This post is an accompaniment to a character archetype post G for Gemini. Here's how I create characters based on an archetype from the Western Zodiac, with explanations of astrology for writers.
Whether you believe in astrology and having a particular set of character traits based on your date of birth, or are skeptical of the whole zodiac and star sign thing, most people are aware of certain expectations of character once you mention a star sign name, and writers can make use of this.
You can mix and match traits from this star sign, possibly with other signs associated to the birth date, or simply use a star sign like Gemini as a simple base for some characteristics.
There are a few options for creating a character off a zodiac base –
- Simple character traits from the star sign profile or using daily horoscopes to inspire character plot events
- Choose a birth date in the star sign range for your character, and add to the characteristics with an associated moon sign and ascending sign. More below.
- Take a look at the sun sign's elements and modalities for more possibilities. More below.
The below will briefly list some of the astrology attributes available, but this can become complex. Recommended further reading and links are listed below if you want to add to your working knowledge.
- I am not an astrologer. My interpretations of any charts found here are most probably erroneous or surface-level at best. I have used astrology as a basis for archetypal characteristics in fictional character development only, and interpreted as I saw fit. As a writer, you can and most probably will do the same.
- This post was themed towards character development only. Of course, many of the predictions which come via horoscopes can make good thoughts for plot events also. For more on this, see Corrine Kenner's book below.
Star Signs, Moon Signs and Ascending Signs
The Western Zodiac (originating in Ancient Greece and earlier) is based on 12 constellations seen in the Grecian skies. These are Sun (or Star) signs. When someone asks “What's your sign?” they are typically referring to your sun sign – the position of the sun on the date you were born. These are the astrology signs found in newspapers and magazine horoscopes across the world.
The Western Zodiac is made up of 12 signs profiled below.
Each of these signs is ruled by a planet, as a personal sign, which provides attributes or characteristics to that sign. These signs are also used through the Vedic or Hindu Zodiac prevalent through India and other countries, but note that in the Vedic Zodiac, the signs are Lunar signs, and the dates of those signs tend to shift across by up to a month. This means that if I'm a Gemini in Western astrology, I am a Taurus under the Vedic astrological system.
Signs, as a set of characteristics, are made up of the combination of elements, polarities and modes – see below on these.
Our sun sign is our sign of our core identity – who we are, what drives and motivates us, our egos and life goals. The sun sign is how we consciously act. WHO I AM.
Moon and Ascending Signs
Based on our birth date and time our full astrological chart is full of many more planets than just our sun sign, and some have even more bearing on our life.
The Moon Sign – found in our birth time, the moon sign represents our inner and often hidden self. The Moon sign is how your character will act under stress, what they keep hidden from themselves, and also will supply you, as a writer, with the source of the most inner conflict. Moon and sun signs are innate to the character.
In this respect, we are talking about a shadow archetype. It will show us what the character must overcome or assimilate to achieve their character growth arc.
Depending on what signs (and elements*) appear as the moon sign, on a basic level your character will need different things –
- Fire moons (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) need freedom and acknowledgment
- Earth moons (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) need stability
- Air moons (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius) need interaction and mental stimulation
- Water moons (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces) need to serve others and need time to themselves to recharge.
*for more on elements see below
The moon sign is the sign of our inner selves – our emotions, unconscious fears and instinctual habits. The moon sign is how we react. WHAT I NEED.
The Ascendant / Rising Sign – the ascendant sign indicates the first impression a character will give: how the character will react and approach a new environment. It is also known as “the mask” a person puts on as an outside front. In Psychology terms, this public face is the archetypal persona. It's how that character wants to be perceived by those around him.
The ascendant is the sign of our mask, or outward appearance – our natural defenses and how we deal with the day-to-day. HOW I RELATE.
Finding your Moon and Ascendant for your Character
There are a number of websites which will draw up an astrological chart for you. I have linked below to one if you want to take this process even further. But to simply find the moon and ascendant signs for your character, choose a birth date and time, and place, and input it into this website form: http://www.elbertwade.com/atlas.html.
Note that this website gives the sun, moon, ascending (based on time of birth) and an MC sign. The MC sign is the midheaven sign, which traditionally indicates the career, status or public aims in life for that person. It's another good source for archetypal traits, so you may want to look up something on that sign as MC.
Here's an example, where I randomly put in an early Gemini birth-date –
A character based on the above birth configuration would be very interesting and I will profile a little below, but first, let's look at some elements and modalities of the sun signs.
In Summary –
- Your sun sign is how you act and express your personality consciously
- Your moon sign is how you think and feel subconsciously
- Your ascendant / rising sign is how you portray yourself to the world (and are seen by the world) and what you strive to be
Elements, Polarities and Modalities
Each Western Zodiac sign is ruled by several categorization systems which may point to other characteristics of that sign holder.
The element of a sign reveals the basic temperament of the sign. A full star chart (see below) which has more than 4 planets sharing the same element will show a person who is extremely fixed in those elemental traits.
