Saturday, 4 August 2012

'The Beckoning Bell' - Part 1

I have been writing a short story called 'The Beckoning Bell'.Well, it depends on what your definition of 'short' is. This one is a couple of pages long so I decided to upload it in parts. In this first part, the scene is set, so to say. I'd love some feedback, both positive and negative! Anything to help me improve my writing. :)


In the misty Marshes of the North, there is a small village called Motbell. Some call it the village born from fog. When the sun rises and the church bells toll, the fog slowly retreats from the streets and the village emerges, glistening like a wet rock. Slowly the three main streets become inhabited by the odd dogs and cats, quickly followed by the early birds amongst the villagers. The stable boys rush to their respective stables and herd their animals down Main Street, which leads to, through and out of Motbell, out to the Marshes. The clacking of the hoofs on the cobbled street serves as a wake up call for the rest of the villagers, who open up their shutters and welcome the sun. Most of them then make their way to Market Street, which leads to the big square in the centre of the village. Here butchers, farmers and housewives meet. The former two to sell, the latter to gossip and buy. The villagers fill all the streets with so much bustling life that the fog is not allowed entry until the sun sets and everyone goes to bed.

To visitors Motbell might have seemed closed off. They were usually hesitant of strangers entering their village and their life. None of them had yet forgotten about the strange nobleman who rode into Motbell, stayed for a week at the Inn and then took off with the butcher’s oldest daughter. It was, by far, the most exciting thing to have happened in Motbell for years. It was also especially good for her younger sister, who now followed in her footsteps as the village’s most eligible young girl. Had the nobleman stayed a while longer and sat at the hearth fire and talked to the farmers, the village would have opened its heart and arms to him. They needed to get to know you before you were allowed to get to know them. Behind the clammy, glistening walls there were warm and comfortable living rooms, in which age old tales were told and retold, to be passed on.

One of the tales told to scare children out of walking around in the dark was about the White Women. ‘Whenever you get lost’, the mothers would say, ’they will find you. When you are lost and cannot find your way home, they know the way into your hearts. They are women, mothers, wives, daughters that were lost. They remain on Earth because their loved ones cannot let them go and they become vengeful because they cannot rest. Beware when the fog surrounds you because that is where they live.’ Most of the children don’t really believe, but all of us who have heard old tales know there has to be some truth to each tale. But the villagers were by no means overly superstitious, they were, in fact, very realistic and grounded.
Every Sunday evening, the villagers would gather at the beginning of Church Street and, as a congregation, walk down to the Church which lay just outside of the village. For the children it was more about the excitement than any kind of realisation about religion. All the people were given candles and they lighted up their end of the road. As the bells started tolling, everyone slowly walked towards the Church. Little girls hold their fathers hands, the boys run around trying to kindle a real fire, the parents chat. In short the villagers enjoy each others company. But then the church appears and a silence falls across the crowd. The light of their candles slowly creeps up the big square brick building. The stones seemed black and weather beaten. At the edges of the building, vines crept up the wall with blue and purple flowers that reflected the candle light. The children gazed in amazement as the lights slowly creep up the massive tower. The arches and statues create a shadow play that hints at the existence of angels. But the most important was the sound made by the bells.
The bells sounded together to create a music that brought all the villagers together. Only on Sundays was the Church actually a church. The other days of the week it was a community hall, a place where people gathered and where the story of the butcher’s daughter was retold amongst laughter. For the children the bells were a memory of the previous evenings, of the fun from yesterday and a promise, for more entertainment. Often they would gather onto the streets as soon as the bells rang and run towards the Church to start exploring all its nooks and crannies all over again. For the young adults, the bells represented the chance to sneak away unnoticed and meet a certain someone under the night’s sky. The nobleman from before would not have known about the meaning of the bells and found its frequent tolling a pest. Yet for the villagers, the tolling represented their community spirit and made many a person stand still for a minute and consider themselves lucky to  belong to Motbell.

Well, that was Part 1. As I said before, let me know what you think! 


  1. Hi Julie.
    I enjoyed reading it. I'm guessing I'd be right in saying that it's a plotless story as such, at least here there is no hint of a plot -reminds me of Katherine Mansfield's stories -often plotless. And that's not a bad thing at all -have you read her stories? They're very rich in language.
    You provide rich description and imagery; one can visualise Motbell. I'm waiting for the action to begin which I'm guessing is part 2. Part 1 is setting the scene?
    I'm never quite sure how people want feedback delivered. I'm used to doing very detailed critiques - a product of creative writing at uni I'm afraid. However, the only thing I'd say is to watch out for slipped tenses in 4th paragraph and in the 1st paragraph, where you say, 'down main street, which leads through . . . -I felt it was hampered slightly and might perhaps flow better if you simplified the sentence, something like, 'down main street and out towards the marshes.' I'm not telling you what or how to write it, I'm just showing an example and do forgive me if I'm overstepping the mark. I hope you feel this is positive criticism because the story so far sounds good. It's interesting and I want to read more and know what's going to happen -so clearly that's a good thing for a reader. You have a nice voice in the piece and it's well crafted.
    I look forward to reading the complete piece when it's done, if I'm allowed.
    All the best
    Suzy. (a frazzled aspiring writer)

    1. This way of delivering is great :) I do sometimes slip on the tenses I use because I do drafts and mix the drafts etc. so I'll definitely look out for that. The action does start later on, but it is perhaps a bit like Mansfield, who I really like, in the sense there is no major action. I'd love for you to read it when it;s finished, your criticism is very helpful!
      Thanks you so much for your comment!

  2. You're most welcome. Glad to be of help actually and it's really good because it works both ways -it also helps me with my writing (you become even more critical of your own work).
    Look forward to reading it when you're ready.