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E - Everyone

The Sculptor's Knife: Chapter 2.1

by redvictory

The quilt was emerging from the wood nicely. The patterns I had planned weren’t perfect. Drawing wasn’t my strong suit. But with the three-dimensional aspect of the wood I could salvage the designs. That was where my skill lied.

I had brought my tools to my room before I had gone to sleep. This morning I opened my shutters and, pushing bedhead and cowlicks aside, went to work, littering wood shavings over my clay-stained sheets. Early to bed and early to rise, they say.

My room was cluttered with old pieces already. Some of them were finished, many weren’t. My work wasn’t well-planned. If I had an idea, I started it. If a piece slipped from my mind, which they often did, it lay forgotten and gathered dust.

There were also sculptures hidden around the house. Not in places where my parents would see them and scold me for making a mess, just unused shelves and cabinets with doors that stuck too much to allow for easy, daily use. A few of my found-object pieces were stored in caches at the fringes of the woods behind my house like dirty magazines from the 80’s. That wasn’t ideal. I only put things that were sturdy and easily-washed outside, like plastic. I don’t know why I care about that. I don’t have room to display them anywhere even if I wanted to. Cleaning my sculptures would be as pointless as preservation already was. Yet, I refused to allow any of my pieces to become unrecoverable.

Time ate away at the morning like my tools ate away at the wood. Slowly, but steadily, and not in any way that I could measure. Suddenly, my alarm broke me out of my stupor. I put my tools on my nightstand, counting them twice, then three times, to make sure none were hidden in my pile of sheets. I left the sculpture where it was.

Getting ready was routine. I noticed that the sole of my shoe was starting to wear through. I could dig my finger into the heel, which was apparently hollow. Cheap. I looked at my old pair of shoes, faded and word, then to the cabinet that held the duct tape. Old shoes. Duct tape. I went to the cabinet.

On the way out I made sure to scratch my dog behind the ear and get him some water. Someone had left his bowl empty. I went to my car. The adhesive of the tape stuck to the ground where a corner had folded over. It would wear off eventually with enough steps. I got into my car and tightened my laces. I used to drive my neighbor, but eventually she told me that she didn’t need me to drive her anymore. She didn’t give any more detail than that. Now it was just me.

It was a quick ride to school down the narrow, winding road spotted with potholes that always made me feel like I was drifting off the road. Once I got to school, it was the same long walk to the school doors from where I had parked. Already I felt clouds settling over me like the fog that clung to the football field. I looked at how the haze played against the grass, the chalked lines, and the stands. My fingers twitched, molding clay in my head. I was gone.


The morning was uneventful. I put forth effort in my classes, as much as I could muster at least, but the tests that were too tough for me didn’t really get to my head. Some people said that made me a burnout. I disagreed. I did as much as I could to prepare, and from that point any failure is unavoidable. Why worry about what one has no power over?

The only thing in the entirety of the school day that truly had sway over me was the lunch bell. I would have been the first one out the door if I wasn’t the only person whose bag wasn’t packed up already. I was too spacey to put all those movements together until the drone of dismissal snapped me awake. I missed my headstart while I put my things away, my muscles suddenly obeying me again, then made my way out as quickly as I could.

It took all my effort not to throw open the teacher’s door like a madman. Under the guise of calm, I returned to the same spot as before. Michelle and Lily made room for me without a glance this time.

“Ashton, do you have Mrs. Jacobs?” someone asked. I started. It was Jace. I shook my head, and he continued into some sort of grievance he had with a social studies teacher. My eyes found his lips. I sometimes read lips if my ears weren’t working fast enough. That was all this was. Yes.

After that, I slowly joined lunchtime conversations more and more. At first it was only Jace including me. My fingers twitched every time my name was shaped by his lips. Lily joined him soon and, organically, Connie and Michelle followed suit and began including me too. Asking me things. Saying my name.

