Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Writer's Guide to the Zodiac - Meet Giselle Green

In May this year, Giselle Green won the coveted Joan Hessayon Award, given by the Romantic Novelists' Association, here in the UK, for the best debut novel of the year from a newly published member. That book, Pandora's Box, is the thought provoking story of a mother and daughter coming to terms with the past, and the future. Comparisons have been made to Jodi Picoult, so you can understand why Giselle was a winner. Now she is looking forward to her second book coming out. Little Miracles will be available from Avon in February.

But before her sparkling fiction debut, Giselle self-published a writers' guide that might just give other authors a slightly different perspective on their characters.
Title Magic welcomes Giselle to talk about The Writer's Guide to the Zodiac.
Hello everyone and thanks Evonne for inviting me to talk about The Writer’s guide to the Zodiac – it’s a pleasure to be here.

First off, you may wonder why indeed a writer would NEED such a thing, since writing and astrology seem like very separate pursuits. Speaking as someone who has practiced astrology for 12 years now, and as an author, I can attest to the fact that they are indeed very similar. They are both about the same two things; (1)characters (2) what happens to them.

As writers we intuitively understand that what ‘happens’ to our characters arises very much from what their personalities are like. To put it another way, in fiction, people draw life-situations onto themselves that reflect a particular facet of their personality; greedy people may be tempted to over-indulge, timid people may be challenged to step up to the mark and become brave etc. So; life-challenges are set for our fictional characters, and by their ACTIONS (made as a result of decisions they make, realisations they come to) – their fate is sealed. In astrology, there is also this understanding that ‘Fate follows from character’, BUT – and here is the key bit – to quote one of my favourite bits of wisdom from American Astrologer Zipporah Dobbins, ‘we are not fated to EVENTS but to what events MEAN by happening’.

What’s all that about? It really boils down to our deepest soul-level motivations which we - or our fictional characters – may have very little inkling about at the outset. We all know about Scrooge, whose deepest desire was to earn as much as possible and give very little of it away. His mean actions and outlook activate the ghost of his former partner. The ghost reconnects him with (1) the love he once knew as a boy (2) the horrible end he will come to if he carries on being so mean. The message is that the FATE he is heading towards is only because he hasn’t learned yet to be loving to those around him. He learns the lesson, pronto and his awful fate is averted. What Scrooge needed to learn about was LOVE – but another character in a similar position might have an entirely different lesson to learn, and a different fate.

In ‘The Writer’s Guide to the Zodiac’ I set out to do two things. Firstly, I wanted to show how all the apparently random lists of ‘character traits’ ascribed to the 12 signs of the zodiac are not random at all. After you have understood the premise on which they stand, you should be able to work any Zodiac sign’s traits out for yourself. Secondly, I wanted to help writers who have trouble with characterisation. If you have a core idea in your head about what sun sign your hero/heroine is, it can be a great aid in knowing HOW they will react in any given circumstance.

This is because the 12 zodiac signs are based on the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Earthy signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) give you people who relate to the senses; these are people who are very much rooted in the ‘here and now’, the present.
Air signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius) give you people who relate best to the mind, to thoughts; thoughts transcend time, and can relate to past, future or present.
Fire signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) relate best to creativity, imagination, and projections and to the future and Water signs relate best to feelings and emotions. Water (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces) is the element that clings onto and remembers the past.

We have twelve signs and not four, because each of the elements is sub-divided into three, which I explain further in the book. But already you can see how friction and tension might arise as a character entrenched in one particular element – say Air - might totally ‘not get’ a person who is coming from (say) a Water perspective. This would be your classic ‘I’m being reasonable and logical and you’re being over-emotional’ (Air perspective) scenario as opposed to ‘you’re being totally analytical and dry and unfeeling, how could you?’ (Water perspective).

Understanding the motivations and driving forces behind each of the elements shows us more than how our characters will react with each other. It indicates the kinds of ACTIONS they are likely to take in response to external stimuli ( which appears as ‘Fate’). A fiery type in a car prang might get out and have an argument with the other driver. An airy type will take down the other’s details (information). An earthy type will assess the damage and take whatever practical steps are needed whilst a watery type might burst into tears.
Before you think, ‘That’s sounds like stereotyping’, let me add that in real life, we are all mixtures of all these traits, that’s a given. And in your astrological chart, you won’t just have your Sun in Aries, you’ll have your Moon somewhere too and ‘your’ Mars, Venus etc. will all be in certain signs.

The value of a really in-depth look at the Sun sign of your characters is that it can give you a really solid core, or springboard, from which to hang all their other traits or quirks. When you think of a character like Inspector Morse – an airy sign if there ever was one, with his love of intellectual pursuits like crosswords etc, there was also his extreme squeamishness ( he couldn’t bear to look at a dead body) – which we could put down to a ‘lack of earth’ in his chart, maybe. He was a romantic, and an intellectual but he never managed to accrue much in terms of worldly goods, or have a long-term physical relationship because he wasn’t anchored enough in ‘earth’. Just speculation of course! But you see how you can use different mixtures of the elements to make your characters consistent? If we accept that a character like Morse has a ‘lack of earth’ in his chart – we can’t then go and make him ‘good with banking investments’ – because this wouldn’t be consistent.

To go back to one of my original reasons for writing the book – character traits are not random, they have an innate ‘energy’ or purpose to them. They ‘come from’ somewhere. If you understand where that is, the chances are your characters will feel more real and congruent and believable – which is what we’re all aiming for in our writing. Hope this helps, and – Evonne – thanks once again for asking me!

Definitely a different way of looking at the writing process. And who can resist a book with twelve pairs of shoes on the cover?

If you'd like to own a copy of the Writer's Guide, which Giselle self published, you can order it direct from her, and she will sign it for you
Contact her via her website at

I know I certainly want one. Thanks to Giselle for being with us, and good luck with Little Miracles in February 2009.

PS Over the last two weeks, Title Magic has met all the finalists in American Title V. Scroll back to see any interviews you may have missed. And don't forget that voting begins on 10 November.


Evonne Wareham said...

Thanks again for being with us, Giselle.

And just a reminder - to get your own signed copy of the Writer's Guide, go to Giselle's website and contact her direct.

Helen Scott Taylor said...

Giselle, thanks for being with us on Title Magic. What a useful book! The link to the elements intrigues me as the characters in my books are each alied to an element. Sounds as though your book would be very useful to help me develop my characters.

Giselle said...

HI Evonne and Helen, thanks for your welcome and it's my pleasure. Your book sounds interesting, Helen!It would be great if my take on the elements were of some use to you. You can get a copy of The Writer's Guide to the Zodiac (incl p and P)from me directly at discounted price of £5.50, if you contact me via my website or else you can go via Amazon (at full price!) if that's easier for you. If you do so, I'd love to hear if it helps!

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Giselle, outstanding blog on using Astrology as a guide to characterization.

Lexie O'Neill said...

Thanks for blogging! I don't use the zodiac too much, but it sounds interesting!

Giselle said...

Thanks, Savanna and Lexie!