A few years ago at Baycon, I picked up a writer’s tool called “The Writer’s Tarot”. (They have since been renamed “Story Forge Cards” and after a VERY successful Kickstarter project, will be available to the public sometime this Summer.) It’s not really a tarot deck, but it uses the traditional meanings of many of the cards of the tarot to help inspire story or character development. I’m in the midst of developing some characters for a murder mystery I want to try and write, so on a whim I picked up a deck and did a “spread” that is meant to create a character’s background. I got a very interesting result.
1. The character’s Mother: Black Sheep (inverse), well thought of person suddenly becomes a black sheep and must come to terms.
2. The character’s Father: Profane, pure evil, a blight on man, god, and the universe, nothing but pain, loss and damnation.
3. The strength of their relationship: Desire.
4. The problems between them: The Moon, order prevails, even when things go poorly they behave as expected.
5. The circumstance of the character’s birth: The Angle (inverse), the universe itself becomes the opponent, rising up to prevent the goal from being reached
6. Complications if any: Epiphany (inverse), No matter how dramatically it is revealed, the truth is refused, obscured by cowardice or delusion.
7. The universe’s influence on his or her nature: Vice, even knowing it to be wrong, this person gives in to their baser nature, selfishly pursuing only the most prurient interests.
8. Early strengths: The Assassin, whether driven by vendetta or ideology, this hunter will stop at nothing until blood has been spilled.
9. Early weaknesses: The World (Inverse), no-one can get a break; the world or its people seem to be determined to provide nothing but resistance.
10. Education: Cruelty, Someone deliberately causes physical or mental suffering; can represent an act of cruelty, the effect of such abuse, or a person with a sadistic nature
11. Belief foundation: Health, the body is strong and free from disease, can be a generally good constitution or a return to health after having been injured or sick.
12. Life experience: The Secret, the consequences of the secret being revealed would be catastrophic; it must be kept at all costs.
13. A shaping experience in recent times: Knowledge, information, the wisdom to apply it well, and the power that comes with it.
14. An experience that left scars:Queen of Mirrors (inverse), The secret admirer keeps to the shadows, either too shy to publicly admit their adoration or because the attention may be unwelcome or inappropriate.
15. The state of the character at the beginning (well, at the time of death): Time is of the utmost importance, whether it is the ticking of a bomb, the passage of hours, years, centuries, or millennia.
(Note that the text of the cards I copied here is copyright B.J. West, and I’m being an evil sneak reproducing them here. No harm is intended towards Mr. West. Go out and buy a copy of the deck when they are published!)
I had originally intended the victim to be a relatively innocent person who was killed for malicious purposes. After this “spread” I’m having fun re-imagining him as the supposed son of a mob boss, who is brought up through the school of hard knocks. Recently, however, he discovered his mother had a secret lover, and that the mob boss is not really his father. I’m not yet sure how to work a secret admirer in (maybe someone who knows the truth and was sending him secret messages?), but the time thing is a surprisingly apt thing given the gimmick I want to use to frame the story.
This spread went way dark, and may wind up totally turning the character around. I kind of like it. It’s fun to let randomness be part of the creative process!
All for fun and games, but a useful creative tool. I’ll have to give this a go with the detective character.