Developing Your Main Character with the Tarot (Pt 1)

| The Fool |
| The Magician | The High Priestess |
| The Empress | The Emperor |
| The Hierophant | FREE Workbook |

Designing Your MC with the Fool through the Hierophant Natural Writer Podcast

Developing your Main Character (MC) can sometimes be a bit of a drag. There are a plethora of spreadsheets to help you get to the nitty gritty of what you’re character is about, though they usually involve delving into what your character’s favorite color or ice cream topping is.

The Tarot can provide some insightful prompts to help you work through the deeper parts of your MC, specifically, using the Major Arcana.

Even more specifically, the first six cards: the Fool 0, the Magician I, the High Priestess II, the Empress III, the Emperor IV, and the Hierophant V.

Each of these cards can provide a different consideration regarding the Fool, who will act the part of your MC. Everything from their internalized skillset, to the parental figures in their life, to how they learned about the world.

However, before we get too into this, I want to take a moment to address the gendered language of the tarot.

Gendered Language is Outdated

Many tarot enthusiasts and historians have debated just how long the Tarot has been around, and where it originated. I am not going to get into that. However, the most concrete evidence puts it back at least a few hundred years ago.

As a result, there are a lot of aspects of the Tarot that just don’t quite fit into our modern society. Gendered language is one of those aspects.

However, thanks to authors such as Cassandra Snow and her book Queering the Tarot, as well as many other talented and insightful tarot readers and writers, tarot is evolving away from this. I want to take a brief moment to talk about how to get around gendered language in the Tarot, since some of the cards we’ll be discussing heavily rely on “gendered” energies.

Traditionally, tarot is spoken about in terms of masculine and feminine energy. These are actually representative terms for active and passive energy: masculine energy being active and feminine energy being passive.

Active energy is seen as something that is more external. Or, at least, it something that might come from within but has the ability to alter the external, or directly influence it. Air and Fire are the external, active elements in the Tarot.

Passive energy, on the other hand, is seen more internal. This is the work that is done within, from healing to nurturing, to feeling. Water and Earth are the passive elements in the Tarot.

Neither energy is above the other. Both energies are necessary, and the goal is always to seek

I mention all of this because there will be cards throughout the Tarot that deal with gendered terms such as the High Priestess, the Empress, and the Emperor. These deal with parenting figures as well, which I’ll talk more about when we get to the designated cards. But veering away from gendered language is essential, since male or male representing figures can absolutely signify the High Priestess roll, as well has embody the HP’s qualities, just as a female or female representing figure can embody the qualities of the Emperor.

Major Arcana & Character Development

| The Fool |
| The Magician | The High Priestess |
| The Empress | The Emperor |
| The Hierophant | FREE Workbook

There are 22 Major Arcana cards in the tarot, often starting with the Fool, which is numbered 0. This is because the Fool represents the natural protagonist of the journey through the Major Arcana.

Thus, this is where we’ll start with building your MC.

The Fool:
The Carrier of Your Story

Rider Waite Smith Fool

The traditional depiction of the Fool in the tarot, is someone who is about to walk off a cliff. Their head is tilted up into the sky, and they seem happy, and completely unaware of what is before them. They carry a stick with a bundle at the end of it over their shoulder, while a little dog barks at their feet.

The fool represents the openness to move forward into the journey. They trust what is ahead of them so much that they know that staying where they are is not an option.

Your MC is the Fool.

Whatever it is that compels your MC to go along the journey is a greater reason to trudge forward into sometimes unwanted experiences because the option to do nothing can’t stack up against the reason to carry on. Even if your character is kicking and screaming the whole way, they know that they cannot stay put.

This signifies that there is some small level of trust. Trust that no matter the danger that might lay ahead, it is worth more than not doing anything. Even if they die in the process, it is still worth more than doing nothing, even if it’s only worth more by a hair.

This indicates your MC’s values. What they hold to be a truth that is strong enough to carry them forward.

The question is, then, what does your Main Character believe in so whole-heartedly, that they can’t turn down the threshold?

The Tarot Pull

If you have a tarot deck, shuffle while you focus on what you know of your MC, if you know anything at all. Either way, put your thoughts toward what it is that they hold true.

When you’re done shuffling, flip the deck over and find the Fool card.

  • The card in front of it is what they trust
  • The card behind is what they don’t trust

Another way to look at these two cards are:

  • The card before them can be their compelling reason to move forward
  • The card behind them can be their reasoning not to act

Internal or Personal Tools Counterparts

The first few Major Arcana couple up nicely. The Magician is the active counterpart to the passive High Priestess; the Empress is the passive counter part to the active Magician.

The Fool is going to look at themselves for the skills or tools they have within them to navigate their journey.

The Magician

| The Fool |
| The High Priestess |
| The Empress | The Emperor |
| The Hierophant | FREE Workbook |

Rider Waite Smith Magician

As mentioned in the description of the Fool, they carry a bag on a stick over their shoulder. The question is, what is in that bag? This is what the Fool chose to bring with them, knowing they would need whatever is in there. It is very small, so whatever is in it, is essential.

The Magician is here to reveal what is in that bag, showing and reminding us of the tools we already have at our disposal, that which we use to manifest or make happen.

The traditional depiction of the Magician is a person stood behind a table with representations of each of the suits or elements on their table: Wand for Fire, Cup for Water, Sword for Air, and Pentacle for Earth. Each of these suits or elements represents different aspects of life, and thus, different strengths our MC has to navigate through the world.

The Tarot Pull

As you consider what skills your MC might have, shuffle the deck. When you’re ready, draw four cards:

  1. Card 1 represents Earth: home, the tangible world, how your MC makes money, health, etc.
  2. Card 2 represents Air: communication, logic, thinking, truth, legal systems, education
  3. Card 3 represents Fire: desire, will, passion, sexuality, drive, career, creation
  4. Card 4 represents Water: emotion, intuition, relationships, subconscious, spirituality, magic

Not all of these things for each element needs to be found in the one card drawn for that element. Though, if you’d like, you can pull a card for each quality of that element if you really want to get into it.

However, don’t overthink this. Each card that you draw represents a strength in that elemental realm that the Fool carries in their bag of tricks.

The High Priestess

| The Fool |
| The Magician |
| The Empress | The Emperor |
| The Hierophant | FREE Workbook |

Rider Waite Smith High Priestess

The High Priestess is the counterpart to the Magician. She represents what goes on internally. While the Magician shows what skills your MC uses to navigate the external world, the High Priestess reveals what skills they have to navigate their own internal world. This card will bring forth the lessons of looking within in order to find answers and guidance.

The High Priestess is a Water element, which means that while they represent the passive energy of water, they also represent creativity, emotions (how we form relationships and navigate them), love, intuition, and any magical aspects or spirituality your MC might have.

The Tarot Pull

Spend some times shuffling and focusing on the essence of the High Priestess, and the qualities that could be bestowed up on your MC in this realm.

When you’re done shuffling, find the High Priestess Card.

  • The card before it will be a known inner strength
  • The card behind it will be an unknown strength, perhaps something that can be called up on later in the plot, or developed throughout the plot

External & Close Counterparts

The Magician and the High Priestess represent what the MC somewhat develops themselves within. The Empress and the Emperor are external influences on your MC, generally in the form of a parental figure.

Neither of these figures need to be the actual parents of your MC, but rather, those who taught these qualities, or revealed these qualities.

Again, the Empress does not need to be a female-identifying figure, just as the Emperor doesn’t need to be represented by a male-identifying figure. These are just qualities of these archetypes.

The Empress

| The Fool |
| The Magician | The High Priestess |
| The Emperor |
| The Hierophant | FREE Workbook |

The Rider Waite Smith Empress

The Empress represents “mothering” qualities. They are the support that a person needs in order to grow. They represent a nurturing nature.

For example, a seed needs certain things in order to come to fruition. The Empress is the tender of that seed, providing nourishing soil, water, and ensuring that it gets enough sunlight. The Empress also knows how to give that seed the space it needs to grow on its own.

This is what I mean when I say “mothering” qualities.

The Tarot Pull: Pt 1

The question is, who has been a nurturer for your MC? Who has acted in a “motherly” roll for them?

While you think about this question, shuffle and pull three cards to show how this embodiment of the Empress has helped your MC to grow in mind, body, and spirit.

Side Character Development

A note about characters other than your MC.

