Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Guest Post: Creating Complex Secondary Characters Using Tarot by Chris Votey (Part 1 - The Spread & The Bases)

Today, and tomorrow, I am happy to welcome author, Chris Votey, to my blog to talk about the creation of secondary characters using tarot cards as a developmental tool. So, without further ado, over to Chris.
Creating Complex Secondary Characters Using Tarot 
by Chris Votey 
(Part 1 - The Spread & The Bases)

If there is one thing I love, it is creating characters. I consider myself a character driven author, in that my characters tell the story. The flip side to this is a plot driven story. Most people make a balance between the two, as do I, but have a preference of one over the other. Though some are able to have a great plot and great characters all in one.

Creating powerful and complex Protagonist and Antagonist is second nature to me. When I create them, I think of their strengths and weaknesses, virtues and vices. If my story involves a very small cast of characters, I am set.

One of my challenges is creating a large cast of characters. The difficulty I have is that when I create the Main Character, Protagonist, or the Antagonist, that I create them often as what do they need to be for the story to work. Secondary characters can be regarded as such, but it tends to make them flat and uninteresting.

In light of this, I decided that I wanted to use tarot cards to create characters. I used Tarot cards because they are 78 cards (in most decks) that describe some sort of state of transition for people. Being a video gamer myself, I often look at Tarot cards as having a complex main story with 4 side quests that intersect quite often.

Now, it doesn't matter what deck you get. Just note that there are different interpretations to cards from deck to deck. They tend to have similar meanings, but there are distinct differences. Just so you know, I am using the Gilded Tarot deck.

I am going to show you the spread. There are two levels to this. I am going to show you the first and how the spread work, and then show you how the second one is different.

First, we need to put our cards in this layout, in this order (order doesn't really matter, but I tend to be a stickler for order).

This is the basic spread. I do love the symmetry. However, this is anything but simple. Most spreads, the place of the card has a specific meaning and then the whole spread has an overall message or story to tell. This spread is different in that a card interacts with other cards to get a general idea across and the entire spread tells a lot of general ideas to create a complex thought.

This spread makes use of 4 bases, 1 inner core, 1 outer core, and 4 pillars. In essence, 10 different ways to interpret the cards. Let us start with our 4 bases.

The 4 Bases
Please note, using this spread requires you have a basic idea of who your Main Character, Protagonist, and Antagonist is. Main Character and Protagonist can be two different people.

The image shows how the bases appear in the spread and you can see overlaps occurring. The colours I chose were at random, they have no added meaning. This was done for your benefit so you can start to see how this works.

Block I - Cards 1 - 4 (Red)

This block represents Super Ego. Basically what we are taught that shapes us, whether through family, conflict in our lives, or society exerting its control.

1. Character's Past - Generally this represents all of childhood. It may reflect on how they were raised, who their parents were, or a major event that happened growing up.
2. Character's Conflict - Every character believes they are the Main Character of their story, and this is their personal conflict they are dealing with.
3. General Characteristic - This is a representation of who they are in general. All of us have a general trait about us. It is all the little things in conjunction with this trait that makes us a complex person. This can be strengths or weaknesses, or overall sense of who they are.
4. Character's Aspirations - We all want more for ourselves and know that what we have now is not all there is to life. What are their goals, what are their dreams?

Block II - Cards 5 - 8 (Green)

This block represents the Narrative of the story. If you are creating secondary characters, you generally have an idea of what the story is about. Though the magic of this process is that you can learn more of what the story or characters are as you create new ones.

5. Relationship to Main Character - How does this character and the Main Character know each other, what is their relationship like? Why are they together? Do they even like each other? If the Main Character and Protagonist are the same person, then this is their personal connection.
6. Relationship to the Antagonist - What is their connection with the Antagonist? Do they have a personal issue with them, or simply support the MC on their quest against the Antagonist?
7. Relationship to the Protagonist - If the Protagonist and MC are different people, then it is the same questions as card 5. If they are the same person, then it is their professional relationship. Do they work together, in what way? Do they fight together, in what way?
8. Relationship to the Central Conflict - In most stories, there is a central conflict, and this character is connected to it in some way. Whether as an active participant, passive participant, or having nothing to do with it all together.

Block III - Cards 9 - 12 (Light Blue)

This block represents the character's id. This contains their basic instinctual drive, what makes them tick as a human than what makes them a person.

9. Drive - What pushes the character forward, what do they lust after what gets them out of bed in the morning?
10. Ideas - What are their basic thoughts about, what plans to they have for life or conflict? When they daydream, where does their mind go?
11. Fears - At their core, what are they most afraid of? 
12. Beliefs - What to them is the highest form of being? Is it God, love, money, or something else?

Block IV - Cards 13 - 16 (Dark Blue)

This block represents the character's ego. Ego is described as a set of functions of self that give us judgement, tolerance, control, planning, and defence.

13. Skills - What are they skilful at, or rather, how skilful are they?
14. Quirks - What special thing about them makes them who they are? Namely, virtues or vices.
15. Values - What do they hold in high regard? What do they value above all else. Whether of self or of others.
16. Vulnerabilities - What are the weak to? What holds them back? What is their kryptonite? What will destroy them if it is lost?

Once we have those in place, it is time to design our character. While these blocks tell gives us an idea of who this person is, it doesn't really tell us how all of these relate to each other. This is where many personality tests fall short. Tomorrow, I'll show you an example reading and talk about how to use the inner core, the outer core and the 4 pillars to flesh out your character.

About Chris Votey

Christopher D. Votey was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1980, first son of Steve Votey and Jolene Knight (née Nichols). He is a college graduate in Computer Science at Collins College in Tempe, Arizona and has worked in the computer field for 10 years. After a debilitating work injury, Chris decided to take up writing, producing 2 books.

Chris currently lives in Mesa, Arizona awaiting Social Security disability and working to recover from his condition of Post Concussion Syndrome to return back to a normal life.

Chris' current project is a Paranormal/Alternate History/Fantasy series.

Website: http://home.chrisvotey.com
Blog: http://writing.chrisvotey.com
World-Building: http://www.chrisvotey.com/writing/worldbuilding/
Twitter: @authorvotey
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChristopherDVotey
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+ChrisVotey
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7733607.Christopher_D_Votey

By Chris Votey

Terran Psycosis:
A man who thinks he is an alien finds himself in a mental institution. He has been visited by many doctors, but none of them were able to help him. The hospital has brought in a specialist to try to get some answers. This specialist is the top of his field and he may be able to unlock the secrets of the patient and be able to answer: Is he an alien, or simply a man seeking attention.



  1. Thanks for the opportunity of posting on your site.

  2. What fun! Someone did my tarot cards once...he sucked at it. He told me I was never going to find love. Ever. Thanks a lot, dude. He was wrong...but the weird thing was, he predicted my friend was going to move away within the next year. I think it was two or three years--but she moved to Vegas. She hadn't planned to do that at all.

    1. Wow, that is awful. Tarot can't tell you the future, and someone to tell you that you won't ever fall in love... is not worth their salt as a person.


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