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Senior Member
Sample of new short story focusing on civil rights.

Background: community is separated into right-brained and left-brained people, imaginative and intellectual people. The left-brained people hold an air of superiority over the right-brained people. All "imaginatives" are social pariah's.

A.D. Wilde

“Breathe,” Tafari says, rubbing my shoulders. My hands are covered in red, and a mound of mutilated clay slows to a stop on the pottery wheel. The work of

a sculptor is terrible for posture, and my shoulders chronically slump. My brother tenderly straightens my back and kneads my sore muscles, hoping to

alleviate the stress on my spine.

“Your work is beautiful, Ash,” he states. Aching joints cry out as firm thumbs rub away tension. The sculptor is being sculpted, I think, ashamed

of my vulnerability. Tears sting in the corners of my eyes, and I swat them away with the backs of my hands, undoubtedly smearing clay on my face.

“You’re my brother; you’re obligated like my work,” I reply, resting my arms on my knees. Freckled, tan skin painted with orange is decorated with

motley patterns in black ink. A simple, straight arrow shoots from beneath the sleeve of my shirt and stretches to the middle of my forearm, pointing to the

word breathe. On the other wrist, written in the same cursive script, is live.

I couldn’t be one of them even if I wanted to be.

My skin is permanently marked with evidence of my roots.

“I’m not obligated to anything,” he says. His touch fades, but I feel him fiddling with the beads in my hair. “I honestly think your work is beautiful.”

“Thanks, big brother,” I answer, unmoving. Green eyes glued to the heap of earth before me. It’s potential, ready to be shaped and spun.

“I have to get going,” he tells me, planting a kiss on the top of my head. “I’ll see you later.” He leaves the studio without another word, wood

floors creaking beneath his feet. I’m alone, and I shake, shoulders slumped and back bent. I inhale the musty, herbal air, hoping to feel the oxygen flood to

the bottoms of my lungs. The breath is shallow.

Tight chest squeezes shriveled lungs. I exhale.

. . .

The wheel hums as it spins, swirling the clay through my fingertips and creating smooth lines. It’s nothing, not yet. Still formless and useless,

nothing more than a distraction.

Art is nothing more than a distraction.

My eyes skim my hands, weary fingers drifting along the clay. Breathe.

Art is useless.

My muscles contract in a fierce, sudden tremor. Fingers crush terra cotta, and the wheel slows to a stop.

You are useless.

“Shut up!” I yell, squeezing my project. Bits of sludge seep through the spaces between my fingers, and I shake off the excess material. Damp

hands are dried on canvas pants, and I stand.

The room is cluttered, filled with various pots and vases, all crafted by my hands. The long, scarred, tattooed hands. Artist’s hands. Worthless


Staff member
I think this is an interesting idea for a story and I especially like the way you are showing society's opinion of art by the potter's own thoughts about the worthlessness of his/her talent.

So often we accept the judgement of society to condemn ourselves.

I really like this!
As a reader I'm not sure I caught any allusion to the civil rights question. What comes through, in my opinion, is the character of the narrator rather than that of the potter (I am assuming the potter is female) and her low self esteem in spite of the accolades of the brother who, in the opinion of the potter, cannot offer any artistic opinion because he is biased. Therefore, if the "imaginative" is a social pariah then it is by her own doing as she refuses to accept any judgement of her work. Artists, and art for that matter, can be very introspective and self-deprecating.
Good piece though, if this is part of a larger composition it would perhaps be useful to know something of the background of the two characters which can always be hard to portray in so few words.


WF Veterans
Well I see. I had to look up the word pariah to understand how this is a controversial civil rights piece. Very nice.

From the final sentences I would assume that the artist's parent/parents, are or were intellectuals, thus the push of being useless. Also the artist is in poor health, I assume. Therefore the need to be reminded to breathe.

As Dave Newton stated, in this case it is the artist them self showing the lack of status not society. More than likely brought about by a superior figure, like a father.

As You stated this is apart of a short and is a WIP. It would be interesting to see more and to what extent this social hierarchy extends into the story.

For now I see a good flow and a structure that has potential.

Please continue so we can see what is in store for this Potter.


Senior Member
I would also like to see your story fleshed out to a finish! Art is not supposed to be what the artist sees but what the artist empowers others to see. So I'm thinking your story could be a very interesting juxtaposition of the perspectives of right brain and left brain people but also of how this artist sees her own work. Lots of questions come to my mind. Will she manage to insulate her art from all opinions, negative or positive, including her own? Will the non-imaginative people stunt her growth? Or spur her to even greater art? Will she discover her brother has legitimate criteria for praising her art? Or that he is just being a loving, supportive brother? I like this story. Give us more, and when you do may I suggest you do a preview before posting it so we're not distracted by the odd line breaks?


Senior Member
And thus we count ourselves in groups by who we exclude.

I very much enjoy the way this read. It definitely resonates with something everyone grapples with at one point or another so it's easily relate able. I suppose the question in my mind is how you'll work out this world? How is one determined to be an intellectual? Is this something enforced at birth or school? Is this really something that people just accept or just publicly follow like traffic laws? Well, by the naure of my questioning, I suppose I find myself interested. Good work.