We all only know a piece of a person. We know what our experience is with that person, and what they choose to show us. Likewise, we often see parts of ourselves reflected back at us through other people.

When we learn what one person is to another person, we are learning about both people simultaneously.

Using the Empress character as an example, looking at how someone was a mothering figure to the MC, we’re learning not only about what this figure gave to the MC, but what the MC was willing to receive. This will influence their development, how they thin, how they feel, how they react. It will influence how they view self-care, or the care of others.

Similarly, it shows what the other character was willing to give to the MC, or not give, as the case may be. It’s also an invitation to look at what this side character might not be giving to others in their life because of what they’re giving to the MC. This can help to create a more rounded character profile.

The Tarot Pull: Pt 2

Pick your deck up again and begin considering your MC’s relationship to this nurturing figure while you shuffle. When you’re done shuffling, you’re going to pull four cards:

  1. Card 1 represents the mothering figure themselves.
  2. Card 2 represents how your MC responded to this mothering/nurturing/soft guidance.
  3. Card 3 represents an important lesson learned from this figure.
  4. Card 4 represents something challenging this figure left with your MC.


| The Fool |
| The Magician | The High Priestess |
| The Empress |
| The Hierophant | FREE Workbook |

The Rider Waite Smith Emperor

The Emperor represents active energy. Often depicted as an older man on a throne, with ram heads for the arm pieces, with colors of red prominent in the card, the Emperor represents authority and structure.

While the Empress represents internal nurturing for growth, the Emperor helps to create the structures one needs to hold themselves up. If we think of a seedling, the Empress is the water and soil while the Emperor is the thing it climbs up, or even the wind that might encourage the stalk to strengthen so it can hold itself up.

The Empress is about allowing supported space in order to grow. In contrast, the Emperor teaches to be unapologetic for the space that our character takes up, for that is their space and thus their space to govern. This is an external card, but this also is a card about how we govern ourselves.

In this light, when we are looking at the Emperor in regard to your character, we are considering who it was that taught your character how to take up space in the world. Do they take up space at all? That is, do they try to make themselves small, or are they content to exist and know their place?

The Tarot Pull

As you consider your Emperor’s qualities that were taught to your character, shuffle the cards. These four cards you pull will be similar to those of the Empress:

  1. The first card will be a card to represent this Emperor influence on your MC.
  2. The second card you pull will represent how the MC governs themselves.
  3. The third card will be a key take-away from this figure in your MC’s life.
  4. And finally, there will be a card for something challenging this figure left your MC with.

Broader External

So far, we’ve looked at the personal, and the first bare bones of community for the Fool, or your Main Character. We’ve considered what the Fool has at their disposal both internally and externally, and what the external world has done to teach their base lessons.

However, we are never done learning, and our parents, or parental influences, are not our only source of understanding of the world.

In comes the Hierophant.

The Hierophant

| The Fool |
| The Magician | The High Priestess |
| The Empress | The Emperor |
| FREE Workbook |

Rider Waite Smith Hierophant

This figure is about the educational structures that help us understand the society we were born into. This can be literal schooling, a teacher, or a religious foundation which helped to shape morals.

The best way to look at this card, is to understand how it was that the MC understood how to function in the “normal” society and be “one of them,” them being a functioning societal member.

This card is sometimes called the Story Teller, which I think I like better. Someone who carries the understandings and views of the community. In those stories are lessons to be learned, morals, and a history, in some extent.

Knowing what this figure or system is in your story, to your MC will help to better understand the foundation they’ve built their understanding from regarding their community. This can shape how they act and respond to situations, how they think, and how they make their decisions based on their understanding of right and wrong.

This also sets up the MC for the following card, which is the Lovers, a card of choice. I won’t go too much into this card, since that was never the intention regarding this particular discussion. But I will say this: the Lovers is a card of choice, of being presented with an option, and deciding which path to take.

When we consider this in following the Hierophant (because each card builds off the last), then we understand this is a choice in deciding which norms and lessons we’ll leave behind, and which we will develop for ourselves. This is essentially the choice: what do we choose to believe and carry with us, and what do we reject.

Thus, when we look at the Hierophant, we are setting our MC up to solidify their code of ethics, so to speak, as well as setting them up to be presented with options later down the line, during their character arc.

The Tarot Pull

To figure this out for your MC, shuffle the cards before flipping the deck over so you can see the pictures, and find your Hierophant.

  • The card in front of the Hierophant is a teaching that your character agrees with and will carry with them.
  • The card behind it is a teaching that they aren’t sure about, that might come into question.

If you want to further develop this baseline, keep shuffling the cards, flipping the deck back over so you can’t see the faces, and pull three cards:

  • The first card will represent their standard education.
  • The second card will represent their religious lessons.
  • The third card will represent what their immediate community holds true.

When I talk bout the immediate community, this could be the small village your character lives in, their group of friends, their neighborhood, their ship, and so on. What is a philosophy of those who closely interact with your MC have?

If you want to delve into this more, you can ask yourself whether or not your MC agrees with this philosophy.

Keep It Going

| The Fool |
| The Magician | The High Priestess |
| The Empress | The Emperor |
| The Hierophant | FREE Workbook |

The Tarot is an extremely helpful tool when it comes to your writing, or any creative practice for that matter.

One of the things you can use it for is to help your own development as a writer, by looking critically at where you are right now. What is your mentality? Where is your drive? What are you missing that would make your writing practice easier?

Celtic Cross Spread for Writers

I’ve created a 75+ page workbook called The Celtic Cross Spread for Writers, which includes journal prompts to accompany each card of the Celtic Cross.

This workbook is designed to help you better understand yourself so you can focus on the needs of your writing, pinpoint where your writing blocks might be, and move forward with more confidence.

This workbook is completely free, my gift to you, dear writer.

Fill out the form below and get yours!

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Happy Writing!

Writing the Other & Our Responsibility as Writers

We as writers have a responsibility. The world is evolving, and we, as artists, have a responsibility to help our readers move forward with the world.

The art we engage with shapes our understanding of the world. When we encounter a character, whether it be in a book, on stage, through a poem, or on a screen, we are opening ourselves up to understanding that character, which works as an extension of our understanding of what it means to be human.

Literature, plays, film, art, all help us to discover, relate, and comprehend how we are evolving. The books that make it through history all portray important situational messages, problems, and commentary on the way the world is, and things that need to be addressed. They all point the way for what we need to fix in order to move forward and evolve.

We have seen this time and time again throughout history. Consider Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, commentating on the horrors of colonialism in Africa, or To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, which outlines the racial injustices in America, or Angels in America by Tony Kushner which revolves around the AIDs epidemic in the ‘80s. Let us not forget Animal Farm or 1984, both by George Orwell who predicted and accurately outlined the way the western world is headed. These are just a few of the classics that come to mind.

While not all of us are trying to write the next great piece that will go down in history, I assume that we want to write accurately. The world, the country, the state, the providence, the town, are not all white, straight, able-bodied individuals. Including a diverse world in your story can not only provide representation for underrepresented individuals, but it can also bring depth to your story.

Thus, we have a responsibility as writers to ensure we are giving an accurate understanding of the human experience in the eclectic and beautifully colorful world that we live in.

This is why it is so important that as we write, we work to ensure we are not causing harm where harm has already been done, and that we accurately portray our characters, systems, and worlds.

Writing the Other

Writing the Other is an organization that provides classes specifically aimed at writers who want to create characters who are different of themselves. For example, a writer who has a character who has ADHD, when the writer does not have ADHD, a character who has a physical disability, or a character of another race, gender, gender identity, etc..

Writing the other image: a squid with an image of Vonda N. McIntyre with a think bubble saying "I think, there for I write the other."

Writing the Other aims at responsible writing, teaching writers how to avoid harmful stereotypes or portrayals of their characters.

Their website has classes, seminars, weekend courses, workshops, as well as free resources to help writers get it right. Their teachers include

  • Nisi Shawl
  • K. Tempest Bradford
  • Steven Barns
  • Piper J. Drake
  • Jaymee Goh
  • Keffy R.M. Kehrli
  • Debbie Reese
  • Elsa Sjunneson-Henry
  • And so many more talented speakers and authors

From their website:

Representation is fundamental to writing great fiction. Creating characters that reflect the diversity of the world we live in is important for all writers and creators of fictional narratives. But writers often find it difficult to represent people whose gender, sexual orientation, racial heritage, or other aspect of identity is very different from their own. This can lead to fear of getting it wrong–horribly, offensively wrong–and, in the face of that, some think it’s better not to try.

