Using Tarot to Write Poetry

Inspiration comes in strange forms. And often seemingly out of nowhere. While I don’t usually write in any form other than pros, the idea came to me to write a poem. But in a very specific way: using Tarot cards. Because, why not? After all, if I can use them for everything else, why not for a poem?

As soon as the idea hit, so did all possible complication I could think of:

  • How many cards should I draw?
  • Should I draw one card per stanza? Per line?
  • If I need to figure that out, then I need to figure out the form of my poem ahead of time, wouldn’t I?
  • What if I drew one card as the topic of the stanza, and then a card for each line?
  • Maybe a card for the beginning of the line and the end of the line?
  • What if the start of the stanza was the topic card reversed and the stanza was about how to right the card?
  • Etc.

And of course, how would you decide what that card has to say? After all, you’re not doing a reading. This is a poem. The cards can say so many different things based on the cards around them, the prompt or question, or simply the feel of the reading. Could I read a card in the form of a poem rather than as a reading as a whole?

K.I.S.S.
Keep It Simple, Stupid

Then I realized I was making this way too complicated.

Writing, like divination, is about feeling it out. It’s about tapping into that water aspect of ourselves, our creative, intuitive self. It’s about diving deep into our wells and oceans and seeing what we pull from the depths.

In other words, it’s about going with the flow.

So I tried it out, letting the cards tell me how many I was to draw.

I took a deep breath and sank into my body, letting my hands do what they knew to do: shuffle the cards , letting my fingers feel the directions of them. I stopped thinking, and instead simply felt. And when the time was right, I began putting cards down without too much thought.

The Process

I chose one per line, and each angled row of cards was a different stanza.

Here’s what my process looked like:

  1. I breathed in a drew a card at a time, letting the deck dictate where to put each card and when to stop.
  2. I assigned each card on word.
  3. I looked at each stanza, writing down the word per line, then spent time writing the stanza itself, incorporating the essence of the meaning of the word.
  4. I moved on to the next stanza, repeating the process until I was finished.
  5. Add up the cards in each stanza to get a theme for the stanza in the form of the Major Arcana.

While I’m not going to share what I wrote (I am certainly no poet), I wanted to share the essence of what each line revolved around, to give you an example of how you might play around with this method.

Title

Okay, so I didn’t intentionally pull a title. I happened to have a card that popped out when I was moving the deck, and thought I would stick it at the top and see if that card came into play at all.

In my opinion, it did.

It was the 8 of Swords – self-bound.

Dreamkeeper's Tarot: 8 of Swords

The 8 of Swords is a reminder that while the situation might seem difficult, you are the one who holds the ends of your ropes. You have the ability to change your perspective. You can untie yourself, remove your blindfold and obstacles, and get yourself out of the situation that feels so impossible. You have this ability.

Spoiler alert, this played nicely, given the last line of the first stanza, which focuses on resistance.

Furthermore, the 8s, in Tarot, correspond to the Major Arcana card, Strength. This is about finding the difficult parts within ourselves and approaching them with compassion. We don’t fight against them, instead confront them with understanding.

And thus, this was what my poem was about.

Stanza 1

I flipped over the first line to get the following cards:

  • XIII Death – Transformation
  • 9 of Cups – Embodiment
  • XI Justice – Truth
  • VI Lovers – Highest Choice
  • 9 of Wands – Redundant
Dreamkeeper’s Tarot: Death, 9 of Cups, Justice, Lovers, 9 of Wands

I wrote these down in my notebook, then then began to write what I thought about death in terms of transformation. For me, it is a moment of stepping into transformation, whether we intend to or not, and not being able to go back. The process has already begun.

So what choice do we have? That of examining our wants, our goals, what would make us happiest and set us on cloud 9. That’s what the 9 of Cups is about, and that is what we have to embody. If we have to transform, why not embody what we want to transform into?

And how do we know how to do that? We must look inward to find our own inner truth, our personal Justice.

When we know this, we will take the higher path, the one that will lead us to our inner growth, our divine evolution. This is the card of the lovers. This is what this line is about.

Except, perhaps, there is resistance. And what is the cause of the resistance other than ourselves? We have fought so hard, and we continue to fight. But perhaps, just maybe, if we see the battle is won, that we no longer need to be on guard, then the energy we seek, that we need for our transformation, can flow freely.

Adding Up the Cards

As I mentioned before, I add the cards to convert them to a corresponding Major Arcana. If you’re not familiar with the Tarot, this might sound very strange and kind of confusing. I’ll walk you through it:

  1. Add up the number of the cards
  2. If the number is higher than 22, add the digits together
  3. The resulting number will be a corresponding Major Arcana

The reason we take an extra step with numbers over 22 is because there are only 21 number Major Arcana cards.

The numbers we’re working with for this stanza are 13, 9, 11, 6, and 9.

13 + 9 + 11 + 6 + 9 = 48

This is a number higher than 22, so we add the two digits together: 4 + 8 = 12.

So the corresponding card is the Hanged Man. However, we can take it a step further and reduce the number down by adding the digits together again:

1 + 2 = 3
the Empress.

This guides me a little more, should I want to. I can start with the message of the Hanged Man and end the stanza with the Empress, or I can aim to elevate the poem from the Empress to the Hanged Man. I won’t go into these card meanings, but it’s just and added something fun to play around with if you’re like me and like complicated things.

