Wednesday, November 6, 2019

A Sweet All Hallow's Eve

by Maria Gorman from the October 28, 2019 issue

Tagline: When Jessica Kane opens the door to her home to hand out Halloween candy, she never imagines that love will be waiting for her on the other side.

Observations: The premise of this story is adorable. A single dad and his daughter are trick or treating, and the little girl has to go potty, now!

I am a little confused because he is dressed as Aladdin and "looked every bit the part of a prince," but later he holds out a blue painted hand and offers her a magic wish, which is definitely the genie.

Maybe something was missed in edits? Lord knows I've made mistakes like this before. Unfortunately, this is the kind of thing that might pull your readers out of the story as they try to figure out if they were reading too fast and misunderstood or what. I want to emphasize how important it is to revise and proofread your stories. If at all possible, have someone else read your stories too. We writers often don't catch obvious mistakes that people with fresh eyes will notice right away.

On the other hand, maybe this wasn't a mistake and the author was just going with a general Aladdin theme, instead of making him the Aladdin, because I'm reading the last line:

Tonight she met her own prince of thieves--and he'd definitely stolen her heart.

Adorable ending, by the way.

Photo by Faylyne via Flickr CC license.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Season of Love

by Marti Attoun from the October 21, 2019 issue

Tagline: As Carolyn Danner finally finished raking up the vibrant fall leaves blanketing her sprawling lawn, she gets a surprise visit from an energetic pup--and his breathtakingly handsome dog sitter--that turns the seasonal chore into a heap of unexpected happiness.

Observations: The first thing I wanted to point out is something I haven't mentioned in a while. When writing a Woman's World romance story, you need to establish that the main characters are single. Obviously, you don't want to just say, "Mary was single." There are many more clever ways you can do this. In this particular story, the author wove it into the narrative.

She had considered hiring someone to rake her big yard now that her husband was gone...

I really loved the part where Attoun described Chester messing up the leaf piles. It was well done and I had no trouble visualizing this. Descriptions like this one aren't easy, which is why writing is an art. It's worth mentioning that you shouldn't dash off a story and send it off. My bet is that Attoun revised and revised until everything was just right. I mean, those verbs--bounding, pouncing, whooshing--those don't just spring to mind. But they are perfect.

I also haven't mentioned the "show don't tell" thing in a while. "Show don't tell" is a phrase that is often bandied about as an ironclad rule and I'm here to tell you it's not. Especially in a Woman's World story. You only have 800 words to use. Sometimes you have to summarize the action, as in this excerpt:

Surprisingly, they fell into conversation as easily as long-lost friends. Carolyn learned that Stan was recently retired and also single. They shared many interests from junking to blue-grass music.

See, you could show this happening, like I did here...

"So, Sam, what do you do for a living?" Carolyn asked.

"I retired recently after forty five years as a high school teacher." Stan sighed. "I always thought my wife and I would travel after I retired, but she passed away."

"I'm so sorry to hear that."

And so on. But as you can see how many more words it took to show what the one sentence of telling did. So sometimes, you just tell stuff.

Unaltered photo by Selena Smith via https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

A New Plan

by JoAnn Bennett from the October 14, 2019 issue

Tagline: Prepping for her students' presentation at a local assembly, Miss Barnes has everything mapped out, down to the last word. But when an unforeseen change of plans leaves her in the lurch, fellow teacher Greg Oliver steps in to save the day--and captures her heart.

Observations: I really appreciated the celebration of Founder's Day in this story. Having been born in Los Angeles, this kind of small town thing doesn't happen, so as a city girl, it was nice to get a little peek into small town life. (The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse was one of my favorite stories as a kid.)

Often in stories, the protagonist solves a problem himself/herself, but in this story, the hero and heroine teamed up. Always be looking for opportunities like this to veer from the norm in small ways. The longer you study these stories, the more you'll notice how largely similar they are, but with small differences. Each story has its own twist.

