Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The First Kiss

by Karen M. Leet from the January 4, 2015 issue

Min's plans for a quiet New Year's Eve at home went up in smoke when she met her new neighbor, Joe!

In a Nutshell
The fire alarm goes off in Min's apartment. The building evacuates. One of her cats tries to get away and a new (of course!) neighbor captures it. They go out for coffee...until midnight.

This story encompassed a lot in 800 words and it's because of an almost ping-pong game of show and tell. Telling is a great way to fast forward the action so you can show the important parts, real time. Let me break down the story for you.

Tell: We get the backstory on Min. She's worked all day and is looking forward to a quiet NYE at home. She's single.

Show: A brief flashback scene with a co-worker shows she is a little tired of waiting for Mr. Right.

Tell: We transition to after dinner She's watched a movie and...

Show: The fire alarm goes off. This is a long scene that shows the evacuation, the almost disaster of the indoor cat running off, and Joe, the neighbor coming to the rescue. They meet and smile at each other.

Tell: There is a paragraph describing how they talk and laugh as the mystery of the fire is solved.

Show: We see Joe ask her out for coffee.

Tell: Transition paragraph that gets the cats back inside. Another paragraph summarizing two cups off coffee and a lot of conversation.

Show: We jump back into the present very briefly. Joe tells her he feels like he's known her forever and that she's easy to talk to.

Tell: Transition again to cover a third cup of coffee and the close approach of midnight.

Show: Boom, back in the present. Min alerts Joe to the time. They share a moment. Gazes meet. Hands touch. Lips brush against each other! Ta da!

So, we actually "live through" a lot of time passing through  the use of those transitions and those little bursts of "telling." Keep this in mind when you write your next story. It's not the only way to pace the story, but it is a good one.

Photo credit: By Nevit Dilmen (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Sweet Tooth

by Terry O'Brien from the January 19, 2015 issue

Natalie's life became a lot sweeter once Henry came back to town...

In a Nutshell
Natalie owns a chocolate and ice cream shop. An old flame walks in looking for a birthday gift for his sister. He confesses he had feelings for her back in high school.

This story is a textbook Old Flame story, like I describe in one of my "advanced" writing for Woman's World classes. I think the allure of these stories is that we all have memories of someone whom we admired from afar and it's fun to imagine that they had feelings for us too, but were too shy to say anything. It's sort of Cinderella retroactive in that of all the girls in high school, he noticed her. She stood out from the crowd. It also appeals because usually the guy thinks she was out of his league, and who among us wouldn't like to be considered out of someone's league?

I found myself hoping Henry was getting something for his sister besides truffles.

I enjoyed the marriage proposal "epilogue" at the end, but notice how our point of view drifts in and out. At the beginning, we are firmly in the narrator's pov, looking down upon Natalie's life. Then, we get much closer until we're inside Natalie's head, finding his dimples familiar and getting embarrassed about her babbling on. Near the end, we zoom out again for the last paragraph. It makes it feel a little like we've been sitting listening to a story, doesn't it?

Photo credit: By FASTILY (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Best Christmas Gift

by Kate Willoughby from the December 29, 2014 issue

Tracy had been keeping a secret. On Christmas morning, she shared her news--and her joy--with her husband...

Before, when it was my story, I showed the story in its original form, the way I submitted it, but with the edits that Johnene did. Personally, I always found it interesting to see the changes. However, it was pointed out to me that the new contract prohibits publication, except by Bauer Publishing.

My apologies.

Photo credit: By User:hmbascom (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Helping Hand

by Tracie Rae Griffith from the December 22, 2014 issue

Alison needed help decorating her tree this year. Fortunately, her handsome neighbor was happy to oblige...

In a Nutshell
Alison broke her arm and is trying to decorate her house for the holidays. To her great surprise, the EMT who helped her shows up to shovel her walk.

You know, maybe Johnene was putting all those neighbor stories in the magazine to throw us off and make us nod our heads knowingly when we read this story, only to have our expectations turned on their ear. I don't know if that was your experience, but it sure was mine.

