There are two things that always happens to me when October arrives. The first is that my pull to introspection deepens: I crave wide open hours spent with steaming mugs of tea, glowing candles, journals, crystals and cards. The second thing is that I want to write fiction: I want to witness narratives emerging from the ether and taking shape on the page.
This October, I’m realizing I want to do both of these things at once. I want to reflect on my personal journey, and I want to write fiction inspired by that assessment. I don’t just want to ploddingly write about the “facts” of my current life. I want to take a more magical approach. I want to take creative liberties and tell a slice of my own story not literally, but mythically.
Of course, tarot lends itself nicely to this process! I’m going to show you how I’m going about writing my own introspective tarot flash fiction. I hope you’ll decide to try it for yourself.
As a side note: I’m calling this tarot flash fiction, but is it truly fiction? The aim here is to write semi-autobiographical fiction: a story about you that may not be literally true, but points to metaphorical truths. What we’re doing, you could say, is writing a short myth about ourselves.
Myths are an integral part of being human. For time immemorial, myths have provided entertainment, but they do much more than that. Myths help us understand our place in the cosmos, myths reflect the workings of our inner worlds.
Joseph Campbell pointed out that myths can “conceal OR reveal” the truth. This exercise in writing your own introspective piece of flash fiction is not about concealment! It’s not about avoidance or pie-in-the-sky fantasies. It’s about revealing your truth by putting it through a different filter, by allowing wisdom to be expressed in an alternate paradigm. Sometimes the truth is best revealed not by barraging it head on, but by approaching it from an unconventional angle.
You can go about this exercise in whatever way feels right to you. Perhaps there’s a specific something you want to write about: a challenge you’ve been grappling with, a recent influential experience. If so, keep that concept in mind as you shuffle your cards. But you can also approach this from a blank slate, going in without a plan and taking note of the story that naturally takes shape in your cards.
It could be useful to do a brief meditation before you pull your cards. This way, you can get yourself in an open, receptive mindset. This exercise is different than doing a traditional tarot reading. Don’t worry as much about traditional card meanings. Let yourself be inspired by the images – in fact, I think it would be great to use a deck with a lot of really rich imagery. Think of your cards as open ended prompts.
Get your chosen deck, shuffle well and then draw four cards. The cards will prompt your story as follows:
Where I was
Where I am
Where I will be
Flash fiction gets the name because it’s brief. Write as much or as little as you feel inspired to do for your story. If you find you focus best when talking, you could speak your story out loud and record yourself. Or, if you’re like me and express yourself more naturally through writing, you can draw your cards and then type out your story.
I find this works best if you really put your inner editor on hold. This isn’t about writing something flawless. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be about writing something that makes sense! Instead, this introspective tarot flash fiction is about letting your pulse of self-expression beat freely.
As you can tell, there’s really no wrong way to do this! I hope that I’ve given you some useful guidelines, but you can truly take this concept and make it your own. Just as an example, I’ll show you my cards and resulting tarot flash fiction. The past two or three months have been a bit tumultuous for me, so I’m thinking about centering my story around that. I’m using the Lumina Tarot (my cards are pictured earlier in this post).
Where I was: Seven of Swords
Where I am: Two of Cups
Plot Twist: The Hierophant
Where I will be: Four of Swords
I sat alone on the mountain for aeons, watching the sky turn violent. Swords attacked the moon, that heavenly body that I once thought impenetrable. The world around me looked flat and monochrome, like TV static. The air I tried to breathe was thin and ragged. My bones were heavy and try as I might I was fixed in place, nowhere to look but straight at the celestial onslaught.
Dawn came, despite my inkling that it would not. My limbs began to loosen and I found the desire to move returning. As I watched the sky morph from darker to lighter, a new perspective began to take shape. Perhaps the war I had witnessed above was only a reflection of the wounds of my soul. As above, so below; they say.
Was I asleep or awake? I was moving someplace between the two when I was approached by a winged creature. “You have been waffing about and assuming the worst,” it said not unkindly, it’s voice as rich as silk. “But now, you can grasp a new way of being. You are supported, you are loved. You are love! You are not here to wallow in the darkness that ensnares the moon. You are here to bring color and life to the heavens and the earth.”
I nodded. I stretched my arms, mirroring the expansion of the creatures wings. “Yes,” I agreed, my voice thick in my throat but strong. “I am certain this is true.” As I spoke, the moon smiled down, liberated. Whole. I felt luminous, too. As within, so without.
With the winged creature as my witness, I stood up tall and solid, letting the potency within me radiate outward and into the expanse. I vowed to no longer sit idly by in a monochrome trap, but instead to wield great powers. To teach. To learn. To embody the energy of life, vibrancy and resilience. Perhaps, I thought, I am learning to see myself not as a witness to destruction, but as an agent of creation. I am learning not to fear decay, but to embrace a vaster scale of life.
This vibrancy of evolution, I knew, would take time to integrate. Instead of rushing out into the world of action, I sat down. But this time I sat not out of weakness or fear, but as a contemplative respite. I offered companionship and gratitude to the winged creature who offered me such insight. When I gazed up again at the moon, I was in the presence of an all consuming, ever-expanding pool of radiance. As it should be.
I hope you will give writing your own tarot flash fiction a try. If you do, make sure to leave me a comment and tell me how it goes!
Also, National Novel Writing Month is coming up! For more inspiration on using tarot for writing, check out this three part tutorial I created last year. It’s packed with spreads and advice on using tarot to write your novel.
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