Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dear Santa

by April Knight from the December 7, 2009 issue.

Tagline: Tory's letter to Santa helped her discover what love is really all about...

In a Nutshell: When Tory's co-worker at the Dollar Store suggests she ask Santa for a man for Christmas, Tory writes a letter requesting a gorgeous, fantasy man, but she immediately feels wistful because that type of man would probably never be interested in her.

Then, in walks an average guy who wants gifts for kids at the school where he used to work as a teacher, but because of layoffs, is now working as a custodian.

In the course of conversation, he remarks, "I keep hoping some nice lady will put me on her wish list, but I don't think anyone would be interested in an unemployed teacher." He invites them to a holiday program his school is putting on and leaves.

Tory realizes the custodial Santa is more in line with what she really wants for Christmas.

Observations: This story follows the classic three act structure. Act One: We start out with the convo between the friends, setting up the goal: Tory wants a man for Christmas. After she determines that she wants someone rich, handsome, and strong, we get the conflict: she's feels she's undesirable (short, 20 pounds overweight, has a sucky job.) And immediately, probably every woman who reads Woman's World identifies with her.

Act Two: The hero comes in. We find out he has sparkly brown eyes. He's not married, which is always a fact that you have to establish in these "first meet" stories. He's dedicated to his (ex-)job. Through some clever conversation, Knight gets him to confess he's wanting a lady for Christmas, just like Tory is. Lastly, he leaves the flyer for the program, which acts as the plot device so that Tory can contact him/see him again.

Act Three: Tory realizes how shallow and insincere she was when she jotted that letter to Santa, hence the character grows during the course of the story. Each of her worries about her own flaws, the hero has. She's short and so is he. She's overweight and he's losing his hair. She's insecure about her job, he's a custodian. There is no real climactic moment when we fear all is lost. We only get a little devil's advocate conversation with the co-worker, but the story still works.

My Favorite Part: Even though Tory is sad when she says this, I laughed: "I wonder if some man is writing a list of things he's looking for in a woman. Do you think he'd say he wanted a short, brown-haired woman who's twenty pounds overweight and who works in an 'everything's a dollar' store?"

My Nit-Picks: Political correctness often rubs me the wrong way, especially when it's contrived. For instance, in the first Twilight movie, Bella's circle of friends was so perfectly, and implausibly, racially balanced. I fully embrace multi-culturalism but don't think it's necessary to twist a story in order to appear all-inclusive.

In "Dear Santa," Knight (or the editor) chose to list three holidays:

"I made it a tradition to give each of my kindergartners a Christmas, Chanukah, or Kwaanza gift."

*sighs* Don't get me wrong. I respect everyone's choices as to religion and/or holiday. To each his own. But wouldn't it have just been easier to say, "a holiday gift?"

Also, the ending line is "I guess I do believe in Santa after all," and I think Knight missed an excellent opportunity to make the story come full circle if she'd had Rose say she didn't believe in Santa at the beginning of the story.

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