I was watching an episode of Hard Core Pawn when I realized anyone could sell anything at the right price. But that right price is never as much as the buyer wants or the seller likes. At a restaurant, a ten dollar meal could be fantastic by itself, but unless it’s more than what you’d think a ten dollar meal should cost, you’re not going to think you got good value for that ten bucks.
Stories work the exact same way. No matter how long (or short) a story has to be, the reader has to feel as though she didn’t just get the money she put into it worth of pleasure, she has to feel like she got more than her money’s worth out of it. I think writers writing for other writers tend to think that the writing itself is the thing that has value, but a pretty turn of phrase in a paragraph that says nothing might just be lipstick on a pig.
I had to cut 2800 words out of the Scent of Water yesterday. It hurt. I lost a lot of good things. But the cut, though brutal, still told the story I want it to. I might still save the long version for when the rights return. The way the main characters all died was interesting. But when I could sum it all up in the line that the old King didn’t believe that children conceived by an oasis never were for want of fresh water, he hadn’t realized that was important until he lost two sons for want of it. Gregor , the main character, was conceived in the oasis. The old man had learned his lesson.
In short, murder your darlings. Your readers will think they’ve got a great bargain.