November 27, 2019

Creative Woo-riting, Part 4

Hello, hello, everyone! I'm back with another installment of my "Creative Woo-riting" series, specifically discussing how I used tarot to write my recent story "Revolve Her" (currently available in the Paperback Writers anthology by Locklear Books). In my previous posts, I shared how I used a tarot ritual and spread to prepare for the story. Today, I'll talk about how tarot factors directly into the plot.

So. I knew I wanted to write a scene about a tarot reading, but it felt too contrived if I were to hand-pick the cards myself. As the designer of the story, I obviously could've just selected the tarot cards with meanings coinciding with exactly what I wanted to convey. But where's the fun in that? If there's one thing I've learned about the tarot, it's that it's a lot wiser than me--even if it's only unearthing answers that I already know anyway! Sometimes we don't consciously know what is best, even if on some subconscious or unconscious level we do. So, I decided to leave this one to the cards and, honest to God, shuffled and drew a few at random, with the intention of unlocking the message my protagonist, Ellie, needed to hear.

This is what resulted:

And here's how I interpreted and wrote it into "Revolve Her"...

~ * ~

After giving the cards one last good shuffle, she knocks on the deck with her knuckles three times, as Beverley directs before next asking for her birthdate.
“Fifth August,” Ellie says before she can correct herself, watching the other woman flip the deck face-up and thumb through it.
“Ah. A Leo,” Beverley says, casting an eye on Ellie, who knows she’s really a Pisces. If the psychic detects the lie, though, she doesn’t call it out, simply plucks a card from the pile and lays it on the cloth for Ellie to see. “Here’s our gal. She represents you in this reading. Your significator. And let me tell you, she is something fierce.”
“I’d say so,” Ellie agrees as she hovers over the image, getting a closer look in the dim, flickering light and admiring the fiery hotness of the Queen of Wands, whose golden mane is like Ellie’s, just glossier. Also like Ellie is the tattoo on the queen’s soft-looking skin; her dark, defined brows; and full, luscious lips. This queen’s eyes are blue, but damn if they don’t match Ellie’s determination.
“Then we do have a fit.” Beverley smiles. “There are other court cards of different suits in the deck, but this one in particular reflects a creative, passionate, driven individual. She’s confident, sensual, and feels good in her skin.”
Just as she starts to feel a fire welling within, Ellie’s dowsed in cold water at Beverley’s next question. Which is, simply, what Ellie’s question is—for the cards.
She draws a blank. Question? She didn’t think she needed one. Her only question now is what’s her question?
“Personal? Professional?” Beverley prompts, which sends Ellie’s mind whirring. The parlor’s business has been solid lately and their newest artist only exceeding expectations. Ellie feels good there. But personally…
Bollocks. Where to even start? Ellie isn’t sure anymore if she wants to talk about Robert, and like hell if she’s going to bring up what she experienced at the motel. As hard as she tries to consider other topics, however, Robert keeps returning to the forefront—the image of him, anyway, lying bloodied on the floor. All she wants all of a sudden is to see him, be sure he’s really okay. And if so, to just…leave things on a better note than they did. Does Robert want that, too? After dumping her off last night, does he have any intention to return? Does he want anything to do with her? Does she want him to want to?
Stewing in discomfort and indecision, Ellie returns her roving eyes to Beverley when the psychic leans forward onto her elbows and laces her fingers together. The polish on her long nails matches her lipstick.
“Is it about the guy you just saw again? Is that the one?”
The one, as if Beverley could see the flurry of questions swarming Ellie’s head and seized on “the one” that kept pushing its way to the surface.
“Yes,” Ellie says before she can think about it. “Yes,” she repeats in lieu of further detail.
“Thought so” is Beverley’s only comment before giving the tarot cards a quick overhand shuffle and asking Ellie to cut the deck. Ellie does, and Beverley pulls three cards from the top of the re-stacked pile. “Huh.”
Laid before Ellie are deep jewel-toned drawings rendered in the style of tattoo art, their rich color and symbolism popping out from a vintage cream background. Reading from left to right, the cards’ captions say Judgement, The World, and The Emperor.
“All Major Arcana,” Beverley says. “That’s significant. The Minors deal in day-to-day stuff, but the Majors are more ongoing, overarching issues, you know?”
“Okay,” Ellie says with furrowed brow, studying the pictures but unable to make meaning from them. Other than that, in profile, the brunet Emperor kind of reminds her of an unshaven Robert—what isn’t reminding her of him today?—and that the religious overtone of Judgement—depicting an angel blowing a trumpet above people rising from graves—puts her ill at ease.
“This is big-picture stuff. In your relationships, romantic or platonic, you’ve grappled with the judgment of others and yourself. Most recently, you might’ve done something you’re not proud of, behaved in a way that let you down when you know you’re better than that. Were you too harsh on this guy? Channeling how others have treated you, maybe? Quick to label and cut off?”
Ellie sucks on her lower lip.
“Don’t beat yourself up over it. See that?” Beverley taps on a woman who’s standing up from inside her coffin. “It’s like you’ve had a rebirth. Just learn from missteps and heed your soul’s call, which in the present seems fulfilled. You may not fully realize it, but you have achieved completion when it comes to your heart. Look at how free this woman is,” she says, pointing to the World card now, “naked but not vulnerable. She, too, is comfortable in her skin and just owns it.
“Nothing is finished forever. Life’s a turntable, and you’ll cycle through insecurity and heartache again, as we all do, like a record spinning round and round, skippin’ on the same scratches. But each time, your needle wears down those imperfections more and more.”
Ellie automatically thinks of her tattoo needle, how the concentration and repetition of her craft ever more effectively imprints everyone she serves with a piece of her, living on in new flesh.
“With enlightenment, you’re bringing something finer and fiercer to the table, Queen of Wands. You’re in command of your fate here, and it seems by putting yourself out there in a truly vulnerable and authentic way, you really have managed to find the real deal. This man, he’s showing up here, in your future.” She points to the Emperor. “He might seem all powerful and patriarchal on his throne, but see how he’s looking at you. He’s facing the first two cards—looking back at where you’ve been and where you are—and seems to glow from your radiance. This guy’s besotted. Even your queen here” —she points to the significator card— “is looking down at him like da-amn. She wants him, and she’s holding that wand, that tool for directing her power, willing it to do her bidding. You’re in more control here than you think.”
Ellie’s been listening attentively up to this point—rapt, in fact—but the morning’s big breakfast and Bloody Mary are catching up with her. She yawns before she can help it.
Beverley stops mid-soliloquy. “Oh, I’m sorry. Am I boring you?” She only manages the straight face for so long, laughing robustly at her own act. Ellie is so enamored with the good-natured sound and smile that she reciprocates.
“Listen,” Beverley continues, “I don’t know who we’re talking about here, what’s happened between you two—like, really happened, not what’s in your head.” She’s no longer looking at Ellie but the space between them, her eyes appearing unfocused. “But you’ve got something there that isn’t over yet. I’m seeing unfinished business, heat that needs releasing to find closure. Someone needs to move on.”
“Someone?” Ellie asks. “As in me? I need to confront him and get over it?”
A sound catches in Beverley’s throat, and she swallows. Her eyes meet Ellie’s, slightly widened. If it weren’t so cliché—and truly creepy to contemplate—Ellie would think the psychic has just seen a ghost.
“You?” Beverley says at last. “No, no. You both.”
Her voice is as distant as her stare, but even in the candlelight, Ellie sees the light come back into her eyes. Beverley clears her throat.
“You and the—the guy,” she says, as if Ellie couldn’t already figure that out. “And even though you’re still seeking that completion, with him, what will help you find it is your current state of wholeness. You’re embodying who you are. You don’t need this man to be complete. But he’s a key factor somehow in a new cycle you’re starting. Maybe more conventional than expected, but not like what you’ve left. He offers a healthy stability, in which you’d continue to flourish. He wouldn’t—” She blinks her eyes, which have become glassy, and shakes her head. “He wouldn’t treat you as less-than. He only sees you for who you are, and…
“And I’m jealous as fuck.” Beverley chuckles toward her chest and wipes her eyes. “I’m sorry.” She looks up, her expression almost sad if it didn’t also look a little scared. “I don’t mean to monologue at you. That’s just what I see, in this moment, so why don’t you take it from here. Tell me what did or didn’t land with you.”
In all the time she’s been listening, Ellie would swear she stopped breathing if not for the shallow inhales of sage-spiced air that she’s felt caressing her nose. She feels light, dizzy but light, and morbidly relieved to hear Robert still spoken of in present tense. Yes, she needs to see him again. But for now, how much should she tell Beverley?
She decides to tell it all. At least, up to the part when she first discovered Robert was married, and then attempted to hightail it back to London via Phoenix. The coming-back-to-Sedona part was still a little fuzzy for her.


