Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Romantic Comedy

by Mary Ann Joyce from the December 15, 2014 issue

Tagline
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.

Observations
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

Tagline
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.

Observations
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

Tagline
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.

Observations
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

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mr. Romance


by Le Ann Dowd from the November 24, 2014 issue

Tagline
Dannie and Shane had met one Thanksgiving and fallen in love. Could another couple have the same luck?

In a Nutshell
Dannie and Shane are newlyweds. Shane's dad is a widower. Shane wants to fix him up with the new neighbor and Dannie doesn't.

Observations
All in all, this was a good story. I liked the freshness of a male first-person POV. I really liked the idea of two "victims" of a fix-up were paying it forward. What a cute and original idea. However, I did have a little criticism.

Sometimes writers, usually beginners, feel they have to get creative with dialogue attributions. They are usually afraid that "said" is boring and repetitive, therefore they pepper their writing with synonyms. (Disclaimer: I have no idea if Dowd is new to writing. I don't even know if she was the one getting attributively creative.) However, using these types of attributions too much can feel strange to readers.

"That's me," I teased. "Just call me Mr. Romance."

"Really, Shane? A fix-up?" Dannie chided. "Has that ever worked for anyone we kmow?"

"It's kind of last minute," Dannie fretted. "She probably has plans."

If this were my story, I would not have used "teased." If we use "said" instead of "teased," we still get the humor. Better yet, delete the first part and make it say "Just call me Mr. Romance." "Tease" isn't the right word to use here anyway. Who is he teasing? If anyone, he's teasing himself. As the narrator of the story, why would he point out that he's teasing himself?

I would have gotten rid of "fretted" as well. If you read the dialogue without it, you still get the feeling she's fretting by virtue of her words...

"It's kind of last minute," Dannie said. "She probably has plans."

Out of the three of them, I'd have kept "chided." That puts a nuance on what she said that wouldn't otherwise be apparent.

So, to reiterate, never feel weird about using said over and over, unless it's already clear who's talking and it's unnecessary to point it out at all. Readers are used to "said" and don't even notice it. "Saids" just fade into the background.

One last small point--I understood that she didn't want to make French toast because there was so much cooking ahead. Hey, I totally identify with that predicament! However, at the end of the story, after they decide to invite the neighbor, she decides to make it after all. I didn't understand what made her change her mind. Maybe one of you can enlighten me. :)

Photo credit: Chef Sean Christopher (Directly from the Author) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons



Monday, November 24, 2014

Good Sports

by April Knight from the November 17, 2014 issue

Tagline
Julie and Will met and discovered they liked an didn't like a  lot of the same things!

In a Nutshell
Julie is thinking about changing jobs so she'll meet more men. While staring at a sporting goods store window, lost in thought, she meets a man who is just as non-athletic as she is.

Observations
I wish I liked this story more than I did. This one came in solidly average to me.

My favorite line was "Hey, would you like to have a coffee with me?" He pointed to a cafe across the street. "We can discuss all the things we aren't good at."

Photo Credit: pdphoto.org (pdphoto.org) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wrong Number, Right Man!

by Anna Jo Christopher from the November 10, 2014 issue

Tagline
Becky's silly mistake resulted in a very romantic outcome!

In a Nutshell
Becky is helping her grandmother out, changing the batteries on her wall phone. When she accidentally direct-dials the police department, an old flame comes to investigate the emergency.

Observations
This story was everything we'd expect in a Woman's World story and done well. I wrote many positive comments in the margins. First, I loved the foreshadowing in the very first paragraph:

Sometimes I think nobody in the world makes the kinds of silly mistakes I do. But then I think, if I hadn't made that one silly mistake, I wouldn't have become the happiest woman on earth.

Not only do I identify immediately with the heroine (because I make a lot of silly mistakes), but I find out that I am in for a full-on happy ending. Woman's World stories rarely end with marriage, but judging from this paragraph, I am hopeful.

Next, the whole problem with getting the phone back on the wall...that is also totally me. I have been there, done that. So I sympathized with the heroine. I have not, however, accidentally called the police. (Although I sort of wish I had.) I loved this surprise, which I didn't see coming. I did notice some odd attention spent on describing the memorized emergency numbers, but didn't think anything of it.

I was surprised a second time by the fact that the cop and the heroine knew each other. Old flame stories are not exactly uncommon, but I wasn't expecting this twist. Perhaps because usually there's only one surprise to be found.

I liked the humor too:

"Those were fun times," he said. "Cops and robbers. We terrorized the neighborhood."

I raised an eyebrow. "Glad to see you chose the more ethical road." 

And finally, there was the hinted-at happy ending. The marriage, the tying in of the snickerdoodles mentioned at the beginning of the story, and a reminder about the silly mistake wrapped everything up beautifully.

When comparing this week's story with last weeks, I think these are both familiar plots, but story two had a couple of surprises and some humor, which made all the difference.

Photo credit: Nightflyer via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Abracadabra!

by Pamela Hart from the November 3, 2014 issue

Tagline
Rosie had a feeling a little black cat would bring her luck. And she was right!

In a Nutshell
Rosie adopts a black cat. Two little trick-or-treaters, dressed as black cats, come to the door with their handsome (divorced) dad. They all just moved into the neighborhood.

Observations
I was not wowed by this story. There was nothing wrong with it. It just didn't stand out in any way. We've seen these characters before--the single woman, the divorced dad, the happy kids. We've seen this plot before--two people meet because of some activity the kids are doing. There was no outstanding banter or emotion or a creative twist. I read it and shrugged. Maybe you had some other reaction.

Photo credit: By Chris Yarzab (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons