Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Out with the Old"

by Krista Weidner from the March 21, 2011 issue

Tagline: Erin's classified ad helped her get rid of something she'd held on to for too long--and find something she hadn't known she was looking for!

In a Nutshell: Erin wants to give away the piano her ex left behind. The man who eventually wants to take it off her hands is cute, but he's getting it for his wife. But wait! The brother who came along to help him move it is his just as cute twin!

Observations: I always love a good plot twist that sends the story in a new direction, changing everything. In this case, just when you think that Erin won't find romance, in walks the unmarried twin.

I really enjoyed the easy banter between the brothers. My two teenaged sons bicker all the time, so a story like this one, even though it's fiction, gives me hope!

I also liked the upbeat tone the story ended on. Sometimes the stories end on a positive note, but it's understated and placid. This one had a bit more umph to it.

It's just amazing what you can find in the classifieds these days!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"What a Guy!"

by Vanessa Carroll from the March 14, 2011 issue

Tagline: Jamie didn't realize she was looking for an hero--until one showed up just in time!

In a Nutshell: Jamie rushes out of her house, scared out of her wits by the raccoon that got in. A new neighbor, Mitch, braves the house and captures the critter. The next day, she brings cookies to thank him and they go out to dinner.

Observations: I haven't seen a man to the rescue story in a while. If this is what I get when I wait, it's worth it. This story was very cute and original and slightly madcap in tone.

There was something in this story that I don't often see either-- that ending paragraph.

And that's the story of how an uninvited raccoon introduced me to true love. I have to admit I've had a soft spot for the critters ever since.

This addition makes you feel as if Jamie is a friend sharing her story with you, especially considering it was in first person. It gives the piece a casual feel.
In My Opinion: This story could have used a more clever title.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Shall We Dance?

by Mary Ann Joyce from the March 7, 2011 issue

Tagline: Tess met Ray in dance class--and by the end of the lesson, they both wondered if they might pair up for a lifetime!

In a Nutshell: Tess shows up for her dance class and sees to her dismay that it's all couples. The one other single, Ray, suggests they pair up. She agrees. All the couples seem to be preparing for their weddings, so Ray makes up a history for them off the cuff. Tess goes along with the farce, pretending that they're engaged. When the class ends, Ray suggests they go for coffee and Tess says yes.

Observations: I loved this story, loved its humor and originality. Watching Tess and Ray learn - or at least try to learn - to dance was fun and it is easy to imagine them actually getting engaged sometime in the future.

I haven't talked about hooks much on this blog. Because the stories are so short, I've never really seen the need to emphasize them, but I noticed one in this story.

This was a big mistake, Tess thought as she scanned the room.

The reader automatically wonders what the mistake was and she reads ahead to find out.

I'm going to look at some of the other stories and see if there are other hooks that I never noticed. It's funny how, even though I know about hooks for novels, I didn't think to apply the device to these short stories.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"Can I Help You?"

by Tamara Shaffer from the February 28, 2011 issue

Tagline: Todd and Nancy had never met before that day in the shop, but it turned out they had a lot in common...

In A Nutshell: Todd's girlfriend wants to break up with him. He's shopping for a "parting gift" and hits it off with the shopkeeper.

Observations: This was a moving-on/first meet story that doesn't follow the usual three act structure. In this one, there are only two acts. They meet at the store, talk about his situation and her similar sort of break-up, then there's a quick transition and we move right to the "third" act. There is no black moment either, unless you count this:

I walk away with a strangely lighter heart, but I'm confused. And suddenly, I'm not sure if I want things to go well.

So, I guess it just goes to show you that you can write stories that are out of the norm and contrary to my advice and still get published.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"The Game of Love"

by M.L. Hickerson from the February 21, 2011 issue

Tagline: It might have started with a coincidence, but Justin and Gail's romance was meant to be...

In A Nutshell: Gail is on standby at the airport. She meets a guy waiting for the same flight because he's playing the same word game on his phone as she is on hers. They decide whoever finds the longest word will get the ticket. He wins, but declines to take the flight because he wants to spend more time with her.

Observations: This reminds me a lot of the story in which the two people vied for the same vintage lunch box, but this story had more of a tech feel because of the important props--his iPhone and her Blackberry.

This is one of those stories where as a reader, you're the fly on the wall. Personally, I like this type of story because it's easier to believe in the connection between the characters. I see it happen, vs. the author telling me.

There's also the story element of circularity, which I'm also fond of. That's when you drop something in at the beginning of the story and bring it back in at the end, too. In this case it's the idea of coincidence. When Justin shows her the screen on his iPhone so she can see he's playing the same game...

"That's a coincidence!" to which he replies, "'Coincidence', eleven letters."

Then at the end you get not one, but two, references. When Justin suggests they grab dinner, they both happen to have the same favorite restaurant on the concourse. Then, the last sentence claims:

As they smiled lovingly at one another, they knew their chance meeting had nothing to do with coincidence.

Finally, there's another story element in this tale that I like a lot--the black moment, when you think all is lost. Justin's name is called to board the flight, and Gail is left alone, but then she hears her name over the loudspeaker. Justin, that chivalric guy, has given up his seat for her. But then, bam, backatcha, Justin. Gail doesn't take the seat. She'd rather have dinner with you. Viva romance!!!