Note the heroine stepping up to the plate and asking the hero out on the date. In stories in which someone is asked out, it's the woman about fifty percent of the time, but I have no hard data on that. But feel free to be ambigenderous--like that made-up word? LOL--when deciding who does the asking.

Unaltered photo by Alex Murphy via Flickr cc license

Monday, October 21, 2019

Sweet Start

by Laura Bradford from the October 7, 2019 issue

Tagline: Emma Fisher knows her younger brother, Jakob, is too shy to approach his crush, Liddy. But during a visit to the bake shop in their Amish community, a chance meeting ignites a spark--and the hope of love requited.

Observations: This was a first for me--an Amish romance in Woman's World. While I enjoyed the different setting and culture--once I got used to "dat" for "dad" and "yah" for "yes"--I thought the plot itself was a bit generic.

But maybe that's good news. Perhaps this is another avenue to publication for us. Find an unusual setting and/or culture to turn the spotlight on, then apply a familiar plot to it. The oddity of the setting/culture might be enough to put a different enough spin on it.

Photo by Ann Barker via Flickr cc license.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Back to Love

from the September 30, 2019 issue by Krista Weidner

Tagline: When Nora arrives at her daughter's back-to-school night, the only thing on her mind is how much she misses her husband, who had passed away the year before. But when a handsome dad named Tom ends up seated at the desk next to hers, it sparks hope for a great school year...and new love.

Observations: This story grew on me. The humor really boosted what started out as a bit of a bummer story, what with her husband having passed away. When Tom arrives on the scene, it just gets better and better.

When he passes her the note, I smiled. When I read what it said, I laughed.

Closing out "act 2" of the story when Nora shares her history with Tom, there's a real heartfelt moment of connection between the two. We see that Tom's not just all fun and games. He is compassionate.

So, I truly think that if a story is compassionate or humorous, it can get published, but when you pack a story with both, like Ms. Weidner did, you've really got a winner.

Photo by Christopher Sessums via Flickr CC license


Saturday, October 5, 2019

A Picture-Perfect Start

by Shelley Cooper from the September 23, 2019 issue

Tagline: When Deena runs into her old flame at her photography exhibition, she's sure their second chance is past, until an old snap brings new hope.

Stream of Consciousness Observations: Ah, the days of SLR cameras. No one but professionals or hobbyists use actual cameras anymore. That's one more invention that dates me. LOL I remember well the excitement of getting my first Kodak camera. It wasn't fancy at all, but it gave me the power to record my life

I love second-chance Woman's World stories and the idea that the one that got away can come back to you. Maybe it's because there's an element of patience paying off, of never truly giving up on a dream that makes it poignant for me.

I adore the novel idea of a photographer and her exhibit and her including the very first photograph she ever took. It's pretty obvious he's going to show up at the exhibit, but that doesn't matter. Happy anticipation is part of the fun of these stories.

I really like their conversation about the trout. If you're writing a second chance story, reminiscing is always part of it.

Oh, the photo sold? Heh heh. We know exactly who bought it. But again, the reader finding out if their prediction is true or not is part of the fun, too.

OMG. He pulls out a photo of the two of them that his mom took. Talk about picture perfect. That came out of left field for me and wow, this moment...love it.

Okay, for me, the ending didn't follow through and pack as much of a warm-fuzzy punch as the rest of the story. Your mileage may vary.

Unaltered photo by Scott Feldstein via Flickr CC License

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

A Labor of Love

by Lisa Weaver from the September 16, 2019 issue

Tagline: When Molly, a small-town bookstore owner, strikes up a romance with a handsome author visiting for the summer, her heart breaks knowing he'll soon be leaving. But he has a beautiful surprise up his sleeve that has Molly believing in happy endings.

Observations: This was a very unusual story in that the couple are together from word one. Sure, it's supposed to only be a summer fling, but it's much different from the usual first-meet stories we see. I loved that she owned a bookstore. I loved the warm, sort of shadowy tone of the story.

Maybe this is a new type of story template to consider: a couple starting at one point and moving to the next level of the relationship. Something to think about.

Photo by Iain Farrell via Flickr CC license