Creating Fantasy Characters with the Tarot

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Have you ever considered creating fantasy characters with the Tarot? Although it might seem challenging, the exercise will provide you with new points of view when writing fantasy. The characters that appear on the Tarot cards embody archetypes, and these are useful for crafting real people.

Although Tarot has been around since the 1400s, it has only boomed in the modern era. You can find different Tarot sets with compelling artwork. Before choosing whatever deck that comes into your hands, consider the artwork carefully. Because the cards will spark your imagination, it’s better to pick a deck that has art that speaks to you. Otherwise, it’ll be challenging to use them for writing. Make sure that you choose a deck that has a book with the card explanations as well. Usually, the artwork changes some of the meanings, so don’t trust specifications online unless you have a traditional deck between your hands.

I use the Druid Craft Tarot [The Book Depository] [Waterstones]. I bought the kit that includes the deck and a nice book with all the explanations. It gives enough information about the artwork details that I can draw inspiration easily from the cards and the book as well.

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To create compelling stories, we need a set of characters. Usually, we’ll need more than the hero and the antagonist to make our novel shine. Consider creating a set of foils (friends and side-kicks), a supporting cast, and some minor characters. To make them believable, we should imagine their backgrounds with more or less extent.

Let’s say I want to create a female hero for my story. I chose two random cards from the Major Arcana (the powerful archetypes in the Tarot deck), and two random cards from the Minor Arcana to define her personality. Minor cards explain more in detail actions, but major cards explain archetypes better. So, it’s a good idea to base your character on the Majors and then explain anything else in their personality with the minor cards.

I chose my main character to be a woman, but before I proceed I need to ask some questions. Taking a look at the two Majors I got, the Empress and the Moon, and the Minor cards, the Ace of Cups and the Ace of Spades, I should answer these questions:

  • How old is she?
  • What does she look like?
  • What’s her profession?
  • What are her hobbies?
  • How does her family look like?
  • What are her dreams?
  • What does she fear?

The Empress tells me that my female character is young and full of energy. She likes fashion, and creating new things. The Ace of Swords talks about ideas, and the Empress about creativity as well. So, my main character is a pool of creativity and thrives creating. She likes food, and is a little bit chubby. The Ace of Cups talks about feelings, and since the cup is overflowing, we can say that she is very sensitive and emotional. That can make her extremely moody (the Moon), and also living in the clouds.

Because she has many ideas, I see her as an artist. So, she can be a web designer. She likes playing games (we have cups, swords, and hounds on the cards). She probably lives at home with her parents and they have a dog. Her parents work a lot, so she spends her alone time creating home pages, playing games, and dreaming about having real friends and love in her life. What she fears the most is being alone.

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We have a general view of the character, but we can still go way deeper. She is a little bit chubby and beautiful. But we can get more psysical traits taking a look at the Empress card. Her eye color, the length and color of her hair, what type of sking she has, and even we can think about tattoos and piercings. Does she have some of those or not? And once we’ve thought about a lot of details, we can think of one that stands out. In the case of my hero, I think that she would have blue-purple eyes. I want her to have a feature that other characters will remember easily, and so will the reader.

As for the hobbies and the job, I can dig deeper too. I could think about her short-term and long-term goals. I could also proceed to describe in detail her strengths and weaknesses. Maybe I can think about bad habits. And of course, I should think about her daily routine, and what she does during the weekends. How does she spend her free time?

Once I’ve covered all those details with the help of the cards, I can go an step further. I can get some extra help shuffling the Tarot deck and getting extra cards. I’d would be a good idea to know the following:

  • When is her birthday? Did anything unusual happen? Was it ordinary?
  • Where did she live when she was a kid? Was she bullied at school? Did she have many friends? Did they learn about magic at the school? Or gaming?
  • How were her teen years? Was she popular? Does the steampunk-fantasy world where she lives thrilles her or bores her?
  • What is her earliest memory? The one that makes her happy the most? And the saddest one?
  • What is the most embarrasing moment in her life?
  • What type of fashion does she wear? Any makeup? Does she care about size at all?
  • Does she collect anything? If so, what?
  • What type of music does she like?

You can continue on and on and use as many cards as necessary, until I get a full picture of my hero. The same card can give you different vibes depending on the world where your characters live. My hero lives in a fantasy world where there are many things like ours, only that they’re more steampunk. The trick to get believable characters is to think as many details as you can about them. It doesn’t matter if you use that information later on in the story.

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Just remember that realistic characters have dreams and desires. It doesn’t matter if they live in a crazy fantasy world. As long as they don’t move in a random direction, or do things that are against their personalities, the reader will believe they’re as real as we are. Also, interesting characters live in worlds where the stakes are high. You either go through them, or you die. Plus, they have conflict in their life too. They need to overcome obstacles that are difficult in order to be compelling. They need internal and outward conflict so that the reader is invested.

When you craft your characters using the Tarot, you can also use the cards to create obstacles for them. The cards will help you getting inspiration and paying attention to detail. If you don’t want to read too much into each card’s meaning, you can start just taking a long look at the artwork. Take a card from the deck, and describe everything. Imagine the life of the character that appears in it. What’s happening? How is the character behaving? And so on.

If you need a little bit more information about your character, consider interviewing her! You can use the Tarot to make her answer, or by the time you reached this point, you might be using your imagination muscle at full force. Begin with an open request to your character. For example, “tell me about yourself.” That will make you put yourself in the shoes of your character and become her. Roleplaying is also key to understand your character’s psychology and motives. By the time you’ve crafted your character, you’ll know enough about her to be comfortable and consistent writing her adventures.

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If you like the idea about using the cards for inspiration, try Tarot for Writers [The Book Depository] [Waterstones]. It has different ways to look at the cards, and it proposes nice exercices to come up with great characters and stories.


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A Geek Girl interested in Geek Anthropology, comic books, books, Superheroes and discovering all about pop culture.

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