September 19, 2012

Twilight: Creative Writing

Twilight, pp. 105-113.

This chapter just...ends. There are four more pages, sure, but absolutely nothing happens. Now I know what you're thinking: Did he fire six shots, or only five? Damn, I did it again. What I meant was, you're thinking, "But Carl Eusebius, absolutely nothing happens in the whole book!" Well that's not strictly true, as something does in fact happen in the last, oh, 100 pages of this 500-page tome. But the point is well taken that not much happens in this novel. Still, for these four pages there's nothing to comment on. Our heroine and her ephebophiliac partner listen to some of their favourite music (Debussy, so we know they're pretentious clowns with no taste), Bella describes her mother ("irresponsible and slightly eccentric"), and the couple re-hash the "do you think I'm dangerous?" thing for the 387th time. The only part that perked my interest a teeny bit was when Edward asks her age.

"I'm seventeen," I responded, a little confused.

"You don't seem seventeen."

His tone was reproachful; it made me laugh.

"What?" he asked, curious again.

"My mom always says I was born thirty-five years old and that I get more middle-aged every year."

Well, that explains why Bella thinks and talks like a 35-year-old woman (though author Meyer was only 29 when she wrote Twilight). I'd have preferred, though, a 17-year-old main character that was, I don't know, believably 17. Like Juno, Twilight gives us a high-school girl who speaks mannered, overly-scripted cynicism.

It gets old real fast.

And really, what does Edward care? She's in high school. Why does he need her exact age? When you're a century old, would it make any difference to you if someone were 15 rather than 17? I'm not even half a century old, and I don't notice a difference between 15 and 17. This is just another example of our being told that Edward's 100 years old even though he doesn't act at all like someone from another century. It's also evidence for my theory that Meyer wrote only a single draft of the entire novel, with perhaps some spelling corrections here and there. She suddenly realised she's on page 105 and hasn't told us Bella's age. Solution? Well, in this scene Bella's talking to Edward, so just have him ask her! There, problem solved, moving on.

Wait, you already guessed her age? Edward and Bella are in the same biology class and he's a junior, which is enough information to figure out her age without having it spelled out for you?

Everything must be explained! No assumption of reader sentience will be made!
Anyway, on to chapter six. (Yes, we're five chapters in, and this is how little has happened.) Bella isn't looking forward to today, Friday, because...well, I don't know. She knows Edward isn't going to show up at school, true, but she later cites that as "the worst part about Friday". What else made her not look forward to Friday? She doesn't give any other reason. Well, she'll have to interact with other, non-Edward people, so I guess that's a bummer. Bella tells us that "it more than lived up to my non-expectations". What does that mean? She clearly had expectations (since she "wasn't looking forward to Friday"), and as the day does turn out badly (by Bella's standards, at least), it did, in fact, live up to her expectations.

This is probably the kind of crap Meyer learned in her "creative" writing courses at Brigham Young. "Irony," intones the failed fiction writer teaching whichever class it is, "is when you take what's expected ["live up to my expectations"] and invert it ["live up to my non-expectations"]." Creativity! Either that, or Meyer took that Alanis Morrisette song as a template for her writing. (That would explain a lot, actually.) Isn't it ironic, don'cha think? No, Alanis, I don't think. There's nothing ironic in the song "Ironic", including its being named "Ironic" even though it isn't ironic. Rain on your wedding day isn't ironic. Being married by the same judge who presided over your last divorce--that's ironic. And damn funny. This isn't the appropriate place for irony, anyway. C'mon, Steffy, the way to write that line was "it more than lived down to my expectations". I'm a talentless hack writing a blog no-one reads, and I know that.

Hey, I've got an idea. Let's do a remake of Twilight, this time without the sucking.

I know it's been a while since we had some Jessica-bashing, but don't worry, author Meyer knows what we readers crave. First, Jessica especially enjoys the story of Bella's fainting. Bella notes that Mike doesn't add to her embarrassment by revealing anything he saw or heard about her fainting spell, though of course he isn't appreciated or thanked or even acknowledged for this. (Bella declares it "lucky" that Mike stays silent. It's not luck, genius; he made a conscious decision to say nothing, presumably for your sake. The least you could do is say thank you.) Jessica then asks what Edward and Bella talked about. Bella is evasive, which annoys Jessica. Bella attributes this to Jessica's hope that Bella would give her some gossip, but I think she's just annoyed that Bella keeps dodging her questions. After all, Edward and Bella were talking in a public place, not behind closed doors. I don't think "what did you talk about?" is particularly intrusive. And Edward is someone who has refused to talk to anyone else for the past couple of years. If he suddenly started talking to someone, isn't it natural that people would want to know why? Jessica notes that Bella looked angry during the conversation. (Who wouldn't be, trying to talk to that jagoff?) Because Bella suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, she interprets this simple act of human concern as more probing into her affairs and so responds only with an arch, "Did I?"

