Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Someone to Lean On

by Jody Lebel from the December 31, 2012 issue

Tagline: Beth was in meltdown mode when the handsome, confident detective stepped in to calm her down and cheer her up.

In a Nutshell: Beth's apartment was burgled. She is particularly upset over the loss of her grandmother's teapot. The kind and observant detective retrieves the teapot and they share the pistachio ice cream he brought to replace the half gallon she lost.

Observations: I thought this was a solid Woman's World story. It had a humorous, thoughtful and observant hero. He notices she's on the verge of a breakdown and he lightens the mood.

It had a strong heroine who has proven herself by living on her own for six years successfully, but we see she is still vulnerable when she finds someone has broken into her home.

It has a sentimental item--Beth's grandmother's teapot, which is returned. Sentimentality and nostalgia are commonly seen in Woman's World stories.

It has a cute ending in which the detective cheekily says:

"I told you [the burglar] wouldn't be back. I never said I wouldn't."

LOL. How cute. He's a guy I would definitely want to share ice cream with. Of course, I'll gladly eat ice cream alone too. Heh heh.

44 comments:

Pat said...

Kate, this story was a learning experience for me. I had a similar story rejected in the past. What was missing in my story was the sentimental item (teapot) in this story. I did like the story so I’ll forgive the police procedural issues with it.

Tamara said...

Very funny about the ice cream, Kate.

Linda Butler said...

This story was published between Christmas and New Year but does not contain seasonal imagery, although there is a green-red contrast between the melting pistachio ice cream and the “rush of heat to her cheeks”.
The black fingerprinting ink at the beginning of the story introduces us to the darkness in Beth’s life. She is making “elimination prints” to eliminate other suspects, but she feels so lifeless, she must feel like she is being “eliminated”. The tech is helping her establish her identity and her humanness. When Beth meets Det. Kevin Stone, she pays little attention to him as “she looked only at the I.D. badge dangling from a chain around his neck.” She doesn’t feel human, and she does not see his humanity either.
When Beth discusses her losses with Det. Stone she says that she does not care much about the replaceable items, but “the silver teapot was my grandmother’s”, so we understand its sentimental value. The teapot takes on a symbolic meaning for “family” when Beth later thinks: “I’m sorry, Gram.” She does not voice the words, but they are in her mind, as if she connects with her grandmother’s spirit.
When the detective returns the teapot a few days later, he indicates that he understands the importance of sentiment to Beth: “I figured you’d want this right away.” She replies that she doesn’t know how to thank him and he responds “thank me with a spoon”. The spoon imagery suggests that he wishes to be part of her family, as tea comes from a teapot and a spoon stirs the tea. Both teapot and spoon are common everyday kitchen items and this may foreshadow a future for them together.
The pistachio ice cream may be a symbol of Beth’s life. There are images of it melting at the beginning of the story, further meltdowns in Beth’s life, heat warming her, and then the offer of fresh pistachio ice cream at the end.
When the pistachio ice cream is first mentioned it is a bag “oozing a sticky green substance”. This may represent the chaotic nature of her life at the start of the story. The ice cream is put on a list of deficiencies/stolen items. She has lived alone for six years, perhaps with no meaningful relationships. Her life has turned to chaos, similar to the melted ice cream which was forgotten when she found her home in disarray. The reader is not told whether the chaos is caused from this B&E, or whether it has gone on for some time.
The detective says that she “appeared on the verge of a meltdown”. When she is alone, her life gets worse as she reaches bottom and loses confidence. “The confidence she’d felt...melted away”.
When Det. Stone returns, “she felt a rush of heat to her cheeks.” The heat she feels removes the remnants of fear and doubt, and represents her coming out of this difficult period of her life.
Det. Stone offers her some fresh pistachio ice cream. As a symbol of her life, this ice cream represents the way her life should be – firm and solid and shared with someone. Det. Stone asks for one spoon, suggesting that they may take turns eating. The imagery suggests that as they share the ice cream, they will also share their lives.
The names are interesting. The name “Stone” suggests rigidity. Kevin will offer Beth firmness in her life. “Beth” is probably short for Elizabeth, which suggests the Victorian era where women served tea in silver tea services. She can offer the feminine attributes of grace and poise.
This second meeting of Kevin and Beth is their first meaningful meet as Beth originally did not see Kevin as a person. The story leaves us with the warm feeling that they have started to connect in a meaningful way.
I agree that there are some deficiencies in the police work, but I can overlook them because of the compelling story.

