The Story Quality Scale
Recently, I was looking for a movie to stream and the number of star ratings each film had listed. Random people apply 1-5 stars, and the average score appears next to the movie. This score got me thinking about the letter grades I received in school.
Letter grading, such as math or history test, usually has a logical method behind the score. But what about an English test? What criteria does an English teacher use?
Most English teachers use their writing style as a baseline and combine this with standard guidelines to develop a letter grade. This scale sounds like an “expert opinion,” not a scientific method. It turns out that there is a universal standard for writing quality that is not subjective:
This WQS defines how to grade a document from content and development, structure and organization, vocabulary, sentence structure, punctuation, and spelling. The result is a scientifically backed evaluation with a numerical result. Other unbiased methods are available, such as Grammarly and ProWritingAid. They have an impartial analyzer that produces a number representing document quality.
However, that was not quite the topic I wanted to explore. Is there a universal scale of story quality that uses elements like flow, plot twists, character interaction, depth, and reader enjoyment? I am sure one could make categories and develop an objective analysis score.
Yet, there would probably be disagreement. What is a compelling plot twist? What if the story has offensive material?
Well, there might be an easy solution. Let’s take 2,000 excellent books and use Artificial Intelligence to analyze the stories to determine common elements, proper flow, solid characters, and the other elements that make up a good story. This foundation should give the AI model the knowledge to form a scale.
However, I see a flaw in my plan. Take the two outstanding books Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy by Douglas Adams and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. One makes no sense, and the other has no plot. As a result, the AI-generated writing quality scale would be dreadful.
Is a story quality scale something our society needs? Readers could see in advance if they are about to read a good or bad story. This scale would also help writers by giving them a target to shoot for. They could also edit a book before release if it scored poorly.
There is another problem with a fixed scale. Writers would tailor their results to get a high score leading to bland, cookie-cutter stories. We now see that trend with comic book movies that seem to define the word “generic.”
I will keep noodling on this topic and try to find a solution. Or will any effort fill our lives with useless chat-box-generated book scores? Only time will tell.

You’re the best -Bill
July 26, 2023
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