Stanza 2

  • High Priestess – Intuition and Secrets
  • Ace of Swords – Inspiration
  • Empress – Nurture
  • Ace of Cups – Nourishment
  • 3 of Wands – Expansion
Dreamkeeper’s Tarot: High Priestess, Ace of Swords, Empress, Ace of Cups, 3 of Wands

How do we find what we are resisting? What we are fighting for? We call upon the wisdom and energy of the High Priestess, who helps us to navigate our intuition and our inner secrets. Settling with her will show you what you need to know.

Armed with a sword, the Ace of Swords, you can cut away what is no longer needed to make way for inspiration. The new ideas are endless. Like cutting away weeds that have overgrown and smothered what you need so desperately to grow.

The Empress then teaches you to nurture what remains. She tends to your inner strengths, to the new aspects of yourself that will aid your transformation.

What’s most important, with the Empress and High Priestess combined, you’ll learn how to care for yourself, your first true love, teaching you how to find and nurture your self-compassion, to fill your own cup.

From there, you expand. Into the world, into new forms of expression, you expand. You transform.

Adding Up the Cards

For this stanza, the numbers on the cards I’m working with are 2, 1, 3, 1, and 3.

2 + 1 + 3 + 1 +3 = 10

Since it’s below 22, I don’t need to reduce it down. This card is the Wheel of Fortune. Though, it is a two-digit card, which means I can reduce it further to 1, the Magician. Personally, I find both of these cards go superbly with the cards drawn for this stanza.

Stanza 3

  • The Star – Hopes
  • 10 of Cups – Fulfillment
  • Kind of Swords – Wisdom
Dreamkeeper’s Tarot: Star, 10 of Cups, King of Swords

The Star provides you wishes, hopes, and a direction to take aim. She promises you success, if only you’ll let her help you aim your bow into the stars.

The 10 of Cups shows your success, your brimming cup so full it fills ten of them. Your heart is content, and there is no further joy. The water flows. There is no more resistance. You have given up your stance. There is no more fighting.

Therein lies the wisdom of the King of Swords, master of his art. Master of his words. Master of his passion that is your expression, dear writer. Therein lies the wisdom.

Adding up the Cards

For this final stanza, we only have three cards to work with, and thus, three numbers: 17, 10, and 4.

17 + 10 + 4 = 41

4 + 1 = 5
the Hierophant.

One could go further and add all the stanzas up to see what the corresponding Major Arcana card would be for the whole poem. However, since I drew a title card, I don’t feel it’s necessary.

The Result

It was shocking how well it turned out. I loved the flow of it, though, again, I won’t share what I wrote. I’m not a poet, after all.

However, I loved the play with it. While I do sometimes write poetry, especially if I’m reading it (which I do get into some poetry kicks from time to time, which you might have noticed if you follow me on Instagram), I generally let it flow. However, some of my favorite poems I’ve written have been somewhat calculated as I tried to fit them into a form. Finding a form like that helped me to get creative with my words and pay attention to the rhythm. I found different an unique ways of expressing myself within the form’s parameter.

This is what I experienced while trying to write a poem this way. It also tapped into a different part of my brain, one that I certainly feel that I should be using while I’m writing. After all, in the Tarot, creativity and intuition both fall into the same element (at least, the way I read the cards they do). So why should I be surprised at how well using my intuitive part of my mind worked when applying it to my creativity?

I truly recommend giving this a go. Even if you don’t read the cards, getting a creative deck that speaks to you, that you find inspiration in, and writing down a key word that floats to mind as you look at the card can be a great way to tap into your creativity.

My Question to You

Would you be interested in a cheat sheet with a keyword for each tarot card, as well as perhaps a few “classic” poetry forms to play around with? Let me know in the comments. Also be sure to let me know if you played around with this method, or any similar method. I would love to hear all about it!

Call for Submissions: Nightmares When I’m Cold

I am so excited to announce a call for submissions to Natural Writer Coaching’s first anthology. I am pairing up with Katrina Carruth, editor and writer, to compile and present this writing competition and anthology, Nightmares When I’m Cold.

This has been a goal and dream of both Katrina’s and mine for a long time. In the long bygone days of being an English and Philosophy student, I wanted to start a publication, just so I could have the opportunity to ready others’ fiction. So bringing about this idea is something I am nothing short of thrilled about.

The goal of this anthology is to showcase the creepy and chilling tales that come from your beautiful brains under the writing prompt “Nightmares When I’m Cold”.

This competition will open on July 1, 2021, and the deadline is August 15, 2021 at midnight, PST. 

Nightmares When I’m Cold
Basic Guidelines

This is what we are looking for:

  1. A horror story revolving around the prompt “Nightmares When I’m Cold”
  2. 3,000 to 6,000 words. Anything above 6,000 or below 3,000 will be discarded.
  3. Any subgenre of horror, though horror must be the main genre

Please note that just because the prompt is in the first person doesn’t mean that the story itself needs to be in the first person.

Something we strongly encourage is really pushing your creative self. Try the third-idea method, in which you throw away your first two ideas and go for the third or fourth. This can help you move past possibly thinking of something you’ve seen or read already and really get to something juicy.

What we do not want:

  1. Gratuitous violence, abuse, or sex
  2. Anything to do with rape. This is a big NO. While we know this is a book of horror, we would like to avoid needing to put Trigger Warnings at the top of any story.
  3. Anything to do with the mutilation or harm of children. This is a big NO.
  4. Gratuitous gore.

