Thursday, January 26, 2012

All the Answers

You never know what gems you'll find in your book store's discounted stock sections. At my local BAM they always have a pretty decent selection of mini boxed kits, usually discounted up to 75%. Rummage through these and you might find anything from Paris in a box to a little Zen garden for your desk.

I like to play with cards, so whenever I see a card deck of any kind it grabs my attention. Since I also have lots of questions, I definitely couldn't resist The Answer Deck, created and designed by Nicholas Zann.

The Answer Deck is a kind of alternative Tarot, with 73 illustrated divination cards that use concept words like Abundance, Challenge, Greed, Power, Truth, etc. Mixed among these are random characters (The Master, Dark Haired Woman, Friend, Hidden Enemy) and a few nouns (Battle, Journey, The Lesson.) The cards are all beautifully illustrated with graphic black and white images representing the corresponding words. According to the mini instruction booklet you ask a question, draw cards from the deck, arrange them on the included paper mat, and then interpret an answer* based on the layout and how they relate to each other (also briefly explained in the booklet.)

I paperclipped my mat to a piece of cardboard to keep it flat before I dealt a few layouts and ran some questions by it, and the answers were certainly entertaining. I'm either going to take over the world, become rich beyond my wildest dreams, or finally find the egg slicer my guy put away and subsequently forgot where he put it. If the fates are listening, I'd really like the egg slicer back now ((and click on any of the following images to view a larger version):

The really interesting thing about these cards for me was how well they might work as creative prompts. Simply shuffle the deck, deal out a couple of cards, and see what ideas they spark, which you can jot down like this:

Woman of the World - Scandal

Immediate thoughts: How do you take down a woman of the world? Scandal certainly does an excellent job, but if she is a woman of the world, why didn't she see it coming? Or maybe she became a woman of the world because of a scandal in her past, or she intends to cause one.

The Fool - Talent

Immediate thoughts: Talent and wisdom rarely go hand-in-hand. One is random, the other has to be earned (usually the hard way.) I also recalled something from a baseball documentary about a very talented player who still had to be actively discouraged from chasing after firetrucks.

Add more cards to what you deal out, and you can see story patterns beginning to emerge:

Faith - Clarity - Change - Fair/Gray Haired Man

Immediate thoughts: What we believe can change in an instant. One is never so adamantly confirmed in their beliefs as the moment just before they're ripped apart. Like believing you're done with love, and your life is so much better lived alone, and then that fair-haired guy with the amazing voice and gorgeous green eyes smiles at you . . . . well, we'll save the rest of that for the autobiography. You get the general idea.

I had such a blast playing with these cards that I went back and bought three more decks for a giveaway. If you'd like a chance to win one, in comments to this post tell us about an unconventional source of inspiration you've tried (or if you can't think of one, just toss your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Saturday, January 28, 2012. I'll choose three names at random from everyone who participates and send the winners The Answer Deck and a signed copy of my Kyndred novel Nightshine. This giveaway is open to anyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.

*Please note that as with most mass-produced divination tools The Answer Deck is intended for entertainment purposes only.


  1. Anonymous6:45 AM

    Per Holly Lisle's recommendation, I've tried using tarot cards with my writing. I've had some interesting results. These cards look interesting.

    Also, thank for the heads-up abour Achaeology magazine yesterday.


  2. Yes, it's entertainment, but it's still cool!

    And if it sparks one's creativity, well, then, one should go for it...

  3. Anonymous7:08 AM

    Stream of conciousness writing is fun to use. Just randomly hit keys on the keyboard, space them out randomly and then use spell check to come up with words.

  4. My favorite source of inspiration is eavesdropping on public transportation. My recent favorite was the guy who was talking on his cell phone (extremely loudly) accusing the party on the other end of trying to kill him by putting poison on his clothes. I felt really bad for the guy sitting next to him. There is definitely a story in there somewhere. . .


  5. Oddest thing I've ever done to spark creativity - shuffled three tarot decks together, and had my 3-yr-old niece pull cards for me.

    it was entertaining...


  6. The cards look artistic and are a great resource. I use old family photos which give me great ideas, whethere they are of individuals, places and homes.

  7. What unique and fascinating cards. An unconventional source of inspiration that I have used was going back in time to friend's homes I visited which were old and filled with interesting items, collectibles, memorabilia from trips and old family treasures.

  8. Love the black, white, red combo, and the graphics are great. I want a deck of these cards whether I win the giveaway or not.

    I've been inspired by the names from paint chip cards, a one-line lyric in a song, and conversations overheard while out and about (and isn't it just amazing what people will say in public??!!)

