Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction“Hey, Baby, what’s your sign?”

It’s a cheesy pick-up line that brings to mind a stereotypical caricature of a slick-haired, middle-aged man wearing gold chains and polyester disco pants trying to hit on a woman more hip to the 21st century.

The zodiac is a zone in the sky that follows the path of the sun, moon and significant planets. It’s divided into 12 equal parts with each one representing a zodiac sign used to determine one’s horoscope (a destiny governed by the stars).

While I’m not interested in predicting futures, I am interested in signs. It was the first influence I encountered in regards to personality traits. As a kid, I didn’t read my horoscope to determine my day, I read it to gain a greater sense of self-awareness.

Once I got into management, my interest turned to personality types and how teams could work together more effectively. Through leadership training, I learned about Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It’s based on a Jungian theory about behavior and personality types.

Later I got into following strengths-based psychology because it develops the opportunity to do one’s best. Personally, I like to review my own strengths when feeling blocked or negative. Self-awareness continues to be important part of my writing, to better understand who I am and what this world and humanity are all about.

Over they years, I’ve attended writing workshops and read books that discuss personality traits of characters. Usually, I get to know my characters through writing so I haven’t yet used any kind of assessment for my characters, although I believe it’s a plausible pursuit.

However, I’m in an unique position to know the signs of my characters Sarah Shull, Cob McCanles and Wild Bill Hickok. They were real people with real birth-dates. It was while writing out my research cards that I recognized Hickok as a fellow Gemini. It got me wondering. Turns out that Sarah is a Libra and Cob a Sagittarius.  What does this mean? I didn’t know but I thought it was worth exploring so I went to The Secret Language to look up their birth-dates.

What a gold mine of insight I found there! If you’ve been following my flash fiction, then you know I’ve been using it to explore the relationships of these three. I’m interested in who they are as holistic people, not as one-dimensional heroes or villains that legend has made of them. In knowing their signs (based on their day, month and even historic year of birth) I felt as though I got to better understand who they were.

Sarah Shull: “Prone to exhibitionism, those born on this day are never happier than when they are the center of attention in any gathering. It is extremely difficult for them to go unnoticed, and although they can spend long periods alone, they need to emerge periodically and be recognized for who they are.”

Does this sound like a woman who would take being shunned by her community or set aside by her lover? Oh, I feel the plot thickening already.

Cob McCanles: “Most November 30 people also have a fine sense of humor that is subtle, but it can also expand to the full-out thigh-slapping, raucous guffaw as well. Excellent mimics, those born on this day use satire in such a subtle way that others may miss the intention…almost. Their humor is indeed of the thought-provoking variety.”

Now I believe that it’s true (according to the stories passed down in my family) that Cob teased Hickok mercilessly and dubbed him “Duck Bill” because of his nose and lip.

Wild Bill Hickok: “Generally on the side of the individual, they hate oppression and exploitation, opposing them both in theory and in practice. These people will not usually back down from a fight. Naturally combative, they stick up for what they believe is right and will not hesitate to attack wrongdoing in any form, be it moral or practical, for these individuals believe there is a right way and a wrong way to do things, and that only the right way will yield uniformly positive results.”

This trait supports my theory that Hickok believed he was protecting the oppressed–be that Sarah, or the station manager and his wife on the day Cob showed up to “clean up” on Rock Creek.

Further, the horoscope site let me use a relationship finder. I wasn’t surprised to find out that Cob’s and Hickok’s personalities clash, or that Cob and Sarah naturally had an easy physicality that was hard to suppress and prone to flirtation. That helps shed light on the question of why Cob had an affair with Sarah. As to her relationship with Hickok, it was one that was fun and relaxed. Even just as friends, their enjoyment could have caused Cob jealousy.

So in honor of signs, we will explore the influence of the stars this week. You can explore the 12 signs to see if a particular one fits a character you are developing. Or maybe a particular sign gives you a story idea, a nugget of the unseen influencing lives. While you don’t have to be cheesy like that guy asking, “Hey, Baby, what’s your sign?” you can have your characters explore horoscopes as a topic.

September 10, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) focus on the personality traits of a character informed by the zodiac. It can be a revelation of how he or she acts or a focus on behavior because of personality traits. It can be a relationship ruled by the stars. You can have fun and exaggerate, or keep it subtle and refined. You can use zodiac terms or not.

Respond by noon (PST) Tuesday, September 16 to be included in the compilation.

When I started to write, two stories emerged. It must be in today’s horoscope for Geminis.

For the Fun of It by Charli Mills

“I don’t know Cob, he was born in the spring. He’s fresh as peach blossoms.” Sarah smiled, pouring coffee at the woodstove. She sat down next to him at the table with two enamel mugs. Autumn sunshine and cool air sifted through the open door of the sod house.

Sipping her cup, she leaned into Cob. “Hickok means nothing to me. I just hate being holed up by myself. He’s fun, that’s all.”

“Funny looking,” said Cob. “He’s got that duckbill look. Quack, quack. Sara’s fun friend, quack quack.”

“Somebody call my name?” Hickok’s tall frame filled the doorway.


Stars and Seasons by Charli Mills

“In 1858 a comet streaked across the sky,” Sarah said in between bites of apple cobbler. The Williams family seated around their polished dining table listened, spoons clinking on fine china. “It was destiny. Something I was born to do.” Sarah stared into her empty bowl.

Jesse Williams, twelve years old, shared the same birthday with the vagrant old crone her mother pitied. “Was it in the stars to go west, Aunt Sarah?”

Sarah barely nodded, still looking down as if viewing a sad painting. “Peach blossoms and fiery fall maple leaves are not meant for the same season.”


Rules of Play:

  1. New Flash Fiction challenge issued at Carrot Ranch each Wednesday by noon (PST).
  2. Response is to be 99 words. Exactly. No more. No less.
  3. Response is to include the challenge prompt of the week.
  4. Post your response on your blog before the following Tuesday by noon (PST) and share your link in the comments section of the challenge that you are responding to.
  5. If you don’t have a blog or you don’t want to post your flash fiction response on your blog, you may post your response in the comments of the current challenge post.
  6. Keep it is business-rated if you do post it here, meaning don’t post anything directly on my blog that you wouldn’t want your boss to read.
  7. Create community among writers: read and comment as your time permits, keeping it fun-spirited.
  8. Each Tuesday I will post a compilation of the responses for readers.
  9. You can also follow on Carrot Ranch Communications by “liking” the Facebook page.
  10. First-time comments are filtered by Word Press and not posted immediately. I’ll find it (it goes to my email) and make sure it gets posted! After you have commented once, the filter will recognize you for future commenting. Sorry for that inconvenience, but I do get frequent and strange SPAM comments, thus I filter.

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