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by Shani 

Posted: 21 May 2008
Word Count: 286
Summary: This is an exercise I've done for a writing course where the brief was to describe a significant object for a charcater in a story so it has links to other pieces of work I've done
Related Works: A monologue • Character sketch 2nd attempt • T & C - new stuff • Truths and consequences (working title - will probably change) • 

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She held the first one from 1928 until 1934; after six years it was full. Plain and unblemished with Chamberlain’s name on the inside front cover it represented optimistic opportunities. By the time each page had been bruised and beautified with red, black and purple smudges it was proof of triumph.

The second one bore Eden’s name and ran for a full ten years until 1948. Both blue and embossed with a gold lion and unicorn completed by Latin text there was nothing mythical about these historical, geographical stamped stories. If there were times in that decade when travel was treacherous and funds were sparse they weren’t reflected in these documents.

Chile 1938
Lebanon 1941
Union of South Africa 1944

To the curious observer or customs official she might have been a diplomat, a screen legend or a spy to have registered at so many destinations. In fact she was the daughter of Lithuanian immigrants. She had left school aged thirteen, unable to realise her dream of becoming a teacher, and aged seventeen became a wife whose handsome husband had proved to be a feckless chancer forcing her into the role of family provider.

Her passports held proof of her second choice dreams; not the dreams of faraway places or romantic moonlit moments but of freedom, achievement, self-confidence.

When her neighbours had come to introduce themselves she’d seen the husband sneaking a look at her passport. Others might have been offended at the intrusion but to her the covert interest was as exciting as the double take she’d had from the ship’s captain when he’d walked by her cabin port hole as she’d used the last of the day’s light to paint her face before dinner.

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Comments by other Members

Cornelia at 09:07 on 22 May 2008  Report this post
This is a very good choice of object and I can see how it connects to your story. However, I think it would be best to identify the object as a passpost right from the start. I felt puzzled right up to the fourth paragraph.

optimistic opportunities

It was the person, not the opportunities, that would be optimistic. Perhaps something like: 'opportunities for happiness'

unblemished with Chamberlain’s name

You need a comma after 'unblemished' , also, further on, after 'cover'.

Both blue and embossed with a

Ambiguous, because it's not clear until further on in the sentence whether you mean both passports or that just one was both blue and embossed.

or a spy to have registered

comma needed after 'spy'

She had left school ...

This sentence is too long for comfort - it could be split up after 'teacher'and continuing, 'At seventeen she....'

second choice dreams

Ambiguous. You need a hyphen - 'second-choice'

freedom, achievement, self-confidence.

'and' instead of the comma after achievement.

The last sentence seems too long. I suggest something like this:

Others might have been offended at the intrusion; to her the covert interest was as exciting as the double take she’d had from the ship’s captain, when he’d walked by her cabin port hole as she’d painted her face in the fading light before dinner.

I think you have constructed an excellent character portrait which is sure to make the reader want to know more. Good luck with it.


Steerpike`s sister at 09:32 on 22 May 2008  Report this post
I like this, passports are so evocative. I remember that having a British one (black, heavy, much nicer than the current slim red ones) was very important when I lived in Libya. It represented the possibility of getting out, of education in a first-world country. I went to school with people from all over the world (Pakistan, Phillipines, Canada, Egypt etc. etc.) and it made a vast difference to your life and future, what passport you had. I was astonished to come to England and discover lots of people don't even have passports.

Shani at 13:29 on 22 May 2008  Report this post
thank you both so much for your feedback

Sheila I am incredibly grateful to you and also terribly impressed with the level of detail and inspired suggestions you put forward


funnyvalentine at 15:59 on 24 May 2008  Report this post
Hi Shani
I thought this was excellent. I love the idea of how a passport could tell a story about someone - I'm always sneaking peeks at other people's.
And then the quick suggestion of romance at the end.
Despite you giving it the title 'Passport', I didn't realise what the objects were either - but I quite liked that - I enjoyed trying to work it out and then the 'of course' moment. You fitted so much into so few words! It's lovely.

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