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Soul Cutters Chapter 1

by Gnomish

I reached down into the water and pulled out a slab of mud for the hundredth time that day. I slapped it on the top of the rock and turned to my younger brother, who was doing the exact same thing next to me. "This day seems especially long." I splashed water on the rock, and let it fall into my waiting hand. I sifted through it, and finding nothing I dropped it back into the water, disappointed.

“And still no dreamstone.” He sighed. “Sometimes I feel that it doesn’t even exist.”

“Darren! How could you say that?” I repeated the process. “Mr. Rontaly’s nice. He wouldn’t make us keep searching if there was nothing here.” He was about to respond as the bell rang.

I finished the mud that I was “washing,” then dried my feet on the rocks and slipped on my badly torn shoes. Darren did the same and picked up his shoes. What was left of them.

“I don’t mean he’s just making us keep working, maybe he doesn’t know either. Besides, you should be glad he makes us work. How else do you think we would get any money?” he argued.

I sighed. He was right. No one else would hire us.

We walked back home and waited to get paid. Mr. Rontaly dropped ten clinks into our hands, plus a few extra for working through our lunch break.

I grinned happily. A few extra clinks could mean an extra meal for us. Despite the long workday, it was worth it.

I showed my mother the money, and she smiled when she saw the extra clinks.

“Here.” She handed them back to me. “Can you buy some stew and milk?”

Darren and I ducked out of our house, if you could call it that, and raced into the market. We walked to the cheapest stall, and sorted out our clinks. While Darren bought one big bowl of stew, I went to the next stall for milk. I carefully handed the man four clinks, and grabbed four packs of milk. You could pay an extra clink for a cold pack, but we couldn’t sacrifice even that. We walked back slowly, careful not to spill a drop of the stew. It was a treat for us, as meat was expensive.

We walked back, and placed the soup and milk onto the table.

It was just the four of us. Mother, Darren, the baby, and me. Our mother had been trying to get a job all her life, but not many people would hire a homeless woman.

Our father had more luck, but we weren’t so poor back then. I know I had a father, but he's a title with no name or face. When he died (of what, I don't know) our memories of him were cut, releasing the bond that threatened to pull us into the Otherworld as well. We had always been poorer than average, but that was normal in our town, and when he was still alive we could afford a small apartment in the heart of the village. After he died, with the little money we had from Darren and I starting to work at the river, we had only enough for food and our landlord threw us out of the apartment. We took our few belongings and moved to a shack Mother had built using the pieces of wood from the warehouses lining the river.

“How was your day?” Mother asked.

“Long.” Darren replied.

“Normal.” I said.

“A letter came for you.” she told me. “It was from a Cutter!”

I stopped eating. “A Cutter? What would they want?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t open it. It arrived this morning.” Even in our sorry state, Mother had still kept our box at the mail center. We didn’t have any money to mail a letter, not to mention none of us knew how to write. A few years ago I learned to read, but we couldn’t afford pens or paper to practice writing with.

She disappeared behind the torn sheet we used as a curtain, and emerged a second later with a crisp envelope held shut with a seal marked with the Cutters symbol.

I opened it slowly, taking care not to tear the paper inside.

Dear Miss Alander.” It began. I looked up questionably at my Mother, but continued. “It is my pleasure to tell you that you have been chosen as apprentice Cutter, if you deem fit. I was told you are the oldest child of Mr. James Alander, your late father. Of course, I’m sure you don’t remember anything about him, and I can’t tell you much, but I will say that your father was a Cutter. Quite a good one in fact. He came from a not so well off family, and was not as respected as perhaps he should have been. In any case, I have enclosed a train ticket to the city, as well as instructions on where the hotel I have booked you a room in is. I shall expect you in my office at 9:00 am sharp, on Sunday morning. If all goes well, you should be back in the city three weeks from now, to commence your training.


Mr. John Teller, 39 Brook Avenue.

“Our father was a Cutter?” Darren blurted out, surprised.

“I suppose so.” Mother replied. “I don’t know why Mr. Teller would lie.”

I reached into the envelope and found one train ticket, as well as a piece of paper bearing detailed instructions to get from the train station, to the Black Wolf’s Inn.

“It’s Friday today, right?” I asked mother.

“Yes. What day is your train ticket for?”

“Tomorrow.” I replied. “Should I go?”

“Yes off course!” Darren said. “Even if you don’t want to, you don’t really have much of a choice.”

“Darren’s right.” Added Mother. “Cutters are very powerful. If one says you are to become one, you will.”

“What about my work? I’ll miss a few days working at the river, and we need those extra coins.”

“If all goes well, you’ll be making much more than just ten clinks!”

She had made it clear I had no choice in the matter and even though I felt guilty about leaving, I was secretly glad that I was going to the city.

“Finish your supper. I’ll take you to the train station in the morning. And Darren, don’t tell Mr. Rontaly that she went to the city. Just say she’s sick.”

