Tag Archives: the fool’s journey

Today is the day

I warned you about it on Friday, and the day is finally here. You can grab your copy of The Yak Guy Project for free today. To quote pop culture, “Free, free, free, free.”

This is my attempt to ease your isolation by offering something fun to read. I suppose you could grab a copy to read this Fall, too, if you want. Anyway, here is a cover and blurb, plus a purchase link.

Imagine waking up in the desert with no idea what happened to you. You have clear memories of situations and places, but a complete loss in personal matters… like your own name. This situation is bad, and you have no idea how to get home.

When you’re rescued by a talking yak, the situation gets exponentially worse. You’ve obviously lost your mind. The immediate needs of a ride off the salt pan and searing heat, along with a drink of water, outweigh the concerns about your mental state.

This is exactly what happened to the Yak Guy. In fact he’s been placed in an alternate world and given a chance to start over in life.

Can this selfish, almost parasitic, young man learn to start over in a world where charity is hard to find? Life is brutal and short here, but he’s going to have to adapt or perish.

The Yak Guy project is loosely based around The Fool’s Journey from the Tarot. Those with experience in Tarot will spot people and situations from the Major Arcana.

I linked the cover, but this is also a purchase link: http://a-fwd.com/asin-com=B07D1QY9Y7

Feel free to share this post by using the buttons below. Maybe one of your friends would like a copy.

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Trying to get things done

Today was a reasonable day to get things done, I just didn't get as much accomplished as I'd like. I always start off with social media, and I may have lingered there a little too long.

I wound up with about 2000 new words on The Yak Guy Project. I know it isn't all that much, and if I would just force myself I would get more accomplished. Still, I moved it past the 50,000 word mark. This part is kind of fun, because Yak Guy, who goes by Ted is showing some real growth. He's focused on things beyond himself, and taking some genuine risks in the process. Let's face it, at the 50K mark he should have grown a bit by now.

I can tell that I've moved out of the middle muck that I mention on occasion. Getting between the index cards is going to be a lot easier from this point on. As far as the Fool's Journey, I'm about to have him face the strength card. I'm not going to hit it very hard, but he's going to face an obstacle that's always been there in the background. He'll do some things that reflect some of the imagery in the card. I think this one should be more of a demonstration than deep reflection for Ted.

After that, I'm going to have to make some deviations. The whole tarot thing is fun, but for the sake of story, I need to shuffle the deck a little. I need to move the Hanged Man forward, and possibly the Wheel of Fortune. Then there is Justice. I have a character who fits the imagery perfectly, but I don't know if her lesson is required for the sake of the story. Looks like I need to do a bit of research before charging past the Strength card. If I include Justice at all, it needs to weave into the story the right way.

What do you think? Am I deviating from my personal challenge, or making it work? In other words, am I cheating?

I also finished one of my baseball short stories. It ended sooner than what I had planned, but there is a sportscast next that explains some of what happened. I'm going to draw some connections to how spin gets put on a story by the media, lawyers, social media, etc. The sportscast will also have some reflections about human nature as far as competitiveness goes.

In other news, my mother bought Otto a reindeer costume when she was here. It's kind of absurd, and every dog I've ever owned would have chewed this thing to ribbons in short order. Otto likes the damned thing, and whines to have us put it on him. He's a special soul, and nothing like any dog I've ever owned. I've had a lot of bully breeds, but never a 100% pure bulldog before. Anyway, I thought you might enjoy a picture of reindeer Otto.

The hood doesn't stay up very long, but it really makes him happy.

Sounds like we are having date night tonight, because Old What's her Face has some commitments tomorrow. We have a ton of errands to run during the day too. Hmm, could be some writing opportunity in there tomorrow night. Sometime this weekend, I have to work up critique submissions for my group. We meet on Tuesday night after work. Maybe I should do that tomorrow night.

This might be the last chance to remind you all to vote. This blog, Entertaining Stories, was nominated as blog of the year by the Rave Reviews Book Club. My novel, The Playground, was nominated as book of the year. Voting is open to the general public, and I'm up against some tough competition in both categories. Here is the link if you're so inclined. Vote Here!

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Wednesday efforts, robots, sirens, the works

I wanted to make it out to the writing cabin once more before going on vacation. The puppy saw to it that I got a good early start.

I found Lisa doing her nails in the front office. “What are you doing? I told you I was coming today.”

“I expected you later. I have a show to do tomorrow, and need to look my best.”

“It's a radio show.”

“I don't care. I do my best work when I feel confident. What's our plan today?”

“No plan, really. It's summertime, and I only want to keep the projects moving forward. I'll grab coffee and be in my office.”