I got into the flow over time. Sometimes I would say something wrong, or throw in a statement that didn’t fit quite right. But so did the others. We weren’t a perfect group. But we were bound tightly to each other with sinewy thread that even the blades of a sculptor couldn’t hope to sever. And I’ll be damned if I didn’t try. But there was something that always kept me with them. It was an urge, something primal, that whispered how strength lay in numbers. No matter what happened between us, no matter how strained our bonds became, I never left them. None of us left. The thought of sitting alone again, biting into apples and my tongue while listening to music with heavy guitar and thumping drums, was not even a possibility my brain would entertain. Going to the same classroom at the same time every day was the only way things could be. It was inevitable, like gravity.

So I didn’t even think twice when I went to the same room the next day. And the next. And over and over until I was one of them, getting glimpses of a past that I had never been a part of.

They were thrilling. We talked about everything. Sometimes one person would just talk about their day, or their week. Sometimes we all would. Sometimes we would talk about ethics or morals or politics. If one person was home sick, we would talk about them behind their back. I could only imagine they all did the same for me. I didn’t mind. My ears could burn all they liked. It was worth the drunken thrill of digging up the bastard flaws of the people who I was starting to call friends.

Sometimes we would talk about books. I didn’t read much. It took me a while to get through a book. The only time I really read was during downtime in class or just any time I got bored at school. Addison was the one who got the most into it. She was analytical in a way that only a writer can be. The rest all faded in and out. They had favorite genres that they didn’t stray too much away from. Jace’s was realistic fiction. The rest all muddled together. We often had two or three conversations going at a time, so if anyone hadn’t read that day’s book, there were other things to say.

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641 Reviews

Points: 46598
Reviews: 641

Sun Jan 26, 2020 1:34 pm
Panikos wrote a review...

Hiya, redvictory! Happy Review Day.

I haven't read the first chapter of this, but I'll do my best to give you some useful feedback. Starting with the positives, I think you have a really strong narration style - I love the solid, steady way that you pace your sentences, and you have a lovely eye for detail. More than that, the writing is so solidly planted in the protagonist's POV. Even though I've come into this without any context, I still get a great sense of the narrator's oddities and detachment from the rest of the world. I'm surprised to realise that he's only a teenager, because he talks in the manner of somebody much older, but that's a great way to characterise him. His attentiveness to his sculpting and his strange disconnection from his peers make him instantly interesting. I think his attitude to testing also tells us a lot about him; he's not a person that worries about things that are beyond his control.

However, while there's a lot of intrigue here, I can't say there's much forward movement, nor much of a hook. I don't really know what this story is about and I couldn't guess from the content of this chapter. The one thing to be wary of when you write detached characters is that stories can quickly become tiresome if the protagonist doesn't want anything. The protagonist seems very much like he's coasting along, being pulled this way and that, rather than actually influencing the direction of the story. That's a tricky thing to pull off, because desire and motivation sit at the heart of almost every novel. If your character is too passive, he's not going to be interesting to read about in the long run.

This is only the second chapter, but I don't think a generic day-in-the-life is the best way to reel people in, not unless the character's typical day is particularly bizarre. I'd like to see you incorporating more...I don't know, mystery or tension or change in the status quo. What is the plot of this story? How is it coming through? What's going to happen to the protagonist to throw his everyday life out of shape, and how is he going to react and deal with it? A story needs change, otherwise it's just a jumble of characters wandering from place to place. What's going to change in this novel?

My advice would be to pinpoint that. Think about what your protagonist wants (he doesn't have to necessarily be aware of what he wants) and what's stopping him from achieving it. You've got a lovely, evocative writing style and a narrator with bags of potential, but not much sign of a plot so far. That's what you need to pin down.

I hope this helped! Keep writing! :D



redvictory says...

Thank you so much for the feedback!! Ashton taking initiative/control is actually what the plot and conflict is going to end up focusing on! This is just setup, but when I edit I'll be sure to tie that conflict more into the beginning chapters as well. Thanks again!

