Monday, April 1

A - Astrology for Writers


Ironically, there's a book (Llewellyn Press) by that title coming out in May...however, glancing at the overview, I'm pretty sure that what I mean isn't the same thing author Corrine Kenner has written about in her book:
      The nighttime sky has inspired writers and astrologers alike to spin stories on the strands of starlight. Discover that inspiration for your own creative writing in Astrology for Writers, the essential guide to understanding the core concepts of astrology—the planets, signs, and houses—and discovering how they correspond to the elements of fiction.
     Unleash your creativity with a wide range of ideas that help you add astrology to your writing practice. Learn how to use the planets for characters, the signs of the zodiac for plot and themes, and the houses of the horoscope for settings. Develop unique characters based on mythic archetypes, use astrological imagery and symbolism for your descriptions and dialogue, and put theory into practice with writing prompts and examples. Invite the gods and goddesses of astrology to enter your writing and share their stories through you.
That sounds interesting and I may or may not pick it up when it comes out, but what I'm talking about is actually using astrology to help create and build up characters.
Lately, my stories have started out in my mind as a simple scenario. As an example, the other day at work, someone popped their head in said, "It looks like there are two girls doing drugs out by the dumpster." Blink. I work in a pretty decnet city (Clawson). Okay. Well. Hmm. We told our boss and asked us to call the police. Long story short, eventually a handsome uniformed officer arrived to take our statements and try to sort out what was going on and as I was leaving work, I thought: what an awesome way for characters to meet! Sexy cop in uniform and....well, I can't make the other guy a cook, because even though I doubt any of the guys I work with would likely ever read one of my novels, I still don't want to take the chance that any of them thinks I'm writing about him! Our head bartender is also male and while he's sexy as hell, I don't think it would be a good idea to use him or his job...but we have all female waitstaff, so okay, that's nice and safe. Besides, I know more about waiting tables than tending bar or cooking, anyway  ;-)  So a sexy cop and a waiter, and yes, it's going to be a Mexican restaurant, although I *am* going to change the name. Just, you know, because I work there. I'm going to change the history of the place, too, the only thing that will really remain is the location.
But I believe I've digressed. The point is that in that case, I've started with a scenario and I need to seriously fill out the details of the characters.
That one is on the back burner in a major way and I haven't even started to think about who these men really are (okay, that's not true, I can actually tell you quite a bit about Enrico--yes, that's the Italian spelling, not the Mexian spelling, but I really love it. Besides, it's not like we don't have plenty of Americans running around with names/spellings from other cultures. I can't imagine Mexico is that much different). But as I was saying... yes I'm digressing a lot today.  I'm going to refocus attention to the story I'm actually currently working on:
Being Lost, Getting Found
Technically, that's a working title, but so far nothing better has jumped out at me. Lost and Found also started out as a snippet of an idea. Two guys meet at a bar, one is an 18 year old rentboy and the other...the other...the other...hmmm...what would be the worst possible job for that situation...ah ha! An attorney with Oakland County's Family Court. You know, the guys who are supposed to put away people who abuse kids. So there's some major internal conflict right off the bat.
But what do I know about either of these guys. Well, Andy's easy (he's the 18 year old). He got kicked out of his family's home when he was...hmmm....let's say 16 and see if that continues to work. Backstory is really malliable, at least until the manuscript is about half way through. Yes, I'm a total "panster"--i.e., I write by the seat of my pants. So, okay, what kind of kid is he? Small. A little feminine. But in order to survive the streets, he needs to be a bit of a smart alec, maybe a little headstrong.
That's sounding kind of Aries to me. Aries are the "babies" of the Zodiac; they tend to be quick to take risks, which is pretty much how the Lost and Found starts; Andy comes up to a complete stranger (Dillon, the lawyer I mentioned above) in a seedy bar and propositions him. Yes, he's a prostitute, but really, he just wants some company and talks Dillon into taking him home, "no strings attached" (i.e., on money needs to be exchanged, they're just going to fuck for the fun of it). I also wrote a scene where Andy totally looses his temper with Dillon and storms out...yup, that is definitely Fire sign behavior (Aries is Cardinal Fire--Cardinal signs tend to be initiators, Fire is
Okay, that means Andy's birthday is March/April. That means he's only 18 and a half. Barely. Oh poor Dillon--we definitely have some major conflict of interest coming up! Heh. I'm evil. It's funny, the guys in my old critique group seemed to think that nothing bad ever happened to my characters; guess they need to read a full novel and not just an excerpt. Already this one is stacking up to be major angst--which was almost what I wrote about for "A" because I love angst in my novels (just not in real life, thank you!)
