When I met Lori Henriksen, award-winning author of The Winter Loon, at the WFWA Writer's retreat in September this year, she had mentioned that she was using tarot cards as a plot development tool for her current work-in-progress. I felt her fascinating story might be of interest to share. I contacted her, and she agreed to visit with me about her process.
How did this unusual idea first come to you?
Lori: When I attended the Golden Crown Literary Society writing conference, where my book was a finalist in two categories, one of the fascinating breakout workshops was led by Kimberly Cooper Griffin and Aurora Rey on Character Development.
During the workshop we broke into groups of two and were asked to analyze our character(s) using Tarot cards. They provided each group a deck of tarot cards, and the corresponding booklet that explained the imagery and symbolism. My partner and I were vaguely familiar with Tarot, but really not, in any sense, very knowledgeable.
We did a three-card spread:
- Physical State
- Option 1
- What I think
- Option 1
- Emotional State
- Option 2
- What I feel
- Option 2
- Spiritual State
- Super consciousness
- Option 3
- What I do
- Option 3
How do you use your tarot cards in your own process?
Lori : I did a three-card spread reading for my main character, Lucy.
My process is, first, setting a sacred space as I would for meditation.
I shuffle the cards, cut them three times, and chose three cards. Along with the information from the Tattoo Tarot booklet, and a book called Tarot Reversals—which has great explanation of symbolism—I also trusted my intuition to do the reading, just as though I knew what I was doing.
Three notes I have from the workshop:
- You’re learning what is already in your head
- The cards tell you something you need to know—that you already know
- You are tapping into your insight/your gut feelings
How are they affecting your writing?
Lori : I feel I have insight into my characters’ psyche and also have a tool that if I’m stuck, e.g. wondering now what would Lucy do in this situation, I can pick a card and do a quick reading, or if it’s a major block, I can do another reading. It’s a learning process to develop my intuition.
Here is my three-card spread with my interpretation for my main character, Lucy.
First card. Mind – What she thinks
Three of Swords: Mental stress is too much to bear. A heart pierced by 3 swords suggests jealousy, heartbreak and rupture. Threes respond to creativity and integration, but swords bring disharmony and sorrow.
This card brought these questions about her main character to mind for Lori:
- Does her heart want something her mind says she cannot have?
- Is there a love triangle, failed affair, or separation?
- The pain of loss and betrayal hits hard, a sword through the heart.
- Is she blinded by the pain of her heartache?
- A flower blooms in front of her pierced heart and a flame burns above, reminding us pain is temporary.
- Her situation is fragile and so are the people around her.
Second card. Body – What she feels
Major Arcana – The Moon: Mysterious and not always what it seems. Has the power to pull the tides or illuminate the forest to show monsters that may not exist.
The second card allowed these questions and thoughts to be considered:
- What fears and illusions beset her on her journey to unknown landscapes?
- What delusions, deeply submerged fears or even terror are calling her survival instincts?
- Something is at the edge of her consciousness that she can't quite grasp.
- She may find herself swamped by emotions, misunderstandings, and secrets.
- She feels herself drawn toward some undefined purpose.
- Like the crayfish on the card, she may be cleansing the waters of unconscious habits by digesting debris from her past, and walking bravely between the needs of instinct and the domestication that dogs her.
- Hard to tell fact from fiction when the moon lights your path.
Third card. Spirit –What she does
Seven of Wands - Seven reminds her to stand tall and fight for what she wants, holding her ground and prevailing over the odds.
Here are the questions that came to mind from the interpretation of this card.
- What obstacles will test her mettle?
- Can she stand up to the passion of her heart in the face of adversity?
- Be careful of unsure footing.
- Don't give up in light of confrontation.
- She must protect her passions.
Artist and creator of Lori’s Tarot Deck: Lana Zellner of Eight Coins
Thanks so much for sharing your interesting muse with us, Lori! Your story about tarot cards is as enchanting as I thought it would be.
What do you think?
Would you try tarot to learn more about your characters?
Originally from New York,Anne Pisacano has lived in northern Arizona for over 20 years. From the city to the country, sidewalks to mountains, concrete to bare earth, night lights to starlight—she misses the beaches and her friends, but after more than two decades she now considers Arizona home. When not reading or reviewing other people’s books, Anne can be found editing a novel she’s co-written and plotting out her next book. Anne Pisacano writes contemporary Women’s Fiction with humorous, and strong romantic elements, because life is just too short to take it all so seriously. Oh, and she likes to add a touch of magic too. She is a grateful member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.