Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Let it Snow!

by Kathy Hendrickson from the December 28, 2015 issue

Tagline: The season's first snowstorm--and a meeting with a friendly and good-looking local--caught Julie by surprise!

Observations:  I don't have much to say about this story. It's a solid story with a warm, fuzzy winter theme. We have freshly-baked cookies and a friendly, thoughtful and handsome neighbor who comes to the rescue of a modern damsel in distress.

I approve of the Jane Austen mention.

I wish I had more to say, but I don't. Good story. :)

Photo credit: Richard Berg, via Flickr Creative Commons License

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Ring Around My Heart

by Marie Savage from the December 7, 2015 issue

Tagline: When Sara inherited an antique wedding ring, she didn't expect that band of gold to bring love into her own life!

Observations: I haven't called attention to backstory in a little while, so I will today because there's a fair amount of it explaining the history of Sara's ring. This is so important to the story because if we didn't get this information, the moment when she starts to cry doesn't feel nearly as genuine. (I loved that moment, by the way, largely because of how Savage prepared me to care about Sara's precious memento.)

Also, there was a misunderstanding here in the middle of the story. I don't often get surprised by misunderstandings I'm sure you don't either. Because they're so plentiful in Woman's World stories, it's not difficult to see them coming. However, I didn't foresee John assuming she was married. When I saw it though, I felt a little dumb for not having seen it. LOL

There's also a shockingly nasty black moment. When John brings up the topic of the reward, I bet some of us recoiled and thought, "OMG, what a jerk." If we didn't (because he's the hero of a Woman's World story, so of course, he's not going to expect or ask for money), we certainly imagined Sara's dismay.

Of course, he really wants a date and she says yes. For any newbies out there, this is a Happy For Now ending that is typical for the magazine.

Photo Credit: Ben Mortimer via Flickr Creative Commons 

Friday, December 18, 2015

There Will Be Mistletoe

by Lisa Weaver from the December 14, 2015 issue

Tagline: A kiss under the mistletoe...Noelle couldn't imagine a more delightful holiday tradition than that!

Observations: I had mixed feelings about this story and a lot of circled things I wanted to talk about. I'll just cover them, point by point.

1. I was a little confused at the beginning of the story. At first Noelle seems excited about the costume. It seemed like it was her idea to dress so crazily.

"Are you really going to wear that?" My best friend Kim arches an eyebrow as she nods at the outfit in my hands.

"Why not? 'Tis the season to be jolly," I say, heading for the dressing room.

So, Noelle seems fine with the costume. Then...

When I emerge decked in the green velour vest and matching shorts, Kim can't contain her amusement. "Those red and white striped tights and pointy-toed slippers really complete the ensemble. Now I'm doubly glad you volunteered to take our shop's shift at the mall's gift wrapping booth."

"If I'd known about this costume beforehand, I might not have," I say.

See what I mean? Now it seems as if she was reluctant, after the fact. Also, that is a bit of a clunky expository-heavy statement that sounds distinctly, "as you know, Bob..." For you newer writers, I'm talking about having a character say something that is unnecessary because the character they're talking to already knows this. It would seem much more natural for Kim to have said, "Now I'm doubly glad you volunteered."

2. I think the word "fell" should have had quotes around it. That would have made it clear there was a double meaning.

You could say I fell for him.

3. I found it doubtful that they had a wooden ladder. If it was a grandma's ladder or an old ladder someone found in the basement, then maybe. I think they're all made of metal these days.

4. The first time kissing balls are mentioned, it's in quotation marks. That made sense to me. I've never heard of kissing balls. When I see mistletoe, it's little beribboned sprigs. Is this term/item common enough so that later in the story when Tyler talks about it, he calls it a kissing ball? Has everyone heard of these but me?

5. The fall... Hm. I accepted that he was in the right place at the right time. I accepted that he was strong enough to catch her. What I couldn't accept was that after she fell and was caught, she "was still holding up the kissing ball." This stretched reality a little too far for me.

6. I didn't see Tyler's standing her up coming, so that was a nice little plot twist. It's hard to surprise me.

7. I felt there should have been a tiny bit of inner dialogue here:

And when he invited me to meet him for coffee at the end of my shift, it was like something straight out of a fairytale...until my "prince" didn't show 

Dragging my focus back to Kim's comment, I say, "He stood me up, Kim. Obviously, he had second thoughts."

"There may be a good reason he couldn't make it," she ventured.

I roll my eyes, then I smile. "You're such a romantic."

(The missing period was in the magazine.) I felt we should have gotten maybe one sentence about how Noelle felt about this after that "prince" line, but instead we go right back to the present. Then, I would have expected Noelle to be upset, insulted, irritated...something. Unless she has amazing self-esteem, being stood-up isn't something most of us would take on the chin so cheerfully. I say cheerfully because she smiles at Kim. 

8. Later, when she sees Tyler in line, her heart gives a little leap. Again, I shake my head a little. This is not the reaction I would expect from a woman who was stood up with no explanation or even a phone call. At the very least, I'd expect her to feel mixed up. She can still be attracted to him, but be miffed about being stood up.

9. My brother never gave me jewelry for Christmas. I'm just sayin'...

10. Okay, Tyler had a great excuse, but he could have called the shop. If I ever stood someone up, I'd be obsessed over making sure they knew I didn't do it on purpose. 

11. I thought the black moment (Noelle asks if the gift is for Elle, who signed his cast with a heart, and he nods) was great. (I might have picked a name that wasn't so similar to the heroine's.)

So, yeah. I enjoyed the story and some of this is nit-picky, but this blog is about what I think of the stories. I encourage you to agree or disagree in the comments. :)

Missing issue

Calling all Woman's World subscribers. I did not receive my December 7 issue. If anyone can photograph or scan the story and email it to me, I'd appreciate it!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Quarter Short

by Emma Courtice from the November 30, 2015

Tagline: Angela had noticed the good-looking man who lived in her apartment building, but it took a well-timed downpour to bring the two of them together

Observations: Oh, man, I loved this story for so many reasons. Here, I'll list them.

Angela is kind. You see that from how she shares her umbrella with David. She is also perceptive and open to changing her opinion about people.

I don't know why, but I loved the little detail of Angela stepping back to avoid the splash when the bus pulled up and how David copied her. It made the story more realistic to me and it showed David being observant and open to learning new things. He's not the arrogant type who thinks he knows everything.

When Angela pulls out the quarter to pay the rest of David's bus fare, immediately the title of the story came back to me.  Often, that doesn't happen, but with this story, it did. It was a catchy, memorable and different title.

David is considerate. He tries to open her door for her. He makes a point of picking her up after work, remembering where the bus dropped her off. He also shows concern for her hair when she suggests he put the top down.

What I loved was that moment when Angela lets her hair down, literally and figuratively. That paragraph made the story.

Angela held his eyes for a moment. Then she pulled the pins out of her long auburn hair and gave her head a shake, the soft waves cascading down to her shoulders. "I'm willing to take a chance," she said softly.

Let's really look at that. The first sentence sets David (and us) up and shows us this is an important moment. The second sentence gives us a complete image. The line of dialogue is where Angela puts it all on the line. It shows she's a brave and confident woman.

I think most stories have an emotional high point and when I'm editing Woman's World stories for people, this is often a criticism I end up giving. The authors often zip past this moment, not recognizing it for what it is. Or, if they recognize it, they often don't spend the time (or words) on it that it deserves. For instance, the above paragraph might have looked like this:

Angela held his eyes for a moment. "I'm willing to take a chance," she said softly.

That would have worked, but look how much better it is with that one more descriptive sentence! Milk that moment for all it's worth.

Photo credit: Matt Davis, via Creative Commons license

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Dog Walker

by Tracie Rae Griffith from the November 23, 2015 issue

Tagline: When Marilyn broke her ankle, Paul stepped in to sweep her off her feet. (I have to admit that when I read this tagline, I thought there was going to be a broom involved. LOL)

Observations: Tracie Rae Griffith is a regular contributor and this story makes it easy to see why. Way back when I began my quest to be published by Woman's World magazine, dog stories abounded. It's my suspicion that Johnene loves dogs. Or perhaps she just realizes that many of the Woman's World readers love pets of any kind.

Anyway, I've often said it's a great idea to choose two or more Woman's World story tropes and put them together and here we have "man to the rescue" and "a pet." Obviously, doing so doesn't guarantee you a sale, but it gives you a jumping off point. You still have to write a good story. (If you've bought my class, you know that I include a pretty long list of storylines which would be an easy place to spark your own ideas.)

I liked this part:

When he reaches out to shake my hand, I feel a tiny tingle.

I feel the same tingle the next day when our hands touch as I hand over Buddy's leash.

First of all, alliteration! LOL Second, adding that physical attraction is one of those small things that will help the reader believe that these two people are clicking. Don't go too far though. Woman's World doesn't like too much sexy.

There was also a place where I literally laughed out loud. It was where Paul suggests that the solution to their problem (Marilyn's cast is coming off and his services as a dog walker won't be needed anymore) is to break his own ankle. LMAO. Too funny.

Photo Credit: Maelick via Creative Commons license