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


Chris said...

ouch, remind me not to cross you after a sleepless night, Kate! You picked more holes in that one than a leaky sieve. Must admit I didn't see it the way you did. For what it's worth, here's my two penn'orth.

The cinnamon - so they ran out. It happens. You nip out and get more. Sounds like a busy two-woman business, so I could see it slipping through the cracks.
The 'misused' word - I'd say imaginative, descriptive. I could see June taking off her apron and whisking out the door. It was visual, indicated speed. Fine.
The man's name, Tony - okay, so he didn't introduce himself and we weren't told he had a name tag but Karli had phoned the company to get a repairman to call, so it's not that big a stretch to think someone had said 'our guy Tony will be with you today'. He knew HER name, too - details had clearly been exchanged. I thought the joke about him being Tony Bennett and his parents meeting in San Francisco was a nice touch and didn't need the sledgehammer treatment of additional quips.
The oven - author Kathleen said it was a big commercial one, and I'm sure there are as many varieties of those as there are ordinary ones, some with hood lights, some without. It wouldn't drag me out of the story worrying if there was one or not.
The biscuits at the end - we know this is a two-woman operation, so it's a small place where both Karli and June chip in doing a bit of everything. I didn't think Karli knew Tony was out there, she just went out and found he was the customer who'd ordered the biscuits. Again, wondering about every tiny detail didn't spoil my enjoyment.

For me, it was the phantom recently engaged couple, Polly and Joe, that were unnecessary. We didn't find out who they were, friends, relatives, customers, whatever, and for me they added nothing to the story. The references to what the unknown Polly might have thought when she said yes to Joe seemed like a waste of words that could have been better used on conversation between the two leads. Maybe their details fell foul of the red editing pen...

That aside, it was an okay story for me. I wish you a good night's sleep tonight, Kate, you'll feel better for it!

Kate Willoughby said...

Chris, you are much more forgiving than I am. It is now the next day and I have had my sleep and those things still bother me.

It just goes to show you, everyone has their own opinion and people are probably lucky I don't have Johnene's job! LOL

Betsi said...

Kate, I'm with you. I thought this story was very muddled and I had to force myself to keep reading it.

I'm a self-admitted member of the grammar police, and the incorrect use of "whisked" turned me off too.

Pat said...

Wow. I have to go back and look at this story again. I remember the it, because I laughed at his name being Ton Bennett.

I didn't think about the restaurant comments at the time, but I do agree with most of them. I guess I chalk them up to editing or a writer who never worked in a commercial kitchen. having purchase spices at a restaurant supply place, I know they come in huge containers so it does seem odd that they'd run out.

I probably would have comments on some of the same things you did, Kate, if I was critiquing this story in our writing group. As a reader, I am grateful that you point them out with WW's romances. As a reader WW pulls me into the story and I suspend my disbelief and follow along with the characters.

Hope you get some rest.

Sandi said...

Kate, I think you are a perfectionist. That's why you ferret out the details that hit a wrong note. I didn't notice these details, because I have never worked at a diner. When you pointed them out, I see where some readers might be turned off. Yet it was published. I also still wonder how much was written by Kathleen E. Dunlad and how heavily it was edited. Maybe Kathleen didn't write "whisked." Perhaps the editor added it. In general I liked the story, but it didn't give me the "sigh" at the end of the story that I am always going after.

Jody E. Lebel said...

"The repairman is cute. He comes back later to sample her biscuits." heh heh

That was actually better than the story.

Kate Willoughby said...

Sandi, I am a card carrying member of the Perfectionist society, but I tell myself that's, for the most part, a good thing. :)

Jody, LOL.