Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Housewarming

by Kate Fellowes from the April 23, 2012 issue

Tagline: Holly should have realized that her mother would never let the house go to just anyone. Her mother had a plan. A big plan...

In a Nutshell: Holly's mom is moving into a seniors complex and selling the family home. She wants Molly to meet the man who bought it (her mailman), but Molly has her eye on a man she's been exchanging glances with at the gym. At a dinner that Mom springs on Molly, Molly discovers her gym guy is also the buyer/mailman. What a coincidence!

Observations: I recently told an online class that the one thing you absolutely must have in every Woman's World story is romance. I told them the you need to show it between the hero and heroine. But this story proves me wrong. (My apologies to all my students.) The hero and heroine in this story don't even meet until the end of the story. (The hero says all of five words. LOL)

Looking at what actually occurs here, I see it is partly a story in which Molly does some growing. She eventually accepts the fact that their family home is going to belong to someone else. She also takes responsibility for her own love life by resolving to ask the gym guy for his phone number.

It's also a matchmaker story. A good deal of time is spent with Mom and Molly setting us up for the big coincidence. I'm sure you saw the ending coming a mile away, but it's hard not to feel glad for the characters anyway, especially with an ending line like this:

Behind me. (sic) I thought I heard Mom give a happy little sigh.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Original vs. Edit

In lieu of an analysis of my own story, I thought people might like to see what type of edits they did on it. Anything added by the editors is in blue.

One thing they added that I liked was the part that he'd heard she broke up with her boyfriend. That signaled the all clear for Zach to make his move and I hadn't put that in myself. (Although on second thought, if she just broke up with her boyfriend, that sort of makes Zach the rebound guy, but hopefully people will believe that they're right for each other anyway.) I liked the phrase "wake-up call" too. I do wish they'd left "sunflower smile," instead of "sunny smile." I think sunflowers are cheerful and bright, and "sunny" is a teensy bit cliche. Other than that, I think that they tightened it up nicely.

To tell the truth, I hadn't even noticed most of these edits were here. When I read the published version, I thought to myself, they made about five changes. Obviously there were a lot more than that, so that either shows that Johnene knows her stuff and her edits are smooth and undetectable, or I'm a complete dweeb who doesn't know her own story. LOL Maybe some of both. 

The Perfect Storm
from the April 16, 2012 issue
by Kate Willoughby

When Zach knocked on Jane’s door that evening, she seemed both surprised and elated to see him.
            “Zach! Come in out of the rain,” she said. “What are you doing here?”
Predictably, Zach’s heart started beating faster, as like it always did when he saw Jane. It had been that way ever since Jane had approached him outside their first grade classroom. and She'd said, “Hi! I’m Jane. Wanna be friends?” and he'd fallen for her bubbly personality and sunny smile. From that day on, he’d been in love with her cheerful demeanor and sunflower smile—even if it had been missing two front teeth at the time. 
He fell in love with the rest of her sometime in junior high, even knowing there was no way she would ever see Unfortunately, he knew she’d never even consider him as boyfriend material. Not a geeky brainiac science nerd like him. 
But Zach’s brother just got engaged and it was like a wake-up call: Zach realized Jane would never be his if he didn’t try to do something about it. Besides, he'd heard that she'd broken up with her boyfriend.
“I thought you might like some company, what with the storm and all,.He he said, gesturing at the rain. smiled even though he was soaked to the skin. The wind was blowing something fierce.
“Oh, my gosh. I'd forgotten all about that!”
Years ago they’d confessed their most embarrassing deepest fears to each other. Jane was afraid of thunderstorms. Zach hated spiders and thunderstorms terrified Jane. As a result, she’d appointed Throughout their childhood Jane called herself his personal Zach's “Sspider Nninja” while he’d become her “Sstorm Bbuddy.,His job description had included showing up with hot chocolate and a video whenever the weather got particularly nasty.
She shut the door on the weather. “You know, I finally did grow out of that, Zach, but I’m glad you’re here.” She gestured to  looked at the bag tucked under his arm. “What movie did you bring?”
Before he could answer, the power went out. Zach cursed his luck as they hunted for candles, but by the time they’d settled down together on the couch, he’d decided the warm glow they created was decidedly romantic.
“So, what movie do you want to watch?” he asked.
What do you mean? We can’t watch a movie. The power’s out.”
     “Oh, yeah? ye of little faith,he said as he  He whipped out his cellphone. “The screen's may only be four inches wide, but it does play movies.”
“You’re a genius,” she declared, leaning in close to look. She grinned as they scrolled through the selection. When he suggested a romantic comedy, Jane looked at him, surprised.
“Seriously? I really wanted to see this when it was in the theatre theaters,” she said, “but my ex wouldn’t even think about it wasn't interested. We always saw what he wanted to see.”
Zach frowned. “Always?”
“Pretty much.” After a pause, she poked him. “Hey, what was that you were thinking just now? You had a strange look on your face.”
“Who me?”
“No, the President of the United States,” she said with a laugh joked. “Of course Yes, you.”
Realizing this was his moment of truth, Zach took a deep breath.
“I was just thinking that your ex must have been pretty dense crazy.” He gulped. “I mean, to have had a girl like you and, you know, not done everything in his power to keep you  make her happy.”
     Jane went quiet. She gently took his cellphone and set it aside. “You mean like remembering to keep me company during a thunderstorm? defend me from little boys who want to squirt glue in my hair? Or bring me hot chocolate and a movie when the power goes out? Or,” she said, laying her hand over his, “make making me feel like I’m the most important person in the world whenever he’s with me?”
      His eyes widened in surprise. Before he Zach could quite take in Jane's words completely process what Jane had just said, she leaned in toward him and gave him a soft kiss on the lips. Outside, the wind howled. The rain beat against the windows. Lightning flashed. Thunder rumbled. But Zach was oblivious to everything but her.
He blinked.Jane, what What was that?”
     “That, Einstein, was a kiss.” She laughed. “Sheesh Jeez, for the high school valedictorian, you’re not as smart as I thought you were.”
     “Maybe I need a tutor,” he said with a shy grin, brushing a stray lock of hair off her face. “Do you know anyone who might be able to help me?”
      With the that sparkling smile that made his heart sing, Jane put her arms around his neck and said, “You know, I just might happen to know the perfect person.”

