Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Blind Date

by Anonymous from the October 24, 2011 issue

Tagline: Abbie was on the lookout for a man with a red carnation in his lapel. When she spotted him, she realized he was no stranger...

In A Nutshell: Abbie has been divorced for a year. Her co-worker has been sending her on blind dates. At a cocktail party, the man in the red carnation she's supposed to meet is none other than her ex-husband. They realize they may have made a mistake in divorcing.

Observations: Reading fiction is a very subjective activity. Each person filters the stories, using their personal history, viewpoints, opinions, etc. But, to coin one of the fiction editor Johnene's favorite phrases, "This story didn't quite work for me." Call me cynical, but I have a hard time believing in divorced pairs reuniting happily. I always doubt that they'll overcome the obstacles that caused their divorce in the first place. Perhaps I might believe if a substantial  amount of time passes between the divorce and the reunion. That way, they might be completely different people. But in this story, only a year passes.

I do want to point out a few things I did like. The fact that the blind date is her ex-husband is a fantastic turning point. I always love when I think I know exactly where the story is headed and then the author laughs maniacally as the story careens off in an entirely different direction.

I liked the humor here:

"Why don't I get us a couple glasses of wine?"

"I'm already wearing mine."

Abbie had accidentally spilled hers when she literally bumped into her ex-husband.

And the ending was poignant and uplifting and had that perfect Woman's World tone.

However, luckily for this anonymous author, I'm not the fiction editor at the magazine, because they liked it enough to publish.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oof. Again.

Got another rejection from Johnene yesterday. It was for a story that was set at New Year's. Darn. Well, there are still two stories out there she can buy!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Meeting Cute

by Nell Musolf from the October 17, 2011 issue

Tagline: Jenny thinks the idea of trying ot meet someone in a cute way is just ridiculous. It really is, isn't it?

In a Nutshell: Lost in thought, Jenny almost steps into a square of wet cement. She overbalances and falls into some flowers instead. The man who poured the cement and owns the flowers takes her out for coffee.

Observations: This story starts out with a sourpuss, who, over the course of the story, turns her attitude around and finds a man. (If only it were that easy!) This is a great example of focusing a story around character growth.

I also wanted to point out Musolf foreshadowed something and followed through with another mention two times.

Foreshadow: Last weekend, while waiting for my tires to be rotated, I picked up a magazine with George Clooney on the cover.

Follow Through: Not too tall and going a little gray, this man would never be mistaken by anyone for George Clooney.

Foreshadow: Karen is a newlywed who thinks everyone should hop on the romance merry-go-round for a nice, long ride.

Follow Through: Enough time for the romance merry-go-round to slow down and let us hop on board.

This type of thing can tighten the weave of your story in a way that most readers won't pick up on.  They'll feel the story is better in some way, but they would never be able to figure out that something subtle like this does the trick.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Happy Endings

by Ellen DePastino from the October 10, 2011 issue

Tagline: A dog named Prince and his very charming owner turned Kate's walk in the park into something special...

In a Nutshell: When widow Kate and her daughter Jenny visit the park, they meet a man and his dog, who performs several tricks for them. Jenny has such a good time they all agree to meet again next week.

Observations: I laughed in a couple of places with this story. First, Jenny is mad about Prince Charming and in the book she and her mom just read, the dark haired prince with the chiseled profile is wearing a red tunic. When they get to the park...

Jenny suddenly stopped. "Mom, look," she said pointing. "It's Prince Charming."

The man was ahead of us on the path, his dog sitting at attention. The man stood, chiseled profile, sunlight gleaming on dark hair, red tunic. Actually, it was a windbreaker. But still.


The other spot I laughed at was here.

"I'm Kate, and I apologize for all the Prince Charming stuff. Jenny is crazy for fairy tales."

"I don't mind being mistaken for Prince Charming. Rumplestiltskin--that would be a problem," he smiled. (sic)

Besides the humor, I noticed a couple of other things. One, as often happens in a Woman's World story, we have a Big Coincidence--something we readers are expected to accept, even though it's highly unlikely. Here, we're supposed to believe that the dog's name just happens to be Prince. I want to go along with it, but I remain skeptical. My ability to suspend disbelief was stretched a little too far.

The other thing I noticed was that the backstory--what Mark and Kate do for a living, his relationship history--is inserted about two thirds in, not at the beginning as is often the case. This backstory also serves as a time transition. After this paragraph, we find ourselves squarely in the third act of the story. With only 800 words, you need to be smart like this so you can pack as much story in as possible.

Lastly, I noticed a missing period at the end of the sixth paragraph. I don't often find typos in the stories, but there's a first time for everything!

Well, dang.

A story I submitted a few months ago came back. :( They'd gotten too many blind date stories.

Back to the drawing board.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hear ye, hear ye!

Hey, I'm really really excited to announce that I've developed a new class. It's called "Selling to Woman's World Magazine - Beyond the Basics." Ever since I started writing the first lecture, I've been at it non-stop. Just today I finished the first draft, and I think it's awesome. (But I'm biased.)

As soon as I find a venue for it, I'll let everyone know when it will be offered. :)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Must Love Shopping

by Mary Ann Joyce from the October 3, 2011 issue

Tagline: When Tom took his teenage daughter shopping, he expected doom and disaster. Instead, he found love...

In a Nutshell: Tom is a widower and his daughter needs a dress for her first school dance. The shopgirl notices he's at a loss, shoos him over to the TV where he can watch baseball, and helps the daughter pick out a dress. Afterward, Tom muses that his daughter got a dress, and he got a date.

Observations: This is one of those "slice of life" stories. The main character is going about his/her life, and Cupid strikes from out of the blue.

Sometimes your own life is one of the best places to pull stories from. (I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Joyce has a teenager at her house.) One of my most recent Woman's World stories built off a pineapple tasting I attended while on vacation. I transferred that "talk" from a pineapple plantation to a health food store, gave the story a hero who had to start eating healthy or else, and voila!

Anyway, this story was also told from the dad's first person point of view, an unusual choice, but perfect for this story. It helps us feel closer to the poor guy, trapped in a dress shop, unable to escape until his daughter has something to wear to the dance. I got the feeling that he was a real person--not one of those bigger than life characters that we enjoy reading about in novels. And that's what sets Woman's World romance characters apart. They have doubts and often self-esteem worries, but not to the extent that fictional characters usually have. They're more like you and me. So, keep that in mind. :)