It’s only recently that it's occurred to me to apply the cards to fiction. Probably not coincidentally, it’s also only recently that I’ve been using fiction for a similar once-removed-and-through-a-glass-darkly kind of self-reflection.
They’re too general to be much use for plotting, except in the broadest outlines. I’ve found they speak just the right language, though, for elaborating on themes and suggesting directions for character arcs: the ways people change, the things they need to learn, the things that shaped them, the broad forces pushing and pulling at them.
Three ways I’ve used them to date:
- Make up a reading for a character. The tarot reading in The Dark Beneath the Ice is entirely directed by me – no coincidences there. I didn’t put the cards in question in any kind of formal spread, either. Framing the situation in tarot symbolism still turned out to be a helpful exercise, though, because of the constellation of meaning that goes with each card; it suggested emotional dimensions to explore that I hadn’t previously thought through and gave me handy symbols to anchor those threads of the story in my head.
- Actually do a reading for a character. My lovely friend Amazon did a formal ten-card spread for Skye, the main character in my monstery story, that was downright uncanny. Part of it was that the symbolism of the new deck she was testing out was incredibly well-suited to the story I was trying to tell; part of it was that she knew the story pretty well already, given how often I’d been bending her ear about it. I knew the story pretty well myself by that point, but seeing it all laid out like that – and in startling, evocative imagery, which brought a freshness to the ideas as well as new perspective on them – was incredibly exciting and inspiring.
- Use them for brainstorming. In the being chased by zombies through the fog stage of collecting ideas for the still-embryonic radio story, they’ve been a great way to cast about for and pin down the way I want things to evolve. I did a couple of ten-card spreads and an “okay, cards, tell me about this character” one-card draw. I looked for visual images that jumped out at me and why – what feeling did I get from this card? How did that relate to/contrast with/emerge from the feelings I was building the story around? I looked for suggestive patterns, contrasts, tensions. And I basically just scanned through my various booklets and online sources and looked for keywords or phrases that jumped out at me. I jotted everything down and circled things and drew arrows – guided free association, basically. And moving a pen around, as a beloved English teacher insisted, gets neurons firing.
MOAR TAROT BLOGGING to come - next up: beloved and spooky tarot decks!