A discussion on a forum I frequent, Romance Divas, prompted me to finally put my thoughts together on the topic of short fiction in the romance genre. Then I thought, I should bring that discussion here as it’s a pertinent topic for Science Fiction. This is what I originally posted in answer to the question, How short is too short (from Jeannie Lin):
First, I think more and more romance readers like the novella. It gives them a satisfying read without having to invest the time of a full novel length. & I think this will grow with the expansion of the ebook industry. There just hasn’t been a reliable market for short stories in romance until digital pubs came along.
But I also think short fiction isn’t quite as accepted as it is in the Lit and SciFi communities. Coming from reading many of those types of stories, I’m used to short stories that introduce a world in order to present a question, or one conflict that gets resolved while leaving other things in the air, or maybe it’s slice of life. I don’t think that works well for Romance. I think a romance reader wants to get the full fledged romance and feel confident that they’ve gotten the entire story.
I’ve gotten a range of feedback on my short stories. Much of the time, even when the reviews are positive, they say they want more of the world because in mine, I do quite a bit of world-building. I’m starting to wonder if world-building should be a little lighter in a short. I don’t know, though. Some of my favorite Scifi stories are short & packed with world-building. It’s a glimpse of a rich world that sets my imagination going.
I guess what I’m saying is there’s a balance between characterization/conflict/world-building that’s a difficult thing to do in a short story & still satisfy the romance reader. I think making sure the buyer knows the length is critically important, but I also think that balance is just as important, because short or not, the reader needs to feel like they got the entire story.
What do you think about short stories? And within the Romance genre? Am I way off base here? Or, are the expectations within the Romance genre different? What makes for a satisfying short story read?