Getting Unstuck – With Tarot

I blogged earlier that I was stuck on Billionaire #3 and started brainstorming the premise to figure out where I went wrong.  The final step for me to come up with a solution was flipping to my favorite tarot deck, The Steampunk Tarot.

That deck works fantastically for Lady Wyre’s universe, so I wasn’t sure if I’d get anything helpful on a contemporary idea or not. But it was worth a try.

Some background on this story idea:  When I first started working on this idea, for some reason I decided the heroine needed to change.  I built an entirely different backstory for her and gave her a different profession.  I loved what I built… but the story just died.  I couldn’t take it anywhere.

So the journaling and brainstorming I did first was to compare the original premise that I’d found lacking, and the newer premise that was a storykiller, and see if I could come up with a new (better) solution that solved all the issues my subconscious seemed to be having with both ideas.

My questions were about the heroine.  Who was she?  Why was she willing to step into this story in the first place?  What kind of woman is she?

Personally, I like to shuffle the deck 7 times and then spread them out in a line in front of me.  I don’t pick from the top.  I randomly drew 3 cards, flipped them over, and started taking notes one by one.

Note:  It’s important to LOOK at the card first, without reading anything the deck’s guide might have about it.  You’ll probably notice things that aren’t even mentioned in the guide that can add a cool layer to the story.

The cards I drew:

  • Queen of Wands
  • Seven of Pentacles
  • Five of Swords

This is one of the few times that the cards spoke perfectly to what I needed.  It’s not unusual for me to draw a card featuring a man when I’m trying to figure out a heroine.  That can still be helpful, but it’s not as “obvious.”  These cards were very obvious for this particular story.

Obviously the Queen of Wands is my heroine.  The first things I noted about her card without peeking at the book:  a riding crop (snickers, you know me so well), a sunflower, and a fox emblem that looks like a mask as part of the horse’s tack.  The book’s information about her was spot on.  This was my heroine to a T.  There are still several things I don’t know yet, but I’m hoping they come through slow revelation.

The Seven of Pentacles isn’t a character, but a message to me for this book. Yes, I should pause and take a full accounting.  Something’s not adding up.  There are good things in this idea, but not enough for success.  Evaluate.  (Which I was doing.)

The last card represents my hero, but also the book’s premise as well.  There are 3 main characters, two men and a woman, the same as my book.  One is obviously the “lord” or wealthy man.  Ditto.  It’s also a shifty deal-in-the-night-gone-bad sort of card — which my hero fully expects and experiences, even if that’s not his heroine’s intent.  The tarot guide says “He may have all the swords now, but I warrant someone will find something else to stab in his back.”

Oh yes indeed they will.

Now I feel like I can finish plotting this book!  I’m excited about it, where before I kept avoiding even opening my file.  Onward and upward.  I’ve got to hurry and get this one done, so I can change gears to Vincent’s story (Charlie’s brother).

Tarot Magic

I was feeling a little stuck with the PNR today.  I had to start the Evil Day Job early yesterday, so I didn’t get any words in the morning.  I had to run PE clothes to Littlest’s school over lunch, so no words then.  Then I had to drive around picking everyone up from Spanish and yearbook club after school, cook dinner, etc.  This morning, I just couldn’t get into what I had.  Did I write myself into a corner?  What happened next?

Something was wrong or missing and I didn’t know what it was.  I felt like I was missing something with the hero.  It was too easy.  He knew what–I mean whom–he wanted, and there wasn’t anything to keep him from getting it.  He didn’t have any conflict or angst.  He knows what she is and what she’s capable of, and he doesn’t care.

But it can’t be a romance if there’s not conflict.  Why shouldn’t these two people be together?  What could keep them apart, from his POV?  I had no idea.

When that happens, I always go to tarot and just see if a card will spark some ideas.  For this project, I’ve been using Deviant Moon.  Most of the cards were familiar, refreshing my memory about many of the other characters, but didn’t really speak to me about the hero, until I got the Ten of Swords.  That reminded me that his sanctuary could also be a coffin.  I’d neglected to remember that detail, so I need to go back and tweak a few things to bring that motivation into line.  Not a big deal and not the key missing piece I really needed.

So I was going to look at my Steampunk tarot…but I forgot I lent them to my beloved sis.  Hmmm.  I don’t like my Rider Waite.  They just don’t speak to me at all.  The only other cards I have are the New Orleans Voodoo tarot that I intend to use for a different series.  I haven’t done anything with them, other than flipping through to see the artwork when I first got them.

