Friday, March 25, 2011

Complimentary Astrology

So I am also over at Burrowers, Books & Balderdash today, and I am ALSO talking Astrology there, but THERE, I am applying it to ME. (post goes up at noon GMT) But HERE, I am applying it to WRITING.

I did this once before, but I think I had about 40 followers back then, and my use has changed. I am going to START with a pet peeve of mine...

[And yes, I'm aware of the tilty shifty thing and thirteenth probable sign. My thinking is THIS though. Over many centuries, trait clusters have been observed... those still exists. Maybe not related to the zodiac animal we thought, but they are there, so I like it as a tool ANYWAY].

Characters with the WRONG Birthday!!!

I GET that not all people BUY Astrology, but that doesn't stop it from bugging the HECK out of me if an author bothers to give a character a birthday and they give one COMPLETELY incompatible with their personality.

There are a lot of signs with wiggle room in a lot of domains, but... a shy and retiring fire sign? Aren't gunna find one. A super emotional or sensitive should be water, but they HAVE to fall within a feminine sign (water or earth).

Harry Potter (because it's been too long)

JK Rowling did a pretty darned good job with birthdays. Not all of it was apparent up front (though some of it was). Harry (her brainchild) shares her birthday (July 31), which was probably brilliance for keeping consistency. He is a Leo... but not the 'show stopper' Leo... say that Ginny is. Hermione the Virgo (Sep 19).. DUH—every answer in a book---MAD in Half Blood Prince that Harry gets better Potions results by following ALTERNATE rules... total Virgo (says the woman married to a Virgo). Even Ron as Pisces (Mar 1)... Pisces is the LAST of the Zodiac signs and so can be a bit reckless... ideas hopping lines between light and dark... (life and death)--look at this in light of his doubt in Deathly Hallows. The only DIFFICULTY with her placement is Harry (the Leo) and Hermione (the Virgo) should have more trouble getting along—those two signs are notoriously incompatible. But then Hermione is REALLY on the cusp of Libra, so perhaps her sense of balance makes the difference.

Even her sub-characters... Draco as a Gemini? Yes. James as an Ares (ABSOLUTELY—had to be a fire sign... so did Sirius). Remus as Pisces.

My only quibble with her placement is Luna. She pegged Luna as a Leo, and Luna is an Aquarius if ever I saw one... completely set and comfortable being 'out there' with her ideas.

Some Dominant Traits by Sign

Aries: this is the sign of ME ME ME. Lots of charisma, often leaders... but can be vacuums.
Taurus: playful, leisure (and beauty) loving, stubborn.
Gemini: smart, flexible, fickle
Cancer: Persistent, supportive, needy
Leo: Generous, charisma of a more generous sort than Aries (think cult leader), hot headed
Virgo: Smart, organized, picky
Libra: Fair, even-keeled, indecisive.
Scorpio: playful, loyal, secretive.
Sagittarius: Lucky, fun, the only sign with no negative trait which is annoying.
Capricorn: Hard working, genuine (less inclined to games than other signs), paranoid (in a security oriented way)
Aquarius: unique, free spirited, detached.
Pisces: Intuitive, open, reckless

Broadly, the feminine signs (red) seek some form of security and the masculine (blue) seek some form of recognition.

So how do I use this in MY writing?

I typically write my character FIRST (a few scenes to see how they act—a profile of what I know they NEED) and then I assign them a compatible birthday. If I CAN, I like it to have a personal meaning... the birthday of a friend or family member... but then I use what I KNOW of that sign to drive responses that weren't part of that original profile but come up... for instance a girl's crush is talking to another girl... does she CARE? Is she JEALOUS? Does she walk up and join? Is the motivation for that reminding him she's there, or is she that comfortable? (or oblivious to the potential?)[I use this example because romance is never my primary plot... if I DID write romance, I'd probably choose a sign with this in mind... feminine signs are more possessive and inclined to jealousy, other than that chest-pounding property kind... really AIR is the only one sort of oblivious (re: secure enough they don't really feel threatened)--the rest of us get jealous in some form or other unless we have life lessons that train us differently—or in my case, a collection need and recognition I can hardly get jealous when I expect him not to]

Do any of you consider Astrology when you write?


CA Heaven said...

I don't pay any attention to astrology. I put it in the same bag as Santa Claus, Spiderman and God; products of human fantasy >:)

Cold As Heaven

Murr Brewster said...

If I haven't even considered it, what sign do you think I probably am?

Melissa said...