I struggled with ideas for Halloween themed stories. For some reason, my Muse (Lorelei) hasn't been sending me much stuff along those lines. I finally gave up and started making a pass through The Yak Guy Project. I haven't done much with it, and wanted to get back in the swing. I need to completely rewrite one character to avoid him resembling the other characters. Anyway, my idea was to study the previous characters.

This story is based loosely around The Fool's Journey, from the major arcana of the tarot deck. The character I want to repair is the heirophont character. Yak Guy Ted (the fool) meets a lot of mentors along his journey. I have too many of them sounding like Miyagi.

It's probably poor planning, because at 50,000 words, there was no way I was going to get completely through it today. Then there was the idea of going on vacation for ten days.

I surrendered and went back to short stories. I wrote two of them. Word count came in at about 2700. They are too big to call micro-fiction, but too short for my determination of a short story at 5000. Whatever, I wrote 2700 new words, and one of them might deserve to be a little bit longer.

These are stories for my baseball project, called The Enhanced League. This is proving to be a challenge, because there is a lot of world building going on. Each story is supposed to stand alone, but support a longer book of short stories. This means my normal twist endings don't apply in every story. Like I said, a challenge. Actually writing them helps me with the clarity.

Does anyone out there still enjoy a tale with gobs of world building? They used to be pretty popular.

I looked up and stroked my beard. “Lisa, do you know where Wiki is hanging out these days?”

Lisa came into my office all in a flurry. “Don't even think about it. You remember how mad Lorelei got when you hung out with the Sirens.”

“It isn't like Lorelei's been around a lot lately. Probably hanging out at some Olympic beach party, or getting ready to go to the actual Olympics. Now answer my question.”

Lisa's eyelids fluttered ever so slightly as she checked the tracking data. “Wiki is hanging out at a coffee shop about thirty miles away.”

“Is she alone? She's more dangerous with her sisters.”

“She's alone, for now.”

“Pull the old Land Rover around. You can provide security.”

***

We found little hipster Wiki in the coffee shop hiding behind a huge mug and her iPad mini. She wore a long tee-shirt with a skull pattern over black leggings, with army boots. She had a cluster of colored string friendship bracelets on one arm, and two watches on the other. I have to admit, she looked adorable, but all of the Sirens do.

Wiki jumped up and squealed. “Hi you guys. What brings you here?”

“We're looking for you,” I said.

Lisa simply crossed her arms, lifted her chin, and said, “Wiki.”

I turned to Lisa, “Are the others nearby?”

“No.”

“Wiki, I want to do some baseball research. Stuff like bullpen carts, city populations, pitch velocity, left handed catchers, all kinds of stuff.”

“Easy- peasy.” She typed on her iPad and showed me an image of the Mr. Met bullpen cart. “This kind of stuff?”

“Exactly that kind of stuff. When did they quit using them?”

Wiki made a few more keyboard strokes. “Looks like the last one was a Harley Davidson with sidecar, in 1995.” She made a few more keystrokes. “Check out this kitty on one of those Roomba vacuum cleaners.” She wrinkled her nose in that adorable way she has.

Lisa slipped her hand inside her purse and stepped forward. “I don't think so.”

“Can't blame a girl for trying,” Wiki said.

I grabbed a large Americano while Lisa stood guard. Wiki found me stuff on PEDs, ways to throw the curveball, how domed stadiums can move the grass outside for natural sunlight, and much more. I thanked her, and she hugged me with Lisa looking on like a prison guard.

We left, and I waited until we pulled away from the curb, before asking Lisa, “Is your gun in that purse?”

“Yup, sure is. The Research Sirens are supposed to trap you in an endless research loop. They wreck careers on the cliffs of cute kitty videos.”

“But she's only one.”

“Right, but she's a Siren and knows how to flirt with you. Thank God I captured Libraria's and Consultia's cellphone data when they came to the cabin. Now I can track them. All three of them could be deadly.”

“You aren't going to tell Lorelei, are you?”

“Heck no. We're friends and all, but you're my employer. This is like confidential business data.”

***

There are several new followers at Entertaining Stories. This tale involves quite a few recurring characters, and it's easier to explain this way than with a simple asterisk and footnote.

Lorelei is an actual Greek Muse who sends me an endless stream of ideas. They aren't always what I'm looking for, and a Halloween idea or two would be appreciated.

Wiki is one of the Research Sirens. She is the youngest, and more internet based than her sisters. The sirens are dangerous, but one at a time they aren't quite so bad.

Libraria and Consultia are the other Research Sirens, and you can guess what their individual focus is. They are mentioned, but do not appear in this story.

Lisa is my robotic personal assistant, and the official spokesmodel for my writing career. For more of Lisa, come back tomorrow for another episode of Lisa Burton Radio. Apparently, she'll have cute nails, but I have no idea how you'll see them over the radio.

