If you’re a writer and a plotter and you want to try plotting with tarot cards – this one is for you. I’m going to share my favorite ways to plan, outline, and plot your story – using tarot cards, of course.
Even if you are someone who is a pantser (or discovery writer), where the idea of outlining and plotting out a story before you write it sounds awful, you’ll still get a few tips from this post and video.
Want more tarot videos like this one? Click here.
What are the benefits of plotting and outlining a novel?
I’m a huge fan of plotting! Here’s a few of my favorite benefits:
- It tends to be a little more efficient and take less time – for most people.
- When you plot before you write the story, you’ll be able to see the structure, subplots, character arcs, and plot holes clearly – in outline form, which is SO much easier to address and deal with than when they are in story form.
- The writing tends to go much faster since many of the decisions have already been made. Of course, you can still deviate from your decisions, but you’ll see how those deviations effect the whole.
- For some writers and some stories, it can be hard to “hold it all in your head” – especially true for mysteries and thrillers with lots of clues, red herrings, multiple motives and alibis, and foreshadowing – or for books told through the POV of multiple characters.
- For some people, especially people who are visual or kinetic and have a strategic mind, it’s just FUN to plot and plan and organize.
What are the drawbacks of plotting?
I want to stress that plotting isn’t the RIGHT way – it’s just one way. It has its benefits, but it also has its drawbacks, too.
- For some writers, plotting out the story is the fun part and once it’s written out in outline form, it’s basically TOLD – they don’t feel any need to finish writing it out.
- For some writers, plotting results in an outline that they feel rigidly tied to. It takes out the creativity and the idea of changing the outline stresses them out. It makes writing less fun.
- And for some people, the writing is the fun part. Their brain NEEDS to wander and write to be able to come up with the ideas.
So – what exactly IS plotting? Remember it’s different for everyone, but it’s basically coming up with the main scenes of your story, and making sure that they line up with the main story structure plot points.
The plot of a story is just a sequence of events. An event happens, which causes another event to happen, which causes another event to happen – all the way through your book. That’s your plot.
This is where we bring in our tarot cards. Your tarot deck – especially if its a Rider-Waite-Smith-based deck – is MADE for telling stories. You have 78 cards, each with a character personality on it (court cards), a character archetype (Majors), or little story scenes and events (all the cards).
So, start with what you know, and begin using your tarot deck to brainstorm ideas and inspiration. Nothing is concrete – you’re just coming up with ideas. Write them down or collect them however you collect ideas. Get them to mingle and play.
I like to start with 3 cards, see how they interact, journal a bit about it, and then start adding more cards, one at a time, until I feel it’s complete or until I get bored.
I do this when brainstorming plot points, individual scenes, character personalities, character flaws/wounds/motivations/goals, conflict, setting ideas – everything.
If I’m super early in the story process, I might just play with a mini-blurb, pulling 6 cards, based roughly on the Save-the-Cat Logline: [Hero] wants [early External Goal], but when [Inciting Incident] happens, hero must [Story Goal] against the [Antagonist] or else [Stakes].”
This comes up with some ridiculous story ideas, but you can start to mingle and match them together to create something awesome.
You can also ask your tarot cards specific questions when you get stuck with your plotting process.
Tarot Plotting Questions
The questions I ask when I’m using tarot for plotting are…
- What if? What then? What next?
- If X happens, then what if Y also happened? (two cards) Or what if Z happened instead? (three cards)
I also look at the expected tropes in my genre, and I try to flip them…
- The trope [this thing]. What if X happened instead?
And since characters and plot are so closely tied together, I ask…
- What does this character fear the most? How can I make that happen in this story?
- What would make this character’s life even worse?
- How can the antagonist attack, in ways related to the protagonist’s Flaw, Wound, or External Goal?
I hope that’s enough to get you started with using tarot to plot a novel! The video above has many many more ideas, so be sure to check it out, too.