Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Stephenie Meyer Effect

THIS IS NOT A RANT.  I'm really curious to hear what other writers think.  Please read and weigh in:

I've had a huge response to the videos in the last post - including several personal notes from authors disparaging Stephenie Meyer.  One even suggested the only reason she made the list was because she's made squazillions of dollars on the back of her book, not because her book was any good.

Well, um....yes.  Can we really believe a book that draws that kind of fanaticism is completely without merit?

I'll admit, I was hesitant to include her in that post because I know how irritated many writers get when she's held up as a successful author.  But I put her in there because she's achieved something only a few others have.  And I admire her for it.

Don't get me wrong, I don't like it when my read gets broken by a clunky sentence.  I am not suggesting the writing was technically stellar.  But I, for one, was riveted anyway.  I get why writers working hard at the craft are disappointed that a piece of work which lacks the technical savvy has been so successful.  What I don't understand is why they're angry about it. 

I want to be a really good, technically strong writer. To that end, I'm studying the craft, taking advice and learning more every day. But that's my desire for my writing. The whole point of being a writer is to find your voice, your stories and your passions, pursue them and hope someone else wants to come along for the ride. 

Let's be honest: When we write for publication, we write because we want others to read it.   Stephenie Meyer has created a world that literally millions of people want to be a part of.  How is that not something to applaud?

I think it's unrealistic to expect everyone to be an expert in the craft of fiction.  But that's great - because no one can be an expert in everything.  Just because I don't understand string theory and the AMAZING brain power it takes to explore it, does it mean I can't laugh at The Big Bang Theory?  (Which, by the way, has some of the world's smartest people consulting on its scientific content). 

For the purposes of this conversation, do we need to separate the skills of storytelling from the master craft of writing?  Admire some for what they've told, and others for how they've told it?  I've known individuals who are incredible technical writers, but can't weave a decent story for love nor money.  Literally.  Why can't some writers be known for a good story, and others be known for snazzy writing?   And why can't we recognize achievement even if we wouldn't have taken the same route ourselves?

Are we jealous? Afraid we'll have to write something equally clunky to be a success ourselves? Or afraid no one will ever read our (hopefully) technically stellar writing because they're getting used to this level of work?

What is it, people? Why does Stephenie Meyer draw the fans in droves, and repel the writers in equal quantity? And why do we think it's okay to slam a writer we've never spoken to - or worse, whose book we've never read?

If you've got an opinion, I'd love to hear it.  Please jump into the comments.  And please identify which book(s) you've read from the series?  I'm curious whether reading the books affects your stance.

NOTE: I adore a good debate.  But let's keep it about the subject and avoid just hauling each other through the proverbial knothole, okay?


  1. I loved the Twilight series, particularly the first book. Several of my girlfriends read it and loved it as well (we're all middle aged women). I read them before I started writing and Meyer was directly responsible for my trying to write in the first place. I thought that if she could do it, so could I.

    I imagined the multibook deal would be forthcoming as soon as I finished the book (which hasn't happened) so I had unrealistic expectations based on her success. ;)

    Great post, by the way. I agree with your sentiments and thought your points were well put.


  2. Thanks Cyndi, I read them before I started writing seriously too. Maybe that's the difference? We got to enjoy them as readers before we saw them as technical works?

  3. Interesting post. I didn't like the books, but she appealed to a demographic who would, and who, in the wake of Harry Potter, were searching for 'the next big thing'.
    For the most part, readers, unlike writers, don't care about great writing, they want entertainment. Mrs. Meyer entertained, no matter how much people wanted to deny that fact. Entertainment doesn't have to have an interesting plot, enthralling characters, dynamic voice, or intelligent writing with expert character arcs and a tear worthy scene or two. That's evident in television, books and movies, take for example Jersey Shore and The Hottie and the Nottie. For the most part, people want fluff...that's the entertainment they crave. It gets by on how well it entertains, not the thoughts it envokes or the spectacular lines it delivers. Readers want entertainment. And Stephanie Meyer handed them forbidden love, an attractive love triangle, and a MC who was mousey and average, so the reader could put themselves into it.
    There are, of course, many readers who did not like her books and cringed every time Edward did something stalker-worthy. And there are readers who recognized the weak writing and didn't buy into the books. But like any fad that sweeps the nation, people often buy into it and eat it up simply because it is an escape and (when dealing with the teenage demographic) because their friends are doing it. :)

  4. The first time I read the series, it was as a reader. I enjoyed them. I tried to read them again as a writer and couldn't get back into it at all.

    The fact remains that no matter what any writer's opinion of Stephanie Meyer's abilities is, the lady wrote a story that appealed to a wide audience.

    Oh, and I really don't see how anyone who hasn't read at least one of the books has any right to as you said, 'slam the writer'.

  5. I'm not really a technical writer myself. Add to that the fact that in all my 40 plus years, I've only found ONE book I simply couldn't read, but I don't get it. It's not an affront to one writer if another is successful. That's the lovely thing about writing and reading. People are as subjective as art. What one person loves another loathes. Personally I've never read any of the books nor seen any of the movies. My daughter (18) loved the first book when she was about 15, but didn't even finish any of the others. I never got into the whole craze, I don't like the choices for actors and actresses they used and I question some of the concepts, but you can't deny that she hit the jackpot with the theory, well written or not.

  6. Great article Aimee!

    I think you are perhaps right to say that jealousy is a factor. It's very difficult for someone who works to hone their skill to perfection, whilst the rejection notices accumulate or the royalties dribble in, read something that is written to accomodate the lowest common denominator of the reading public. And to watch as those authors sell millions of a manuscript that seemingly took no effort to write (technically speaking).

    I think it goes deeper than that, though.