Special aside: Lisa is always looking for more characters to appear on Lisa Burton Radio. If you'd like one of your characters to appear, drop me a note.

***

The Enhanced League is going to be science fiction of the near future variety. It has no deadline and will be a collection of short stories and micro-fiction. I wrote one about the umpires, and another one called Banned in Salt Lake City today. SLC is known for doing this on occasion, most famously with Olivia Newton John's song, Physical. The stories need some work, but they exist now.

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Choosing my next novel.

Company drove away this morning. We’re going to be getting the camper ready for the next few days, and I feel the need to get something accomplished. This one is just a choice and a commitment, but I’ve struggled mightily to get here. I decided today is the day, because I can strike something off my task list before vacation starts.

Lisa* pulled the decrepit old Land Rover to the front of the writing cabin. She wore a sleeveless mini-dress in a jaguar print. She put her hair up in the victory rolls she so often wears.

I climbed in beside her and we headed for the beach. We parked by a large outrigger canoe. I crawled in front while she pushed us into the water. The sky was cloudless and the blue tropical water helped ease the tension of my pending decision. I let a hand dangle in the water, until some kind of serpent rolled off to our left.

“How come I’m the only one paddling?” Lisa asked.

“Because you have the strength of ten men. You’re better than an outboard motor.”

The island wasn’t far, and the swaying palm trees were already visible. Lisa headed us toward the sandy beach.

“Better blow that conch shell, so they know to gather,” I said.

“Robot girls don’t have lungs, remember. You’ll just have to blow it yourself.”

I brushed my mustache aside to make a good contact, took a deep breath, and blew. The huge seashell made a mighty blaat. I smacked my lips. “Tastes kind of fishy. Maybe we’d better run it through the dishwasher when we get back.”

Lisa beached our canoe and we left the beach on a rocky trail.

“I told them we’d all meet near the Moai statues,” she said.

“Near that handsome one?”

“Yeah, your favorite one.”

We took our places behind a table, all decked out with a grass skirt and tropical drinks in porcelain coconut shells. The contestants wandered in and took up places.

I slid the microphone in front of me and took a sip of my drink. “All of you have worked very hard this summer. Everyone has points that make a good novel. You all have something that works as my personal challenge. Unfortunately, everyone has weak spots too. Many of these cannot be addressed until I’m in the first draft phase.”

Lisa said, “Wargler and Grinder, please step forward.”

One group, dressed in large hats with rapiers and flintlock pistols stepped forward. They had a small hairy fellow with them, that reminded me of a goat, with a dagger. Another group consisted of an older male cop and his young female partner. They had some gothic looking guy beside them, followed by a white rat and a large muskrat.

I slid the microphone in front of me. “Wargler, you have a lot going for you. I love fantasy, and the slightly different setting appeals to me. Plumed hats and flintlocks seems like it would be fun to write. You have a fun personal challenge in making someone who starts wars for profit into a character people can cheer for.

“This story must have a ton of deception and unreliability to work. This is also going to be fun to write, but it takes a lot of time to come up with. I have some good ideas, but not enough yet. It’s also going to be challenging to write it in such a way as to be fun, and not annoying.”

I turned my attention to the next group. “Grinder. I have so much hope for this story. I’ve been dying to get back to science fiction, and this tale really appeals to me. A detailed theft using surgically altered animals, would be fun to write. The dirty underside of a slightly futuristic city really appeals to me. The message of letting bio-hacking get out of control is also appealing.

“On the down side, you need more plot. Your bad guy is super smart, and the cops are inept. This isn’t bad, but somehow the cops have to deliver the conclusion. I have more cool ideas than plot right now. I can’t write between the cool ideas and call it a novel.”

Lisa leaned toward the microphone. “Grinder and Wargler, I’m sorry, you will not be the next C. S. Boyack novel. Please return to your camps and develop your plots.”

One of the Wargler characters slammed his cavalier hat on the ground. The muskrat from Grinder stood on her hind legs and spread her arms wide in a begging position. Eventually, they all shuffled off toward their camps.

“African Adventure and Yak Guy, please step forward.” Lisa steepled her fingers and sat back.

A beautiful blonde in safari gear and a pith helmet stepped forward with a young man wearing a western vest and brand new safari style hat. They were joined by a young man who appeared to be wearing second hand clothes, accompanied by a large black yak.

I needed another sip of my drink. “African Adventure, your outline is more developed than any other. You have almost everything going for you. There are so many antagonists, or antagonistic forces, that this will be an absolute thrill ride. The young American geologist who comes to Africa under false pretenses.–

The man snapped around to look at the woman, who bit her lip.

