Friday, September 27, 2013

Secret Rendezvous

by Elizabeth Brown from the September 30, 2013 issue

Tagline: Rosie was happy in her marriage, but she couldn't help wishing there was a little more romance in her life...

In a Nutshell: Rosie is having lunch with a friend when she sees a couple kiss. Her friend remarks that the two can't be married because married people don't do that in public. As Rosie tells her husband about it, she realizes how much she is grateful for. Hubby realizes it too and asks her out on a "date" the next day to prove it.

Observations: Okay, this is THE perfect already-married story. It's the best one I've read in the eight years I've subscribed to this magazine.

In most already-married stories, it's all about the character growth. You have a character--usually the wife--who is somewhat disgruntled or unhappy or in a rut in regard to the marriage. By the end of the story, she has a change of heart and sees all the wonderful things her marriage has to offer. Usually it's by looking at the history she has with her husband or at some facet of his personality or habits that she hasn't appreciated or looked at in a different way before.

In this story, we do get all that. But we also get the husband realizing as well. Usually, the husband is oblivious to his wife's emotional distress and he ends up surprised at the end of the story. Not so in "Secret Rendezvous."

I wanted to point out that Brown actively showed Rosie walking this path of self-realization. Here's the doubt:

I tried to think of the last time Harry and I did anything romantic. Two Friday nights ago we went on a "date," but all we talked about were the kids.

Huh. Been there done that!

But then Brown starts showing Rosie coming to her senses.

His brown hair was thinning on top, but still, I thought, he's so handsome. I used to love to run my fingers through that hair. Why had I ever stopped?

Because he didn't have hair anymore? Heh heh. Just kidding. This is where Rosie begins to realize what she has. The next paragraph continues that. She thinks about what they've built together and what they continue to work toward.

In a masterful stroke, she ties Rosie's observation of "the man gazing at a spot somewhere above [his wife's] head" at Costco to an observation at home with Harry doing the same thing, increasing the tension and weaving the story together a little tighter.

Lastly, where I would have expected the story to end with Rosie accepting Harry's invitation to lunch, Brown takes it one step further and shows Rosie choosing a special dress for the date. She brings us back to Rosie's observation of the kissing couple whom she thought looked like old time movie stars. Rosie's dress makes her feel like she might be "a star on her way to a rendezvous with a tall, handsome stranger." However, the author reminds us:

But in truth, it was me, dressing for lunch with a man I'd known intimately for 18 years--a man who, maybe, I was just getting to know all over again.

Happy sigh. That, my friends is a great ending. It would have been a fine ending if that last part, with her getting dressed, hadn't been there, but in my opinion, Brown knocked it out of the park with that final paragraph. I say in my online/email class that it's worth it to spend as much time on the ending of your story as necessary to make it SING. This is a prime example of why.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Same Time Next Year

by Karen Leet from the September 23, 2013 issue

Tagline: Years had passed since Kim and Josh's first meeting. But in the same old booth in the same old diner, it felt like yesterday.

In a Nutshell: Kim and Josh, best friends, have met every year on the same day to commemorate the day they met, among other things. They relive the event over dinner, then return to their normal lives. As husband and wife.

Observations: In theory, this is a cute idea. It's different. We see so many first meet stories and it's a nice change of pace to read about a couple already established. However to be honest, I got tired of them relating information back to each other, information that they clearly both remembered. I would have dialed down the sentimentality a bit had I been the editor.

Sometimes in movies or TV shows, they have characters deliver expositional material through clumsy dialogue for the sole purpose of imparting this crucial information to the audience.

"As you know, Julie, our father was sent to prison for armed robbery and is up for parole next month."

That type of thing. Unfortunately, this is what this whole story felt like to me. I was fine with it until about a third of the way in. After that it felt forced. The fact that they were and are best friends is unnecessarily reiterated. To me, they were that annoying but well-meaning couple who think everyone else is as interested in their romantic history as they are.

