Thursday, November 12, 2009

Divining Your Next Tale

Feeling uninspired, or unable to find a form for your inspiration? Try divining your next story. Whether or not you believe in the supernatural, divining methods like tarot cards and runes are a powerful tool for figuring out - and bringing depth to - your story line.

I'm not going to go over how to do tarot or rune readings here - there'd be too much to cover - but you can find a ton of info on the web, and most tarot decks will come with instruction booklets. Meanwhile, for the sake of illustration, let's say I laid the cards in the photo out like so:
  1. Past: The Fool
  2. Present: The Nine of Cups (aka "the wishing card")
  3. Future: The Seeker of Swords
  4. Lesson: The Sibyl of Pentacles
  5. Wild Card: The Six of Wands
A very simple story interpretation might be:
  1. Our protagonist was blithe and naive in the past. Maybe she trusted someone who betrayed her.
  2. Now, she has a powerful wish.
  3. Soon, she will set off to seek that wish's fulfillment. She probably tries intellectual methods at first - maybe utilizing the internet. (The suit of swords often deals with the intellect and communication.)
  4. Before succeeding, she must learn to be at ease with her earthy side; only then will she come into her full power, as it were. (Maybe a camping trip is in order, or a visit back home to the farm. Or, since pentacles can also relate to money, maybe she needs to find a way to support herself.)
  5. But once she succeeds, she will return from her journey victorious, with lessons to pass on to her community. (I've decided the wild card refers to the conclusion of the story.)

Anything as basic as what I've described above is likely to sound cliched, but once you add specific, vivid details, the story will grow into something unique and compelling. Tarot cards won't tell you the whole story, but they can help you discover its framework.

Alternately, if you already have the storyline sketched out, divining methods can help you add some depth. If you can't quite seem to put your finger on the villain's motivation, try drawing a single card or rune to point you toward the answer.

A major appeal of these methods is that tarot cards and runes address many of our archetypal fears and desires. They are specific and evocative enough to get a writer's or artist's mind clicking; at the same time, their meanings are broad enough to demand creativity. So when you're blocked (or have so many ideas you can't decide on one), try laying out a tarot reading, casting some runes, or even examining your tea leaves - and see what the powers that be have to say.

The tarot cards featured are from the World Spirit Deck by Jessica Godino and Lauren O'Leary . Click here to purchase them from an indie bookstore near you. The runes pictured are from a hand-embroidered felt set by Nydia of Carioca Witch. You can visit her blog here and find her other rune sets here on Etsy. A nod, also, to Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom, the site where I won these runes!

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