Writing Exercise: Tarot

Pick out a favorite tarot deck, preferably one with inspiring artwork loaded with symbolism, and do one of the following exercises. If possible, use a deck with which you aren’t too familiar.

Draw a single card and…

  • Look at any people present on the card. Without looking up the card’s meaning, figure out what those people are doing, what’s happening to them, and how they feel about it. Pick one of them to be the main character and write a short story about him.
  • Analyze the images on the card and write up a meaning for it as though you were writing up the accompanying book for the deck. Remember to address the symbolism of the images on the card as well as any more concrete meanings.
  • Look up the card in the accompanying booklet. Copy down one inspiring-sounding phrase from its write-up at the top of a sheet of paper. Underneath that, free-associate off of that phrase. Write down words, ideas–anything that pops into your head. Free-write in text if that works for you.
  • Free-write about the card. Set your timer for 5 or 10 minutes and just start writing about anything that pops into your head.

Bring to mind a current piece of fiction you’ve been working on and try to relate the card to that piece in one of the following ways:

  • The card represents an incident that happened to one of your characters in his past. What was that incident and how does it affect the present life of that character?
  • The card lends insight into a hidden aspect of the personality of one of your characters. What is that insight?
  • The card predicts an event that will happen to one of your characters during the course of your story. What is that event? How will it play out? Write it up now.
  • The card answers a question one of your characters is asking himself. What is that question? What answer does the card offer him? Is the answer correct, misleading, a mistake, or a lie?
  • The card represents an obstacle that will get in the way of your hero’s goals. What is that obstacle? How can he overcome it?
  • The card represents a hidden resource available to your character(s). What is that resource? How can it help them? How can they find it and make use of it?

Alternatives

Use a three-card spread instead of one card. One card represents the past, one the present, and one the future. Apply this to one of the above exercises.

Use any spread that comes with your tarot deck (for example, the ubiquitous 10-card “Celtic Cross:”

  • Apply this to a character, situation, or question from a current manuscript. Use it to analyze that character or situation or answer that question, and take inspiration from the answers you come up with.
  • Use the spread to inspire a whole new idea for a piece of fiction. Use it to help you create a character or plot, come up with an obstacle, or solve a problem you’re having.
  • Apply it to one of the exercises from the first part, above.

See also: our tarot deck reviews.

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