Archive for Writing

On the Fortunes of Fictional Folk

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 1, 2012 by bradellison

Of the various tools I’ve accumulated for creating characters and crafting plots, one of the more interesting is the Tarot. Interesting to me at any rate, and this is my blood so I get to say what is and isn’t interesting. The cards have all manner of mystical flimflammery and nonsense wrapped around them, and I’ll believe in fortune-telling when I see a fortune teller do something other than cold reading and intentional vagueness, but I do believe in a world of underlying patterns, and any system of codified interpretation of such patterns is interesting to me. The Tarot deck in particular is compelling due to the elaborate framework and the depth of its symbolism. At best, a Tarot reading can help you recontextualize, give you a new framework for understanding and problem, look at it from a fresh angle.

Now, with the writing of fiction, we know with absolute certainty that there is an underlying order because we’re the ones putting it there. We have a protagonist who has a background, surroundings, obstacles, goals, hopes and fears, and so forth. Cool thing is, your typical Tarot layout will have a card representing all of these things. So, you think of your character’s story, shuffle the deck, and deal the cards. Lay out the hand, then interpret it, just as if you were doing a reading for a real person. From that you can learn who your protagonist is, what they want, and what they’re up against.

Or you might get a bunch of crap that doesn’t serve your needs at all. That’s fine. You’re still thinking about your story in a different way, and you’re hitting a plot element randomizer that just might shake loose a fresh ideas, just one, that sparks in your brain like Doc Frankenstein’s own lightning. And that can be just what you need when you’re not sure where to begin, or to banish the imaginary bogey that is writer’s block.

Simple fact: the only magic that really works, works on the mind.