Using Tarot To Write a Novel: Act One

This continues where I left off on my last post, Using Tarot To Write a Novel.

One of the things to keep in mind when working with Tarot cards is to read what is missing. There is importance in what is not there. My “spread” for the novel includes ten major arcana cards, two wands, one cup, two swords, and no pentacles. Wait, no pentacles? Ding ding ding! Folks, we have a winner! Pentacles are earthy, being grounded, and also matters pertaining to work, career. If my characters are not working and have heads in the clouds, that definitely tells me it’s a YA book. Plus 10 out of 15 cards are Majors, which also leads me toward YA since teenagers make everything out to be a lot bigger than they really are.

So hey, I have a genre! … Now I just need to figure out everything else.

First off, characters. I like writing about girls because, hello, I am one. It’s easier. I remember what it was like to be a teenager, and I work with a couple teenagers (and I have a couple cousins who are teen girls that are my friends on Facebook, and I can always go looking at what they post, and what their friends post on their pages, for research) so I think that mind set should be pretty easy. So my MC will be a girl. The first chapter has to introduce her. My keyword is Stubborn, but maybe instead the card indicates her car, or learning to drive, or taking a road trip. I can do learning to drive, my dad has a driving school so I know I have plenty of experience to write a realistic scene. In fact, he has been telling a story lately about a lesson he gave recently. The girl driving was cut off and said indignantly, “That person should not have a license!” And my father pointed out, “Neither should you… do you remember back a couple miles when you turned onto this road? You cut someone off.” And the girl said, “Oh, well that was different.” So the Chariot could indicate a car, but the sphinxes are seated. The Chariot isn’t going anywhere. Maybe my MC is taking the road test and fails it, therefore she doesn’t get her license. Maybe she has failed the test several times. Age? I think she wouldn’t be as frustrated if she was still just 16, I think she has to be 17.

Next, she needs a plot. Chapter two is The Lovers, so I think that’s when I will introduce her love interest. What is a YA book without a love interest to obssess about? Now, this is pretty open. Just saying the chapter introduces the guy she will crush on doesn’t say anything about what will actually happen. The keyword I came up with is Community, so she meets him (or sees him for the first time in the book, mentions him for the first time) in a place with a lot of people. The mall? After the failed driver’s test, she needs retail therapy. Her best friend has a car (and a license) and drives her to the mall. They are shopping, go to the food court… maybe the guy is working at a restaurant, or maybe she sees him sitting with his friends at another table. I can pull another card or two for each of my characters to get some idea of who they are. Maybe from a different deck.

Chapter three. Teacher/The Hierophant. This chapter definitely sends my MC to school. (Don’t worry, I will come up with names soon. First I need personalities, then I can look in my baby name book to match the names and meanings, because I am a dork like that.) I think my MC is in an extracurricular activity, and the faculty advisor is like a mentor to her. Like school newspaper, only I really don’t want to do school newspaper. Not cheerleading either. I will have to look for my old high school yearbooks, I think. They might still be at my parents’ house, I’ll go look tonight. There needs to be a storyline beyond the guy she likes, so her mentor will be trying to help her in this other storyline, and my MC probably won’t discuss the guy with the teacher. I’m picturing the teacher as a man, not really young but not nearing retirement either. Maybe in his forties, but still “good-looking, for an old guy,” as she might say. But what is this sub-storyline? Is she preparing for college with his help? Going back to the school newspaper example, he could be helping her come up with a better story. Ooh! She could be researching a story and find that this guy is somehow the center of her story. Then she befriends him under false pretenses, and then she has to decide if she wants to publish it because it’s a good story, or drop it since they are now friends (or more)… no, that is SO cliche. That’s why I don’t want it to be the school newspaper! Hehe. I’ll come up with something, I’m not worried.

Chapter four is Retreat/The Four of Swords. My MC is at home after school, alone with her thoughts. Obsessing over the guy? Working on something else, like a portfolio for art school? (Why is it that all the extracurriculars I can think of sound so cliche?!) Maybe we get a look at her family in part of the chapter, like around the dinner table. This can include talk about (insert whatever she is doing to get ready for college here).

We move into chapter five which is Heartbreak/The Three of Swords. My MC finds out the guy has a girlfriend. I know, that’s the obvious way to translate the card, but it really works for a YA novel. The girlfriend is a great girl, but can’t be a cheerleader or valedictorian or anything. Just like my MC is just a normal girl, the girlfriend is a normal girl. That’s realistic, but my MC has to see the other girl as being better than her in some way, she has to feel a bit threatened (too strong a word for what I mean) or intimidated. What stops her from believing she has a chance with this guy unless the girl is somehow superior to the MC?

If this is a three act story, that’s five chapters each. There has to be something huge and path-altering that will happen at the end of chapter five to shake my MC out of her routine. Something that she is not expecting, that marks a new phase or challenge in her life. That could make sense, to end the chapter on something like that, and then starting chapter six with her (or someone else) jumping to the wrong conclusions about something. I need something big and dramatic, or at least she will perceive it that way. So chapter five could start with a driving lesson (I really want to add my dad in as a character, what can I say?), and then wherever it ends, she sees the guy and a girl who she assumes is his girlfriend, but there’s more to the story.

So this leads into chapter six, Jumping To the Wrong Conclusion/Judgment. Which is pretty self-explanatory. My MC jumps to the wrong conclusion about this guy and girl, but maybe they are just rehearsing for a play, or maybe they have some other connection that is not romantic at all. Maybe they are just friends but my MC assumes the worst (what she sees as the worst).

My head is starting to spin, I think that’s enough for today.