A Tarot Reading of Your Novel

Raven's ProphecyWhen I first created this blog I intended to include some posts about the novels that I write – the process, the problems, the progress – and what do you know, it’s taken me this long to think of something I felt would be interesting (and not embarrassing) to contribute! My writing is slow and not always methodical, but this was something I did in a moment of inspiration during my first-ever writing retreat and I think it’s a fun way to re-imagine your project.

I’ve been an admirer of Maggie Stiefvater’s art for a while, and when she started creating these tarot cards I knew I had to have it! I know almost nothing about tarot, but the artwork was so beautiful I couldn’t resist. They’re done in colored pencil, which is one of my favorite mediums! Totally sold, end of story.

This is a way to plot your novel using the loose interpretations of tarot cards. This deck comes with a helpful guide on each card’s meanings and connections, so even if you don’t have them memorized you can align them to your story. Here’s how you can do this too!

Gather your main cast

Pull out some cards that you feel represent your main characters – for these I used the major arcana and pulled one for each of my characters’ key traits or flaws. In this example, my protagonist is The Fool, because hers is the most expansive character arc. She is full of potential, she’s brash, her ignorance gives her a fearlessness to take on the story’s challenges. Her best friend is represented by Strength. She has already come through her own journey in a previous story, so she has earned patience, self-control, and belief in herself. Finally, my last character is The Devil. He is full of ambition and selfishness, and these vices are going to come into play in this story.

Begin their journey

Now that I have my characters, it’s time to start Act 1 (or part 1, or the beginning of your story). For this I picked the Seven of Coins for Stiefvater’s interpretation of assessment, choice, risk, and reward. My characters are presented with an opportunity for adventure and reward, and the duality of the roses happens to align with this mission in my book. The mission involves an old love and a clash of values, so The Lovers was perfect here. And last, they attempt to start this journey with clarity and a successful plan, so the Ace of Swords fits in here. The best of intentions begin our plot. (click the photo to enlarge)

Tarot Plot Summary - MCs act 1

Complicate their journey

We move on to Act 2 (or part 2, or the middle, or the plot thickens). As with all stories, nothing is as simple as it seems. The minor arcana tend to revolve more around events or actions than traits so I relied on these for my plot points. I chose the Seven of Swords because not everyone is on this journey for the same reason. Not only is there intense strategy going on, we have secret manipulation and deception. The Eight of Swords increases the drama with self-doubt and confusion. My main character is starting to realize there’s more going on than meets the eye, but she isn’t sure what to do. But then we come to the Page of Swords, and the truth comes out. My characters get some clarity regarding the reality of their situation. What’s the next course of action? Seven of Wands – sort out your priorities and begin a defense. Brace yourself for the storm. (click the photo to enlarge)

Tarot Plot Summary - act 2

Complete their journey

We have reached Act 3 (or part 3, or the end). Now that specific actions are connected and moving towards resolution, I mixed the major and minor arcana to grasp the scope and tie everything together. The Five of Wands kicks everything off with some chaos. Everything they feared and prepared for in act 2 is now unleashed. The Tower captures the betrayal and divisions between my characters now that their different priorities are fully realized. Death is a dramatic card but this is the point where several characters undergo transformations and change–the end of their character arcs, the reason a story is told in the first place. Going along with this, The Sun takes them from change to self-awareness, clear-sightedness, and hope. This pairing is probably going to appear in every story, unless you are exploring the effects of a static character. Finally, The World declares that we have reached a conclusion. Characters have grown and changed (for better or worse), conflicts are resolved, we feel a sense of completion now that the story is over. My main character has transformed from The Fool to a self-actualized character, and in another story she would be represented by a new card, just like her best friend became Strength. (click the photo to enlarge)

Tarot Plot Summary - act 3

The Final Spread

When you’ve chosen your cards and arranged them accordingly, you can see the character arcs and beats of your story as broadly or as detailed as you like. You can even see how the parts of your story are balanced, and whether everything is tied together in the end or not. As a bonus, you end up with a tarot spread that looks beautiful and that teases your story without giving away anything *too* concrete! (click the photo to enlarge)

Tarot Plot Summary

There are so many styles and types of tarot decks, so you can easily personalize this project even more – have fun and unlock some inspiration!


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. erinkbay
    Nov 18, 2015 @ 10:06:54

    Hello beautiful tarot cards!! UGH so gonna buy these and plot my book with them!!!!!



  2. Jessica Hill
    Nov 25, 2015 @ 16:01:28

    I love this idea (and Stiefvater’s tarot deck). I’ll have to give this a try myself!

    Liked by 1 person


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