Stephenie Meyer’s Writing is an Insult to Fanfic

Twilight 4Let 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.

Enter Twilight.

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 Twilight EWscabies. 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!

Speaking of hurting to read, have you ever tried to sit down and read a Twilight Cubereference book?  An encyclopedia, maybe?  A dictionary?  Or a…thesaurus? *dun dun duuuunnnnnn*

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.

Melodrama Alert!

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.

Comments

  1. Longasc

    We could do an analysis who actually reads Twilight and likes it – and for what reasons. King nailed it, to have a major success you must appeal to a large audience and exactly hit the nerve. If you do this, all other qualities of a writer – quite frustratingly IMO – seem to become secondary if not totally unimportant.

    P.S.: I do not like how King’s Dark Tower turned out in the end, I did not like Susannah or DT. But even if he did not manage to entice me, I could never say that he is a bad writer. I think this is why Twilight’s amazing success is so insulting to many readers and writers. I wonder if Mrs Meyer wonders how she could be so successful and if she reflects about the reasons for it.

  2. Meyer’s idea of a “perfect Mormon wife” is nonsense. This, coming from a Mormon. Meyer is just all sorts of messed up, it’s not the church’s doctrine. (And yes, it is funny to me that people conflate the two; Meyer’s incompetence and the church. That’s just as much of a failure of logic as any of the book’s famous gaffes.)
    .-= Tesh´s last blog ..Torchlight, Torchbright =-.

    • I agree. I’m LDS, too, and what Meyer does to attempt to invoke Church doctrine borders on absurd. I know there are lots of stereotypes about us Mormons, and Meyer does nothing to quell the negativity. What people see as being “the perfect Mormon wife” in Twilight is a stereotype perpetuated by someone who obviously misunderstands what that means (Meyer, in this case).

      • To be honest, I didn’t know that Meyers is LDS until this conversation. It does explain why some of my LDS neighbors seem to have been hooked by the series. (Ditto with Anita Stansfield’s books… urgle.)

        I still say it’s remarkably bad judgment. A shared religion isn’t something that automatically makes something either palatable or *right*. (Just like “other” religions aren’t automatically wrong in everything. That’s simply not honest or true.)

        I think I’m allergic to bad judgment.
        .-= Tesh´s last blog ..Torchlight, Torchbright =-.

  3. I love that Stephen King quote 🙂 The guy is awesome!

    And yeah, I can understand why people get annoyed that someone who isn’t actually very good gets all of the fame and glory. Of course it does also sound like a little bit of jealousy too 🙂

    Unfortunately for most of us we don’t live in a world where rewards are handed out purely based on talent.

    If anything though, you gotta admire the hype and marketing machines that drive the franchise.
    .-= We Fly Spitfires´s last blog ..New Zombie MMOZ (And How I Predicted The Future) =-.

    • That’s the truth, Gordon. It makes me a little sick to think that people who have legitimate talent are given the empire that Meyer has been handed, but such is life.

      And it is hype and marketing machines that run the franchise now. It’s like my wife says: that’s why they’re pushing the movies out so quickly now. So they can get all the money they can before people realize just how worthless Twilight is and forget about it. It’s not “lasting” literature. It’s a fad. Look at how the companies are doing Harry Potter films in contrast. They are rare, but the quality is higher and will eventually lend themselves to becoming a part of a literary canon. They CAN come out slowly because people will still care about it whenever they are released.

  4. @Tesh I realized the glibness in my statement after I wrote it (shout out, Tom Cruise!). You’re right…her incompetence isn’t necessarily reflective of an entire doctrine. I should have explained that I’m a bitter ex-Baptist so religion of any kind still gets me riled up. So when I said “perfect Mormon wife”, I was channeling my own anger toward my upbringing to be the perfect religious “help-meet”. Sorry to offend.
    .-= The Naked Redhead´s last blog ..Bringing Up Baby: Fashion Edition =-.

    • *chuckle*
      I’m probably oversensitive, too. No offense taken, I just like to clarify and make sure people look at precisely what is broken. 🙂

      If anything, I’m more bothered by Meyer’s incompetence; it does indeed put a bad example out there, and way too many people use it as an excuse to dismiss the church. Sort of like how easy it is to watch Rev. Jeremiah Wright and figure that all black preachers are scum, or Congressman John Murtha and conclude that politicians are all corrupt megalomaniacal psychopaths. It’s patently false to argue backwards like that… but all too easy, especially if there’s an axe to grind. (Disclosure: I have nothing against black people or preachers in general, but I do generally distrust politicians…)

      It goes the other way, too; I know Mormons who look at Meyer’s books as “one for the team”, or “we’re hitting it big time, so it’s gotta be good” instead of really looking at the books on their own merit… and tossing them for the trash they are.

      Funny how we can be blind to details and logic when we’re emotional about something, for good or for evil. (Believe me, I’ve known my share of bitter ex-religious folk. I was in Alabama for my LDS mission…)
      .-= Tesh´s last blog ..Torchlight, Torchbright =-.