Kate Willoughby said...

I have one word. Wow.

Linda Butler said...

thanks Kate. who knows what the author means? Every reader sees things differently. I saw all these images of melting ice cream but maybe there was no symbolism meant at all. the teapot is a symbol of home and friendship, especially when tied to the grandmother, so its not that far a stretch to see the hero wanting to connect. maybe I have too vivid an imagination. I wish the author would comment as it would be helpful.

Bernadette said...

A few times I've had people analyse my stories like this and it is always interesting to see what other people think you've put in a story and why.
I have to say that usually there are many things that, to me as the writer, were just random or insignificant but which other people see as deeply meaningful. And similarly things which I had included with care which no-one noticed.
Having said that, if the reader sees it, then it's there for them even if the writer had no conscious intention when writing it.

Anonymous said...

Lighten up, Linda B. This is only a little popular romance, not a psychological procedural. If I get a story published in WW, I beg you not to try to analyze it. I say what I mean, and mean what I say.

Betsi said...

I have to agree with Anonymous -- the analysis shouldn't be longer than the piece of writing! And I very much doubt that the average WW reader -- or Johnene and Patricia -- are thinking about symbolism or hidden meanings.

Kate Willoughby said...

I agree with Bernadette. None of my stories have any deep symbolism. I'm shallow that way. LOL. I just try to write entertaining stories. That's all. :) But if Linda wants to analyze my Chinese New Year story, I have to admit I'm curious to see what she'll find.

Linda Butler said...

Hi again: I agree that most popular fiction does not contain symbolism, but our language is rich and different readers see different things.

Anonymous commented “I say what I mean, and mean what I say.” So I’d like to look at the end of the story with that comment in mind.

Beth says: “I don’t know how to thank you.”
“You can thank me with a spoon.” He then holds up the ice cream he had been hiding behind his back.

If I was writing this in plain language, I would have said: “You can thank me by sharing this ice cream. Then he brings out the ice cream that he had been hiding behind his back.” I can understand that, no problem. But that’s not what the story says.

Maybe his comments about the spoon are just a flirtation. There is a slight pause in the story after he says “spoon”, when she must have looked at him and wondered what he meant, before he brought the ice cream to the front. It is that pause that makes the reader pause and think about the words. What does he mean by thanking him with a spoon? It is an unusual phrase and at first it sounds weird, but when you overlay the word “spoon” with symbolism, then it still tells the same story, but in a richer way.

Betsi said...

Linda, the writer isn't writing these stories, YOU are! There's nothing wrong with that. I was a literature major and came to understand that a work of art is "created" by the author in collusion with the reader or viewer or listener. I guess I just don't think of WW stories as literature or art, even though I've sold several.

Also, these stories are usually pretty heavily edited. Some of the things you're pointing out were written by the author, some by Johnene.

Melanie D said...

I liked the story, but I have to say that a cop showing up with evidence and icecream pulled me a bit out of my suspension of disbelief (but it IS a romance, after all!)

Ladyrprter said...

Sorry I hadn't commented before this. I was out of town for the holidays. Thank you all for your comments.

First response: WW changed things. I never had a tea pot. I never had a brother. I never use !!!!. I had her noticing the detective in a different way, not the badge thing WW put in. I used a lot of color and smell...like a lemon scented alcohol wipe for her hands...WW cut them. I never had chocolate chip cookies...I had whipped cream.

