Let me say this first: I don’t particularly like fan fiction. I appreciate that it can be a terrific way for up-and-coming authors to develop their storytelling chops without dealing with the in-depth processes of characterization or worldbuilding; however, the writing is often lazy and uninspired, relying on tropes, clichés, and an nascent use of adjectives to “enhance” the prose.
Stephenie Meyer has made a career out of lazy prose. Her writing, while decent (at best) on the narrative side, lacks any other element that should have helped her rise out of the quagmire that so often is young adult fiction. Instead of using fanfic-inspired conventions and mechanics to springboard into a real writing career, Stephenie Meyer embraces the hackneyed elements instead of ever moving past them.
Stephen King said it best in his interview with USA Weekend in February:
Both Rowling and Meyer, they’re speaking directly to young people. [. . .] The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.”
And whether or not you agree with him, you have to admit that if there’s one thing Stephen King knows, it’s how to write a story. Not everyone may like or appreciate it, but the man knows how to put words on the page. So him calling out Meyer’s prose itself (not saying a thing about her story or anything else) speaks volumes.
Mary Sue…Bella Who?
My wife recently told me about a fanfic staple called a “Mary Sue,” which is where the insecure author projects everything he/she wants to be into a single, perfect protagonist. *cough* Bella Swan.
But wait! Bella is far from perfect! She is clumsy, which puts her in danger every time she walks out of the house. And she’s pale! Even though she’s from Arizona. O M G.
Seriously, Meyer, those aren’t character flaws. They’re traits, and they’re not even negative ones. She’s pale and she’s clumsy; she doesn’t have two heads and chronic scabies. Now those are character flaws.
Even though she is stricken by these very terrible maladies, everyone still fawns over her when she moves to Forks. So guess what? Even though Bella’s insecure, first person narrative tells us how much she loathes herself, I don’t buy it. She’s too normal for those “flaws” to be debilitating, putting her right in the shoes of a Mary Sue, which most adequate and/or talented writers would have been able to characterize past.
Sounds Like Failure.
And then there’s Meyer’s playlists. If nothing else that screams that Meyer’s works are glorified fanfiction, these do. For some reason, this really bugs me. It just screams amateur to me, and more than that, it shows a glaring lack of substance in her prose.
In a movie, I understand and appreciate the need for a musical score. It sets the tone and the mood because the half of the movie-going experience is auditory. In a novel, however, using an external medium to set the tone and atmosphere is a cop out, plain and simple. It shows a lack of talent in the writer that she cannot utilize language effectively enough to get her point across. If she wants it to be an upbeat and exciting scene, why should I have to listen to Linkin Park, Muse, Evanescence, and Matchbox 20 (I’m serious) to have that atmosphere conveyed? Should the actual words on the page not do that?
Which gets me back to the fanfic elements of Twilight. I can accept this kind of writing flaw in fan fiction authors. They are amateurs who are honing their skills. A playlist to set the mood is just the kind of thing a newbie would be expected to utilize and eventually work past.
Unfortunately, Stephenie Meyer was picked up by a major publishing house and still retains (and flaunts) this holdover from her pre-professional days. All 6 of her books (including The Host and the supposedly leaked Midnight Sun) have playlists cited on her official site. Instead of learning to write well and eventually write without training wheels, she panders to the unwashed masses and puts out this mess.
We Get It Already!
Meyer has. Obviously.
And because the internet is full of commentary on her love of synonyms, I’ll keep my comments short and to the point: we get that he’s pretty. She never shows us that he’s pretty by using strong writing; she tells us by making use of as many synonyms as possible. She thinks it makes her writing more interesting, when in fact it is weak. “Show, don’t tell” might be the first rule of writing I was told to watch for—in order to avoid it. I’m honestly astounded that her publishers let her get away with this.
What what astounds me most is that the public willingly accepts such drivel as an example of quality writing.
The Twilight Saga. A saga? Really?
What is the best way a limited writer can make a lackluster story seem more important than it really is? Not to be so mundane as to call it a series. Call it a saga, a word that is defined as being a lengthy story including heroic events and legendary characters.
Does that sound like Twilight? No, it does not to me, either. The only two modern franchises in my mind worthy of the title “saga” are Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. The difference? SW and LotR are genre creating monoliths, while Twilight is a fly-by-night franchise about sparkling vampires.
Seriously, call it a series. Call it what it is. I get irritated when I see books called “the Chronicles of So-and-So” or even “The Blahblahblah Cycle.” Stop with the pretentious synonyms (wait, is that a pattern I see, Meyer?) and just call it what it is. A series. Don’t get cute. Don’t get pompous. And stop trying to sound literary. We all know you’re not.
As it stands, though, Meyer’s success strikes me not as a rags-to-riches writer who made it, but an insult to all of those legitimate writers honing their craft through fanfic. They try to get better at what they do and aspire to better. Meyer stagnates in mediocrity and profits from it.