Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"The Gift of Love"

by Dana Stephens from the December 13, 2010 issue

In a Nutshell: A man skids into a ditch during a snow storm. Molly offers to let him call a tow truck from her house. While they wait, he helps her finish painting the room she was working on. They get to know each other over the next few weeks. Then, for Christmas he gives her an ornament to mark their first Christmas together as a sign that he is serious about her.

Observations: This first meet story had a fantastic concept in that ornament. What a darling idea. Unfortunately, when I got to the point where her eyes filled with tears, I just didn't feel the sentiment myself. That is what makes these stories so difficult to write, especially when you condense their emotional development into a sentence like this:

Molly learned that Ian was an EMT at the local hospital, and over the coming weeks, he came by on his days off until the dining room and living room were finished.

In order to pull off the Happily Ever After you need to show the hero and heroine falling for each other. It's tempting to let it happen off stage, but the fun part about reading romance is living vicariously through the characters. To me, when you "tell" (as in show vs. tell), you summarize events that are too tedious to describe in full detail. The "telling" sentence I quoted above could still work fine in a Woman's World story, BUT in order for it to work, you have to "show" the connection occuring somewhere else in the story, and I didn't see it. :(

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Breakfast with Santa"

by Elizabeth Palmer from the December 6, 2010 issue

Tagline: Connie hadn't expected Santa to ask what she wanted for Christmas!

In a Nutshell: Connie takes her niece Hannah to her company "Breakfast with Santa." The niece tells Santa that Connie needs a husband. Santa, who is really Rob from accounting, is happy to hear that and might be willing to fill the position.

Observations: This story delighted me. It started when I saw that Rob was from accounting. It seems that the accounting department is so ubiquitous in Woman's World stories. Perhaps because if you try to think of any other types of departments, there aren't that many to choose from!

I liked the reply that Connie gave to her sister when asked if Rob resembles Santa...

"His eyes sort of twinkle."

That set the reader up for the line later that I LOVED. Rob finds out that Connie is not Hannah's mother, but her aunt...

Rob turned up the twinkle.

I also laughed out loud when Connie is flustered when Rob/Santa talks to her instead of Hannah...

Hannah gaped at me. "Santa is talking to you!" she hissed.

I can just picture the little girl's shock and subdued outrage that Connie might be ignoring Santa.

Lastly, I thought I'd point out that this is actually a matchmaker story with a twist. Santa is acting as matchmaker on his own behalf. That just goes to show you that you can always find a new way to present a cliche plot.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Must Love Dogs"

by Sally Treadwell from the November 29, 2010 issue

Sally requested that I not post the analysis of her story. Sorry, everyone.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"The Food of Love"

by K.C. Laine from the November 22, 2010 issue

Tagline: Bonnie didn't realize that she had, long ago, found the way into Richard's heart!

In a Nutshell: Bonnie sells baked goods at the weekly farmer's market. When her brochures get swept away by the wind, Richard gathers them up. He also is impressed with her pot pies and buys several. He comes back the next week with a wooden box he made for her to keep her brochures in. They make a date to cook together.

Observations: Well, I thought I was going insane. I started reading this story and thought, "I've analyzed this before." So, I checked the list of my previous posts for the title, "The Food of Love." No luck. I checked the list of authors. No K.C. Laine listed. I check the date of the magazine, thinking I dug it out of the magazine rack and didn't realize it was from 2009. Nope. Current date. Then, I realize!

I had critiqued this story for the author before she submitted it. DOH. She had told me it had sold. I even saw people on the WWWriters loop praising it. Did I make the connection? No. LOL. (I try not to read those comments because I don't want them to color my opinion of the story before I review it on the blog.)

Sorry, Karen! Didn't they choose a yummy picture of a pot pie?

Anyway, back to the analysis.

I like the quirkiness of the heroine, with her pink wig and vintage glasses. Her costume boosts her sales and shows her to be a savvy business woman, which I admire.

Last week the author foreshadowed a box of truffles as being the heroine's favorite. This week, it's not an object, but a skill that's foreshadowed. Richard says, "Who always gave this woodshop nerd the time of day," which establishes his facility with wood. That paves the way for the special box he makes for her, again showing he's thoughtful and observant, traits all women want in their mates.

Come to think of it, Laine actually sets up a joke in the middle of the story, too. Bonnie recalls Richard burning the meatloaf in home ec class. Later when Bonnie suggests they cook dinner together for old time's sake, he says, "Just as long as it's not meatloaf."

This type of thing pulls your story together. It's how you can "weave" a plot in 800 words and make it seem tight.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"Sweet on You"

by Charlotte More from the November 15, 2010 issue

Tagline: Molly's chocolate shop kept her busy, but not so busy that she'd stopped hoping for Mr. Right...

In A Nutshell: Chocolate shop owner Molly falls for her regular customer, a man who faithfully buys candy for his grandma every Friday afternoon. One day he buys a special box of expensive truffles and has them gift wrapped. Molly assumes he's got a new girlfriend. Turns out he surprises her outside the shop after she closes, gives her the truffles, and asks her out for dinner.

Teaching Points: This is a (pun intended) sweet story and pretty formulaic, which is not necessarily a bad thing, seeing as how the editors liked it enough to publish it.

Girl meets Boy. Girl assumes he has a girlfriend. Girl is proved wrong--she's the girl he wants.

The trick with writing these stories is figuring out

1) ...what the Boy does to make the Girl think he's attached. Often it's him getting or picking out a gift. Sometimes the Girl sees him from a distance with another girl.

2a) ...who the gift is really for. Usually it's a female relative. Could be a co-worker who is sick or something. OR

2b) ...why he was with that woman. Often it's work related, but it doesn't have to be. Any innocent, plausible reason will do.

3) the Boy reveals that he is really interested in the Girl.

Also, you'll notice that More foreshadows The Gift in the beginning of the story... Molly comments that the special truffles are her favorite. That way, at the end when Seth gives her the box of special truffles, he is shown to be thoughtful and observant, and Molly is touched.