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.

 

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