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Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Does Size Matter?

Years ago I watched a movie, “The Naked Jungle” with Charlton Heston and Eleanor Parker. It had everything a romance should; a man who has carved an empire out of the South American jungle but hasn’t had time for anything else including women or relationships (read, virgin) and the caring but feisty widow he ends up with who is surprised to find he’d requested a virgin. Something their go-between very wisely decided not to tell either of them.

Heston’s character was hungry for what he wasn’t getting, a wife and a glimpse of a world so outside his own realm that he literally wanted to devour them both. In the process of achieving his goal, he builds a house and furnishes it expensive furniture and an entire library of books that he’s bought by the pound.

I realize that as readers, we are all hungry for a good story and thanks to progress and the internet I don’t have to buy books by the pound to appease my appetite because trust me, it would take more than one boatload. I can be selective and choose what story I want to read, whether it’s a five or ten-thousand word short story or a full-length novel. When I buy a story, no matter what length, I have a good idea of what to expect.

To paraphrase a quote I once heard and can’t remember who to attribute it to, “Every story should have a beginning, middle and an end.” I have always assumed that this would be true for any length of story and have been surprised to find many short stories given low marks on reader sites because they found them “too short” and wanted more.

I have to admit my confusion. Do some readers feel cheated monetarily because the story was so short or were they so in love with the engaging characters that they didn’t want the story to end? This is rarely explained and I’m surprised when I see them admit they would have given the story a better rating if it had been longer.

Hmmmm…did the story fall short when it came to setting up the premise? Were the characters introduced somehow lacking in dimension? Did they not have a clear goal and/or was that goal not met or revised to suit the story being told? Was the ending abrupt or did it actually answer all of the questions presented and/or resolve any conflict in a satisfactory manner? Did it deliver the story that was promised according to the blurb or excerpt, which I’m assuming was the reason they’d purchased the story?

If the reader’s problem was with loving the story and not wanting the story to end then I believe that the author did their job and have to wonder why a reader would penalize it with a lowered rating because of its length. I admit that I am perhaps slightly prejudiced in favor of giving full marks to the author who has managed to capture and express a small slice of life in the difficult medium of the short story.

I am truly interested in how readers determine their rating for a story/book. What is your first consideration when deciding how to rate a book/story? Do you have an automatic expectation in relation to the price you pay? How do you determine whether or not the story has met your expectations?

Thanks, and until next month

Happy Reading,

Paris Brandon

USA Today bestselling author Paris Brandon writes contemporary, paranormal, erotic and historical romance, throwing in a little mystery and suspense for good measure. She can be found most days bent over her keyboard creating worlds where sleeping beauty turns out to be a cursed bootlegger or an outlaw shifter is forced to go on the run with the assassin tasked with killing her.

When not dreaming up stories featuring heroes who aren’t intimidated by strong heroines, she can be found searching through antique and thrift stores for vintage treasures, or communing with nature, which is code for sitting on the patio with a cup of tea and a good book. And as with any activity, chocolate is usually involved.

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