    I've never read the Meyers series; I probably never will. This is because, as a bookshop owner, I've listened to so many people rave about the latest best-seller, decided to get it and see what all the fuss is about. After all, I'm always eager for a good read. I'm often disappointed, too.

    I don't think it's all jealousy (I am a writer, too).

    I like to read things that challenge my mind as well as entertain me. I'm an intelligent woman who generally reads at an advanced reading level. I'm a writer who tries to excel at the craft. As a consequence, I am a critical reader. I cringe when I see mistakes, inconsistencies, factual/historical errors, unnecessarily florid or simplistic style, etc., etc. It annoys and irritates me. It bores me. It shames me in a way, too – I don't want to be grouped with these authors. I do want to be a best-selling author. I want to be an orange that makes it among the apples, perhaps?

    Other best selling authors I've read and yawned or shaken my head over have found a niche that appeals to a large number of readers. Perhaps those readers are not as discriminating in their tastes as I am in mine. Fair enough. They might not like what I enjoy. Also fair enough. Perhaps the stresses of modern life leave more of us with a need to read something that pulls us along without requiring the effort of too much thought. That's not to say that we won't pick up a more highly crafted, more thought-provoking book when we are rested.

    I am thankful there's room for all of us out there. And there is. People still stop me to say how much they have enjoyed something I've put my effort into. They don't need to do that, so the compliment is genuine.

  7. Aimee, I'm with you. Can't we all just get along?

  8. T. L. Tyson: I'm going to have to disagree with your comment: "...Entertainment doesn't have to have an interesting plot, enthralling characters, dynamic voice, or intelligent writing with expert character arcs and a tear worthy scene or two."

    I think expert writing is a vehicle for the story, not the story itself. Without plots, characters, protagonists we can root for, etc, no one will be entertained OR impressed with the writing.

    Personally, I love to be entertained and hate to be talked down to. I'd go so far as to say I'm only entertained if interesting plots and enthralling characters are the key to the mix.

    'Reality' television is a totally different kettle of fish because it's appealing to the the our eavesdropping fly-on-the-wall desires as opposed to a 100,000 word manuscript which can be picked apart and reworked.

  9. Honestly, I'm not into the Twilight series. It's just not my thing. Do I think Stephanie Meyer is a bad writer? From what I've seen, no. Her story just isn't my type and I'm not interested in it.

    Granted, I only know about the series from what my cousin has told me (which is actually kind of a lot) but it seems like she has well-crafted characters, an interesting world, and an engrossing plot.

    There is a lot of talk that she's a "bad" writer, but from the things I've listed above, that is not true. Maybe her prose isn't as whimsical as Rowling's or as lyrical as Tolkien's, but it serves its purpose. That isn't enough for some people and fine, go ahead and dislike it for that reason. But just because something is beautifully written and dripping with meaning doesn't mean it's any good.

  10. I've read the entire Twilight series several times over. I am a writer and an English Literature graduate student.

    And I hate this series. I hate it with a consuming passion that has become the focus of my academia. I've spoken on Twilight at three conferences now and I don't intend to slow down.

    I hate the saga not because it's badly written and popular. Plenty of things qualify under that umbrella.

    I hate it because it is marketed to young women and has extremely backwards and damaging messages about how teenaged girls should expect (and want!) to be treated by men. I hate it because so many uninformed adults -- and mothers -- don't seek to interrogate these notions with adolescents, because they're just so glad they're reading, and they either don't know or gloss over the worse implications of the text because they are pleased with its message of abstinence.

    What I hate about Twilight is that its level of media saturation means there are a lot of girls who to varying extents look at Bella as a role model, and I think Bella is an extremely dangerous role model to have if a girl is meant to develop a healthy sense of self-worth in her interpersonal relationships.

    So. Is it as easy to read as it is to eat a potato chip? Yes, and I will admit to often enjoying novels that are that simple. But I reserve my right to hate a narrative that wants us to adore a guy who rips the engine out of his girlfriend's truck so she can't go to see her best friend.

  11. I will say up front that I have not read any of the "Twilight" books. This is for several reasons. First, I don't like vampires and werewolves, and I don't read YA. I love fantasy--high/epic fantasy--and there's enough excellent adult fantasy to satisfy my cravings without delving into YA or paranormal.

    Second, I read reviews and criticism of the stalkerish characteristics and the weakness of the female lead, and I chose not to fill my mind (or my daughters' minds) with things that I thought would teach them that behavior was all right. I don't want my girls (or me) ever thinking it's okay for some guy to disable her car or watch her sleep. But this is why I read reviews... My reading time is limited because I write so much and have four kids to raise, so I read reviews before I buy books because I want to have the best chance of filling my head with good stuff.

    Third--and this is the heart of the article--the writing did turn me off in the excerpts I read. I also tend to edit as I read, and when I edit as I'm reading I get a big headache. I want to read things where the writing is invisible to me so that I can get caught up in the story. And truly, the "Twilight" series isn't the only series I've been turned off from by the writing. I just tried a book by a new epic fantasy author and gave up after 75 pages because the writing kept jarring me and I couldn't get into the story.

    ALL THAT SAID... I have been guilty of Twilight rants in the past, but I have chosen not to rant against the books anymore. I do not begrudge Meyers her success. Maybe she got lucky, maybe she connected with an audience, maybe the stars were aligned for her, whatever... She hit on something and made a good deal of money. Good for her. I hope I can do the same.

    Now, if I were reviewing books on a website or something, this might be different, but I think as a writer who is NOT a reviewer I can move forward with just taking more of a "smile and nod" approach to people who praise the series. If you like it, that's fine. If you ask me what I think, I'll be gracious and as fair as possible. But I'm choosing not to rant anymore.

    Oh, and I think T.L. Tyson does have a point about entertainment. Most people are not witing critics. They want to connect with characters and stories. Obviously, Twilight gave them something to connect with.

