inspiration

Writing Using Tarot Cards As Inspiration: A Guest Post

Contributed by Pepi Valderrama

Sometimes we have a great idea and writing becomes difficult. Tarot cards can help us create characters, build unbelievable worlds, and breathtaking fight scenes. The Tarot offers excellent archetypes to us in the Major Arcana. It also gives us actions and clues to create worlds and deepen those character in the Minor Arcana.

Tarot has a total of 78 cards depicting characters and actions. The Major Arcana is especially useful to build characters since in it we can find figures like the Fool, the Emperor, Death, and the Empress among others. The Minor Arcana also have Kings and Queens, but these are dependent on their type. Cups explain emotions and creativity. Pentacles illustrate wealth and objects. Swords explain thoughts and communication. And, Wands explain desire.

To create a random character we just need to put the Majors and Minors apart. We shuffle the Majors first and take one card. That will be the basis of our character. Let's say that we got the fearful Death. Then, we shuffle the Minors and take three cards to explain her personality. Let's imagine we get the Ace of Cups, the Three of Wands, and the Page of Swords.

Death is a complicated card. While many fear it because of its name, the reality is that it points to changes. Someone who gets a Death card might be someone who swings quickly, and she can also fear change. Let's think about a person who is shy, and who fears change. This person will do whatever to hide and shy away from problems because the later are changes. And this person hates to change anything in her life!

The Ace of Cups, however, tells us about the possibilities she has in her relationships. If she is willing to open her heart to change, she'll be successful. Let's think about our Death as a girl who is dying for a guy she loves to notice her. The possibilities are there, and her heart is burning with making it happen. The only struggle she has is with herself. To make it happen, she needs a change.

The three of wands talk about confidence and realizing goals. So, we can say that our Death is committed to getting the boy she likes, and she is starting to gain confidence that she will. However, the Page of Swords talks about a person who is aloof. So, we can make her aloof and realize about her actions way after they have happened. If she wants to change, she needs to commit to paying more attention.

We don't need to use the real meanings of the cards. We can also opt to take a look at the artwork depicted in them. Let's say that we need to create the male character in our romance. We could just shuffle the deck, and pick up cards until the first card with a male in it appears. We can imagine the person's personality from the depiction in the card.

Sometimes I find it hard to come up with ideas regarding locations and buildings in my stories. When I'm stuck, I shuffle my Tarot deck and often take around five cards. From the different artwork in them, I start building up the world. Then, I also take into account the meaning of the cards. In that fashion, I can create a world with several layers, and I can even have help in details that are obscure to me at that moment.

However, the best help that Tarot offers is the building of characters. Because the deck has two parts, one with archetypes, and the other with situations, it's easy to use for gathering ideas and inspiration. There're countless versions of the Tarot in stores. When buying a deck, consider the artwork carefully. These cards won't inspire you if you don't like what you see. That's why I shy away from traditional decks. Instead, I have a few decks with different types of artwork, and none of them are classic. Decks that have books with explanations are the best since you can get extra insights.

Be open to creating characters with more than one archetype card to make them multilayered. Be free to mix many cards or more than usual to create worlds. And never be afraid of the "negative" cards. They are perfect guides to develop despicable villains.

 

About Pepi Valderrama 

Pepi Valderrama is a writer and Social Media wizard. Her experience living in Japan during more than eight years allowed her to have a different perspective on life. She is writing her first fantasy novel after enjoying writing geek anthropology. You can find her enjoying a cup of coffee around Brighton, and writing about pop culture, comics, and books on her blog dePepi.com

Thanks for sharing, Pepi!

A Little Perseverance

Today is the last day of National Novel Writing Month. Though I managed to reach the 50,000 word goal two days prior to this post, I still wanted to commemorate this ending.

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In years past, I’d always wanted to take part in NaNoWriMo. But alas, other writing projects seemed to dominate my Novembers, and I never felt I could properly commit, and so, I never took part in the magic and insanity that is writing 50,000 words in a month. 

Until now.

