Friday Fiction – The Sculpture

This week’s FF prompt shows that many writers are multi-talented. Claire Fuller’s photo is of her own sculpture. As ever, other responses can be found through Rochelle’s site.

For me, this one was a bit of a challenge. I had this idea, but I couldn’t think of a way to squash it down to anything like 100 words. It felt like a whole novel. The muse also kept shouting “Cicero”, which is not helpful. Cicero’s story is completely unconnected to the one I wanted to tell, and I couldn’t spare any words on incorporating it, or even on adding a cat called Cicero (Don’t you think it’s a brilliant name for a cat?). So the editing process was a lot less smooth this week, as those who read the previous drafts will see.

I had also challenged myself this week to try to go back to my roots and make this more of a story and less a description, which I feel like the last few have been veering towards. AND I wanted to see what I could do with Rochelle’s motto that the picture is “inspiration not illustration”. Lots of ambitions; I’d love to hear if you think I met any of them!

copyright-claire-fuller

The Sculpture

Lois dropped the chisel into the sink and ran the taps. Warm water flowed over her skin, revealing the fingerprint bruises and historic scars which mottled her arms.

Her latest work, the two-faced man, lay on the work-bench. Cold and lifeless. It was a grotesque vision – too many mouths, slashed into pale white; too many unseeing eyes staring at her.

As a sculptor, she knew that the work of a chisel could never be changed or undone, but this time she felt no remorse. There had been no mistake. And blood, she found, washed off more easily than plaster dust.

Version 1

Lois peeled dusty sleeves from her arms, revealing fingerprint bruises and peeling scabs. She hardly looked at them, concentrating instead on scrubbing at her hands.

“Cicero left his wife for a girl,” she said to noone. “Two-faced bastard.”

Warm water rushed into the sink, washing away the fine white powder which had coated her fingers.

“It seems he might have loved her in the beginning, but

[I stopped here. The story was getting long and I wasn’t getting anywhere!]

Version 2

Lois dropped the chisel into the sink and ran the taps. Warm water flowed over her skin, revealing again the fingerprint bruises and historic scars which mottled her arms. A sculptor, she knew that the work of a chisel could never be changed or undone, but this time she felt no remorse, no mistake. And blood, it turned out, washes off more easily than plaster dust.

 [This was the nub of what I wanted to say, so having gone too long, I thought I’d get it down and then see how much space there was for explanations. And for Cicero! 66 words down, only 37 to go]

Version 3

Lois dropped the chisel into the sink and ran the taps. Warm water flowed over her skin, revealing again the fingerprint bruises and historic scars which mottled her arms.

Her latest work, the two-faced man, lay on the work-bench. It was a grotesque vision – too many wide laughing mouths, slashed into pale white. Cold and lifeless.

A sculptor, she knew that the work of a chisel could never be changed or undone, but this time she felt no remorse, no mistake. And blood, it turned out, washes off more easily than plaster dust.

[At 93 words, this was close to what I wanted, but a few places weren’t quite right. The changes from this to the final version reflect a few added words – in particular the addition of the eyes and making “no mistake” into a sentence of its own – but also polishing of the image. The idea that the mouths were “laughing” seemed incongruous unless the man is still mocking her, and there wasn’t space to show that to my satisfaction so I ditched it. Washes became washed – there is a grammatical argument for either, but I preferred the latter in the end because it felt less like the author creeping in.

The ‘eyes’ sentence took a lot of thinking about. I wanted it to work for either interpretation, but while I could imagine slashes looking like extra mouths, I wasn’t convinced that the attack would have created extra eyes. And then I realised a way that two eyes could still be too many. She’s frightened of him – even in death.]

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50 Comments

Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

50 responses to “Friday Fiction – The Sculpture

  1. Well done with your experimentation, it makes one a better at art…Keep it on!

  2. Hi Jennifer,
    I love sharing your process – it is really fascinating to go through how you arrived at your story. Thanks for that and for a richly told piece. I sensed fear and was glad to see it was intentional.

  3. t

    I really enjoyed not just reading this, but also seeing how you caressed it to life.

  4. thank you for sharing your process in writing this. and it is more story than description. nicely done.

  5. I got the sense, the man on the table was not made of stone. Yikes! Fingerprint bruises is disturbing… but, is ‘historic’ the right word for scars?

    • Be afraid, Ted! And, you’re right, I don’t think historic is the right word. I struggled with that and couldn’t find a one-word way of describing that the scars showed years of abuse. Must Try Harder.

