The Girl Who Heard Seashells

November 26, 2013 § 7 Comments

A fragment of a children’s story


In those days she was too frightened to swim in the sea. The water was a mysterious place harbouring evil creatures. Ginny imagined them on the pages of her drawing book and in her dreams. Joined at the horizon, the sea and sky were one. It was a place she could see on a clear day, but never, ever touch.

That was the time she decided to believe in God – and the sky was where He lived. The sea birds were His messengers. He told them things they must pass onto the world to make it a better place. But Ginny knew people were too busy, too noisy to listen – so she learned to be quiet and still. Sometimes she heard the words hidden within the shrieks and mewling of the seagulls; but if the birds were silent, she took a seashell to her ear. All His messages to the world were kept safe in every shell, waiting for someone to listen.


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§ 7 Responses to The Girl Who Heard Seashells

  • 2 small suggestions:
    The water was a mysterious place harboring evil creatures.
    Sea and sky were one.

    I like the idea of the seashell as a source of alchemic whispers.

  • Rachael Charmley says:

    I like both of your suggestions. Thank you. A blindness takes over if one looks at a piece too long..

  • I like the contrast between the sky and the sea that you are building here. A twist might be that, in some way, Ginny might be mistaken, and that the sea becomes her saviour. I think that your opening is strong in the hint of a back story (why is she so suddenly afraid?), and in the link to her dreams.
    You class this as a children’s story, but have you ever noticed that the ‘best’ children’s stories also work for older readers. I have just been reading ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’ by Philippa Pearce (a favourite as a child) and it stills moves me, although I can now appreciate the many layers on which it works as a story.

    • Rachael Charmley says:

      Thank you for your, as ever, sensitive observations. This fragment felt as if it could be part of a story for children – but whether it is read with or without the rest of it – it is clearly not. It is, in fact, about a child – or rather a girl journeying through life.
      What I was trying to show here was the powerful mythological world she built around herself. A world that made total sense to her as a child, and by it’s nature utterly comforting and full of meaning.
      The abject fear of swimming comes from an event connected with the sea which destroys her sense of understanding and safety. In this passage, she is revisiting.
      It would have perhaps made more sense if I had included the next few paras where it would have become clear she was looking back at a ‘safe’ time in her life before some pretty awful things happened.
      My own example of Tom’s Midnight Garden, would be the more recent ‘Skellig’ by David Almond. Like Pearce, Almond, because of the layers of his writing, appeals to all ages.
      Sorry this is so long, but what you said highlighted my habit of writing much more complex stories than I perhaps intended šŸ™‚

      • No apologies needed. I think that complex is good not least because it allows for interpretation from the reader on different levels, and allows the writer to explore deeper and more profound issues through what might be a simple idea. Certainly this is what I want to aim for in my own writing – I do think that a lot of readers want to be made to think.
        Take care, Chris.

  • Miranda Stone says:

    You’ve portrayed Ginny’s voice very well in these two paragraphs. You seem to be in tune to your character’s feelings, and the writing shows it.

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