Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Good Home

by Elizabeth Palmer from the July 15, 2014 issue

Tagline
Lily's trip to the shelter brought more than two sweet kittens into her life!

In a Nutshell
When Lily wants to adopt two cats from the shelter, the previous owner, who has been transferred overseas, wants to meet her first. Lily is touched by how devoted he is to his pets. When he returned unexpectedly, He wants to see Lily as much as he does the cats.

Observations
Cliches with a twist: I would venture to say at least one Woman's World story a year revolves around a pet adoption or has an animal shelter as a setting. I believe the reason is, adopting a pet is an altruistic thing to do. It shows good character and we want our hero and heroine to be admirable.

The trick to writing and selling a story with this animal adoption/shelter trope is to make it your own by putting a twist on it. In this case, Palmer had the (male) owner request that he meet the potential adopter. This tweaked my interest because it was an odd, but understandable request. Not only that, but it went a long way establishing what a caring man Adam is.

Safety First: It can be a dangerous world for a single woman. Always keep in mind that you don't want to portray your heroines doing stupid things, like agreeing to meet a man she met online in a secluded place. I noticed that when the pet adoption facilitator asked if Lily would agree to meet the cat owners, we found out that the man was her neighbor. It's not like the man provided ID and clearance from the FBI that he did not have a criminal record, but the fact that he was the woman's neighbor provides a tiny bit of security. It's a small detail, but one I thought worth mentioning.

Photo credit: Denniss via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Work Buddies

by Melody Murray from the July 7, 2014 issue

Tagline
Grace knew that things don't always work out as you hope they will. But, she discovered, sometimes they do!

In a Nutshell
Grace flips houses. She hires the handsome Randy to help her with the heavy tasks. She thinks he's not interested in her until the job is finished and she finds out that he was only waiting until she wasn't his boss anymore.

Observations
Description: In general, because of the very small word count allowed by Woman's World, I usually counsel writers to minimize descriptions of characters. However, this story had a quite hefty description of Randy.

The friend was right. Randy was worth any two helpers she had hired before. He was strong and precise in his work. He was also very handsome.

The "I would love for him to be attracted to me" kind of handsome. The "why do I have to always be such a mess when he's around" kind of handsome.

His dark hair fell across his forehead[,] calling attention to his blue eyes. As if that weren't enough, the T-shirts he wore stretched most attractively across his broad shoulders.

Three whole paragraphs! This is quite unusual, however, please notice that the author did not just describe Randy, she also established the fact that Grace is attracted to him.

Characterization and Gender Roles: Woman's World loves traditional values, however, has slowly but surely included "new-fashioned" ideas like gender-norm reversing. Here, you see Grace restoring a house. If there ever was a male-dominated job, construction worker is it, right? So when writing your stories, or looking for ideas, take those gender norms and turn them on their ears.

Photo credit: BaytownBert via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Fireworks

by Pamela Hart from the June 30, 2014 issue

Tagline
With her ex out of the picture and her dog on vacation, Lindy would be alone on the Fourth. Or so it seemed...

In a Nutshell
Lindy brings her dog to the kennel every year because fireworks scare him. There she meets the son of the kennel owners. They agree to meet the next day to watch the fireworks together.

I'm going to try a different set-up with topics and see if that works. Bear with me. I'm always looking to improve things.

Observations
Story Ideas: This is one of those stories that makes me think, why didn't *I* think of this? It reminds me of a great tip for finding story ideas.

Think of a minor problem that you or someone you know has, like a dog that freaks out on the Fourth of July. Build a story around it. I have a cupboard with a  broken latch. I think to myself, what if a woman didn't know how to fix that and knew her new neighbor was handy that way? What if she offered to bake him cookies or a pie in exchange for fixing her cupboard? OR, I think, what if I put a twist on it and make it a man who doesn't have a drill, but has noticed his neighbor working on projects in her garage? Maybe he offers the baked goods in exchange so we break free of the gender norms... See what I mean. Let your brain go places.

Characterization: Notice how Lindy has just broken up with her boyfriend. She has some "woe is me" feelings. That's natural, but in a Woman's World story, you don't want to belabor that. In fact, you should show the character overcoming that and moving forward. That's the type of optimism and mindset that Woman's World likes.

Driving to the kennel, Lindy thought about tomorrow--she was looking forward to the parade and the fireworks, but the picnic? No. After her break-up with Josh six months earlier, Lindy would be flying solo in her group of married or seriously dating friends. She sighed. She was not going to let Josh ruin the holiday.