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1137 Reviews

Points: 50080
Reviews: 1137

Sun Jan 26, 2020 1:34 pm
Carlito wrote a review...

Hello and happy review day!! It's about time we got this chapter out of the green room, huh? I apologize for not reading the previous installments, so I'll be looking at this as a part of a greater whole.

The first thing I noticed is that you clearly have great mastery of language. I was expecting great things when you labeled it as "literary" and you didn't disappoint! There was great description and imagery woven throughout.

The second scene when the MC was trying to communicate with the other people at school, made me wonder if the MC is deaf or hard of hearing or something else that makes communication more challenging (which I'm sure would have been answered in a previous chapter). If that's the case, I think it's great that you're choosing to show that experience because as I'm sure you're aware, we really need to see more diverse characters in literature. The only thing I would want to add to that scene, is simply seeing more of the dialogue. The whole chapter is very heavy in exposition, and while you do a nice job with exposition, it would be nice to see a little more and get a little more action/dialogue too. I liked the one little line of dialogue you included and how the MC responded to it, so I would love to see more of that and how the relationships you described developed.

I think throughout the chapter overall, I'd love to see a little more action within the exposition. I know that since this is literary, the focus is more on character development than plot development, but I think by showing us more of what the character is doing throughout the day rather than telling us you'll achieve the same end.

Overall, I think this is intriguing and nicely written! I think you've got a really great start here and I hope you keep working on this story! Let me know if you have any questions :D

redvictory says...

Thank you very much! I agree with everything you said, thank you for pointing it out to me! I'll be sure to keep that in mind when I edit. Exposition is definitely not my strongest suit, so your criticism is invaluable, haha! Thank you again for your review!

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Reviews: 44

Sun Nov 17, 2019 5:38 am
AndName wrote a review...


You may disregard my asking for the name of the MC in 1.2, Ashton it is! (I think that name suits him perfectly) His name was spoken in dialog too! I think that shows the shock of hearing someone else say his name, it's like it jolts him into the real world and he can't stop hearing things. I'm glad he's made sort of friends, even if they do talk about each other behind each others backs (which is really quite realistic. I applaud you.)

I like how you start it off with him in the morning, which is strange to say since it is one of the single worst things you can do starting a book (but this is the second chapter. So.) It shows his quiet routine, what he does with all his sculptures, his drive to school. The parents aren't seen and he doesn't go ask them for money for new shoes, but ducttapes them and deals with it. I think that shows a lot about his parents and his relationship. I also think it shows a lot that they think of his artwork as junk.

Jace seems like an interesting character. He's the only one who really reaches out to Ashton, includes him in the conversion while the others forget he's there. He seems nice to Ashton.

Connie isn't much talked about in this one, she's sort of lumped in with the crowd. She doesn't try to reach out to Ashton until Jace did, despite bringing him into the fold in the first place.

It really seems like Ashton needs a good friend.

Are all of the chapters going to be like this? I just had a thought, you don't have to go along with this, but at the beginning Ashton's life reads like a dream. Nothing feels real. Then he was invited into a circle of friends, a connection to this world. And in this part, he begins to hear the world. What if, gradually, you transported him into an active, reacting, talking and hurting, member of the world? He has a lot to say, but isn't connected enough to get it out. Maybe making a real friend will bring him out of his shell?

Like I said, you don't have to take any of this to heart, it's just my opinion as a reader (it seems like reviewing as a writer just beings up petty stuff like commas). It reads amazingly and I'll most definitely keep tabs on this stories progress.

Keep writing!


redvictory says...

What you said about Ashton getting more active and connecting is exactly what I%u2019m going for!! But then he goes a little too far... but no spoilers, haha! I%u2019m glad you pointed out me just dropping Connie, that%u2019s definitely something I need to address! Your comments, constructive and complimentary both, are a big help! Thank you!

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
— W. Somerset Maugham