Review: Tarot for Writers

Those of you new to D*I*Y Planner in the past year or two may or may not know about my tarot love affair. I'd have to say it goes beyond the metaphysical. I use the cards for more than divination: journaling with the cards and involving them in my creative writing, for example. In 2006, I wrote about how tarot can help generate story ideas. Rkfoster also wrote about tarot and paper-based planning.

I consistently tell people that the cards are an excellent writer's companion. The pictures speak to the imagination, the cards weave stories when set side by side in a reading. In addition, the symbolism just begs to be written about in a narrative form. I've always wanted to write a book on tarot--one that goes into detail on using the cards for creative inspiration. However, Corrine Kenner beat me to it. Her Tarot for Writers demystifies tarot and shows writers how to use a deck in fueling their creativity and writing practice. Tarot for Writers is jam packed with techniques, writing samples, and reference sections on both the meanings and symbols found in tarot.

The book has three main sections. Part one gives you the low-down on what tarot cards are, their history, and how to use them. Kenner introduces tarot in a way that doesn't confuse or scare people who have never worked with a deck before. Part two gets to the fun stuff. These seven chapters discuss prompts, games, spreads and general information on applying the tarot to every aspect of the writing craft from plot to characters to setting and more. There's even a chapter on using a tarot deck as your own Writing Coach. Part three takes you on a card-by-card tour of what each card means, its literary connections and archetypes, and gives a list of prompts to kickstart the muse. Finally, Kenner ends with a glossary of tarot terms and symbolism--which for me was a nice touch. I tend to use a lot of symbolism in my own work and I can see myself using the symbolism glossary as a handy reference guide.

What I liked: This book looks at tarot completely from a writer's perspective. I love that it assumes the reader knows nothing about tarot and it tells you only the pertinent parts that relate to using it as a tool with your works. Kenner skips over the metaphysical background that turns many people from tapping into the creative and brainstorming power. Part Two gives an overwhelming (in a good way) package of exercises, spreads and ideas. There are many exercises to get your creative muse involved; it's fun to pick and choose what to try. I also love the Writing Coach chapter. While I've used the cards to ask questions relating directly to my plot and characters, I've never really thought about asking it if the work I'm revising is going well or what I should be working on next. In the "Writer's Guide to Tarot Cards" section, I liked how Kenner kept the focus on writing when discussing each card: integrating writing archetypes and suggesting prompts to further write about.

What I didn't like: For me, the first third contains the "meat". These are the chapters that give the techniques and spreads and all the other tips and tricks on integrating tarot with a writing practice. The last two-thirds of the book gave "just another set of tarot-based meanings" to apply to the cards. I understand why Kenner included this section in the book. These definitions are useful in providing people new to tarot with individual card meanings. But, for me, these meanings didn't provide anything new. I've learned much of what she has in these sections from working with the cards in my own studies. Therefore, I felt like Part Three padded the book and took away from the primary focus of showing how to use the cards with writing.

Bottom Line: Despite my nitpicks, I think Tarot for Writers does exactly what it sets out to do. Corrine Kenner does an execellent job in teaching tarot and exciting writers to experiment with a tarot deck. Get this book if you're a writer curious about the tarot and how it can help with your writing. If you're a tarot enthusiast seeking new ways to expand your tarot knowledge you'll want to add this to your library. And after you read it, break out your deck and start playing—let your deck take your creative writing to new realms.

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tarot influence in writing

I've seen quite a few tarot influences in fictional characters.

One recent rather heavy-handed example I can think of is Severus Snape in the Harry Potter novels who personifies The Fool - even down to being hit with a spell that made him hang upside down in the air by one foot, not truly belonging to any of the groups/suits of characters and having no escape from his downfall.

Does the book recommend using the tarot more subtly than that? Or does it recommend using it overtly?

(For anyone who doesn't know, one of the traditional representations of The Fool is a man falling headfirst over a cliff, another has the fool hanging by one foot from a rope)

An example from the book


Thanks for your response. The book recommends ways of using the deck to brainstorm original and fresh ideas for your own work. Whether or not you want to overtly or subversively use the tarot is up to you as a writer.

Here's one of the exercises from the book, to give you a better idea of a tarot deck gets used:

Pull 3 cards for you character. The first to determine his primary goal and motivation. The second for the loss he faces if he fails to achieve the goal. The third card gets used to explore the internal conflict he has to conquer along the way.

So using that exercise, I draw 3 cards and then use the images, symbols or scenes on the cards to create the goals, stakes, motivations, and inner conflicts for a character in my book.

The rest of the exercises and prompts use the cards in a similar fashion to help you craft better characters, more intriguing plots, etc.

I hope this helps!

I've been thinking about

I've been thinking about this since you wrote this review, and the more I think about it, the more it "calls" to me. At some point, I suppose I'll get the book. In the meantime, I'm thinking about doing a full 10-card spread for my protagonist, and then others for any characters suggested by the first spread. These should give me a real in-depth look at all my principal characters. If none of that yields a common plotline for these people, then I'll do a spread for that, too.

Who knows? I may come up with enough material to take a stab at NaNoWriMo this year. Or I may just write as I go and see where it takes me.

"I want to live in Theory. Everything works there."

I actually bought a deck

I actually bought a deck recently just because I thought it was about the most gorgeous thing I'd ever seen and I had to have it. Yes, it was an impulse buy. :) This is a very interesting idea, though... I might have to check this book out, especially if it tends to emphasize things for those who are really new.

oooh, deck junkies...beware


Which deck did you get? I MUST know. :) I've been using the Deviant Moon Tarot lately.


Kat Black's Golden Tarot.

Kat Black's Golden Tarot. Ages ago I'd stumbled onto the website where the artist displayed her original images, and then suddenly I saw it for sale recently--I didn't even know it had ever been published--and I couldn't resist.

Very cool


That's awesome! Congrats on your new deck and I hope it provides you with lots of interesting insights.