“The young woman who is trying to accomplish something in the 1890s. Women are not held in high regard, and she must manipulate the system somehow. There is even a witch doctor who controls some very dangerous animals. The Boer War, the Matabele uprising, man-eating animals, fire, and Africa herself have a lot to offer. The Boer woman’s name is Kimberlite, not Kimberly. That alone ought to tell folks why he’s a geologist, and what her secret plan involves. You are the only character among all the outlines with a name today.

“I like the personal challenge of turning this into a romance. I won’t write it as the primary force, but more as background. While Grinder and Wargler are ‘save the princess’ stories, this one is more along the lines of, ‘you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find, you get what you need.’

“There is a downside, and it’s a big one. It involves Internet trolls. The whole hubbub over Cecil the lion has me concerned. There is no way I’m going to write about the African bush in the 1890s and not include hunting. For an author who is lucky to get a dozen reviews, one or two people with an agenda could be a disaster. There is also the fact that this would be my third paranormal story in a row.”

I turned and faced the Yak Guy. “Your story is so strange, I don’t completely know what to do with it. It’s the tale of a young man with ‘failure to launch’ syndrome.”

Yak Guy spread his hands and sneered. The yak said, “I agree. He needs to grow up.”

I paused until they got the idea that I was talking. “I like the idea of using the major arcana of the tarot and telling the fool’s journey. It’s a wonderful personal challenge. I may have to combine some characters, and not go all the way through, but it sounds like fun. Your outline is also quite far along.

“On the downside, what the heck do I categorize it as? I’ve already made that mistake with my book of short stories. It seems like Amazon has a category that is like spiritual fantasy, and maybe that would work. The whole thing has a Purgatory flavor to it.”

I looked down and took a long sip of my drink. Lisa reached over and took my hand for support. I scribbled a note and slid it to her.

Lisa stood, wiggled side to side as she adjusted her dress, and addressed the remaining contestants. “You’ve both worked harder than the other contestants. Your outlines are more complete, and that’s why you’re in the final round. Each of you has the chops to carry a novel, and you probably both will someday. Today there can only be one winner. I’m sorry African Adventure, please return to your camp and work on your plot.”

She turned to Yak Guy. “Congratulations Yak Guy, you will be the next C. S. Boyack novel. Please pack your things and head for the dock. I’ll send a boat, and a, I don’t know, a horse trailer to bring you ashore. You have a couple of months to get to the writing cabin and begin your draft.”

We crossed from the island to where we left the Land Rover in silence. The view had lost all its charm, and I stared at my boots. When Lisa beached the canoe, I looked up and saw Doubt, the Raven perched on the car hood. I nodded towards him, “Of course he would show up.”

Lisa said, “There is no right or wrong answer. You always second guess yourself. You just have to commit and make it work.”

We got in the vehicle. Lisa tugged her dress down and said, “Live with your choice and give it 100%. The other stories will still be on the island for the next time.”

“I suppose so. Doubt just plays with my mind sometimes. After I get the book of shorties published, and The Playground ready for advance readers, I need to dedicate myself to Yak Guy’s outline.”

“And maybe give him a better title?”

“Yeah, that too.”

*Lisa is my robotic assistant. She has a short story of her own coming out in The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack this September. She is the official spokes model for this blog, and you can get a set of Lisa Burton paper dolls by clicking on “Look, Free Stuff” at the top of the page.

Note: This idea grew from a vignette sent to me by my Muse. I posted it here last year. Those of you so inclined can read about it here.

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The Fool’s Journey, Part Five

These titles are starting to sound like the sections in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. I did it to keep the posts in order.

This is where the journey ends. These last cards in the Major Arcana can also help with stories, but not usually the kind I write. I call the blog Entertaining Stories for a reason. I’m more about blowing crap up than ascending to a higher plane. This doesn’t mean there aren’t some good stories in this area, and you might be writing one right now.

Just in case someone finds this a year from now and wants to see the others, here are the links:

  1. Let’s go on the Fool’s Journey.
  2. The Fool’s Journey, Part Two.
  3. The Fool’s Journey, Part Three.
  4. The Fool’s Journey, Part Four.
Our fool has become a pretty mature fellow at this point. In my mind, the last three cards are reserved for tales of absolution. I remember reading Siddhartha in high school, at gun point. Those are the kind of tales we’ve moved into.
 
I’m not saying they’re bad, mind you. I just didn’t see any phasers, katana, or dwarves in them.
 
image
 
The next phase of the journey is called the sun. Words to describe the sun are: wonder, contentment, happiness, vitality, and innocence.
 
The sun is usually represented as a child on a white horse riding with the radiant sun at his back, while carrying a red flag. My Celtic deck is close. I wouldn’t exactly call this horse white, and the kid has a red harp. If you get the idea of rejuvenation and a fresh start, that’s the main point.
 