Who is eligible:

  • Adults 18+
  • Contestants from the US, Mexico, and Canada*

* One day we hope to expand this to include other countries, but for now, we are keeping this continental local.

The Prizes

While we want to put together a collection of stories that not only the authors can be proud of, but that we can be proud to showcase, we also wanted to make this a little more fun and give it a competitive edge.

Please know, all of the prizes are redeemable within 12 months of the publication date of the anthology.

Short-Listed Stories

  • All short-listed stories will have a place in the anthology, Nightmares When I’m Cold
  • Each contributing writer will receive a hard copy of the anthology itself
  • Each contributing writer will receive 30% off any of Natural Writer Coaching’s services
  • Bragging rights
  • A great gift idea for the holidays (Please see the nitty-gritty)

3rd Prize

  • The winner of the 3rd prize will receive a 20,000-word critique of a current or finished WIP
    • This involves reading the section twice while making notes on the document, and writing a detailed email involving the critique
  • A basic line edit of the 20,000 word segment
  • A 1-hour call via Zoom, Skype, or Telegram discussing the critique

Valued at $250

2nd Prize

  • A 4-pack of hour-long coaching calls
  • Each call we talk about your work in progress, difficulties you might be having, character and plot development, writing blocks, etc.
  • Calls held via Skype, Zoom, or Telegram

Valued at $325

1st Prize

  • The Full Month Coaching Package
  • 4x 1-hour sessions (weekly)
  • Limitless emails between each session to discuss your project
  • A developmental editing approach to 15000 words of your story. This will be done by the third week of the month, and feedback will be emailed to you so we have the option of discussing the feedback if you want on the fourth week.

Valued at $1235

Nightmares When I’m Cold
Submission Guidelines

As I’ve already mentioned, this is a non-profit. That means that we will be donating anything we make over the cost of production, however, there is still a cost of production to take into consideration. To help with that, there is a $10 Submission Fee per submission.

We also believe in amplifying and lifting BI&POC and LGBTQIA+ voices. As an honor system, that fee will be waved, no questions asked.

If you would like donate extra to help to cover the cost of this book, or to simply donate the cause, please contact me.

That aside, here are the rules of submitting your work:

  1. $10 submission fee per entry*
  2. The story must be between 3,000 and 6,000 words, no more, no less.
  3. A separate cover letter document must be included with your submission
  4. Your submission must not include your name anywhere on it other than the email you send us and your cover letter. This is so we can ensure that we are reading each piece blind, so we don’t favor those we know consciously or unconsciously. We want to be as fair as possible
  5. Documents must be saved as a .doc or .docx. Please no PDFs

* We are more than happy to read as many pieces as you provide, however, only one of your pieces will be selected if you make it to the shortlist.

A Note on the Cover Letter

I don’t know one writer who likes to write cover letters. So I thought I would tell you exactly what we’re looking as a guideline (though we’re far less strict on your cover letter than on your actual submission:

  • The name of your story and your name
  • A little bit about your story, and if you did choose the third-method, feel free to share what your first two ideas were (though this isn’t essential, just a fun way for us to get to know you)
  • A little about yourself as a writer
  • A little about you as you

That’s it. It’s that simple.

The Nitty-Gritty

There are a few things that should be mentioned.

  1. Our approximate timeline is as such:
    • Open for submissions July 1 – August 15, 2021
    • Announce the short-list on September 21, 2021
    • Announce 1st, 2nd, & 3rd prizes on October 31, 2021
    • Release the anthology December 1, 2021
  2. The timeline we have set is tentative. It is our aim, though we may have to push it back. We appreciate your patience.
  3. This is a non-profit. Whatever is left over from the production costs of this anthology will be donated to a charitable cause assisting BI&POC and/or LGBTQIA+ writers and/or communities, and/or the environmental causes, or a combination of all of the above. The cause will be announced closer to July 1. the Sentient Squid Scholarship made available through Writing the Other.
  4. If you are short-listed and thus included in the anthology, we will have the rights to your story for six months after publication purely for promotional purposes. After that, you may submit it wherever else you’d like. We won’t do anything with your story other than publish it in an agreeable manner in the anthology.

Ethics of Writing + Having Sensitivity Readers

Both Katrina and I have strong ideas of contributing good to the world. As a result, we have a few stances we are taking with this contest/anthology.

Marginalized Voices & Sensitivity Readers

We believe in uplifting and making space for marginalized voices, which is why we are waving submission fees for BI&POC and LGBTQIA+ folx, no questions asked. This is a trust and honor system, and we would appreciate that this is respected.

Likewise, we also acknowledge that we aren’t qualified to ensure that the content of all the stories that are selected won’t be problematic. As a result, we would like to have sensitivity readers on board with this project.

If you are a sensitivity reader and would like to be a part of this contest/anthology, please feel free to contact me via IG DM, or though the contact page. We would love to talk to you.

Donations

Anything beyond the production costs will go toward a charity or scholarship. We are dabbling in a few ideas at the minute, but one that is feeling good is to put the money toward a scholarship for underrepresented writers.

Again, if you would like to donate toward this contest/anthology to help cover the waived entry fees of marginalized writers, please get in touch! We would love to hear from you.