Second response: I didn't write anything with those meanings/symbols in mind. But I found it interesting how a reader can find connections if they want to. I didn't even have a tea pot in my version for the detective to connect to his grandmother. There was no symbolism in the spoon. I just used that wording so the reader would say, huh? He was just being cute.

Third response: I work with police officers, FBI agents, and DEA agents on a daily basis in my day job. The police technique here is spot on. Unless it's a murder case, stolen items are often returned to the victim. The police photograph it for the file.

I love this blog by the way. It is so helpful to see other stories and analzye them a bit. I took Kate's workshops. I recommend them.

Linda Butler said...

Thanks Ladyrprter for your comments and for the insight into your writing. Congratulations on your sale.

Mary Jo said...

Jody, thanks for the inside story. I think that one criterion for a Romance sale to WW is the clear indication to the editor that she can rewrite it in her own inimitable style. No matter what the original author intended, the story has to come out reading like a patented Woman's World tale. Maybe the author can achieve that, but if not, Johnene is there with her pen in hand. The contract refers to it as "augmenting".

Linda, it might be interesting to hear your take on why an editor is charged with that responsibility. Or did she just assume it?

Linda Butler said...

Mary Jo – I have no knowledge of the working of editors. This story was changed so much, it is almost like it was co-authored. I have never sold to WW and any of my writing that has been edited was changed for grammar or to shorten it to fit space. This editing, although it didn’t create a new story, told it differently.

Mary Jo said...

Linda, I would say you are 100% right.

Betsi said...

Exactly what I was trying to say. What's the point in over-analyzing a story that's been changed so much? Some of mine were changed a lot, like Jody's, others not as much. When I write for WW, I'm just trying to make the sale and cash my check. In fact, the stories where I rewrite a lot or labor over details (symbolism?) are often rejected. Kate's analysis is usually just right for helping us to make that all-important sale.

Mary Jo said...

Amen.

Kate Willoughby said...

I get just as many rejections as anyone else. :) Anyone working on a story now? I should be...

Ladyrprter said...

This is Jody again. I guess I should have mentioned that I didn't have a tea pot but I did have a silver frame of grandma's. I have to wonder why they changed it to a tea pot. More grandmotherly? Of course they changed the title...mine originally was Meltdown. Yes, the check came quickly and cashed just fine..lol. I'm always working on the next WW story. And I still have 3 in the pipeline that are over 5 months old. I love New Years...we get a new start. Here's wishing all of us a sale in 2013.

Betsi said...

What's with the slow response time? I have one out since July also, and one that's more recent. Since I had peritonitis after an operation a month ago, followed by a second operation and 3 weeks in the hospital, writing hasn't been a priority for me. I actually did come up with an idea for a story one night when I couldn't sleep. I think a sale would really help my recuperation!

Mary Jo said...

Betsi, I hope your health is improving. What a siege! I submitted my Valentine story on July 2nd and haven't heard word one in response. I am assuming that a contract has already been issued for the Valentine story, and Johnene has not had time to return all the rejects.

Did any one of you sell your Valentine story?

Tamara said...

I have decided the same: that the Valentime story has been selected and no rejections have been mailed out. I mailed mine on July 2 also. I am wishing you free from health problems in 2013, Betsi.

Mary Jo said...

Tamara, I read your DINNER FOR TWO story in the January 7th issue of WW and thought it was really cute. Was it basically your story or did Johnene throw herself wholeheartedly into the mix? You made it clear that stalling was a common occurrence with that elevator. It would still be scary for me, though. Good to have a nice guy sharing the ride.

Marian Lanouette said...

Loved this one. And yes it was a learning experience. Thanks,

Tamara said...

Thanks, Mary Jo. She gave it a better title than mine, but there is one piece of editing in that story that I was most unhappy with. I probably shouldn't discuss it until it appears on here, but stay tuned....

Tracie said...

