December 2016 archive

Tarot Writing Prompt: DIY Pleasure-Dome

WHAT DO THE WONDERUL WIZARD OF OZ, PERELANDRA, and JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL have in common?

Their respective authors—L. Frank Baum, C.S. Lewis, and Susanna Clarke—each cooked up an entire world where their characters could play out their dramatic lives.

(For OZ, Baum created a land divided into four segments and separated it from our world with the impassable Deadly Desert. In PERELANDRA, Lewis set a battle between good and evil on a Edenic planet not far from ours. And in JONATHAN STRANGE, Clarke layered a fictional tradition of “English magic” onto a [mostly] historical 18th century England.)

This task—creating a fictional world with rules and people and a past—is called “worldbuilding.” A well-constructed fictional world includes, among other things, a distinctive landscape, a logical infrastructure, and consistent laws—natural, magical (where needed), and legislative.

Tarot writing prompt

Conjure up a city of any sort. Sketch (or bullet point) a megalopolis or an intentional community or, heck, make like Kubla Khan and create yourself a stately pleasure-dome.

Questions like these might help you think through the details:

  • What is the best thing about your city? The worst?
  • What do the folks of your fair city do to earn a wage?
  • Do they live well? Or are they living on the edge?
  • Are they divided into tribes? Factions? Castes?
  • What type of government lays down the law?
  • Has there ever been an insurrection? Should there be?

Got it? Good! Now, get up close and personal with one of your citizens. Establish a goal for him—one your city impedes. For instance: Are ramps obsolete? Put your character in a wheelchair and give him a life-or-death mission (on the other side of town, of course). Is artistic expression illegal? Provide him with an unstoppable creative gift. Is education taboo? Let his hunger for knowledge entice him into a fictional world’s worth of trouble.

Whatever the issue, use it to pit your character’s will against your city’s structure. And write until you discover what happens next.

a7f604a669d5124c563006f046942956This prompt was inspired by The Emperor, tarot’s archetypal worldbuilder, shown here as Caesar, from The Golden Tarot (with permission of U.S. Games Systems). Associated with structure and governance, the tarot Emperor is firmly in charge. A gone-wrong emperor is willful and vengeful. He sacrifices his people’s well-being to satisfy his ego. A healthy emperor may care for the well-being of those in his rule, but, at best, he provides for the good of the many while sacrificing the good of the few.

Congratulations Station

JOAN MANSSON’S been busy! She’s published both her beautifully illustrated FINDING YOURSELF THROUGH COLLAGE and her charming LITTLE BOOK OF REIKI this month. Way to go, Joan!

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MAXINE WEINTRAUB has assembled a lifetime of personal stories in her collection THE MAYONNAISE JAR. Friends and family will be delighted with her humorous, appreciative take on these special moments in her life.

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Big shout out, too, to ALAN ZEMEL on receiving his Tai Chi teaching certificate from the Institute of Integral Quigong and Tai Chi!

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