EDIT: Furthermore, if you would like to donate directly to Writing the Other, you can donate here. To read about why we feel so strongly about the services Writing the Other provides, check out Writing the Other & Our Responsibility as Writers here.

Your Homework

Alright, there you have it—we have a contest on our hands. At the time of the publication of this post, you have two weeks to start thinking about and writing your story.

So you have a few pieces of homework in light of this:

  1. Start thinking about your story prompted by “Nightmares when I’m cold.”
  2. Start writing your story!
  3. Share this post with friends who might be interested in entering this contest
  4. Visit Writing the Other to see how their workshops, classes, and free resources can help you and your writing.

Remember, we are open for submissions between July 1 and August 15. We will have a page for entries up by then. Please feel free to comment below with any questions, or use the contact form.

We are so excited for this contest, and hope you are too!

Happy writing!

Book a Free 30-Minute Session with Me

Are you thinking about working with me, but just aren’t entirely sure? Fill out the form, schedule a call, let’s talk. This is a no-pressure, non-sales-pitch call, where we talk about you and your writing, and whether or not you want to work with me. Let’s chat!

Intro to Generating Story Ideas: 3 Steps to Jumpstart Creativity

There are writers who have a piece in mind that is burning to be written, and that is their only focus. And then there are writers whose fingers itch to put pen to paper, but they have no idea what to write about. They dream of concocting worlds and characters that tug at the heart strings, that put readers on the edges of their seats, and influence societies into better ideas. And yet, they have no idea what in the world they should write about.

You aren’t alone if you struggle to figure out what to write about. I have a whole list of story ideas as well as spin-offs from those ideas, and concepts I’d like to explore, and so on—and yet I sometimes still have a hard time figuring out what I want to write.

However, I still have a few tricks up my sleeve to help me generate a story idea or two. There are three main tips that I use time and time again:

  1. Underthinking
  2. Taking Notes
  3. Retell

My tips and exercises are of course extended into your homework as well.

I also regularly use the Tarot, which is something I’ve already written about, so I’ll leave that out of this post. However, if you’re interested, you can read more about it here.

Underthinking Ideas

It happens to all of us. We could call it writers block, but I come from the unpopular opinion that writers block doesn’t exist. It’s a matter of thinking too much, and as a result, rejecting ideas. If you don’t think that’s the case, I challenge you to look up and read, if you haven’t already, Unicorn Western by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant. These two have written several books to help authors, as well as gone on to have successful fiction-writing careers as well. They challenged themselves to write a novel based on what they thought was an absurd idea: a unicorn western. They believed that you can write any story you want, so long as you do it right. And they were proven right.

This is a matter of not being too critical of ideas. After all, Sharknado was such a hit that they made six of them, as well as a spin-off film, video games, and comics out of the franchise. These are sharks in a tornado. I’m just saying. I know that I, personally, would have come up with that idea and said “No way, that’s too weird and out there. There’s no way to pull that off.”

You Are the First Gate Keeper

I know, not everyone wants to write something completely out there. I mention Sharknado and Unicorn Western only because I want to illustrate that the first gatekeeper is your own mind. You’re the one who’s nixing an idea before it can be fully developed, and again before it can be fully written.

However, by exploring the possibilities that your mind has to offer, no matter how ridiculous the idea might seem, you’re training yourself to think outside of the box. You’re teaching your mind that there doesn’t need to be a limit on what it creates, and you get into the habit of creating ideas.

Practice with Titles

I get emails from CoSchedule, and I love them. I don’t actually use CoSchedule, but their blog is amazing with the tips they offer. They also happen to offer a Title tool, which is designed to help you with SEO and your blog titles.

For most blog posts I write, I create at least 30 potential blog titles. Then I run them through the title machine and see their score, come up with more titles based on the score and so on, until I find the right one. Most of the time.

However, the first step is that I create 30 titles first. By the 10th one, I begin to stop caring, and I’m just trying to get titles down on the page. And I’m usually trying to do this quickly, since I still have to format my blog post, create the images for it, and so on (for those of you interested, I generally spend about 6 hours writing and creating each blog post). So then I start throwing out random blog titles, so long as they’re somewhat related to the post I’m creating.

And those ones, the further I get away from that first ten, are usually the ones that rank the highest on that CoSchedule Headline Analyzer. They’re also the ones that I find most catchy. And the reason why is because I usually stop gatekeeping my own ideas and just let creativity fly.*

Note: I have no affiliation with CoSchedule. This is my honest recommendation.

Your Assignment

There are a couple of ways you can practice this for yourself to break through that voice in your head that’s judging everything you create.

First, challenge yourself to create 30 book titles. If you have a blog, try it with the blog title. But if you’re doing this to create fiction, then I would stick to book titles.

It does help to have an anchor for your ideas. So maybe pick your genre, or something that you think would be interesting to explore. Maybe recently you’re super into reading sci-fi westerns, or maybe you like the idea of bringing legendary creatures into the real world, like Paul Sating does with his Subject Found series. Maybe you like the idea of a modern gothic, or connection with nature, or creating something along the lines of the Fast and Furious franchise. Wherever your interest is, use that as an anchor.

You of course don’t have to stick to that. Just let your imagination fly.

However, as you partake in this challenge, give yourself a time limit. Tell yourself you won’t spend more than 15 minutes creating 30 titles. That means you only have 30 seconds per title. This is pretty liberal. So if you want a greater challenge, give yourself 10 minutes to create these 30 titles. The key is not to think, just to create.

