Thursday, September 30, 2010

Online Class - Register Now!

My online class is starting next week on October 4! I'm excited because I've revamped the schedule in response to feedback from the last time I taught the class. The first four lectures are so info heavy that it made more sense to go more quickly through them and leave more time at the end for the actual writing.

As usual, every student who finishes a story by the end of class is automatically entered to win a free critique of that story, a $40 value. (Wow, I sound like an infomercial.)

For more info, check out the sidebar. To register, click here. See you in class!

"Twenty-four Wedding Gowns"

by April Knight from the September 27, 2010 issue

Tagline: Lily had a big collection of bridal gowns. Now all she needed was one man in a tux...

In A Nutshell: When investigating a possible addition to her wedding gown collection, Lily meets a man who collects antique toys. They click.

Observations: The story opens with a conversation between Lily and her friend. This conversation accomplishes two things: 1) it communicates the backstory--how Lily got started collecting wedding gowns and 2) it introduces the friend so that at the end we can wrap it up with another conversation between the friends, giving the story some circularity.

However, if it had been my story, I'd have opened it with Lily on Jim's doorstep. I'd have inserted the backstory into their conversation instead, thereby giving myself a lot more room to develop their attraction. For the ending I might have had her contemplating Jim looking at her someday in the one gown in her collection that she really loves.

The reason why I would have nixed the friend is because the 800 word count is so restrictive that I feel we should take advantage of as much room as possible to have the hero and heroine interact and get that chemistry going. You'd still have the great appeal of the wedding gown collection idea, but combined with a more satisfying interaction between the two main characters.

However, Johnene, the fiction editor, liked it as is, so take my musings with a grain of salt. :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

"Strangers on a Train"

by Terri Osburn from the September 20, 2010 issue

Tagline: Trisha didn't know she'd swapped phones with Joe--but when she found out, she didn't mind one bit...

In a Nutshell: Trisha discovers she has a stranger's phone when she gets a call from the person who has her phone. While arranging a place to trade phones, they find out they're on the same commuter train.

Observations: This is a cute first meet story. In the first act of the story, we discover along with Trisha that she has the wrong phone.

The second act begins when the phone rings. The two main characters exchange some cute banter about what it's been like with a phone belonging to someone of the opposite sex and arrange to exchange the phones. As often happens in a Woman's World story, the reader is asked to believe in a coincidence--that they happen to be on the same train. When you're writing your own story, don't push this coincidence thing too far. There's only so much a reader is willing to believe.

Act three is when they meet face to face. She feels an immediate attraction to him. There is a brief (as always) and minor climactic moment when he doesn't immediately give her her phone. He wants her to have lunch with him before he'll relinquish it. Of course, she agrees and we end the story on a hopeful note.

My Favorite Part: "Hi, is this Trisha Delisha?"

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"A Delicious Coincidence"

by L.  Joy Douglas from the September 6, 2010 issue

Tagline: Dana had a feeling she and Travis would be laughing over the way they met for a long time...

In A Nutshell: Dana's on vacation with some girlfriends. A cute guy accidentally spills a drink on her. Later, he sends a surprise to her via room service along with an invitation to dinner. She accepts. Ends up they both live in Cincinnati.

Observations: I thought I'd analyze this story one paragraph at a time, just for the heck of it. Also, by the way, if you remove the paragraph notations and anything I wrote in parentheses, it almost reads like a synopsis. LOL

Paragraph 1, 2: We establish the backstory situation. Dana is on vacation with her single girlfriends. She's also just broken up with her boyfriend.

Paragraph 3, 4, 5: The drink is spilled. The man helps her clean up. They banter a little. (Here I thought the writing was a little jumbled. The man apologizes before she reacts to the frozen drink hitting her. But this is a minor thing.)

Paragraph 6, 7: Introductions are made amongst more banter in which she mentions her favorite drink is the pina colada.

Paragraph 8, 9: Travis apologizes again and the scene ends.

Paragraph 10, 11: We transition to her hotel room an hour later. A waiter delivers a pina colada and an envelope. Dana thought it was her friends, having forgotten their keys again. (This made me admire Dana's wisdom in not opening a hotel door to a "waiter" when you didn't order room service.)

Paragraph 12: He invites her to dinner.

Paragraph 13: Dana wonders if she's ready to date so soon after her break-up, then decides she is.

Paragraph 14, 15, 16: They meet at the restaurant. Travis is gentlemanly. He found out her room number by asking her friends. (The friends we readers were introduced to in the first paragraph.)

