Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hearts for Sale

by Shannon Fay from the June 3, 2013 issue

Tagline: Holly and Neil had been neighbors for years, but one sunny Saturday, they finally got to know each other...

In a Nutshell: Holly is participating in the community yard sale in an effort to get rid of her ex-husband's stuff. Her friend, widower Neil, is selling his daughter's stuff at her behest. She's going away to college and doesn't want to leave her clutter behind for her dad to deal with. Holly and Neil get to know each other better between sales.

Observations: I really liked the pace of this story. Sometimes a Woman's World story can feel choppy because the short word count forces us to cram a lot of stuff into a small space. But this story felt leisurely, which was nice, considering the characters themselves were enjoying a leisurely Saturday.

Much of this story occurred in Holly's head as she recalled the info we readers needed to know about their history. There were only four snatches of conversation. The rest was introspection and narrative.

What I really liked was how it all built up to the black moment at the very very end. Usually the black moment occurs in the last third, followed by a short denouement. I really felt Holly's anxiety that he'd say no and it was a nice relief when he didn't.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

New in Town

by Jenn Walker from the May 27, 2013 issue

Tagline: Thunder, lightning, that strange dog on her front lawn...Shelley knew it was going to be a bad night. She couldn't have been more wrong..

In a Nutshell: Shelley is unloading groceries during a storm. A strange and scary looking dog darts into her house when she isn't watching. Jacob, the man who owns her, appears on the scene and apologizes, explaining that his dog is afraid of thunderstorms and hides under his bed. Sure enough, the dog is under Shelley's bed. Shelley and Jacob get acquainted while the storm passes through.

Observations: Well, darn. I was struck again by Woman's World story blindness. MY dog hides under the bed on windy days. Why didn't I think about writing a story about that? I know Woman's World likes pet stories. LOL  Oh well. The early bird catches the worm.

I'm going to do a stream-of-consciousness analysis this week. This is where I jot down my thoughts as I read the story.

Oh, the dog on the lawn reminds me of the movie Cujo even though I've never watched it. Scary!

She walks past the dog trying to appear confident. Smart girl. Dogs read your emotions. I learned that from the Dog Whisperer.

I notice some somewhat complicated set-up going on...the dog edging closer, her leaving the door open, the truck pulling up, her not asking for help... I buy that this could have happened, so it doesn't feel contrived in that "give me a break" way, but it all feels a little clunky.

When the dog darts into her house, LOL! "Oh, you're kidding me." Funny.

Ooh. Very sexy. A man came around the truck, a rain-drenched tee-shirt plastered to his muscular chest.

Rottweiler? Those are big dogs. I wondered just how high those beds were. Then again, maybe that's why it was impossible to get the dog out from under.

Aww. Cute awkward moment.
     "Thanks, Shelley. I couldn't have asked for a nicer welcoming committee."
     "And I couldn't have asked for a nicer man." Shelley's eyes widened in embarrassment. "I mean, a nicer man with a dog who--" her voice trailed off and she raised her hands in a helpless gesture.

The last few paragraphs are a run-of-the-mill ending. Nothing that made me sigh in happiness.

Photo by Brilhasti1 (cc)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Emma's Choice

by Susan C. Hall from the May 20, 2013 issue

Tagline: When Matt, with his friendly grin and smiling eyes, appeared in her life, Emma realized what she'd been missing...

In A Nutshell: Emma's friend points out that Emma's current relationship is one-sided. The boyfriend always gets his way. When she meets a man who seems more than willing to let her choose something, like the restaurant on their dinner date, Emma realizes what a fool she's been.

Observations: At first, I thought this was not the type of story that I would have expected Woman's World to choose because we have to focus on what is wrong in Emma's relationship. Then I realized that actually, it's a perfect story for a woman's magazine because the "moral" is, if taken to the extreme, being a people pleaser can be bad.

Also, after reading this story, I was confident this couple had a great chance of living happily ever after because the author showed so many connections between them.

1. They work in the same industry--helping homeowners. She sells homeowner's insurance and he works at a title company.)

2. They both like dogs, even if he owns a cat.

3. He is focused on pleasing her by allowing her to choose the restaurant, rather than the other way around.

Finally, I haven't talked about character arcs in a while, but you can clearly see Emma's eyes opening with regard to her selfish, soon-to-be-ex, boyfriend.  She begins the story defending her boyfriend's selfish ways, saying he has preferences not rules, but by the end of the story, she realizes that things aren't in balance. Character growth is one of those things that isn't mandatory in these romance stories, but it never hurts.