Fire and air are compatible, earth and water are compatible, but mix somebody as a fire with somebody as a water, and you may find some interesting dynamics with one watering down the other, or the other steaming up the conflict. Some characteristics of each element –
- Fire signs – Fire is the element of imagination: active, high energy, can't sit around, enthusiastic, positive, risk-taking, impulsive.
- Water signs – Water is the element of emotions: changeable, emotional, sensitive, compassionate, caring, high feelings, intuitive, can be overwhelmed.
- Air signs – Air is the element of communication and the mind: intellectual, social, open, talkative, reasonable, open-minded, require mental stimulation, but also can be aloof and detached at times.
- Earth signs – Earth characters are attuned to reality and rely on what they can see, hear, etc. with their senses: stable, practical, calm, patient, prefer to not push the boat, can be stubborn, pragmatic but sensuous.
Note that aside from elements, there is a similar sign delineation based on the seasons. These are again, based on the Greek calendar or Northern Hemisphere's seasons at the time the zodiac was created. But as somebody who lives in the Southern Hemisphere I personally find it difficult to look on a Gemini (born in the Southern winter season) as being a Spring sign. However, the seasons have a bearing on modalities (below).
The twelve signs are broken out into two sets of six in polarities. In current terms, these are masculine vs feminine or yang vs yin, or simply think of them as opposites.
Other names indicate the energy levels polarities symbolise – active vs passive, positive vs negative, extroverted vs introverted. I prefer to think of it as active vs receptive energies.
These terms can be a little unhelpful, as the natural inclination is to go for an active polar sign, because passive is bad, right? Add in the whole male versus female dynamic, and it's a whole heap of difficulty. But consider the Greek mythology gods of Ares and Athena – both are traditionally Gods of War – Ares is the hot-headed truly active God who goes in all guns blazing, but Athena is the Goddess who all the soldiers follow, because they know she's got their backs – she is the God of Strategic War, combined with wisdom. Ares is active, Athena sits back and strategizes, a form of receptive action. But both are examples of alpha heroes. Athena was born fully grown and armoured from her father Zeuses' head, so she's undeniably an alpha warrior.
- masculine/positive/active: The fire and air signs are extroverted, objective, assertive, and active. They act and go after what they want.
- feminine/negative/receptive: The water and earth signs are introverted, subjective, receptive, and passive. They react and wait to see what will happen.
Signs also have been broken into three modalities (sometimes called modes, or Modes of Being) – Cardinal, Fixed and Mutable. These each have characteristics applicable to four star signs.
Astrology follows the four seasons, which correspond to the four elements, and each of these three-month-long seasons is comprised of a beginning, middle, and end.
- Cardinal – marks the beginning of the season and the power of initiation. These signs represent new beginnings, and have the power to initiate things easily, but may have problems with follow-through. They are the go-getters, with their minds centered on actions.
- Fixed – corresponds to the middle of the season and the power of sustaining or maintaining. They are stable and stubborn about sticking to their setting, good at establishing the stability and security of a new initiative caused by the cardinals, but the signs which least like change.
- Mutable – represents the end of the season and the power of change. Mutables are adaptable, flexible, go with the flow. They can instigate and communicate change when necessary, but because they can see all sides, can find it hard to make decisions.
Going back to this quick example profile. What we have here is –
Sun – WHO AM I – Gemini.
Mutable Air – The Gemini motto is “I THINK” and with a mutable air sign, this possibly makes my character a double-thinker. Air is intellectual, talkative, social and open, but also as a mutable sign, he's not going to make decisions very easily. A bit scatter-brained, actually. As an active masculine sign, he's energetic and possibly pushy with it. Gemini's have dual-natures and have a sense of fun.
Moon – WHAT HE NEEDS – Aries.
Cardinal Fire– ouch, fire heats up the air of Gemini, wafting smoke everywhere. Aries is all action orientated, the warrior of the signs, enthusiastic with a motto of “I AM”. So, underneath, this Gemini reacts in a flash to protect himself, but really needs to embrace the power of his temper, and use it proactively to get things done. He is conflicted between his need to be who he is, and his need to overthink as a Gemini.
Ascending – HOW DOES HE RELATE – Leo.
Fixed Fire – double fire. It's getting hot, hot, hot here. The Leo is King of his domain, with a motto of “I WILL” and that's how this character acts. A natural ruler, this character takes over and demands to be the centre of attention. Double fire means the air of his main sun sign just isn't powerful enough to simply make smoke. Maybe it's just all hot air and bluster? A triple masculine too – this character is very active and outwardly and inwardly forceful. Leo's can come across as being lazy, though, and with a high sense of entitlement which could make him enemies until other characters realise he also has the high reasoning and sensible powers of the Gemini intellectual.
MC – Career and Public Goals – Taurus.
Taurus are into luxurious careers. Jobs like Jewellery merchants, actors, property. With the above chart aspects, this character may have the ambition to be some kind of Property Magnate, or just a King or Ruler.
This character has all the qualities of a very good hero, full of dynamic but reasoned action – or a mastermind villain with a big sense of entitlement. Or a smart bully?