The hard truth is this: Representation and Diversity are too important to ignore.

It IS possible to write characters who represent the “Other” sensitively and convincingly. Through our classes, workshops, and seminars and the resources available on this site and elsewhere creators can get a solid foundation in how to craft characters from any background, no matter how different they are from you.

Writing the Other homepage

The more we know, the more we can ensure that we are creating good in society through our art. By understanding and recognizing patterns in our view of those around us, we can learn to be better to those very people, and one of those methods is through our writing.

If you are unfamiliar with Writing the Other, I encourage you to check out their website and the work they do. Get involved with their community on Facebook, and have a read through their free available resources.

You can view their
2021 class schedule here.
You can check out their book,
Writing the Other, here

Recently, I announced the launch of a non-profit short story competition. The organization that all of our profits will go to for this project will be Writing the Other, because both Katrina Carruth and I believe so strongly in what they do, and in creating more educated and responsible writers. Specifically, we will be donating to the Sentient Squid Scholarship. Through this scholarship, writers can take part in Writing the Other teachings to help become responsible writers who contribute to bettering the world through their art.

Even if you are not interested in participating in our Nightmares When I’m Cold short story competition, I hope you’ll consider not only checking out Writing the Other’s workshops and courses, but consider donating to the scholarship to make them more accessible.

I look forward to seeing this organization grow, and to seeing more inclusive, diverse, and supportive writing in the years to come.

Character Discussion Tarot Spread for Writers

One of the most important things in a book is that who or what is working against the main character as they try to complete their goal or their character arch. This is the antagonist.

post banner: Character Discussion Tarot Spread. Understanding your MC and antagonist by mediating a conversation via Tarot. Natural Writer Coaching

I have a personal love for antagonists. I have a very high expectation for them in that I want them to reflect certain things in the main character, just like certain things in the main character might reflect in the antagonist.

Understanding the protagonist and antagonist can help you create a brilliant piece of work, and in this post, I’ll provide a way of using the Tarot to interview your protagonist and antagonist.

First, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what your protagonist and antagonist actually are and are not.

What is a Protagonist

To put it simply, the protagonist is the one who carries the story forward. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the protagonist is the main character, though these can sometimes be used synonymously. More often than not, the main character is the protagonist, though sometimes the protagonist can be someone who is just helping the main character.

What is an Antagonist

The antagonist is the one who slows the progression of the story down. This can mean hindering the main character in their goal or character arch, or it can mean it slows the plot down.

The antagonist doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad guy. It can be someone who is well-meaning in the story who just gets in the way.

The antagonist also doesn’t have to be a person or sentient being. It can be elemental, such as the weather or having to do with the environment. It can be an illness, or it can be something conceptual such as time or the legal system. Likewise, it even science itself.

Whatever it is that the main character is working against is the antagonist.

Antagonist and Protagonist Discussion

An interesting and creative way to use the Tarot is to have a discussion with your deck. For example, you might ask a question, pull a card, and then respond to that card by asking another question, and so on.

How you can use this method in writing is to create a dialogue with your characters. Most of the writing-related Tarot spreads I make have card placements which answer a specific question about the situation, character, or the plot itself. For example, in my 3-Act Spread, the question for card 1 was essentially “What happens in the first act?”

However, you can create a dialogue between your characters this way by starting off with a conversation topic and allowing yourself to draw as many cards to create a back-and-forth between the characters as you feel is fit. Then, present another question.

The beauty of this spread is that it’s completely adaptable to your needs. I will give you a couple starting questions for you if you want, but really, you can create your own.

The First Thing You Need to Know

There are a couple of things you should know about your story before you continue on with this. However, it’s not essential. This method of reading the cards means that you can adapt it however you want, and you can discover a lot along the way as well.

  1. Is your Protagonist your MC?
    As stated earlier, your main character is not always your protagonist. If you know this before you create this conversation, you might know whether or not have a dialogue between your MC, protagonist and antagonist, or just between two.
  2. Is your antagonist consciously in opposition to your MC?
    This might change the questions you ask to get the conversation going between the two characters.
  3. The goal of at least you MC, though maybe your antagonist too.
    Again, this will be a way for you to steer the conversation.
  4. Is your antagonist sentient?
    In the cases of the antagonist being, say, mental illness or the weather or some other natural force, this spread is absolutely still do-able. You simply personify it. While weather might not have a goal other than to be (though we can get really philosophical here), you can still interview it in the sense of what damage it can do, how it can support your protagonist, or how your MC can use the problems it causes to their advantage. Get creative!

These are just suggestions for things to know ahead of time, though it’s not essential.

The Discussion Spread

First of all, if you haven’t already read them, check out my 3 Ways to Use Tarot as a Writing Tool and 3-Act Story Structure Tarot Spread. These will talk about the best decks to use and give you an introduction on how to go about using the decks.

Before you start into this spread, make sure you have a pen and paper or a recording device for you to record what you find. I personally find, that since this is a dialogue, it works better to record audibly rather than to write it down. However, I do go back and forth with which methods I use.

Also, be sure that you have a good chunk of time for this. While I will encourage you to read the cards quickly so you don’t hang yourself up on it too much, you might find that you go through the whole deck of cards—of which there are 78, so it could be a long discussion.

Finally, go with the flow of the conversation. Really try to imagine the characters having this conversation. What are their tones? Are they thinking about their answers before they speak? Are they responding with heat? As you draw the cards, keep them paced with the conversation. If you feel like a character is going to respond irrationally, flip the card quickly and flip the next card just as quickly, so you’re forced to read it similarly.

To outline this spread, there will be an example at the end of this post to outline how it might be done.

With that in mind, here are the steps for your Antagonist and Protagonist Discussion Tarot Spread.

Step 1

The first step is to determine how many characters are at this discussion. This can be a round-table discussion, or a mediated dialogue—or go crazy; don’t mediate it at all. However, you need to know how many participants are in this discussion.

Step 2

Generally, you don’t necessarily need a signifier card in a reading. I find them to be totally optional. However, in this case, I would recommend it simply as a marker for who is which side of the dialogue.

A signifier card is a card that represents a character or person. You can read more about it in my 3 Ways to Use Tarot as a Tarot Tool post here.

Select one for each participant in the discussion, and really make sure that this card is a good visual representation for each participant so you don’t get confused as to who’s saying what. If you have a really good discussion going on, there can be a lot of cards drawn.

Step 3
Get Your Questions Ready

Think of this like a debate or a discussion on the news with a panel of talking heads. You are the facilitator of the questions, and then the participants discuss them. Because of this, you need to have a few questions ready, but also be ready to draw some cards.

Here are some potential questions to start you off:

  • What is the relationship between you two (or three or four, etc.)?
  • Why do you want to hinder MC?
  • MC, what would you say antagonist’s greatest strength is? How does that help or hinder you? (ask the Antagonist the same thing)
  • MC, how do you feel about antagonist? Antagonist, how do you feel about MC?
  • What is your relationship to one another and how do you feel about it?
  • What is the best outcome for each character in this story, from each character’s perspective?

Step 4
Start Asking

Shuffle while you’re looking at the signifier cards, keeping in mind what you know about the characters in the discussion. Decide who should answer your question first and think about the question. When you feel like it’s time to stop shuffling, then draw your card and put it under the appropriate signifier.

Read the card quickly, keeping in mind reading the image on the card rather than thinking of the definition of the card, and record or write down your answers.

Be sure that you do read the cards quickly as you go about the back and forth. This is so you don’t get hung up on a card and you keep the conversation somewhat flowing.

Step 5

If you have more than two participants in the discussion, draw a card for who you feel would respond first, and continue the discussion from there, reading the response to what’s been said or expressed in each card.

Draw as many cards in whatever order you want to keep the conversation going until you feel enough has been said on the topic.

Step 6

From here you can repeat steps 3-5 as many times as you need to get a good feel of the relationship between the MC/protagonist and antagonist.

Your Homework

Your homework is to think about your main character, your protagonist, and your antagonist. While I highly suggest you play around with this dialogue method, I also invite you to do the work leading up to doing this discussion spread.

Knowing about your protag/MC/antag is essential, and the more you know about them before you start either this dialogue or even writing your story, the easier writing will be down the line.