For those of you following my journey to publication, you will know I am currently in the query trenches with the novel I conceptualized during graduate school. With that project done, and waiting for agent responses growing by the day, I knew I needed a distraction. This realization occurred last month and afforded me the time to take part in Preptober to get myself ready for the official start date of NaNoWriMo. I took the month of October to begin outlining for a somewhat new work-in-progress; BOOK ONE in the Falling series demanded to be written again. This time I knew it would be better. 

I originally wrote the first book in this series back in 2012, and it was the first novel I wrote. But long before that, I’d written a short story, and from those fourteen pages came the formation of this projected pentalogy, which I outlined in a British literature class during my undergrad. It’s been eight years since I first delved into this world, and it remains one of my greatest loves, and favorite escapes. This story is the one I took to grad school, too stubborn to let go my first semester, and then later set aside to begin the Dreamer Duology. In the three years I spent writing my other novel for grad school, I never gave up on the Falling series. Though I wasn’t writing in that world every day, I spent that time getting to know my characters better, and brainstorming all that will come to pass over the course of these five books. 

And now, at the end of NaNoWriMo, I have 51,032 words of this new draft, and it’s just as magical as I remember all those years ago. 

Before undertaking this challenge, I feared (what I now know was somewhat irrational) that I couldn’t write another book. Maybe other writers experience this same thing after working on one project for multiple years. You see, the novel I’m querying was not easy to write, and if you ask those closest to me, they might mention the toll completing this novel took on me and my writing.  Now that’s not to say I don’t love that book. I wouldn’t be querying agents with it now if I didn’t adore what I’d written. But the actual process was difficult. And through it, I’d started to doubt the magic of writing. 

But I digress. 

Starting this newish project for NaNoWriMo proved that writing and drafting are still magic, and not just because there is a fair bit of fantasy within this WIP. Writing this story reminded me how extraordinary it feels to get swept up into a world crafted entirely from your own mind. And while there were days more difficult than others this month, days when I did not write a single word, I still achieved that 50K goal. 

I think it is a common misconception that writers need to write every day to be writers. Frankly, that’s bullshit. Most writers, myself included, have day jobs, which pay bills and student loans. And we have family and friends and pets and other obligations, which sometimes prevent the act of writing every day from actually happening. But through NaNoWriMo, I discovered there is a difference between writing every day and writing consistently. Though I went four consecutive days without writing, those days away were much needed to prevent creative burnout and to brainstorm a rather difficult chapter. But still, my mind never left this fictional world I so love. 

As I scroll through the 183 pages I managed to complete thus far, I know I’ve tackled something important. I also discovered a new tool to help drafting, which was born out of my proclivity toward visual learning. With the help of Pinterest (which for those interested in what inspires my many fictional worlds, you can follow my book boards HERE) I created inspiration boards for each chapter, which are pictured below! In doing so, I had to narrow down what I was trying to accomplish most, which helped in the process of outlining, all while keeping me on task. 

And with the help of friends cheering me on from near and far, a fantastical Spotify playlist curated the month before, and many cups of coffee, I have a start to a story I’d always hoped to return to one day. 

I’m not sure where the querying process will take me in the months to come, but with the start of this newish story, I now have an escape for when rejection feels too real or the world feels too wrecked. I’ll make my art. I’ll write my stories. And with a little perseverance, and a little uphill climb (and maybe, even the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack), I’ll write the next 50,000 words. 

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Waves. Words. Writing.

Leading up to leaving for Myrtle Beach a few days ago, I tried to get all of my work done so I wouldn't have anything to do while on vacation. I succeeded for the most part. And even though I finished my current submission for grad school, I felt words building within me today as I walked down the beach. It was beautiful; calm. The only sounds were the gulls and the waves lapping at the shore. Even with all of the white noise, my brain seemed loud. Not with worries, nor mindless prattle, but rather lines for stories and poems.

 

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I suppose Eugene Ionesco was right. I guess a writer never really has a vacation. And I know that even when I'm not writing, I'm thinking about writing. I guess that just makes me a writer.

It's so easy sometimes to get caught up in all of the stress and deadlines, which go along with writing in grad school. But then there are days when the words are just there, when the story is so deep it might as well be 20,000 leagues beneath the sea. And I understand why people talk about the mystery and vastness of the ocean sometimes. Looking at the tumbling topaz waves makes me believe in the possibility of life, in the possibility of things, which seem impossible in the world. I suppose that's what I'm trying to find in myself, and in my writing. So for right now, I'll enjoy these waves, the sound of words in my head, and the feeling that comes with filling a blank page with writing.