Very succinct and to the point. You can feel Lindy's determination and admire her for it. Keep this in mind when dealing with a character with a "tragic" past.

Photo credit Ltshears via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Shakespeare and Love

by Tamara Shaffer from the June 23, 2014 issue

Tagline: Jessica had never realized just how romantic Romeo and Juliet really was!

In a Nutshell: Jessica and her little boy meet a man and a little girl at a statue of Shakespeare that they visit often. One day it rains and the four of them have cocoa together. Oh, and the little girl is his niece and he's single. Score!

Observations: There was a lot about this story that made me think, "This was written by a pro," and it was. Shaffer has several stories published by Woman's World.

Realism--young children do crave repetition, so I thought the fact that Billy wanted to keep visiting the statue was perfect. And if you've had kids, you know they like to do things "all by myself." So, another realistic touch there that will ring true for a good portion of Woman's World readers.

Misdirection--when magicians direct your attention one way while they're doing something sneaky somewhere else, it's called misdirection. Shaffer did this when she had the hero say, "...your mom'll have dinner on the table." Of course, as seasoned Woman's World story readers, we know he's available. Personally, I suspected he was divorced, like she was.

Transition: Even the three rainy days that kept us inside didn't completely erase him from my mind. That part was terrific. With 800 words, you don't have a lot of wiggle room and this sentence both establishes a passage of time and shows us her frame of mind.

Foreshadowing: I hope you noticed the author foreshadowing the rainstorm. This ups the tension a tiny bit for the reader. We feel a light sense of impending doom or romance, depending upon your outlook. LOL

Humor: 'But soft!'" He struck a dramatic pose. "'What light through yonder window breaks?'" He winked at me. "I hope it's the sun coming out." Loved that. I also loved this line: "See you tomorrow at the park--same time, same statue?"

Characterization: We want to read about heroines with whom we could be friends and I appreciate humility and the ability to make fun of yourself as Jessica did at the very end of the story where she pokes fun at her unfamiliarity with Shakespeare's work.

"As Romeo--or no, I think it was Juliet--said, 'Parting is such sweet sorrow.'"

I giggled. "Hey even I remember that line!" I said, thinking, I couldn't agree more.




Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Real Prince

by Kathy Hendrickson from the June 16, 2014 issue

Tagline: It appeared a little bit of bad luck was going to bring a lot of happiness to Princess Amanda...

In a Nutshell: Amanda is a princess-for-hire but gets a flat tire on her way to her first gig. A man comes to her rescue.

Observations: I feel like I've read a story about a birthday party princess before, but it doesn't really matter. Story elements have a way of reappearing in Woman's World stories. This was still fun and cute.

I haven't talked about story structure in a long time, so today's a good day for that.

The first part of the story introduces the heroine, her situation, the hero and his daughter. It takes us continuously all the way from Amanda's flat tire to the party.

Then, notice there is a "tell" paragraph to transition us to after the party. There's no room to show everything in a Woman's World story, so when writing your own stories, make strategic use of summarizing the action like Hendrickson did. This transitional paragraph kind of serves as the second "act" of the story.

In the last portion of the story, there is no "black moment," per se. You have that worry in the back of your mind that Eric is married because he has a young daughter, but really--this is a Woman's World story. The reader knows deep down he's single, and yet the tension is still there subtly. Black moments are good, but not necessary.

Photo Credit: Alesgab93 via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Dream of You

by Barbara Glass from the June 9, 2014 issue

Tagline: A conversation with an old friend, a vivid dream...and suddenly, Helen's thoughts were filled with Robbie.

In a Nutshell: After talking with an old high school friend, Helen is reminded of her first boyfriend, Robbie. She immerses herself in photos from the period and loses track of the time. Her friend comes to pick her up for their lunch/movie date, but just as they're leaving, Robbie calls.

Observations: I've said it before, and I'll say it again--Woman's World romance stories are all about possibilities. Often, first meet stories end with someone asking someone out on a date and getting a "yes," and the reader is left feeling optimistic for the couple.

In this case, we don't even get that far, but we still feel Helen's giddy excitement. But I'll admit I have a soft spot for old flame stories. There's a guy in my past that crops up in my thoughts every once in a while.