Things You Should Know

For discovery writers, it’s not a big deal whether you know this or not. However, while you might discover your plot as you go, it’s good to have a little bit of background before you get to writing. Likewise, if you’re doing this Discussion Spread, then you can discover these things about your characters as you go.

However, here are some things you might want to know:

  1. Each character’s goal.
    By this, I mean each character participating in the discussion, or who are going to play a major part in the story. Even the sidekick needs a goal, and if you want a really good character, their goal should be something other than helping the MC. It can be the same goal of the MC, but maybe for a different reason, which leads to the next question.
  2. Why is their goal what it is?
  3. How does the character view success?
  4. How does the character view failure?
  5. How does the character handle success?
  6. How does the character handle failure?
  7. What does the character hold dearest?
    This can be a thing in the world, or it can be a concept, or it can be both.

Spend some time with these questions, or you can use these questions in your dialogue spread.

Example of the Discussion Spread

For this example, I’m creating two characters that I know nothing about. I’m going to use this discussion as a discovery method.

The genre I’m using is urban low fantasy.

I am keeping this simple, with my MC and my antagonist.

Light Seer's Tarot Emperor and 4 of Cups

MC: The Emperor – a teacher of magic

Antagonist: 4 of Cups – a board and obnoxious teenager who thinks she knows the world better than her teacher does.

Also, the Tarot deck used for this reading is The Light Seer’s Tarot by Chris-Anne.

Question 1
What do you want?

I’m starting with the MC, and then my antagonist will weigh in on this want from what she knows.

MC: to be happy
Antagonist: but you’re always on guard and fighting.
MC: I’m fight for what’s in my heart that I feel is right. You should learn to do that too.
Antagonist: Yeah, sure whatever.

Note: You might be wondering where I got the “yeah, whatever.” Just to shed some light on how I’m taking away dialogue from the images, in the antagonist’s final comment, I drew the Devil. In the Light Seer’s Tarot, the Devil has a guy in the bottom former bent over and covering his ears. In the context of this conversation, I saw it as a denial of want to see or hear what the MC is having to say. Hence, there is the dismissal of “yeah, whatever.”

I put those cards to the side, not in the deck, and I asked the antagonist the same thing.

Antagonist: I want to just feel like I’m doing something good, and just want to be free-flowing.
MC: you’re moving too fast. You have to slow down and really go deep into yourself to know what you really want.
Antagonist: But I know enough about the world. I can manage.
MC: But you’re holding me  back because you won’t learn the lessons I’m damn trying to teach you.
Antagonist: Fine, then I’ll go.

Question 2
How does antagonist leaving make you feel?

MC: I feel like I need to chase after her.
Antagonist: You don’t, I can manage on my own
MC: I’m going to take the leap anyway, I can’t ignore it.

Question 3
Antagonist, do you know that by running away you’re stopping MC from achieving his goals?

Antagonist: Whatever. I’m doing what I want with my life. He can do what he wants with his.
MC: That’s not how this goes, we’re a team.
Antagonist laughs.

Question 4
MC, why do you have to chase after antagonist?

MC: There’s a lot she doesn’t know, and she will get lost in her own head if she’s not careful.
Antagonist: You’re not giving me enough credit, and that hurts me.
MC: I kind of want you to hurt. But, I want to be happy, and people hurting in the world doesn’t help me be happy.
Antagonist: And that’s what I’m hoping for.

Question 5
Why are you hoping for that?

Antagonist: because I have my own goals and really, I need my teacher. If he’s going off and doing his own thing, then he’s not teaching me.
MC: So I can be happy or I can keep teaching her? I feel like I’m drowning with all this.
Antagonist: choose wisely.
MC: I’m going to be true to me. You can do what you want, but I’m staying true to me and pursuing my happiness/

Question 6
What are you going to do about that, antagonist?

Light Seer's Tarot Emperor and 4 of Cups + Knight of Swords
Antagonist: I’m just going to have to go back and remind him why he needs to chase after me.

Question 7
I’m going to ask you both again – What do you really want?

Antagonist: I just want to feel complete and content. I want the whole family thing, and I want my magic to be completed, and I want to find love. But I can’t do that unless I have magic in my life, and my teacher won’t teach me.
MC: you march to your own drum. You’re damn impossible to teach.
Antagonist: some teach your are. You can’t center yourself enough to deal with a teenager?
MC: I am a magician, and I am skilled in what I do. Some wily kid isn’t going to change that. You can try and rock this boat, but I know who I am, at least.
Antagonist: You taught me that we all have the world inside us. That means that I do have the ability to change that.
MC: I’m ignoring you. I like what I’m doing, and I’m not letting you disrupt that.

What Have I Learned?

I learned why it is that the antagonist is hindering the MC. While I started the conversation with the idea that they might already be at odds, as it went on, I saw that this is their backstory.

I learned that the MC is someone who is passionate about what he does, both in his professional life and in his personal life. He’s always “fighting.” It’s even seen here in the dialogue that he’s fighting to keep the antagonist on track, even going so far as to try and retrieve her. The antagonist then forces him to give up and pursue what makes him happy, and this will be something that comes up later in the story as a form of guilt which might be what he needs to overcome.

The antagonist is selfish. She just wants to do what she does. I can take from this that as the story goes on, she’ll resent him for giving up on her. And while she’ll try to make her magic great, she’ll always fall short because he gave up on her, despite the fact that she pushed him away. Because of this, there is an element of revenge. She will want to get him to give up on the other things he cares about simply to serve an ego boost in knowing that she isn’t worth giving up on, anything can be worth giving up on.

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Writing When You’re Not Writing and How to Use It

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Writing when you're not writing & how to use it.

I hear you loud and clear, writing is arduous. That’s why it’s easier to wait for the muse to grant you with grace and verbability than to put your butt in the chair and just get some words down.

Truth Time

photo related to the text: an empty desk with a laptop on it, relaying the writer who can't get themselves to sit down and write
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I have some news for you though, friend: you are always writing. Whether you like it or not, and whether or not you are a writer. You are always writing.

Every breath you take, every move you make, you are writing you.

We are who we present to the world. We are in constant calculation of how we are going to come across, who we want to be, and how we express ourselves.

Consider the blog posts you write, the emails you scribe, the Instagram posts and Facebook comments you make, the texts you send—all of it is an act of writing in some way. You are producing the content that makes up you.

I’m Talking to You,
Non-Writing Writer

Not a writer? Well, first of all, welcome to this writing blog. Second of all, you are still writing, whether you like it or not.

I know a guy who is not on social media—in fact, he is avidly against social media—and he rarely, if ever, texts. Sometimes he writes emails and when he does, it is a test of endurance as he doesn’t know how to use the spacebar. Literally (also, this person is very dear to me, I’m not making fun of him, just using him as an example).

Photo related to the text: two people having a conversation because even just talking is writing our story
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This guy is also a writer. How he tells stories, that is, relaying his day to me, telling me about what he learned, sharing his opinions—all of it, is a form of writing. Whether he is physically putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, he is relaying a part of himself to a witness, and that witness will remember these conversations and experiences, and they may in turn, use it in their own writing.

Kind of like how I just did.

The point is, even how we express ourselves in conversation is a form of writing. After all, isn’t that what a Bard does? Relays stories to be passed along? One might call that Oral Writing, don’t you think?

Plot Twist

Whether he is physically putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, he is relaying a part of himself to a witness, and that witness will remember these conversations and experiences, and they may in turn, use it in their own writing.

Doesn’t that feel liberating? Think about how much you actually write, how you write it, and how it changes depending on what you’re writing or who you’re writing to. Isn’t that intriguing? You are not only writing, but you’re creating different character profiles depending on the person you’re talking to.


Oh yeah, the plot twist is that all this writing means that you are developing your own character sheet of yourself. Not only are you discovering your likes and dislikes through the life you’re living, but you are being shaped through your experiences. You’re seeing how you react to situations, as well as finding out how much control you have over those reactions.

Isn’t that exciting?

The cool thing is that, as a result, you are learning how to develop a character. You are the MC, the Main Character, in your own novel. What’s it like to be the silent observer in the back of your mind taking notes?

Try it out. Let the rest of us know how it went. Tell us in the comments Sharing is caring, and I think everyone here cares.

Your Homework

Now that you know you’re a writer, whether you like it or not, your homework is essentially to study yourself. There are two parts to your homework.

