Thursday, March 23, 2017

Erin's Lucky Charm! by Elizabeth Palmer

from the March 13, 2017 issue

Tagline: Josh didn't think he would ever love again...but his daughter's lucky charm changed all that!

Observations: Elizabeth Palmer is one of Woman's World's most prolific and skilled authors. I was amazed at how many clever bits of foreshadowing she packed in here. Just for fun, if you have the story in front of you, reread it and see if you can find the same three that I found. I'll put the picture here so my list isn't so easily seen. You're looking for details that seem unimportant when you read them, but come into play later.

All right. Let's see if our lists match up. The first two are subtle. The third, I'm sure you all caught.

1. He showed her Erin's kindergarten picture on his phone.

I thought this little detail was brilliant. Parents are always willing to show us pictures of their children. Josh is no different. So when he does this, we think nothing of it, but later, it becomes critical that Serena recognize little lost Erin when she sees her at the parade.

2. "I'll be there with friends."

Again, this seems like a normal thing to say and that's good. You don't want your foreshadowing to be super obvious. However, it's this offhand statement that creates the second black moment in the story. The first black moment was obviously the scary few minutes when Erin was missing. (This did fly against the normal "no intense drama" quasi rule that Woman's World usually adheres to, but that just goes to show you that if you write it well, you can get away with stuff.) The second black moment that I'm talking about is when Erin puts her matchmaker hat on and suggests they all go for green pancakes together. Josh knows--because of the offhand comment--that Serena is there with friends, so we are disappointed that things didn't work out after all, but Serena fixes that little problem while at the same time showing Josh that she's interested in taking this further.

And did you catch Josh's signal that he was interested too? It was back when he introduced her as his...friend, not his last-minute substitute hair stylist. So Palmer deftly showed us that both parties were open to taking that next step.

3. Josh smiled as he fastened the shamrock pendant, making a mental note to replace the flimsy chain before she wore it again.

This was the most obvious bit of foreshadowing, but I think it was only obvious because the stories are so short. Unlike in a novel, there's no time/space to insert a lot of happenings between the foreshadowing and the event the foreshadowing foreshadows. Such is the reality of writing super short stories. (Which is why I so admire the mini-mystery writers so much. Those stories are even shorter, yet the clues are all there.)

I'd be interested to find out if Palmer planned those or if she went back and added them during the revision stage, because the weak chain? That was probably planned. But maybe she's happily writing and gets to that part where Erin slips away and she thinks, "How can I get Serena to find her? Ah! If Josh showed her Erin's picture way back at the beginning..."

LOL I have such an imagination.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

An Unexpected Win! by Kay Layton Sisk

from the March 6, 2017 issue

Tagline: Lisa didn't realize the bowling match would be full of striking possibilities...until she met John.

Observations: I wanted to point out how tightly Sisk communicates some pertinent information about the setting and situation. As we all know, Woman's World stories can only be 800 words long, so succinctness is paramount.

Lisa Appleton pulled the old bowling bag from the car and caught up with 10-year-old Katie as she entered Star Strike Bowling Alley. The sound of rolling balls and crashing pins brought back good memories. A banner greeted them: Welcome Grover Elementary Third Annual Bowl-A-Thon.

It might be the PTA's third fundraiser, but it was Lisa and Katie's first. What better way to get to know parents, teachers and students when your job change meant a midterm move?

Lots of info there in a a mere two paragraphs. Personally, I think it's best to use the bulk of the story to establish a connection between the hero and heroine, show their attraction, show ways that indicate they would make a good couple.

I loved the puns at the end. Lately the endings of the stories haven't been as strong as I like, but this one was amusing and felt fresh.

Photo credit: Will via the Flickr Creative Commons License.

Missing Issue

Hi, folks. I did not receive the March 6 issue. Is there anyone who can email me a picture of that week's story? Thank you!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Superman Saves the Day! by K.C. Laine

from the February 27, 2017 issue

Tagline: Kelly believed there was someone out there for her...but she never dreamed of finding her own Superman!

Observations: If I were to make a general checklist of things you might want to include in your Woman's World story, this story had several of the items.

1. We had a plucky heroine who grew as a character during the course of the story. She started out with faltering confidence, and ended up with a boost to her self-esteem for having stepped out of her comfort zone and applying what she'd learned.

2. It had a solid three-act structure--act one in the present, act two as a summary, then act three the hero and heroine are reunited.

3. We saw how Kelly was attracted to David in a few discrete places.

4. There was a nice guy hero who was funny, helpful, supportive and thoughtful. He, too, made a journey from shy to assertive. Double whammy there on character development.

