Sunday, October 16, 2016

Developing character

One of my favorite jobs as an author is to tease out who my characters are. I mean, they're so busy yammering at me that it makes sense that I should get to know them. Sometimes this process is easy, other times it's like pulling teeth. And sometimes I want to get a different view of the character because I know the truth may not be fully there.

Sebastian and Sláine from Prince of Earth and Ice, the sequel of Prince of Air and Darkness, are two such characters. Sebastian is a prodigal Seelie prince and Sláine is the Unseelie high prince who defected and became a traitor to his people. Neither of them is good at letting down their guards; if they did, survival would be impossible. Writing their love story is a true challenge and I'm enjoying myself immensely.

One of my favorite ways to tease out more meaning behind characters is to draw them a quick tarot spread. It's only three cards -- past, present, and future -- and recognizing threads throughout the cards often gives me great ideas of what to enfold later in the manuscript.

The deck I used for these spreads (and my favorite deck in general) is the Llewellyn deck. The focus on Welsh mythology and the soft and detailed watercolor designs are perfect for a story of warring faerie courts and the political intrigue and romance that come with them.


Seb's spread was drawn first.

  • Ace of Wands - A perfect card to suit Seb, the ace of wands is about rising to a challenge, becoming self-reliant, and learning to use reasoning and ideas to their fullest. The ace of any suit indicates the start of a journey; Seb's past, which comes back to haunt him in PEI, followed the call of this card and that adventure made him strong enough to face the events of the story I'm writing for him.
  • Six of Swords - The suit of swords is a natural fit for the present. It's the suit of action, where good and bad can balance on the edge of a blade and a person's actions determine the course of the future. I love the ambiguity of the six of swords. A card indicating movement or a journey, it can also be interpreted as a declaration of love. Knowing where Seb starts and where he ends, I smiled as soon as this one made its appearance. 
  • Ten of Cups - As a romance writer, any time the suit of cups appears I know that I need to delve deeper into the emotions of my character. In this case, the ten of cups is one of the sweetest and most rewarding cards to have appear. The symbolism of a full life, of true love, of emotional fulfillment...This card is a happily ever after and knowing that Seb will journey there gives me even greater joy when writing his story.


Sláine's spread was drawn second.
  • Four of Wands - To see Sláine's past as this card of peace and balance was painful. He's a wounded man and the reminder of how much he's lost was perfect as I plot out how to show that part of his life. In order for anyone to fall to their lowest point, they must start at great heights and Sláine is no different.
  • Three of Swords - Every time I draw this card I'm instantly on guard. Traditionally, the three of swords is a card associated with loss and sorrow. For Sláine, there are few cards in the deck that could better sum up his life at the present. But this suffering and misery is necessary for him to find his way out of hell. 
  • Queen of Pentacles - I didn't expect this card to show up for Sláine, but the longer I thought about it, the more it seemed to fit. His story is about the struggle of being an unwanted prince and his rash actions early on need to mature in order for his story to come to balance. The card was a reminder to me that no matter how far he seems to have fallen, in the end he will emerge calm, steady, and secure.

While the process of drawing a simple spread is fun for me, it also helps me better understand my characters. Bits and pieces of this spread will probably show up in PEI, so now you know what to watch for when it comes out!

Do you have any other methods you enjoy using for writing out characters. If you enjoy tarot, are there any particular spreads you enjoy using that I should learn more about?