Part 1

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Spend time observing yourself without judgment. Take at least an hour at the end of each day, or several stolen moments throughout the day to reflect on yourself throughout the day. Consider:

  • Things you’ve said, no matter what it is – don’t focus and over analize or beat yourself up if you said something you don’t like, just record it.
  • How you reacted to conversations and situations. Did a car cut you off and you shouted at them? Did you laugh when a kid sneezed and bumped his head on a sneeze guard?
  • Your textual writing.

Don’t judge yourself. There is no room for judgement in this exercise. I cannot stress this enough. This is for intrigue, not criticism.

But go over text messages, social media posts and comments, blog posts, personal writing, conversations, etc.

Write a summary in each stolen moment or at the end of the day of the different ways you portrayed yourself as if you were writing a character.

Again, again, again: this is not an exercise in judgement, but just an exercise of curious observation.

Part 2

Pick a character that you feel is kind of flat that you’ve already created or create one from scratch. If they exist in the modern world, what form of social media do they prefer and how do they use it? If they exist in another time, what kinds of letters do they write, if they can write? How do they tell a story? Are they quick and to the point, or do they meander and waffle?

How do they communicate to their loved ones, their friends, their employer, their customers, their employees?

Develop a character purely through how they communicate, moving through the various forms of communication.

That’s it! That’s your homework!

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3 Ways to Use Tarot as a Writing Tool

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| Basics of Tarot | 3 Ways to Use Tarot as a Writing Tool |
| Method | Using the Right Deck |
| Home Work | Contact Me |

There are many creative ways to generate writing ideas. There are many creative exercises a writer can use to get them unstuck. That’s part of the reason why writers read what other writers have to say regarding the craft. We’re always on the look out for some neat tip or trick to get us to the finish line when the going gets tough.

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Well, I have a trick that I use regularly, and fairly frequently. I even use it to generate blogging ideas. That method is the Tarot.

I don’t want you to be put off before we even get started. I know a few people have some doubts, to put it lightly, regarding this collection of cards. If you want to dispel or answer some common questions about the Tarot, you can start here.

The Basics of Tarot

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This is only a brief introduction to the tarot so we can move on to how Tarot can help you as a writer. The basics of tarot is as follows:

  1. Tarot is a collection of 78 cards.
  2. The 78 cards are divided into two sections: Major and Minor Arcana
  3. The Major Arcana is comprised of 22 cards generally starting with card 0 The Fool and ending with card 21 The World (this can vary with some decks starting with card 1 the Magician and ending with card 22 The Fool).
  4. The Minor Arcana are closer to a normal deck of cards in that there are 4 suits: Cups, Wands, Swords, and Pentacles/Coins/Disks. Some of the names of the suits might vary depending on artistic interpretation. The Cups might be called Chalices, the Wands might be Staves or Staffs, etc.
  5. Each suit has cards Ace through 10
  6. Each suit has four Court Cards: Page, Knight, Queen, King. The names of these cards might vary depending on the deck, though the hierarchy is generally the same, though the Queen and King might switch.

This is the basic of basic to Tarot. This isn’t even Tarot 101, this is Tarot 98. But this is all you need to know to use Tarot as a writing tool.

Tarot as a Writing Tool

Using Tarot as a Writing Tool can help you come up with writing prompts, develop characters, and help you structure your story.

I’m going to share just a couple of ways you can use the tarot to do just this. And you don’t need to know how to read the cards. All you need is a deck of cards with a scene on each card. I’ll get to what that means in a minute.

For now, here are Three ways that I use Tarot as a Writing Tool.

3 Ways to Use Tarot as a Writing Tool

Something to keep in mind before we explore the 3 ways to use tarot as a writing tool, is that you will get to know the cards. You may start using these cards for divination purposes instead of as a writing tool. Or, you may even be a pro tarot reader.

Whether you know the cards and their meanings or you’re just starting to explore them, be sure that when you use them as a writing tool that you throw your definitions out the window. Look at the cards through new eyes each time you use them. This is how you can enhance your creativity with them.

You can check out a couple ways to meditate before using them if you need help clearing your mind of what you know, here.

Onto the methods.


There is a method to learning to use Tarot as a writing tool. To put it simply, it’s to look at each card on their own before you put them together.

Starting from Scratch

Some of the ways you can use the Tarot involves pulling more than one card at a time (crazy, I know). But to fully appreciate each card, I recommend pulling one card, writing on it, putting it to the side and spend some time breathing or clearing your mind before you pull the next card, and then writing on that card as well.

Some guiding questions/prompts when you’re writing on the cards are:

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  1. What do you see? Completely describe the entire card, get as detailed and specific as possible.
  2. What is the atmosphere like?
  3. If you were to step into the card, what would you feel? Is it cold? Hot? Tense? Windy?
  4. If you were to interact with the person or people in the card, what would you be doing or saying to them?
  5. What are the people in the card thinking? What does it look like their goals are?

Once you’ve examined and written about each card, the you can put them together.

You do not have to do this each time you use them. This is mostly when you’re starting a piece from scratch and you’re just getting your bearings.

Working on an Existing Piece

While you still want to spend time writing about each card as you draw them, the questions you’re going to be thinking about will directly relate to your story line.

Light Seer's Tarot 9 of Pentacles
Image Credit: light Seer’s Tarot

For example, if you’re using the Light Seer’s Tarot, and you’re working on a piece and you realize that you need someone to act as the Mentor for your story, you might draw a card to get an idea of your Mentor.

If you draw the 9 of Pentacles, you might spend some time writing about the young individual who is hanging her herbs from the ceiling, who is happy and looks like she really enjoys what she’s doing. You might then decide that your mentor is actually a medicine-maker’s apprentice based on the card.

There are more ways you can use the cards to help with an existing piece, two of which you’ll learn about in the 3 ways to use tarot as a writing tool below.

Let’s get started.


Sometimes we just need a character. We know that in our story, our MC might have to come across someone, but we don’t know where to start. Drawing a card from the Tarot can help to guide us.

Depending on the deck you have, you draw any card and look at the person in the card to use it to describe your character. Do they look bored? Busy? Upset? Are they crafting? Practicing something? Thinking? What are their physical features?

If you want to get more specific, you can pull out the Major Arcana Cards that have people in them (sometimes cards like the Sun or Moon won’t have people in them) and the Court Cards. You can shuffle and draw them.

Here is a quick reference that might help you with the court cards. You can take it or leave it.


  • The Pages represent younger people, usually 24 ish or younger
  • The Knights generally represent age groups 25-39 ish.
  • Queens generally represent a more mature woman, aged 40 and upward.
  • Kings generally represent a more mature man, aged 40 and upward.


  • The Pages can represent a student, new hire, or an intern. Someone very green, to say the least.
  • The Knights represent someone who’s lower on the chain, but they’ve been there long enough to know the ropes.
  • The Queens represent a senior role, possibly management, but not at the top of the chain.
  • The Kings represent experts or CEOs, or, well, Kings.

These are just a couple of ways that you can get started.

Situation + Problem

This is a very simple Tarot spread you can use to create a writing prompt. I regularly use this not just in my own writing, but for the prompts that I post on my Instagram account as well.

This spread is simple:

  1. Draw the first card, which represents the situation. This can represent a scene, a person—however you view the picture. Write out your thoughts on the picture, just journal.
  2. The second card will cross the first card, and it represents the problem to your situation, or the person you have, whatever. This card presents the obstacle or disruption to your situation.

You can use this method for existing pieces or if you’re starting from scratch. If you’re using an existing piece, you might even just pull a card to represent an obstacle that your characters come across, and leave out the situation altogether.

3. You can draw a third card if you’d like to create a full story. The third card will represent the solution. Your layout would then be Situation + Problem + Solution.

Play with it. See what works for you. Share in the comments below what you find!

Try, Succeed/Fail

This is a fun way to shake up your story a little bit. Sometimes we find that our stories are a little too direct. We know that our MC has to get from point A to point B, but they kind of glide through the obstacles. You need to make your MC try and keep the reader guessing if they’ll succeed or not. That means, sometimes they have to win, and sometimes they have to lose.

Using the Tarot can help with that.

Cut the deck in half, roughly, and turn the deck so that the cards are upside down. Shuffle the deck together with all the cards face-down. For each obstacle, draw a card. If the card is right-side up, then they succeed. If the card is right-side down, then they fail.

You can draw a couple of cards to help you decide what happens as a result of succeeding or failing.