Hi. I have a question. I sent a story to Woman's World in August and haven't gotten a response yet. I have ideas for other stories, but I'm wondering if it's a good idea to send out more. If I submit multiple submissions, wouldn't I be competing with myself? If the editors liked them all, they wouldn't buy all of them at the same time, would they?
Also, do you mail multiple submissions in the same envelope?

Tracie said...

I forgot to wish everyone a Happy New Year.

Deb said...

Loved the story, Jody - the ice cream was a great touch. It took the protect and serve to a new level - with the added romance of remembering the ice cream (and the spoon - a nice touch of humor and lightheartedness).

Mary Jo said...

Tracie, I don't see an answer to your questions yet, so I will chime in. How many stories are you talking about, by the way? Personally, I don't think it is amiss to send two or three stories a month. Maybe more if you write that fast. Only one story per envelope, though. Don't worry about competing with yourself. I seriously doubt they are going to buy all your stories.

Mary Jo said...

One other thing, Tracie, if you are a novice, Kate has urged that you make sure you are not repeating the same mistakes over and over again. You might want to test the waters with one or two stories at first and let them ride until you hear from the editors. Also, Kate's lessons are well worth the price.

Tamara said...

Unless you send them all the same day, there will be plenty of stories in between yours. They apparently take them as they come, and I believe they don't care how many you send. One writer had a romance and a mystery in the same issue. As Mary Jo advised, only one per envelope.

Betsi said...

Don't worry about competing with yourself, Tracie. I was lucky enough to sell 7 in a row to WW between 12/09 and 9/10. I've had a ton of rejections -- and 1 sale -- since then, but it was a wonderful year!

Tamara said...

Seven in a row? Wow! Contratulations for that, Betsi. That must be a record.

Betsi said...

It was amazing, Tamara. But then the rejections started coming, and I couldn't figure out what I was doing differently. I think I started writing too "long," trying to get more back story in, but who knows?

Mary Jo said...

Again WOW, Betsi! Almost a whole year of sales. That must have seemed like a dream job. I sold two stories this past year and have had so many rejections I have lost count. As I read the published romance pages, it seems that WW prefers a lot of narrative. I, on the other hand, use dialogue very often to propel a story. Maybe I better change my ways?

Kate Willoughby said...

Yes, Jody, may we all sell many stories in 2013!

Slow response times are de rigeur. Something we have to accept.

Tracie, I once received two acceptances in the same envelope, so it's possible. Like I say in my class, I think the editors' goal is to buy good stories. If you send six good stories, they'll buy all six. And, like Mary Jo said, I do caution brand spanking new writers against sending too many all at once before getting feedback (in the form of the rejection or if you're lucky, a written note on the rejection). I've been told that occasionally they'll get story after story from the same author with the same deal-breaker mistake in it.

Tracie said...

Thanks for all of your comments. They've been very helpful.

Good luck to all of us in 2013!

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to wish everyone a very Happy New Year's full of happiness, and accepted manuscripts :)

Best wishes!
Tressa

Betsi said...

Mary Jo, that's funny, because I've been thinking that I use too much narrative and not enough dialogue. My friend Mary Ann, who has sold more stories than I have to WW, writes very dialogue-heavy stories. Of course her dialogue is perfect, witty and flirty, so that might have something to do with it!

Tamara said...

My understanding is that dialogue-driven fiction is more lively, and I think it also conveys more information to the reader in fewer words, which is useful when a low word count is necessary.

Linda Butler said...

A friend commented that "spooning" as a verb means "to court". My dictionary has the following as one of the meanings for the verb spoon: "from the Welsh custom of an engaged man's presenting his fiancée with a spoon: to make love by caressing, kissing, and talking amorously." We know that the author of this story considered the spoon to be an eating implement, but it is interesting that the word "spoon" carries with it alternate romantic meanings, which could be applicable to this story. As someone else pointed out, readers pick up different meanings in what we write.

Kate Willoughby said...

You learn something new everyday. :)