Monday, May 25, 2009

Some Enchanted Afternoon

by Joyce Soule from the May 25, 2009 issue.

Tagline: Alayne realized that magic was everywhere. She just had to let it into her life again.

In a Nutshell: Alayne is a widow trying to get her life back on track. She visits a bookstore looking for information on France, a place she'd always wanted to visit. There she meets a French widower on vacation himself. They strike up a friendship.

Observations: Usually, I read and analyze the story, then write my observations. This week, I'm going to try something new and do a sort of running commentary on the story as I read. Here we go:

Oh, the story is set at a bookstore. Bookstores are one of my favorite places. And she's doing that park far away from your destination thing so you get more exercise. I've done that. This helps me connect with the character.

In the bookstore, she went to the travel section to look for guides to France, then grabbed a copy of Paris Match magazine and walked back to the cafe section of the store where the comfy chairs beckoned.

Hmm. It kind of bothers me that she apparently intends to just read the books and magazine without paying for them. At least she buys a drink.

Soule does a good job of making the man sound foreign.

At one point, Alayne flounders a little in trying to think of what to say next, and I feel for her. Haven't we all struggled through an awkward pause at least once in our lives?

The last line in the story is,"My name is Alayne. Now how do you say that in French?"

Alayne took French in college, but she doesn't remember how to say, "My name is Alayne?" Sheesh. Here at the end she appears (to me) to be either not so smart, or connivingly coy.

So, even though Alayne grows as a character, taking the first steps in leaving mourning behind, I personally found her somewhat unlikeable. I think Denis, the love interest, could do better.

Woman's World Standbys: A widow and widower, moving on

Monday, May 18, 2009

As Sweet as Chocolate

by Kate Karyus Quinn

Tagline: Molly's mom was right: Sometimes you can't get too much of a good thing...

In A Nutshell: Molly figures if she eats chocolate 24/7, it will cure her of her cravings. Unfortunately, it doesn't work. When her mom comes to visit, she confesses both her diet failure and her crush on the neighbor across the hall. Mom convinces her to share her final chocolate treat--a cake--with him, with excellent results.

Observations: Roberto is a pretty ethnic name for Woman's World. I wonder if we'll be seeing more of those.

Molly grows as a character when she conquers her fear about knocking on Roberto's door. That's always a nice element in a Woman's World story. It helps the reader identify with the character because we've all felt that uncertainty regarding the opposite sex.

Woman's World Standbys: A matchmaking mom

In My Humble Opinion: This story didn't quite work for me on several levels. The eat-chocolate-'till-you're-sick diet was a cute idea for a story, however, I doubt that anyone could eat only chocolate for five entire days and not become disgusted. I don't think they'd even last two days.

I also found it a little contrived that Roberto just happens to mention that he loves to tango, after Molly just said to her mother, "Go over there and say what? 'Hey here's some cake, and do you know how to tango?'"

Monday, May 11, 2009

Collision Course

by Ruby Perry from the May 11, 2009 issue

Tagline: Brad spotted the pretty woman walking down the sidewalk--and just couldn't keep his eyes on the road...

In A Nutshell: Everytime Brad sees this brightly dressed woman, he becomes distracted and has a fender bender. The insurance company wants to cancel his policy. When he meets the claims adjustor, it's that self-same woman! He asks her to dinner.

Observations: This story was heavy on backstory. Almost the entire story was set-up. By the time I got to the insurance office, I could see what was coming, but I liked it anyway.

When you're writing a "first meet" story, there are a few things you usually have to cover, and one of them is to establish that both the hero and heroine are single. Here, Perry does this with this passage:

He noticed there was no ring on her finger, and all the photographs around the room were of smiling old people and children.

Also, Brad had a small character arc. In that backstory, Perry established his careful approach to life:

Brad had also been careful in love, so careful he had rarely worked up the nerve to ask a woman out--which was why he was single in his mid-30s.


"I wonder," he said as decades of careful, cautious living slipped away from him, "I wonder if you would allow me to tell you the story over dinner?"

Monday, May 4, 2009

A New Tradition

by Connie Cox from the April 27, 2009 issue.

Tagline: Jenna was happy she had decided not to eat dinner at home--and so was Patrick...

In a Nutshell: Jenna teaches at a preschool. Not particularly enthused about eating alone in her quiet apartment, she opts to stop by Pizza Town. In the parking lot she sees a car with a flat, a man in a sling, and one of her students, Dylan. She deducts from what Dylan has told her in school, that this must be Uncle Patrick. She offers to change Patrick's tire, since his arm is broken and the garage isn't answering their phone. After she plays mechanic, Patrick invites her to pizza. She, of course, accepts!

Observations: When you're writing a "first meet" WW story, it's sometimes a challenge to introduce the characters to each other without eating up too much of your word count. You don't want to waste space with names, handshakes, etc. if you don't have to. Cox worked it out so that, even though she'd never met him, Jenna already knew who this guy was from info her student had shared.

Woman's World prefers beta heroes, those proverbial nice guys, and Patrick is a good example. First, because of his broken arm, the man can't even fix his own flat! No opportunity there for him to show his manliness, poor thing. Second, he looks sheepish when he accepts Jenna's offer to change the tire. (An alpha would have scowled or growled or grunted.) Third, he channels a little alpha when he asks her to join them for pizza, but readily accepts it when she seems to reject him. Fourth, and perhaps the most telling evidence that he's not an alpha male, Patrick broke his arm at an ice skating party! Watch out Brian Boitano.

Question: "Well, thanks, then," Patrick said, looking a bit sheepish as he accepted her offer.

Jenna put the jack together. She was impressed that Patrick accepted her help and also liked that he didn't try to supervise the repair.

Test your editing skills. How could you tighten that passage?