Friday, May 22, 2015

Free as a Bird

by Nell Musolf from the April 13, 2015 issue

Tagline: When Karen and Tom worked together, they'd been just good friends. Could they be something more now?

Observations: I wanted to talk about characterization with this story, because I really thought the heroine was well done. One of the things about Woman's World stories--and really all romances, if you think about it--is how we can live vicariously through the heroines. We love reading these stories because it makes us feel as if we are in love too, or about to fall in love.

A good way to help that along is to make the heroine likable. Give her qualities that we can identify with, that make us say, "Hey, I'm like that too!" So with this story, I"m going to look at ways that Musolf did that.

1. Karen has a crush on her old boss. Who among us hasn't had a crush on someone we either weren't free to pursue and/or thought was out of our league? Anyone? Bueller? We automatically feel for her because we've been in her shoes.

2. "I took a moment to smooth my hair and make sure no blueberry muffin crumbs decorated the front of my sweater." Again, this is something we've all lived through, right? Where we're thinking, "Oh, please, let there not be something in my teeth" etc. This little moment also adds some tension for us.

3. Likability is increased when we respect the character and admire decisions he/she makes, like both of them staying professional for ten years, when they apparently both had feelings for each other.

4. And when Karen took action...that was great too.  Tom says:

"My problem is I don't like eating out alone." 

Our eyes met over the tops of our coffee cups and my heart did the thumping thing again. "You aren't seeing anyone?" 

That was Karen, taking a step forward. And here again is another step. Tom says he should try taking out someone like her and Karen says:

""Someone like me? How about me?"

That is ballsy! Again, I admire her bravery. I think Karen was a terrific character.

Photo credit: Jazzbobrown, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Walk in the Woods

by April Serock from the May 4, 2015 issue

Tagline: Sarah didn't exactly have a love of nature, but spending time outdoors just might lead to love of another kind...

Observations: I haven't done a stream-of-consciousness critique in a while, so let's do that. It's simple and easy for me, which is something I need because lately my brain is mush.

I love the first paragraph and how once she sees the handsome park ranger, her enthusiasm for the nature class increased.

Then the next paragraph makes me laugh and I am eager to read what the mishaps are, especially since I am not the most adept person when it comes to communing with nature.

OMG, she had to empty water from her sneakers. That reminds me of when my child fell into the tidepools. His shoes took like three days to completely dry.

I'm enjoying their "courtship," which seems to consist of Sarah getting into trouble and Ryan tending to her afterward. This section is pretty long, but it's well done and engaging.

I'm laughing at this part:

"I take it you haven't had much experience in the woods," he joked.

"Really?" She laughed. "What was your first clue?"

And then later, another funny, self-deprecating remark from her when she hears they're going on a night hike:

"Oh good! Walking in the woods at night. What could go wrong?"

I am now anticipating/hoping for some actual wooing from Mr. Park Ranger.

Okay, so he doesn't really go for it. He sort of hints around, but that's cool because it makes Sarah act on her own behalf. Girl power! Cute ending.

Looking back, this was a well-paced story with a lot of "telling," but it had enough dialogue and interaction that you still felt you were in the moment. I felt we saw enough interaction between them to reassure us that they have a decent chance and falling in love. I admire her moxie in suggesting she cook dinner for him, even if he pretty much told her he'd be up for that.

Photo credit: Francesco Veronesi

Sunday, May 10, 2015

You've Got Mail!

by Tina Radcliff from the April 27, 2015 issue

Andi Brown liked her new job, but sharing the same name with a co-worker was causing nothing but confusion...until she met the other A. Brown!

In a Nutshell:
Tired of getting her co-workers mail, Andi takes matters into her own hands. She strikes up a work place acquaintance with him until he goes one step further and asks her out for dinner.

I'm afraid I've fallen out of the habit of reading theses stories weekly. The magazines have piled up and so I find I don't have an easy recollection of the types of stories that have been published lately. So, when I tried to think back on if I've seen a misunderstanding story lately, I couldn't remember.

However, this is a very good opportunity to talk about the trope of misunderstanding. In full-length romance novels, misunderstandings, if handled well, often create a believable conflict between the hero and heroine. If handled badly, it can seem contrived and lead to reader frustration.

In Woman's World stories, the misunderstanding is very often a way to get the hero and heroine together, as in this story. It gives the two main characters a reason to meet, and meet cute. Usually, the characters take it from there, again, as in this story.

