Hi! Lou Sylvre, here, glad to be back on Love Bytes after missing my chance in August. I’ve got just a short and simple post for this month, and a question for you with a prize on offer. Details at the end. Let’s start with the question:
Does size matter?
I’m talking about books, of course. And here’s the thing: I love long books—have since I was very young. When I was in elementary school, I’d go into the school library and walk along the shelves looking for a title to catch my eye. Maybe at first it was because I’ve always been quite nearsighted—the bigger the spine the easier to read—but most often the ones that did catch my eye were the fat ones. This led to some great childhood discoveries, such as the 1884 classic by Helen Hunt Jackson, Romona, Enig Bagnold’s NationalVelvet from 1935, The Wild Heart by Helen Griffiths (1963), and many others.
Sometimes it didn’t work out so well, but only because the books I read weren’t meant for people as young as I was when I read them. In Junior High School I read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, both of which I mostly understood, but also Les Miserables, Lord of the Rings, The Gormenghast Trilogy , The Chronicles of Sir Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, and even The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I didn’t understand those on my first read through, but that was okay, really, because they stretched my mind, and when I went back and read them again, I did understand, or at least I touched the outside of understanding.
That’s not why I liked—and still do like—long books, though. The reason I choose them is because when I fall into a fictional world I like to stay there for a while. A well-written book of say sixty-five to eighty thousand words is long enough to tell the story, perhaps, and to let me fall in love with at least some of the characters, and yes, for romance it works out okay much of the time. As a writer, my romance books fall not too far outside this range. As a reader, though it may be right for the story, I still resent it being over so soon, and I generally prefer longer romance if I can get it and it’s well-written. But you may guess from my list above, I like fantasy. Perhaps because it requires acclimation to a whole new world, I strongly believe fantasy just works better if it’s loooong.
Let me add that in audio books I won’t even buy them (at regular audio book prices) if they’re less than twenty hours. This is because (added to the reasons I laid out above) I’m the child of parents who endured the Great Depression and WWII rationing, and as such I’m a bit of a penny-pincher. I’m on a plan on Audible that gives me one credit (good for any book) per month at discount price—but that credit isn’t cheap, by my lights. Although there are a few exceptions, I’m not going to spend my credit on eight hours if I can get a good book with a great narrator that’s also three times that long.
In my defense, I’ll mention I’m certainly not the first person to think this way. Aristotle himself (the godfather of fiction structure) said in his Poetics that as long as it was a reasonably good and not so long that the reader couldn’t remember what was going on,
“the greater the length, the more beautiful will the piece be by reason of its size.” Eh, well, maybe so, Mr. Aristotle, but even I don’t think that’s foolproof.
Size, as in length of novels, has been on my mind recently because I am writing (under pen name Lou Hoffmann) Ciarrah’s Light, book three of The Sun Child Chronicles series, and it’s running long, I’m thinking it will be around a hundred and fifty thousand words, all told, which surpasses book two, Wraith Queen’s Veil, by more than twenty thousand. I think that’s okay, as by book three a fantasy such as The Sun Child tends to get complicated. Not only, to my mind, does the length make it more fun to dive into the alternate universe, it’s necessary to tell all of the story. I’m sure not all readers agree with me, and I’m wondering what your thoughts on the subject might be.
In your opinion, does size matter when it comes to books? Do you have a “favorite” length? Do you feel the same way about all genres and formats? Exceptions? Reasons you feel the way you do? Examples of M/M fiction or other rainbow-friendly books that run very long? Give me a substantive answer to enter the drawing to win either book one (Key of Behliseth) or book two (Wraith Queen’s Veil). The contest is open until next month’s Love Bytes post.
Thank you for reading and for any and all comments! See you next month, if not before that.