In my mind he isn’t quite there. The fool is still traveling. This is the point where the confusion of the moon clears and the fool moves forward.
 
I suppose it could be that moment in The Natural when Roy Hobbs wakes up in the maternity ward. His best girl is there with him, and he doesn’t know what he’s going to do. The instant he decides to play one last baseball game is The Sun.
 
image
 
The next card is called Judgment. I don’t know why my deck chose to go with Rebirth, but there you have it. The standard card has an angel blowing a trumpet while people rise up from graves. My card has a trumpeter and the child emerging from a crypt.
 
This card symbolizes the St. Peter moment before the pearly gates. It’s the resurrection story. Our fool is something new now. Words to describe this card are: Judgment, rebirth, absolution, redemption, salvation, and renewal.
 
The old fool is gone. This new fool has excellent judgment and is ready for whatever comes next.
 
I don’t read, or watch, a lot of highbrow stuff. The example that works for me is Bruce Wayne giving up the billionaire playboy and Stately Wayne Manor in favor of the bat cave. Bruce Wayne becomes a character played occasionally by Batman. Batman is something new, he works for a greater good. (Okay, maybe that was a lame example.)
 
image
 
The World marks the end of the journey. This card is represented as a young nude, usually an amalgamation of male and female. This symbolizes mastery over those traits that are considered either male or female. The work ethic of the magician and the imagination of the high priestess. The nude is surrounded by four distinct items. Sometimes they represent the elements, sometimes the major zodiac constellations, in this case the four tarot suits. The symbols denote mastery over all these distinct items.
 
The fool is perfect now. Words associated with the world are: fulfillment, success, mastery, and accomplishment.
 
As an example, the best I can come up with is Peter Sellers walking on water in the ending scene of Being There.
 
I know my examples are lame, folks. This end of the deck is a little more high brow than where I prefer to spend my time.
 
***
 
Assessment:
 
As a plot structure, I think The Fool’s Journey works. There are others out there that might be better.
 
The first half dozen or so cards are useful for developing a character and giving him an environment to operate in. There are several wonderful opportunities to knock him on his ass and give him something to overcome.
 
For me, The Fool’s Journey starts too soon and ends too late for a novel. I can see where many novels will fit within a narrower version of these cards though.
 
Many times, I find inspiration in art. There are bits and pieces from this deck in some of my stories.
 
As a writer, I’m just as likely to snitch a piece of my story from fairy tale structure, add a bit of the hero’s journey, knead it into a three act format, and sprinkle with a dash of tarot cards. I bake it all up at an imaginary place I call the writing cabin.
 
You have to do what works for you. It never hurts to have another tool in your kit.

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The Fool’s Journey, Part Four

These are the links to the other posts in this sequence:

  1. Let’s Go on the Fool’s Journey
  2. The Fool’s Journey, Part Two
  3. The Fool’s Journey, Part Three
Our fool has come a long ways. He’s conquered his own phobias, and recognized his shortcomings. The last stop on his journey he learned about Temperance.
image
The next stop on the fool’s journey is The Devil. Again, my deck took some liberty at this point. He is most commonly presented on a throne, with a couple chained beneath him. His right hand is usually raised, and his left is lower with a torch in it.I still buy that the couple in my Cernunnos card is under his dominion. I’ll accept the background light as a substitute for his torch.

This devil isn’t the actual devil. He’s a representation of another internal lesson for the fool. This devil stands for happy indulgence. The couple could get up and leave, but they’re so entranced by the immediacy of their situation they don’t even notice The Devil. Words associated with this card are: Materialism, stagnation, obsession, anger, temptation, and doubt.

Since I’ve stuck to movies for examples, I’ll keep with the theme. I think Fatal Attraction has many elements of this stage of the journey. Selfish indulgence led to some severe problems.

image
The Tower represents a sudden and dramatic change in the fool’s life. It is usually represented like the card in my deck. Lightening strikes a powerful fortress, and the occupants are hurtled into the sea. There is occasionally a crown falling that symbolizes the fall of someone important. This card has occasionally been represented as Adam and Eve being expelled from the garden.

Our fool is struck by disaster. His complacency and love of material things has drawn the wrath of God. Words associated with The Tower are: release, revelation, sudden change, chaos, hard times, and impact.

There were a whole series of Irwin Allen disaster movies. These usually involved a catastrophe and a bunch of privileged people. I also think Chevy Chase was trying desperately to preserve his “tower” in all those Vacation movies.

image
The Star represents the moment the fool understands he doesn’t need all that stuff. Life is more than a tower full of finery. It is represented by a person stripped bare under a starry sky. The fool understands he has everything he needs within himself. It is an important point that water is being put back, not taken away. The fool starts to give of himself to others.

