Friday, September 18, 2020

Staying Past Summer

 by Wendel Potter from the September 7, 2020 issue

: When she moves to her aunt's hometown, Shallon Seacrest never expects to find her old friend Travis...or a chance at new love.

Observations: What stood out to me in this story was the setting. You can't get more Norman Rockwellian than Bison Falls, the town in this story. I have never lived in a place where there would be a Labor Day potluck, so for city folk like me, this kind of story has the appeal of living the small town life vicariously. When a story is set in a small town, I automatically feel like life is passing at a more leisurely pace.

Potter managed to surprise me, even though I saw this hint earlier in the story...

He regarded Shallon, his eyes flashing with recognition as a shiver ran down her spine.

I read that and wondered about the recognition and then moved on to read the rest of the story. Then at the end, I was surprised to see they had known each other as kids. I love being surprised when I read. I applaud the author for accomplishing this in such a short story. :) 

Photo by A Little Bit of Stone via Flickr CC license

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Mr. Fix-It

 by Shelley Cooper from the August 31, 2020 issue

: After a tough breakup, Delaney never expects to find the fix to her broken heart behind the counter of a hardware store...

Observations: I really liked the character of Delaney in this story, and I wanted to talk about two options for characters you may never have considered.

Option 1

Present the readers with a character who needs a change in his/her life. Show how the character's life has been up to this point and then, during the course of the story, show them realizing change is needed and embracing that change. It can be romantic. For example, Mary could have a problem with shyness and in the story we see her mustering up the courage to talk to a man she likes. 

Or it can be completely unrelated to romance. Maybe someone is too rigid about rules to their detriment, and in the story we see the person realize that being more flexible is a good thing. In these types of situations, just make sure there's some romance in there as well.

Option 2

Mr Fix-It is an excellent example of the other way you can go at this. Here, Delaney is already poised and ready for the change to occur. She/he's done all the hard work of getting mentally ready and embracing the opportunity to grow. All you have to do is put her in the ideal situation for that growth to occur or for that first step to be taken.

Photo by Rich Bowen via Flickr CC license

Sunday, September 6, 2020

The Winner

 by Shelley Cooper from the August 17, 2020 issue

Tagline: When her identity gets mixed up with a lottery winner, Sarah Parker can't believe her bad luck...until a handsome stranger shows up to help.

Observations: What a super unique premise! I loved it. I wish I'd thought of it. But even if I had, or you had, you're not guaranteed a great story even if you have a grade-A premise like this one.

This is, at its heart, what I like to call a Man to the Rescue story. A Man to the Rescue story has a woman with a problem of some kind that the man solves or helps her to solve. (And of course, this can always be flipped to be a Woman to the Rescue plot.) The best way to plot a story like this is to brainstorm a bunch of potential problems.

Off the top of my head, someone could have computer problems, gardening problems, insomnia, a family member who is hard to buy gifts for, a need for a plus-one at a wedding, a broken appliance/car... I'm not super thrilled with any of these, so I would probably keep thinking until I had 20 ideas. In a writing workshop I took once, the instructor said she swore by The Rule of 20. She said that the first ideas your brain comes up with are usually the easy ones, the cliches, so you have to really push your brain to dig deeper. In my experience, I haven't had to get all the way to 20. I usually come upon an idea that sings to me before that.

After you come up with the problem, you figure out who is going to solve the problem and how. What sometimes tripped me up with Man to the Rescue stories is the old-fashioned idea that women need to be rescued by the big, strong man. If you're one of those people, I have this to say. First, the Woman's World reader demographic skews on the older side, so many readers won't feel miffed about this issue. Second, in reality, sometimes we need help with something, and there's a fifty-fifty chance it's a guy who helps you. Right? LOL Lastly, you can just make sure you show the heroine taking charge of her own life, being assertive in some way that demonstrates she's more than just a damsel in distress. 

