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A Boon for Writers: Astrological Profiling for Developing Characters

When I was in late elementary/middle school-aged, I was fascinated with astrology. To my father’s annoyance whenever we went to bookstores or the library, all I wanted to read was about astrology, and like a typical 12 year old, I mostly wanted to read about myself and my sign: Cancer.

Here are a couple of notable tidbits about Cancers, especially applicable to me. The spirit animal of a Cancerian is a crab and like a crab, I approach goals, challenges, and obstacles in a roundabout sideways approach. I can be emotional, bossy, and when I was younger, I was pretty insecure. I love my family and I am fiercely protective of my children. A natural homebody introvert, quarantine has suited me, most of the time. I generally dislike mingling and socializing in large groups, and I especially dislike small talk chit chat. I prefer to go deep or go home. I’ll feel out of place in large groups, even amongst extended family, and I’ll often go around picking up cups or plates just to have something to do. When I’m hurt or angry, I retreat into my shell and I won’t come out until I’m good and ready. I mean this metaphorically. I’m physically out and about, tending to my responsibilities, but I won’t want to talk about “it” until I’ve had some processing time and no amount of coaxing will speed me up. Attempts usually extend the time I need to figure my part out. Professionally and personally, I’m driven by loyalty and a greater cause. I’ve been deeply attached to both jobs and past relationships long passed their expiration dates because of the optimistic view generated by the idea of growth and purpose.

I have mostly outgrown my interest in astrology except for being mildly amused at its often correct personality assessments concerning people in my life. I’m astrologically compatible with my Taurus husband, but astrologically incompatible with both of my children (Aquarius and Sagittarius) and my parents (Gemini and Sagittarius). What I find is astrological charts and related profiles are a boon for fiction writers when developing characters.

When determining your characters, figure out what sign suits them best. Rather than making up random traits, allow the myriad of details from existing astrological signs to add complexity to your fictional character. Start with considering the twelve sun signs: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. In other words, give them a birthday.

Sun signs are broken up into four elements: water, air, earth, and fire. Signs within each element are considered compatible and share many personality characteristics. When determining relationships between characters, consider whether you want these characters to be compatible and see the world through a similar lens or whether you want acrimonious discord to permeate this relationship. You can also look at it from the perspective of how these elements react to one another. Earth cradles water, but water douses fire. A fire grows with air, but air can be trapped and stagnate within the earth. Likewise, these metaphors can apply figuratively to the interactions between characters.

Like the snowflake technique, astrology can grow in complexity (and you can use it to fine-tune and individualize your characters). The sun signs are most familiar to people, but you can also expand your astrological profile to consider the solar system. There are different planets (and the moon) associated with different parts of our personality. For instance, Venus relates to attraction and possession, the moon relates to emotions, Mercury relates to intellectual pursuits, Mars relates to action, and so forth. These planets are called houses and you can consider the relationship between houses, including the sun sign, and personalize your characters so not every Virgo behaves the same way.

Other cultures have their forms of astrology and it could be interesting to see how sun signs react to the influence of other cultures. For instance, Chinese astrology is determined by birth year, not birthday. Chinese astrology signs are named after the animals that showed up to a mythical party eons ago. These signs include Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Other cultures that have their astrological profiles include Mayan, Vedic, and others.

Astrological charting is not necessarily explicit in your final story. Unless mentioning it in passing between characters, I find that astrological character notes are best left in the writer’s notebook rather than incorporated into the story. If done well, this can be an astrological puzzle for interested readers who can incorporate profiles into literary analysis and book discussions. For the writer, it takes the guesswork out of the question: What would my character likely do/think/feel when conflict strikes?


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