I’ve attended many writer workshops on characterization through the years and I now use the basics of astrology to create my characters in my stories. Michael Hauge’s Story Mastery defines the character arc as the Emotional Journey from Identity to Essence. The identity is the layers of the onion that need to be peeled away. Each outer layer is a progressively stronger shield the character has built as protection for each emotional wound that is to be healed through the story, to reach the core (heart/soul) of the character essence.
In astrology, the essence is the Sun Sign, the identity is the Rising Sign, and the emotions are the flavor of the Moon.
All the zodiac signs relate to one of four basic elements – earth, air, fire, and water. So I create my cast of characters to each represent one of those elements. I write romance and both the heroine and hero are protagonist-antagonist to each other. But they both have a sidekick, mentor, family, and more.
For example; Heroine Elemental Essence & Career Choice = Air, Sidekick=Earth, Mentor=Fire, Family=Water. (Image the family dynamics of Air & Water like steam and tornadoes.)
Hero Elemental Essence & Career Choice = Water, Sidekick=Air, Mentor=Fire, Family=Earth. (He and his family make mud.)
The sun sign is the essence (soul) of your character. At the beginning of the story this character believes the essence of who they are is their greatest weakness. The essence has needed protection because it is the inner child and has been wounded. Think about who your character will be at the end of the trials, transformed by events of the story into their essence. This can be mirrored by the final setting where the character is when the true self has been revealed and embraced. The last scene of a romance is more than a kiss or vow, it’s where it happens too.
The rising sign in astrology is associated with the identity (ego), the public mask. Every sign of the zodiac rises every day so no matter the sun sign, the rising sign can be any of the other twelve zodiac signs. Choose one with a different elemental flavor so peeling away the layers of the identity is a noticeable change of personality. Flat characters are the ones that only resonate to one element. An Earth girl at the beginning to an Earth girl at the end will dilute the power of a visual transformation from identity to essence.
The emotional journey is associated with the moon. The moon travels through all twelve signs of the zodiac every month. This means no matter what the sun sign, or rising sign, the moon can still be any of the others. The moon represents how the character feels and reacts on an emotional level to every conflict. The moon adds depth to how the essence reacts when wounded in the past, and mirrors how the identity reacts as each scar is ripped open. Example: A wounded water child will weep, a wounded fire child will roar, a wounded air child will sulk, and a wounded earth child will hide.
In my novel Checkmate First Mate, the hero, Adam is a Scorpio with a Rising Sign in Sagittarius and a Taurus Moon. My heroine, Melanie is a Gemini with a Leo Rising Sign and Cancer moon. Adam has some powerful and deep baggage and Melanie is really good at tap dancing around her issues. Both of their “Identities” relate to Fire so that’s the ego-mask in place when they first meet, she’s a bit arrogant and he’s a philosopher.
Using astrology to determine the flavor of the identity and the essence is a great way to keep your characters in character even as they transform.
Now stride forth through the zodiac and wound your characters from essence to identity keeping track of the age (child, puberty, adult, last week…) when that wound happened for your back-story. Then write your story as the journey to reverse the damage peeling off the onion layers, and give them a happily ever after where their souls belong.