Chakras For Storytellers, Part 2: Putting Concept into Practice

by Ashley Christiano
published in Writing

So you have some concept and general guidance on what the seven main chakras are, what they represent, and how they can manifest as behaviors and motivations for you (and your characters). Chakras can help you add movement to a static character, or help you identify what within your character you can change to help them develop over the course of your novel. 

Now let’s align the chakra concept to some other common creative writing needs.

A quick recap 

As a reminder, chakras are an ancient, Hindu concept of energy centers in the body. Each of these energy centers holds a different purpose: the root chakra is all about survival, the sacral chakra about sensuality and emotions; the solar plexus chakra is your center of power; the heart chakra is a place of love; the throat chakra represents our ability to express ourselves; the sixth chakra is the seat of our intuition; and the crown chakra pertains to spiritual enlightenment. All the chakras are interconnected, and each can be excessive, blocked, or balanced. 

Fine-Tuning a Character’s Motivation

Are you a plot-driven writer who sometimes struggles to clarify a protagonist’s motivations for doing what they’ll do over the course of your story? Or maybe you’ve gotten some feedback from a critique partner that your character’s behaviors don’t match their motivation in a believable way. What now?!

Spending some time with the chakra system might help ground your character’s behaviors in a deeper and more specific backstory. One of the great things about chakras is how seamlessly they tie to Western psychology and our understanding of human development. 

Let’s say your character is really motivated by being rich and famous and they go to outrageous (maybe even hilarious) lengths to make this happen. Why might this be? Where does this need come from, and what from the character’s past is this need filling?

Let’s turn to the chakra system for some clues. Wealth is tied to survival, which is rooted in the first chakra. What kind of scarcity in their past (likely childhood) would cause them to believe that only a huge swing in the opposite direction might allow them to finally feel safe and secure? Maybe their mom was absent and their dad had to work three jobs to make ends meet, meaning the character rarely spent any quality time with either parent. And when they did, they felt the need to be good and perfect and helpful so that they were worthy of their dad’s time and love.

This might explain the intertwined desire for wealth (security) and fame (attention) that fills the vacuum of both in their childhood. Dropping some hints as to this backstory, or characters that mirror her parents’s past behaviors in her present life, will help the reader believe the wild lengths your protagonist will go to achieve their dreams. By the end of the story, what would need to happen to find your protagonist in greater balance, and with less need for money or attention?  

Developing Compelling Duos

Another element of a story that can create tension and texture is having well-matched duos. This might be a romantic pairing, best friends, sisters, or something else all together. You want these duos to play off of each other, perhaps be the Yin to the others Yang, act like two peas in a pod, or even be so opposite that they can’t escape the magnetism between them. 

Chakras are a great way to add some nuance to these different dynamics. Here’s a few pairings you might think through as inspiration for developing your own. 

One sister is the gentle, compassionate one who gives too much of herself (blocked 4th chakra). The other is the bold, beautiful loud-mouth who talks over everybody all the time (excessive 5th chakra). How might their reliance on each other for love and validation create tension as the story progresses? Could reliance turn to resentment, and simmer over into something juicy?

Or there’s the female protagonist who has lost faith in the meaning of life (blocked 7th chakra) paired with a love interest who is able to freely express their emotions in a healthy way (balanced 2nd chakra). How will our heroine push through her own past baggage and lack of trust in the universe to claim the love she deserves? 

One best friend is successful but self-deprecating, struggling with their self-image in secret (blocked 3rd chakra), while the other has a less abundant bank account but a healthy amount of self-love (balanced 4th chakra). How might one’s confidence trigger a change in the other? Will they grow closer or drift apart? 

Creating a Complex Villain 

Another duo we didn’t mention before, but that may be critical to the tension and emotion of your story? The Hero-Villain dynamic. Personally, I really struggle with a villain who is pure evil just because. Maybe when I was a kid I loved that, but as an adult I find it an unfulfilling read. Let’s turn to the chakras for help!

Let’s say you’ve got the classic evil sorceress as your villain. Why is she evil and what leads her to sorcery? Perhaps when our villain was young, she learned that power was a scarce resource: her parents were simple farmers and their land was taken by an aristocrat. 

Homeless and destitute (blocked 1st chakra), our villainess had to go to extreme measures to keep herself and her broken parents alive. She vowed to punish the man who had stolen her safety and innocence. But even after she did, she couldn’t let go of the quest for power (excessive third chakra). She knew it could be taken from her at any moment, and she’d be damned if she let that happen.

How might a hero that comes from an equally unstable background, but who sees power as a resource best shared with others, be able to uniquely challenge this power-hoarding sorceress? 

Or maybe your villain is a more mundane one: a bully. Let’s say our bully grew up in a loving home. His mom told him every day how amazing and smart and perfect he was. And then she died. With his dad absent in his grief, suddenly this little boy had to learn to take care of himself while also losing any love and validation he once had in one fell swoop.

He channels his own anxiety and fear into a need to control others (excessive first chakra), and that to get love and attention you have to stomp over others in the process (excessive 4th and 5th chakras). How might an insecure protagonist learn to love and believe in themselves enough to challenge the bully without becoming one in the process? 

In Conclusion

If you’re someone who loves a good character worksheet and digging into the psychology of your characters, chakras are an excellent modality for helping you think a bit deeper. They’re practically a character worksheet that encompasses backstory, behavior, and desire all in one!

Where do you think your characters are balanced, blocked, or excessive? What explains it and what can you do with this newfound knowledge? Let us know in the comments below! 

Ashley Christiano is a fantasy writer, experienced tarot reader, and professional astrologer based in Los Angeles. As The Novel Mystic, she combines the power of astrology, tarot, and creative writing to empower women, educate the astro-curious, and inspire her own storytelling. You can find her on Twitter or her website to keep up with the stars, learn more about various esoteric modalities, or get your own tarot reading.

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