Words associated with The Star are: generosity, inspiration, calm, good will, flowing love.

I see the end of Casablanca as having traits of The Star. Rick gives up his beloved cafe, and the woman he loves to serve a greater good. In fact Casablanca is a good movie to represent The Devil, The Tower, and The Star.

image
The Moon is another cautionary card. The joy and tranquility of The Star lead to imaginative dreaming. He may be ready for another adventure. The Fool knows that his sharing and caring might not be well received everywhere. He’s apprehensive.

The standard involves a dog and a wolf howling at the moon, which is framed with two pillars. There is usually a crayfish coming out of the water. My deck has a crab. There is a new path into the unknown. In my mind, the wolf and dog represent different sides of the fool. The experts say the crayfish represents that unpredictable part of the personality that lives deep down below everything else.

Words associated with The Moon are: fantasy, doubt, tension, illusion, fear, the unknown.

To me, this is an educated fool about to take a new journey into the unknown. He knows enough to be apprehensive, unlike the fool at the beginning, and his doubts might prevent him from taking the journey at all. Maybe he’ll rebuild his former life, maybe he won’t.

There must be a hundred stories based around this event, but only one comes to mind. It was a book, and at least two movies, The Razor’s Edge.

This could also be the point in Yoda’s life where he doesn’t train Jedi any longer. Then again, maybe one last time.

This is our stopping off point tonight. I have a hankering for some good whiskey.

Writers will see that many potential novels could be born and ended in the cards we’ve already presented. Most modern stories have ended by this point. There is still a bit of room for some good stories, and we’ll get to those next time.

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The Fool’s Journey, Part Three

Today, I’m continuing with the fool’s journey. Those of you who want to catch up can do so here:

  1. Let’s go on The Fool’s Journey.
  2. The Fool’s Journey, Part Two.
When we left our fool, he’d become a hermit. He went to a cave, a man cave, or on vacation to sort some things out. He understands that everything he’s done up to this point brought him to this point. He knows there are consequences for his actions as well as rewards. He is successful at his pondering, but he can’t leave until he realizes one more thing.
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The Wheel of Fortune teaches our fool that he cannot control everything. He influences the world he lives in, but sometimes the world influences back. For a writer, this can be an actual occurence, but in the fool’s journey it’s more like a realization.

The Wheel brings famine, volcanoes, acts of God, and other things to bear. The fool has to do the best he can under these circumstances. It can also bring benefits, like promotions, winning the lottery, or choosing the right horse in the Derby.

Words associated with the Wheel are; harvest, inevitability, prosperity, destiny, fate, change, and particularly sudden change.

This card varies more than any other from deck to deck. There aren’t really any standards to point out.

To go back to an earlier example, Sheriff Brody was living as a hermit. He never asked for a killer shark to invade his new life and threaten his solitude.

I suppose there is a story somewhere that could end with the realization that the Wheel brings. I’m pretty sure several started right here though. For some reason, I’m stuck on movies during this post. The ones that come to mind are Dante’s Peak and Twister. The main characters were involved in their own versions of hermitage, and life changed the course of events for them.

Our fool leaves his hermitage, and wanders once more. He is pondering this newfound knowledge and realizes one more thing.

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The fool ponders his new knowledge until he realizes that he must take responsibility for his own actions. The Justice card reminds him that he is where is based upon his actions. Justice tells him to make amends for those actions where it is appropriate. Justice also reminds him that when he makes decisions from now on, he needs to remember the affect his decisions have on others.

Words associated with the Justice card are realism, reality, fairness, objectivity, analysis, criticism, and responsibility. Justice is usually depicted with a sword and a scale. I like the fact that my card also includes an owl.

For writers, will your main character learn from Justice and improve, or will he return to the older and easier way of the Chariot. I never watched the show, but I loved the idea behind it. In Breaking Bad, a chemistry teacher becomes a meth cooker. I see the failure of the Justice card at work.

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The fool comes across The Hanged Man, and is shocked by what he sees. He’s saddened even. He discovers that the hanged man isn’t dead. His legs form a cross, and he’s upside down. The fool thinks about his own life being turned upside down. The hanged man is bound and gagged, much like the fool has been.

This is the fool facing his deepest fear, his failure to obtain the one thing he wants most in life. The fool realizes that he is the hanged man. He’s no longer sad, he is simply suspended. The fool understands that he must let go of some things to obtain others.

Words associated with The Hanged Man are; sacrifice, letting go, surrender, and acceptance.

The only constant symbol among decks is the image of a cross somewhere. I like the fact that mine has apples in it. They represent knowledge to me, and that says a lot about this part of the fool’s journey.