“Which brings me to this wretched morning,” she says, “when I woke with a thumping headache, empty stomach, new vegan holster”—she lifts her purse from where it hangs on her chair— “and a dash of wishful thinking, which must have brought on a psychic break indulging a sick fantasy I never actually had.”
“It wasn’t that.”
That’s all Beverley says.
“Well, all the same, I probably ought to consult a medical professional, don’t you think?”
“Wouldn’t help.”
“Why not?”
“You can call me Ellie.”
“Ellie.” Beverley flashes her lovely pearl teeth before the misgiving reenters her lovely onyx eyes. Picking up the remaining pile of cards, she does another quick overhand shuffle before setting the deck down in front of Ellie and spreading it out, facedown, in a long line. “Mind drawing another one?”
“All right.” Scanning the fan of cards, Ellie instinctively zeroes in on one and pulls it out to present it to Beverley.
Ace of Wands, its caption reads. Ellie sees a disembodied hand holding a wand like her Queen of Wands. This wand projects so much more energy, though, as if channeling the very power of the sun’s rays. And though the tattooed hand that holds it seems feminine and similar to the Queen of Wands’, on some intuitive level, even Ellie knows it isn’t. It doesn’t belong to her—the queen or Ellie. Someone else is conducting this mad music, changing Ellie’s life with a wave of her hand.
Watching Beverley inspect the card for some time in silence, Ellie senses a big So, here’s the thing coming. She doesn’t know why, she doesn’t understand how, but true to expectations, Beverley finally opens her mouth to say, “I don’t know quite how to broach this delicately, so I’ll just come right out and say, well, suggest…”
Ellie tips her chin down into her neck, her raised brow encouraging Beverley to out with it.
“It’s just that, our time, for the tarot reading, is up. And I don’t care what you have and haven’t paid for, Ellie. If I had the time today, I would ask you to stay a while longer, free of charge. But since I don’t, and you might not anyway—” she pauses for an inhale, though she herself seems to loathe the unnecessary drama that adds “—Ellie, would you please consider scheduling another session with me? For a medium reading. Tomorrow. As soon as possible?”

~ * ~

So there we go! A real tarot-reading for a fictional character. It was SUCH fun offering up a part of my writing process to something out of my control. I honestly think it resulted in something better than I could've come up with myself!

By the way, the deck pictured above is Tattoo Tarot: Ink & Intuition. This is the same tarot deck that features in "Revolve Her" and that gave its name to Ellie's tattoo parlor. :) 

My little series here is almost at an end, but coming up next is the inspiration for my story's spiritual setting in Sedona. See ya then!

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