5. We have a saying that was proven true--"Fake it 'til you make it." Obviously, you don't want to have a saying in every story. Then readers would probably start rolling their eyes, but every once in a while, it's a great jumping off point.

All in all, a solid and cute story.

Kooky thing that probably only I would notice...David kept "sneaking up on her." LOL I was like, what? He's there behind her again?

Photo credit: JD Hancock via Flickr Creative Commons License

Friday, March 3, 2017

Old Friend, New Love by Jamie Pope

from the February 20, 2017 issue

Tagline: Could a childhood friendship blossom into something so much more?

Observations: This is the latest Harlequin Mini-Romance and I enjoyed it. It was very narrative-heavy, but that didn't bother me. It was also much more emotional than the normal Woman's World story. I wouldn't necessarily recommend leaning that way because I feel these stories from Harlequin authors are sort of a subset unto themselves.

The only thing that kind of bugged me was when he prompted her to "say something." And she said, ""Where's the waitress? I'm hungry." I often use humor to lighten up a heavy moment, but this felt weird to me. The guy had just laid his heart bare and she notices how nervous he is. So what does she do? She makes a joke. (Her matching declaration of love comes after the joke.) I felt bad for James and felt she was a tiny bit insensitive.

Other than that, though, I thought it was well done.

Photo credit: Hsiang Hsun (Sonic) Wu via Flickr Creative Commons License 

Friday, February 24, 2017

A Sweet Surprise by Mary Davis

from the February 13, 2017 issue

Tagline: Cathy attended the Valentine's party out of respect for her grandmother...little did she know she would meet her heart's desire!

Woman's World Tropes: Matchmaking family member (2!)

Observations: Sweet story! Ha! Did you see what I did there? LOL No really, this was a cute story. Matchmaker stories abound in Woman's World. It's cute that there are two of them here. I saw nothing that stood out especially for me to comment on (or criticize.) Sorry.

Photo Credit: Rahim Packir Saibo via Flickr Creative Commons License

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Under the Heart Tree by Rosemary Hayes

From the February 6, 2017 issue

Tagline: Susan couldn't accept losing the heart tree where she received her first kiss...

Woman's World Tropes: a small town, old flame

Observations: I loved the idea of this story--saving the tree. It's not something I recall seeing before in Woman's World. Neither do I remember seeing a lot of stories in which the hero and heroine unite to fight for a common cause. This might be a plot line worthy of further exploration. If any of you remember other examples, please let me know.

Hayes is an old hand at these stories. I don't think this was her strongest story, despite what I said about the innovative plot. I just didn't get a warm fuzzy feeling at the end and I've been trying to figure out why. I think part of the problem might be that they both held torches for each other, so I couldn't help but wonder why they broke up in the first place.

Also the epilogue paragraph just didn't give me a zing of happy.

Some things in life I definitely can Justin's eventual marriage proposal. The reception was held at the new Heart Tree Hotel conference room. And of course, there was only one place to hold our ceremony--under the iconic Heart Tree.

Could it be that the reception was in a conference room? That sounds so stuffy. Maybe it would have been better if Hayes had just not included those words. That's not to say that a wedding reception in a conference room is bad or can't be romantic. It just didn't sound romantic.

Maybe it might have been better to mention again that the Heart Tree was the site of their kiss rather than that it was an icon. Or maybe we could have witnessed Justin proposing under the tree... I don't know. Anyway, your mileage may vary. Obviously the editors deemed it worthy of publication. :)

Photo credit: Krista Grinberga via Flickr Creative Commons License

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A High School Crush by Nell Musolf

from the January 20, 2017 issue

Tagline: Prudence was anxious about starting over...until she talked with Hank!

Woman's World Tropes: Old Flame from High School

Observations: Today, let's talk about two different jumping off points for stories.

This week's story takes place at a crucial moment in the heroine's life. She's about to start a new chapter in her life. She's quit her job of 20 years and is going to nursing school. From the first moment we meet her, we immediately admire her for her courage, right? This is a good starting point for any Woman's World story. Create a character who is starting something new. It can be anything--a new job, like Prudence; a new hobby; a new town; moving to a new town; getting a new car or a new pet. Then show her connecting with someone in the process.


Begin the story before that new something has begun. Show the character at the crossroads, struggling to make the decision. Then someone special can come along and encourage or support. In this type of story we see the main character grow and change and find love.

Photo Credit: Dominik Wagner via Flickr Creative Commons License