This point represents what I like to think of as “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do”. It’s that moment of realization. In many stories the main character symbolically burns his house, or blows up his mine before leaving to do what has to be done.

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You knew it was coming, right? All good main characters must face death. Most of the time, it’s a spiritual thing, but there have been some pretty good stories where actual death was on the line.

Death represents a change. Our fool is going to cast aside childish things to grow as a man. (Or woman. It’s your story to plug your characters into.) Maybe he sells his drag racer, the one that brought him fame and street credit as a young man. He uses the money to make a downpayment on a house for his wife and children. The old fool dies, and a newer and better fool emerges.

Death is usually a skeletal figure on horseback with a sickle. He is trampling a king under his horse’s hooves. My deck is different, but the sickle is still there. Terms associated with the Death card are; Precursor to change, making way for the new, regeneration, out with the old and in with the new.

Think of The Hanged Man and Death like a butterfly’s cocoon. It feels like the end, but it’s really the beginning of something better.

Billionaire playboy Tony Stark is captured by terrorists and shoved in a cave. Life as he knows it is over. Iron Man emerges from the cave, and Tony’s life is better as a result. This isn’t just Tony’s escape, it’s a complete transformation.

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The next stop on the fool’s journey is Temperance. Once again, my deck took some artistic license, but I like the Fferyllt anyway. I used the hagstones in her rafters in one of my stories.

This lesson is all about balance, temperance, equilibrium, even bringing together opposites to create balance. This would be a good point in a story to create the team. People with different skills come together to make something better than the sum of its parts.

This is a good point to remind writers that everything in tarot has a double meaning. If you’re writing about the bad guy, this could be about imbalance, and tearing things apart. Anakin/Darth Vader comes to mind.

I hope everyone’s enjoying this look at the fool’s journey. I see this lasting about 3 more posts, and there’s more interesting stuff ahead.

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The Fool’s Journey, Part 2

When we left the fool, he’d learned a bit about imagination and planning. He learned about his personal work ethic. We met his parents, and he’s been loved and nurtured. The world is fertile, but he hasn’t experienced it yet. You can read part one here: Let’s go on the Fool’s Journey.

We have a main character, but he’s a bit boring right now. Breaking this into sections has been tough. We’re still developing our fool, but the next card stands for a bit more.

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The next character on the hero’s journey is an important one. In most decks he’s called the hierophant. In many, he’s the Pope. In a few decks, like mine, he’s the high priest. I’m not thrilled with my card. The hierophant usually has his first two fingers toward heaven, and the next two toward earth. In my deck he still has two fingers each direction, but he seems to want to be in a metal band, or to attend the University of Texas.

In most decks he’s bestowing a blessing, or initiation on a couple of newbies. For some reason this didn’t happen here.

This is an important card for a writer. It stands for education, structure, rules, initiation, and belonging, routine, and counsel. The fool has been walking around on a blank page until now.

This part of the story could involve the priesthood, a knighthood, a position in the starting lineup, or a street gang. The fool’s journey paints with a broad brush. It’s the writer’s job to fill in the details. Your fool could be a loner, but there are still rules in his society. Maybe he’s fleeing from a posse, who has rules and structure.

I think the movie Animal House was all about this card.

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The next step on the fool’s journey is that he wants something. All main characters should want something. The lovers has definite sexual and relationship overtones, but that’s not all it’s about. Love, fulfillment, choice, and surrender are the idea here. This card represents growth in the fool. He’s been kind of self centered and selfish up to this point.

If you’re writing a romance, this might be the end of your tale. On the other hand, your romance might want to go through some trials and troubles. Maybe your fool got on the starting lineup, but now he’s becoming part of the team. Maybe he loves his new job.

As an example, the movie American Pie ended once the characters got what they wanted.

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The chariot represents accomplishment. Our fool has used everything he’s learned up to this point and moved up in the world. He learned from all the previous stops along his journey; school, imagination, work ethic, friends, and lovers. This is also an egotistical card. This card stands for travel, triumph, success, ego, and fame.

I think the chariot and the lovers can be reversed if the story calls for it. Sleepless in Seattle anyone?

I like the idea that there’s a white horse and a black horse. It reminds me of Plato’s representation of a chariot and driver as the whole man. Here’s a link to a two part breakdown.

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The main character gets beaten down in our stories. There’s an old line about, “what do you get when you don’t get what you wanted? Character.” The fool gains strength. This character is all about courage, strength, compassion, self control, kindness, and gentleness.

Strength is depicted as a woman with a lion, and she’s dominant over the lion. In my deck she’s with a boar. Her sword is cast aside, because it’s not needed. She is the master and the boar knows it.

