Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mr. Romance

by Le Ann Dowd from the November 24, 2014 issue

Dannie and Shane had met one Thanksgiving and fallen in love. Could another couple have the same luck?

In a Nutshell
Dannie and Shane are newlyweds. Shane's dad is a widower. Shane wants to fix him up with the new neighbor and Dannie doesn't.

All in all, this was a good story. I liked the freshness of a male first-person POV. I really liked the idea of two "victims" of a fix-up were paying it forward. What a cute and original idea. However, I did have a little criticism.

Sometimes writers, usually beginners, feel they have to get creative with dialogue attributions. They are usually afraid that "said" is boring and repetitive, therefore they pepper their writing with synonyms. (Disclaimer: I have no idea if Dowd is new to writing. I don't even know if she was the one getting attributively creative.) However, using these types of attributions too much can feel strange to readers.

"That's me," I teased. "Just call me Mr. Romance."

"Really, Shane? A fix-up?" Dannie chided. "Has that ever worked for anyone we kmow?"

"It's kind of last minute," Dannie fretted. "She probably has plans."

If this were my story, I would not have used "teased." If we use "said" instead of "teased," we still get the humor. Better yet, delete the first part and make it say "Just call me Mr. Romance." "Tease" isn't the right word to use here anyway. Who is he teasing? If anyone, he's teasing himself. As the narrator of the story, why would he point out that he's teasing himself?

I would have gotten rid of "fretted" as well. If you read the dialogue without it, you still get the feeling she's fretting by virtue of her words...

"It's kind of last minute," Dannie said. "She probably has plans."

Out of the three of them, I'd have kept "chided." That puts a nuance on what she said that wouldn't otherwise be apparent.

So, to reiterate, never feel weird about using said over and over, unless it's already clear who's talking and it's unnecessary to point it out at all. Readers are used to "said" and don't even notice it. "Saids" just fade into the background.

One last small point--I understood that she didn't want to make French toast because there was so much cooking ahead. Hey, I totally identify with that predicament! However, at the end of the story, after they decide to invite the neighbor, she decides to make it after all. I didn't understand what made her change her mind. Maybe one of you can enlighten me. :)

Photo credit: Chef Sean Christopher (Directly from the Author) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


Betsi said...

Kate, I couldn't agree more. Whenever I critique a story, I'm all over this issue. Especially if the author has someone "laugh" or "grin" their dialog. I always tell them to SHOW how the speaker is feeling. Put a period at the end of the dialog. Next sentence: Danni banged the pots together. Or Danni did a happy dance. It shows who was speaking AND how they're feeling. I know words are precious in WW stories, but I don't think attributions should be forced to do double duty.

I wouldn't even use the word "chided," mostly because this story is written in the man's POV. I can't imagine MY husband--or any man I know--saying someone had "fretted" or "chided."

Obviously WW will still buy your story if you do this, but I think making this one change--sticking with "said" or forgoing it altogether--will improve the story's flow and make it sound more professional.

Betsi said...

I forgot to add that I really liked this story! ;-)

Pat said...

I loved this story. The premise was priceless with the newlyweds not agreeing and the double fix-up.

Glad you pointed this out, Kate. I see it now and agree, but didn't notice it when I read the story.

Joyce Ackley said...

Looks like all those verbs could have been changed to "said" by the editor. I know text is sometimes taken out, but seems like some of it could be revised, as well.

It was a cute story. Kate, I love the pic you chose to go with it.

Mary Jo said...

It has been a while since I read this story, but I remember that I thought the clever part was the reversal of the usual set up. I know young people sometimes try to get the older ones together, but I do not recall seeing it in a WW story before.

As for the speech patterns, you have to wonder, where was the editor? She was ultimately responsible. A story this short has to roll right along and slipping in unnecessary words creates a stumbling block for the reader.

Sandy Smith said...

I didn't notice those words when I read it I guess. I enjoyed the story. I liked the twist at the end when they realized they had been fixed up themselves.

Kate Willoughby said...

No one knows why she changed her mind about the French toast?

Sandy Smith said...

Regarding the French toast, I guess I thought she decided that the couple they were bringing together would like it. I would have to look at it again though.

Mary Jo said...

Oh, come on! Dannie decided to make the French toast "after all" as a thank you to her father in law for fixing her up with Mr. Romance.