Tuesday, February 18, 2014

In Defense of Twilight

Colossus/Morgue File

This might hurt my career before it gets off the ground, but I’m gonna do it anyway. I don’t write YA (Young Adult), I don’t read it much either, but I like Twilight.

Anyone left? No one has to know. It’s just you and me now.

I’ve heard many of the arguments about why Twilight is bad. I’m not arguing any of the writing semantics. I’m talking about story at this moment – which is at the heart and soul of what we do. I adore literary. I read everything. I adore Austen and Dickens, and D. H. Lawrence, Sinclair Lewis, and Thomas Hardy amaze me.

Sometimes, though, I just want a story. Escape. A tale. Take me away. That can come in the form of Upton Sinclair or that can come in a far simpler format.

There are a lot of books, but they don’t all have that certain something. That je ne sais quoi. I am going to put this claim forth and stand by it: Twilight has je ne sais quoi.

Not that literary books don’t, obviously they do and then some. I’m not saying that Twilight is what I call a living book, meaning a book that takes root in you and becomes part of who you are. I was a Union soldier in the Civil War thanks to Stephen Crane. I will never get over the puppy on the battlefield – ever. Quo Vadis and Henryk Sienkiewicz wrecked me and everything I believed in when Nero ruled Rome.  

My point being only that books don’t have to be literary to transport you, they simply have to do that transportation thing.

That is why I like Twilight – it has that THING. That is surely why it received the response it did. Stephenie Myer translated the gist of her dream onto the page and voila! For a good many readers it worked!

For me the best part of any story is the characters. So while Thomas Hardy’s writing is a masterpiece of art, and I am reverently awed by it I was never once pulled into his story so strongly that I WAS Tess.  

I’m NOT saying that Twilight was better than Tess. You’re completely off track if you hear that. I’m talking about being sucked into a character – or a scene – or a moment in a book when reality truly ceases to be and you are THERE. And you like it.

If you can bring a character to life you’ve got me. Harry Potter owned me. It was pure story. I cried at the end of Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy – because I thought it was brilliant. But I didn’t want to be a single person in Pagford. That story had a whole different magic, and I didn’t see it until I got to the end and realized that I was staring into a mirror. Now that is magic. As a writer I was awed, and I pictured Rowling inside a gymnasium with thousands of little index cards surrounding her as she kept track of all her characters. (If she wrote that sitting in a café, please don’t tell me. The focus needed to write like that is just Olympian.)

Reading a sparkly vampire book was so not on my radar. Twilight was never on my reading list. The summer it was popular I took some girls camping. We were out in the middle of the woods in a camper, just me and dozens of teenage girls (or maybe it was two, it sounded like dozens). I woke up one night to a whispered conversation:

          “But if you really loved him I mean REALLY loved him, would you let him drink your blood?”

The conversation went downhill from there. There was one aspect of blood and dating a vampire that Twilight wisely steered clear of. Suffice to say that the teenage girl readers did not. I laid there in the dark pretending like I was not hearing this. Then I read the book. And I liked it, a lot. The first book takes you there – to Forks – yes, to sparkly vamp-land, but isn’t that where you want to go in fiction? Away? Especially if you enjoy your time there?

So have at it readers. I’m putting myself out there and admitting it. Keep in mind too, that I eat organic spinach smoothies every day for lunch accompanied by a couple squares of dark chocolate – and that salad and ice-cream is my favorite meal. This is the way I roll. How about you? Did you like Twilight? Why or why not? And what books have you enjoyed that might not have made the Top 100 Novels Everyone Must Read list? 


  1. Passivity.

    That sums up my issues with Twilight in a nutshell. I don’t see why a protagonist, female or otherwise—though it seems to be overly abundant with female protagonists—needs to sit and wait for someone to save them. I just grow tired of screaming, “Get up! Fight back! Do something!”

  2. I have plenty of problems with Twilight...but I think it's biggest problem is the movie franchise. I read Twilight. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it. The book (first one especially) moved me along and I kept turning pages.

    Isn't that all you can ask for in a book? You can argue writing style and semantics and all that jazz and I will be right with you on plot holes and character's stupidity...but the book got me through.

    The movies ruined it, I think, even for many of the fans. Putting it in images, having the words said out loud, and seeing it made it all ridiculous.
    It sounded kinda funky cool to think Edward's skin shone like diamonds...but to see him glitter on the big screen?
    Suddenly we're laughing and talking about unicorns and rainbows.

    I will not hold your enjoyment of the books against you (since you do not call them literary genius), but I will not say it was a great series. The first one worked, but they went downhill from there. Less interesting and more bizarre (and concerning) as time went on.

    No, I would not let someone drink my blood no matter how much I loved them. I have a thing about my blood being mine.

    I think my problem might be that I grew up with Buffy, and I'm used to a girl who can kick a** and take name - no vampire can stop her.