    I hope that all sounds even-handed and reasonable... Thanks for this discussion. Good debate!


  12. Aimee, the above comment is exactly why I recommended Jasmine as someone who would be good to read this blog post and offer insight on it.

    Like Jasmine, I have a huge problem with Bella's character. And with the fact that Bella has become a role model for so many young women across the world. See her post for my thoughts on the dangerous implications of this.

    Lack of technical prowess is one thing, an issue of which Stephanie Meyer is certainly guilty. But we are talking about Young Adult novels here, and it's important to recognize that most books that fall under this category don't seek to be excellently written.

    But a novel written for plot and entertainment must be critically examined under those particular lenses nonetheless. Sure, Meyer is storytelling more than she is writing. That doesn't mean she gets to escape criticism for the harmful ethical implications of her work.

  13. Interesting article, Aimee.

    I read Twilight recently and was surprised to find it wasn't nearly as bad as many poeple make out. yes the writing was awkward (clunky is a fantastic word to describe it), but you don't get success without being good at something, and what Myer was good at was dipping into the wants and desires of her target audience.

    She has an unerring accuracy with that, and that, I believe, is what lies behind a large portion of her success.

    As an unpublish writer, am I jealous? Hell yes, of course I am! What kind fo writers would we be if we didn't feel emotions deeply! Am I angry? No. She succeeded, good on her.

    Of course what the mass entertainment industry has done with vampires afterward, however....

  14. HI Aimee, For me it didn't hold my attention. I had fallen in love with the Harry Potter Series and this was pale ( In my POV ) in comparison. I didn't like first person. After the first chapter, I gave it to my daughter who loved it. I won't pick up another one. It wasn't my cup of tea or in this fantasy.


  15. Great discussion, guys!

    Jasmine / Faded Paper: I really appreciate your willingness to jump in. I applaud the fact that your resistence is based on content rather than primarily style. That's a completely valid argument and I'd hope never to be a part of a conversation that didn't welcome those kinds of challenges. I do think that's a different dicussion though (one I'd love to have - perhaps we could come up with a co-post of some description to debate the ethics, etc, in YA publishing?)

    Obe / JEFritz - I get where you're coming from too. No one writes anything that everyone loves.

    Modicumoftalent - I'm glad to hear the 'ranting' has ceased. Was there something specific that made you make that choice, or did you just get over it?

    This is great, guys. Keep it coming. For this post at least, I'm more interested in the writing side. But Jasmin & Fadedpaper have me thinking about another dicussion we can have another day... will go put some thoughts down.

  16. I read the whole series. It was a cute story and I wanted to know the ending, so I read them all. Yes, afterwards I can't really remember what happened in each one... They all blend together. And yes, I think you could have condensed the whole lot of them to 2 books.
    But her success is what made me decide to try and start looking for an agent. Her story of publication made me feel like, hey if she could do it then so could I.
    I think there lies the root of writer angst. Many writers probably feel that their books are better written and better stories. If she can, then why can't we? They're probably right too.
    But she created marketing genius, and she got there first. Hence another source of angst. Partially because of het success no agent or publisher really wants to see another vampire right now. So even if there are vampire stories out there with way more depth of character and story development it would be a tough sell.
    I applaud her success. I would take it if it was offered to me, even if it is not my goal. Honestly, what writer wouldn't? Yet because of her success, mine may be harder to achieve. Not her fault. Timing, marketing, the industry, trends... The truth of publishing goes way beyond a great price of literature.

  17. Why writers loathe her:

    Stephen King famously had this to say
    TL;DR: Meyer can't write worth a damn.

    What Meyer does wrong can be ticked off as basic hints to beginning writers:
    Tell, don't Show : Bella is intelligent but never shows any intelligence. We're just told she's intelligent because look at the intelligent books she reads for fun.
    Mary Sues: Ever Meyer admits that Edward is her dream and she's "just like Bella"
    Research?: Diamond hard bendable skin, No Predators, Human Biology (especially female), 10,000 year old virgin, Forks exists and it's nothing like that.
    Laughable: Sparkling being threatening, Intelligent dead sperm, "literally", "fountain of blood"
    Plagiarise: The Picture of Dorian Grey, Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights.
    Unlikable Characters: Bella - you are a clumsy, ignorant, cockteasing harlot that asks to be abused.
    Edward - You have no character beyond "loving" Bella.
    Jacob - You have no character beyond your abs.

    The most telling comment of Meyer's work is at the times she puts in background, it's almost insightful. The Werewolf pack is a pretty accurate description of a gay "pack". And a lot of the side characters are WAY more interesting than Romeo and Juliet.

    What Meyer does well

    This is Emmanuelle for girls. It's pretentious, self-serving, ridiculous fare - just like the thoughts of those that read it. It's Wuthering Heights light. It's Choose Your Own Marriage, without all the ceremony. If this was a male book, it'd be Heavy Metal (with bikes, broads, guns and explosions - on fire!)

    It's love as pre-teens see it. And as such it's defended vigorously, but if you take a cursory look as an adult, you'll find a festering wound of a book, which would make most fanfiction look like Shakespear.

    And the films are actually worse.

  18. Takingthemike: I'm glad you felt comfortable to tell it how you see it.

    Which of the books have you read? I ask, not as an accusation, but because I want to know if your comments are observed in the text or formed by the movies (which are quite different beasts, in my opinion).

  19. PS - If you comment again, please try to avoid comments like "It's pretentious, self-serving, ridiculous fare - just like the thoughts of those that read it."

    You're insulting a good many clever and informed people who've read and enjoyed the books. We want to debate the writing here, not the intelligence (or otherwise) of the audience.

  20. My view is that Meyers has hit something that her readers recognize or desire, and that is the basis of her success. (Plus good marketing and being at the right time in the zeitgeist.)