Taking Notes

Once you have been sure to get rid of that inner critic, you’ll start to notice that there are actually ideas all over the place if you pay attention.

The key to this is in part mindfulness. You need to be present enough in a moment to recognize what can be inspirational. It can be the way the clouds work, a phrase you hear, a mis-reading of a billboard, an interesting piece of graffiti, a question that catches you off guard, and so on.

For example, I was once enjoying some beverages in the sun just after I moved, and I looked up the hill and saw some strange rock formations. I initially thought they were headstones, which confused me, to say the least. Were they ancient? Were they meant to be hidden? If so, why were they there in the first place? I realized a moment later they weren’t headstones, but had been property walls that had been buried from the storm the winter before. However, I jotted down my initial impression, along with the phrase that came along with it when I noticed it, knowing it would be an interesting first-liner or a story.

As you go through your day, you see and hear plenty of things that you can use as a writing prompt. Keeping a notepad with you and jotting things down when you notice them can prompt ideas later on.

This takes a little bit of mental training, since we don’t always think in terms of “how can I use this as a writing prompt?” As I mentioned before, this is also a practice in mindfulness, of being present enough to recognize these things. So, go easy on yourself as you train yourself.

Your Assignment

Give yourself five minutes every day with a notepad or journal, and in a different location every time. I don’t mean different places in your house, though if that’s your option, that’s your option. Ultimately, I would recommend a different park each day, if you can, or outside a restaurant, or on a bench in a town center, or (if you can do this safely) in a mall or shopping center.

During this five minutes, write down your observations. They don’t need to thoughtful or anything particularly interesting or detailed. Go through your senses, and write what you see, what you smell, what you hear, what you feel, and what you taste (but please don’t lick anything unless it’s food you’ve purchased).

When you get to what you hear, try to move beyond mentioning the hum of general talking in the air, but maybe actually hear what’s being said around you. One of my novels came from me overhearing part of a conversation at the table next to me at a café.

Your assignment is just to record and get in the habit of noticing. You don’t have to write an item down and come up with a story idea from that. Just, notice and record.

This serves two purposes:

  1. The first purpose is what I’ve been writing about—getting in the having of noticing and being present. This can help you generate story ideas or find interesting things to spark your imagination.
  2. The second purpose is that this will help you craft details in your story later on. When you notice how much is going on around you, you’ll find that s you’re writing your scenes with your characters, they, too, notice what’s going on around them. This will enrich your writing and bring your reader deeper into the reality you’re creating for your characters and in your worldbuilding.

Retelling

Not to jump on the bandwagon of Hollywood (who are clearly running out of ideas if you’re paying attention), but right now, the re-telling of old stories is pretty big. As I’m writing this, theaters are awaiting the release of the movie Cruella, a story based on Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmatians. No judgement. I think it’s an interesting creative direction.

However, there are a lot of untapped ideas from looking at stories already told. I have often said that if I ask 10 writers to re-write Sleeping Beauty, I will get 10 different stories. Each writer has a different background and set of ideas, and thus no two writers are going to tell the same story (unless they literally write the Disney version, scene by scene).  

So, look at stories that have already been told. How can you retell it?

A truly beautiful example of this is Enchantment by Orson Scott Card, who takes the Russian tale of Sleeping Beauty and puts a modern spin on it. I devoured this book when I read it, and I recommend it to anyone.

Your Assignment

Consider some of your favorite stories, whether they’re stories that are told throughout history, or just a book or movie you really liked. Make a list of 5-10 of these pieces, and take one thing from each of them. This could be a character, a concept, a moral, a quandary that’s brought up, the world, anything. For each thing you take from one of these pieces, make a list of five directions or ideas you could write about using that one thing.

For example, returning to the retellings of stories that are making their way through Hollywood, their direction is the backstory of a character, usually the villain. These are a great direction, but there are so many others that can be applied. The movie Behind the Mask, which is a wonderful B movie, takes on the perspective of the killers of slasher stories. In the movie, a documentary crew follow a slasher killer as he walks them through his process of why he stalks the girl the way he does, how he chooses who to kill, why he chooses his horror mask, and so on. It’s a different take on a formula that is used over and over again in teen slasher films that brings “depth” (if you can go that far with a slasher film) to movies that have already been created in that genre. Just like Wicked brought a new depth to the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz.

So of your list of stories, how can you bring new depth to them?

Conclusion

These are just a few ways you can generate ideas. This is by no means an exhaustive list. However, these are a couple of ways to try and break your mind out of the box it might have been in. Remember, that ideas are all around us, we just have to recognize them and be ready to explore them.

The hardest part about generating ideas is the pressure we put ourselves under. When we can learn to stop gatekeeping, be present enough to notice what’s going on around us, and to look at things differently, we can find story ideas all the time.

In the homework assignments below, I give a few tips to expand on some of the above-mentioned assignments. I hope you’ll find this all useful, and be sure to comment below with any of your own tips for finding writing inspiration, or if you found any of the ideas posted here helpful.

Your Homework

I’ve given assignments all throughout this post, but you still have some more homework. Generating ideas can be easy once you make it a habit, but until then, it is a practice. There are several assignments here that build off your assignments from this post.

Title Practice

There are a few parts to this homework. The first part of this assignment is to consider 5 to 10 existing book titles. Pick famous ones, and even better, pick ones that you don’t actually know what the book is about. It’s easier if you pick a genre you’re not well-versed in as well.

