Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Guest Post: Creating Complex Secondary Characters Using Tarot by Chris Votey (Part 2 - Cores & Pillars, plus Sample Reading)

Today, I am welcoming back author Chris Votey, to complete his guide to creating secondary characters using tarot cards.

Creating Complex Secondary Characters Using Tarot 
by Chris Votey 
(Part 2 - Cores & Pillars plus Sample Reading)

Yesterday, we looked at the basic tarot spread I use when creating secondary characters and how I use the 4 bases to develop the basic building blocks for my character. Today I am going to talk about the cores and pillars within the spread and  I will explain each area, then do a sample reading to demonstrate how this works.
This is how we are going to group these together:

A - Inner Core (Role) - In the Story, who they are deep down
B - 1st Pillar (Journey) - What is the path they follow
C - 2nd Pillar (Essence) - Their basic nature
D - 3rd Pillar (Ambition) - Deep down, what is it they seek and how they will obtain it
E - 4th Pillar (Manner) - How one presents themselves or how one sees this person
F - Outer Core (Obstacle) - What is holding them back?

You'll note that each card in the Inner Core is part of the 4 pillars, and each pillar shares a card with another pillar. This is a representation of how interconnected we are in our personalities. This is part of what makes us deeply complex, especially in narrative.

Sample Reading

I am now going to do a sample reading. You should note that some cards may not fit, and if that is the case, remove them. Other times, cards will have a specific meaning, but it will inspire you to assign a different value to it, do so. Also, some cards at the beginning may not make sense until you get to the end, that is perfectly all right.

Let's get started.

Block I - Super Ego

1. Lovers - Their childhood was highly encouraging, got everything they ever wanted
2. Queen of Cups - They are deeply concerned for someone they are close to
3. Devil - They are highly critical of themselves
4. Death - They aspire to be a better person, one not ruled by their weakness

Block II - Narrative

5. Temperance - Main Character will help them find balance in who they are
6. Page of Wands - Is not ready to deal with the Antagonist, they are not skilled enough or mature enough
7. King of Cups - The Protagonist gives them a stable connection they need as they grow.
8. Four of Cups - They are well loved and well received, but dependent on everyone being there for them.

Block III - Id

9. Ten of Wands - They seek to accomplish their goals, no matter what the circumstance.
10. Two of Wands - Often consider all the options, even after the event is over with, wonders if there was a better way
11. Four of Pentacles - Afraid they will never have enough to accomplish what they desire. Hold everything close and difficulty sharing.
12. Two of Cups - Love conquers all. They seek new relationships, whether friends or lovers, or loved ones.

Block IV - Ego

13. Six of Cups - They have an attention to detail, highly analytical, and a photographic memory
14. The Star - Strong, unconditional faith. Whatever they believe in, it is hard to change their minds of it.
15. Nine of Pentacles - They value serenity, contentment, and relaxation
16. The Fool - They are risk takers, but often times reckless, often leaping without thinking

So, some of this seems to go together nicely and other aspects seems out of place. Now, let us apply the second part of this, the cores and pillars, and see what we turn up with.

A. Role. They have a lot of love and support, but are hard on themselves. They find strengths in their convictions, but will punish themselves over any little thing, believing that they must make amends, even if others tell them the opposite. They are generally seen as a hard worker.

B. Journey. They lost someone close to them in their life, to which they blame themselves for. They are surrounded by people who love them and want to help them, but first they must help themselves. Possible depression.

C. Essence. They are quick to second guess their own decisions after the fact. Wondering if they should have chosen a different path. They are highly valued for who they are, seen as a hard worker, and surrounded by love.

D. Ambition. Having friends and love is paramount to them. They find comfort around others and has faith in them. They are willing to do anything for their friends, no matter the costs. Possible codependent behavior.

E. Manner. They are highly critical of themselves to be a better person, holding themselves up to a near unreachable goal. They are highly methodical and unwavering faith. Possible stubborn personality.

F. Obstacle. They were given everything they asked for growing up, but wasn't taught how to fend for themselves. Since they are use to getting things their way, they tend to be selfish about the things they have.