Don't get me wrong. The other type of misunderstanding--the conflict kind--also happens in Woman's World romances. In our short 800-word stories, the misunderstanding is often based on an assumption, like the woman she sees him with must be his wife/girlfriend, right? Pfft. No. It's his female cousin/co-worker/neighbor. This kind of hokey plot works for the editors and readers of Woman's World. The trick is to make the characters interesting, get some good banter going, put a spin on it that seems new and different--like a unique setting or event or problem we haven't seen very often.

Photo credit: Russavia via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Kristen's Bucket List

by Patty Murray from the April 20, 2015 issue

Could love be the next check on Kristen's bucket list?

In a Nutshell
Kristen is visiting the Grand Canyon. She meets an elderly woman traveling with her handsome grandson. By the end of the afternoon, he has her phone number.

You have to admire Kristen's spirit and how, undeterred by her recent divorce, is eager to take life by the horns and go out and fulfill her dreams. She's braver than I am. As hermit-like as I am, I'd take a friend.

Jake is a terrific guy, clearly dedicated to his grandmother. It's really a wonder why he's still single. LOL

However, even with these two well-drawn characters, I found myself wondering what cities they lived in.

Otherwise, I liked the story. I liked the ending. It had just the right amount of sugar and optimism for a Woman's World story.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Life Happens

Two things.

One, I have not received the March 6 or March 13 issues. If anyone can scan and send to me, I would appreciate it.

Two, my father had a serious stroke recently. He is non-ambulatory and can't speak. It's been hard dealing with that and taking over his finances. So forgive me if my analyses aren't timely.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Romance Recycled

by Emma Courtice from the March 30, 2015 issue

Gayle enjoyed romance novels. Now it appeared some real life romance might be coming her way...

In a Nutshell
Gayle's granddaughter "needs a book for school" and the library is out of copies, so they must go to a used book store. The proprietor is a nice guy and it turns out he has a granddaughter too, who may or may not have had a hand in arranging the serendipitous meeting.

I wanted to point out a few of the things I noticed about this story. First, there was a nice addition of backstory in the sixth paragraph. The backstory is all the stuff the reader might need to know about the characters in order to enjoy the story that's unfolding now. We find out that Gayle is recently widowed. We had already discovered she has a high-school-aged granddaughter earlier. And we don't really find out much more than that at this point because it's not necessary. With only 800 words to work with, don't tell more than you need to.

There was a bit of characterization that I wanted to point out...

Gayle ran a finger along a row of titles. "Well, I used to read a lot, but nowadays it's hard to find the time."

"You have to find time for the important things," he said.

I loved seeing that he thought reading was important. I thought, "Gayle, he's a keeper."

I also noticed a sign that they were attracted to each other--or at least Bill was attracted to Gayle...

"Nice to meet you, Gayle." He held her hand a fraction of a second longer than necessary.

Notice, it's really not much. Just one sentence. But it's important to show the characters are interested in one another. It helps the reader believe the romance has a chance. Because haven't we all read stories where after you're done, you wonder if they're going to end up breaking up eventually?

Finally, I thought that the tying in of the important stuff line was perfect. We see the granddaughter, Kayla, speaking up and showing her true colors as a "meddling" matchmaker. We see that Bill isn't the only one who says that you have to make time for important things. (A tenet I believe, as well.) And we get that feeling of circularity--almost like tying up a loose end at the end of a novel--except this isn't a loose end. It's just that feeling of everything coming full circle.

Photo Credit: Stewart Butterfield via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, April 3, 2015

Rx for Love

by Julie Elstner from the April 6, 2015 issue

Jess realized that John Garrett might turn out to be just what the doctor ordered!

In a Nutshell
Jess is a reporter for the local paper and she has to do an interview with a doctor before her father's 60th birthday party. Later, she meets the doctor at the party.

I thought the "pink looks good on you" joke was cute and endearing. I liked the ending a lot and how Dr. John Garrett knows what he wants and isn't shy about letting people know.

However, I thought that the confusion about the name was (sorry!) a little weak. Jess, to me, is a female name. I had to actually think a couple of moments to think of what Jess would be short for if it were a man. Jesse, I guess. Whereas, Jess, in my mind is short for Jessica or Jessie. If you're going to go for the unisex name misunderstanding, then I would choose one  like Chris or Alex.

I also stumbled a bit when she finished the interview and went to get a bottle of champagne. Early in the story there was some concern over her being late to the party because of the interview. But then she takes the time to get the champagne. My thought is, poor planning, Jess. It's your dad's 60th. You shouldn't wait until 20 minutes before the party to think about a gift (if the bubbly was the gift.)

Photo Credit: CDC via Wikimedia Commons