    Maybe good storytelling doesn't have to be technically good prose and vice versa, technically good prose isn't always the best storytelling. Or the most gripping storytelling.

    Some of the world's most popular and best selling literature has been technically lightweight and far from Nobel Prize standard.

    I don't like Meyers' books but I have a hard time getting very annoyed about them, or their fans.

    As I see it there is something out there for everyone, both reader and writer. As I see it it's better that we have as much diversity in literature and in the readership as possible.

    I know from my time as book store manager that once people liked a certain genre, they wanted "more of the same", either from the same author or people working in the same genre.

  21. I read each book in a day, speed reading. I loved them at first but book 4 put mr off. I actually prefer the Host. I thought that was a clever story.

    I had already tried writing numerous times and Myers' success encouraged me to write and finish my first novel.

    Because I'm a big picture person I missed a lot of the details people had issue with. I see why people have a problem with her writing with all the rules she broke. But other writers have too. I read the first Hunger Games after studying some writing techniques and I edited it in my head as I went, which really spoiled it for me. There was massive telling info dumps. But it was still a great story.

    The tall poppy syndrome will always exist. Myers was in the right place at the right time.

  22. When I was reading them, the thing that really stuck out was she had absolutely no clue about the area she was writing about. She'd never been to Forks (we lived in Neah Bay for two years), she had no idea how that area is viewed by both the people who live there and the people who live near there and have to go there for groceries because there's no other choice. Her lack of research was staggering, but she wanted the rainiest place in the U.S., and that's it. LOL

    But she has the kids going from school to Port Angeles after school to go to dinner and a movie -- it's over an hour one way. That doesn't happen. She has Bella running to Seattle or Olympia for clothes shopping, going through Montesano... uh... that's a five-hour or more trip in one direction. Even if you go to Seattle the other direction through Port Angeles, it's four hours, and that's only if you hit the ferry just right.

    I started reading the series because I had a black lab named Twilight. I named her Twilight because I didn't want to name her Midnight like everyone else I knew. Everyone kept commenting on my blog, "Have you read those books? I love them!" I found out they were about vampires and passed, because I hate vampire stuff, but then a friend had a thing on her blog, "Which Twilight Chick are You?" or whatever, and I took the quiz and got Esme. Well, I didn't know who that was, but the actress was pretty.

    So...I googled the books/movie to find out what an Esme was, and landed on a blog written by someone who was obviously in love with the books -- she was gushing as she wrote about her "first trip" to Forks. I laughed out loud, because I was like, "These books are set in FORKS? The ARMPIT of the Olympic Peninsula??? Holy crap!" So I kept reading, and she was talking about the town and how it looked just like she pictured it from the books.... when all of the sudden I realized IT WAS STEPHENIE MEYER'S BLOG. The AUTHOR was telling us about her "first trip" and how she FINALLY got to go there.... so I was hooked, because here she was making money hand over fist on a series of novels she hadn't even properly researched. UNREAL.

    If she can make it, so can any of us!!! HAHA I fell into the "I read them all in two weeks" club and fell in love with Jacob. (I still hate vampires and all their stupid garbage that goes with them. And now our house is starting to look like a Taylor Lautner shrine between Twilight and SharkBoy.)

    BUT --- I admire what she did, even though she apparently had no idea what was really happening to her at the time. I can't take her seriously as a writer, though, but she is a pop icon of some kind...not sure we have the correct term to describe what happened to her, because the Potter series is so well researched and well written, it's really not the same.

    Now, when I try and go back to read them, it's hard to clunk my way through. The story carried me through the first time, but now I get stuck on the writing. She breaks all of those rules all of us are trying to not break. LOLOL
    Not that her bank account reflects that!

  23. I apologize in advance, this will be a long comment. In fact, I may even reply via my own blog later.

    I worked at one of the largest book retailers in the U.S. during the Harry Potter craze. Harry Potter got lots of attention and when I read it, I understood why. It is a brilliant series. So when Twilight came out and it started getting Harry Potter treatment, I fully expected something as brilliant as Rowling. So part of the reason I despise the entire series is that it was so built up and I had such great expectations for it, that when I finally read the series I was horribly disappointed.

    Stephanie Meyer isn't brilliant. She simply utilized a plot the market was rife for. She had good timing. Not talent. I think that's what pisses writers off. Where's the brilliance? Rowling deserved the fanfare. Her books had brilliance. I think a lot of us wanted that brilliance, expected that brilliance, and then couldn't figure out what the hype was about once we'd read the awful series. It isn't a good story. I was BORED reading it. BORED. That's why I don't like her: she got a lot of money for a book that bored me.

  24. Aimee, Love your blog, but the vitriol about a fellow writer from your followers shocks me to the core. And to think I expressed my love of writers and their special gifts of time and expertise not long ago.

    We have different tastes in all things, books and life. To denigrate others for having a different opinion is truly sickening.

  25. Hi Huntress,

    Yes, I find it hard too. That's why I'm trying to get to the bottom of it. I keep hitting this - particularly around these particular books. I don't understand why anyone wants to denigrate (to use your word) another writer.

    It seems to me we're all in the same boat here. But, just like everything else, the opinions vary as widely as the people who hold them.

    Thanks for adding your thoughts!

  26. Opinions and starting dialogue is great. I LOVE debates. But too much anger comes through for no good reason.

    I don't understand why.

    I thought Harry Potter was okay but not sterling prose, didn't care for Interview With a Vampire at all, and loved A Painted House.

    We have differing opinions. On everything. No need to get so fired up because someone else likes what is hated by others.


  27. I've skimmed through all four. Read the first thoroughly.

    While I did say "It's pretentious, self-serving, ridiculous fare - just like the thoughts of those that read it." - I honestly don't think that's an insult. Lots of very smart people have very daft thoughts. I'd be surprised if they didn't.