I'm taking the Fool out, it doesn't fit with everything else.

Character Summary:
While having a loving childhood, somewhere along the way, they lost someone close to them. This left a deep emotional scar that they often blame themselves for everything and hold themselves up to a high standard. The Main Character sees a potential in them and wants to help them balance out, and try to help them see that they are surrounded by a lot of people who want to help them.

They are deeply methodical, great at remember things, but can easily become skewed by their own beliefs. It is hard to convince them that they might be wrong about something, even when presented with information to show them they're wrong. They spend a lot of time second guessing their decisions.

They believe in the power of love and friendship and base themselves on what others think of them, working hard to maintain a good relationship. Often going above and beyond in an effort to prove their worth. Their own needs are secondary to the needs of others.

Adding to The Character

Now we have a character. Now, the character is incomplete. They're supposed to be. It is now your job to insert them into the story, to make them fit.

Does this character sound like anyone you know? This character does come off a bit stereotypical. Sometimes that happens, not often. When you use this system, often times you know what you are looking for and can insert extra elements in as you need to. I am doing this blind, rather doing this without direction, so I leave them incomplete.

You can leave it here for the character, if you are satisfied with it. If you want more, you can take it to the next level for added complexity. How we do that is for each of the pillars and cores, we draw a card specific to each one. Then we apply each card with our reading. I will do that below.

A. Strength - Person has more strength than they realize
They are hard on themselves and surrounded by lots of people that love them, but are convinced they are worthless. Others see that the person has so much potential, if they just tried a little harder. Their strength is shown in their convictions and hard work.

B. Knight of Wands - Despite their troubles, they are happy their live is moving forward, happy to find new adventures.
They lost someone close to them and blame themselves for it. Through the Main Character, they feel they have a chance to redeem themselves and may come to forgive themselves, despite the people around them that already forgive them, or try to convince the person to forgive themselves.

C. Seven of Cups - New Choices, New Experiences
They are quick to second guess themselves and their decisions, but work hard to do what is right. They are valued and well received by others. They are excited by the prospect of new changes.

D. Three of Pentacles - They gain satisfaction from working hard, they value themselves in their skills
They find great reward in their relationships and are at peace around others. They work hard for all of them, looking for positive reinforcement for what they do.

E. Seven of Wands - Often feel their beliefs are under attack. Feel pushed against the wall demanding they defend themselves.
They are quick to punish themselves and hold themselves up to a higher degree. While valued for their intelligence and quick thinking, they are often stubborn in their beliefs and resort to argument over a simple disagreement. They have to be right, even if they know they are wrong.

F. King of Pentacles - Dependent on material possession, need for luxury. Little concern for money.
They were given everything they asked for growing up, but wasn't taught how to fend for themselves. Since they are use to getting things their way, they tend to be selfish about the things they have, often going out of their way to have more stuff.

So, we see here, that the character is basically the same, we just added a bit more flavor to who they are. I like to use this as a writing exercise, and often create a stockpile of characters, so if I need one, I can look through and find one. Now you can try to use this to create a specific character, but I find that this often creates a different character than I want and I ended up finding the character I initially wanted later by accident.

Just so you know, the different combinations of characters you can create for level 1 is 2 to the 33rd power, or 2 with 33 zeroes after it. For Level 2 is 2 to the 45th power. So you will create some truly unique character, though this doesn't take into account different decks and different readers.

This is a good starting tool. It is not meant to make a complete character for you, but meant to give you a good starting point. I find this to be a time saver in the long run, so I can make sure that my characters are not too similar. Often times, it is the differences that bring people closer. Or at least, the differences that make the narrative more fun.

If you feel there is any element of this I got wrong or have suggestions on how I can improve this, I am all ears. I don't mind being told I'm wrong, as long as there is something I can learn from it.

Unfortunately, there are no generators online for tarot cards that can help you facilitate this spread. So you may need to go buy your own deck. I think every writer should have a tarot card and a bag of dice, but I'm a geek that way.

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.

World Building:
Twitter: @authorvotey

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. I'm going to try to use these in my next book. Great tips!

    1. Let me know how it works for you. I've not had anyone else try it out yet.


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