I have been meaning to write this post for a long time, as evidenced by the fact that the first photo I took for it was while I was still planning my wedding and I’m been married almost seventeen months!

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Back in March 2012, I saw this cool Kickstarter project on my Twitter timeline (back when one’s Twitter timeline wasn’t chock-full of Kickstarter, Indiegogo and the like). I was immediately intrigued and backed it, making it the best $25 I’ve ever spent on my writing.

What is Story Forge?
What may at first look like tarot cards for maximum upheaval in your life are in fact prompts for the fiction writer’s imagination. Using the suggested layouts in the accompanying booklet, you can pick a plot, design a dramatic decision or concoct captivating characters. The deck is nominally divided into five suits – Destiny, Wealth, Will, Emotion and Identity – but this has never greatly affected the outcomes for me. You can read more about them from the creator’s mouth here).

Why use it
All writers have strengths and weaknesses. Me, I’m mad for plot. The genesis of a story for me is always the grand plot or the intriguing inciting incident- the “what if” moment. Once I have that down, the rest of the components follow after.

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I have a problem with character. I love writing their dialogue, but I hate discovering their backstory. It causes me a major headache time and again. With Story Forge, I can generate hundreds of characters with fascinating, diverse stories and that is my main usage of the deck.

The cards aren’t proscriptive and have multiple and varied interpretations. As I’m dealing the cards, I elaborate on them to fit into the established narrative of the layout so far and make notes alongside the card titles. And it’s still your story. Card doesn’t fit? Discard and deal another. I remove the blank cards from the deck, because I don’t find them useful, but they can be an invitation to create an unusual twist.

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As well as a full backstory, there’s a layout for “Character ‘Quick Pick'”, which helps to flesh out minor characters beyond a name and an irritating dialogue quirk. There are also a number of plot layouts, covering genres like Action, Romance and Film Noir, and specific layouts for major turning points. I have never used these personally, but “The Hero’s Journey” will be familiar layout to anyone acquainted with Campbell and Vogler.

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They are also fairly portable and slot nicely into a medium-sized handbag alongside your tablet and index cards. I have received some strange looks from ticket inspectors on the train, but they really are versatile enough to be used almost anywhere!

I have used Story Forge cards to create three-dimensional characters for my current short film “A work of art” and current Wine and Women feature film project. When my feature spec received notes that characterisation needed work, I realised I’d neglected to Story Forge and I went back to the drawing board, delving deeper into my characters and their history and motivation.

If you want to develop your plotting and characterisation skills, I highly recommend Story Forge cards to enhance your writing. You won’t regret it.


Story Forge is available here.

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