Monday, February 19, 2007

Less Than Thrilled

Story: "Cold Night, Warm Hearts" by Norma McHenry from the February 20, 2007 issue.

Tagline: The poor cat wasn't the only one who needed tender loving care...

I am currently teaching an online class for romantic fiction writers who seek publication with Woman's World magazine. What follows is an analysis of the story with a mind toward what works and doesn't work for me as a writer, peppered with some personal opinion, too. :)

We've had the lecture on names, so note the author's choice of Loretta. To me that's a solid middle America name, good for a WW heroine with long silver hair.

Did you notice that the majority of this story was telling, not showing? Some telling is necessary with the extremely tight word length, however, I thought this was too much. For me, the story dragged, perhaps because of this. McHenry has a pleasant voice, but if she'd tightened the story a bit, perhaps we could have seen more action.

For example, the part explaining Bill's backstory is quite long. She could have nixed the sentence, "She'd loved that creature." That's clear from the previous sentence. After that, she goes on for quite a while about how much the cat meant to Bill. These sentences and phrases say basically the same thing and could have been condensed, deleted, or combined so that the last scene could have been expanded:

"Heaven knows after she died, the cat was the only thing that had kept him sane."

"The same cat that had been the bane of his existence while his wife was alive had become his best friend after she was gone."

"And three years later, he loved the cat as much as she had."

"That cat had helped him get through the day..."

"And the fluffy one had helped him with his loneliness."

When the story switches to Bill's POV, almost midway, it's abrupt. When I wrote my first stories for WW, I would double space between scene changes, like I do in my novel manuscripts, however, WW does not have the room to delineate the passage of time, change of setting, or POV. The flow of the story would have been smoother if the author had said something like, “At that same moment three miles away, Bill Whitman was frantic.”

I also wasn't crazy about how McHenry maneuvered their conversation at the end to get the cat's name in. It seemed forced to me. It was a great idea to name him after Cupid in conjuction with the climactic moment where Loretta thinks he's married. However, I think it could have been executed a bit more smoothly. If she'd cut more elsewhere, she could have expanded the ending scene, which, for me, was the most dynamic part of the story.

Best Part: McHenry opens with a good "hook": "Oh, for Pete's sake!" Loretta couldn't believe her eyes. We immediately wonder what she's astonished at.

In My Humble Opinion: "And the cat smiled." Oh, my. That brings back memories of Winston the self-aware bear. As you can see, I haven't quite let go of that. Funny how a fictional stuffed animal can so easily become part of one's literary emotional baggage. LOL.

Also, the copy editors missed a typo..."flier" instead of "flyer.

Grade: C



Blogger crowwoman / rhian said...

heyya Kate - not to go off topic - BUT - I saw you're working on a book called "All Wolf" and was wondering what it was about. (Wolf fanatic getting all perky and nosy). I love anything with wolves including shifter tales so curiousity is killing the... errr - wolf. Couldn't find anything on your website.

7:17 PM  
Blogger Debbie Mumford said...

These are great, Kate! Thanks for going back to the WW reviews. The new labels are fab for getting read all of them!

8:46 PM  
Blogger Kate Willoughby said...

Go off topic as much as you want, Rhian. I wrote a Quickie for Ellora's Cave about a poker player and I titled it "ALL IN." I'm now writing the second story in that trilogy and I thought I'd try to keep the "ALL" theme going. All Wolf isn't the greatest title in the world, but it's better than some of my other brain farts! (All Night Long, All the Way, All Hallow's Eve.)

More details?

10:18 PM  
Blogger crowwoman / rhian said...

YES! More details!! And did you write the quickie under a different name? Couldn't find you in EC author listing (was checking to see if i had the story tucked away here somewhere). And i like the title! But then i'm kinda partial...

2:48 AM  
Blogger Kate Willoughby said...

No, the Quickie is under Kate Willoughby. It hasn't been accepted (yet!) I sent it to my editor on January 31. Still on pins and needles waiting to hear. But this story was wanting to be written, so I started it anyway. I'll blog about ALL WOLF for ya this week. How's that?

6:10 AM  
Blogger crowwoman / rhian said...

Yeah! Bring it on!

3:36 PM  
Blogger Patricia W. said...

I'm glad you're doing these reviews. And I'm glad I wrote my story BEFORE reading any of your reviews. I'd have been paranoid. I'll wait to see whether you pick my name out of the hat. Great class.

3:01 PM  
Blogger Kate Willoughby said...

Hey, Patricia, no need to be paranoid. I am being hyper-critical so you guys can see stuff that you might not have seen otherwise. And remember, this is all my opinion. Others might not feel the same at all. Obviously Jimmy and Johnene liked the story as it was!!

9:30 PM  

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