Tuesday, November 6, 2018

A Sweet Fortune

by Amy Andrews from the October 29, 2018 issue

Tagline: When a fortune cookie foretold that Callie would meet the man of her dreams on Halloween, she spent years secretly hoping the prediction would come true. But just when she'd given up on ever finding love, she meets a handsome stranger...on All Hallow's Eve. Could he finally be the one?

Observations: Wow. LONGEST TAGLINE EVER. LOL It was like a full paragraph. They're really taking advantage of the double page spread. :)

I actually got a chill at the end of this story, something I wasn't expecting. It was a little eerie, but what to you expect from a Halloween story, right?

Again, for a Harlequin Woman's World story, I think this is indistinguishable from the norm we're used to seeing. Maybe the editorial staff and Harlequin had a meeting or are communicating more. Whatever they're doing, it's making the "5-minute romance" experience more consistent for the reader.

Regarding this story in particular, I liked the "coincidence" of the hero dressing as the thing that the heroine is afraid of. I also liked that he was Itsy Bitsy, instead of a scary spider. Again, talking about characterization, the fact that this man isn't afraid to channel his inner child or about being "manly," shows that he's real life romance material--at least the type of romance material Woman's World story readers are looking for. No tortured, alphas here. No sirree.

Photo credit: Andrew Malone via Flickr CC license

Monday, November 5, 2018

A Sweet Surprise

by Rosemary Hayes from the October 22, 2018 issue

Tagline: Haunted by a past relationship, Laura is afraid she'll never fall in love again...until Joel shows up on her doorstep Halloween night and makes a heartfelt confession.

Observations: Who can resist such a sweet story of a romance that was so long in the making? You can't help but admire the heroine for not wanting to come between her brother and his best friend. That's the type of characterization that works well in a Woman's World story. The editors like to be shown good, positive character traits. In my opinion, this is because we're not only telling romance stories, we're also showing people at their best, to counter all the negativity we see around us these days. Think of our stories as a weekly prescription of happy and keep that in mind as you're writing your own stories.

Photo credit: Scott McLeod via Flickr CC license

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Hearts Lost and Found

by Jill Weatherholt from the October 15, 2018 issue

Tagline: Just when Charles fears he'll never be able to fall in love again, he meets Melanie in an unlikely place...and she changes everything.

Observations: Well, this was a Harlequin story and very well done. I may start regularly analyzing them. I didn't even realize it was an HQ story until I saw the book cover at the end. I like that it's not so "in your face."

Unfortunately, that means less stories for us freelancers, or perhaps more opportunity to sell to Harlequin, if they like the type of Woman's World stories we write...? Glass half full and so on.

So I really cannot find anything in this story that does not jibe with the regular Woman's World stories. It has the right tone, the right kind of plot, the touch of nostalgia/tradition that we have come to associate with the magazine. Even the ending was spot on.

I did laugh at this line:

"Thank you both for rescuing me," she said, her green eyes sparkling up at Charles. "I probably would have gotten lost in there and ended up looking like one of the scarecrows..."

LMAO.

Photo credit: Cynthia Collins via Flickr CC license.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

A Dream Come True

by Mary Jo Young from the October 8, 2018 issue

Tagline: Katherine didn't have time for love, but when Don walked into her life, she realized she had seen his blue eyes before...in her dreams!

Observations: First a couple of general observations about the layout of the story. THERE'S A HOT GUY PIC! Holy moly, people. It's not a puppy or a kitten or a latte with a foam heart. Is this a trend? We shall see. Also, the print is bigger now, and I wonder if this is a nod to a readership who isn't getting any younger. I certainly had an easier time reading it. Also, it made the story look much longer.

Overall, very cute story and well written. That was a neat twist that they'd actually met when they were kids, even if Katie was the only one who actually realized it.

However, at the beginning of the story, I noticed something I was taught to avoid, something I call, "As you know, Bob." It's the backstory presented in conversation, but it's information that both characters already know. Clearly, Liz knows about Katherine's recurring dream because she says, "Did he actually say anything this time?" It's no big deal. Obviously the editors had no problem with it, but if it had been my story, I'd have done the recap of her dream as part of the narrative and not dialogue. Other than that, no complaints!

Photo credit: David Goerhing via Flickr CC license

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Love During Visiting Hours

by Andrea Bolter from the October 1, 2018 issue

Harlequin Story

Tagline: Seven years after Carla and Luke parted ways, they bump into each other in the most unlikely of places...and the old flames feel a new spark!

Observations: I decided to go ahead and analyze this one, even though it's a Harlequin story. Ms. Bolder did such a great job, I couldn't tell until the end that it wasn't a freelancer's story.

All throughout reading this story, I kept thinking about that movie The Bucket List with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, about two old codgers who have to share a hospital room. This was a set-up I haven't seen before in years and years of looking at Woman's World stories.

Just help me out here...when they say cheese sandwich, is that a grilled cheese sandwich? Because if so, yum. If they mean a cold cheese sandwich, yuck. LOL

Photo by: Kitchen Life of a Navy Wife (Flickr creative commons license)

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Suds and Sparks

by Kathy L. Matisko from the September 24, 2018 issue

Tagline: When Julie met Cole, it was awash with possibility!

Kate's completely subjective rating: 8

Observations: This story seems simple, but there's a lot of craft going on inside it. I'm going to just laundry-list (LOL at the pun) what I noticed.

The description of Cole was extremely sparse. It was just five words.

Tall. Trim. Tousled dark hair.

It wasn't even a complete sentence, which is great because these stories are so short, you have to cut wherever you can.

You have a meet-cute, in which he saves her from a grocery cart collision.

Matisko revealed the characters' single status in a clever way with that quilt and the convo.

The ending referred back to Julie's romance-reading grandmother, which was a detail that makes the story nice and tight.

Photo credit: liz west via Flickr creative commons license.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Home at Last

by Diane Crawford from the September 17, 2018 issue

Tagline: When Jenna moved back to her hometown, she wasn't looking for romance--but then...

Observations: I often talk about having a character learn a small lesson or overcome an obstacle, even in these short 800 word stories. However, this is not a mandatory thing and this week's story is a good example of a heroine who has no character arc. She's perfect the way she is. You may have heard the terms "character driven" or "plot driven." This story was definitely plot driven.

If you omit a character arc, you can concentrate solely on the romance--in this case, a second-chance romance. Also note the nostalgic feel of the story. Small towns are inherently nostalgic, recalling that Norman Rockwellian atmosphere. For instance, when she mentioned concerts in the park, I immediately pictured a park with a big white gazebo, like in the movie Groundhog Day. You picture a lifestyle that is relaxed and more focused on the Good Things in Life.

This is what Woman's World readers want to read about because that's the focus of the entire magazine. Everything in the publication is geared toward helping women focus on the simple things, relaxing, being healthy, being happy. All things positive. So keep that in mind when writing your stories.

Photo credit: MCTV Dave via Flickr creative commons license