Later, Bella notices that Lauren* has been giving her "a few unfriendly glances". Remember Lauren? No? That's okay, because she hasn't appeared before now. Yes, with all the people Bella met in chapter one, Lauren wasn't one of them. She's here now because Meyer needs someone to be jealous of Bella. No, I don't know why she doesn't just have Jessica do it, since she's taken pains to establish Jessica's jealousy in earlier chapters. (That must be why I don't write best-selling novels.) Meyer has decided to bring in another girl to be jealous of Bella, so despite this character's never appearing before, Meyer acts like she's been here all along. That's certainly some...creative writing right there.

To find out why she's getting "unfriendly glances", Bella eavesdrops on Lauren's conversation with Mike. Lauren says she doesn't know why Bella doesn't sit with the Cullens instead of with them. Oh, snap! Oh no she di'nt! We're supposed to be shocked at this betrayal by someone we've never seen or heard from before, but frankly I think it's completely fair. Why doesn't she go over the Cullens? At no point in this novel has she taken any interest in anything her "friends" have had to say or expressed any desire to spend any time with them. She's agreed to go to the beach with them, but immediately before she noticed Lauren's "unfriendly glances", she heard the weather might be good that day and thought to herself that because of this good weather, the trip might not be "completely miserable".** On her way to the beach, she doesn't speak to anyone. Not a single person. On the way back, she purposefully sits next to someone who won't talk to her so that she'll be free to think about Edward without interruption.

So Lauren, painted here as a bad person because of her dislike of Bella's favouring the Cullens over her own friends (as Lauren speaks, Bella notices "what an unpleasant, nasal voice she had"), is only reacting to the obvious implications of Bella's behaviour. And she's completely right. Bella doesn't like anyone in Mike's group of friends. She avoids talking to them, is evasive and dishonest when she's forced to interact with them, and never listens to anything they have to say because she's obsessed with Edward. And this isn't my analysis. Bella states all of these things directly to the reader. She tells us she doesn't want to talk to these people because she wants to think about Edward. She tells us she lies to them. She tells us she doesn't listen to what they say when she's in conversation with them. And she's told us the Cullens are perfect, even though she knows nothing about any of them except their names. So Lauren's question is a damn good one: Why isn't Bella sitting with the Cullens instead of with her non-friends?

Oh wait, I forgot, a proper lady doesn't talk to people to whom she hasn't been introduced. See, that would require taking an action (of her own volition!), and upper-class women in 19th-century England 21st-century high school girls in Washington state don't do that. So she'll need to wait for someone to give her permission to speak to the other Cullens. I'm sure Edward will do that, when he thinks the time is right.


* Occasionally I've pointed out how even the crappy Twilight film is a marked improvement over this terrible book. I noted in an earlier post that the "all the girls are jealous of Bella" subplots were excised from the film version. Unsurprisingly, the character of Lauren doesn't appear at all. There's no reason for her to; her entire character is "I'm a bad person because I don't like Bella". Since the filmmakers were wise enough (I like to think) to realise this doesn't portray Bella in a particularly favourable light, they probably told Meyer that these story beats and characters had to be nixed "for time". (As noted above, Jessica is also jealous of Bella, but as her primary purpose in the story is to be less awesome than Bella, she remains in the film version, with most of her jealousy eliminated.)
** So if Bella expected the trip to be "completely miserable" until she saw the weather might be nice, why did she agree to go? Well, that would be because Meyer needs this to happen so she can introduce a plot thread that will become important in later books. This requires Bella to be at a particular beach to meet a particular character, who will then have the opportunity to exposit this plot thread to the reader. Once again, Meyer somehow manages to give us two hallmarks of bad writing for the price of one: Even though Bella is a Mary-Sue, to the extent she has a character, Meyer doesn't hesitate to violate that character for the convenience of the plot.


  1. The truly disturbing thing about this blog is that it's making me gain (relative) respect for the authorial prowess of Ayn Rand...

  2. I had to laugh at Bella being confused of her age. I remember when I was 17 & I was confused, am I 17 or 47? That's right, I'm still in school so I'm 17. So thankful having school could help Bella figure out her age. Now Jessica can't be the jealous one for she is the one that makes Bella angry. You can't do two things in this story. thus we have Lauren to be the one to be jealous of Bella. You KNOW Bella confuses easily, thus the age question. Maybe the jealous one should have told Bella that sitting at home instead of going to the beach, despite the lovely day, she could think of Edward without any interruptions from the talkative people. I think the day might have stay just as nice if she was home instead of the beach, but then again the weather could have turned dark and gloomy just because Bella wasn't going to the beach. Now, Bella did say she going to the beach, she did not say she was going to talk to anyone on the beach. That again would confuse her....