    Even Hawking or Einstein likes a little stupidity now and then, and I adore the occasional films that allow me to moron out.

    But Twilight distills those into the ridiculous. Any intelligent thought in those books is slapped against the wall as not being intelligent enough for Bella. Who is intelligent you know. It says so.

    Even if you love these books, and I know a lot do, AND you're a person who could bench press cars with your grey matter; there's no deep and meaningful thoughts going on in Twilight.

    It's just fluff. That's not an insult to anyone reading it. Just a statement of fact.

    The Twilight saga is 3 books of foreplay, and then a payoff which is something out of a horror novel. That's why Breaking Dawn got returned in it's droves. It simply couldn't live up to the insanely built up premise.

    I can pick up Green Eggs and Ham and recognise that it's a series of rhyming couplets about an imaginary breakfast and with the basic focus of "Don't judge before you've tried it". I can also enjoy it as a way to laugh with children. My thoughts while reading it are going to be mono-syllabic though.

    But...there's a number of books I like that are daft, there's a lot of books I loathe that I've been told are classics - we're all different.

    What concerns me, and what raises my blood pressure is the reaction to them.

    Meyer herself has put herself forward as the voice of a generation one or two after her. Teens defend her as the greatest writer ever. Middle aged women dream of having a son or suitor like Edward.

    This is where it gets creepy. If we reverse the gender roles of Twilight, we get a story of the guy who gets the cheerleader in class - or who seduces the teacher. We get a story where each page details something attractive about the object of their desire. A love object that's as shallow as the protagonist.

    This story, which you might find in any Men's magazine, is inspiring a generation to follow in it's footsteps.

    Which say that a woman should moan about her life until she can find a perfect man, and then she should put up with any abuse he might put on her, because he says he loves her.

    How can that not make you angry?

  28. Thanks for coming back!

    Well, you've definitely got me thinking (as Jasmine / Fadedpaper did earlier). And after this discussion I'm now planning another blog post on the content of Twilight, because I think that's a little different issue. But just to answer your question:

    No, it doesn't make me angry. Mainly because I am intelligent enough to see it for what it is: A compelling fantasy, fiction that demonstrates in extremes what we would romantically like to think could really happen BUT that if those events occurred in real life would creep us out.

    Isn't this the point of this kind of fiction: to enjoy a story that is imaginary and emotionally compelling, rather than realistic?

    Please keep coming back. I'll do another post on the content in a few days. It would be good to get your perspective.

  29. I do enjoy a good book. The Dexter series, Charles Stross's Laundry series, Douglas Adams, Jennifer Government, Thursday Next...

    And none of those characters are particularly nice. Their worlds are well realised, and differ from our own. Even if I do shuffle around in a dressing gown from time to time, I'm no Arthur Dent, nor would I want to be.

    The strength with Ms Meyers work is that she's neatly managed to hold onto the viewpoint of the hormonally charged teenage girl - and in the style of the classics, left the love interest blank enough that he can fulfil every dream the reader has.

    She's even made the protagonist blank, so we can reader-insert with ease.

    The problem is she's also written it blankly. There's no detail to anything apart from when you look at it closely. It's a plastic dream world that only runs when Bella is there. Any side character that becomes interesting is pushed away because Bella is the protagonist.

    This means that Bella is a untrustworthy viewpoint, and we're riding around in the head of someone oblivious to the real world, and prone to tantrums.

    The infamous 4 blank chapters show this perfectly. In the vein of Bagpuss, when Bella misses Edward, the world misses Edward.

    I'm reminded of a episode from The Twilight Zone, (Interestingly enough) "It's a Good Life" where a little boy wields godlike powers that he uses to destroy anyone that upsets him.

    That's where the line between fantasy and reality falters, and where the book gets it's creepy strength from. Ms. Meyer doesn't seem to know what is real and what isn't. What she's writing, as C.L.Moyer said, is her fantasy blog. And we're just watching her erotic dreams.

  30. I found Twilight entertaining. it wasn't an outstanding book, but the story was good enough to keep me reading even though I'm not a YA fan. Yes, I agree with some of the creeper issues commonly mentioned, but overall, I was indifferent on the book. The second book IMO was horrible and I stopped reading.

    In terms of market effect, I am disturbed by the concept that Meyers invented vamp romance. So many people seem to think of her as a pioneer in paranormal. I recently saw a blog where an agent gave her credit for putting vamps in romance. Paranormal romance has been around for a very long time and been enjoying a surge in popularity since the 1990's. She didn't invent it any more than she invented YA. Meyers is not a pioneer, she's riding a wave.

    What she did do was spark an interest in teen readers. The YA market has exploded in recent years. She brought new life to the market. My teenage son, who doesn't read anything, read these books.

    I don't think a writer has to be technically good to entertain. Entertainment will sell far more books and kindle far more imagination than any literary techniques or properly placed commas.

    As for the writer-rage, I think there is resentment from those who aren't entertaining, don't have a storytelling gift, towards those who can weave an engrossing tale. Someone who has spent so long working on the technical aspect and making limited progress can be understandably irked when a new author lacking technical skill makes such a big splash.

    I'd rather be entertaining as a writer. Storytelling is the heart of writing. Without that I'm nothing.

  31. Ok, I didn't read all the above comments, so sorry if I'm repeating.

    I read all the Twilight series before getting series about my own writing and enjoyed them. If I read them again, I might see things differently, but I don't know. My favorite book though was The Host.

    I've read it several times and I can see the imperfections (especially the passive voice), but I don't care. Meyers has a gift for allowing the reader to feel the characters emotions, pulling them into the story. I never thought I was Wanda or Melanie, but they became my sisters.