  3. I think I agree with everything you said. Is Twilight deep and life changing? Uh not really. Do you manage to fall in love with the characters and their world and want to hide there?-- be a part of it?-- watch it unfold?-- wait for the inevitable ending? Yes.

    For me, Bella wasn't the best character role model... she's a bit to "save me" for my tastes. Then again, how is she different from any fairytale princess who waited to be saved? It's kind of a thing with those tales, right?

    Jacob though. HE was the heart of the story, at least for me. I rooted for him, cheered for him, cried for him... and related to him as much as a grown woman could.

    I've always been one to root for the underdog. (Ha! Dog? Pun intended?)

    While Twilight was not an earth-shattering, literary masterpiece of epic proportions... it was a twisted sort of fairy tale that had me reading cover to cover.

    I finished the entire series in just under 48 hours. I didn't eat. I didn't sleep. I just read.

    It takes a lot to get me to forget food. So, whatever "it" has, it has something for sure.

    I lost myself in that place, in those people, in that story.

    And let's be honest, she's laughing all the way to the bank and back... so who cares about the critics. She touched people with her characters. She got young girls (and old ones) to open a book.

    In a world of social media, instant gratification, and twerking... she got young girls to open a book to read a pretty tame and innocent first-love story.

    There's some kind of magic in that. Don't you think?

  4. Interesting thoughts, Stephanie. I went in sort of reverse "mode." I saw almost all the movies all at once on DVD right before Breaking Dawn released. I guess I liked the movies but never read the books...until BD part I ended with "to be cont" for part II. I proceeded to read last half of book to satiate my curiosity. It took me a lot to get thru it. I thought the movie was a tad better overall (especially the "twist" finale scene). All I can say is, it's something for all of us who want to write...to learn from and understand.

  5. I so love this post. I don't necessarily love Twilight, but yes, I was pulled into the character as I read it. I do remember kind of rereading the first book.

    I agree with Kelsey. The problem with Twilight is the movies (although Bella really gets under my nerves, and Edward is creepster.)

    However, understanding the gist of your post, I love this post so much.

  6. <3 the comments!

    Can't argue the passivity, JKWalker. "Carry me" lol. I was still there though, I admit it, reading away.

    I've taken a vow though - for what it is worth - no heroine of mine will ever FALL while being chased by the monster. So there's that. :)

  7. Kelsey - Since I don't watch TV (but I do watch movies!) I've never seen Buffy. Really.

    I know.

    But I had to give up something to spend hours a day writing. That was an easy one.

    Sometimes I think that books written in first person - you know when you're (the reader) inside the head of the MC (Main Character) don't convey well to the screen.

    The character of Bella thought all sorts of things impossible to convey easily.

    But as you said, we kept on turning pages. That is the writer's goal. Especially if we can keep them turning pages instead of sleeping - or at work - that is my goal. ;)

  8. DMKilgore - I completely agree with your take, right down to rooting for the underdog.

    I would go for the hot werewolf (so wanted to say hot dog, but thought better of it for obvious reasons) myself. Why? I hate being cold.

    How did I get here? I did not mean to go here! Hah! You know, Team Edward, Team Jacob? Now I have to go read some Wharton or something, LOL

  9. Kenzelfire - I thought that the battle scene in the last movie was excellent.

    Was I the only one sitting there thinking "THEY CHANGED THE ENDING?!"

    Score. They did a terrific job on that scene imho.

  10. Katie

    <3 Thank you!

    I've been wanting to write this. Every time I see Twilight bashed somewhere I've wanted to argue.


  11. A lot of people don't like Twilight because they feel that Edward Cullen is an abusive, manipulative boyfriend and Bella is a self insert Mary Sue. Both are totally true. But...I still like Twilight. The first book and the first movie anyway - I don't care for the rest. I give Edward's smug creepiness a pass because he's a super-intense vampire, so meh (Christian Grey, a non-vampire, is indefensible). Bella works because she is a blank canvas upon which we can place anyone, including ourselves. Her Mary Sueness is very noticeable, the lack of plot is very noticeable. The writing is cringeworthy at times. But, it did suck me in and I have to say I liked being in the world of Forks.

  12. OK...I think the true deep reason for the thrashing of Twilight, even by some well known authors..is that the characters are good, decent people. It's easy to write evil characters. Humans can be evil. To write about characters that have such a doom as being Vampires but still strive to be good people..takes a good person. The Twilight story is about being better people, no matter what curse has fallen on us. The noble quality of the characters is behind the laughing and ridicule. Most authors are simply not noble enough to even imagine writing noble characters. As to the writing itself, perhaps there are challenges, however Stephanie Meyer can always make new editions with updated editing. Great authors like Tolkien and Whitman made revison after revison, so why not?

  13. Thanks for commenting I Am Raul! And you bring up a very good point, they were good people, and that is a refreshing read, isn't it?

    I didn't know Tolkien made a bunch of revisions! :)