Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Real Prince

by Kathy Hendrickson from the June 16, 2014 issue

Tagline: It appeared a little bit of bad luck was going to bring a lot of happiness to Princess Amanda...

In a Nutshell: Amanda is a princess-for-hire but gets a flat tire on her way to her first gig. A man comes to her rescue.

Observations: I feel like I've read a story about a birthday party princess before, but it doesn't really matter. Story elements have a way of reappearing in Woman's World stories. This was still fun and cute.

I haven't talked about story structure in a long time, so today's a good day for that.

The first part of the story introduces the heroine, her situation, the hero and his daughter. It takes us continuously all the way from Amanda's flat tire to the party.

Then, notice there is a "tell" paragraph to transition us to after the party. There's no room to show everything in a Woman's World story, so when writing your own stories, make strategic use of summarizing the action like Hendrickson did. This transitional paragraph kind of serves as the second "act" of the story.

In the last portion of the story, there is no "black moment," per se. You have that worry in the back of your mind that Eric is married because he has a young daughter, but really--this is a Woman's World story. The reader knows deep down he's single, and yet the tension is still there subtly. Black moments are good, but not necessary.

Photo Credit: Alesgab93 via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Dream of You

by Barbara Glass from the June 9, 2014 issue

Tagline: A conversation with an old friend, a vivid dream...and suddenly, Helen's thoughts were filled with Robbie.

In a Nutshell: After talking with an old high school friend, Helen is reminded of her first boyfriend, Robbie. She immerses herself in photos from the period and loses track of the time. Her friend comes to pick her up for their lunch/movie date, but just as they're leaving, Robbie calls.

Observations: I've said it before, and I'll say it again--Woman's World romance stories are all about possibilities. Often, first meet stories end with someone asking someone out on a date and getting a "yes," and the reader is left feeling optimistic for the couple.

In this case, we don't even get that far, but we still feel Helen's giddy excitement. But I'll admit I have a soft spot for old flame stories. There's a guy in my past that crops up in my thoughts every once in a while.

So, the story is very much in line with what we expect from a Woman's World romance. However, it's also contrary in that Robbie doesn't even show up until the very end--and he's not even there in person. It's only his voice on the phone! The majority of the story is reminiscing via the conversation between Helen and her friend. Usually, I don't like stories that don't show the hero and heroine interacting for a decent amount of time because it can make it hard for the reader to believe they really made a connection and have a bright future as a couple.

However, this one worked for me. I think maybe because it was an old flame story, so we almost have a connection built in, assuming they're still compatible after all those years. That assumption I'm willing to take as a reader, because I'm hopeful and optimistic. I think also because the story ends on the cusp of their conversation, the author isn't forcing us to believe two people just met and connected enough to make future plans. Glass wisely stopped us short of that. She also used the friend cleverly too.

Sarah, the friend, leaves at the very end of the story, literally closing the door on what's going on with Helen and Robbie on the phone. I felt like I was perching on Sarah's shoulder as she left the lovebirds to catch up with each other and it was as if all her hope for her friend was transferred to me.

In my opinion, this is what Woman's World--the entire magazine--tries to do. Lift us up. Show us that life is good, and if at the moment it's not quite so good, things can and will get better.

Photo from

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Imagine That

by Kathleen E. Dunlap from the June 2, 2014 issue

Tagline: Karli was a hard worker, but she was also a dreamer--and when she met Tony, her flights of fancy took a romantic turn!

In a Nutshell: Karli owns a diner. Her oven breaks. The repairman is cute. He comes back later to sample her biscuits.

Observations: This is going to be a rough one. I didn't sleep well last night, but I've put off my analysis for too long already.

Let me start with what I liked. In the last third of the story was a part I really enjoyed. It's the moment when Karli realizes how attracted to Tony she is.

The diner was busy that night. As promised, Tony had repaired the oven by noon. When she paid him, their hands had touched. Remembering, she felt her face warm.

That was perfectly done. We want to see that the characters are attracted to one another.

I also liked the last line and how it ties in the title and Carli's Walter-Mitty-like daydreams.

On the other hand, many things pulled me out of the story.

1. I've watched way too many shows about restaurants so there were a few things that seemed off to me. For one, June the cook goes to the store for cinnamon. Restaurants do not get stuff from grocery stores. They have them delivered by suppliers. But let's say that they legitimately ran out unexpectedly before their order comes. Then I wonder what kind of business owner she is. If you see you're running low on something, you get more before you run out. I suspect this was all because the author didn't want June there when the repairman came, but I don't think it was necessary. She was making pies. She could have just stayed on task and let Karli deal with the repairman.