  9. clairecherven11:31 AM

    While I was doing a title search on my property before I bought it from my parents, I learned that this hill-top land was once part of an orchard in the 1870's, was donated to a local church in 1883 for use as a cemetery, but the church thought it was too far from the church (1.2 miles?) for that use. The elders sold it to a local farmer and it was subsequently divided into building lots. Thus this 1950's house I live in. But most mornings, between three big oaks at the back of the property, there is a fog rising out of the ground. I believe that the church did bury some members in this spot before they decided to abandon the cemetery idea. These in-ground folks were not happy; the deed/property records give me a spooky story that can go on and on.

  10. Interesting deck of cards. I have found inspiration from watching the news or reading a magazine.

  11. Very interesting! I think it's pretty conventional, but I do the 'open a book to a random spot' thing when I want to discover something new, especially in Bible study. I always seem to find what I need (according to my own subjective interpretation, anyways!).

  12. The shape of a tree that had been twisted by the constant blowing of the wind inspired my first protagonist. I thought about a person being twisted by circumstances outside her control, and how that would shape her character over time.

  13. I do use cards (not this particular type) when I am stuck in a story. It does give me a creative push.


  14. Ooh, definitely put my name in the hat for this one. I love using decks for prompts. I used The Fairey Oracle, illustrated by Brian Froud as a journal writing prompt for years. In fact, I really should pull that deck out and start doing that again.

    Thanks for the creative nudge! :)

  15. Oh, cool! A modern tarot deck!

    I plotted one novel strictly using a tarot set. It was enormously fun to write.

  16. That is so cool! I wish we had a BAM over here.

  17. Name in hat, please! I find inspiration in other people's photos. A face in a magazine? Boom, I'm off and writing.

  18. Faith Renfield4:31 PM

    I think I got this idea from you, PBW. I love to use Wordle to stimulate novel connection or to spark ideas.

    I also use card decks to change the mood for writing sessions. I have one with Goddesses, Tarot, and Angels, and a gorgeous deck of fairy cards.

    Magazines, such as Veranda, that have lush photos of houses, landscaping and fabrics often get placed on my "vision" boards for a character or a whole book.

    So please throw my name in for some interesting looking cards.

  19. That's an interesting way to find inspiration. My moments of inspiration happen randomly: a song lyric, a photo, a commercial, something I overhear, etc. inspires me quite a bit.

  20. Tossing my name in the hat. I get inspired by watching people at the grocery store. I see random acts of kindness at grocery stores all the time. From people paying for other people's food to people helping other people find the aisle that has evaporated milk. Also, watching people choose between budget and healthy food is though provoking. The grocery store is an interesting place.


  21. I have been known to use spam email as well as my wordsearch puzzles (words which I'm looking for that end up next to each other).

  22. I loooove cards!!! I actually have a playing card collection :) I tend to buy packs when I'm travelling, as mementos.

  23. I'm just throwing my hat into the ring.

  24. I use my own typos and oddly worded sentences. The best twist in my first book came from me rereading a vague sentence I'd written and saying, "Huh, he could be meaning this OR this... ooh, if it's the second one all of these things would happen..."

    But I also use tarot cards and I'd love to try these cards!

  25. An inspiration technique I've used a number of times for short stories is: Open a book to a random page, write down the first word you find. Do that two more times, each time with a different book. Set the timer for fifteen minutes and write as fast as you can, trying to incorporate the three words into what you are writing, not editing as you go.
    Such as, "Moon, Coin, Lonely." A variant would be to pick three words at random that become subject, object and verb.

  26. I would love to try these cards.

    When the blank page seems too daunting, I cut or fold an index card in half...less space to fill, less noise from my internal critic.

    Cheers and good luck to all.


  27. Love the Tarot Cards idea for inspiration, other great ones in comments. Learning a lot...

    For me, a photo or two seem to get my creative juices least in short fiction. Haven't tried it with much more than some flash fiction.

  28. I have a couple Tarot decks and a Rune set that I've used but most recently I've been finding inspiration in reading articles on psychology research. I find not only my protagonists and antagonists there but plot sparks too.

  29. Anonymous2:16 PM

    Sometimes a quick trip to the library just to browse helps get me unstuck when my Muse is silent.

  30. Mariann2:36 PM

    Scribbling usually works, or mind-mapping, but the most unusual thing I've ever done is break out my son's LEGO bricks and build. There's something satisfying about the click and brick of constructing something tangible. My mind and fingers may be working out the logic of shapes and angles, but it's also clearing some internal cobwebs.

  31. I watched an episode of When Weather Changed History on the Galveston hurricane and before I knew it, I'd gotten two chapters written. Odd where inspiration can strike.