I've never considered using astrology in my writing. But... I have some bad news for you...your zodiac calendar no longer works... there's THIRTEEN signs now. (In case you didn't know)

I do find it interesting that you use the character traits of the signs as cues for your character reactions

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I think it's a great exercise for thinking about different character traits and behaviors.

I've always wondered a little over the fact I'm an Aries. Makes no sense...

Hart Johnson said...

CaH, you and my friend Joris... you dispassionate Europeans... though if I were to give YOU a sign, it would be earth or air... the more mild end...

Murr-I don't think I know you well enough to wager a guess, but if I get time, I will read more of your blog posts today and try it.

Melissa-oh, I KNOW about the discovery, And I know theoretically it should shake it all up, but the personality clusters really happen. I ALSO think it is no less useful for writing, to give us consistent characters.

Elizabeth-you don't seem very Aries-y to me, either--the exceptions I've met have tended to BE quieter fire signs (my mom is mentioned on my other post--she is a Leo who doesn't fit). I would bet we could find the explanation in your other placements, if you wanted to.

Erica Mitchell said...

I don't think I use birthdays too much therefore I don't use astrology for influence. However, I LOVE astrology and I do see where a lot of people fit the description of each sign they fall under and that has always fascinated me. I am a guilty Gemini (maybe not on blogger, but in real life) It is ME. I do tend to...write parallels and twists to Castor and Pollox though, which is essentially my sign. SO? maybe I do.
I loved this post! Yay for the zodiac!

Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

Great post for thought and exercise.
When the 13th sign is mentioned most folks just say yeah, whatever.

Cherie Reich said...

I do consider astrology when I write novels. I'll write what the character is like and then place the character's birthday sometimes with the corresponding astrological sign. I even write down their Chinese zodiac sign, too, and see how that matches up. I don't do it all the time, especially if their birthday doesn't play a factor in things or it is a purely fantastical world with their own beliefs. But sometimes I do. :)

LTM said...

it's like a fun little easter-egg thing you do, yes? I mean, if you're me, the only astrological sign you know very much about is your own. But I do know the signs I'm supposedly NOT compatible with--JRM's aquarius, for example... :D

Like it! <3

Old Kitty said...

YES!!! Birthdays of my characters must have sprinklings of their astrological traits!!!! I so believe that!!

Oooh - Luna can be a Leo with Aquarian moon!!! :-)

NAKED time!!! Take care

Elena Solodow said...

I love the Harry Potter breakdown!

Ella said...

Hart, I love this;I love the strong characteristics. I think of jewelry and clothing, as a hint, if a YA type of work. Or perhaps a stop off with a gypsy fortune teller, who also is into the stars. Fun post~

Talli Roland said...

God, I'd never even thought about it. But then, I am an Aries so it's all about ME!

Jessica Bell said...

I've NEVER thought about it. But now that I do, I think my characters fit with their birthdays. Must have been a subconscious thing!

lisahgolden said...

I hadn't thought of it! Now I will.

Julie Musil said...

To be honest, I've never thought about this! I don't even know enough about this to catch when it's done wrong. This was really interesting.

Southpaw said...

It never even crossed my mind. I don’t think about it much when reading either because there are so many variables. I know a shy fire sign, it think they have a Capricorn rising or something like that. Oh, and Sagittarians speak before they think.

But now that I’ve read this I will consider in my writing.

Carolyn Abiad said...

I was just thinking about this because my MC needs to have a birthday in a certain month, which I don't think is right for her. She doesn't know her *real* birthday, but I was thinking of a way for her to find out... Great Post!

Hart Johnson said...

Erica-funny it comes out in other ways!

Mary-that is sort of how I think of it... an exercise to keep me consistent.

Cherie-cool that you do it, too!

Leigh-at 5 signs away, Aquarius is neither good nor bad!

Jenny-or maybe it is Aquarius rising!


Ellie-yeah, style, I think often goes with it! I've got an Aquarius MC who dresses very unconventionally... My Capricorn MC on the other hand, is quite a bit more 'regular' in her choices.

Talli *snort*

Jessica-funny that you've managed it anyway!

Lisa-HA! Success!

Julie, thank you!

Holly-HA! Thanks for the fill in on the Sagitarius downside!

Carolyn-Thank you! Good luck working out the 'reveal'!

Helena said...

Taurus means playful, leisure (and beauty) loving, stubborn? Cool 'cause that's what I am. And I've only given one character in one manuscript a specific birthday -- mine! Not out of ego but just because I could easily remember it. Funny how your astrological description fits her more than me.

Alison DeLuca said...

