The other day, we looked at a basic tarot trick for creating writing prompts. You can make an Aristotelian three-act story structure from the cards. Now we’ll take it a step further and look in depth at expanding our structure to incorporate what’s known as Freytag’s pyramid.

Here is today’s sample spread. Instead of three cards for acts one, two, and three, there are five cards–one for each step in Freytag’s pyramid. I will be using my idiosyncratic positions on the steps rather than the usual ones, so be aware of this if you plan to use this to teach yourself about Freytag’s analysis. As you can see, it’s not that complicated but you can mine a lot out of just these five cards. Let’s see how:

What You Will Need:

  • Your tarot deck of choice.
  • Writing tools (pen, notebook, napkin, etc…)

Exercise:

  1. Spend a moment settling your mind so you can approach the exercise with clarity and openness.
  2. Shuffle the cards.
  3. Draw five cards from the deck and place them face down in front of you. You can place them in a line or in an inverted ‘V’ as shown above. It’s up to you.
  4. Turn over the first card on the left. This is the Exposition card.
    1. Exposition: Answer the questions of where, who, and what this story is about here. Introduce the setting and characters, and state the central dramatic question. This is always a yes/no question, btw. (ex. Will Odysseus have his homecoming or not?).
  5. Write.
  6. Turn over the next card. This is the Rising Action card.
    1. Rising Action: Answer the question of how your story will answer the central dramatic question. Never lose sight of it. The Rising Action is the series of events that make up the plot. (Ex. Odysseus angers Poseidon who prevents his homecoming; Odysseus begins his wanderings).
  7. Write.
  8. Turn over the next card. This is the Climax card.
    1. Climax: Answer the central dramatic question. (Going back to our example, Odysseus returns home to Ithaca). Looking back, you can see all of the events that brought us to this moment (card #2).
  9. Write.
  10. Turn over the next card. This is the Falling Action card.
    1. Falling Action: Answer the question of what the consequences are of the answer to your central dramatic question (Ex. Odysseus kills the suitors).
  11. Write.
  12. Turn over the last card. This is the Dénouement card.
    1. Dénouement: Answer the question of how the central dramatic question is resolved. We know the question’s answer, but be specific here about the world state and what has changed internally and externally for our characters. (Ex. Odysseus is restored as King of Ithaca, and reunited with his wife Penelope. He hasn’t learned to be any less egotistical.).
  13. Write.

Sample Spread:

Our spread is above, using the Every Day Tarot once again (so handy for writing exercises given its small size and concise iconography).

Exposition: Ten of Cups:
Rising Action: Ace of Wands
Climax: Queen of Cups
Falling Action: Page of Cups
Dénouement: Nine of Cups

If you find this exercise helpful, leave a like and comment below!

One thought on “Freytag’s Pyramid Tarot Writing Prompt

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