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Tarot for fiction writers

A card game for storytellers

a scattered deck of colorful tarot cards with faces up against a black background
Many different tarot decks exist

All forms of occult soothsaying are fake. If we could predict the future, we’d all be Nate Silver of 538 and as rich as Bill Gates. But if you believe tarot is helpful or evil, that’s up to you. I think the 78 cards in the deck are merely storytelling tools. Indeed, many different professionals, like psychotherapists and marketers, find them to be helpful for getting people past blocks and thinking more creatively. Although I have yet to use them regularly in my writing, I can see tarot’s potential to be a very helpful tool for fiction creators.

At some point in my writing life, I’d stumbled upon a book written exactly toward this use. Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner is a book that claims it will help you “explore your creative potential” by learning how to use tarot. From the blurb:

Tarot for Writers will guide you through each stage of the creative process, from fleshing out a premise to promoting a finished work. Enhance your storytelling technique through over 500 enjoyable writing prompts, exploratory games …, tarot journaling, and other idea-stimulating activities that call upon the archetypal imagery and multi-layered symbolism in the tarot.

-Tarot for Writers

I checked Tarot for Writers out of the library. When it came time to return it, I bought a copy. I’ve only perused the book and have completed only one or two of the exercises, but from what I’ve seen I can gather the concept is good: Tarot cards jump start brainstorming sessions. Many creatives use tarot in this (non-religious) way, including marketing professionals and artists.

Inspired by the book, I bought a Rider-Waite-Smith deck and took an adult school class on tarot. The class was centered around using tarot in more in line with its “occult” use of prediction and soothsaying. Nevertheless, I participated and tried to learn the art of reading tarot for others.

Psychology side note: Tarot and other things like palm-reading seem to work at guessing correctly at a seeker’s facts and circumstances. This is called “Illusory Correlation” and it is the result of the brain’s natural tendency to find connections and patterns.

-science to the rescue

For you fans of strange out there, I will say this: the major arcana cards dominate any spread done for me. These “face cards” come up more than I would predict is normal when I read tarot for others, but the major arcana cards were overwhelmingly present for any spreads done for me. The staid tarot class teacher, a seasoned professional who makes a living reading tarot for CEOs, Wall Street execs et al., was so moved by the phenomenon that she felt the need to make a comment. At the “tarot for marketers” event I attended last night, 2 of the 3 cards in the spread – deck held and owned by me but cards pulled at random by others – came out as major arcana cards. The major arcana cards, 21 of the 78 cards in the deck, are not rare but they hold much more clear and forceful significance, usually, than the regular deck cards. Imagine if, every time (or almost every time) someone asked you to draw a card from a players’ 52-card deck, you pulled a Jack, Queen or King. That would begin to strike you as odd, right? That’s where I am with the major arcana cards. So that’s a little tidbit for you tarot fans to chew on. Tweet me if you are struck with any insights about it.

Writers and artists of all kinds are challenged to generate new storylines. Each person has their own unique ways of coming up with ideas, e.g. a walk down city streets, numerous roller coaster rides, or cooking meals for strangers. Inspiration lurks in odd places. The tarot, with its ins and outs, ups and downs, weird juxtapositions and seemingly eerie coincidences, harbors all sorts of inspiration for any artist who is willing to look.

Photo by Melanie Ruhwedel on Pixabay

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