Once you have your list of 5-10 titles, give yourself no more than 3 minutes to come up with 10 story ideas for each title. Yes. 10 for each. The reason for this is so you don’t overthink your ideas. You’re just throwing ideas onto the page. This is to help get those creative juices flowing.

Next, consider your list of titles you came up with. Write 10 directions you can go from each title. That is, if your title is The Darling Buds of May, write 10 different story ideas that can relate to this title. Give yourself seven minutes to do this per title.

This is the important part: don’t analyze your story ideas just yet. Sleep on it. Don’t look back at them until at least the next day, or even better, leave yourself a week so you can look at these ideas with fresher eyes.

Notes on Your Notes

After a few days of taking notes on what you see and hear around you, make a list of 15 of your observations. Once you have your list, spend some time exploring what kind of story would stem from those observations if they were the first line of your novel. What would the genre be? What would it be setting up? How would it be important to the story as a whole? And what end would it lead to?

Retelling on a Different Level

We talked about taking a concept or character or setting from another story and considering how you can use it to inspire another story, or a retelling of an old story.

This piece of homework involves looking at the stories you enjoy, and instead of taking away one thing from it and using that as your inspiration piece, consider how you can retell the story in a different genre. What would Jane Eyre look like as a science fiction novel? What about if 1984 was high fantasy? Or Joker was a pirate romance?

Play with this idea. While you may not retell the Joker’s story as a pirate romance, it might spark an idea for a DC-inspired villain in that setting.

As you take your list from the retelling assignment, write a paragraph of a potential story retelling for each item on the list, exploring what it would look like in another genre. If you need to kill those inhibitions, put a timer on this exercise.

Once You have all Your Story Ideas…

Okay, at this point you should have dozens, if not hundreds, of one-liner story ideas. Go through and highlight the ones you like. In a new document or on a new piece of paper, start exploring each story idea.

You won’t get through them all. Not in one sitting, anyway. So go into word or Google Docs, or better yet (if you have it), Excel, and create a table with two columns: Story Idea and Notes. Keep a running list in this table, always adding to it, and adding any details of the story idea such as characters, themes, motifs, questions you want to address, world-building, and so on, in the Notes column.

Be sure to keep your list going. You’ll never know when something that seems a bit “blah” right now might inspire something completely different and new in the future.

Happy writing.

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September 2020 Journal Prompts Announcement

Journaling is an important part of the writing process. It’s how we empty our minds of what might be distracting us, and how we work through our blocks. It can also act as a way for us to generate ideas and work through them for new projects.

For September, I have created a daily writing prompt list for your journal. Each day there will be a different word for you to mull over and write about. However, this is more than just looking at this as a writing prompt.

Words are what we use. They are our medium. They are how we build words, create characters, project emotion into the reader. Words are what create and destroy projects, people, and civilizations. Words are powerful. We wield a mighty sword.

Thus, I want to bring forward some words each day to contemplate. Some are mundane and some might be obviously powerful. But all of them will have positive and negative sides. For these words, I’m also providing a set of questions for you to journal on revolving around the word. The questions won’t change, but are a challenge to really crack open the word and dig deep into it.

I want to really get your thoughts going regarding each daily word. So there will be a few questions to get your mind going.

  1. Define the word in your own terms
  2. Generate as many synonyms as possible surrounding this word.
    Feel free to expand your definition based on the words you generate.
  3. How is this word used culturally vs. socially?
    For example, the word “man” literally means an individual identifying as a grown male. However, culturally we use the term “man” to mean “mankind/evolved humans.” Socially we might mean it be “the man” as in those in control of the system, or “man” as a casual generic term of direction at the start of a sentence, usually to make a point of notation. For example, “Man, the band last night was amazing!” Similarly used as “dude,” “oh boy,” “Oh my god,” etc.
  4. What are the historical uses of the word?
    For example, historically “making love” would mean to say sweet things to another, in a form of showing love. Today, it’s a lighter, sweeter term of an emotionally-entangled sex.
  5. How do you feel about this word?
    That is, what emotions or memories does this word bring up for you?
  6. How can it be used spiritually and/or metaphorically?
    I say “spiritually” to mean that which applies to the non-physical and outside general daily conceptual use.
  7. What are the creative different ways this word can be used?
    There is a wonderful Bad Lip Reading video called “SEAGULLS! (Stop It Now)” of Yoda and Luke Skywalker, where Yoda is singing about being attacked by Seagulls (look it up, it is hilarious). One of the lines is “One day I was walking, and I found this big log. Then I rolled the log over and underneath was a tiny little stick. And I was like ‘that log had a child!’”
  8. If you feel inspired, use this word as a creative writing prompt.

Of course, you don’t have to answer all of these questions. However, the idea is that it generates you to think about these words differently and use them as an anchor of personal development, of diving deep into the self, as well as getting creative with how we use language in our writing.

The words will be posted each day on my Instagram Account, @NaturalWriterCoaching, and I’ll post the full chart with the month’s words on here as well. This is 30 days’ worth of journaling for you. I’m excited. I hope you are too!

Happy Writing!

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NatWriCoChallenge: Week 4-ish

Hey friends. Just a reminder that through April and May of 2020, I am offering coaching sessions at a Pay What Feels Right for You rate. That means that you get a coaching session and you choose the price. Read all about this offer here.

