Four Things to Look for and One to Avoid

After hearing Lisa Kessler’s fabulous talk at my local chapter of Sisters in Crime meeting last year, I know I wasn’t the only one excited to try tarot cards as writing prompts. I’ve always been interested in the history and practice of tarot, and cards frequently feature in my books. However, the idea of using the artwork and meanings behind them to dig deeper into characters or spark ideas about conflicts, inner turmoil, secrets, and character relationships was new to me. I’ve been collecting and playing with various decks ever since and highly recommend it.Photo of several decks of tarot cards

But if you’re new to tarot, and overwhelmed by all the options out there, how do you choose a deck that will work best for you? Since I’ve already fallen deep into that rabbit hole, here are my insights:

  1. Find a deck that speaks to you personally: The most important factor in choosing a tarot deck is finding one that resonates with you. The artwork should capture your imagination and fire up your curiosity. Take some time and look through different decks to discover one that feels the most right for you. I even found a Cute Ghost Tarot deck I’ve been using for my cozy paranormal books. 
  2. Consider the genre and tone of your writing: It’s important to choose a tarot deck that syncs up with your voice and works in progress. If you’re writing a dark, atmospheric book, like a thriller or police procedural, consider a deck like The Dark Wood or Tarot of the Haunted House (two of my personal favorites, both by Sasha Graham). Some others that fall into this category are Edgar Allan Poe Tarot, The Lost Forest, and Horror Tarot.

For a lighthearted, whimsical mystery, you might go for something with more playful artwork. Decks with furry friends, familiars, and paranormal creatures abound. You might also nab a deck that connects to your protagonist’s hobby, profession, or the story’s setting. Is your sleuth investigating a murder on the set of a reality dating show? Draw some inspiration from The Final Rose tarot deck. Got a protagonist who’s into plants or who runs an apothecary? Try the Seed Sickle Oracle or Antique Anatomy. 

Some other quick vibe suggestions: Looking for something cerebral or something with kickass feminine energy? Channel the literary masters with The Literary Witches deck or The Modern Witch. Like shadowy fairytales? Check out the Little Red Riding Hood Deck, Rackham Tarot, or the Dark Wood.

If you’re delving deep into the psyche of your characters, try a shadow deck. These decks explore the unconscious, shadowy side of ourselves. They’re an excellent tool to get into your villain’s and suspects’ heads as well as add layers of complexity to your protagonist. The Dark Wood is a shadow deck, and I also recommend the Threads of Fate Shadow Oracle cards. 

  1. Look for a deck with rich imagery: Tarot cards are all about symbolism and imagery, so choose cards with evocative illustrations. Some are beautiful and complex (Cirque du Tarot). Some are downright bizarre (hello, Madhouse Tarot). Having plenty of visual cues will help you get the most out of your writing prompts.
  2. Shop around: You can find tarot decks at a variety of places, including one of our local indie bookshops, online retailers like, Amazon, Etsy, Hay House, or even on Kickstarter. Check Etsy and Kickstarter if you’re into premium, artisan-created decks with elaborate artwork. You can also find lower-priced playing-card-sized decks on sites like eBay, AliExpress, or Wish if you can wait a month for shipping and want the variety of multiple decks without breaking the bank.

One Caution: 

When you search for decks, you’ll undoubtedly come across those themed for a TV show, movie, or series that holds a special place in your heart. I’ve seen Supernatural, Stranger Things, Disney Villains, The Labyrinth, and Golden Girls decks to name a few. However, as tempting as those can be, I’ve found them less useful. For the purpose of creating our own work, the close associations with another existing narrative can be distracting and counter-productive.

I hope this guide was helpful if you’re in the market for a deck of your own to recharge your creative thinking.


Tarot and Oracle Card Suggestions

Ready to jump right in? I’ve also compiled a list on of Tarot and Oracle cards. This is an affiliate link and I earn a small commission if you decide to purchase here. Plus, you get to support an independent bookstore of your choice with your purchase. Tarot and Oracle Cards
Here’s another link to decks on Amazon (also an affiliate link):

Amazon Tarot and Oracle Cards


These decks are a few of my personal favorites:

The Dark Wood

The Light Seer’s Tarot

Tarot of the Haunted House

The Cute Ghost Tarot

The Modern Witch Tarot

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