    I hope I can make my writing solid enough to avoid the barbed comments Meyers has had to deal with, but when it comes down to it, I think the most important thing is for the readers to enjoy my world.

    I read a comment earlier on another blog that boiled down to over editing can leave your story flat. Here's to keeping our voices and emotional pull in spite of the rules!

  32. I'd like us all to remember the stories that pulled us in when were little. When we were teens. And now as adults. What drew you in to begin with? Was it the syntax? The periods being placed just so, or the phrases were poetic in nature. Well, all of that is okay, but for me, if a story is good...then its good.

    This is not to say that writing correctly and stellar should not be considered. On the contrary, studying writing and reading other writer's works can help to improve your own skills and offer new tools for you to use. I am 'old school' I just like a good story is all.

    Stephenie Meyer banked off of her connection with teen girls. I'm pretty sure the YA audience and others care more about how well she crafted her characters than 'the mechanics of her writing'.

  33. Aimee--the ranting was mostly about the stalking in the book and the message it sends to young girls, as Jasmine/Faded Paper pointed out. It really squicked me out to think that tween/teen girls, young married moms, and even soccer moms were so in love with characters who seem to be borderline-abusive of a young woman.

    After one of my rants on Facebook, a friend sent me a private message telling me how much he appreciated my sensibilities. His own adult daughter was a victim of an abusive boyfriend who had very similar MO to the male characters in "Twilight" (from what I have heard). The man was eventually arrested and convicted and is serving time, but it was clearly painful for him to talk about, and his daughter is still reeling.

    I realize YA work doesn't have to be stellar literature, and I realize fads come and go. But in an age where we hear every day that more and more young girls are being abused by boyfriends at the middle and high school levels, I think it's profoundly dangerous to glorify it as something loving and sexy.

    All that said... You're right. That is a different discussion, and one I would love to see you engage in. As far as the writing goes, I will just chalk it up to a woman who is honing her craft and had great timing. :)


  34. Wait--I misunderstood your question. Sorry, it's early and Monday and not enough coffee... :)

    The decision to stop ranting was because I made my point and it was clear that I would not change the minds of the true fans out there. Plenty of people already agreed with me, plenty of people didn't. I wasn't changing anyone's mind. :)

    Plus, I decided that whatever else the books were, they were still work, and as a fellow writer I can respect the time and effort put into the creation of characters and prose and story.

    I decided that if I am going to discuss another writer's work, I will stick to careful criticism and not ranting, and I will be careful about where and how it is posted.

    But I can give kudos to Meyers on one front... As far as I can tell, she has been extremely gracious about the vitriol heaped on her. She hasn't taken to ranting back. Good for her. I hope I'm that gracious when someone criticizes my work.


  35. I love Stephanies books and I've read them all with great pleasure, but I hate the movies (bad casting from the start and it's hard to make a movie from a first person novel)

    I think that people forget or don't notice a few important things about Stephanie's books. Is jealousy clouding their perception?

    1 - it's written for young teens - simple is good. It makes it easy to read which makes it accessable to many who might not usually read very much

    2- the themes in the Twilight series are valuable and important. The characters are what I call Noble - hey, we have a guy fighting his beastliness, doesn't that have something to say to everyone. We have a man/vampire who is so dedicated to his compassionate values that he has overcome his inherant blood lust. We could have a lot more people in the world dedicated in the same way and hell, we'd have a lot less wars. And we have a girl who thinks of her mum and dad before herself. And they are all real and believable. How many writers can do that?

    In the following books we have action that breaks down predjudices and unites former enemies. Another message for the world. Bad - hell no.

    Credit where credit's due.

    The enormity of people's support of these books inspires me because it shows that the world is ready for and inspired by these sort of things. That's good news. The shame is that some of those who should be able to evaluate these things ( ie other writers) are so fixated on technique that apparently they haven't even noticed.

    What is good writing - writing that creates an experience for readers. Stephanie does this - at least for those who aren't looking for faults.

  36. I'm in love with Harry Potter! I read the entire series in a span of two and a half months while researching and writing a research paper on the series as a whole. Once I finished DEATHLY HALLOWS, I definitely needed something else to read.

    A friend of mine suggested Twilight. I told her: "I don't do vampires and I don't do romance. Combine them, and that's literary suicide!" I tried several other "boy wizard" books, but none of them matched up and I feared the reading spike I'd gotten back post high school would disappear.

    Without Twilight, it would have. I raced through the first book, bought New Moon in PAPERBACK at Wal-Mart because I JUST HAD TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED NEXT!! I read the whole series that way. One book to the next, yearning to know what my new fave characters were up to.

    I'm all into Twilight. I'm Team Jacob, although I loved Edward in the books too and thought he and Bella were perfect together. I'm a big fan of Robert Pattinson as Edward, love Taylor Lautner, and ogle over Stephenie Meyer's interviews!

    If there's one thing I've learned, its that Twilight cannot be compared to anything else in the YA genre. Not because, like Harry Potter, it shattered the earth or anything in originality. No, its quite a simple story once boiled down. But for a first-time author, Twilight--the first book especially--is a fantastic debut.

    Instead of bashing what she's already done, we as writers should be looking toward her growth. What will Stephenie Meyer do next? And instead of spouting about what she did wrong, why not ask what she did right? The story is brilliant in the sense that it keeps you turning those pages, despite the sometimes wonky prose and the absolute irritation that is Bella Swan (worst YA character, OMG!).

    So I love Twilight. But I also realize that it isn't perfect. Very few books or series are. Let's not bash its popularity like a bunch of jealous schoolyard brats! Why not celebrate what its done for YA and how its opened this chasm for better writers like Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, and Suzanne Collins to fill.

    Without Stephenie Meyer, perhaps YA wouldn't be the monster-genre it has become. Besides, who wouldn't write a novel after waking up from Edward Cullen? I'd stumble over my prose too.