It was worth a shot.  So I shuffled them and pulled out a card.

And I about fell out of my chair.

I can’t tell you the exact card because I don’t want to give everything away.  Just know that it could NOT have been more perfect and yet more unexpected to find that particular card in a voodoo set.  I took an entire page (front and back) of notes.

To those who give all, all will be given.  Masked faces twist in the abandonment of self.

And I got a brand new plot point that will come in very handy near the end of Act 2.

Writing with Tarot

I’ve posted before that I often turn to tarot for brainstorming (my friend Raelyn Barclay has lots of good posts here).  What I’m finding (for me) is that I end up buying a new deck for each new idea.  *sheepish*

For Lord Regret’s Price, I used the Steampunk Tarot exclusively.  The gorgeous, rich artwork and the Victorian/steampunk elements really spoke to me. I hope I can continue to use those cards for other books in the series.

But when I sat down to work on the new paranormal idea, I didn’t want to use that same deck.  It just didn’t work.  It didn’t say masks or shifters or demons or anything spooky.  I was wandering around on Amazon for something and saw the Deviant Moon deck and it was like cymbals started crashing in my skull.  Yes, yes, yes!

Looking at the cards is even more exciting.  I’ve been working with them all week with mixed results (so I thought).  First, I used their recommended “deviant moon” spread for my villain and got some incredible ideas.  Then I tried the same spread for the hero, and I just didn’t seem to feel it.  I mean, the cards just didn’t seem connected.  I couldn’t visualize anything, it didn’t spark a plot point, or anything.

When that happens, don’t despair!  Here’s a few things I tried:

  1. I took notes anyway and saved them for later.  Upon reflection and some shifting in my mind, the cards filled a gap for something else that I needed.
  2. Try a different spread.  When all else fails, I go back to the simple 3-card past, present, and future.  I got lots of good stuff for the hero then.
  3. If nothing seems to gel, maybe just flip through the deck and examine cards for fun.  See which ones seem to speak and take notes.

All of these options paid out cool ideas this week.  The cards I drew the first day that didn’t seem to work for the hero were actually calling up a missing character I needed.  (They were all strong women, like the Empress, the Queen of Wands, but I knew it wasn’t the heroine.)  I got another card that gave me a plot point that had nothing to do with the hero — but did involve the book.

And when I just picked some cards that really seemed important, I ended up building characters around those cards.  I just KNEW they needed to be used because they were so cool.  This time around, I’m actually building most of my cast straight from the cards themselves.  Not all of the characters are a single card.  e.g. the hero begins as a mix of the hermit/magician, but ends as the Ace of Pentacles.  Without going into too many details about what I’m doing, here are a few pictures of how I’m pairing stuff up.

hero heroine

These cards represent my hero and heroine’s growth throughout the book.  For the heroine (right), she has to make a choice.  The bottom card is what will happen if she falls to the Dark Side.  She’s quite dark, so while I know she’s not going to make that choice…I want to remind myself of that risk as I write.

antagonists

For my villains (yes there’s more than one), I knew the card on the right was significant.  It was a meeting between my two major antagonists.  But I wasn’t sure where else she might show up.  I flipped through the cards looking for a woman colored the same way to get other clues.  I did the same thing for my heroine — looking for other cards that had wings.

So I guess my point here is that it doesn’t have to be based on random chance.  You can sit down and look through the cards for specific characteristics to get ideas too.

Man, I’m loving this creepy weird deck!  I’m getting so many wicked ideas!!!

Writing With Tarot

First, in case you missed it, I’ve added pages for both Golden and Return to Shanhasson with links to excerpts.  I also have some good news:  Vicki is officially going to Samhain!  I don’t have a release date for Yours to Take yet but the contract is signed and I’ve got a few edits I need to work on.  We’re shooting for FRIDAY for Return’s release, but I’ll make an official post once it’s up and available.

Now, the meat of this post.  Since I finished the first draft of The Bloodgate Warrior, I switched my attention to preparing the next WIP, either a new contemporary erotic novella (longish) or Lord Regret’s Price, a follow up to Lady Wyre.  Since I have the most notes on Phantom, I decided to whip it into shape first.

