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)


Chris said...

What an interesting critique, Kate. After reading it, I went through the various steps you mentioned from The Writer's Journey, applying them to one of my recent submissions. To my surprise it got a fair few ticks. It's not a bad plan to follow, is it? - aside from the bringing back elixirs to the real world; these days you'd never get them past customs!

Thanks to Mary Ann and Jody I've seen the 'before' and 'after' versions of this story. The changes made by WW, though possibly not appreciated by the writers, don't harm it at all and really that's all you can hope for from a mag that likes to do so much editing. Here, the central storyline is sound and hasn't been altered. The characters are likeable and the 'meet' is natural, not forced. I enjoyed it a lot. You're right to call it 'super', Kate, it was.

Mary Jo said...

Great analysis, Kate, and no I never heard of that book before. However, Greeks aside, I can see how Johnene consistently yields to the temptation to rewrite another's story. It was a jolt to me to have the guy suddenly ask his client to dinner just because she is a dog lover. Since this was all about online dating, I would have had him say something to the effect, "I have seen your profile. Have dinner with me and I will show you mine as we go along." The little tag paragraph at the end really was not of much interest to me.

I liked this story very much, but I did not see where you called it "super". Did I miss something?

Chris said...

Kate used the word super in her Observations, Mary Jo, when she said she had tried to apply the book's method to a 'super short story'. But now, reading it again, I think maybe she was referring to the story being super-short, as opposed to long. But since I thought it was super, I interpreted it that way.

majbooks said...

Hi All,
This story did have some edits that I thought were fine, but there were also some parts that were cut that I think made the hero a little more charming.

Here's what we had when they first meet:

Two hours later the doorbell rang.
“Come in! I’m freaking out!” Jess opened the door for the man that would hopefully save her computer.
“Nice to meet you, Freaking Out. I’m Ryan, from P.C. Solutions.” He laughed and Jess relaxed. Ryan wasn’t the detached computer repairman she’d envisioned. He had curly brown hair and green eyes that were even more noticeable behind his black glasses. His little bit of stubble was Jess’s weakness. Plus, he wore a t-shirt that said “Sweep the leg”—a nerdy “Karate Kid” reference that Jess appreciated.
“That’s one of my favorite movies,” she said, nodding to Ryan’s chest.
“Mine, too.” Ryan had one of those adorable half smiles. “I think I practiced the crane move a thousand times in the mirror.” He demonstrated by raising his arms and lifting his leg like the hero of the movie during the big showdown.
Jess burst out laughing. She felt instantly comfortable, like they’d known each other for years. She realized she still hadn’t introduced herself.
“I’m Jess, by the way.” For a moment she forgot all about her broken computer and lost herself in Ryan’s mossy eyes. Then, snapping out of it she said, “I’ll show you my computer.” She figured he had other days to save.
Ryan clicked away on Jess’s laptop, chatting as he went. His fingers moved swiftly over the keys and his eyes darted back and forth with laser focus. After a few minutes, he looked up at Jess.
“You’ve got a pretty bad virus on here.”

In our version, I think you get the idea that the hero is kind of nerdy-cute, just the type Jess goes for, and we also mention that they're chatting as he works. I think with the cuts, the "asking out" part is a little abrupt.

Thanks for the nice analysis, Kate. I don't know the book you've mentioned, but it seems on the money for most story plots. What I do is basically picture the story as a tiny movie, and write what I'd like to see in this type of short, first-meet romance. Whatever works!

--Mary Ann Joyce

Betsi said...

That's the problem with editing these stories and making them even shorter. I think they so often end with the "invitation to dinner" because that's the logical next step to beginning a relationship. The author's job is to make their mutual interest clear, through dialog, internal monologue, and maybe body language. I know the Joyce's did that in the story they submitted. But when Johnene cuts, sometimes the ending can seem abrupt. Even without Johnene's editing, I find the last paragraph is always the hardest one to write. In such a short story, it often feels "tacked on."

This is a great publishing debut for young Rakel, though -- I thought the idea was very clever!

Mary Jo said...

Kate, it seems your ratings boxes are not working. The story writers are probably looking for the opinions they would find there.

Kate Willoughby said...

I thought something was odd because no one seemed to be voting. Okay, I deleted them and put them back. Hopefully that works.