Having made some basic decisions about Andy's life and personality, I hopped over to, and the "birth data entry form". I started by picking a random birth date within the Aries range and plugged in a birth time out of thin air. I already knew that Andy was from Bellville and decided that he was born in Ann Arbor. I got the year by projecting the publication date and subtracting 19 (since I don't expect this to be out until sometime next year). This time, I got lucky on the first try (sometimes I have to adjust the dates and times a bit if details that come up in the character's chart don't mesh with what I had in mind...ahh, if only in real life it were that easy to adjust the traits presented in one's chart!)
I knew straight away that that would be perfect because of the Leo Ascendant. A person's ascendant, or rising sign, is the persona one puts forth to world at large; it's your "public face". Leo is the shining star of the zodiac. They make great actors and public speakers and they tend to be a tick on the vain side. By the time I got around to doing Andy's chart, I'd already written almost 15,000 words, so I already knew that he was a little flamboyant, definitely vain, and loved to be the center of attention. The Aries Moon works quite well also because a person's moon is indicitive of their inner self. If you've got the same sun and moon sign, you're typically a "what you see is what you get" type of personality. (I'm a double Capricorn; Cap sun, Cap moon...and oh yeah, Scorpio is on my Ascendant!)
As I explored Andy's chart, it was almost a little freaky how closely it lined up to what I already had in mind. Saturn in Pisces indicates a softer, more sensitive side, someone who hasn't yet let go of past hurts (and Andy certainly has a lot of them to hang onto. Now I know for sure that he hasn't let go of how much it hurt when he was kicked out of his house a few years ago...and speaking of that, that part of his past falls neatly in line with Andy's Placement of Pluto in the 4th House. (Because Pluto spends so much time in each sign, I don't look at the sign Pluto is in so much as the House it's landed in; likewise with all of the outer planets...or not planets. But that's an arguement for another day!) Having Pluto in the 4th House is indicative of "drama" in family home, particularly revolving around the father. I'd been debating whether or not it was both of Andy's parents who kicked him out, or if his mother wasn't in the picture anymore and it was Dad who gave him the boot. Now I have my answer  :) 
I can totally relate to Andy's Venus in Pisces--it's where mine is and it leads to all sorts of trouble when it comes to picking up "lost puppy dogs"--whether they have two feet or four. I'd already planned a real lost puppy (actually cat), but now I think I understand Andy's relationship with his so-called "best friend" Patrick better. Originally, I'd just wanted a best friend who wasn't much of a friend (self centered, not at all looking out for Andy's best interests), now I know how they met. Andy found Patrick on the street, lost and alone, took him in, took care of him, tried to make a home for them, but...well, I just told you what kind of person Patrick is. So yeah.
That's pretty much how I put astrology to work when I write; it helps me fill out the details and the backstory and can help with rounding out my characters so that they're fully formed human beings rather than flat stereotypes (unless of course flat stereotypes are the goal. Right now, Patrick is a stereotype; that may or may not change as the story progresses). I can look at Andy's chart and see where his Mercury falls to get a better handle on how he absorbs information and communicates with others, Aquarius on his Descendant tells me something about his "perfect mate"--both the one he really needs and the one he thinks he needs, which will help in building up Dillon's character. (I already have his backstory handled, but I haven't explored too much of who he is, other than the fact that he's a bit too idealistic for his own good and he's been very bady hurt in the past. The title, Being Lost, Getting Found applies equally to both men. They're both "lost souls" looking for a place to call home.)
Thanks for stopping by today... see you tomorrow as the marathon month of blogging continues!



Timothy S. Brannan said...

I actually have done this for one on my chacters. But she is a witch in a magical world, so that makes sense.

Any and every bit of inspiration helps right?!

Looking forward to seeing what you do all month!

The Other Side
Red Sonja: She-devil with a Sword

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Ok I did this. I have no idea what any of it means! ;)
But I printed it out though.

H.B. Pattskyn said...

Timothy: I don't know what everything in a chart means off the top of my head either, I do a lot of Googling (although if I may, there's an awesome book called Myth Astrology by Raven Kaldera that I really enjoy for understanding the planets in this or that sign. Because Raven relates the planets in various signs to myths, I find it really useful from a writing/creative persepective.) Here's the Amazon Link (but check out sources like too.)

Fida Islaih said...

This sounds awesome, thanks for the tip! (I'm 730 on the list)