  37. I think the "Twilight" books are some of the most horribly written books ever. I don't consider Stephanie Meyer to be either a good writer or a good storyteller. I think it's a sacrilege that they were published. Now some teens are going to believe that this is "good" writing when it's not even "passable" writing. If we want children and teens to grow up to appreciate good literature and great writing, then they have to read good literature and great writing. Meyer isn't even "passable" technically.

    I think she was simply in the right place at the right time, with the right thing. Good timing and good marketing. People have to understand that book publishing is a "for profit" business. They knew that in the wake of Harry Potter, the books would sell. But good marketing doesn't make Meyer a good writer or anyone who should be listened to regarding writing advice. She clearly hasn't learned her craft. She's a literary scam artist.

    Some people are great storytellers, but they aren't such good prose stylists. A person doesn't have to be an excellent prose stylist, but there's no excuse for not learning one's craft. None at all. I'm not going to cut Meyer any slack. Am I jealous? No. I would be ashamed to have my name on the "Twilight" books. What I am is appalled.

  38. I've read all the books (including The Host) and I thoroughly enjoyed them. I must admit that I read them before I began writing seriously, like some others have noted.

    I cannot understand all the hoopla and biting words towards her and her books. I believe there is jealously mixed in with a little 'I wish I had thought of that first.' I am happy for her success. It gives us writers out there in the slush pile a sense of hope if nothing more. No, her books may not be the best technically written but it is art. Art is subjective. But to post derogotory comments about another author is IMO a shame. Until, you have your work published and rung through the eyes of critiquers - and everyone is, you should reserve your of all people - a writer - knows the personal struggles and the harshness of rejection. Shame on you.

    The books were intended for young adult girls not middle aged scholars...know your audience right! She targeted her audience and captured them. Any of us would have been thrilled to be in her shoes. I say kodos to her for it. No, I do not like all the characters or their choices in the book but it was very entertainining to me.

    Oh, and I must say that I don't think she was being preachy by not having her characters have sex. I think it was bold and was a display of character on her part. Your beliefs don't have to be compromised to write great fiction. I applaud her choice in that. And, I should point out to someone (can't remember who said it) that it was Edward's idea not to have sex and not Bella's but I wouldn't call Bella a harlot.

  39. McDonald's has sold tens of billions of hamburgers, but all those sales don't make them a gourmet meal or even a gourmet hamburger. It's the same with Meyer's writing. It's not art. Sure, art has a subjective component, but it also has objective components and Meyer didn't meet those.

    I belong to the group "any of us" and I would NOT have wanted to be in Meyer's shoes. Oh, the money is nice, but one has to be able to hold one's head up about how he or she made that money, not that Meyer did anything illegal. Had I written the "Twilight" books, I'd be ashamed, not proud. Now, if we were talking about Hilary Mantel, it would be a different story, though I'm not jealous of Mantel's much deserved success. I'm not a jealous person, though I would love to write with Mantel's skill and vigor.

    Meyer didn't write the books until after I was a professional editor and a serious writer of highly literary novels that most people liked and some did not. I've been there. I spent years learning the art and craft of writing. I feel free to criticize Meyer's work, but not her personally. I don't know her personally.

    I have no objections to people reading her books once they were published. I'm not a control freak and people are entitled to read what they want. What I object to is her work being held out as "art" or good writing. It's appallingly bad writing and people who want to write should be able to see that.

    I have to return to the McDonald's analogy: On occasion, I've had a McDonald's fish sandwich. It's an appallingly bad sandwich, yet there have been times when I actually enjoyed one. There's nothing wrong with enjoying the "Twilight" books as a light read or a change of pace, but it's appalling to hear someone say he or she thinks they even come close to "good" writing.

  40. Gabrielle,

    I think your burger analogy is a great one. I don't know that anyone is trying to defend Stephenie's technical writing skill. (I'm not). But perhaps the junk-food analogy says it all: Just because it isn't good for us, doesn't mean we can't enjoy it. Even appreciate what that purveyor has achieved.

    Are we creeping into the literary vs. commercial fiction debate?

    The truth is, readers aren't all writers. They don't all appreciate the skill and craft it takes to weave a technically excellent book. They just read what captures their imagination.

    Is it valid to tell an author they should be 'ashamed' to put out a piece of work that is compelling to so many? Surely there must be some merit in it?

    That's my question.

  41. To return to the burger analogy; do I think a burger flipper should be ashamed of working in MacDonalds? No.

    Do I think Gordon Ramsey should be ashamed flipping burgers? Yes.

    Can you still make a god-awful burger, and it be enjoyed by those who are hungry? Sure.

    But I really don't think it should be held up as cuisine.

    With sentences like
    "I scowled at him and he scowled back."
    or the repeated use of Edward's tight face and sinuous body,
    or that every page has a line praising him.

    The content is blathering. She deliberately hides information that Bella knows away from the reader.

    That's the author teasing the reader. The mouth-watering quarter pounder is just a soggy meat patty now.

    Vicki Petersson, Lauryl K Hamilton and Rachel Caine can all write similar stories with far greater technical expertise, better punctuation/word choice, deeper characters and coherent worlds.

    Meyer spits on her burgers, burns them and then show you a picture of a steak.

  42. I do not consider the Stephanie Meyer books well written - Certainly not to be compared with Harry Potter.
    I do consider them to be cocaine. I read them all three times. I don't care about Vampires or Werewolves. but true love forever?....Ah... Well that is cocaine and that is why you will find such a broad spectrum of readers.
    I applaud her accomplishment. I bet she made a lot of non readers into readers. Hilde Garcia just did a great post on how she made her kids readers.

  43. To my observation the fans (and fanatics) of Ms. Meyers' series are teens, and non-writing adults who may/may not be the parents of these teens.

