Characterization by I Ching

So you know I’ve been working on the SFR story tentatively called “Seven Crows.”  I’m hoping to make it my Feb. project, even though I’m pretty behind in Revision Xibalba.  I ended up drawing heavily on ancient Chinese history for the hero’s inspiration, which I hadn’t planned.  One thing led to another, and there I was reading through different dynasties.

Then the Chinese New Year came.  I got an innocent little advert from Tarot.com offering a free I Ching reading to celebrate the Year of the Ox.  Amused, I checked it out.  (I enjoy reading my “horror-scopes” because they’re never true.  I blame it on the cutoff between Taurus and Gemini.  5/21 is right on the line, and some Gemini elements fit, while others don’t at all, but Taurus isn’t right either.) 

Something started nagging in the corner of my mind.  Is this something I can use for the hero?

Turns out, yes.  I did a little research into I Ching (Google is my friend).  One of the 8 trigrams is “dragon”, which immediately caught my eye.  This is a shapeshifter story and you know how much I love dragons!  Then I looked up various hexagrams involving that symbol.  I ended up being very surprised at how much of it seemed to fit with what I already knew about my character.  I even started to get more plot ideas.  The biggest thing:  I have his static trait now, and lots of ideas of how it will affect plot and deepen his character.

Then I had to decide what symbol to use for the heroine.  Now she’s not based on the same culture, but I wanted to see what HE would think, looking at her and trying to discover her personality.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a symbol involving “crow.”  *snort*  But fire seemed to fit pretty well with my ideas for her (and its animal was the pheasant, which at least has wings), which lead me to another list of hexagrams to look up.  They’re not quite as clear to me, but I have a feeling they’ll be very useful when I’m in the hero’s POV trying to figure out what he knows, sees, hears, etc. from her.

Here’s another strangely cool inspiration that is now starting to make sense.  “Seven Crows” came from a crow augry poem, which was used to foretell the future based on the number of birds seen:

One crow sorrow,
Two crows mirth,
Three crows a wedding,
Four crows a birth,
Five crows silver,
Six crows gold
Seven crows a secret,
which must never be told.

How cool is that?  I never intended for astrology to play a part in this story at all!

Has anyone had luck using other forms of astrology to develop characters or plot?  I’ve used the Archetype Storytelling cards and personality tests before, but this is a first for astrology.

11 thoughts on “Characterization by I Ching

  1. I love that poem. Definitely cool.

    And I’m a complete astrology-geek and while I have used zodiac signs for inspiration, I’ve never thought to delve deeper into it…now I’m thinking I just might.

  2. That. Is. Awesome.

    And, just because I think it’s awesome, in official Chinese calendars, I was born in the Year of the Dragon. In Chinese restaurant calendars, it’s Year of the Horse. Needless to say, I like the official calendar better. Ha!

  3. Soleil, if you post about how you use zodiac signs, let me know! I find it very intriguing.

    Sis, either of those Chinese zodiac animals are cool! Much better than being a Dog!

    What I really don’t get about “Year of the Ox” etc. is how can every single person born in 2009 be an OX? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

  4. ….Oh now Im inspired.

    Dude. Zodiac signs, why didn’t I ever think that would be a good blog topic? *face palm* And when I say dude, I mean ‘wow’, not calling you a dude. *laughs*. But eureka, this is something I could actually post more than three sentences about. Though I think I’ll do a bit of researching and “freshening up” first. Thank you Joely!

  5. Actually I’ve got a pile of books on the meaning of names that I like to refer to–detailed ones that talk about astrology and various other forms of mysticism. I’m also a big fan of numerology. There’s a website…http://www.paulsadowski.com/Numbers.asp It doesn’t always match, but often it does, at least in part, with what I had in mind when I name my characters. It’s part of why I can’t just change a name midstream. Each name has specific meanings and connotations and stuff. And yeah, you’re right. This is a good idea for a blog topic. Maybe we should make it a thing.

  6. Kait and Soleil — this is awesome. Stay tuned for an open blog invitation to some kind of “characterization clinic.” I’m working out the details now. I hope you both will participate! I can’t wait to learn all your interesting tricks!

  7. 😀 I can’t remember where I found it. On someone’s blogroll probably, back in my early blogging days when I had TIME to check out all the links on everyone’s blog! I’ve got a bunch of random stuff like that under my Fun Stuff section on my blogroll if you’re bored.

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