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Up A Creek

by Nancy Drury from the April 9, 2012 issue

Tagline: Melanie was enjoying a peaceful day on the river when things took a surprising turn--for the better...

In a Nutshell: Melanie loses her paddle while kayaking. A lone fisherman happens to see it and boats upstream to return it to the owner. He asks her to lunch and she accepts.

Observations: I felt this story was very plausible. The characters seem real. Melanie has problems, like all of us--probably top on her list, an annoying mother. LOL (Although I noticed that her mom wasn't a complete wiener. Before their phone conversation was over, she'd redeemed herself in my eyes.) Plausibility is an important quality that your story needs to have. The readers like to feel as if this could really happen (to them.)

There's a small black moment when Jesse apologizes for his forwardness and you think Melanie might not accept (even though you know she will, because no Woman's World story ever ends with the heroine declining an invitation from the hero.)

The only thing that I wondered about was cell service out in the wilderness. After a moment, I decided that you probably could get service if the river was close enough to civilization, but that wondering did take me out of the story a moment. It's a pet peeve of mine when characters use their phones in places that they shouldn't be able to.

Other than that, I liked it, especially that last line...

Being up a creek that day without a paddle changed my life forever.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

"Easter Surprise"

by Mary L. Briggs from the April 2, 2012 issue

Tagline: Janice had always loved Easter. Now, thanks to her romantic boyfriend, she loved it even more!

In a Nutshell: Janice's sister used to set up Easter egg scavenger hunts for her. After Janice shares this tidbit of info with her boyfriend, he surprises her with a modern-day hunt, but this time the prize isn't a chocolate bunny, it's a diamond ring!

Observations: I thought the premise of this story was wonderful. It's always fun to read about creative engagements. And the hunt that Dan sends her on was fun to experience as a reader. This is one of those cases where I think, "Why didn't I think of that????"

However, there were a couple of things that bothered me.

Of course, we readers are going to predict that Dan is going to set up an egg hunt for her. That's a given. (The twist turns out to be the ring, which did take me by surprise. :) ) However, after finishing the story, I thought back and wondered how far in advance Dan planned...

Here's the timeline: Janice tells Dan about her sister's tradition. In that same conversation, Dan reminds her he won't be around for Easter because of a business conference. Obviously, the idea for his own engagement ring egg hunt can't have come to him until after she tells him that story. That makes me wonder if he decided then and there to pop the question via the egg or already had the ring and was looking for a way to give it to her. Not a big deal, really, but my question never gets answered and I wish it had. (Standard disclaimer: this is all just my opinion, which often and unpredictably differs with those of the magazine editors.)

The other thing that bothered me was the fact that he doesn't actually ask her to marry him at all. It's a given. He just slips the ring on, no questions--or question, singular--asked. I think Briggs missed out on a big opportunity to bring this story from Cuteland to the World of Poignant Sighs. If she'd spent less time on the history of sister Elle's tradition and more on the proposal itself, I would have been a much happier camper. A marriage proposal is, in my opinion, a momentous, life changing event, and even in fiction--or perhaps especially in fiction--the emotions need to be there.

But you know what? It all boils down to author choice. There's absolutely nothing wrong with writing a cute story that doesn't pull on your heart strings.

Note: If you like the eggs in the picture, here's a link that shows you how to make them.