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The Domestic Goddess

The Domestic Goddess

How Nigella caught her cocaine habit

1

Romance / Women's fiction


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Marco Ocram (United Kingdom)


When I first heard of the public exposure of Nigella’s cocaine habit I must confess that I felt a pang of guilt, as it was I who had introduced her to the substance. Not physically, as a taker or pusher, you understand, but intellectually, as a chemist, neuropathologist, economist and social historian. We were seated together at a charity dinner, at which I had agreed to be the guest speaker, while she and Charles were hostess and host. She was a charming companion, in a simple sort of way, and evidently wired with an addictive bent, as she would root in her capacious handbag every few minutes to extract lumps of chocolate from what I took to be a jumbo catering bar. It seemed a largely unconscious habit, as she fed the lumps into her mouth rather as an automaton might, and appeared unaware of her compulsive actions until I questioned her about them.

‘Oh, God, sorry.’ She said. ‘Have I been doing it long?’

I thought I would let the brown smears around her mouth answer her question when she next faced a mirror, and instead I began to tell her about the cacao plant, from which chocolate is produced. I explained the history of its cultivation, that its seeds are naturally bitter and must fermented to produce cocao, and how that substance had addictive properties, owing to the presence of tri-glyptotheramides.

Evidently she harboured a misunderstanding that cocoa was also the source of cocaine, appearing to believe that cocaine itself was merely some purified and more intense form of white chocolate.

Of course I put her right at once. I explained that the coca and cacao plants were quite distinct; that cocaine, or more properly benzoylmethylecgonine, acted as voltage-gated sodium channel blocker in the brain, the effect of which was to inhibit the re-uptake of various proteins by the higher limbic circuits of the brain, thus priming the limbic reward pathway. I warned her that owing to these remarkable properties the substance was not to be sniffed at, but alas I fear she misinterpreted my words, and the rest you know.

Her addictive nature was revealed in other ways during our discussion. She imbibed wine in oceanic quantities, though with a surprising lack of discernment for a celebrity chef. When she saw me perusing the label of what I felt to be a rather pugnacious and combative claret she remarked that Charles had specially laid on her two favourite wines.

'Really?' I asked. 'Which are they?'

She looked at me for a moment, those big brown eyes showing surprise at my question:
'Red and white.'


Competition: The Pen Factor 2016, Round 1

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Read Reviews

Review 1:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. Think about the conflict and tension in your story. How effectively has it been introduced?
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Opening line, paragraph and hook
  • Your strong opening was a promise of wonderful things to come!
General comments from your fellow writer 1:
Great story, I wouldn't imagine someone else writing that about Nigella...you should see what I wrote about her! I only felt the cocaine bit was rather too technical, the protein and the blah and the blah confused me, and the ending was a bit too flat; otherwise good writing!

Review 2:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing.
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals and conflicts were clearly conveyed.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot.
Technique and tight writing
  • The writing was tight and economical and each word had purpose. This enabled the plot to unravel clearly. Your writing exhibits technical proficiency.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Atmosphere and description
  • Your story was a feast for the senses. The atmosphere wrapped itself around me and transported me onto the page alongside your characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.
Opening line, paragraph and hook
  • Your strong opening was a promise of wonderful things to come!
General comments from your fellow writer 2:
You've written a compelling story. I think that the scientific details should be explained in simple words. Some more description about Nigella's personal appearance would've been in order. I'd like to read the remaining part of the story too! Since it has been categorized as fiction here, appropriate caution must be exercised if it's a real life story/biography.

Review 3:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Make sure your characters are multidimensional. Do they have strengths and weaknesses? Mere mortals make the most interesting stories because they are like you and me and we are able to empathize with their journey. That’s how the connection with a character is formed.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing.
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals and conflicts were clearly conveyed.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a difficult balancing act. Are you sure all the material is relevant to the plot, setting and atmosphere? Make sure each sentence makes sense to the reader, and each paragraph moves their experience forward.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. The build-up was intriguing and I felt the tension mounting with each word.
Technique and tight writing
  • The writing was tight and economical and each word had purpose. This enabled the plot to unravel clearly. Your writing exhibits technical proficiency.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
  • I loved your fresh approach. Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose requires both skill and practice.
Atmosphere and description
  • A writer’s ability to create mood and atmosphere through evocative description is vital to the reader’s experience. It’s a real skill to craft out how the characters react to the setting and atmosphere and perhaps your story could go further in its description. The reader wants to experience the same sensory and poignant journey as the characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.
Opening line, paragraph and hook
  • Great stories, nowadays, start with a powerful opening line and compelling hook in order to keep the reader engaged. Have you baited the reader enough?
General comments from your fellow writer 3:
I thought that this story was very good. It was interesting and well worth the read (not that I had a choice). I do not have many complaints. The only thing is that it might be ebneficial to focus less on the addictive nature of Nigella and more on other aspects of her character. She was sort of one dimensional. The only other critique, which lies on the same plain as the first, is that you might want to consider writing more. I know that it is hard sometimes to keep going on one idea, I for one struggle with writing longer peices myself, but this story is really good. I think that it would benefit from some bulk. But that could ruin its somple yet complex nature, so supplement with caution.