I’ve gone back to a WIP, A Time of Shadows, that I put away last fall when I just had no focused time to work on a fantasy YA. It’s about a 400+ year-old Scottish witch living as a seventeen-year-old girl in modern-day Colorado and fighting all kinds of evil. (You can read about it here or even here .) One of the characters is a tarot reader, and I used to read cards pretty regularly back when I was in high school. I bought a new deck a few years back and have been thinking about my characters in terms of the cards they would match up to. This allows me, when I’m writing and I’m not sure how a character would react, to think, “Hmmm, what would the Knight of Cups do?” because each card’s symbols represent a number of qualities.
My main characters have correspondents in the Major and Minor Arcana and the Court Cards of the standard Tarot deck. Like a standard deck of playing cards, outside of the Major Arcana, the deck is divided into four types of cards: Wands or Rods (like clubs in a regular deck), Cups (hearts) , Swords (spades), and Pentacles (diamonds). Roughly, Wands represent fire, the ego, inspiration, work; Cups water, melancholy, dreams, imagination; Swords air, truth-seeking, thinking, judgement; and Pentacles earth, stubbornness, stability, the concrete.
Here’s how my main characters match the cards:
Rebecca/Becca MacCracken, a 400+-year-old witch trapped in the body of a seventeen-year-old girl living in contemporary Colorado. She’s the Queen of Swords
as depicted on the Morgan-Greer tarot deck (the first pack I had was the Morgan-Greer and I miss it since it was stolen. Someone accumulated some bad karma there.). She’s smart, good at assessing situations, honest, witty, but can also be kind of cold and distant (she’s been keeping the secret of who she really is for four centuries now – that’s bound to put some distance between you and your peers, plus she fears getting close to anyone since they’ll eventually notice that she doesn’t age.) The Queen of Swords is someone who has seen and done it all, which is true for Becca, though she has a thing or two to learn about love.
She learns this through Jack Fowler/Alaric MacGregor, the Knight of Cups. He’s pictured here in the Golden Tarot deck as young man full of passion and poetry, ready for love with an open heart. He’s a dreamer, which can be a problem when you’re living in the real world, but he’s prepared for a life full of magic. He lost Rebecca in a past life and doesn’t want to lose her again.
Standing between these two lovebirds is the villain of the story, Giancarlo Montoni, the Magician,
depicted here on the Rider-Waite deck. He represents power (and wants more of it), energy, manipulation, and trickery. He also knew Becca in the past but needs to combine her gifts with his to fulfill his ultimate goal, and he’ll do what he needs to do to make that happen. He’s charming and seductive; I imagine he looks like Colin Farrell.
Becca meets and befriends Lily Dawson, a high school student struggling to understand her gift for empathy, reading others’ feelings the way some can read minds. This makes her very much like the Queen of Cups.
Like Lily, the Queen is blonde and blue-eyed in most depictions, loving and sensitive, intuitive, psychic, and accepting of others (which is a good quality in a best friend if you’re a secret witch). She can be overwhelmed by her feelings, though,and retreat into herself.
Lily has a crush on Kaito Murasaki, one of Jack’s best friends and the Knight of Rods in my WIP. Kai is action-oriented. He’s smart but unlike his friends Jack and Ben, he doesn’t want to sit around and discuss things for too long. His courage is going to come in handy when they take on Montoni and his minions and he’s up for any challenge. Ironically, he’s trained in martial arts and the use of the katana, but he’s not the Knight of Swords.
Ben Glassman, Jack’s oldest friend, is the Knight of Pentacles. He’s very smart, a scientist by nature, and disinclined to believe the supernatural. He’s drawn to Montoni at first as his science teacher, a mentor who seems to offer a great deal of knowledge and the potential power of that knowledge and is reluctant to see him for what he is at first.He digs in his heels when events seem to defy logic, but once he’s on board for a fight, he’ll work at it as diligently as he does anything else.
I could go on and on with a card corresponding to each character in the book; it’s provided me with a neat way to develop plot and character. If I’m stuck with a plot point or a character’s actions/reactions, I’ll take a look online or in a book on Tarot for an idea. (For example, that line above about Ben’s initial hero worship of Montoni just came to me after looking at images and descriptions for this post. I hope I don’t forget it).
If you’d like to learn how to read the Tarot for fun and inspiration, there are plenty of great books out there (even a “For Dummies” version). And if you’d like to use the Tarot specifically for writing, check out Corinne Kenner’s
. It contains info on the tarot and its history, writing exercises, and instructions on reading the cards. As any tarot reader knows, each card conveys a story in pictures, and some aspects of those stories can inspire your own.
Happy reading and writing!
What I’m reading:
What I’m listening to: