In Defense of Twilight

 

So here’s the deal people: I kinda hate Twilight. I tried to read it once, back in its heyday thinking, “Hey, this is super popular. It can’t be all bad.” But, oh was I wrong. The plot was banal and uninteresting, but even worse than that the prose limped along in uninspired fits and spurts that felt harsh and unnatural.

It was so difficult to stomach that after struggling through more than half of the book I gave up. Since then I’ve been an active participant on the Stephanie Meyers hate-wagon. I bash her writing as often as I can, I pick apart the bizarre threads of her plots, and I absolutely adore the Reasoning with Vampires website.

BUT.

I am not a moron. There are some who may disagree on this point, but let’s ignore them, yes?

I know people who love Twilight. I mean really really love. When they read Twilight, it was the same experience for them as reading House of Leaves was for me. And there are millions of these people all over the world. Why?

We could be cynical and say that it’s all because of advertising dollars and irrational hype, but that doesn’t jive with me.

You may not know this, but I’m kind of a fan of P. T. Barnum. Everyone knows P. T. Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” But most people don’t know that he didn’t stop talking after he said that. One of the other things he said, in fact one of his core philosophies was this: “Do whatever crazy thing you have to do to advertise your stuff, but know this: if your product sucks all the advertising in the world won’t make it a success.” Okay, so he didn’t say it exactly that way, but you get the gist.

The people I know who love Twilight don’t love it because of advertising and they don’t love it because everyone else loves it. They love it because there’s something in there, amidst all the tangled prose and watered down plot that speaks to them on a very personal level.

When Stephanie Meyer talks about the inspiration for Twilight she tells the story of a dream that arrested her attention and inspired her to sit down and work on the story whenever she could grab a spare moment. In other words, the story meant something personal to her. It welled up from the very core of her being to the point that she could not stop herself from writing it.

That is what I believe has given the Twilight Saga the staying power it has enjoyed for so long. Of course there are problems with Meyer’s writing, but in spite of those problems millions of women have connected with that same tug of urgency Meyer felt when she first conceived the idea.

She wasn’t just writing a story. She was writing her story.

We could all learn a thing or two from her. We spend a lot of time trying to hone our craft and learn the intricacies of structure, but ultimately there is something greater than these things. If we’re going to write a story, we need to be sure it is a story we love. Because all the wonderful prose and perfect plotting in the world can’t replace what every story really needs: a soul.

Only when we give a little piece of ourselves dug from out of the deepest corner of our hearts will we be able to truly move and affect our readers.

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11 responses to “In Defense of Twilight

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention In Defense of Twilight « Albert Berg's Unsanity Files -- Topsy.com

  2. I’m so loving you right now. I’m a Twilight fan. Maybe not as crazy as most people but I am one (I do have a calendar and a poster of Edward and Bella). The story just touches something inside of me and it inspires me in more ways than one.

    It’s just that Stephenie Meyer (it’s spelled with an e and not an a) dreamt of the story and she’s in love with it. The love carried to millions of us out here. Same goes with Harry Potter. I’ve read all four books (I’m hesitant to read the novella because I know that Bree will die) and I’ve read The Host but Twilight will always hold a special place in my heart.

    That’s why I realize that I have to be in love with my story. If not, how else can anyone be in love with it.

  3. I am always a little appalled when people disparage other writers for their success and point out all the things that are wrong with them. COnsider the rhyme Hicory Dickory Dock, which of all the rhymes for children has managed with very little effort to stay popular for some two or three hundred years. Is it superior to other poetry? Doubtful. Does it work? Of course. Do you know why it works? Because people like it. Do you have any prayer whatsoever of appreciating the technical things about it which make people like it and have therefore helped it endure? Not a chance. So stop worrying about it.

    Anne Rice put her finger on the fundamental problem of Twilight, and it is one of logic: why would anyone who had lived so long care about some pubescent child? Bella has nothing to bring to the relationship other than enthusiasm. If you can swallow that (and millions of Bella wannabes manage it just fine) there is nothing really wrong with the story. I have certainly seen clunkier things published over the years. My daughters insisted I read Twilight when it came out, and I did not find it to be poorly written at all. Sure she made a few howlers; we all do.

    But you have put your finger squarely on what makes it work. You never doubt while reading it that the writer cares, and cares deeply, about the story she is telling. If she were telling you the story in a bar somewhere her eyes would be shining, and her breath would catch, and people sitting a little too distant in the joint would lean to try to hear what the hell was going on at your table.

    If you want to read something told with clockwork precision and grammatical perfection buy yourself an English textbook.

    I never read the rest of the Twilight novels for an excellent reason; they are written for children and I am not a child. I prefer more than SM was willing to tell. But I will not deny they are told with passion and love.

    That is what sells books: the passion of the writer, the love of her readers. That and having a story in the first place.

    Nice blog.

  4. Twilight. . . . Where do I begin? I read all four because my daughter wanted to read them, and I wanted to check them out first. I let her read up to Chapter 19 in book four, and I still haven’t let her read the last book. She’s 13. Personally, I liked the last three far more than the first one, which made me gag with its adolescent angst.

    Like you, though, I asked myself what was catching the 10 – 14 female crowd so completely, along with their mothers. This is my theory, and I know it’s going to make feminists scream and hunt me down. . . .

    When girls reach puberty, they start pulling away from their parents and finding their own identity. However, they are biologically hard-wired to find a man who can take care of them. A daddy replacement, if you will. The fairy tale. They want to be independent, but they aren’t independent, so they want a suitable caretaker who will pretend with them that they are independent. Most women grow out of this in their late teens as they gain confidence in their ability to deal with the world. Some never do.

    I believe that’s the heartstring SM plays. Look at Edward. Forever young, rich, smart, superhuman, and invulnerable, and his only goal in life is to obsess over Bella, providing for her and keeping her safe. He even sparkles! He’s the perfect daddy replacement. I did point out to my daughter, though, when I gave her the book, that if she ever wakes up to find a stalker at the end of her bed who crawled in the window to watch her sleep, I expect her to shoot his perverted ass into next week.

    Thanks for your thoughtful post, Albert.

    • Yeah, I’ve given the whole underpinning to the psyche required to enjoy Twilight a lot of thought. It wasn’t really appropriate for the focus of the blog post, but I think the dichotomy Meyers sets up between Jacob and Edward is particularly fascinating.
      The love Bella has for Edward is some weird mystical otherworldly love. That sounds nice enough on paper, but in practice you’ve got to know that both of them are going to have to come down to earth and figure exactly what it is they actually like about each other.
      Bella and Jacob on the other hand share a real friendship based on compatibility and common interest.
      The fact that Meyer chooses the mystical kind of love over the real love for her heroine tells me something about her view of romance. I understand the concept of an ideal love, but in the end you have to wake up and realize that an ideal is nothing more than a dream.
      And now I’ve probably made all the Twilight fans mad so…you know…sorry and all that.

      • Not so much! I learned early on that everyone has a different opinion. Your comment isn’t as bad as you think. My dad and my brother pretty much do the gagging sign at the mention of the word. You actually took the time to analyze it.

        It’s the otherworldly love between Edward and Bella that’s the draw of the saga. It’s the draw of the first love so strong that they’re willing to die for it.

        However, I have to admit that it’s unhealthy. If it’s the real world, I would probably drag Bella out of the relationship as a friend. Or encourage her to go out more so that she won’t be so isolated. In the real world, their relationship borders an abusive one.

        Still, I can’t help falling in love with someone who waited an eternity to be with someone until I come along. Though it wouldn’t be possible in real life, I can at least fantasize about it.

    • I have mixed emotions about the book, but overall I agree with Piper.
      The one thing that drove me nuts about the book was the use of one word, over and over and over and over agian…much to my “chagrin.”

  5. Your opinions are always interesting.

    This past spring, I finally rented the movies and liked them–they were fun. Then I went to see the one that came out the end of June and enjoyed it. So then I read the first books and didn’t like them so much. It was the dialogue between the adolescents that got to me. I tried reading Breaking Dawn so I could determine if I had the guts to watch the films when they come out but couldn’t get into it. It’s a hardback copy and I use it to prop up my netbook when I sit in the recliner so I see it several times a day now.

    That being said, I am happy for the success of the author. She genuinely loves writing the material too. I researched her out of curiosity because she is a Mormon, of which there are many in my part of the world. And anyone who can get young people to read books is awesome.

    I think my time to be thrilled by the subject is past. I loved the Dark Shadows gothic soap of the 1960’s (still do) and understand being that age and having a whole, wonderful new world open up. Now, in hindsight, I am way more interested in life here-and-now than in the astral supernatural realms.

    While reading the books, I was aware that she had a college degree and didn’t question the actual writing as a result.

  6. Pingback: The End Is Near (and we deserve it). . . . Thin Mint Assault « Author Piper Bayard

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