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A Very Merry Unbirthday

Although yesterday was Lewis Carroll's real birthday, I thought it would be more appropriate to wait until today to celebrate this amazing writer! After all, today is his unbirthday, a term coined by Carroll himself in Through the Looking Glass. Looking back, Disney's Alice in Wonderland is probably my favorite film from childhood. I used to watch it at my grandma's every time I was sick, and now, I'm just as enthralled with Wonderland. 

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I think it is Carroll's world, among others, that taught me it was okay to have an imagination, to dream, to create a world of my own, which, I now have done with my writing. I still think about the beautiful, mysterious, and dangerous world Lewis Carroll created, keeping that as one of my touchstones as I write fiction, and especially while I write the Falling series.

Despite any controversy that surrounds this story and its creator, I think it's fair to say that he deserves a shout out on his un-birthday for everything his books have given to me. I agree with Einstein who said:

 "if you want your children to be intelligent read them fairytales."

It seems today, so many people are afraid that fairytales and fantasy will rot children's brains, or worse, turn them into practitioners of black magic. And so, they ban these books, they hide them in locked cabinets. But what these people seem to have forgotten is that the heroes in fiction mirror our real life heroes, and so too do the villains.

Before I get too far off on my quest to end book banning, let me just say Happy Unbirthday to Lewis Carroll, and to all you invisible readers out there who are also celebrating your unbirthdays today! 

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Help From a Little Genius

The following is the result of my discussion with my little genius. As previously mentioned, I am a visual learner, and as such, I figured it was about time to break in the new house and fill both of my closets with pictures and post-its. They are, after all, the perfect thing to get those creative juices flowing.

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Why on the inside of the closet? Well for starters I don't even have room for a desk, and second, my senior year of high school, I took AP Ceramics where I had a cupboard all to myself to store my projects, and I covered the inside with pictures, which inspired me. For some reason, I was thinking about that yesterday, and it seemed a good idea to try here.

The smaller closet door is covered in pictures from my trip to England back in 2010, including the Bridge of Sighs in Oxford, which I've been thinking about a great deal as of late (fun fact: it's pictured above!). I like the idea of bridges, and hope looking at this bridge every day will help me cross into more creativity. Among other things that happened yesterday, I also changed the course of the last five chapters of BOOK TWO, because I saw a great scene in my head while in the shower, which is where I usually get the best ideas. But I digress. I chose pictures from England because they are both beautiful, and they remind me of a time when I felt brave, and free, and inspired; all things needed to write.

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The larger closet door has the origin story behind this series, as well as maps, and the entire timeline from start to finish with dates and events spanning the frame of the door. Every time I open one of these doors it reminds me how much I love this series, how obsessed I am with creating this world, and how much I love writing. I think those are pretty great things to be reminded of every day.

Hopefully this will inspire me. And maybe this is just the motivation I need to finish BOOK TWO, and complete revisions for BOOK ONE. I guess it's true that a writer's work is never finished, because even when I'm not writing, I'm thinking about writing. This series is on my mind 24/7, but I wouldn't have it any other way!

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Eat. Pray. Write.

Yesterday I found myself unexpectedly out of my Literary Publishing class, and I watched Elizabeth Gilbert's Ted Talk. The wonderful author of Eat, Pray, Love, discussed writing, and instead of calling herself a genius, she talked about how we, as writers, can talk to an entity outside of ourselves, a little genius who shows up to help us write those words, which we may have a hard time writing.

The way she explained it, in order to stay sane, one must talk to their outer "Dobby," and ask for help. After watching this video, that is exactly what I did. I talked to Dobby, and asked for help. 30 minutes later, in the shower, I got a rush of ideas. I'm not sure whether or not I cleared my mind enough that way, or if a little genius heard my plea, and was sending great ideas my way. Ancient civilizations didn't think it was so crazy, and neither does Elizabeth Gilbert. So I think I'm just going to thank my "Dobby", my little genius, and ask for help more often.

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