Welcome to the fourth and final-ish week of the Natural Writer Coaching Challenge! I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts this month.

If you’re just getting into this challenge, it’s not too late to join. You can read all about the challenge here, and how to participate for your own enjoyment, or to win 2 FREE writing coaching sessions with me. Though, I will say, at this point, it’s going to be a lot of work to catch up with your Instagram posts at this point. But if you’re willing, my requirement for being entered into the draw on June 1st is for each participant to have 31 Instagram posts sharing their flash fiction piece featuring the designated one-word prompt for each day.

Remember, if you want to be entered into the drawing, the post must tag me using the handle @NaturalWriterCoaching and use the hashtag #NatWriCoChallenge. Otherwise, I won’t see it.

Additional Challenge

Each week I’ve been providing an additional challenge for those who need that extra umph to get their creative brains working. Whether or not you do the challenge won’t be taken into consideration for who wins, but it’s for your own creativity muscle-building.

This creative challenge is to write a poem which uses the word-prompt as the theme.

You can take this a step further and refrain from using the word prompt in the poem, but the poem can summarize or describe the word or a situation outlining the concept of the word.

That’s step 1.

Step 2 is to use each line of the poem in your flash fiction piece.

The lines of the poem can be the start of a paragraph, or they can just be sentences in your piece. Maybe even the dialogue. It’s your piece, have fun with it.

However, remember that in your flash fiction piece, you must use the word. While in the poem, the word is optional, it must actually be present in the flash fiction piece itself.

This Week’s Word Prompts

The month of May has 5 Fridays. So far, each Friday I’ve been posting the following week’s word prompts. This will be the last Friday I do this, and the prompts will extend all the way until Sunday, the 31st of May.

Friday, May 22: Right
Saturday, May 23: Long
Sunday, May 24: Deer
Monday, May 25: Unison
Tuesday, May 26: Hole
Wednesday, May 27: Decision
Thursday, May 28: Rook
Friday, May 29: Tambourine
Saturday, May 30: Balance
Sunday, May 31: Join

On June 1st, I’ll announce the winner of the Challenge on Instagram. Are you excited? I’m excited. I look forward to reading your pieces! Feel free to comment below to share your experience or ask any questions.

Book a Free 30-Minute Session with Me

Are you thinking about working with me, but just aren’t entirely sure? Fill out the form, schedule a call, let’s talk. This is a no-pressure, non-sales-pitch call, where we talk about you and your writing, and whether or not you want to work with me. Let’s chat!

NatWriCoChallenge: Week 3

Hey friends. Just a reminder that through April and May of 2020, I am offering coaching sessions at a Pay What Feels Right for You rate. That means that you get a coaching session and you choose the price. Read all about this offer here.

Welcome to week 3 of the Natural Writer Coaching Challenge! Congratulations to those of you who have participated so far. I’m so pleased to see all your creative minds in action.

If you’re just joining the challenge, you can still participate. I just need to see 31 Instagram posts tagging me using @NaturalWriterCoaching and the hashtag #NatWriCoChallenge at the end of the month. You can read the details of the challenge and how you can win 2 FREE writing coaching sessions with me here.

Additional Challenge

Last week I posed an additional challenge for those of you who are just whizzing through these flash fiction prompts. This week, I have another challenge for you. You can use it however you want, whether it’s to combine with last week’s challenge or to use it on its own. It is up to you.

This week’s challenge is to use one of my favorite tools for generating creative and unique writing ideas: the third option.

You’ll hear me talk about this exercise a lot. I first learned about it through a writing competition put forth by Wonderbox Publishing a few years ago. I have loved it ever since.

When you look at your writing prompt, jot down the first idea that comes to you. Then cross it out. Write down the second idea that comes to you. Then cross it out. Write down the third idea that comes to you, and go with that.

The theory behind this is that usually the first two ideas are something we’ve already seen or heard, though we don’t realize it. By chucking the first two ideas, then we get closer to something we, ourselves, have generated.

If you choose to take on this challenge, feel free to share your first two ideas that you tossed away in your IG post. I’d love to hear them!

This Week’s Word Prompts

Each Friday in May, I’ll provide the daily work prompts for the follow week. If you’re playing catch up, you can read last week’s prompts here.

Friday, May 15: Bulb
Saturday, May 16: Singing Bowl
Sunday, May 17: Fresh
Monday, May 18: Seed
Tuesday, May 19: Starlight
Wednesday, May 20: Cornucopia
Thursday, May 21: Desert

I look forward to reading your pieces! Feel free to comment below to share your experience or ask any questions.

Book a Free 30-Minute Session with Me

Are you thinking about working with me, but just aren’t entirely sure? Fill out the form, schedule a call, let’s talk. This is a no-pressure, non-sales-pitch call, where we talk about you and your writing, and whether or not you want to work with me. Let’s chat!

NatWriCoChallenge: Win 2 FREE Coaching Sessions!

Hey friend! Don’t forget that through to the end of May 2020, I am offering Pay What Feels Right sessions. Send me a message or read all about it Here.

There are a lot of folks who are struggling to get a writing routine down. With all the stress from COVID-19 and everything that comes along with it, there’s a lot of pressure to produce, produce, produce with your time off.

You might be determined to hammer out 2000 words a day, or even just 500.

