HOW TO USE MYTHULU CARDS:
1. Know what you are trying to create or improve and decide on the appropriate deck to start from. Draw one card and consider it carefully.
2. Do not take cards literally. Do not use the first idea you have. Do not dismiss a card for 'not fitting' your story or artwork. If you are writing a Horror set in Space and you draw a card like "Polynesian," think of several ways you could apply it- music, ethnicity, a lei bobble girl with a ukulele, or anything else that comes to mind. Polynesian music playing in the background of a Space Horror could be really creepy.
3. Consider both the Title and the Text. The Title represents a concept or pattern that human beings see regularly and recognize easily- the definition of an archetype. The Text, however, breaks down what the archetype means to human beings in general. As an individual, your own unique experiences will add a third layer or 'voice' to how you see and use the card.
4. As an individual, your unique experiences will add a third layer or 'voice' to how you see and use the card.
5. Draw another card and layer it beside the first. If you are drawing for multiple characters or ideas at the same time, keep them face-up in small groups, or however makes the most sense to you.
I am writing an epic fantasy and my characters are hunting for a powerful artifact. I want to brainstorm a merchant that could possibly have this item, but the scene needs conflict and originality.
I draw a character archetype first. "Clone." I'm getting too many ideas from that, so I draw a "Trait" card to constrain it. I get "Deus Ex Machina" which could mean extreme competence, or even literal godhood. For fun, I decide that "Clone" and "Deus Ex Machina" mean this shopowner is literally a god who chooses to look like persons important to his/her customers, in order to make the exchanges more interesting, or get a rise, or teach them something.
The "Scales" card is a wild one. It can refer to the clothes the shop owner wears, or literally his/her species. In this case, I decide that this shop keeper/god's true face is draconic. Deciding that this god is semi-malevolent, I finish creating the character:
Rijun is a malevolent god of honesty- when his customers come to him for dangerous and rare items of great power, Rijun deliberately takes a form that confronts a customer's 'inner lies.' This usually causes the customer intense grief/anger. Rijun clearly does not need money, so the shop is just of way of making people come to him. This is all for his own entertainment.
COMMON DRAW METHODS:
New users have found these drawing patterns to be useful while they are getting used to the cards.
- Character: Archetype (mindset/profession), Trait (gives a physical advantage at a cost), Texture (affects how the world interacts with him/her), Relationship (ties him/her to the other characters)
- Setting: Habitat or Archetype (affects how characters interact with the setting), Elements-2 (The appearance and behavior of native resources, landscape, and wildlife), Texture (to inspire more ways the characters interact with this setting).
- Rituals & Cultures: Textures, Elements, and Relationships
- Subject Idea: # of Archetypes (# of characters and how/if they are interacting), Habitat (Adds a layer to the background), Texture (Adds another layer), Wildcard (to add something extra, or another background layer).
- New Setting: Habitat, Archetype, Element
- New NPC: Archetype, Texture, Trait
- Don't use the first idea that comes to mind. If it was your first idea, someone else had it first. Come up with a whole pile to choose from, then select what works best for your art.
- Consider symbolic meanings. A card may not refer to make something is made of, but it means, how it came to be, what it has written on it, etc. A magic sword with a "Bones" texture can refer to death-related inscriptions on the blade, or the previous owner's recent death, or that the sword has 'skeletons in the closet'. A small boy with "Slimy" can suggest he is muddy when you first meet him.
- Sometimes, if you aren't sure how to apply a Texture/Trait/Element card to someone/something, you can use a relationship card to inspire ways to apply it.
Let's say I am writing a Victorian Crime/Thriller and I know my story takes place in a large house, but my beta readers tell me they can't picture the house at all. They have no idea what the house looks like, what it's quirks are, what the grounds are like... At this point, I realize something- neither do I. I was picturing Downton Abbey the entire time, and never bothered to describe it.
So I get out my Mythulu Cards- It's time to brainstorm some personality for my setting.
My first card is "Lawn." This doesn't feel helpful. I almost toss it, but then I turn to the Text and I'm reminded that gardens are an unnatural congregation of beautiful things in a place they don't belong. Putting the house at the center of a sprawling woodland estate, I picture trimmed and squared gardens surrounded by the chaos of nature. I'm intrigued and I keep the card.
The second card is "Gem & Crystal." I'm stumped for a minute, but I don't give up. Everything I think of at first guides my toward too much of a fantasy feel, so I stop thinking about it literally. How can an estate feel like Gem & Crystal? Then it hits me: This is winter. Growing up, I'd seen ice storms that 'crystallized' everything around the house. The willow tree in the back yard, the yellow-flowered bushes, the non-native lilies and tulips that stupidly opened at the first exciting touch of spring... all frozen fast in solid ice, never wilting or changing color, preserved on quiet display like a museum behind glass.
Quite happy, I decide to add a texture card to the mix, just in case it adds a little more flavor. I draw "Crackling." I already know what it means, without even thinking- After the ice storms, the ice itself crackled quietly for days afterward. The trees themselves are not moving and the wind is not blowing, but the ice never stops crackling. My childhood again.
Feeling like I can stand on the lawns themselves and picture what I have created, I have no end of inspiration. I can feel my footsteps crushing the frozen white grass. I can feel several acres of trees talking quietly to me, despite them being as still as stone. I consider how the winter itself will affect the indoors: the fires glowing, the servants drying clothing, steaming soups and preserved cheeses, the bedroom passages that are cold enough to freeze your breath, the frozen extremities of the house groaning with the cold, the chilly floorboards creaking underfoot... and it strengthens the image.
I decide to further strengthen the inside of the house with a new set draws. I skip the habitat card because I know what I am looking for. I chose -for the fun of it- a character archetype to apply to the inside of the house. I almost laugh out loud when I draw 'Scavenger.' Apparently, antlers and beer skins hang and drape everywhere. Like a hunting lodge. I consider how this lends to the mystery/thriller feel and it applies perfectly. I keep it.
Last, I draw the texture card "Torn" and apply it to the drapes and tapestries. The house is old and run-down, but not necessarily unloved or un-maintained. It's like a museum, keeping with the personality of the grounds.
This is no longer Downton Abbey. This is a new creation, and I am in love with it. Return to my manuscript to add descriptions and share the sharp picture I have painted of the house itself and grounds surrounding it, I can already guarantee that my readers will be satisfied. This time, they will see something new and interesting, borrowing from my own memories and experiences to add to my own.
And it only took me about ten minutes.
Take your time. Ask a question, draw a card, consider all it's implications, and repeat. Don't think about what a card is but what it could be. Good ideas are like good photographs: you take a hundred, but you only keep one. Rather than drawing new cards for each of those one hundred ideas, try to milk as many ideas as you can from each card.