So, the story is very much in line with what we expect from a Woman's World romance. However, it's also contrary in that Robbie doesn't even show up until the very end--and he's not even there in person. It's only his voice on the phone! The majority of the story is reminiscing via the conversation between Helen and her friend. Usually, I don't like stories that don't show the hero and heroine interacting for a decent amount of time because it can make it hard for the reader to believe they really made a connection and have a bright future as a couple.

However, this one worked for me. I think maybe because it was an old flame story, so we almost have a connection built in, assuming they're still compatible after all those years. That assumption I'm willing to take as a reader, because I'm hopeful and optimistic. I think also because the story ends on the cusp of their conversation, the author isn't forcing us to believe two people just met and connected enough to make future plans. Glass wisely stopped us short of that. She also used the friend cleverly too.

Sarah, the friend, leaves at the very end of the story, literally closing the door on what's going on with Helen and Robbie on the phone. I felt like I was perching on Sarah's shoulder as she left the lovebirds to catch up with each other and it was as if all her hope for her friend was transferred to me.

In my opinion, this is what Woman's World--the entire magazine--tries to do. Lift us up. Show us that life is good, and if at the moment it's not quite so good, things can and will get better.

Photo from HerCampus.com

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Imagine That

by Kathleen E. Dunlap from the June 2, 2014 issue

Tagline: Karli was a hard worker, but she was also a dreamer--and when she met Tony, her flights of fancy took a romantic turn!

In a Nutshell: Karli owns a diner. Her oven breaks. The repairman is cute. He comes back later to sample her biscuits.

Observations: This is going to be a rough one. I didn't sleep well last night, but I've put off my analysis for too long already.

Let me start with what I liked. In the last third of the story was a part I really enjoyed. It's the moment when Karli realizes how attracted to Tony she is.

The diner was busy that night. As promised, Tony had repaired the oven by noon. When she paid him, their hands had touched. Remembering, she felt her face warm.

That was perfectly done. We want to see that the characters are attracted to one another.

I also liked the last line and how it ties in the title and Carli's Walter-Mitty-like daydreams.

On the other hand, many things pulled me out of the story.

1. I've watched way too many shows about restaurants so there were a few things that seemed off to me. For one, June the cook goes to the store for cinnamon. Restaurants do not get stuff from grocery stores. They have them delivered by suppliers. But let's say that they legitimately ran out unexpectedly before their order comes. Then I wonder what kind of business owner she is. If you see you're running low on something, you get more before you run out. I suspect this was all because the author didn't want June there when the repairman came, but I don't think it was necessary. She was making pies. She could have just stayed on task and let Karli deal with the repairman.

2. One of my pet peeves is using a word incorrectly.

As June whisked away, Karli poked her head inside the oven...

"Whisk" is a word that needs an object. It's like "planted." You wouldn't say, "As June planted." You need to mention what she's planting. At the very least, it should have said, "As June whisked herself away."

3. The next thing that confused me was how Karli knew his name was Tony. I'm assuming he was wearing a name tag, but that isn't mentioned in the story. The humor about his name is kind of cute, but if you're going to crack that type of joke, you need to work it. There should have been a little more about it than him saying his parents met in San Francisco. It should become an inside joke between them. Them and the readers, by the way.

Wow. Epiphany there about humor for me. I never realized that before. After all these years analyzing these stories, I love learning stuff!

So, to summarize: if you crack a little joke, don't miss out on the opportunity to make it an inside joke, between the hero and heroine and the reader, too. This will add humor--always a good thing in a Woman's World story--and create a connection between the reader and the characters.

4. Karli asks him to check the light on the stove hood. I'm pretty sure commercial stove tops aren't like those we have at home. I would bet money they don't have lights, only huge exhaust fans to suck up all the grease and smoke. So once again, I'm pulled out of the story by doubt. BUT, your average reader probably isn't as nitpicky as I am and they probably got more sleep.

5. Last thing that bothered me was a question I had near the end. Karli tells June she'll take out a basket of biscuits. First of all, June's the cook. She wouldn't be taking them out. But my real question was, did Karli know they were for Tony? It's not made clear and it's really important that we know.

If she did know he was there, then we learn something about her--that she's not afraid to go after what she wants. We may admire her for this. :) It helps us understand who Karli is as a person.

If she didn't know he was there, then it's a complete surprise and we want to see that surprise unfold into happiness when she sees him and realizes he came back, perhaps because he's interested.

So, see what I mean? Because we don't know the situation, we are cheated of feeling either. I'll be interested to find out what you all thought.

Image from Wikimedia Commons