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Sense and Stupidity

by Cornelia 

Posted: 30 May 2011
Word Count: 1009
Summary: A hobby gets out of hand

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It was a bit strong of James to object, considering he was the one who’d picked Sue’s hobby out of the adult education programme. ‘I said you needed an interest, not an obsession,’ he ‘d complained, when yet again she’d had no time to go to the shops, let alone cook dinner.

If only she could write a piece good enough for the class anthology, it would convince him she could succeed at Creative Writing. He’d even rang the tutor himself and asked her to include at least one of Sue’s stories in the selection. After all the hours she spent in front of her laptop, surely it wasn’t too much to ask.

This was the day after he'd come in from work and announced, 'I'm taking a day's leave tomorrow. What about a day trip to Brighton?' Sue said she was sorry, but she just had to work on her story. She did her best to ignore his exasperated sigh.

‘A work of fiction must appeal to all five senses!' the tutor had announced to the class at the start of the last session.

Sue could picture Mariana now, in her kaftan and bead necklace, arms raised like a priestess over her class. Sadly, most of the Creative Writing class group were housewives like Sue, more familiar with muesli than muses.

The first time she’d seen Mariana in action, Sue couldn’t restrain a giggle. A gasp rose from the class members and Mariana glared, swivelling her head round at such a rate Sue she was afraid her antique silver earrings would fly off.

Today, with a freezer full of ready-meals, Sue could concentrate on her latest story, the one inspired by a TV drama about a housemaid in love with a Lord - the owner of Debworthy Manor. She would follow Mariana’s advice to the letter, Sue vowed, as she scanned the work in progress on her laptop.

Lord Fortescue had ignored Alice at the May Ball, to which the Debworthy servants were traditionally invited.

Alice had scrimped to buy material for a dress, sewing late into the night to get it finished. But all Alice’s efforts had come to nought, or so it seemed; well-born Tara Heatherington-Smythe had stepped into the ballroom in her designer gown and his Lordship had whirled the glittering heiress round the floor in dance after dance. Poor Alice was left weeping on the terrace but Sue had been forced to break off at this point; distracted by Rex’s barking at the postman.

She’d opened the brown envelope with the familiar handwriting –her own- to discover it was yet another rejection. Not suitable for our requirements, she read. Wasn’t there one magazine that appreciated quality writing?

Never mind. Persistence would win out, Mariana had told her class, and with a bit of luck she’d have time to finish before James came home, expecting dinner. What was the first sense again? Ah, yes: Sight.

The moonlight shone on the ancient stone terrace, glinted on the balustrades and reflected in Alice’s eyes as she gazed at the French windows. Would the dashing Lord Fortescue keep the midnight appointment that they’d made by the punch-bowl? It was going well.

Sue glanced through the window and saw James, or at least the heel of his brown brogue shoe, crossing the porch. He was home early – good thing she’d stocked up on frozen pizzas. Now, what was next? Mmm... sound.

Soaring violins drifted from the ballroom. Hypnotic though the rhythm proved, she was conscious only of her heart beating as she listened for footsteps on the ancestral stones.

‘I’m home, Sue’. The door slammed and she heard James's keys land in the dish on the hall table. Now for the third sense: touch

Shivering in the night air, she felt the smooth warmth of a man’s coat around her shoulders and the languid breeze as his fingers brushed her neck.

James kissed her lightly on the cheek and Sue murmured a welcome.

She heard him say, ‘Would you like a coffee?’

'What? Oh, yes.’ Now what was the fourth sense? Taste; that would be easy...'

The taste of Champagne from his lips stayed with her long after he had pledged his love with a kiss.

As Sue's nose caught a tangy whiff of coffee from the kitchen, she realised she'd almost forgotten to include smell. Now, what about:

The scent of Lilacs drifted from the shrubbery and mingled with the pungent odour of smoke rising from guttering candles.

There! It was done; a story appealing to all five senses. All it needed now was a happy ending.

James placed a cup in front of her and, went off upstairs. Oh, good, he’d be occupied at his computer.

'My darling’, he whispered, ‘There’s a question I’ve been longing to ask you…' Sue heard nothing for the next half hour or so, until her friend Jean’s voice called from the hallway and she came into the room.

‘Hello Sue! Hard at it as usual. The door was open, so I walked in. Hope you don't mind.'

Sue smiled at her friend. ‘No, I’ve just finished. I managed to write my story and include all five senses. My writing tutor said they were essential!’

‘By the way, James going to some weekend conference, is he? I just met him carrying a suitcase down the garden path.'

Sue closed the laptop lid with a sharp click and looked up. ‘James? Did he say where he was going? ‘

‘Oh, I thought you knew - he muttered something before climbing into the front seat of a car, beside the woman driver’

‘A woman? What woman?’ Sue dashed over to the window,just in time to see the car pull away.

‘Oh, just some floozy in a kaftan. You know what, though, Sue – you need to add one more sense to the five you’ve been writing about.’

‘What’s that then?’ said Sue, slowly turning round.

‘There's a sixth one, that you seem to have neglected. Most people call it common sense!’

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Comments by other Members

Account Closed at 21:20 on 30 May 2011  Report this post

Hi Sheila, i really like this story and remember it from before. I think last time i thought the last line should read 'sixth sense' and i still think that, as it fits in with the five senses thing and that she should have had a sixth sense that her husband wasn't happy!

more familiar with muesli than muses.

I like that!

i just write 'earrings'

I thought it was strange that when she saw James, all she noticed was the heel of his shoe - i'd say that was too much detail, if she just happened to notice someone then she'd probably just notice something bigger/higher like their jacket, or the expression on their face.



Maybe TAB Fiction Feast?