If you can, it’s best to get a deck just for this purpose. When considering the right Tarot deck for writing, you want to look a deck where each card has something going on in it, where the characters in it are all in motion. This means all the Major Arcana cards, all the Minor Arcana cards (though, admittedly, you might struggle with the 8 of Wands in most deck, as there seems to be a standard format for that card across all the tarot deck spectrum), and all the Court Cards.

What do I mean that there’s a scene going on? I mean that the people in the card are in motion, or at least, someone in the card is in motion.

Try this exercise:

  1. Spend some time staring at a card. Really get to know the card visually. Don’t try to interpret it, just look at it.
  2. Close your eyes, and imaging yourself stepping into the frame of the card. What’s going on? Do you need to watch your step? Are you breaking up a fight? Are you getting out of the way of a horse? Helping a woman garden?

If you can see that there’s something going on, then it’s a card with a scene. If you struggle to know what’s going on, then it’s not.

For example, in the Aquarian Tarot, which is a deck dear to my heart, the Knights are all, for the most part, close-ups of the knight from the breast up. Likewise, many of the Major Arcana are like this as well. This deck doesn’t do well for creative writing.

Another thing to keep an eye out for are diverse tarot decks. Remember, we aren’t in a 2D world. We live in a world created from a rainbow tapestry, with people coming from numerous backgrounds, and in all shapes and sizes, different ways of thinking, different abilities, and orientations. A diverse deck can keep your story as rich as the world we live in.

Some great decks for writing are:

This is a very short list to get you started. There are thousands of decks out there, and they are superb in their own way. I do warn you, collecting Tarot decks can become addicting.

A great way to see a deck and all of its cards is to follow the hashtags #tarotcommunity #tarotcards and #tarotdecks on Instagram. When you find a deck you think you might like, look for that deck’s own hashtag. For example, if you’re interested in the Urban Tarot, look up the hashtag #urbantarot and you can see posts from people using the deck, and thus see various cards.

Your Homework

Your homework is two-fold.

Step 1

First, get yourself a tarot deck. Use the information above to get the right deck for you with the purposes of writing. If you’re already a tarot reader and have ample decks, sift through your decks and see which fit the above criteria.

If you’re not sure that you want to commit to a deck just yet, there are plenty of “free tarot reading” websites and apps, which provide randomly generated readings. Use it to draw one card and only read the picture, not the definition. Depending on the site or app you use, you can potentially pick the deck used, though not all of them are good for this purpose.

Step 2

Once you have your deck or a satisfactory electronic deck, combine all the ways mentioned above to write a short story.

  1. Use the cards to create a character or two.
  2. Use the Situation + Problem spread. If you’d like, you could go so far as drawing a solution card as well.
  3. Map out the story using the Succeed/Fail technique.

Write the story.

How did it go? Did it work for you? Let me know in the comments below!

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6 Essential Reasons Writers Must Read Fiction

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| I’m a Writer First |
| 6 Reasons you Must Read Fiction |
| Your Homework | Win 2 Free Coaching Sessions |
| Contact Me |

One of the biggest pieces of advice from successful writers to novice writers is to read, read, read.

I assure you, writers aren’t just saying that in the hopes that you’ll pick up their books and read them when they give this advice. When I was younger, much younger, I sincerely thought that was their reasoning for this particular directive.

I’m a Writer First

Growing up, I was an avid reader. If I could get my hands on it, I read it. By the time I was 19, I had read Gone with the Wind a dozen times. I’m not even exaggerating. I would run out of books and that book was so long that I was sure I missed something. So, I would read it again.

But when I hit my 20’s, I stopped reading fiction, and if I read any books, they were usually informational. I had a whole slew of books I would read on the craft, and all the while I was trying to write my masterpieces I was desperately seeking advice for writers. On repeat, I would be told to read.

“I am reading,” I told myself. “I’m just not reading fiction.”

My writing actually suffered during that time. A lot.

Let me amend that: my fiction writing suffered. I actually began writing articles about that time, and had success with them. But articles weren’t what I wanted to write. They were just easier for me to get published, so I published them.

My heart has always been in fiction.

It wasn’t until I started reading fiction again that my writing began to blossom again. I began to pay attention to this once I connected the two. And here is what I found.

6 Reasons Writers Need to Read Fiction

| Watch a Pro | Pay a Complement |
| Compare Recipes | Character Development |
| What If? | Examining Your Why |

1. Exposure
Watch a Pro

One would expect that if someone wants to become a master chef that they would eat the type of food they want not only to be able to replicate, but to improve upon. One would think that surgeons, during their training, would spend time observing surgery in practice. One would consider that to throw the perfect pitch, a player would study the pros.

There are certainly some folks who are just born with a natural gift with words. By natural gift, I mean that they are drawn to the art of words, and as such, they naturally think about words and how they use them. Just like there are people who experience the world in sounds, and thus can create wordless symphonies which portray and entire story.

However, regardless of what talent that might seem born into a person, if they don’t practice then they won’t improve. They studied the greats in their field and learned from them.

But how do you know who the greats are? Everyone has a difference of opinion. I reference Stephen King a lot, and I’ve read a bunch of his work, but other than a select couple of books, I wouldn’t say that I actually like his writing. He’s not great to me. I respect him, but he doesn’t make my favorite authors list (however, I will say that The Shining is exceptional, to say the least).

While there is the public opinion of who is truly amazing overall in the literary world, you need to find who you think is great. Every person who aspires to be something, will look up to someone within that field. My brother was an avid baseball player, and thus looked up to Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez. I dated a chef who wanted to be Gordon Ramsay (why not Jamie Oliver is beyond me, but hey ho).

You need to do the same with your writing. However, you can only decipher who is worth looking up to if you find them. Despite what literary theory and criticism might say, only you can determine whose writing is considered canonical in your eyes.

The only way to do that is to read. Lots. In the genre you like and in the genre you don’t like. Go find your literary hero.

2. Mimicry
Paying a Compliment

The old adage goes that mimicry is the best form of flattery. When you find something you like, pay it a compliment in the best way you can by trying to emulate it.

While studying the greats, a person will get a sense of style from the person they’re studying. Van Gogh has a very distinguishable artistic style, as does Picasso, or Monet. Writers have a very different style between them, which might vary depending on their audience or time in their lives. However, there will be a thread of sameness throughout their writing that links their work back to them. Roald Dahl has a very distinct style of writing when it comes to his children’s novels, and a completely different style when it comes to his novels for more mature audiences. However, he still has a particular way that he writes which does not entirely separate how he writes for each audience.

Likewise, Stephen King, who writes not just horror, but dark fantasy, and paranormal (that is the closest genre I could come up with for Green Mile). While the genres differ, his style of writing is still very similar throughout his works. How he uses description and dialogue is recurrent.

Toni Morrison has a very distinct voice to me, one that I find highly effective and real. Compare her writing to that of Elizabeth Gilbert (though even how she writes varies depending on whether she’s writing fiction or non-fiction), and you’ll have vastly different voices. Of course, they come from vastly different backgrounds and have different reasons for writing the stories they right.

However, as you read various authors, you’ll find stories who touch you in different ways. You’ll discover their way of writing to be effective. You may even try to mimic their voice, and that is more than okay. It’s encouraging. When you try to deconstruct the way a story is told or how the voice is utilized, then you find what works for you, and what doesn’t work for you. You might borrow a technique to incorporate it into your own way of writing.

This is essential to the development and learning process.

If cavemen didn’t see one of their cave artists drawing on the wall and decide they wanted to try it too, we wouldn’t have come very far in our story-telling history.

3. Study
Comparing Recipes

Most of us know how to tell a story before we actively start studying story structure. This is because story is all around us, from the advertisements we’re blasted with on a daily basis, to the television shows we watch, to that which we pass between each other orally, and, of course, the books we read.

We are surrounded by story. We convey our day through story. When we share an experience with our friends, there’s a reason for sharing it, and the way we tell it revolves around that reason.

Reading fiction helps us to understand how to tell a story.

However, it goes further than that. Once we realize that we want to write our own stories, then we have to figure out how to do it. We begin mentally taking notes and deconstructing what we’re reading so we can get a better idea of how to portray our own works in a pleasing way.

Seeing how story theory is put to the test is an excellent way to learn.

Mini Piece of Homework

To test this out, figure out something complicated that you want to cook or bake. Get your recipes together and get a recipe book from the library that has this particular recipe. Do not go for a recipe on the internet.

Try to follow the recipe and create your creation without looking anywhere else other than your recipe book.

