Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lost…And Found!

by Mary Haupt from the November 18, 2013 issue

Tagline: Christie's heart went out to the lost, frightened little boy. Then she met his uncle--and her heart went out to him, too!

In a Nutshell: Christie works at a department store. A little boy is separated from his uncle and she helps reunite them.

Observations: My apologies for the delay in posting. I'm trying to make the deadline on my second hockey romance and have been short of time.

While this story obviously made the grade for Johnene, it fell short for me.

I thought it was clever how Haupt introduced the fact that he was the uncle, not the dad, via the dialogue with the nephew. And I wanted to point out the tiny "black moment" when Nate almost leaves the store. I think black moments help and I try to include them in my stories when I can.

However, the entire premise of the story rubbed me the wrong way.

The backstory of how Christie was lost when she was little engendered not a lot of sympathy from me, but I used to teach elementary school, so I tend to think she shouldn't have been hiding from her mother. Although, I'm reading that part again and seeing it was a game they played together. So the mom was aiding and abetting! Again, I think, "Well, that's not a very smart game to play. Kids get snatched." And what mom wants to feel that panic when you realize your child is missing on purpose? I've been there and done that and it's scary.

Then, later? After a terrifying experience of being lost, Charlie goes off to hide again. First of all, he obviously didn't learn his lesson. Then the adults play along with him. Yep, the teacher (and mom) in me thinks, "Oh, that is a big mistake, making a game of it. You're just reinforcing his behavior and paving the way for another not-so-fun scenario next time the kid goes shopping." They should be seriously talking to the boy about not doing that so nothing happens to him, not going along with it.

So in summary, my teacher genes wouldn't let me enjoy the story as much as perhaps the rest of you. When you put your fiction out there, not everyone's going to like it. Sometimes, as in this case, that's not because you wrote a bad story, but because that person's experiences color their opinion.

Photo by Listener42 (cc)


Tamara said...

I think you have a point, Kate, and this did occur to me, so I read this rather clever story with the idea that it was a small area and somehow felt safe to the people involved. I chalked it up to the "other-world" in which WW stories take place.

Betsi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary Jo said...

When did stores start having clerks to wait on people and play games with customers' children? Is this a new trend I know nothing about? Is Woman's World out of step with today's society or way ahead of it? I wonder if they have gone back to the days of Little House on the Prairie, but then, those children would be better behaved. In other words, what are the editors thinking?

Pat said...

I thought this story was cute from a WW reader POV; however, I did realize the setting was WWland. I had Irish triples and never, ever would they have hidden in a store. They knew better. Growing up in the northeast, safety always came first. I know many of my rejections are because I write with an eastcoast state of mind that doesn't quite fit WW. I think that WW state of mind is the most difficult thing for me to write.

Chris said...

I didn't get quite so hot under the collar about the kiddie playing hide and seek in a store - they do things like that, even today in this big bad world. The story had that kind of innocence about it all through, I felt. I just wish there could have been another thought popped into her head than wretched dinner again - does no one think of dates to the theatre now, strolling in the park, bowling, cinema, an art gallery...? Guess I'm just out of step with the world on this one.

Carolyn Martin said...

I had just tucked Mary's story in to my file of WW stories with a comment attached "enjoyed more than most" when I turned to Kate's blog. Wow! This discussion certainly took an odd bent.

All that kvetching re parenting and children being taught a lesson and virtually no comment about the adept flow of the writing. Were you never kids?

I was charmed by the story's bringing back memories of myself as a child and later my four delightfully rambunctious children (all now, in their turn, successful parents) becoming lost in a similar fashion.

Despite the present-day American landscape marred with menacing malls and big box stores where lurks one knows not what many evils, there are still towns with small shops: shops large enough for a child to be "lost" but small enough for personal service. Half a dozen such shops thrive in the center of my town and I could name a number of others all across the nation.

Yes, virtually all WW stories take place in Any Small Town, USA, but that's not the same as Wonderland.

Lighten up ladies. We're here to discuss writing. Enjoy Mary's excellent story (which does not end with the couple going out to dinner - just for ice cream - including the charming little boy)and leave the moralizing to the parent advice columns where it belongs.

Nice going Mary Haupt!


Chris said...

Carolyn, I wasn't worried about the kiddie playing hide and seek in a store, I appreciated the innocence. My only gripe - and it was a tongue-in-cheek one - was that I wanted someone to PLEASE let their characters do something other than go eat!

That said, the scenes we create are just as important to the success of our stories as characterisation, dialogue, plot, etc. That means it's a fair enough aspect to comment on. I also read the words clever and cute in regard to this story, and Kate's closing comment was; 'Sometimes, as in this case, that's not because you wrote a bad story, but because that person's experiences color their opinion.' The compliments were there, just with some reservations.

Carolyn Martin said...

Nevertheless, two-thirds of Kate's review and quite a bit in the comments were related to whether or not the characters behaved correctly rather than believably. The latter is the concern of the writer; the former is the concern of perhaps a social critic.

Mary Jo said...

Carolyn, if a writer is writing popular fiction and not history, it is her responsibility to present a situation the reader can relate to. Small town America is a shrinking entity. My town was perfect with a population of 15,000. Now there are 80,000 people trying to put their foot down in the same amount of space, and it is an entirely different world. Enjoy your small town while you can. If you want a clerk to help you in a store here, you will have to go and search for one. None of them are available to play hide and seek with a little kid. That is fantasy land. Or, as I think it was Betsi who labeled it, WWonderworld.

Betsi said...

Mary Jo, I don't think I said that -- although I did say that WW sees the world though rose colored glasses. Their mission is to give women a magazine that's upbeat and entertaining, and with a circulation of 6 million, it seems to be a successful formula.

A few of the commenters here apparently can't relate to this story, but I bet a lot of people CAN. My children used to do this and I wouldn't be concerned if my grandchildren did it now, even though I don't live in a small town.

In my opinion this was a solid,well-written story, and Mary can and should be proud of it.

Mary Jo said...

I am trying to remember. didn't Mary Haupt sell to WW with her very first story? I wondered then if this was the Mary Haupt who taught journalism at Binghamton University in New York. If so, that would be a nice touch.

Mary, are you out there?

Mary Hicks said...

I thought this was a well written story—but I have to agree with all those that thought it a bit scary to let a child play hide'n'seek in the store.

We just have to remember—this is fiction, and hope that most mothers wouldn't allow that behavior.