My sister shares Harry's birthday too. And she's his female form!

I'm July 24th, so I'm that wishy washy cuspy Leo. That 13th sign thing makes a lot of sense because - really, Cancer over here!

Cheeseboy said...

I've never considered it. but you have inspired a upcoming blog post on astrological signs. I've got it running through my head right now.

Interesting about Harry Potter. I'm sure she must have considered that when writing the characters.

Liz A. said...

Do I pay attention to astrology as I write? No. I tend to work in fantasy worlds, and I've never taken the time to work out their astrology.

As for the supposed 13th sign--the whole change in the night sky thing (the technical term escapes me at the moment) has been known for 1000s of years, and the early astrologers chose to keep things set to the year (as opposed to changing as the shifting of the night sky). That so-called expert who broke that story had no idea what he was talking about (and if you look, you can find the articles debunking his supposed fixes).

Sorry, that whole thing just sets me off.

As for Harry and Hermione getting along, I am a Leo (a July 31st Leo as a matter of fact), and some of my best friends (when I was a teen) were Virgos. Remember, no one is a pure anything. We've all got Moon signs, ascendants, and all the planets to take into account, too.

Very interesting post.

Amber T. Smith said...

Alison - had to give a shout out to a fellow July 24th-er! Hi!

I agree about the cuspiness thing too... definitely have a lot of Cancer moodiness in me rather than the more extrovert tendencies of Leo. Both my kids are cuspies too, though the hubby is bang in the middle of Gemini (and smack on with the traits too).

Great post, Tami, my fellow Cuspy Pal. :)

Hart Johnson said...

hsoister-Ha! Funny that it fits your character better than you when you weren't thinking astrology.

Alison-I was going to shout that you shared my friend Tara's birthday, but she beat me to it! Funny, a lot of us writers seem to sit on cusps!

Abe, you have me worried! Are you going to mock me? teehee

Liz-sorry to set you off! I knew that the eastern astrologers had known for year, but you know... 13 is a Pagan #... not that I'm suggesting conspiracy or anything (except I am)

Tara-and for your Cancer cuspiness, I get along with you much more easily than many solid Leos... And I found you a twin!

Laura said...

I love this idea! I have never even thought to use astrology as a potential traitmap for my characters and their potential reactions - odd since I live in the hippy capital of Britain... food for thought!

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Wow, I've never considered using that my writers tool, but it's a brilliant idea to round off the characters. I just write and write and write and the characters form by themselves...

Great post!

♥.•*¨ Elizabeth ¨*•.♥

Will Burke said...

Great post! Whether you believe or not, the Signs make great archtypes, with enough variety to make unique characters. I find that Signs are like nationalities; you can make blanket statements about Canadians that are true enough, but you'll find all kinds of personalities here.

Julie Hedlund said...

What a fun post! As a PB writer, I rarely deal with birthdays, but it's fun to think about. I'm tinkering with my first novel right now, and I certainly can't see the harm in layering astrology over a character to add more depth.

erica and christy said...

Okay, now I just realized I don't know when my character's birthdays are. Apparently none of them in my current ms can be Cancers like us - it spans a summer and nary a b-day party in it!! hmm...

Al said...

I don't think I have any birthdays in my stories (no wait a child is born in one). I know the year most of my characters were born but that is about it.

Kari Marie said...

I haven't ever considered astrology for my characters. I've always been interested in it though on a personal level. Although I've never done anything but read my horoscope.

Ruthie said...

I like your blog! I'm following you and I am also taking part in the A-Z Challenge, I look forward to seeing your entries. RuthieTootieWishes

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, can't say that I do. I build on character types while birthdays have, as yet, proven non-essential to the plots. Definitely something for me to think about though.

Missed Periods said...

That's a really interesting point. I never thought of that when assigning characters birthdays. But I can see how it could take a reader out of the story if they know their astrology.

Jan Morrison said...

No I don't think I do. But that is probably, in the three books I've finished so far, not something that comes up. No birthdays for any characters. hmmmm...
My guy, the ineffable, very quiet, almost prudish, dear guy shares a birthday with Madonna. Even though I'm totally into astrology this strains my credulity. Two folks more different could not be found.
I, however, share with Disralai, Rebecca West, Jane Fonda, Frank Zappa and uh...Stalin. This last - I couldn't remember his name for a second so I googled 'worst human in history' and found it. Yep. I love Rebecca West and Zappa though...

Deirdra A. Eden said...

Hi Hart,

You blog was nominated for the Inspiring Blog Award.

Go to and pick up your award.