So I’m going through my folders and notes, and there’s something wrong.  Something’s missing.  It’s small, but the project doesn’t FEEL right yet.  It needs to be more than a retelling, more than an erotic menage.  Something had me not wanting to write yet but I didn’t know what it was.

Before getting too frustrated, I pulled out my tarot cards.  My good friend Jenna Reynolds has taught me several tricks to use tarot for inspiration.  I started out by writing down my concerns on a sheet of paper.  Then I pulled a card at random and thought about what it could mean.  What was missing?  What did I need to figure out?

The first few cards were generally encouraging but nothing seemed to speak specifically to the solution.  The Fool.  Sure, my protagonist must take that leap of faith to start the story.  Ace of Wands, inspiration, the spark that starts the fire.  Yes, that’s exactly what I’m looking for!  But WHAT IS IT?

Where things started clicking:  The World card.  Something about the circle, neverending story, circle of life.  I drew a circle on a clean piece of paper and started doodling. 

Of course the next card I drew:  The Wheel of Fortune.  Again, with the circle!

Before too long, I realized that I’d missed the heart of my story.  Yes, I had it plotted on 4 spreadsheets.  I had character maps.  But in the end…  I didn’t have a solid THEME, around which everything should revolve.  That one little picture suddenly unlocked everything I needed.  My characters are the spokes in a wheel.  They’re all either trapped inside a vicious circle of their own making… or they thought they’d broken the circle, only to realize they’d broken themselves instead.

I need to break those circles, and then come full circle to heal them at the same time.

It doesn’t change my plot much, but it gives me that extra emotion I needed that will take this from a pleasant retelling to hopefully a killer emotional ride.

Do you have a favorite trick that helps you gain insight or inspiration when you’re stuck?

CC101 – Final Link Roundup

A huge thank you to everyone who participated this weekend!  I hope it proved fun and useful!  If I’m missing anyone, please let me know.

Day 3

Soleil’s Cancer, Gemini, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces

My Game of Chance and I Ching

Kait’s Structured Character Interviews

Bethanie’s Favorite Characters:  Neil MeqVren and Characters by Collison

JA Howe’s Human vs. Non-Human vs. Alien, Stock Characters, Death to Smoochy

Jessica’s Holding Out For a Hero

Jenna’s Using the Tarot to Create Characters

Day 2

Soleil’s Aires

Soleil’s Taurus

My Lost in the Trees

Kait’s Semi-Structured Interviews

Molly’s What Makes a Good Character?

Jess’s Setting FIres for Fun and Profit

JA Howe’s Molded Not in My Image

Bethanie’s Favorite Characters:  Miphon, Morgan Hearst, and Elkor Alish

Bethanie’s Favorite Characters:  The Darkyn

Day 1

My Static Trait:  The Little Things

Kait Nolan’s Unstructured Character Interviews

Bethanie’s Favorite Character: Gregar (what an honor for my character to make her list!)

Soleil’s What’s Your Sign?

Jessica Tudor’s The Arsonist and the Firefighter

Invitation: Character Clinic

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m going to host a “101 Ways to Love Your Characters” clinic here on the blog, beginning Friday, 2/13 thru Sunday, 2/15.  This invitation is open to anyone on the planet who has anything at all to say about characters.

If you’re a reader, I want to know about your all-time favorite characters and why you love them.

If you’re a writer, I want to know about all your tricks and techniques that help you create memorable characters.  My friend Jenna is going to blog about using tarot; my friend Soleil is going to use astrology; and I’m going to talk about a variety of things, like static traits and possibly what I’ve learned using I Ching. 

The clinics will be informal, chatty, and above all, fun!

I’ll post daily Clinic entries here, linking to everyone who’s participating to share the link love.  Simply e-mail me (see the About tab) or comment on any post and leave me your link to be included.  I’ll be giving away two prizes:  one to the posters; one to the commenters (on any participating blog entry, not just mine).  Posters may comment to gain more chances to win. 

Since Ann and Bethanie can attest to how much I suck at getting packages in the mail *mutters at self and eyes the box on the corner of my desk that I should have mailed last freaking year!!*, the rules are very simple.  Up for grabs:  two $20 prizes, winner’s choice

  • Amazon order (that qualifies for Amazon Prime or includes shipping) up to $20
  • any online book retailer $20 gift certificate (Amazon, B&N, Fictionwise, Drollerie Press bookshop, etc.)

So make a note on your calendar and I hope to see you next weekend!