October 2019 archive

A Long Way Down (Tarot Writing Prompt)

THE CHARIOTEER, WITH HIS FOOTBALL-PLAYER SHOULDERS, is determined. He has all his ducks (and sphinxes) in a row. He’s laurel-wreathed and star-crowned. He’s got promise, dude! Get such a character in your sights—maybe modeling them on someone you know (or someone you used to be?)—and write about an early success they’ve had.

For instance,

  • She led her high school debate team to their winning-est season ever, then earned a full scholarship to UCLA, graduating summa cum laude in political science.
  • Or, he was an Olympic equestrian hopeful, riding six-figure horses at the age of fifteen.

Next, fast forward ten years and look them up—only to find they’ve fallen deep into a well of circumstances that really surprise you, given their early promise.

For instance,

  • She stays home with five young kids, now, and is supporting her husband’s bid for county commissioner.
  • Or he, horses a thing of the past, has become a beast of burden himself, humping forty-pound bags of feed and bales of hay at the local feed store.

What happened? Did she trip over her own hubris, too confidently taking on a project she couldn’t complete? Or did his attempt to besmirch a competitor’s reputation and steal their ride backfire? Are they in a slump from which they can’t seem to emerge? (Cue movie montage of a collapsed main character, unable to get out of bed, litter box stinking, produce that used to be whirled into fabulous energy smoothies moldering in their refrigerator’s produce drawer.)

Tarot writing prompt

However they got here, your character is drowning at the bottom of life’s pickle barrel. How can you help them? What kind of stakes can you create that will light a fire under your once-optimistic little charioteer and get them to rejoin the race?

  • Do you bring her face to face with an instance of social injustice that directly threatens her family—hoping she’ll get busy writing letters to the editor, canvassing her neighborhood, and speaking passionately at meetings of her local government?
  • Or, do you place a once magnificent, now-neglected horse in a field he passes on his way to work—hoping he’ll rescue it and bring both it and himself back to the glory of their earlier days?

Whatever their predicament, look into your character’s past and find the makings of a virtual cattle-prod of a motivation to jolt them back into the saddle again!

Writing inspiration

WORKING GIRL,1988 comedy, starring Melanie Griffith and Harrison Ford
GREAT EXPECTATIONS, by Charles Dickens
“New York, New York,” composed by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb

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Thanks to U.S. Games Systems, Inc., for kind permission to use the image of The Chariot from the RIDER-WAITE TAROT.

 

Meet-Cute: A Rom-Com Writing Prompt

TAROT’S TWO OF CUPS can speak of early attraction—eyes meeting across a crowded dance floor, the meet-cute of romantic comedy fame, or the moment when the warm comfort of a friendship flares up into sudden passion.

Tarot writing prompt

Have you experienced such attraction? If so, you might want to recapture it by writing out the details of those early, excruciatingly heightened moments.

If not, throw two of the most unlikely people you can into a situation that forces them to interact. Were they both sentenced to community service? Best man and maid of honor at a wedding? Has the Ferris wheel stalled, leaving these two strangers stranded together in a car swaying at the very top? Wherever you stick them, make it uncomfortable for them both. Until, you know, those flames of passion erupt!

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This exercise was created for and first published in Christiana Gaudet’s TAROT TOPICS newsletter.

Thanks to U.S. Games Systems, Inc., for kind permission to use the image of the Two of Cups from the MORGAN-GREER TAROT.

Hearts on Fire! A Tarot Writing Prompt

AMONG OTHER THINGS, the ouch-y Three of Swords can speak of betrayal and the heartbreak it engenders. It can also speak of emotional overreaction! Put those together, and you get the stuff of melodrama!

Tarot writing prompt

Now’s your chance to write a script for a soap opera. If you’re a fan of daytime TV, you might want to create a story line for characters from your favorite show. If not, create a cast of characters of your own and set up a betrayal. Either a financial or sexual betrayal would be a great basis for histrionics by the injured party.

Have a fabulous time describing their clothes-rending reaction. But what if they go beyond their first dramatic response? What if they retreat to plan their revenge? What then? And if they carry out that dastardly plan??!!

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This exercise was created for and first published in Christiana Gaudet’s TAROT TOPICS newsletter.

The Three of Hearts illustrating this post is from the THE PRAIRIE TAROT, by Robin Ator.

3 Emergency Writing Prompts

SOME DAYS, IT FEELS LIKE AN EMERGENCY. We want to write, but don’t have anything to write about. Be prepared for such a dire situation. Paint these three mini-prompts fire-alarm red and stick them to your wall so you’ll have them on hand … in case of emergency.

1) I SPY: Did you ever read HARRIET THE SPY, by Louise Fitzhugh? In this Middle Grade novel, the awesomely unsentimental, eleven-year-old urban-dweller Harriet M. Welsch spies on friends and neighbors—and jots her sharp observations in a notebook. (Sounds like an aspiring writer, to me!)

Of course, things go badly for Harriet. Let’s hope they go better for you! Today, spy on yourself. Make notes about your life, your environment, your associates, your habits—in third person, as if you had yourself under surveillance. As if you were a spy.

2) MEMORIES: What was your life like … before you were born? Go as far back as you like. As far back as you can! Take a wild ten minutes—and keep your hand moving!

3) TOP SECRET: What’s something you’re not EVER allowed to talk about? Write about your own secret or someone else’s … then burn, shred, delete, or flush the page you’ve written it on.

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The photo illustrating this post is “Pulitzer prize winning photo” by betke2 and is licensed under CC0 1.0.

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