2. One of my pet peeves is using a word incorrectly.

As June whisked away, Karli poked her head inside the oven...

"Whisk" is a word that needs an object. It's like "planted." You wouldn't say, "As June planted." You need to mention what she's planting. At the very least, it should have said, "As June whisked herself away."

3. The next thing that confused me was how Karli knew his name was Tony. I'm assuming he was wearing a name tag, but that isn't mentioned in the story. The humor about his name is kind of cute, but if you're going to crack that type of joke, you need to work it. There should have been a little more about it than him saying his parents met in San Francisco. It should become an inside joke between them. Them and the readers, by the way.

Wow. Epiphany there about humor for me. I never realized that before. After all these years analyzing these stories, I love learning stuff!

So, to summarize: if you crack a little joke, don't miss out on the opportunity to make it an inside joke, between the hero and heroine and the reader, too. This will add humor--always a good thing in a Woman's World story--and create a connection between the reader and the characters.

4. Karli asks him to check the light on the stove hood. I'm pretty sure commercial stove tops aren't like those we have at home. I would bet money they don't have lights, only huge exhaust fans to suck up all the grease and smoke. So once again, I'm pulled out of the story by doubt. BUT, your average reader probably isn't as nitpicky as I am and they probably got more sleep.

5. Last thing that bothered me was a question I had near the end. Karli tells June she'll take out a basket of biscuits. First of all, June's the cook. She wouldn't be taking them out. But my real question was, did Karli know they were for Tony? It's not made clear and it's really important that we know.

If she did know he was there, then we learn something about her--that she's not afraid to go after what she wants. We may admire her for this. :) It helps us understand who Karli is as a person.

If she didn't know he was there, then it's a complete surprise and we want to see that surprise unfold into happiness when she sees him and realizes he came back, perhaps because he's interested.

So, see what I mean? Because we don't know the situation, we are cheated of feeling either. I'll be interested to find out what you all thought.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, June 7, 2014

How It Begins

by Tracie Rae Griffith from the  May 26, 2014 issue

Tagline: Jodi and Nick had noticed each other in their writing class, but it took a simple mix-up to get them together...

In a Nutshell: Jodi takes the wrong coat after writing class and is sitting in the cafe across the street. When the mix-up is figured out, the owner, a handsome dude, of course, brings her her coat and they have coffee.

Observations: This story resonated with me because I took an adult creative writing class way back when. Unfortunately, there were no cute guys in it and the teacher wasn't particularly good, but it was nice to read about two people who have the same dream to be published. I also love drinking double tall lattes, so Jodi and I have something else in common.

I recently was at a workshop on creating likable characters, and the presenter talked about the importance of making the heroine someone you'd want to be friends with. I think Jodi here fits that bill for me.

I haven't talked about feminine initiative in a while, so maybe this is a good time. Woman's World cherishes the traditional, but also embraces some of the more modern ideas, like women being pro-active when it comes to their love lives. Your best bet is to aim for having both.

For instance, Jodi buys him a latte, and jumps right in telling him she admires his blog. And yet, the hero, Nick, wasn't just a do-nothing bump on a log. He took the initiative at the end suggesting that they spend the next several hours together and that the night might be the beginning of something.

One other thing I wanted to point out is that both these characters have goals they're working toward. This is a quality that people admire, and so it makes them likable. I mean, haven't you ever watched a movie where none of the characters seem to be redeemable people? None of them are likable? I have, and I usually don't care for those types of movies. I don't like to spend time with mean, selfish, conniving, greedy and so on people, especially if I paid $10 to see them.

Photo credit: Broken Segue via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Small-town Charm

by Rachel Carrera from the May 19, 2014 issue

Tagline: Cindy thought she would never adjust to small-town life--then she met someone special and changed her mind...

In a Nutshell: Cindy is offered a promotion in a small town. She visits the town to check it out. During her trip, she meets a guy who shows her how wonderful small-town life can be. Plus, he's cute!

Observations: This was a delightful story. We got a realistic situation/problem. The heroine can score a promotion, but she has to relocate to a small town.

We got a biased but open-minded heroine. She doesn't think she'll like the town, but is willing to check it out and see.

There's that small-town setting that Woman's World loves, even if only a small part of the story actually occurred in the town.

There's humor. I loved Evan's line--"Uh-oh. I'm not working fast enough for you?"

I especially liked the solution to the hotel problem. It was perfect and, for me, unexpected. OF COURSE, his sister and her husband own the hotel. It's a small town!!!

Usually, I like to see more interaction between the hero and heroine, but in this case, it was unnecessary.