Even More Signs
Want to take it further? A full astrological chart will give you some other interesting signs and dynamics of personality. Input your birth date, time and place into the form here, and you will get a chart similar to my example one.
Below the website chart you will find brief profiles of all the signs in certain “Houses” on the mini reading. From this summary you can –
- List out all the signs in their positions and find those which are dominant. If you have a majority of masculine signs your character will be very active in their energy levels. If you have a lot of Aquarius signs across the chart, despite the character having a Gemini sun sign, they will have a lot of Aquarian attributes to investigate.
- Venus and Mars signs –
- Venus governs your romantic relationships, who you attract, how you attract them, your social skills, how affectionate you are, what you consider beautiful, what you want in a partner, and how you interact with others. It also oversees money – both spending and receiving (earning). Which ever sign appears in Venus provides the dynamics of the character's love and money aspects.
- Mars is about your motivation, your initiative, your aggression, your confidence, your inner drive, your physical strength and stamina, what you want to achieve, where you put your energy, how much of a risk-taker you are, how passionate you are, and your sexual energy.
- Uranus, Pluto and Neptune planets have a larger social or group relevancy. If you are creating a character who is a rebel, group leader or a story with a world theme you may be interested in looking into these.
–> For more information on the planets, see here. There are many other websites which will give you profiles for the signs.
My Example Chart
The above full chart is based on my example character. According to this chart, I have some additional information.
Although my major signs for this example character are Gemini, Aries and Leo, in the mini reading Taurus not only appears as the MC sign, but in Venus and Mars. Taurus is known for their caring and affectionate side but also for their slow thoroughness in what they do. This puts a whole new slant on this character:
With Taurus as the ruling sign over Mars, it takes some of the force out of any actions this character may take. Taurus is a fixed earth sign, this really grounds the more firey signs of the main chart above. Although he may be all Leo and “this is my domain, yo” it's feasibly all about his family or loved ones. He's becoming a protector type.
Some Fun – Fictional Signs in Harry Potter
Many fictional characters don't come with birthdates, but JK Rowling provided some for her main characters –
Harry Potter, born July 31st is a typical Leo. Leo's are natural rulers, generous and kind-hearted. Hermoine Granger was born September 19th making her a Virgo. Virgos are academics and practical, overcritical and harsh. Ron Weasley was born March 1st, a Pisces – a sensitive and warm although sometimes vague friend. Severus Snape and Voldermort are both reported as Capricorns, explaining the command and officiousness of each.
My Pinterest Boards
- Mythology – Zodiacs and Elements | Writing References
- Characters – Using Zodiac and Elemental Archetypes for Development
- Bryn Donovan published a full series on Writing Characters with Zodiac Traits – here's the Gemini one.
- Recommended Reading –
- Book: Astrology for Writers: Spark your Creativity Using the Zodiac by Corrine Kenner (Amazon link)
- Book: Astro-Characters: A Writer's Guide to Creating Compelling Fictional Characters With the Signs of Zodiac by Judy Hall (Amazon link)
- Pamela Moran has a fantastic workshop called Creating Characters Using Astrology – recently run online at Writer Univ. Check her website for her next course.
- Mary O'Gara teaches an online course Astrology for Writers. The last was in 2015 at Savvy Authors. Her website here.
- Character Basics through Astrology – this post takes a different slant to the houses. The website, Planetary Writer, contains some interesting posts also.
- Rachel Funk Heller put up a couple of posts on the subject, then stopped.
- A Writer's Astrology – this post profiles each sign, and lists famous writers born in that sign.
- The small chart of Sun, Moon, Ascending and MC signs to birth date is created here. The same script code is found elsewhere on the web.
- The full astrological chart created with brief profiles of all the planet signs is created here.
More Astrology Basics
- Free Astrology Lessons – explains elements, modalities and star signs comprehensively.
- For more information on the planets, see here.
- A Brief Introduction to Astrology – profiles the signs.
More Zodiac Archetypes
You don't have to confine yourself to the Western Zodiac. Many nations hold their own astrological beliefs. There is a Balinese, African, Indonesian, Tibetan, Iranian, Arabian, Mayan Astrology (and many more) and of course, the Chinese Zodiac based on birth years.
Once you have created a date of birth for your character you can hook into any of these systems for archetypal characteristics.
Day of Birth
Most people are aware of the poem about your birth day –
Monday's child is fair of face,Tuesday's child is full of grace;Wednesday's child is full of woe,Thursday's child has far to go;Friday's child is loving and giving,Saturday's child works hard for its living;But the child that is born on the Sabbath dayIs bonny and blithe, and good and gay.
If you are not aware of what day of the week your fictional birth date fell on, input it here. Day of Birth net will give you the day, and a profile of characteristics for people born on that day. My example Gemini character was born on a Saturday, making him (according to the site): serious, prone to worry, intellectual and a bit of a rebel.
The Myanmar or Burmese Zodiac works with days of the week also. There are eight signs as Wednesday is split between AM and PM. As my character was Saturday born, in the Myanmar Zodiac he has been born as a Dragon – which means he is intelligent and hard-working and destined to be a leader, but considered unlucky in relationships.