Photo by grendelkahn (cc)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Number Eleven!

Score! Just when I thought my weekend couldn't get any better...

"My" team, the Los Angeles Kings, advanced to the next level of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last night, finally beating the St. Louis Blues. Color me really happy. The Kings are the defending champs and no one has won the Stanley Cup twice in a row since 1997.

Then, today I got a contract in the mail for the story I submitted in February! Yeah! Go me!

This story was a perfect storm. I got the idea in the car on the way to work--the whole plot, practically. I got to work and jotted it down on a scrap of paper. I went home and wrote it, and it came amazingly easy, even the ending, which I always have trouble with. My critique partner gave it the once over, and I sent it. I had a really good feeling about it, and for good reason, it turns out.

Doing the happy dance. Will be going out for a celebratory dinner tomorrow night.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

One Perfect Rose

by Mary Haupt from the May 13, 2013 issue

Tagline: Angie's life would have turned out very differently if she hadn't stopped that day to smell the rose...

In a Nutshell: Angie stops to smell a rose displayed in the window of a florist's shop. The owner shares the story of how his grandfather used to own a florist's shop and met his wife when she stopped to smell a rose displayed in his window. What a coincidence!

Observations: Well, let me tell you it's been a long time since a Woman's World story made me tear up, but this one did.

I liked the hook at the beginning.

Sometimes, late at night, just before I fall asleep, I try to imagine what my life would be like if I'd taken the bus instead of walking home that day three years ago.

It makes you wonder, doesn't it? Makes you curious.

When I got to the middle of the story where Nick is telling the story of how his grandfather met his grandmother, I sighed. How sweetly sentimental and so very Woman's World. I could picture Johnene reading that same part in the story and saying to herself, "Yep. This one's a keeper."

But that was only the preamble to the really sweetly sentimental part:

That's why, sometimes, late at night, I think of how my life would be different if I'd taken the bus instead of walking home that day three years ago. I know I wouldn't be hearing the soft breathing of my husband, Nick, asleep beside me. Or the soft cooing of our baby in her crib nearby.

And I know there wouldn't be a freshly cut rose in a slender silver vase on the kitchen table each night when I get home from work. 

But there is.

Wow. Tears. (Even though I think to myself, he doesn't snore??? LOL)

Photo by lmainjohnson7 (cc)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

How Did You Meet?

by Mary Ann Joyce and Rakel Joyce from the May 6, 2013 issue

Tagline: Jenny dreamed of meeting her soul mate one day...but she doubted an online dating site would help her find him...

In a Nutshell: Jenny's friend convinces her to try an online dating site. As she's filling out her profile, her computer crashes. The tech guy comes and as her computer comes back to life, he sees the profile, in progress. After joking around a little, he asks her to dinner.

Observations: If you haven't ever checked out The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler, it's worth a look. In it, he outlines a plot structure that's as old as the Greeks and very successful. I don't think I've ever tried to apply it to a super short Woman's World story, but it (almost) worked.

1. Heroes are introduced in the ORDINARY WORLD: Jenny is talking
with her friend, Erin, about her love life.

2. They receive the CALL TO ADVENTURE: Erin urges her to join an online dating site.

3. They are RELUCTANT at first or REFUSE THE CALL: Jenny resists.

4. They are encouraged by a MENTOR: Erin bribes her with enchiladas.

5. They CROSS THE THRESHOLD and enter the special world: Jenny begins making an online profile.

6. They encounter TESTS, ALLIES, AND ENEMIES: The computer crashes. Jenny calls a tech guy.

7. They APPROACH THE INMOST CAVE and cross a second threshold: She invites the tech guy in, lingering as their hands are clasped from shaking hands.

8. They endure the ORDEAL: The computer has a virus.

9. They take possession of their REWARD: They connect over the fact that they are dog lovers.

10: They are pursued on THE ROAD BACK to the Ordinary World: There is no real pursuit in this story, but they return to the Ordinary World, but off stage, where they go out to dinner.

Here our story veers from the Writer's Journey structure. The Joyces skip step 11.

11. They cross the third threshold, experience a RESURRECTION and are transformed by the experience.

12. They RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR, a boon or treasure to benefit the ORDINARY WORLD: Jenny and Ryan, the tech guy, become a couple.

Photo by Nist6ss (cc)