Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"Winter Fun"

by Colette Shannon from the January 10, 2011 issue

Tagline: Holly quickly discovered that she was no skier. But maybe that wasn't such a bad thing after all...

In a Nutshell: Holly is so new to skiing that she hits a tree and gets a separated shoulder. Later, back at the lodge, the ski patrol guy buys her a hot chocolate. They live in the same town, an hour away where his full time job is at the high school teaching math. (He does ski patrol in on weekend mornings in exchange for free skiing in the afternoon.) They have dinner together and then he invites her on a moonlight sleigh ride.

Observations: The story starts in medias res. We don't get the backstory on Holly until after she's returned from the hospital with her shoulder sling. The hero shows up and they talk a little then there's another summarizing paragraph before he asks her out. More summarizing as we hurry on toward the end of dinner. There's a brief "black moment" when he says he's in a hurry and she assumes he wants to take advantage of the full moon and ski, but he actually wants to take her on that moonlight sleigh ride.

One thing I noticed was the story was packed with narrative--much more narrative than dialogue. I didn't notice this until I started analyzing it. (The two friends that Holly rooms with don't even speak a word!) Perhaps that's why, as I read it, it felt as though the story covered a lot more ground. I felt like I'd really spent the day with Holly.

The other thing that I noticed was that, although I wasn't bowled over by the title "Winter Fun," the author did use it to good advantage. In the "woe is me" paragraph, Holly thinks to herself...

So much for winter fun.

Then, at the end, in the "this really turned out to be a great weekend" paragraph, she thinks...

Even with a separated shoulder--I couldn't imagine having more winter fun than this.

As I've mentioned before, this is a simple way to give your story a little circularity and cohesiveness.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"Wish Upon a Star"

by Susan Flett Swiderski from the January 17, 2011 issue

Tagline: Kelly put her whole heart into it, so she wasn't surprised when her biggest wish came true...

In a Nutshell: After wishing on a star, young Kelly sets up a meeting between her father and her teacher. The two adults realize they've been duped, but hit it off anyway. They keep their burgeoning relatonship a secret from the little girl, but when the school year ends, they tell her they want to get married.

Observations: Matchmaker stories are common within the pages of Woman's World magazine. This time, the matchmaker is only six years old! I've tried subterfuge stories before, but never with much success. (In fact, one story I sent that was rejected, involved a daughter setting up her father and her teacher.) However, once in a while you do see a story in which someone tricks a character into something. I had thought that Woman's World frowned on children doing so, but here's proof that they don't.

Notice that this story changes points of view. We start out in Kelly's pov. Then when the adults meet, we switch to the dad's. Later when the secret is about to be revealed, we go back to Kelly's. This is unusual, but well done. Each of these changes had to happen, because Kelly had no way of knowing what went on in the classroom during that after school meeting. And later, the author wanted to bring us full circle to the wishing on a star idea, which meant returning to Kelly. This was a tricky thing to do and Swiderski nailed it.

On a side note, I loved the idea that little Kelly didn't blindly trust to the whims of the wish, but knew that she needed to take action herself in order to get the ball rolling. What a wise little girl!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"A Lover's Moon" and Catching Up

I'm trying to catch up a little by posting two story analyses this week. :)

by April Knight from the January 2, 2011 issue

Tagline: Rebecca was certain that her dreams of moonlit romance would never come true...

In A Nutshell: Rebecca has done everything she could to make herself attractive and available, but has had no luck finding a man. One bad day, she gets a black eye from a wayward cupboard door and has a root canal that has her cheek looking like she just lost a prize fight. But at the grocery store, a thoughtful man strikes up a conversation and even buys her soup to cheer her up.

Observations: This story, like so many Woman's World romance tales, give the reader hope that something like this could actually happen to them. A woman meets a man in a grocery store. And he's a thoughtful man at that! This is the type of "fantasy" that Woman's World readers and editors like. I'm sure many of them like to imagine being swept off their feet by a millionaire ex-SEAL with a tender side, too, but the type of guys in Woman's World stories are not bigger than life. They are life, at least, more believably real life.

"A Christmas Miracle"

by Mary L. Briggs from the December 20, 2010 issue

Tagline: It had to be more than coincidence that brought the two strangers together again on Christmas Eve...

In a Nutshell: Rebecca gets a Christmas card in the mail that belongs to someone else, but she's late for work so can't deal with it. When her car won't start, a handsome stranger helps her out, but she fails to get his name. Later, she hand delivers the card in an attempt to pay it forward, it turns out the card recipient is also her handsome stranger.

Observations: I had mixed feelings about this story, and this is only my opinion. I should post a disclaimer that says that--that no matter what my thoughts are on a Woman's World story, clearly the editors liked the story enough to publish it, so anything I say here should be taken with a grain of salt.

Anyway, my first reaction was to the fact that her car doesn't start. This is becoming a bit of a cliche in Woman's World stories, but I was willing to let it go. Car trouble is a common enough occurence.

My next reaction was amusement at the stranger's remarks regarding her recalcitrant car:

"I'm not giving up yet. Let's see if we can coax a little holiday spirit out of it."

I liked the hero. He was witty and kind.

After that, the author brought back the mis-delivered Christmas card that I'd actually forgotten about. That was a nice surprise. I like not being able to predict what's going to happen too easily. But when the big coincidence was revealed--that the card just happened to be intended for the same man that helped her with her car--I'm afraid I shook my head in disbelief. Perhaps, as the tagline suggests, there was supposed to be more than coincidence at work, but I had a hard time swallowing it. For the record, I think coincidence is a good tool for Woman's World romance writers, but I'd be careful when trying to stretch the readers' willingness to believe too far.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Missing Issue

I seem to have misplaced my December 20 issue, so I can't analyze the story here. If I find it amidst the post-holiday mid-re-organizing frenzy that is my house right now, I'll post it. :) Sorry!

"A Match Made in Winter"

by Tina Radcliffe from the December 27, 2010 issue

Tagline: Lacey's neighbor had good intentions, but her matchmaking instincts were way off--most of the time...

In a Nutshell: Lacey regularly shovels snow from her elderly neighbor's walkway. The neighbor, Mrs. B. wants to set Lacey up with her nephew (?), but her last attempt was a fail. The next day, Lacey finds her own walkway has already been cleared. The culprit, said nephew, reports his aunt ordered him to do it and to ask her to dinner that night, but when Lacey shows up she finds that Mrs. B. stood them up. They end up liking each other.

Observations: This is a cute story with a nice winter feel to it, perfect for an issue that comes out between Christmas and New Year's. So, keep that in mind for future submissions. Woman's World gets inundated with holiday stories, so it might be prudent to aim for pre- or post-holiday issues.

I talked about showing and telling last week, and I noticed this story also has a very short telling paragraph:

They laughed and talked as they ate, then cleared the table and washed the dishes together.

That one sentence summarizes the events during a time period and even hints that they made a connection, however, this time the connection is only enough to lead to hot chocolate, not a long term relationship, a more believable scenario, in my opinion.