Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Box of Chocolates

by Lorraine Henderson from the February 14, 2011 issue

Tagline: This year, Lauren got something she hadn't been expecting for Valentine's Day: a lesson in true love!

In A Nutshell: Lauren tells her husband she thinks they're in a Valentine's Day rut. Although she hurt his feelings, he comes through and sends her roses instead of the familiar box of chocolates. By the end of the day, though, she realizes that there's romance in long held traditions and gives him a box of chocolates herself.

Observations: It's always refreshing to see a rekindled marriage/relationship story, but they're hard to write. You can't paint marriage trouble with too heavy a hand or the editor may balk. And yet, you may want to try your hand at one because the fact that there are so many first meet stories might make the editors hungry for a change of pace.

This story hits the nail on the head on several levels. Henderson identifies the problem: the same boring box of candy. She shows the wife being honest with her husband and it's a tricky scene. Husband has to be hurt, but not too much.

Lauren saw a look cross Charlie's face, and she regretted her words. "Pretend you didn't hear me, honey--please?" She gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Now go dig out your car."

"I'm going," he said. "but I heard what you said. I'm going to surprise you."

See? You've got to admire Charlie's ability to bounce back.

Next, the author brings us back in time and shows Lauren remembering past Valentine's Days she's shared with Charlie. The romance is described in detail and we readers go "awww." After that we're introduced to the kids. Many Woman's World readers are married with children, so they're familiar with the difficulty of balancing romance with the 24/7 responsibility of being parents. This down-to-earth reality is a big part of the tone Woman's World likes.

Finally, this story has a fantastic black moment.

After dinner, at the time when Charlie would have presented Lauren with her gift, it got noticeably quieter around the table.

After that Lauren gets the candy she got for Charlie and everyone is happy. We get the feeling that a minor marital speed bump has been successfully gotten past. And lo, the objective of a marriage/relationship rekindled story is accomplished.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"When Sarah Met Andrew"

by Elizabeth Graham from the February 7, 2011 issue

Tagline: "You'll know when you meet him," Mama had said--and she was so right!

In a Nutshell: Sarah is pet-sitting, but can't find the key in the snow when she arrives at Mrs. Holton's house. A male neighbor helps her look for it.

Observations: This story clearly showed the heroine falling for the hero. Often, because of the tight word count, authors skimp on showing the attraction. Not here. First, he's handsome:

The voice belonged to a tall, good-looking man standing on the driveway next to the door. Even through the swirling snow, I saw that he had the bluest eyes I'd ever seen.

...those blue eyes stole my breath.

His smile made his eyes crinkle at the corners.

And his character and status...?

He was a good neighbor, too.

"...I'm from Michigan, but I moved here six months ago--the town was too small for both me and my ex."

Okay, so far, so good, but what about the magic?

An odd sensation swept through me, as if something had shifted inside.

The warm feeling grew warmer...

A shock of electricity zipped through me as our hands clasped.

All righty then. Looks like a potential boyfriend! The reader will feel confident that even though she was recently jilted by her fiance, Sarah should go for it with Mr. Blue Eyes. Woman's World likes to encourage positive, hopeful feelings and stories like this one do that.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"Open House, Open Heart"

by Elizabeth Palmer from the January 31, 2011 issue

Tagline: Victoria had happy memories of the old house—and of the blue-eyed boy who once lived there…

In a Nutshell: Victoria is at the open house of a Painted Lady mansion. She lived nearby when she was a child. Now she works at the local museum, an expert on period architecture. A man, also attending the open house, comments that the family who lived there had a skating rink in the winter, which Victoria remembers well. Turns out the man was the young boy who invited her to skate on that pond many years ago.

Observations: You know that famous poster “All I Need To Know About Life, I Learned in Kindergarten”? Well, here’s one of the things I’ve learned from reading Woman’s World stories.

If there’s a special someone of the opposite sex in your past, you’re bound to run into them. And that someone will be single, even if it appears at first that they are not. LOL

To write one of these old flame/second chance stories, try this:

First, create the past for the man and woman. What happened between them? Did they go to high school together? Did they work a summer job together? Attend summer camp? Babysit for the other’s sibling? In this story, they were neighbors. The boy invited her to skate with them on their pond, but then she moved away.

Next, create a situation where they are reunited. Often the man or woman returns to their home town for one reason or another—an aging relative that needs their help or, as in this story, the woman has a new job. (She attends that open house and the man/boy she skated with just happens to be there too.) Sometimes, no one moved away; they just meet serendipitously at a street fair or grocery store.

Finally, during the meeting, show the spark of attraction. Show the two characters re-connecting and transferring that feeling they once had into hope for a future. End with a sense of happy expectation.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"Flea Market Find"

by Mary Ann Joyce from the January 24, 2011 issue

Tagline: Elliott was right, Molly decided. You never knew what you would find at a flea market!

In A Nutshell: Molly almost snags a vintage lunch box at the flea market, but Elliott picks it up first. When they can't agree on who should get dibs, they agree to walk around the flea market together and flip a coin for it if they don't find something else. At the end of a fun day, Elliott insists she take take the lunch box because he put his phone number inside.

Observations: This is a good example of taking a tried and true setting and putting a twist on it. The twist in this case was the collectible lunch boxes. Usually with flea market/tag sale stories, the item in question is something with sentimental value...grandma's recipe book, a pocket watch, a china teacup. In this story, the lunchbox had a quirky quality that I liked as a change of pace.

I also liked the following conversation which showed more quirkiness and humor:

     "So what's the weirdest thing you've bought at a flea market?"
     Molly thought for a minute. "Once I bought a portrait of Elvis made out of jelly beans."

That made me smile.

This story also had the perfect upbeat parting of company in which the couple face a future of romantic possibility:

     "...and besides, I left my number in the thermos." He turned and waved.
     Molly got into her car and, smiling, snapped open the lunchbox.