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Creating a Character with Tarot

This post was written by Barbara Moore
on October 27, 2009 | Comments (9)

As mentioned in Tell Me a Story in 30 Days, I’m taking the NaNoWriMo challenge. Since I am not a fiction writer, I’m not expecting a readable novel. Instead, I’m hoping to loosen up my imagination and play with my intuition.  Because I really know nothing about writing a novel, I’m using Corrine Kenner’s book, Tarot for Writers, to guide me.

After a short introduction to tarot, Tarot for Writers delves into character creation. So that’s also where I started. Corrine doesn’t just teach about tarot, she also teaches writing and explains the various types of characters: protagonist, antagonist, foils, supporting characters, and stock characters. The first writing practice is to pull a card for each character. Later, cards are pulled to further develop the characters.

I’m going to use the Lo Scarabeo Tarot for all my basic outlining, such as character identification and basic plot. I’m using the Fey Tarot for further character development and the Tarot of the Sweet Twilight for further plot development. I have not yet decided on which deck to use for the setting. The Lo Scarabeo Tarot is a very basic, easy deck (for me), which is why I’m using it for outlining. The Fey and Sweet Twilight are not very traditional, which is why I’m using them…to purposely get lost in the images and to kick start my imagination. So, as you track my progress, know that many of my notes and decisions will be based on intuition and ideas that strike my fancy rather than traditional card meanings.

So far, I only have cards pulled for the protagonist, protagonist’s foil, antagonist, and antagonist’s foil. Here are the main character identifications:


I think it is very interesting that the protag and the antag are both threes and that both the foils are naturally reflective (one gazing into a mirror, the other gazing into a cup), which is exactly what they should be. Even thought the character in the 3 of Pentacles looks male, my main character will be female. I am using these cards for general appearance, character, and what they do, although other cards will flesh these ideas out quite a bit.

Filling in some details

After general character identification, Corrine walks us through character building. I selected some of the questions she provided and pulled cards for each of my four main characters. The questions I selected from Corrine’s list include (followed by the spread position name I used in parentheses):

What does your character look like? (Appearance)

How does your character spend his or her free time? (Hobby)

Does your character have a spouse, children, or pets? (Family)

What are your characters hopes and dreams? (Hopes & Dreams)

What does your character fear the most? (Greatest Fear)

I did all four characters but am only posting the protag and her foil (mostly because I think I might like the foil better than the protag—is that going to be a problem later, I wonder?).


She is younger, maybe late teens or early 20s and a craftsperson’s apprentice. She is rather plain and serviceable in appearance but loves to decorate herself with all kinds of accessories. Her hobby is fencing but she’s absolute rubbish at it. Her family consists of her sister (who is her foil) and her father, an impenetrable man who just wants to be left alone to watch the world go by. She dreams of someday having a “normal” family. Her greatest fear is things not going according to plan. Sadly, she has no name yet. Anyone care to christen her?

Protagonist’s Foil

protagonistsfoilspreadsmallShe is a sibyl at a local temple and I think she is the protag’s older sister. She is bright and colorful, as unlike the moon as one can be…bright copper hair, freckles, and she adores the sun. She loves good food and beautiful things…and she particularly loves games of chance (very unlike her sister and an interesting amusement for an oracle, don’t you think?). She considers her sister priestesses as her family, although she and her sister do have a special bond. That book she’s reading might play a role in the story, being a portal into another world. She hopes one day to not just to serve the goddess but also to rise in her profession and wield real power, perhaps as a kind of demigod. Her greatest fear is falling in love.

Stay tuned for more characters, plots spreads, and who knows…maybe even a setting. Let me know how your novel is coming. If you post your NaNoWriMo tarot usage on a blog, include the link in the comments. Feel free to add me as a writing buddy (and let me know, so I can add you). My user name is mysticfaerie.

Contest Winner Announcement and Special Halloween Treat!

Don’t forget, on Thursday I’ll announce the winner of the Tarot of the Sweet Twilight and will present a very special interview with an artist who is a true treat.

Reader Comments

Written By Catherine
on October 27th, 2009 @ 8:33 am

Your post looks beautiful – well done!

I love the Fey Tarot. I bought it for my daughter, but use it more than she does… I agree it’s the perfect choice to help with your imagination, it’s so rich in symbolism and colour.

I thought immediately of the name Crystobel for the protagonist – it just popped into my head, no idea if it’s of any use to you 🙂

I’m really looking forward to reading your updates to see how your story is coming along – so far it looks great 😉

Written By Regina di Bastoni
on October 27th, 2009 @ 9:07 am

Your work so far is intriguing! Good luck with the rest of the process.

Written By Michelle
on October 27th, 2009 @ 9:30 am

Posted the wrong URL… Not a good sign that my brain is already fried and it’s not even November yet! (Feel free to delete my previous comment.)

My writing blog is http://rightwordwritetime.blogspot.com and I’m on the nano site as TessD1891. I’ll be posting a LOT more on the blog in November, including ways I use Tarot to influence my writing.

Written By Barbara Moore
on October 27th, 2009 @ 9:39 am

Thank you Catherine and Regina.
Michelle, thanks for your link. I’m marking it and will check in throughout the month. Good luck!

Written By Leigh(M.L. Hardin)
on October 27th, 2009 @ 6:55 pm

I see the protagonist as Juliana(Jul-e-ah-nah).
She needs a name that counterbalances her more earthy qualities. The decorating herself, pentacles(golden coins), reminded me of Julius Caesar…

I’ll be following along, to watch this all progress. It looks like an interesting process.

Written By Barbara Moore
on October 28th, 2009 @ 12:23 pm

Leigh, I like Juliana. It is in the running as a possible name. I’ll mention it in tomorrow (Thursday’s) post. Thank you!

Written By Irmata
on November 5th, 2009 @ 10:03 pm

I LOVE this! Thank you for sharing how this works and the characters you’ve developed. I’ve read about using the tarot to write a story, but haven’t been able to figure out how one would go about it, other thank looking at a card and taking it from there. Using different decks to build the layers is genius!

I had the strongest feeling I should “compete” in NaNo this year, but I don’t have anything to write. I can see now how the “Power of the Cards” can be harnessed to get that inspiration flowing down paths you don’t even know exist.

Good luck and good writing!

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