Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Twilight Saga (he listened unwillingly)

I don't know why I did it. That's all I can give you, no more, no less. There are no words to explain why I listened to the entire Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer. At first I was curious, but a few chapters into the second book I started to question my own sanity.

The experience was an interesting one, to say the least. This bit of writing was odd, awkward, without compelling plot and included very anti-climatic resolutions which left me feeling ill. It was okay for one book, an amateur work with a glimmer of possibility, of promise. It should have remained a single book, a first step into something better, but it didn't. The inarticulate fledgling grew, began to take shape. The ugly duckling did not transform into the beautiful swan. No. This journey, though fiction, was wrought with the hard truth of reality. This ugly duckling didn't make it. Instead, it matured into.. well, an ugly duck.

I didn't read the books, to be completely honest. No, I listened to the audio books instead. I think that might have been a big factor as to why I saw the saga to completion. The voice of Ilyana Kadushin was probably the biggest factor that kept me going and only because of the relationship established with Bella during the first book, Twilight. Like it or not, I was invested in seeing how things turned out for her, much to my own detriment.

Twilight was unique. I can see what happened. A new author wrote a book, in a compelling first person narrative, a voyeuristic plot saturated with the inner thoughts and feelings of a teenage girl. The author did well. Then the unexpected book deal. Not only would this book be published, but they offered much more than had been expected. As indicated in wikipedia (a non-reliable Internet information resource), the deal had been for three books, 750,000 clams to match it. Well, what now? The first book was supposed to be over? How in the world could it go on?

Then there was the disaster that was New Moon. I hated this book. It turned my willing disregard of her adverb overuse into spite. Bella suffered several months of deep depression in this book, and I felt like it took just as long to slosh through it. I listened unwillingly, anger flashed briefly in my eyes, "Shut up and kill her!" I hedged. (Inside joke?)

Now, I know that there is a long line of avid fans who would fall on the dagger, so to speak, to save Meyer's work from condemnation. This isn't a rant from a jealous writer, I don't want to change your opinion, and I most certainly do not want to taint something that you may have greatly enjoyed. But this is my blog and in that I am entitled to my own opinion. From a writing standpoint I certainly believe that Stephanie Meyer is not without talent, but what she does have could most certainly be honed into a much sharper tool than the garden spade she used to chisel out this tale. I've read reviews and interviews that suggest she almost boasts that she never had any sort of creative writing training or practice before writing Twilight. Something along the lines of, "I may not be a good writer, but a good storyteller, now that would be something..." comes to mind. (Not a direct quote, now mind you.)

Why would that be okay? Why would you not want to do as well as you possibly could at something you obviously love? Here's an experiment. In Breaking Dawn, whenever Bella talks about being a vampire, glosses over her previous life and relishes in her new one, replace the word 'vampire' with 'writer'. Do you see what I saw?

If you read the Twilight Saga and now feel inspired to write please note the following as advice from a non-published author who writes a blog about writing.. well, sometimes about writing:

1. Your characters are people too. Don't make them do something they wouldn't just to expand a plot line. Don't make them leave when they couldn't. Don't make them fall in love when they wouldn't.

2. Do not interject yourself too freely into your writing. Your characters are not you. They may have some part of you inside them, but the journey is theirs, not yours. If you fail in this, the reader (or listener as the case may be) will be forced to live vicariously the life you are vicariously living through your character, the life you wish you had. That isn't pleasant for everyone. When we daydream we get what we want, not what we really need. Life often gives us what we need, it is whether we choose to take what is has to offer that makes things... interesting.

3. Try not to spend an unbalanced amount of time building up an oncoming threat in reference to the time you spend with the threat and its resolution. If you can't write confrontations and battles, don't. Don't try. Don't build it up for nothing. There are other ways to make your story compelling.

4. Not everything has to be hand-delivered, piping hot. Show don't tell? I think we talked about that once upon a time in this blog. It's horrid and over-used. It is a phrase tossed about with disregard and unearned respect. It's as cliche as it gets, and yet, it has merit. For one, if you turn unwillingly, well... someone else better be controlling your body because you don't do what you are unwilling to do, something has to give first and by that time you may be turning regretfully. But why adverb it up? Don't make your character turn anything-ly. Save those rare -ly's for moments when they will actually mean something. Strong descriptive sense will pay off in the long run. But don't show everything. Unless the scattered items on a shelf actually mean something, unless they give us insight into the character associated with them, or unless they will come into play later on in the story, don't bother making me read through it. A cluttered room for the sake of a cluttered room is just that. Don't make a shopping list.

5. If you would like to substitute storytelling for writing, don't write books, tell stories. The difference between writing stories and telling them is more than just money. Stories that are told are shared, passed on, they change with generations to suit the need for comprehension. Written stories, however, are solid, immortal; forever a glimpse into the culture of the time they were published.


Don't be afraid to write. Just do it to the best of your ability. Read what you've written and ask yourself how the next story can be better. As long as you do that, you should be progressing in the right direction. Don't forget to listen to your characters.
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