I thought for sure that the guy shoveling the walk was her neighbor, but when it turned out to be the EMT, I was like AWESOME. Then, when he was the neighbor, I was totally fine with that. Griffith had already surprised me, so the "tired" neighbor scenario didn't bother me at all. I really loved that as the EMT who treated her, it was logical and very plausible that he would know she was incapacitated. (When I thought the mystery shoveler was the neighbor, I predicted that he'd observed her wearing the cast and surmised she needed help.)

I loved the humor.

"I'd been wondering who Mrs. Morgan had rented her house out to when she moved to Florida. After last night's snow, I thought maybe you'd need a hand. Pun intended."


I also smiled when she realized his house was the one with the inflated snowman family in front. That's the type of guy I want for my heroines. Someone who has a sense of fun and who isn't afraid to throw himself into the holidays. You see a guy like this in the story and you automatically hope the heroine hits it off with him. (Unless the author didn't do justice to the female protagonist, which makes the reader not really care as much.)

One last thing. I thought I'd point out some of the tried and true Woman's World themes that are in this story.

  • Man to the rescue
  • Neighbor love interest
  • New to the neighborhood because of a job

Terrific story!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Romantic Comedy

by Mary Ann Joyce from the December 15, 2014 issue

Jess and Mat might joke around a lot, but their mutual attraction was no act!

In a Nutshell
Jess's sister strong arms her into volunteering to build sets for the community theatre. The other set builder is a hunk. They hit it off.

I know when I read Mary Ann Joyce wrote the story that it's going to be a great one, and I wasn't disappointed.

I was smiling throughout this story. I loved the comparison of Jess's break-up to a bad haircut. Awesome. I loved the banter between the sisters. I LOVE a man in a tool belt. So, thanks Mary Ann for that awesome image. I was cracking up at their playacting--get it? Playacting?

As for a teaching tip, notice how there is a good passage of time that happens in this story. There are four--count 'em, four time transitions.

1. She tells her sister she's not a theatre person and then "So Saturday, we went to the theatre..."
2.  "Before long everyone was joking..."
3. "Over lunch one day..."
4. "The next night..."

In my opinion, this passage of time reinforces the feeling that a reader might have that the couple has a good chance of ending up happy with each other. It helps the reader feel like they got a lot more than 800 words.

On a sidenote, this wasn't a holiday story at all. I wonder if that was a choice Johnene made, to give people a break from holiday themed stuff, or if she didn't get enough good submissions of holiday stories. Something to keep in mind. It might behoove people to write some holiday stories now, while you're in a holiday mood and the holiday ideas are bopping around in your head, and submit, because it seems as if the mail room at Woman's World is moving more slowly than it used to.

Photo credit: By Baytownbert (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, December 15, 2014

Welcome to the Neighborhood!

by Anna Jo Christopher from the December 8, 2014 issue

Penny hadn't even met the new guy on the street, but that didn't stop her neighbors from making plans...

In a Nutshell
The ladies of the homeowners association where Penny lives tries to set her up with the man who just moved in.

I don't recall reading a group matchmaker story before--at least not recently. That was a twist on the trope, but other than that, this was an average story. Neither the characters nor their conversation was particularly engaging, but I really liked the ending line.

I may never know which matchmaking board member stuck the flyer in Drew's door, but it doesn't matter--at our next meeting, I'm voting to re-elect all of them!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Tall Tale

by Mary Haupt from the December 1, 2014 issue

Angie and Luke's first date led to a sweet love story!

In a Nutshell
Angie is tall and was looking for a tall man, but literally bumps into a shorter guy who turns out to be perfect for her.

I adored this story. It felt like a much longer story than normal. We started out with Angie's childhood as a tall girl. We get a little bit about her current situation with her matchmaking friend. We see her go on a less than wonderful date with a tall Mr. Wrong. Then we see her go on another date with Mr. Short-but-Right and see them have a very sweet moment together after the date is over. That is a lot to pack into 800 words!

I loved the moment at the end when Luke proves himself by asking if she'd consider dating "someone like him." My heart just melted. I'm like, "Dude, you are ADORABLE. I want to take you home myself." I loved Angie's reply to him as well. It was perfect for the woman we'd come to know via the rest of the story. She had a lot of personality and self-confidence. Great characterization by Haupt.  Great story, period.

Photo credit: Jake Wasdin via Wikimedia Commons