I usually start a novel with an oceanic burst of inspiration. I have an idea—maybe a visual image, maybe a conversation, maybe a scene—and I plunge headlong into the story. That’s fun! It’s like the beginning of a romantic relationship: all heady enthusiasm, dewy dreams, and passionate attraction.
But shortly thereafter, by chapter 2, the hard work starts. A huge part of the structuring of a novel comes out of character development. In fact, plot and character are inextricable. So after leaping into a novel, I sit down and think through each character in minute detail.
Among the many ways I have earned money, and there have been a lot of them (ask me about picking lobster bodies for a month after my freshman year of college), is astrology. I studied with an astrologer who was famous for her work on dreamy Neptune. I took courses and read books, and after being tested and certified by the NCGR, the National Council for Geocosmic Research, I took clients and read horoscopes.
It was not a lengthy career. There were other, more compelling professions for me. However, I retained a way to view and build character. So after the first chapter or two of a new novel, I cast charts for each of my main characters. These are not real charts in the sense that they arise out of a specific day and time. They are invented charts. And they are more like shorthand than like actual horoscopes.
For example, Luca Bastardo in IMMORTAL has a hell of a Venus-Pluto square. It gives him extreme beauty, and it causes him pain, loss, and a profound appreciation of love. This may not be the most precise definition of the aspect according to real, practicing astrologers, but it means something precise—and useful—to me.
Arthur in FALLEN has Sagittarius rising with Jupiter in Aries, while Emma is Aries rising, with a loaded sixth house. So Emma’s crowded sixth house makes her a healer, and gives her a practical frame of mind. I’ve played with her Mars, as Mars is her ruling planet. Currently I think it’s in Sag, which gives her that strong attraction to Arthur.
Brian Tennyson in THE LOVE OF MY (OTHER) LIFE is a Gemini-Cancer blend. He has the persistence to stick with a mate that Cancer can display and also the inventiveness of a Gemini. Tessa Barnum, his long-lost love, has a strong Neptune, which gives her artistic talent.
It’s easy to see how my familiarity with astrology lends me an extra tool for creating characters….
Traci L. Slatton
Traci L. Slatton is a graduate of Yale and Columbia. She lives in Manhattan, and her love for Renaissance Italy inspired her historical novel Immortal [Bantam Dell], which is currently in film pre-production and reached bestseller status in Italy, Russia, and Brazil. Also the author of novels The Botticelli Affair, Fallen, and Cold Light, Slatton has published The Art of Life, a photo essay about figurative sculpture; Dancing in the Tabernacle, a book of poetry; and Piercing Time & Space, a non-fiction title on science and spirituality. Her romantic comedy novella The Love of My (Other) Life addresses the question: What worlds would you move to be with your soulmate? Her forthcoming novel, The Mission, is a meaty historical saga set during World War II.