Here in this story, Cooper showed Sarah Parker working up the nerve to let Chad know she was interested. And just like that, you've shown her to be a modern woman.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Love is a River

by Mary Ann Joyce from the August 10, 2020 issue

Tagline: As she competes against her nemesis, Derek, during a kayaking race, Rosie Joes is surprised to find the tide of her feelings turning into love.

Observations: This story was so funny. I have to admit I'm partial towards humorous stories. Let me go count how many times I wrote "LOL" in the margin.

Okay, I'm back. I laughed five times. That might actually be a record for a Woman's World story.

I liked the kayaking race, something I can't recall seeing in a Woman's World story before. I also liked that little naughty raciness when Rosie caught Derek looking at her backside.

Of course, the story is written by Mary Ann Joyce. She's a master at this.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

A Chip Off the Old Block

by Melanie Dusseau from the August 3, 2020 issue

Tagline: While making a surprise tomato delivery to her elderly neighbor, Molly gets a surprise of her own when his dreamy son shows up to greet her.

Observations: I thought this story was summer itself. Check out how she made the season come alive in these quotes.

The early afternoon sun hit the patch of land full-on, warming her face as she tilted it toward the cloudless blue sky.

She placed both palms on the dirt and did something that always delighted her as a child: inhaled the scent of garden tomatoes. The earthy green fragrance bloomed around her and she thought about how happy her neighbor...was going to be when she brought him a basket of his favorite summer bounty.

She mentions cold lemonade. She's wearing cut-offs. There's a porch swing!

Don't forget about just writing a story that's seasonal and not attached to any particular holiday. I think this actually gives you a little advantage in that, once those holiday slots are filled, the editor will turn to stories that have more flexibility as to scheduling. But that's just a theory. :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

A Behind The Scenes Look at Editing

Shelley Cooper graciously allowed me to show you her original story and the editing that Woman's World did so you can get an idea of what kinds of things they do to an author's raw story. Blue indicates a change from the original. I hope you find this informative! 



            “You’re boycotting men?” my sister asked, her brow furrowed as we stood on the airport curb outside the departures area gate.

            I nodded, feeling vindicated as I assured her that, yes, it was true. Truth was, a After a string of recent dating disasters, I was more tempted to enter escape to a nunnery than I was to go on one more dinner date.. And because I knew she’d react this way poorly to the news, I’d waited to tell her until the end of my visit was over.

            “As of a week ago,” I replied.

            “Don’t you think that’s a bit...drastic?”

            I couldn't help but smile. “Says the lucky woman who married the last good man.”

            She gave me a fierce hug. “Oh, Elise, text me the minute your plane lands. And don’t be discouraged give up. There are still a lot of good men out there. A--all you have to do is read look for the signs.!

            "Sure, I said noncommittally, waving as I followed the crowd inside. In truth, The the only signs I planned on reading looking for were the overhead ones pointing the way through the airport to my gate. With a wave, I followed the crowd inside.

            Then I saw him for the first time. The first time I saw him, he He stood a few feet ahead of me in the TSA line. It wasn’t his blue eyes, or the impossibly long lashes framing them, or even the empty ringless ring finger on his left hand that caught my eye. —I’m a professional blogger; I notice details—that caught my attention. It was the way he smiled at a little boy while returning the toy car he’d dropped.

            That smile boldly stole the oxygen from my lungs.: It was downright criminal. Heaven help me if he ever unleashed it on me. Not that we would ever cross paths after today at all. We were just strangers in an airport.

            The second time I saw him was at my boarding gate, where he was deep in conversation with an elderly woman. Something she said must have struck his funny bone, because he gave such a joyous, infectious laugh that more than one head turned toward the sound.  My heart fluttered as I watched him clutch her hand in his, his eyes twinkling as he looked up. Heat rushed to my face as his eyes met mine, and I hastily turned away. Moments later, the sound of his infectious laugh turned more than one head…including mine.