Paragraph 17, 18, 19: They find out they both live in Cincinnati. (That's the BC [Big Coincidence] that we Woman's World writers often ask the readers to accept.)

Paragraph 20, 21: We wrap up with the two of them remarking on how fate might have had a hand in their meeting each other.

All in all, I liked the banter and the idea was cute. It made me long for a tropical drink. :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Gift

by Jennie Pitkus from the August 30, 2010 issue

Tagline: Aunt Chloe's good fortune was the best thing that ever happened to Kelsey

In a Nutshell: Kelsey's aunt gives her $500, but her purse gets snatched. The security guard at the mall catches the perp and recovers her purse with the money still there. She returns the next day to thank him and they have lunch together, and then dinner and, well, you know the rest.

Observations: The appeal of this story for me doesn't come until two thirds of the way into the story. It was where Tom, the security guard, asks her out on a date. It's so cute. See, Kelsey's aunt gave her the $500 to do something fun with, and Kelsey had decided to go on a trip somewhere.

"So where are you planning to go?" Tom asked.

"I haven't decided yet. Where would you go?"

"Hmmm. Good question. Let me think about it for a few days," he said. "I should have some ideas by Friday night. How about we discuss them over dinner?"

Tom, you sly dog.

Otherwise, I didn't find it to be anything extraordinary. It was just your typical first meet story featuring a man to the rescue.

Oh, and you're welcome for the eye candy. ;)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Park Bench

by Janel Rodriguez from the September 13, 2010 issue

Tagline: The first day of Tracy's September vacation was sunny, warm--and unexpectedly romantic!

In A Nutshell: It's the first day of Tracy's vacation. She grabs a book, heads for the botanical gardens, and plants herself on a park bench. A man sits on other end of her bench and works on his computer. They exchange glances and smiles throughout the day sitting there, at the visitor's cafe where they dined separately, and again at "their"  bench. That afternoon, he treats her to an Italian ice and they  make plans to meet at the bench the next day.

Observations: Woman's World magazine likes stories that make the reader feel like this could really happen to you. Here you'll find ordinary people in ordinary settings. Tracy is just like you and me. We experience her attraction to the man here:

He caught my eye and we exchanged smiles. He's kind of cute, I thought.

And here:

Around three o'clock, my bench buddy got up to go, and I was surprised to feel my heart sink a little.

Luckily, the man comes through and offers to buy her an Italian ice. Yay!

This story is the perfect example of a sweet first meet story where the ending leaves you hopeful that their next encounter will set them more firmly on the path to love. The only think I would worry about is that they didn't really talk. Once he bought her the ice, I would like to have seen them converse. Also, the man must have a really expensive laptop that it went all day without needing to recharge the battery!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Magic Moment

by Karen M. Leet from the August 23, 2010 issue

Tagline: Jen had never seen the romance of airports--until the day she ran into Liam...

In a Nutshell: Jen and Liam literally bump into each other at the airport. Their flights are delayed, so they have coffee. Liam is going toLondon on an overseas work assignment, so they are forced to get to know each other over the phone. Six months later, they agree to meet when he comes back. He returns with a ring and a proposal.

Observations: This was a cute three-act story. First act: They meet and connect. Second act: They maintain a long distance relationship for six months. Third act: The emotional reunion at the airport when Liam proposes. There is a nice "black moment" when Jen has a little anxiety attack and thinks about bolting, and I think every story benefits from a climactic moment where you worry if things are going to work out or not. In Woman's World stories, they can be very minor, like in this story.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Getting the Message

by Elizabeth Palmer from the August 2, 2010 issue

Tagline: When Carla finally met at the Laundromat, she realized that some things are simply meant to be...

In a Nutshell: Carla's friend wants to play matchmaker and set her up with Luke. Carla is reluctant because of a guy at the laundromat she likes but hasn't approached yet. A patient wants to set her up with her nephew, who works in the hospital, like Carla does, but in radiology. His name is also Luke. Then, strangely, the librarian gives her a book that was recommended by another library patron with the same taste in books. His name? Luke, of course. It ends up that Luke is also the guy from the laundromat.

Observations: I thought this story was the perfect mix of Woman's World optimism and verging-on-implausible coincidence. The magazine has a knack for finding stories that test your ability to suspend disbelief by encouraging your hope for romance to blossom. Here, we are expected to swallow the fact that this Luke guy "appears" in Carla's life in four different ways.

What makes it work is Carla's skepticism. She embodies what we readers are experiencing as we read. This connects us with her character. Yet, at the end, we all hope that it will work out happily, and it does, which is our reward for putting or skepticism aside for just a few minutes.