My first experience with astrology was probably like many of yours: reading a horoscope for my sun sign in a magazine. As a Virgo, my horoscopes were generally about being tidy and organized and not being so critical. Which, sure. I could 100% use that advice.
But I’m more than a pathological organizer with a very judgmental inner critic.
And astrology is more than a horoscope, too. It’s full of mythology, patterns, personalities, and, of course, stories. As such, it is an amazing tool for writing, even if you don’t believe it can tell the future.
Before we dig into how it can help you write your novel, let’s do a brief overview of some of the basic pieces that make up astrology.
The astrological wheel (aka, the sky) is made up of twelve signs, which correspond to twelve constellations:
- Aries the Ram
- Taurus the Bull
- Gemini the Twins
- Cancer the Crab
- Leo the Lion
- Virgo the Maiden
- Libra the Scales
- Scorpio the Scorpion
- Sagittarius the Archer
- Capricorn the Sea-Goat
- Aquarius the Water Bearer
- Pisces the Fishes
Each sign has distinctive traits, energies, and purposes. You likely know your Sun sign (the sign the Sun was in when you were born). But did you know you also have a Moon Sign, a Mars Sign, etc, etc?
This brings me to the planets. The planets advance through the twelve signs as they make their orbits. The “planets” of course are the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Each planet introduces a different effect. For example, the Sun (the center of our galaxy) solidifies your ego, while Jupiter (as a gas giant) represents the places in life one expands within.
Lastly, we have houses. Houses are the twelve slices of the astrological wheel that represent different areas of life.
The core of astrology is synthesizing these three main concepts (houses, planets, and signs) into a message, such as a horoscope or a birth chart. You can think of this ancient art as a language of symbols, the threads that weave together into a cohesive story.
Now that you’ve got a guide to the basics of the stars, here’s how you can use astrology for your writing practice.
1. Tapping into cross-cultural mythology and astrology
Astrology is an ancient art that has been used by cultures all over the world for millennia. Much of the astrology we use in the West is based on Greek and Roman mythology, but other parts of the world have their own systems and myths too.
Astrology is a great tool for getting in touch with these ancient stories and exploring archetypes, motifs, and even characters that have stood the test of time through a different lens.
For example, say I was curious about the mythology behind the constellation of Pisces. I simply search for “Pisces Mythology” and immediately find a blurb about how Pisces represents the two fish that Aphrodite and Eros rode in order to escape the super scary Typhon when he came to destroy the gods of Mount Olympus. As a reward for being such good fishy helpers, the finned friends were cast into the sky to be admired for all eternity. Now isn’t that just rife with inspiration?
2. Designing a three-dimensional main character
Nobody wants a one-note or one-sided protagonist. We want our main characters to be compelling, to have a purpose, to feel relatable, and to have a past that gives them depth. Astrology is a great tool for sketching out these complex characters. And, thanks to the wonders of the internet, you don’t even need to be an astrologer to benefit from this quick trick.
As you learned above, astrology is made up of 12 signs and 9 planets. Each and every one of us has each of these signs and planets in our birth charts. And your character can have a birth chart, too!
Here’s a quick form you can fill out for yourself if you’re starting from scratch. Anything in bold, you choose. Anything in italics; you search based on the word in bold!
My character is a(n) Aries Sun. This means at their core they _act first and think later, live life with enthusiastic verve, and have a penchant for stubbornness.
My character is a(n) Capricorn Moon. This means they live out their purpose by _continuously climbing to new heights in order to prove their worth to society.
My character has Mars in Scorpio. This means they take action with _a tendency toward obsession. There is no shallow action or drive here! Go deep or go home.
Using a framework like this is one way to ensure you have guidance on how your character may behave in different kinds of situations.
3. Creating distinctive side characters
While the protagonist is often what drives the story forward and keeps the reader reading, it’s also important to have well-developed side characters. Assign each character a sign and think through how these different characters, with their different or even matching signs, might interact with each other!
How might an Aries Sun with their act-first tendencies make a more harmonious Libra Sun character anxious? Might the climbing Capricorn cause their steadfast Taurus lover to feel like they might get left behind?
Playing around with different combos is a fun exercise in developing tensions between characters as you plot or even edit your manuscript.
4. Randomly generating characters
If you’re feeling lost and like your main character isn’t coming together, there are tons of tools for generating a birth chart out of nothing.
I’d recommend trying out the free AstroClick Portrait on astro.com. All you have to do is input a Time, Date, and Location of Birth; and voila, it spits out an interactive birth chart with a wealth of details you can use to design your complex character!
Don’t like the first attempt? Simply input a new set of birth details and see what you get.
5. Wading into an abundance of inspiration
As astrology becomes less “woo woo” and more mainstream, there is an ever-increasing number of resources from a variety of voices available for your perusal. From apps to podcasts, Instagram astrologers to email lists, there is so much inspiration out there waiting to worm its way into your brain and inspire your next big idea or small plot fix.
Think about astrology as a practice for learning about different character archetypes, or even as the ultimate training for developing a hand at metaphor and synthesis.
You never know where your next idea might come from. The muse may twinkle down at you the next time you stare in wonder at the stars above.
Tell us in the comments: Have you ever used astrology to create characters or plan your plot?
Ashley Christiano is a fantasy writer, experienced tarot reader, and professional astrologer. 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 her website or follow her on Twitter to learn more or get your own reading.