            The third time I saw him, he was sitting—you guessed it—in the window seat of my assigned row. This time, he aimed his smile at me, and it was even more devastating than I’d feared. Weak-kneed, I quickly deposited my suitcase put my bag into the overhead bin and dropped onto the slid into my aisle seat. Reminding myself of my boycott, I buried my nose in a book.

            A minute Moments later, a flight attendant stopped by my side appeared at my side with a little girl.

            “Here you go, Ashley,” she told her a little girl who didn’t look more than six. “You have the middle seat. If you need anything, you push that button up there, and I’ll come right away.”

            “My name is Dan,” my seatmate said, smiling at Ashely as she as, after stowing a pink polka dot backpack beneath the seat in front of her, Ashley expertly fastened her seatbelt. “And the lovely lady next to you is…” He looked at me expectantly.

            “Elise,” I supplied.

            “Elise.” He drew out my name in a way that had my pulse racing.

To Ashley, he said, “You’re very brave, travelling to travel all alone.”

            She shrugged shyly. “I do it all the time. Mommy and me live in Pittsburgh, and Daddy lives in Philadelphia. I spend most weekends with Daddy.”

            A sad sign of the times, I reflected, --and further proof that my boycott was a good, albeit lonely, decision.

            Then, before I knew what was happening, Dan and Ashley were changing seats so that she could enjoy the view. Up close and personal, he smelled divine. L, like soap and, incredibly, oatmeal cookies. I reburied my nose in my book and tried not to inhale.

            “Can we play makeover?” Ashley asked when the plane reached cruising altitude. “It’s my favorite game.”

            “I’d love to play makeover,” Dan replied, sounding sincere. “What about you, Elise?” he asked me his eyes meeting mine. “Would you like to play?”

            Ashley gazed at me so hopefully, I didn’t have the heart to say no to him--or Ashley. "Sure." I smiled at him, biting my lip. “Sounds like fun.”

            We landed an hour later, and Dan and I followed the little girl up the jetway, where she was  and watched her safely reunited with her mother.

            “Thank you for being You were so patient with her,” I softly remarked to Dan. told him.

            “We did a good thing,” he said. Then, after a slight pause, he asked, "Patient?" he said, fluttering his mascaraed lashes at me. "I was having a spa day in there!" He smiled. “Are you from Pittsburgh, Elise?”

            “Born and bred.”

“Me, too. Anyone special awaiting your arrival?”

            “Just my car in the long-term parking lot.”

            There was that smile again. “In "Oh...well, in that case, would you have dinner with me?”

            As he stood there, seemingly unconcerned with the makeup covering his sinfully handsome face—Ashley hadn’t been sparing in her application of blue eyeshadow, mascara, and lipstick—I recalled my sister’s parting words. If I was reading the signs right, and I was pretty certain I was, Dan definitely fell into the category of good man...and suddenly I was ready to try one more dinner.

            Boycott abandoned, I said, “I’d like that very much. But first, I think we should both wash off our makeover.”

I was in the Ladies’ Room when I received a text from my sister. U home? Good flight?

            Fingers flying rapidly over the keys, I texted my reply. Best flight ever.


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

A Winning Combination

by Nell Musolf from the July27, 2020 issue

Tagline: When Linda Bennett runs into her high school crush, Owen, she's surprised by the sparks between them...and the promise of more...

Observations: I had two thoughts about this story. 

One, Musolf did "sad" right. She explained about Owen's loss with a light touch. There was a moment of feeling and of sympathy, but then they moved on. This is what Woman's World prefers. I remember when I started out writing stories for the magazine, I thought, "These stories are boring! I'm going to inject some excitement and emotion into them!" And those stories got rejected. LOL So pay attention to the amount of emotion you're adding. If you're talking about something potentially sad or upsetting--like death or divorce--do like Musolf did and use a light touch.

Two, I really liked how she took two older characters (something Woman's World readers are familiar and comfortable with) and yet added a touch of modern times into the story by having Linda be interested in vlogging. 

Photo by strandkorbtraum via Flickr CC license