I think it would have been much smoother if we had gone into either one of their heads and relived the events that way instead of them relaying the information in conversation. I would like to have seen them think about what their expectations were way back then and what had transpired since then, where they think they're going in the next few years. Perhaps they might even touch on the fact that although they made some mistakes along the way and the road was not always smooth, that they wouldn't change a thing. I think that might have made the story seem more realistic and down to earth.

However, as I have not said in quite a while, this is only my opinion. Clearly, the editors at Woman's World felt it was a solid story.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Love at the Library

by MaryAnn Joyce from the September 16, 2013 issue

Tagline: Rosie wasn't convinced that this "Books and Blind Dates" thing was a good idea--but she'd been wrong before...

In a Nutshell: Rosie's library is having a singles event--Books and Blind Dates. Dawn signed up, but is nervous when the big night arrives. So is her date.

Observations: I adored this story. It was charming and different, even though it very much reminded me of my Mr. Darcy Valentine's Day Blind Date story that got rejected. Joyce's idea is very clever. Who among us doesn't love libraries and books? I liked the mystery of Rosie not knowing what the book was either. It was almost as if she had two blind dates rolled into one.

We haven't had a first person-present tense story in a while, but there's proof that Woman's Worlds accept it.

You'll notice that there was a huge chunk of backstory. Almost a third of the story described the event, the two friends signing up for it and Rosie's romantic past. That's very unusual, but necessary in this case. The event isn't something familiar like the county fair or a parade.

The amount of time spent with the hero and heroine is therefore smaller, but didn't really affect the charm of the story. The author ended the story about five minutes into the date, but she did such a great job of setting the pair up that we feel optimistic that the date will go well.

--She thinks he's cute.
--She teases him and he responds with self-effacing humor, which I like.
--They both admit to being very nervous about the event.

I also liked that she grew as a character by approaching him and introducing herself and that he stood up when she came over, showing he was brought up with gentlemanly manners.

All in all, a fantastic story.

Photo by Gerry Dincher (cc)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Man in 2B

by Elizabeth Palmer from the September 9, 2013 issue

Tagline: Tanya had gotten a new job in a new town. Now, what she needed was a new friend...

In a Nutshell: Tanya likes her neighbor, but assumes he's married because he always seems to be in the company of this woman, but when a piece of his mail gets mixed with hers, she finds out the woman is his sister, who as been visiting. Jamie is a photographer and Tanya's new job is at the art museum. It's a match made in heaven--with a little help from the sister.

Observations: Palmer has had many stories published by Woman's World and this demonstrates why. There are a lot of small things that help elevate the story.

This story combines two story tropes nicely--the misidentified person (usually a woman the heroine assumes is a love interest but who in reality is a sister, cousin, co-worker, etc.) and the matchmaker. That's a simple way to branch out from the tried and true story plots that appear in the magazine.

I liked the hero's sense of humor and how this joke shows he and his sister have a great relationship:

"I've been meaning to welcome you to the building, but Lori's been running me ragged. I'm glad she's finally leaving."

"Ha," Lori said. "He'll miss me when I'm gone."

The conversation introduced the thing they have in common very naturally and the fact that there is a thing in common helps the reader believe they have a chance at happiness.

The author also talked about Tanya needing a manicure and pedicure early in the story and then touched on it again near the end, a nice way of making the story feel more cohesive.

Lastly, I wanted you to take note of the deft transition to show the passage of time.

"Tanya sit. Let's talk while I finish packing."

"How do you take your coffee?" Jamie asked her.

Soon she was sipping coffee and answering Jamie and Lori's barrrage of questions. 

Because the word count is so small, you have to move your plot along briskly. This sentence gets the reader past the making and serving of the coffee and whatever small talk occurred during that. Oh, also, we skip Jamie even asking her if she'd like some coffee in the first place. No one wants to read small talk. We want to get to the interesting part!

Photo by SparkCBC (cc)