Wednesday, June 21, 2017

New Beginnings by Scarlet Wilson

from the June 19, 2017 issue

I know I said I wasn't going to analyze the Harlequin Mini-Romances, but I just wanted to say this story really felt like the perfect, regular, Woman's World story. I wonder if Scarlet Wilson is a fan of Woman's World?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

One Morning in the Park by Jenny Welsh

from the June 12, 2017 issue

Tagline: Ellie knew no one in town...then she met Danny and Sophie!

Observations: This story is a direct opposite from the story last week. Last week, we had a widow who was at a crossroads. She felt something was missing in her life, but was reluctant to move forward for fear that it would mean saying goodbye to her late husband.

This week, we have a heroine who is completely content. She is on the brink too, but is in a state of happy anticipation, eager to see what life brings her. She's proactive and optimistic.

There's also a time-honored trope here I thought I'd point out - the often-maligned misunderstanding. In the pages of Woman's World, you will often see a story in which a character appears to be married or taken, when in fact, just the opposite is true. Ellie sees a man with a little girl and assumes he's her father. Another variation is seeing someone with a person of the opposite sex--walking together, shopping, kissing a cheek or hugging, driving in the same car--the possibilities are endless. It's natural to assume they might be a couple. You will also see a heroine jump to conclusions if the hero is doing something to suggest he's a parent. Maybe there's a carseat in his car, he's carrying a shopping bag from a toy store, he shopping in the children's section of the bookstore.

Regardless of how they come to the conclusion that the person is married/attached, obviously the truth must be found out. Here Ellie hears the girl call him "Uncle Danny."

Photo credit: Sebastien Launay (cc)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Wave of Romance by Mary Jo Young

From the June 5, 2017 issue

Tagline: When Lydia met Sam, the connection startled her!

Observations: This is a good example of showing a character getting past a hang-up they have, something that you can really hang your hat on with a Woman's World romance story. It's one of the ways to come up with story ideas I suggest in my "How to Write and Sell Romance to Woman's World Magazine" class. Think of a problem in the hero or heroine's life and tell the story of how they overcome it. It can be an emotional problem, like in this story, or a real life problem, like they need to find a new apartment.

Here is how Young did it. Note there are only two acts, not the usual three in this story, but it works.

Act 1: Young set up the "problem" by showing the widow Lydia talking with her daughter about finding someone special. Lydia is an active woman who seeks an equally active guy, but the men she meets her own age are couch potatoes. The daughter suggests she find someone younger and Lydia balks at first, but does feel lonely.

Act 2: We see Lydia is involved in community theatre and she meets the new manager. He's cute. They talk about surfing, something they both enjoy doing. Lydia, afraid, puts it right out there that she's got grown children and she's a widow and the hero doesn't bat an eyelash. He's not that much younger than she is.

Here's where we see Lydia turn the corner.

Divorced, Lydia surmised, and he didn't wear a wedding ring. Maybe she needn't be so hung up on the age thing.

After that, it's smooth sailing. There is no black moment in this story, but as I've pointed out in my class, that isn't a mandatory thing for a Woman's World tale.

Photo credit: Eugene Kim, (Flickr CC)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Game of Love by Mary Davis

from the May 29, 2017 issue

Tagline: His eyes held hers and Kelsey's heart skipped a beat!

Observations: Alas, although hockey is my sport of choice (watching, not playing!) I did enjoy this softball story. There was some cute banter between the hero and heroine, which I think is always a good thing. First, it's banter! Who doesn't like banter? Also, it shows us the hero and heroine interacting. Readers want to believe the couple has a chance of making a go of it, and showing them on interacting on the page is usually a step in the right direction.

I also liked how both characters stepped out of their comfort zones. Steve did it when he asked her to accompany him to the party. Kelsey was brave when she admitted she had a crush on him. That last one really requires some daring, because we can all imagine the awkwardness that would follow if he didn't feel the same way about her.

Photo credit (cc): Erik Drost

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Midnight Caller by Shelley Cooper

from the May 15, 2017 issue

Tagline: Sophie was anxious about meeting Luke...would they connect as well in person as they had by phone?

Observations: Loved this story! I don't recall a Woman's World romance about two people meeting via  a radio show before.

My desire for plausibility was challenged a couple of times. I doubted a professional radio host would ask a caller, even if she was familiar, about her personal life. I also didn't think the station would approve of him making a date while still on the air. However, I went with it anyway. I thought, maybe this was a smaller town where things are different.

I really enjoyed how Cooper brought back the dating rules in Luke's conversation. I thought it was cute that people showed up to the cafe to see what would happen between them. This was just a fresh story, well-written. It reminded me of a mini rom-com movie that was only five minutes long. LOL

P.S. Notice how she mentions the Bluetooth kicking in. It's a good idea to not show your characters doing things that are against the law or possibly dangerous like driving and talking on the cellphone.

Photo credit: curtis.kennington via Flickr Creative Commons License.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Courage to Love by Mary Jo Young

from the May 8, 2017 issue

Tagline: Rita wasn't looking for romance...but it found her when she began to live a more courageous life!

Observations: I liked this story a lot. I just finished editing a story and one of my main suggestions to the author was that she focus more on the main character and give him a character arc--something to get past, like shyness. It really helps people identify with your characters. When we see characters with challenges that we ourselves have battled, we automatically root for them.

I thought the conversation between them flowed naturally, one subject leading into the next. This is another tricky skill that is often challenging to beginning writers. We know, as authors, where we want the conversation to go. We need them to talk about x, y, or z and sometimes an author forces it that way.

For example, girl meets boy at the auto show...

"That's a nice model," Jane says. "It's so sleek and speedy looking."

"It sure is," Richard replied. "I love cars. That's why I come to the auto show, so I can see all the latest models."

Jane sighed wistfully. "I can't afford to get a new muffler on my car."

Whoa. Where did that come from? Maybe we need Richard to find out that Jane is poor and can't afford the upkeep on her vehicle, but do you see how that doesn't flow? Yes, her statement does have to do with cars, but it's out of place.

Another thing I thought was great in this story was the ending. In my class I talk about a plot device to bring your story around full circle, which is having a friend or family member say something sage or repeat a saying and then bring it up again at the end of the story. In this story, Rita's mom said "someone special would come into her life when she least expected it." And at the end of the story Rita realizes her mom was right. But Young went one step further and pulled in the fact that the lecture was about courage. This was very clever because it reminds us that Rita has grown as a person. She's become more daring and it's paying off.

Photo credit: Vee via the Flickr Creative Commons License.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Purr-fect Romance! by Nell Mulsolf

from the May 1, 2017 issue

Tagline: Fluffy liked her old home...and her owner liked Kate!

Observations: Nell Musolf is one of the most prolific Woman's World authors, with 11 stories under her belt, at my count. I don't think this was her best work. I liked "Free as a Bird" better. I wish I had more to say about this one, but I just don't. Sorry. I feel like I let you guys down when I can't find any teaching points. Maybe next week. :)

Photo credit: Jans Canon via the Flickr Creative Commons License