Exploring the Writer’s Subconscious: Writing & the Tarot

(Cross-posted from Write Club)

As a writer, you think I would know everything about my characters, from the color of their hair to their backgrounds, even their hopes and fears. Wrong. You see, I don’t “create” my characters. It’s more like we meet and I learn about them little by little.

But these are people from my imagination. How could I not know anything about them? I had vague ideas of course. For example, I knew Karla would have one blue eye and one green eye. And I envisioned Xariel as having blue-violet eyes and long dark hair. Not because long-haired guys are trendy in paranormal romances (which they are and which Death Sword is not), but because that’s how the character came to me.

Sometimes, though, I’m not quite sure about a character and I need a launching pad. One resource I use is the Rider-Waite Tarot deck. Not only do I use the Tarot to set up a (nearly) complete character profile but also to plot the story and to delineate any subplots.

Since the Tarot focuses on the reader’s subconscious, the cards I lay out for my characters show how I feel about them, even if I’m not aware of it. For example, I drew the Devil for Karla when creating her profile. Considering she wasn’t the antagonist nor a Capricorn the card made no sense. (Since she’s born on the Capricorn/Aquarius cusp she retains characteristics of both signs.) That is, it didn’t make sense until recently when I was writing the first draft of the third book, The Devil Inside. Then I realized why Karla and Samael were so similar in attitude and yet why their personalities clashed. It also explained why Samael reveled in his misogynistic attitude. I hadn’t understood at the initial reading of Karla’s tarot spread but that was because I hadn’t yet reached the point where it was necessary to put two and two together.

My most recent use of the Tarot helped me work out my plot outline for the Zaphkiel Project.

With the Tarot I can go as far in depth with a character or storyline as I want. I can do basic three-card spreads or a detailed Celtic cross. I’ve even done character interviews based on a card.

Incidentally, it was my husband who first introduced me to the Tarot. But it wasn’t until years later that I realized I could use it to help my writing.




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