Darren nodded.

“Get a good night’s sleep tonight. You have a big day ahead of you!”

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87 Reviews

Points: 674
Reviews: 87

Wed Mar 27, 2019 12:31 pm
TheMulticoloredCyr wrote a review...

Hi! I know you've gotten a lot of feedback on this chapter already, so I won't go too in depth due to the fact that anything I say will no-doubt have already been said by someone else. That said, I do believe I could offer some advice.

Number one, and the very first thing I noticed, is the title. I know that this was definitely not your intention, but terms like "cutter" can be ridiculously triggering for some people. I don't happen to be one of them (thank my therapist, because he is an angel among mere mortals) but it's something that you may want to keep in mind. I realize that it would take a lot of time and work to change such an integral part of the story, but I had to bring it up.

The second thing is, you limit yourself too much on how you can relay information to the readers. You tend to stick to keeping the ever-vital exposition in the main text or integrated into dialogue with varying levels of success. I know that you're probably wondering what other options there are, and you're kind of right that there aren't really any, but it's how you go about it that can change.

First consider what your readers need to know right now. In this case I would assume those things are the job your MC and her brother have, the members of the family, and that all memories of the dad are gone from his family's minds.

You do a good job on the first one, an ok job on the second one, and a below average job on the last one.

Let's try 'en improve that, shall we.

My first instinct if I was given this challenge would be to have the MC try to remember. Have her strain her mind for something, anything on her father and...nothing. Have her internally sigh at the magic involved and go back to her task. (After all, she ‘ought to be keeping her mind busy somehow with so many hours of repetitive labor).

But maybe you don't want to do that, maybe it goes against her character or something of the sort. So let's find an option B.

Maybe she has a conversation with her mother, or her brother, about it. Maybe one of them was trying to remember, or maybe they just make a comment on it, and your MC explains, as if for the hundredth time, that the magic won't allow that. That the memories are just gone.

Or maybe it’s the mom who says that to the little brother, in which case your MC would play the role of the onlooker. With that approach you could add just a little bit to her character by having her react to this somehow, like maybe she sighs in exasperation or adds to what her mom says. Or maybe all of her commenting is internal. Whichever way, it portrays this information a little more organically and keeps the reader more engaged during the duration. (And hey, there are probably thousands of other ways to do this, don’t be afraid to play around!)

(If you want to PM me to help you out with some of this kind of brainstorming feel free! Or even just to chat, though I might take a little while to respond for the duration of this week because it’s experience week and I’ve got painting, sewing, and garden assembling to do.)(Just garden assembling tomorrow) (it’s on a day by day thing) (I made a pillow today) (Below my skill level, but it’s fuzzy so who am I to complain)

Those are the only real issues I took with the piece other than that. Any other trivial thing was covered by someone else, and repeating it would be futile. Just be more mindful of the terms you use in the future and try to look at scenes from a few more angles. “Treat nothing as sacred” as my favorite history teacher told me in the middle of the civil war unit after I showed him a short story I had written. He was too good for the world. (He made me cry four times, not for the reasons you’re thinking). What he meant was, because it wasn’t clear to me at first and I won’t assume that you can just suddenly comprehend something it took me a year to get, you shouldn’t hold on to any detail of your story just because that’s how you wanted it at first. If there’s no plot-related reason for the scene to happen in a hard-to-describe busy subway station on- I don’t know- Mars or something, then move it! Like he said, treat nothing as sacred.

Anyway, that’s all the advice I have to give (or pass on) so I’ll be going now. Let me know if you have any questions, or if anything I said came off as rude or condescending. I know that I’ve been giving off that vibe lately and I want to stop, so really, please tell me.

Goodbye, and happy writing!

Gnomish says...

Thanks for the review!
I didn't realize the title might trigger some people, although I am looking for a new title. (If you have any ideas, please let me know)

I don't know about any new title ideas yet, but I'll think about it.

Gnomish says...


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90 Reviews

Points: 2462
Reviews: 90

Fri Feb 15, 2019 7:01 pm
AvantCoffee wrote a review...

Hiya. I'm going to try to review all six chapters you've published of this story, so let's see how we go with this first one~

The opening of this chapter is strong because of the immediate actions and speaking of who is presumed to be the main character. I found myself interested in the story from the first paragraph because you're using a lot of showing (in present action/situation) rather than telling story information, so you're doing a lot of good things here! From this I know that the main character and their younger brother are doing labour they don't particularly enjoy, that they're looking for a dreamstone, and that Mr. Rontaly got them to do it – all without directly been told. I'm noting this excellent demonstration because later on in this chapter you show less and tell more, which is something that can be improved.

I grinned happily. A few extra clinks could mean an extra meal for us. Despite the long workday, it was worth it.

I showed my mother the money, and she smiled when she saw the extra clinks.

