by Anna Jo Christopher from the December 17, 2012 issue
Tagline: Ryan thought his first Christmas away from his family would be a lonely one. Then he met Maggie...
In A Nutshell: Ryan has recently moved and not looking forward to a holiday with no family nearby, but he has had his eye on Maggie, a pretty bank teller. One day as they chit-chat, he finds out she volunteers to serve meals at a shelter. He decides to volunteer, too.
Observations: Surprisingly, this story didn't tug at my heartstrings as much as I would have liked for an issue so close to Christmas. It was solid, make no mistake, but I always expect more emotional umph from a Christmas themed story.
Anyway, I did enjoy the ribbing that Ryan's coworkers gave him at the beginning of the story. The mention of direct deposit sets the story firmly in current times. It also shows that Ryan can take a joke, even at his own expense. This is a nice bit of characterization, something that's sometimes difficult to add when working with only 800 words.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, negativity can have a place, but you have to temper it. Ryan is wistful about being alone for the holidays, but Christopher doesn't belabor this. And in the paragraph after the description of his situation, she writes:
The queue advanced quickly, and Ryan shook off his melancholy thoughts. He didn't really have any friends yet, but he would in time.
There she shows him to be a positive person, a role model for the reader, if you will. :)
I also liked how she handled the simultaneous speaking:
The spoke at the same time: "Would you like to help--?" she began, as he asked, "Will you need help--?"
They both laughed.
It's nice to know how to punctuate that type of situation.
Finally, I wanted to point out another subtle thing that I think helped flesh out his character and give him a sincerity that all Woman's World characters need. A reader might question his motives in volunteering at the shelter, thinking he might just be doing that to connect with Maggie. But cleverly, Christopher already established that Ryan is a giving sort of guy by showing him making the generous donation for the canned food drive. Smart writer! All that talk between Maggie and Ryan was more than filler.
Photo by: Chase Lindberg Photography (cc)