Ever since I was a little girl I’ve wanted to be an author.
And I’ve always wanted to write love stories- not necessarily category romance (although I’d like to have a shot at that one day) but the sort of books that you pick up at an airport to read on the plane, on the beach, after a hard day, in bed before you go to sleep, in the bath, in the pool…the sort of stories that allow you to escape from your own life into one where despite the crap, there is the possibility of a happy ending. If we’re putting labels on it, I write chick lit, or contemporary women’s fiction, or fiction with romantic elements. Call it what you will, the whole point is for my character to learn something and to have an optimistic ending.
What does that have to do with astrology? Simple, astrology helps me get into the head of my character. I’m not what you’d call a plotter. I generally have a start and an end point in mind, but how they get there evolves as the story is written. The manuscript I’m working on now is at the 60,000 word mark- I’m two-thirds of the way through- yet I’m still not entirely sure how Max (my heroine, or protagonist) is going to have the happy ever after she deserves.
What I do know is what her chart looks like- no spoilers.I know her motivations (Sun), I know how she reacts instinctively (her Moon), I know how she thinks and communicates (Mercury), I know how she relates (Venus), and I know what and who turns her on (Mars).
It was the same with my heroine, Abby Brentnall in Big Girls Don’t Cry. I knew right from the start that Abby was an Aries. I also knew right from the start that the events in her story would be triggered by the Uranus-Pluto square. She needed those mega transits hitting her chart to force her to confront the events of her past and take her to who she needed to be and what she needed to be doing.
In order to bring Abby forward, I needed to take her into her shadow. And that’s where the knowledge of the signs really comes in.
Every sign has, as we know from the Tuesday Toolbox, it’s keywords. With Aries we associate independence, courage, wilfulness, competition, head-strong.
Every sign also has its shadow. Generally we stray into the shadow without knowing. We escape to there from whatever is stressing or haunting us, from whatever we don’t want to face. Very often that shadow is the exaggeration of the strength of our Sun. Of course, being fiction, we highlight these in order to create a contrast between who the character is at the start of the book, and how she has grown.
In the case of Aries, assertion and independence of will can be seen as selfishness. Abby laughs at herself when she says to Todd:
‘Typical fricken Aries ‒ it’s all about you.’ ‘You’d know,’ he said.
Brad used to laugh at the self-centred impatience that Todd and I ‒ whose birthdays were only a week apart ‒ had in common. In contrast, we appreciated, and were sometimes frustrated by, Brad’s steady Taurean reliability.
The famous Aries need to compete can become a need to win at all costs, or regardless of the cost. I use Andi, Abby’s best friend, to illustrate this when she warns Abby:
You’re doing that wilful Aries thing you do. You don’t have to win every battle. If you’re not careful, you’ll take it too far and be left with nothing.
Andi is the perfect vehicle to point these things out:
‘He’s a Taurus ‒ you know he can be really stubborn when he wants to be,’ she said. Andi, the eternal romantic, was into all of that. She was a Pisces, and told me that was why she loved inappropriate shoes, hopeless causes, the possibility of a happy ending, and unattainable men. I told her she was just deluded and lost in her fantasy world and that had nothing to do with astrology. She said it had everything to do with it.
One of Aries’ strengths is single-mindedness. In shadow it can become a tendency to see and believe only what is in front of you can become a stubborn refusal to believe in the existence of anything else. I use Andi again to say:
It’s the perspective thing. You only see what you see. Take this jug. The side I can see is blue, and the side you can see is red. You’d argue that it couldn’t possibly be blue on my side because you can’t see it. But I’d admit that there’s a possibility it could be red on your side even though I can’t see it. Then if I turned it around, you’d say that you knew all along that it was both red and blue and you’d believe you knew that all along.
We can also find our shadow when we stray too far into our opposite sign and find instead its shadow. This is what happened with Abby. Ever so gradually over the years her independence and fearlessness- the strengths that saw her stand up for what she believed in, the courage that made her charge head-first into whatever it was that was challenging her- these edges were smoothed, civilised and compromised.
In the first chapter, Brad sets this up when he tells her:
You’re picking an argument because I asked you to come with me and you don’t want to make the decision. What’s happened to you? There was a time when you would have jumped at the chance of an adventure ‒ you’d have been on that plane before I finished the sentence. Once upon a time, you would have jumped out of the plane!’
Once I’d put Abby into her shadow, I needed to give her the tools to climb back into her sun and find herself again.
Part of this was the strength of her Aries sun, but part was also looking to the best of her opposite sign- Libra. If taken too far, the Aries self-reliance, or doing it for themselves by themselves can also result in isolation- as Abby finds out during the book. She had to learn to understand that she couldn’t do everything on her own, that it was ok to accept help and to need someone else.
I did the same with Em in Baby, It’s You. Em is in many ways a good example of the textbook Pisces shadow- inappropriate footwear and a tendency to fall for unattainable men- not that she fell for anyone who belonged to anyone else, just men who were rebounding from someone, and needed to be fixed up so their past wanted them back. Her friend Susie, refers to it as renovation dating.
Em had, over the years, tried to find a way of controlling her environment through her Virgo opposite, but in doing so had become dependent on lists, organisation, and a very narrow world. Her Cancer ascendant hadn’t helped with this- in fact it had exaggerated her need for a comfort zone.
For Em to have her happy ending, she needed to be brought out of everything that was keeping her where she was comfortable. I needed to remove her boundaries, or rather, have her remove her own boundaries so that she could step out into possibility and trust that things would still be ok. To do that, I gave her someone else’s bucket list.
As for my heroes? They have a chart as well. Not so that I can send them through any personal growth journey, but so that I can develop their character.
Josh in Baby, It’s You, has all of the mutable, how – hard -can – it – be optimism of Sagittarius. For him, life is an adventure. An exhausting adventure.
Brad in Big Girls Don’t Cry has the steady patience and reliability of Taurus. Yes, he has a stubborn streak, but he’s learnt to temper that. I know I’m not meant to have favourites, but man I could fall hard for Brad!
As for Richie in (working title) Finding John Smith, well all I’m going to tell you about him is that his Sun is in Scorpio- the rest you’ll have to wait and see…