I find sometimes, when I’m struggling to crank the ol’ brain into creativity mode and focus on a WIP, writing something completely different gets those gears switched. So, I would like to help you. The incentive is the opportunity to win 2 free writing coaching sessions with me.

Natural Writer Coaching Challenge

The challenge is simple. Each day you will have a one-word writing prompt. With that writing prompt:

  1. Write a 250-500 word piece of flash fiction, being sure to meaningfully include the word prompt of that day.
  2. Post it in an Instagram post OR post it in a blog post and share that blog post on IG so I can access it.
  3. Tag me in your IG post with handle @NaturalWriterCoaching
  4. Use the hashtag #NatWriCoChallenge

That’s it.

I do need to be tagged in the post, and the hashtag needs to be used. And I need some access to see your writing piece.

If you post all 31 days, you will be entered into a drawing on June 1st with the potential to win 2 FREE Writing Coaching sessions with me. I will also draw two extra names for 1 1-hour coaching session.

May 1: Light
May 2: Green
May 3: Mosquito
May 4: Bottle
May 5: Gingerly
May 6: Headache
May 7: Flight
May 8: Radiance
May 9: Circle
May 10: Guidance
May 11: Empty
May 12: Prophetic
May 13: Indulging
May 14: Question
May 15: Bulb
May 16: Singing Bowl
May 17: Fresh
May 18: Seed
May 19: Starlight
May 20: Cornucopia
May 21: Desert
May 22: Right
May 23: Long
May 24: Deer
May 25: Unison
May 26: Hole
May 27: Decision
May 28: Rook
May 29: Tambourine
May 30: Balance
May 31: Join

Important

I am not going to be selecting writers on whether or not I think your writing is good, or if your story is satisfactory. Nor am I going to select anyone based on how good their image is. This is going to be purely randomized.

The goal of this is to provide a daily writing exercise. For me, personally, it’s also to see people writing every day and challenging their creative minds.

Your Homework

Your homework is quite simple. And I’m sure You’ve guessed it by now. Participate in this challenge! Starting May 1st get to writing.

And, bonus, though not extra credit, follow me on Instagram Here for other writing and journal prompts.

Book a Free 30-Minute Session with Me

Are you thinking about working with me, but just aren’t entirely sure? Fill out the form, schedule a call, let’s talk. This is a no-pressure, non-sales-pitch call, where we talk about you and your writing, and whether or not you want to work with me. Let’s chat!

Writing Exercise: Flipped Motivation

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Every character needs a motivation. It is the goal for them to work toward throughout the book. Your plot is how they get to that goal, and what helps or hinders them (pro tip: if you want an interesting book to read, throw lots of obstacles at your character).

In this exercise, you are going to do two things:

  1. Read the prompt and generate an idea.
  2. Throw away the first two things you come up with and write the third thing.

The second part of this exercise is to help you think outside of the box. If you write the first thing that comes to your head, chances are you’ve seen it somewhere, read it, it’s a common idea, or someone else is likely to come up with that one too. So, to really get your creative juices flowing, throw the first two ideas that come to mind.

Note: The second part of the exercise I learned from a writing competition I entered in 2017, put on by Wonderbox Publishing. I loved the idea so much that I’ve used it as a rule of thumb ever since. You can check out the anthology that came of the writing competition here (UK) and here (US).

The Exercise

The barebones of this exercise is that I’m going to give you a motivation, and you’re going to develop a scenario around this motivation. Motivations, again, are the key to a whole character, to making the reader care about what’s going on in the story, and it’s what makes your character participate in the plot. Likewise, your plot interacts with your character’s motivation, or your plot can be entirely reliant on your character’s motivation.

That being said, on we go! This is your character motivation:

Keep a Child Safe

This portion of the exercise has three parts (in addition to trying to throw away your first two ideas). Be prepared. It’s helpful if for each portion of the exercise, you practice the third-option rule. It will help you in the long run.

Part 1: The Good

Come up with a scenario in which someone would want to keep a child safe. Portray this specifically in a good light, as it would naturally be—who doesn’t want to save babies from burning buildings? Or make sure they don’t get hit by a car?

Create a scenario where this is a good motivation.

Part 2: The Bad

Now, come up with a scenario in which someone would want to keep a child safe, but it’s seen in a negative light. This could be socially, situationally, or personally. Does this make the character a villain? A protagonist? Antagonist (note: villains and antagonists are not always the same)?

Create a scenario where there is a bad motivation.

Part 3: The Ugly

You now should have two scenarios portraying positive and negative scenarios in which someone has the motivation to save a child.

Your final step is to combine these two scenarios. Are they the same person with two different aspects of the same motivation? Are they two people with the same motivation who clash? Are they the protagonist and antagonist who want to save the same child?

Play with this idea, and don’t forget to toss your first two ideas and run with the third one.

Continuing the Exercise

There are plenty of motivations out there that you can choose from: Survival from _______, finding love, revenge, finding a killer, proving their worth, winning the race, etc. Explore past stories you’ve written and think about the motivations you’ve used. Look at shows, movies, and books you’ve read and loved and ask yourself what the motivation of the characters were in each of them.

Can you improve the story by implementing this exercise?

Or if you don’t want to rehash old plots, come up with new ones. Think about motivations and apply them to new characters, new situations, and find the good, the bad, and the ugly to each motivation. What other stories can you concoct?

What did you come up with during this exercise? What were your first two ideas for each step? Share below in the comments!

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