So today’s blog is a bit different. I’m actually reviewing the Twilight series, which I know is so out of date, but with her new book “Life and Death” having just come out, thought it would be a good time to write this review, that I’ve wanted to write for a long time.
“Life and Death” is an interesting idea. It was written for the ten anniversary of Twilight, and it is the story of Twilight only reversed. The vampire is now a girl and the human is a boy. So that is an interesting take. But I’m not reviewing that book just yet. (Not saying I will)
We all know you either love the Twilight Series or hate it. I personally lean closer to the latter, but I wouldn’t say I hate it… okay, well… here’s a link to a video that shows how I feel about Twilight. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mu8ndCB7B-Q
There, now I’ve shown you likely my favorite video of all time, we can get more into detail.
I actually started reading Twilight, not because I wanted to, for a very different reason. It was in the middle of the hype and I think the third movie was about to come out. I had no desire to read it and get wrapped up in the ‘Twilight’ word.
At the time, I was already working on being a writer and my first novel was slowing forming. I had a friend who was a literature major and taught literature in high school. She helped me with a school assignment and, because I wondered what she thought, I asked her to read the first chapter of my story. She loved it and thought it was really good so helped me by mentoring me.
As I worked with her, I admitted I’d never read the “Twilight” books and had no interest in it. She understood why, but gave me some advice that stuck to me. You should read what is popular in the genre you want to write. Then you better understand the genre and what your readers want. I always knew you should read what you want to write, but I’d not thought I should read what is popular just because it’s popular. Yes, even if it is not something you like or in some cases crap.
So… I caved. I felt I had to read the series. I won’t lie. I had a hard time getting through the first book, so eventually, I cheated and listened to them on audiobook. Even still it was hard to get through them.
I had the same problem with the series that most people have: the story is hollow, the characters are even more so, the story is just…. Odd. I mean really, after the second book it got really, really weird. Twilight really was a passing fad that has died out.
However, it was a fad. Why did it become so popular, despite the fact a majority of people didn’t like it? When I read the series, this is what allowed me to endure, as I listened, I sought the answer to that question. How did she make such a bad story so popular? (Funny thing is, I have looked almost all of her interviews, and I’m not sure even she knows.)
This is what I concluded was the main reason for its success. We have to admit, the story sucks, but the writing was impressive. Not that her story was worthwhile. We often get good storytelling and good writing mixed up. The best ‘writers’ of our day are really amazing storytellers most of the time. (Though they also are good writers, but the two are different.)
So story wise, when she says the story came to her in a dream, I believe it. The ‘Twilight’ Series is very weird and dreams are weird. So of course the story is strange, just like dreams. This makes perfect sense to me. So it’s clear the story didn’t win her the hype. What won her the hype was how she wrote it.
The biggest advantage she had was she wrote to her readers very well. Now Twilight is, at it’s very heart, a young adult romance. How did she make such an odd story work? By writing to her age range with skill and tact.
It’s all in her characters. Yes, that’s right. The characters that are either loved or loathed. And here is why…
We’ll start with Bella. As the haters say, she’s a wimp, she has no backbone, she is just a winy girl who never did a thing for herself. Mmmm, does that sound familiar? How do most young teenage girls act? Think of a twelve or thirteen-year-old. When they don’t get their way, do they work hard to get their way? A majority of them no. What do most do? Complain. What did Bella do? Complain. Hmmmmm…..
That is why most young girls wanted to be Bella. They already felt they were. Bella is an empty character for the most part, but what does she does have most twelve-thirteen-year-old girls have too. The rest is empty. So what does a young reader do? They fill the empty parts with themselves. It’s something most of us do when we read, right? We love to live the story with the characters. When you have an empty character, if written right, you can turn the character into yourself.
Then what about Edward? He gets more ridicule for being an empty, hollow character. Which is his greatest power. The few traits he does have are what every young girl wants in her boyfriend, right? He’s handsome, he’s cool, he’s protective and would do anything for you, even if it meant hurting himself, and sometimes you, if it would make you happy in the long run. Traits most young girls at the time liked in a man (or thought they did).
Then what about the rest of the characters? The ‘real’ personality? Well, the reader can make it up. Edward is so empty you can turn Edward into your perfect, ideal boyfriend. This is what makes Edward so appealing. He can be what the reader wants him to be. The hollowness becomes the power to be customizable.
You put those two together, you get a perfect young adult romance. Though the popular culture tells us we should teach young girls to save themselves, at the young age of twelve-fourteen, most girls still are not confidant and would rather have someone else save them. So this hero is still what appeals to them.
Then when the second book came out and you added a second interest. Someone who wasn’t quite as hollow, giving a choice, it upped the appeal all the more. Now you have to decide, he boy who’s more real, or the one that is your dream boat?
That is what made Twilight so popular among those it targeted. The emptiness of the characters, though a huge fault in most writing, actually became its advantage. Here is a book that you can perfectly match to your perfect fantasy. Which was way as the books went on, it got less popular. It became less customizable.
I have no idea if Stephany Meyers did that on purpose. Either way, that’s an impressive skill, to write a character so perfectly balanced the readers can do that, not to mention two! If you can make a story as horrible as that, but people still went nuts for it, you have a talent in something. She crafted characters who were able to mold to the fantasy of a young girl so perfectly, nothing else mattered. That’s a talent. Period.
So despite the fact the story and characters are… one dimensional, nearly faceless, and the rest of the story is so twisted that, even if you hate it, you get emotionally engaged, you wrote something impressive. Twilight is such a bad story, but so well written, people who love books can’t ignore it. They either get sucked into it to, or hate it for those exact reasons. That’s impressive. So though I will never endure reading the books again, I admire Stephany Meyers for her ability to write something like that. I don’t think I ever could.
So no, I didn’t enjoy Twilight, but enduring through them taught me a lot about book writing. It is possible to write something empty and get gold. In Twilight, the emptiness was its strength. Edward can be your strong silent type, or he can be your dashing knight with a warm smile. He’s filled with classic prince charming, then left empty for you to imagine for yourself. Bella has nothing but the traits of a young tween experiencing her first romance. The thirteen-year-old girl can turn Bella into herself without even meaning to. Then she gets to live Bella’s story more fully.
So that’s how Twilight managed to be so popular despite it’s emptiness and… plain strangeness. It allowed the young reader to fill in their own imagination. They became what they wanted to be. Which is why her retelling the story only making the vampire a girl and the human a boy is also brilliant. Now young boys can do the same thing. Is it empty, yes, but that is the point. It’s impressive. I don’t like the books one bit, but I have to admit, it impressed me.