  5. Ecellent post. Stephenie Meyer can’t write. Simple as that. She has no talent, she has no knowledge, she has no ambition to make her writing better. I mean, why would she work on her writing style? She already made millions with this this “glorified fanfiction”.

    And wait a minute… She has playlists????

  6. Well I can’t believe I am actually going to defend twilight but I think you all are missing several keys to this whole thing.

    Saying Stephenie Meyer is a poor author because she does not write like what YOU define as a talented author is asinine.

    Stephenie Meyer did NOT set out to write the great literary piece of her time, she set out to create a viral, buzz inducing tween story. And despite what you can say about the quality of her writing, she succeeded in every way imaginable. No, Stephenie may not be a master of prose but she clearly has a brilliant eye for business and how generate desire. For example:

    She created a chief protagonist that really is a chameleon. Bella was NOT designed to be some deep character. She was designed to be a blank canvas for the imagination of the reader. Essentially, Meyer wanted to created a character that would allow ANY tween girl to visualize HERSELF as Bella. And it worked.

    The music thing, while unorthodox. is also brilliant. What it does is it creates an emotional and psychological bridge between her brand (twilight) and popular songs. Thus when the music in question is played, (on an ipod or the radio) the listener’s mind jumps to Twilight. Simply put, the music compels the obsession, it makes the readers think about Twilight as much as possible. Which in turn makes them more likely to invest further into the Twilight Marketing Machine.

    So, in conclusion, is Meyer a great author? No. Is she worthy of her success? Most Definitely. She is very talented at what she set out to do. And no, Twilight won’t go down in literary history, it will, however, bring her a lot of fame and success.
    .-= Ryan´s last blog ..Podcast 8: Nine Mistakes to Avoid in Your Music Career =-.

    • cat

      How something is defined is not based on ones individual opinion but actual solid measurements the last time I check, so why do people defending Twilight always seem to bring up how “they” define a talented writer or how “they” define good writing. You can’t redefine what a good writer or good writing is simply because you’re not happy that Twilight doesn’t hit it.

      Well written characters don’t need to be deep characters, but they certainly shouldn’t be blank slates either. How some of these tweens relate to Bella is also disturbing. As for the music thing, the issue isn’t that it is unorthodox. There are times that a writer has done a lot of research into the music of a particular generation and the kinds of fads they are into. This isn’t what Meyer did, she used her own play list. So there is nothing brilliant about her use of music. And why would anyone want to compel an obsession?

      And then you admit at the end that she isn’t a great author. If she isn’t a great author then she can’t be a talented writer can she.

  7. redconvoy

    I stumbled upon this site and saw this because I wanted to know whether or not this woman has written fanfiction before. I write fanfiction that parodies stuff that she and other writers write. Her movies are bad and I could not get past the first page. I am so glad that someone thought that Bella was a Mary Sue like I did. I wanted to throw stuff at the screen. Me and a few other writers could write a better well rounded story than her. The difference is, the teens that eat this up don’t know how a story is supposed to be written and therefore, they start mimicking her style and other people think their stories are great!

  8. Katie

    I think the reason she is quite successful is because it’s an easy read. You don’t have to think when reading, it hasn’t got secret references in the books (like JKR’s Harry Potter eg a locket mentioned in passing in a single sentence in book 4 or something turned out to be a very important object at the end of the series). I personally don’t hate this series because it is a good plot (in my opinion) it just isn’t written well. I think it appeals successfully to young adults, such as myself, because of this fact (that its an easy read) and to be honest, the general teenager population is getting lazy at reading and this is the ‘quick fix’ solution.

  9. katherine elizabeth

    Man, i know this thread is old- but… it’s sad to whine about Meyers not being good… it’s apples nad oranges in the end- everything is subjective and relative, and people are fundamentally different; I could go on about Babel Syndrome here, but I won’t. Lolz… people think my fanfiction is awesome – when they can understand the vaguely heady references I stick into it at every opportunity- and tell me I should go professional with my stuff, original writing or whatever, although sometimes I can never really tell if they really think that or if they are just being nice, especially about my current magnum opus, ‘The Return Heptalogy’ on f f n. -I- think it’s full of holes… but hey.

    Some days you’re the dog, and… some days you’re the TARDIS.

    -almost shameless rec-. sorry, but… well… why not? we ARE talking about fanfiction being good or bad, are we not? And I happen to BE a fanfiction author… 😉

  10. The traveller

    The first book wasn’t half bad, really. Things started deteriorating fast in the second book, ‘New Moon’. That book was a load of crap, basically. I seriously do not understand why people like Bella pining after that stupid vampire so much.

    After reading that sad excuse for unrequited romance, I decided that the grandiosely named Twilight Saga was not worth my time. As the author of the blog so aptly put it, there is no improvement in the writing as the series progresses.

    A headache inducing series of books that has me taking an aspirin every hour for the day I tried to read it.