Cornelia at 08:43 on 31 May 2011  Report this post
Thanks for responding so promptly. Petal. I think people must be fed up with my retreads.

Sixth Sense - that was the original title, but someone suggested it might be confused with the film 'sixth sense' meaning i.e. a kind of paranormal sensitivity. I didn't want that, so I changed the title, but a good idea to add to the final line.

Yes, I like the way muesli chimes with muses and gives a comic effect early on.

With the heel, I meant she just caught sight of him as he disappeared - the last bit of him within her field of vision was his heel. I'll look at it again.

Yes, you are right about earrings -there's a tendency to get rid of hyphens generally, but I'm still addicted to them.

Yes, I'll try it with TAB if you think so - if I remember you sold to them recently. I haven't seen a copy of FF for a while, so there must be one due out soon.


Katerina at 09:31 on 31 May 2011  Report this post

I remember this from before too, but I think you've changed the ending slightly.

The only thing I would do to this is maybe throw in some hints earlier on about James being fed up with her neglecting him - he's obviously leaving her at the end of the story - but there should be some build up to this throughout.

Maybe have James ask if she wants to go out for the day with him, and he sighs in exasperation when she says, 'I can't James I have to get this story written,' or something like that?

The reader could feel some sympathy for James then.

What do you think?

Kat x

Cornelia at 09:47 on 31 May 2011  Report this post
Yes, -although I start with saying it's a bit odd that James should object when it was his idea in the first place, and how he doesn't get his dinner cooked anymore, I think your idea is a good one -more show than tell.

In the original version he doesn't go off with Mariana, either, but I thought it would add a bit of interest. I was concerned, though, because Mariana is the writing tutor. I think I can have James say Mariana manages to be a successful writer and have a social life, unlike Sue. That way I'd kill two bird with one stone - helps us understand his exasperation and hints at his interest in Mariana.

Good idea. I think I can see this being accepted. Thankd, Katrina.


fluffyduffy at 15:22 on 31 May 2011  Report this post
Hi Sheila,

I still like this story and I think its so easy to get caught up in your writing - I'm quite often quiet while mulling over ideas that my hubby thinks I'm being grumpy and I have to kick myself out of it, lol.

What about a day Brighton

I think you've missed the words 'trip to' in between 'day' and 'Brighton'. So it would read:

What about a day trip to Brighton

He’d even rang the tutor himself and asked her to include at least one of Sue’s stories in the selection.

I wondeered if the husband got any joy from ringing the tutor or whether Sue's work still wasn't used?

I liked the idea of James running off with the tutor but I wondered if to add more of an impact if, Sue rushes to the window just in time to see James drive off with the tutor, then the friend says about the sixth sense, letting Sue realise what she has done. Do you see what I mean?

I've recently bought TAB FF and there is a humorous story in there about a writer who uses famous writers names while checking into hotels. The latest one is JK Rowling - which attracts the attention of a overweight man who follows her around, until she suddenly snaps and kills him. She then spent 12 years in prison in which time she had written three books (all published) and almost finished her fourth It was different from the stories I've read in FF but was very entertaining.

So you could try this with FF. This is a very good read, Sheila


Cornelia at 16:09 on 31 May 2011  Report this post
Thank you so much for reading at a busy time, Alana.

Well-spotted with the missing phrase, which I'll fix. This story has been messed about so much it's not surpring.

Haha! Do you think it got used? No, I think this was when the tutor invited him round for further discussion and they got entangled

I think the idea of Sue running over to the window is brilliant- so much more visual than her sitting with the laptop.

That idea of checking in with famous names is great for the story. Sue Townsend likes to write in hotels. There are times, I must confess that I think prison could have its advantages, although I don't think I'd be as well treated as Jeffery Archer.

Thanks again for useful tips,


fiona_j at 19:04 on 31 May 2011  Report this post

Seems I've got to this late, sorry.

I do like this and prefer this ending to the previous one - it adds a bit more of a twist to it.

I would add a couple more hints throughout that he's planning on leaving her, maybe even with Mariana.

"Sue thought he was getting into her hobby a little when she hosted a soiree for her writing group. He certainly spent a long time chatting to Mariana."

I see it as a break-up caused by both of them, not just her distance but him not talking to her about how he was feeling.

Good luck with subbing it.

Fi x

Cornelia at 23:33 on 31 May 2011  Report this post
Thanks, Fiona for taking the trouble to read and comment. I think we're on different tacks.

I see it as a break-up caused by both of them, not just her distance but him not talking to her about how he was feeling.

I don't really want to focus on the relationship but on how her story-writing is interfering with the practical realities: he wants his dinner on the table and it's not there. She's off in some sort of romantic bubble. But it's his fault really, because he encouraged her to take up writing in the first place. The story is really about the irony of the situation, as stated in the first line. But he did make his feelings clear when he suggested the trip to Brighton and she refused to go.

She did her best to ignore his exasperated sigh.

To tell the truth, I've never liked him, and I think she's a bit silly. I put Mariana in his way to give him added incentive to leave and a twist at the end, which I'm glad came off, but in my opinion he'd get a worse deal with the flaky tutor.

I suppose I'd say it's more plot driven than character driven. It would lose momentum if they stopped to discuss things.


BifferSpice at 10:37 on 01 June 2011  Report this post
ha! this is a good read, and I like it very much. i really sensed the frustration as she pored over a load of rules and tried to fit them all in, and i like the concentrating on a fictitious romance ahead of the real romance that is occurring alongside. some nice phrases and it flows very nicely. good job.

Cornelia at 11:10 on 01 June 2011  Report this post
Thanks, Bifferspice, for your comments, especially

the frustration as she pored over a load of rules

which made me laugh, because that's how I often felt when trying to please some writing tutors in classes I've attended.


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