Writing & Tarot: Developing Characters with Cards
Updated: Sep 28
Whether you believe in the divinatory power of tarot or whether you think it is nothing but hokum, using tarot cards can offer writers a powerful tool to assist in developing characters' personalities and how they may feel about or respond to a situation.
I've been using tarot for just over a year, mainly as a tool for inner reflection and problem-solving. However, recently, I've started to use tarot to help craft my creative writing and better develop my characters.
When I need help defining a character, I use a layout of seven tarot cards. Each card serves a unique purpose and offers complexity to the "person" behind the character. Once I have all seven cards pulled, I use the reading of each card to create a basic character summary that I can repeatedly reference as needed.
In this story, the protagonist (Cara) finds herself at age 18 and alone. She is determined to define herself and create her path and place in the world, so she leaves the only home she's known to search for something more. However, late-night driving has its challenges, and Cara ends up caught in a time loop separate from and inaccessible to the outside world. She must use her wits to find a way out.
Pulling the Cards:
After cleaning my cards, I shuffle the deck until each card chooses itself (falls from the deck). I pulled the following cards for Cara using the Haindl deck to describe the seven aspects of who she is.
1 - Initial Development - 3 of Swords: Mourning
2 - Inner Expression - 8 of Wands: Swiftness
3 - Outer Expression - Princess of Swords: Isis
4 - Greatest Strengths - 6 of Wands: Victory
5 - Greatest Weaknesses - 8 of Swords: Interference
6 - Ending Development - 6 of Cups: Happin
7 - Astrology Sign - Virgo
Creating the Summary:
Using the cards pulled, here is a sample character summary:
At the opening, Cara is in a state of mourning following her father's death. She perceives her childhood home as a place full of sorrow. Cara's mind is active and moves quickly. She values progress and setting and achieving goals, and she desires to find her direction. Cara presents herself as confident and dynamic to the outer world, a person who wants only to have fun. Cara's greatest strengths show when she is victorious. Her belief that confidence and quick action will lead to triumph is pronounced. However, she has trouble handling conflict, even when borne of her thoughts. She sometimes fear
s change and dislikes wasted energy or effort. By the end of the story, Cara achieves happiness when she finds balance and peace. Meticulousness, sincerity, anxiety, and perfectionism shape Cara's journey as a Virgo.
Sounds easy, right? Now, it's important to note that each tarot card packs a serious punch, and unraveling the full meaning of a card can be somewhat akin to emptying a clown car. I use surface-level card meanings for basic character development, but I may turn to the cards for perspective any time I feel a little stuck.
I hope you found this (highly condensed) tarot reading for character development informative and fun. Happy writing!