A main character at this point may have overcome an enemy, but is gracious and mature in victory. The fool is capable of building up after having torn down. For some reason, I see the last three cards at play in An Officer and a Gentleman.

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It’s time for our fool to look within; to reflect and ponder the meaning of life. The hermit demonstrates this time in the fool’s life. He stands for solitude, reclusion, introspection, and thought.

Our fool has seen good people fail, and evil triumph in his life. He wonders what it’s all about. I don’t think this needs to be a big section of your novel, but it can be a useful one when you need it. Examples where the hermit plays a major roll include the book/movie Jaws. Sheriff Brody fled the city with his family. He just wanted a safe place with a little solitude. Clint Eastwood played the hermit in Gran Torino. Niether of these characters lasted long as hermits, life came calling. These stories started at this point.

We’ll stop here tonight. We managed to flesh out the fool as a character, educate him, give him a desire, and a bit of personality. He even has some bad traits, like an ego. He’s a more interesting fellow than we left him.

These cards can represent other characters in your stories, or situations only. Some novels will start somewhere in this section, others may end in this section.

What do you think of the fool’s journey as a kind of story structure? We’ve gone through ten of twenty two stops so far. I promise to cover the rest as the month plays out.

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Let’s go on the Fool’s Journey

I may not be the best person to write this sequence, but I’m sure going to try. My purpose is to look at the tarot as a type of story structure, from a writer’s point of view. If you’re looking for help with readings, and interpretations, you’ve come to the wrong place. Tarot is much more than I’m going to address, but I’m limiting this to writing.

Tarot is extremely old, and is one of the oldest story structures out there. It goes from a lump of clay all the way to an almost godlike being. This is too far for most contemporary novels. In many cases it starts too soon, and ends too late. There is still good information here, so bear with me.

I’ll try to get through all 22 of the major arcana cards in the month of April. This will require some grouping. Keep in mind also that thousands of tarot decks exist. Creators take some liberties, and the one I’m photographing changed some of the names. I’ll try to caption with the most popular names, even though the deck names appear in the photos.

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This is the first card in the fool’s journey. He’s our main character, and I’ll try to call him the fool throughout, but he won’t remain a fool for long. He’s almost always depicted going on the first steps of a journey. He’s typically shown about to step off a cliff. Our characters make mistakes. He usually has a small dog that represents courage, and is barking a warning. Most decks have him holding a white rose to depict purity. Mine uses a bunch of mistletoe.

I see him as someone leaving home for the first time. He could be a graduate, or moving somewhere for his first job. He can also be a girl. He’s fresh, new, brave, and unafraid. At this stage he’s all about potential.

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The fool soon meets and is influenced by the magician and the high priestess. These are opposites, but they both influence the fool.

The magician is all about willpower, design and planning, and a can do attitude. He usually has one hand toward heaven and one toward earth. Think of him like a work ethic.

The high priestess is a little more spiritual. She’s all about dreams, intuition, and imagination. She’s usually depicted with the moon, which was a spiritual symbol, and between two pillars as a framework for focus.

Together these two will inspire our fool to think imaginatively, and teach him to work to obtain his goal.

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The next two influences are the emperor and empress. This is one of the places my deck differs. These are usually thought of as the fool’s parents. They have different influences upon their child.

The empress is about beauty and happiness. She depicts a world that is fertile and abundant. She is usually depicted with crops of some kind. She’s also pregnant to demonstrate her fertility. She’s kind of an encourager and enabler to the fool.

The emperor is all about fatherhood, stability, authority, boundaries, and discipline. He’s going to instill a desire to control certain things in our fool. These are still fairly simplistic, like controlling his own destiny for whatever reason, there is usually an eagle on this card somewhere. To me this means leadership. Our fool is a main character after all.

Together the emperor and empress usually depict nature in some form. I like to think of this as the basic needs in life. I also note the pregnancy as a warning that they’re here for our fool, but he isn’t their only responsibility.

I’m going to stop here today, but I want to summarize a bit. Some stories will start at the fool stage. Luke Skywalker is a reasonable example.

In any event, your main character should have some qualities reflecting each of these characters. They don’t have to be good qualities. Your fool may have learned willpower from the magician, and rejected the work ethic. Maybe he gets along better with his mother and is always in trouble with his father.

These early cards are worth considering when designing a character. Even when you aren’t ready to start your story here.  Consider whether your fool has a work ethic or not, how much imagination does your character exhibit, is he more loving and nurturing, or more formal and rigid.

These cards can appear as characters themselves, or merely be influences upon your character. I like to start my stories a little bit further along, but these traits should be in there somewhere.

Feel free to tweet, reblog, and comment away. I’m not going to stick to a rigid schedule for this, but I’ll save it under the “writing” category for your convenience.

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