  6. this is a fantastic little tale – so much to think about in those carefully chosen words. As always, I love to see your editing process. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  7. Dear Jen,
    A true work of art from the first to the last chilling line. Reads like justifiable homicide to me. 😉
    shalom,
    Rochelle
    PS Cicero is a great name for a cat.

    • Hmmm, guess I have to comment before Rochelle or she steals all my lines, including that Cicero is a wonderful name for a cat. Sigh. They do say there’s nothing new under the sun, so I’ll leave it at that.

      janet

      • Get up earlier, Janet 😉 bwahahahahahaha.

      • Now then ladies, play nice! Thank you both for your lovely comments, and for backing me up on the cat question. Do you think my husband would count this as a good reason to get another cat?
        Regarding getting up early, I feel like I post at a reasonable time on a Friday, but I’m now #80ish every week! I think anyone who posted before Friday should be tarred and feathered, then expelled from the group. 😛

        • Well, the two of us are out of here then! 🙂 I know what you mean, though, but at least I get to all the posts despite the number and the day of posting. Does that go a little way towards mitigating my posting on Wed/Thurs sins?

          As for the “another cat” discussion, I’m staying far away from that one!! 🙂

  8. Dear Jennifer,

    I want you to know i saved your story for last as a reward for slogging through the majority of the stories. I was not disappointed in the least. Never have I read a story written so powerfully and so veiled at first glance by pace and cadence and word choice. First time through, upon finishing it, I realized exactly what had happened and yet up until that moment only the a hint of it was there, then the lightning of your writing illuminated the darkness and i saw it all. Cannot tell you how impressed i am by this story. Wonderful work.

    Aloha,

    Doug

  9. I loved seeing your writing process – so similar to carving! And a beautifully told story (even if grim).

  10. This is so subtle that I had to read it twice to make sure the two-faced man was flesh and bone. Beautifully told. And your previous versions added a greater understanding to the final result. Love it.

  11. A very powerful piece. She felt no remorse. I liked that. Well done, Jen.

  12. kz

    hi thanks for commenting on my story ^^ this is a great story .. i was able to completely grasp the meaning even just by reading the first one..and i appreciate you sharing the process of how you came up with the final version 🙂

    • Hi kz. I’m pleased that the first one gave the whole meaning. I include the others for those interested in editing processes, so it’s good that they aren’t needed as explanations

  13. Jen. Good stuff! You achieved your aims; a complete story that does not just use the prompt as a descriptive base. It was fascinating, like my old O level maths teacher used to require, to ‘see your working out’ as well as your result. I write flash almost exclusively & sometimes imagine that I am alone in writing 1000 words to get to 100!

  14. I enjoyed this, suitably sinister but the line ‘her latest work…. two faced man…’ gave a sardonic twist to the narrative. Well done. If I had a technical comment to make I’d just say that the words ‘as a sculptor’ were superfluous and had a hint of being ‘expxositional’. But a great piece nonetheless, leaving me thinking about the back-story.

    • Ah, Sandra, my writerly doppleganger! Such praise from you really means a lot. I take your point about “As a sculptor” and it just goes to show that I should trust my gut. I tripped over that line during a readthrough, but ignored the instinct. You are absolutely right though, it’s exposition and unecessary in light of the rest of the story.

  15. Wonderful stuff. I must say there is a long way to go for me to achieve the richness in language I see here. My writing though is usually easier as I end up short of 100 words in the first terse version and I fill it up later. Thank you for sharing your creation process.

    • You are very generous, thanks Bjorn. I don’t know if it’s easier to write short and add words – I usually find it easier to cut. This week was unusual for me, because I did a bit of both.

  16. Jen,
    Reading about your process for the 100 word story makes me realize just how lazy and undisciplined I am when it comes to the weekly prompt. With that in mind let me thank you for finding my third typo…Hard to believe both Rochelle and Janet missed it…That’s a good eye you have! I enjoyed your story. I found this awkward “more easily”…. but it is your call in the long run.
    Tom

    • I’m sure you’re not lazy about it at all, Tom. Typos are par for the course, and I make them just as much as anyone. For me, the critique side is one of the things that sets the Fictioneers apart, hence I try to find something in all the stories I read.
      Not sure how I could change “more easily” without going round the houses, but I’ll think about it. Thanks for letting me know what worked least well for you.

  17. I like how the final version just hints at other events. Well done.

  18. I enjoyed how you grew the story with different segments.

  19. Great take on the prompt .. I like the journey of your story from so many words to 100 and to share with us all the versions give us an insight into how the story developed.

  20. I really like the final version, and particularly the last line…i think it reveals a lot. Nicely done overall.

  21. love the suggestion in the last line, although there were seeds of feelings along the way. very focused. well done.

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