The time/space transition feels jolting to me here. One moment the main character is collecting clinks, the next they're showing their mother. It's a bit too quick. You could transition this more by having the character arrive next to their mother first. I think you're safe with introducing the other characters relatively fast (the main character, Darren, Mr. Rontaly), but introducing the mother might need a little extra set up from my read of it.

While Darren bought one big bowl of stew, I went to the next stall for milk. I carefully handed the man four clinks, and grabbed four packs of milk. You could pay an extra clink for a cold pack, but we couldn’t sacrifice even that.

I lost a bit of interest when reading this part, since these details don't really feel like they contribute anything significant to the story. However it's only a short part, so it's nothing to really fret about.

It was just the four of us. Mother, Darren, the baby, and me.

The baby hasn't been mentioned before now, so having this new character seemed sudden to me.

Our father had more luck,

This whole paragraph is essentially a chunk of backstory, which isn't the best. Here is where you tell the reader information about the story instead of showing it through the story itself. If you ever want to know more about what I mean in this regard I'm happy to answer any questions. In any case, it would probably be better if you split up this information about the father, since reading it all in one go feels less like reading a story and more like reading a plot point summary.

As I'm reading I'm noticing that your use of dialogue (character speaking) is really good and flows naturally. And it's not useless talking either. I really feel like I'm learning about these characters when they talk. c:

Ooh, I'm interested in this Cutter concept! It makes me want to read more of this story to find out what that whole Cutter thing is about. That being said, I thought I'd bring up the title of this novel. What first came to mind with the title was self-harm, which made me suspect that the novel would involve that. That is where my mind went to, and that was my first preconception, but it seems others who reviewed this chapter didn't jump to that assumption. I would suggest retitling your story, but you might not need to. I at least wanted to point this out.

Okay! That's my review of this chapter. Overall it's looking promising. I'll try to review the second chapter as soon as I can. ^^

Gnomish says...

Thanks for the review! I know I should change the name of the story, but that's just what I've been calling it since I can't thing of anything else. (Any suggestions highly appreciated!)

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562 Reviews

Points: 14535
Reviews: 562

Tue Feb 12, 2019 10:43 am
FlamingPhoenix wrote a review...

Hello, FlamingPhoenix here with a review for you.

Okay let's get started.

So I will start off by saying this is a great way t start the story, it gets your reader hooked and makes them want to move over to the next chapter, so lucky me there are five more for me to read.
I will have to say that it was your name you picked for this story that got my attention, I have to say I'm really wondering what it means, so I can't wait to find out.
Over all your chapter was really good, your getting your reader to know each character slowly and that's something I don't see to often.
I also like it that you told us how their life is hard int he beginning instead of bringing that in later.
Another thing I have to say is that I love the way you ended your chapter, it wasn't really a cliffhanger, but it did kind of make us want to read more, well that's how I fell.

Now down to the review:

I think everything is really well done, but there is one thing you did miss, like @AmadeusW said you are missing the description. In a story to get your reader really interested you have to had a kind of good setting. It doesn't need to be perfect but there is one place you kind of do need it to get your reader really drawn into your story.
To me that spot is the very start of your chapter. Now when you begin I can guess it's around midday. So use your description to tell us that. So I'm going to show you what I mean. What I'm about to write is how I feel the beginning of the chapter should start or something like it.

A cool breeze blew over the valley, chilling the hot air from the midday sun for a split second. The bright glow of the sun reflected over the cool water of a stream, running through the lush grass lands.

I know it's not much, but it will give you an idea of what I mean. I hope this doesn't sound rude or anything. I hope to see more works from you soon. And if you need anymore point to post another chapter don't be afraid to ask me. Never stop writing and have a great day/night.

Your friend
FlamingPhoenix. :D
Moving onto the next chapter!

Gnomish says...

Thanks! I've never been good at detailed descriptions!

That's okay. I'm here to help you. :D

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103 Reviews

Points: 497
Reviews: 103

Tue Feb 12, 2019 4:19 am
AmadeusW wrote a review...

This is an intriguing story! I'm interested to see where this goes.

Let's get right to the review:

I'm not really seeing the setting. I really think you should add some more description to really lay out the scene before entering it, so the audience knows at least a little bit about where they've been dropped into. So far, I don't know if this is a futuristic world, an extraterrestrial world, a past timeframe, a steampunk fantasy, or contemporary with a twist. Fleshing out the setting will help make the story feel more real.
Second, I'm not clear on whether Darren is older or younger than the main character. Feel free to mention that.

So far this is very interesting, and I can see this story could have a promising future.

Here's a title idea (humorously): "Origami Masters: The Next Generation"

Gnomish says...

First of all, I didn't go to much into the setting because it changes shortly, but I will try to add a bit more detail. Second of all, Darren is younger, and that's mentioned in the later chapters. Thanks for the review!

How can I be king of the world? Because I am king of rubbish. And rubbish is what the world is made of.
— Kate DiCamillo, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane