Friday, December 1, 2017

Test-drive For Love by Jill Weatherholt

from the December 4, 2017 issue

Tagline: Nell was anxious about replacing her old car...until she met the car salesman!

Observations: This story was a good example of showing a heroine with a mindset that changes over the course of the story. She starts out thinking used car salesmen are shady and ends up realizing that's not true at all. The trick with writing these types of stories, is that you can't just abracadabra have the attitude change. You have to show it happening, while pushing the romance at the same time, and Weatherhold did this very well.

This would be a good starting point if you're stuck finding a story idea. Just think of different beliefs and then brainstorm ways a character could change his/her mind about that belief. Like "the best Christmases have snow," or "health food tastes bad," or "cats are snooty," or what have you. It can also be a belief about the character himself/herself. "I have a brown thumb." "I'm too tall." "I can't tell a joke." This is actually very much in line with the vibe of the magazine--to be positive and optimistic.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thankful Hearts! by Amy Michaels

From the November 20, 2017 issue

Tagline: Kate and her daughter expected a lonely Thanksgiving...but a winter storm changed everything!

Observations: I got warm fuzzies from this story. It was like a super short Hallmark movie on paper. I loved this idea of an entire neighborhood coming together. It's worth noting that when the hero and heroine work on something together--in this case, it was a blackout neighborhood Thanksgiving potluck (say that 10 times fast!)--it can forward their relationship.

Like, remember that movie, Speed, with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves? Remember how after the ordeal with the bus and the mad bomber, they ended up kissing? Just think of a Woman's World story like that, but way way way way way way way toned down. LOL Here in "Thankful Hearts," the crisis isn't nearly as intense or dangerous, but they get past it together. So that's one way to get an idea for a story. Think of a minor crisis and come up with a way for a hero and heroine to solve the problem by working together.

Photo credit: Patricia (Brownies for Dinner) (Flickr CC license)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Thanksgiving Surprise! by Kay Layton Sisk

From the November 13, 2017 issue

Tagline: Her kids' matchmaking may give Chrissy something extra to be thankful for this Thanksgiving...

Observations: What a great story. I have to admit, Chrissy is a better woman than I. I would have been a little perturbed at the thought of five extra guests. Then again, I normally have fifteenish people and the thought of twenty gives me hives.

I loved how the kids acted once Henry got there, making themselves scarce. That was hilarious. This story was full of wit, which I love.

I just wanted to point out the story structure here.

Scene 1 - Chrissy's kids approach her with the idea of having guests for Thanksgiving. This is the set-up where we find out the situation and some of Chrissy's backstory.

Scene 2 - It's Thanksgiving and the guests arrive. Here is where the hero and heroine meet and connect. It's always good to show them having something in common and in this case, it's that they both have matchmaking kids. LOL

Scene 3 - The couple have coffee on the patio while the kids clean up. First of all, I applaud this idea of the kids doing the clean-up. Aside from that, this is the wrap-up where we find out things have gone according to plan and that the hero and heroine like each other enough to set up a "second date."

As is often the case, there is no black moment, or even a gray one. At no time do we worry that things won't end up happily, which is fine. You've only got 800 words and sometimes you just can't fit it in.

Photo credit: Kimberly Vardeman (Flickr CC license)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Halloween Surprise by Rosemary Hayes

from the October 30, 2017 issue

Tagline: Could Sandie's fond childhood memories of Aaron turn into real fondness as adults?

Observations: What do you get if you take an old flame plot, add some nostalgia for childhood memories, and a pumpkin patch setting? This story! The Old Flame plot is a tried and true storyline. I think part of the appeal is that there's a glimmer of destiny involved. Two people know each other and are separated by whatever reason. Then, years later, they reconnect, almost as if they were meant to. In fact, if you look at the old saying, "Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl," and change it up to say "Boy and girl meet, boy and girl part, boy and girl reunite," that's what we have here.

In the second of my "advanced" classes, I talk about how to structure an Old Flame or Second-Chance plot. There's even a handy dandy flow chart to help you brainstorm and/or organize your thoughts. Old Flame stories are among my favorites. You will see them a lot in the pages of Woman's World magazine.

Photo Credit: Personal Creations (Flickr CC license)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Enchanted! by Elizabeth Palmer

From the October 23, 2017 issue

Tagline: Eric's dating skills were as creaky as the door to a crypt. Would Ella want to go out with him?

Observations: This was a cute story. I thought it was interesting how we are sailing along with the hero and heroine and then we got a flashback. I don't see many flashbacks in Woman's World stories, so it surprised me. But it worked well, giving us a nice little peek into Eric's relationship with his daughter and some backstory (that daughter urged him to start dating.)

I was a little confused why she would of course be dressing as Cinderella and had to go back and reread the entire story to find out why. (Answer: Her name is Ella.) That is probably my mistake, not the author's.

I also liked that it was from Eric's POV. I always like getting into the heads of the men.

Photo credit: Liz West (via Flickr CC license)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Meant To Be! by Rosemary Hayes

from the October 16, 2017 issue

Tagline: Justine thought she had lost herself...until her amazing journey with Dale!

Observations: I haven't done a stream-of-consciousness analysis in awhile, so here goes.

Right off the bat, I love how Hayes gave the heroine a problem that many of us could identify with--empty nest syndrome. Granted, usually we think about this happening when the kids have grown up and flown, but this heroine has joint custody, so it's something she feels on a regular basis.

We get a backstory paragraph early on, which is normal. As I've said before, with only 800 words, we often don't have the time to layer in the backstory.

I wonder who are Katie and Joe? His grown kids?

Ah. I see a possible plot twist. I think Justine is the person Dale wanted to ask but was too nervous because Justine jumps to a conclusion. We'll see if I'm right.

Ah, Katie and Joe are neighbors. I wonder if they're matchmaking... Maybe they know Justine and Dale would be good together.

We get a paragraph of telling, not showing. Contrary to common belief, this is okay in a Woman's World story. You must keep the pacing quick and in 800 words, sometimes you have to summarize events in a transitional paragraph to move the timeline forward. Here, we see Justine and Dale connecting. We see her noticing how handsome he is.

Justine and Dale both agree that "slow and steady wins the race." This shows them connecting. So, my advice is to have a balance of showing and telling.

Another tell/transition paragraph and then a very short scene where they connect more deeply, which is fantastic. She shares something personal and he empathizes. This signals to the reader that they might be really good for each other.

Aha! I was right. Justine was the woman he had his eye on from the very beginning.

Oh, that ending. That is just awesome.

From behind us, I heard Joe and Katie approaching fast. Dale and I ran out of the maze, laughing. As his hand enveloped mine, I knew I wasn't lost anymore.

Photo credit: Joel Kramer (Flicker cc license)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Overdue Romance by Diane Crawford

From the October 2, 2017 issue

Tagline: Could a search for missing books open a new chapter for Jessica and Mike?

Observations: As I read this story, I thought it was a great example of a "girl to the rescue" story in which the hero has a problem and the heroine helps him solve it. What was a little different about this one is that the problem is only partly solved by them working together, then Jessica takes it upon herself to find the remaining two missing books.

Notice the mini black moment when Mike thanks her and leaves? The only thing that is usually there is the heroine wishing she'd have reached out or thinking that this would be the last time she sees him.

We have a coincidence at the gas station, which might seem awfully convenient at first glance, but you know what? It really is a small world and things like that happen. It seemed real to me and the ending sentence was great. The line about starting a new chapter in her life could have been corny but wasn't.

Photo Credit: Bill Smith (Flickr cc license)