Last week, over on Jenny Crusie’s Argh blog, she mentioned that she’s been reading so much romance recently she’s developed her own rating system. It’s a highly personal (read: idiosyncratic) system but it sounds like it works for her.
The book I’m currently working on, The Demon Wore Stilettos, would definitely lose points under Jenny’s system because there’s going to be an epilogue and it’s going to have a baby in it. The whole book revolves around a pregnancy my heroine waited 12,000 years to experience and after all that it would be a breach of reader trust not to show the damned baby (that’s not just me being a potty-mouth. That kid is the product of two of Satan’s minions. It is going to be a very difficult child.)
Sorry, I wandered off-topic there. Anyway, Jenny’s post got me to thinking about what my own rating system would look like. I would add points for:
- Strong, interesting protagonist with a clear, imperative goal
- Strong, interesting antagonist with a clear, imperative goal that is mutually exclusive with the protagonist’s.
- A plot that shows the two of them putting their all into reaching those goals, with twists and turns that catch the other (and me) unawares.
- Language that occasionally surprises me with a unique and original image that gives me a clear picture of something I’m unfamiliar with or lets me see something familiar in a new way.
- A setting that takes me somewhere I’ve never been with such richness that it feels like I live there for the duration of the story.
- Demonstration of an understanding of human nature that goes beyond what you can see on the average TV show.
If I were to take all the books I’ve ever read and rate them based on the above criteria, it would look like this.
***** Five stars would be reserved for books that changed my worldview in some way, or opened up a vista into a strange new world and left me permanently enriched.
**** Four stars would be a really good book, substantially above the ordinary because of one or more of the characteristics listed above.
*** Three stars would be the vast majority of the books I’ve read–solid stories, well-told, with empathetic characters in interesting situations.
** Two stars describes books that fail on one or two the of items listed above.
* One star books fail all or most of my criteria. Typically, I do not finish these books.
How do you rate your reading?