Tarot cards as writing tools

Cartomancy  /ˈkärtəˌmansē/ noun

fortune-telling by interpreting a random selection of playing cards.

Here is an easy way to use tarot cards to generate plot, setting, characters, conflict, inner emotions and writing prompts.


‘Strength’ available here

If you don’t have one already, buy a tarot deck with a tarot book, or, you can download a free tarot app on your smartphone, though working with the actual cards is easiest for me.

Shuffle, pick out cards. See what combos you make. Look in the book and try some spreads. Or put cards together randomly. You can read the descriptions in the guide for an in depth look at the card meanings. They are rife with symbolism and archetypes. Use the combos to prompt your writing! Learn more about the universe in the process.

Look for archetypes on the cards, from there, narrow down your characters. Is your character a priestess archetype but a stay at home mom? The king of pentacles may be an accountant, or successful businessman. The knight of cups may indicate a love interest. The knight of swords might indicate a love interest in a action/adventure story, or a love interest with anger issues. The chariot might be a taxi driver. The star might be the protagonists dream girl. ETC.

Create plot by layering cards on top of your characters. Do they face heartbreak (3 of swords), destruction (the lightning stuck tower), does one get pregnant? Etc. Is their jealousy? Where is the jealousy? At work? In the home? The symbols on the cards will create conflict if you look for it.

Look for setting in the backgrounds of your cards. Are they in a city? A home? The country? Is there a mountain? A forest? What combinations have you made? Do the cards indicate travel?

Here is a basic structure you can use:

Major Arcana: major character archetypes and big plot movements, plot arcs

Suit of cups: emotion, romance, drama, love, water

Suit of pentacles: money, career, the home, family, earth

Suit of wands: creativity, passion, spirituality, sex, fire

Suit of swords: conflict, violence, tragedy, battle-scenes, protection, air

Page cards: young man or woman, message, communications

Knight cards: romantic lead, hero archetypes, competition?

Queen cards: leading ladies, matriarchs, women on top, competition?

King cards: action/political/patriarch leads, the chief archetypes, villains?


Take it a step further and do “readings” for your characters. Take notes and use them to build emotional profiles or to add depth to your characters’ motivations.

Happy writing!