Next, you’re going to make it again, but you’re going to do it using a YouTube video on how to do it. Find a video that walks you through it and gives you the techniques, shows you how to roll the dough, when to add the wine, etc.

Compare notes.

Did you fair better when you followed the directions from a book or when you saw it in action?

The purpose of this piece of homework is that you can see how just studying the directions is generally not enough to know how something is done. Sometimes you have to see it actually done in order to get the full weight of it.

Share in the comments what you picked and how it turned out. If you found a good recipe, share it with me! I’m always looking for delicious new ideas.

4. Empathy
Character Development

Many studies have been done which show that people who read are likely to be more empathetic than those who don’t read.

While this is something that of course is needed for humanity (we are nothing if we cannot be empathetic and compassionate toward each other), it can be essential for writers. Part of story telling is not just moving a character about through a plot. It’s understanding the depth of them so that they can create their own character arc.

When we read stories, especially ones which have deep characters, we begin to look at people differently, and also begin to examine our characters differently. This is a wonderful tool for character development, just as much as observing the people around you.

5. Inspiration
What If?

As I mentioned earlier, when I started to read fiction, my writing changed drastically. Aside from looking at the stylistic elements, I found that I was suddenly teaming with ideas.

When you read fiction, you’re of course being told a story, but you’re also trying to figure out the story along the way. If you’re anything like me, you’re trying to guess what’s going to happen next.

Characters are put in interesting situations and can trigger ideas for your own writing. For example, I was struck by a story idea while I was reading my friend’s fantasy short story. She was planning on basing her Dungeons and Dragons campaign on the story. There was one situation, where two lovers were separated into two worlds. When I read this, my mind went into an entirely different direction, and I came up with a sci-fi western trilogy which I’m nearly finished writing.

I have countless story ideas which have come from trying to guess what came next in the story and my mind going into its own direction, or from a sentence or concept that was mentioned in a novel I was reading that developed into a story. The entire Star Wars universe – the books written before Disney came along—are because authors liked a concept that was presented that wasn’t fully developed and they went with it (I tried to count them on the Wikipedia page. Before 2013, there were well over 200 books and stories set in the Star Wars universe. This number doesn’t count the comic books, nor does it count the gaming books based in that universe).

6. Enjoyment
Examining Your Why

If you’re writing fiction but you don’t enjoy reading fiction, there might be a little bit of a disconnect. Returning to the chef example, it would be like a chef trying to make the perfect cheeseburger but not actually liking burgers at all. How do you know it’s good if you don’t like to consume it in the first place?

It’s important to learn story structure, to learn how to develop your character, how to outline your novel—all of that. But reading about writing shouldn’t replace reading writing. If you love your genre and it inspires you to write, then your readers will feel that. It’s that wonderful quote from Robert Frost:

“No tears in the writer, no tears in in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

Robert Frost

Follow that up with that other wonderful quote from Hemingway:

“There is nothing to writing at all. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Ernest Hemingway

You are sharing of yourself when you write. There is a part of you who goes into what you write, and if there isn’t something that you enjoy, your readers won’t enjoy it, either.

I was once hired to take on a novel with a plotline I didn’t like, in a genre I didn’t like to read, but the money was good, so I took the ghostwriting job. I even read a few books in that genre before I started writing so I would be able to get the tone right, and I hated every book I read. It just wasn’t my genre.

I submitted the book, and it was not well received. They couldn’t tell what they didn’t like about it, but I knew. I hated the genre, I hated the book, I hated the plot, and despite my best efforts, it came through in my writing. That was the one bad experience I have had to date as a ghostwriter, and I have since then refrained from taking jobs in genres that aren’t my cup of tea.

So, if you’re writing fiction, but don’t like fiction, ask yourself why you’re doing it. You might have a story in you waiting to get out, and that’s a good start. But until you find a style of fiction or one piece of fiction you like to read, you are going to have a very hard time writing your book.

Your Homework

There have already been a couple pieces of homework throughout this piece. However, this is the one that’s going to take the cake.

Select three fiction books in your genre. You can have already read them and loved them or hated them, or they can be something you’ve never heard of but has great reviews, or something that you’ve always wanted to read. The requirement for these books is that they are generally received well and on a large scale. Or, the author needs to be well known. Think Tom Clancy, Stephen King, Elizabeth Gilbert, Toni Morrison, Dan Brown, Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan, Douglas Adams, etc.

Also, while all of these books can be written by the same person, they can’t be a part of the same series. If, for example, you chose Janet Evanovich (famous for the Plum books), one of your books would be from the Plum series while another would be from the Fox and O’Hare series, and your third might be from her Full series.

Read each book. Even if you’ve already read it. Read it again.

As you read the books, keep a journal, or somewhere that you can keep notes.

While you’re reading the book, keep a look out for these things and pause occasionally to consider the follow:

  1. When you catch yourself asking what’s going to happen next, put the book down and write out everything you think will happen next, and why. Then consider what you would do if you were writing the book, and why you would do it.
  2. If you find yourself shocked or disappointed by an event or lack of an event, journal about it. Why did you feel that way? Really delve into this idea.
  3. What phrase or descriptions work well for you? Write them down and journal on why you like the so much.

After you’ve finished a book, journal and answer the following questions:

  1. Did you like of dislike the book? Why?
  2. What parts made your feel the most?
  3. What parts dragged?
  4. Which characters moved you? What did the author do to elicit that reaction from you?
  5. If you were to write a spin off of this book, what concept/character/setting would you use and why? What would this spin off look like?
  6. What kind of technique did the author have? Were they very descriptive? How would you describe the type of descriptions they used? Cold? Warm? Flowery? Dark? Detailed? Vague? Fluffy?
  7. If you were to describe the author’s writing style, what would it be?
  8. What aspects of their writing style and/or technique would you like to try? How would you employ it?
  9. What question do you think the author was trying to answer when they wrote this book?

This is a big homework assignment. But it is designed to help you look at how to read like a writer, but still try to enjoy the story. Remember to read like a reader, but when you reflect, reflect like a writer. What are some of your favorite books?

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What books have influenced you and/or your writing the most? Talk to me about it in the comments!

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December 17 Journal Prompt: Your Own Personal Mary Sue

Who Is Your Perfect Person?

We’re going to play around a little bit with character traits here. I want you to think about your ideal person, and think about what makes them perfect.

Thinking about a perfect person might sound count productive. After all, wouldn’t that essentially be creating a Mary Sue?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, a Mary Sue is someone who has almost no character flaws, or the flaws they do have are too much goodness. Superman is a great example, in my eyes anyway.

The reason we don’t want to write this type of character is because we need our characters to struggle. When they struggle to overcome an obstacle, especially one that’s a character flaw, then they’re relatable and the character also grows.

In creating a perfect character or person, you can use this as an exercise to discover creative ways to bring that character down. How would you make this perfect, flawless character struggle?

However, we are also going to use this as a personal exploration. There is a lot you can discover about yourself when you consider the characters you develop.

Journal Prompt

Step 1

Create a perfect character. Free write what you think this person would look like, sound like, act like. What would they spiritually be into? What activities would they enjoy? Why? What good would they do for the world?

I strongly encourage you to complete this exercise before moving on or even reading the next part of the exercise.

Step 2

The interesting thing about this journal prompt is that you’re likely going to be putting your own ideals into this character. This offers you the opportunity to develop and explore what you value.

After you’ve created your character, ask yourself what it is you’ve included that are something you personally hope to aspire to, or that inspires you?

If you’re not actively a working toward these characteristics, why? What’s stopping you? Spend some time free writing and considering what it is that you want to include in your life going forward, and what you want to include in your goals for the next decade.

December Offer

January is a time of starting fresh, of setting up good habits to begin the new you.

Through December, to get excited and ready for January, I’m offering a Free 1-hour session in addition to any monthly package or the 6-month package.

This means that if you sign up for either of the monthly packages, you’ll get 5 sessions instead of four. This includes any of the additional bonuses included in the package. For example, if you sign up for the 6-month package, you will get an additional week of partial manuscript reading and critique.

This offer is only if you sign up for my packages through the month of December.

Don’t miss out starting your 2020 new year write.

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December 16 Journal Prompt: Inspirational Flaw

What Flaws Does Your Inspirational Person Have?

In a continuation of our look at how to develop a character, and thus how to generate writing prompts, we will build off the journal prompt from yesterday.

