is good to keep in mind that I will not use Charlie to “vent” (getting too personally involved), but as the writer I have to allow Charlie to speak and express himself in his own way to balance his tendency to passively receive the words of others–thus allowing him to evolve.
What does your character want you to know? Probably one of my favourite spread positions. The characters aren’t just our creations on a page (or screen!) they are alive with their desires and personalities, and they have a voice. What does your character want you to know so you do them justice? Or, you know, maybe they have a secret to tell you, a soulful confession and a glimpse into their most vulnerable selves!
Card Drawn: Page of Pentacles
Key Words: planning, learning, productivity, studying
Focus Questions: View this as a message card. If you are having a conversation with your character, and this card is the grand summary of what they have been telling you, what would it be?
Sample Reading: Page of Pentacles is one of the court cards, and manifests as a personality and has a stronger social and interactive quality than the other cards. I think Charlie is telling me that there is a side of him that I haven’t yet explored–what does he do with all his free time? Since he’s not regularly hunting, what would he be doing? Nerding out in the library, of course. And being the cat full of surprises, he of course has an intellectual side to him that other cats don’t expect. Having that said, he isn’t necessarily an expert of the things he reads–it’s definitely something he will love to look into if the palace tutors were a bit nicer to him and value his talents more! (Hence the Page of Pentacles–it’s a “student” card, looking to study more into the field and to expand.)
Food for thought/Insight: use this card to sum up what the other cards have been saying so far, and look to this card for that additional perspective or additional “punch”. It could also offer you something to ponder on for the future.
Card Drawn: Four of Cups
Key Words: boredom, emotional dilemma, aloofness, absorption
Focus Questions: How does this card’s theme connect all your messages together? How does this reveal yet another dimension of your character that you haven’t considered before? How about you as a writer and how you feel about this project you are currently working on?
Sample Reading: Since this isn’t a novel I am writing (it’s a novel I have always wanted to write), I think this card is telling me that I should take this opportunity to really bring this story into life! What am I waiting for!? These characters have been waiting for years, and they still haven’t seen the light of day. It’s encouraging me to consider the creative potential of this story and perhaps go for it. On the other hand, it is also pointing out that Charlie doesn’t really have a clear character drive. Since he is a side character, his “story” hasn’t been completely fleshed out. If I were to embark on this project, I will probably have to develop this character more.