    Among my fellow authors who I speak to on a daily basis--online and IRL--the books are poorly written, Mary Sue stories with weak character development. Writers that I know who write about vampires LOATHE what Meyers has done to the vampire genre.

    I have non-writing friends who love it, and could care less that the prose is good. Frustrated housewives who long for their own "Edward" and picture themselves as a grown-up "Bella" and read them in a state of daydreamy wishful thinking. But they'd dare not wonder into too the "more adult" paranormal romance like Zoe least not yet. ;)
    They like to keep their fantasies "PG."

    And, some mothers like sharing books with their teens. My Mom got into a lot of SE Hinton's books because it was what me and my sister were into for a time (before we graduated to Stephen King and Anne Rice.)

    I don't begrudge them that. There are some romance novels that completely stink, and some that are awesome. But, even the bad ones have an each his own.
    Stuff like that falls under it being "all subjective."

    Educated authors--Mr. King himself being among them--frown on Twilight Saga. And, Educated authors have a right to their own opinion.
    Mr. King has stated his opinion of Twilight & Ms. Meyers' writing many times. To call him "Jealous" would be laughable. The man even made eating the wrong brand of cereal sound scary...
    Not to mention I never walk past the fire extinguisher at my "night job" without jumping.

    But every book has an audience, as I said. Ms. Meyers' audience just doesn't happen to include most writers.

    Twilight is what I call "bubblegum fiction." Saying Ms. Meyers is a great writer is like saying Britney Spears is a good singer.

    With the right amount of sparkle and flash, and a mega-million-dollar marketing campaign...
    Well, success can happen.

    Good for Stephanie Meyers, but don't look for me to be singing her praises.

    To each their own.

  44. I have to go along with the folks who mention wanting kids to read good literature. I don't mean Charles Dickens or Wuthering Heights. I'm fine with Harry Potter.

    But I want my kids and grandkids (and all kids) exposed to books that are well-written, carefully edited, and portray kids in positive ways. I have yet to read Twilight (although I do own it) only because I read books for a living (as an editor and publisher) and seldom have the energy to read anything after a long day at my computer. But, as a publisher, I am always appalled when bad writing gets through the process.

    I'm even more appalled when it's bad writing marketed to kids. This country is already struggling with literacy. Let's not make it worse. If we get a book with a great story but lousy writing, we send it back to the writer with a note asking them to seek professional editing and resubmit. If they choose not to, we assume they must not be serious about their writing. So it goes.

    My own first book is coming out soon and it has been vetted first through a writer's group, then through numerous betas, and now is getting more editing from real editors (other than myself). Even those of us who do this for a living need input from other people.

    I haven't read Twilight, but I have read Amanda Hocking, and frankly, I would not let my granddaughter read these because they are so poorly written and edited, and the stories are thin, with endings designed solely to make you buy the next book. To me, that is a rip off. Every book should stand on its own, even if it is a series.

    Anyone serious about writing knows that we learn to write from reading. I don't want kids reading garbage.

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  46. I enjoyed the books immensely. I think Stephenie Meyer is a great storyteller. I don’t have a favorite author. I don’t think anyone is the best and, although I appreciate Stephen King’s opinion, it’s just that to me and it’s not superlative.

    Thank you, Aimee, for starting and mediating this interesting debate on your blog. I also have a huge problem with critics of these books and the author who haven't read them. Or, those who have only read the first book but "skimmed" the others. However, I don’t begrudge them the right to do so; I just don’t take their opinion very seriously.

    As an avid reader and writer, I don’t look to fiction for technical writing. I look to instructional manuals, textbooks and works of non-fiction for technical writing. Although I’m still learning my craft, I don’t edit other people’s work while I’m reading. If I catch myself doing it, I make a conscious effort to stop. I have to get out of work mode in order to relax and enjoy the way an author spins a yarn. I don’t care if the commas were all placed just so, or if he or she used a semi-colon correctly.

    I can think of two highly respected authors that have written award winning novels that were full of bad grammar and non-technical writing: Toni Morrison and Zora Neal Hurston. Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God was written in the dialect of black Floridians. The writing was so particular to the region that I, as a black American, had a hard time understanding it. Her characters, especially the main female protagonist, were deeply flawed human beings. Yet, the dialogue seemed authentic, I was emotionally affected by the story and empathized with all of the characters. Morrison’s writing in Beloved was all over the place. One page would be full of eloquent prose; the next would be full of choppy, double-spaced and obscure verse. The points of view changed throughout the story. All in all, it was a difficult read. However, Toni Morrison is a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author. She managed to write one of the most definitive and celebrated fictional works on the psychological and emotional devastation of slavery, particularly on women, of all times, even with her choppy verse and odd story-telling. Now, I’m sure Toni Morrison can knock out a killer technical article on writing in an academic journal. In fact, I’m sure she has; she was an English professor.

    When I read the comment by the person that said she’s going around the country doing lectures on the dangers of the “Bella” character in the Twilight Saga, my jaw dropped. I think it’s admirable when anyone stands up for what he or she believes in. Nevertheless, I think time would be better spent being an example/modeling the type of behavior that young girls should follow and not expecting a fictional character to be that model of behavior. I would hope that parents are exposing their children to all types of thoughts and ideas through reading, even objectionable books while helping them establish a moral compass. This training and guidance will facilitate them being able to say, “That was an interesting story. Next!”

    In my opinion, while you’re on the Twilight Saga tour, make sure you warn the kids about Holden Caulfied’s profanity and behavior in Catcher in the Rye. Also make sure you’re warning them about the wayward, “anti-white” and “obscene” characters in To Kill a Mockingbird (other people’s descriptions, not mine). This smacks of censorship to me. I know this person is not burning books but that’s the feeling I get about the tone of the lectures based on what she wrote. I could be wrong.

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