Now that you’ve taken the time to learn and write a little bit about the person who inspires you in your life and some of their characteristics, your journal prompt today will be to look at their flaws.

Spend time to really think about flaws. They aren’t always obvious. Sometimes people’s talents can contribute to their greatest downfalls. My example yesterday was Jim Morrison from the Doors. He was a massively gifted individual in my eyes, but part of his gift led to his demise. He was open minded and talented and produced the style of art that he did as a result of the mass quantities of drugs he ingested. More than once he spiraled out of control, and when he was 27, he died in a bathtub in Paris when his heart gave out.

Flaws aren’t just health defects. They’re problems with character. Flaws are some of the best things you can give a character. No one is perfect. Period. Everyone has a flaw. When your characters do too, it makes them more realistic and relatable for the reader. When your reader can connect to your characters, they’ll be more drawn into your story.

Most importantly, where there are flaws, there is room for growth. Perhaps your inspiring person has commitment issues. Maybe they become overly attached. Perhaps they’re overly generous with their money to the point where they can barely make ends meet each month. Maybe they are a chronic promise-breaker.

Spend some time thinking about the person who inspires you and look at what you know of them and see what their flaws are. If you don’t know enough about them, guess. Spend some time brainstorming and supposing what a logical character flaw is that they might have.

After you’ve done this, free write about how this makes your inspirational person more interesting, or how they influence what you think about that person. Do you feel better about them? Do you feel worse about them? Why? Give yourself at least ten minutes to write about this, and really dig deep I not what might be good relatable flaws, or what might potentially put readers off.

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December 7 Journal Prompt: What is Revolting?

What in life revolts you?

This exercise can be fun, or it can be dark. I’ll let you decide where you want to put it.

While getting to know yourself and your writing, you’ll come across practices that might pertain to your goal that just make you feel gross. For example, many writers detest the idea of marketing (I’m one of them!). There’s good ways of marketing which don’t feel slimy, and then there’s disgusting methods of marketing that make my skin crawl. Everyone’s different, so I won’t list anything here.

Why You Should Know This

So far we’ve looked at what inspires you, what scares you, and what brings you joy. All of these have been aimed at personal development as well as potential prompts or things to consider while you’re developing your character.

Today’s journal prompt is purely for inspiration.

Often when we develop a character, we might think about what the character likes and dislikes, but going so far as knowing what revolts them is the opportunity to give that character just a little bit more depth.

Furthermore, in knowing what revolts you, you gain some insight as to what might revolt a reader. Depending on the genre you’re writing in, this has the potential to create a more gripping effect in your writing.

For example, a client of mine who wrote a beautiful short piece for a competition (and was successful!) had a character lift a lock of hair to his noseless face, where a nose used to be, and sniff it. That image made my skin crawl and I loved it. I was invested in the story completely with that detail.

However, there is definitely a fine line here.

While it can be affective in creating a capturing piece, it can also have the opposite effect. If it’s too revolting, it might make your reader close the book and be done with it.

Chuck Palahniuk certainly walks this line, and for many readers, crosses it. His short stories can be absolutely horrific to read, though are of outstanding quality. I won’t go too into it, but let’s just say that Fight Club is easily the tamest thing he’s ever written.

The Journal Prompt

Your prompt is to look at what revolts you. Make a list of things that just creep you out, that you can’t stand the idea of, or that will make you close a book instantly and never look back.

Once you’ve made your list, ask  yourself what about it gives you this reaction. Some will be obvious, while some will really make you think. Try to avoid answers like “It’s just too much,” or “It just creeps me out,” or anything that fails to give an actual reason for why it revolts you.

Ask yourself why and interrogate this list as much as you can within comfort. If you feel up for it, push past your comfort level, though I do acknowledge there are somethings on the list that might be triggering. If you feel that it’s going to be problematic to your mental or emotional health, please don’t push yourself.

After you’ve completed this list and asked each item “why?” a few times, spend sometime freewriting about what you discovered. What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about writing? What can you use from this exercise to your advantage in your writing?

December Offer

January is a time of starting fresh, of setting up good habits to begin the new you.

Through December, to get excited and ready for January, I’m offering a Free 1-hour session in addition to any monthly package or the 6-month package.

This means that if you sign up for either of the monthly packages, you’ll get 5 sessions instead of four. This includes any of the additional bonuses included in the package. For example, if you sign up for the 6-month package, you will get an additional week of partial manuscript reading and critique.

This offer is only if you sign up for my packages through the month of December.

Don’t miss out starting your 2020 new year write.

Writing Prompt: The One You Despise

There are two things that every story has to have:

  • A plot
  • At least one character

The two are very interwoven. You need the character to carry the reader through the plot, but you need the plot so that the character isn’t just hanging out on their couch all day playing video games.

However, more than having an interesting plot, you need to have a character that the reader cares about.


A Mary-Sue is a character, male or female, who has no flaws that they have to cover come. In Christopher Pike’s YA series, The Last Vampire, the main character, Sita, is a Mary-Sue. She is this vampire who is just too smart and skilled for her own good.

Likewise, I would argue that Superman is a Mary-Sue. He has one weakness, which is that he cares too much about the girl, and he can’t hack kryptonite. I am bored to tears with that guy.

One reason this is boring as all get out is because the reader needs an element of relatability. No human is perfect, so having a perfect character alienates the reader in some way. When the reader can connect with the MC, then the reader is more likely to get sucked into their plight.

What a reader wants, whether they’re aware of it or not, is a character who evolves in some way. Thus, they need to have some form of character flaw that they work through to become a better person.

Consider Bridget Jones—golly I love that lady. I think just about every woman relates to her in some way, which is why those books did so amazingly, and why watching the movie is both my mom’s and my favorite lazy-day activity. She is hilarious because she’s real. And I don’t mean somewhat relatable, I mean real AF.

She has to overcome her views of self-worth in order to get the guy. What this inspires in all of us is that we too, us real AF women, can get the guy too if we can believe in ourselves.

The relatability in a story means that it takes the reader through the journey as if they were a part of it, and it helps to almost give them an option on how they too can get over their own character flaws.

I know, no pressure, right?

Of course this is in a vague sense. I mean, the princess who goes through all the ordeals that the villain can throw at her and waits until her perfect moment s o that she can escape—is not likely going to happen to the average person who needs to learn their own strengths to save themselves. However, it’s a reminder to their subconscious self that they have the power to take matters into their own hands.

A key element, then, is to ask yourself how your character evolves throughout the story.

Writing Prompt:
The Flawed Character

There are several steps to this exercise, so hang tight.

Step 1

Develop a character you don’t like and describe them having breakfast, or something mundane. This is just so you can really get into the character’s head.

This character doesn’t have to be completely of your own imagination. You can take someone you don’t like and write about them as well.

But as you develop this character, try to keep your prejudices out of it. Write it as if you’re setting this person up as your MC (because that is exactly what you’re doing).

Step 2

The next step is to ask yourself what it is you don’t like about this character. What makes this character somewhat repugnant to you? Is it that they don’t have a family and are totally against having one? Is it that they don’t like puppies? Do they lack compassion? Are they completely boring? Are they a Mary-Sue? Are they constantly sickly because they have no regard for their health and do literally everything wrong in the world in order to look after themselves?

Go on, go crazy when deciding what it is you don’t like about them.

Step 3

Now, ask yourself what it is that they could do to make them likable to you. Is it that they could get a dog? Is it that they could open their minds to something new and different like green eggs and ham? Is it that they could be passionate about something?

Step 4

Now that you have your dislikable character, you’re going to write the story of how they become likable.

Some Examples

There are plenty of examples of curmudgeon characters who develop and become likable. Consider:

  • Shrek, the ogre who wanted nothing to do with anyone, until he learns the value of friendship and companionship.
  • Wilt, from Tom Sharp’s wonderful Wilt series, in which a very old-fashioned man is put in horrendous situations and all he wants to do is go back to being boring and thinking the world’s gone mad (my favorite is when his wife decides she wants to be liberated, gets swept up in the ‘60’s free love movement, and accidentally finds herself at an orgy)
  • The Hound in Game of Thrones – now that guy is great to dislike. He just wants to do his own thing, he wants to do his job, and part of his job is to look scary. He seemingly doesn’t care about anyone, but at the same time he does, actually care. He offered to help Sansa, and later on grew attached to Arya. Both of these are character arcs.

What did you come up with? How did you find this exercise? Let me know in the comments, or feel free to email me about it.

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