June 29, 2010 – My Opinions on Twilight (Part 1)

SPOILER ALERT!  MULTIPLE ONES!

So, with eyes blistered with tiredness and sleep deprivation (I have been using eye drops like they were going out of style the last few days), I finally finished the last book of the Twilight saga yesterday. 

First off, it’s obvious by the way I consumed the books that they are good books.  I mean, if they had sucked (no pun intended), I wouldn’t have made it all the way through the series.  If they were only “okay,” I wouldn’t have gone through them that fast.  So, there is no denying that there is something compelling about them.  And that, as a writer, I can find things to take away from them.  I can also see some problems—some of which I have to be careful of repeating.

I wonder if Meyer’s ideas about vampires and shape-shifters—their abilities, organization, history, etc.—were fully formed when she began the first book?  I ask because a lot of that information didn’t come out until the third and fourth books, but most of it needed to be in the first book, or book two, at the latest.  There were questions that I didn’t have answers to in the first and second book that frustrated me. 

This problem also lead to something of a imbalance in the series.  It is my understanding that publishing companies don’t like first books to be too long.  They are cautious; they don’t want to overwhelm a new reader.  Movie franchises often work like that as well, with the first movie in a series typically shorter than following ones.  Once everyone is sure they have a loyal audience, then they can ratchet up the number of pages or minutes shown.  They also know that the more loyal the audience, the more information they want anyways.  True fans can’t get enough.

So, I can understand that the publisher or someone else may have given Meyer grief about having the first book too long, and so she withheld the more intricate details until later.  But the fourth book?  Way too late.  Not only would the earlier books have been less confusing if the information had been given earlier, but the fourth book was dreadfully long and somewhat tedious at times.  If I hadn’t known it was the last book, so I would find out once and for all how the chips would fall, I might actually have left it unfinished—the way I abandoned Laurell K. Hamilton’s never-ending Anita Black saga because the individual books no longer held my attention and there was no promise of an ending to give me that to shoot for either. 

The fourth book was both great and not great.  Obviously it was not great because it was way, way too long.  So much could have been cut out of it and it would have not lessened the story.  In fact, it would have picked up the pace with the plotline and almost certainly made it better.

Lesson: Keep things moving.  That doesn’t mean there has to be a life-threatening disaster around every corner, but don’t bog down explaining details and facts in large chunks.  Scatter throughout early and judiciously. 

The part about the fourth book that was great were the character interactions.  Obviously it’s a woo-hoo! sort of moment when Edward and Bella get married and finally consummate their relationship.  And it’s a personal betrayal when Alice appears to take Jasper and run.  And, at the very end, when everyone is prepared for the fight, and they are all saying their last goodbyes, I was honestly tearing up.  Books don’t usually make me cry like movies do, but this one had me.  That is some good writing!  But, ugh, the stuff in between could have been trimmed with a pair of electric hedge clippers.

Another thing about Breaking Dawn (#4) that both attracted and repelled was several hundred pages from Jacob’s point-of-view.  Considering that everything else in the books is Bella, going to Jacob like that was a bit of a stretch.  I think it was made worse by the fact that all of the books are a first-person-view. 

By contrast, Kalyn is my primary main character, so the reader sees almost everything from her perspective, but I have stayed to the third-person narrative (I believe I specifically employ a third-person-personal-view, in that nothing is from the “I” perspective, but you do still see and hear things from one character’s point-of-view), and I think its benefits are noticeable when I occasionally have to get outside of Kalyn to show things that are happening to other characters when she’s not around.  I never have to stop and say, okay, the personal “I” has switched; someone else is speaking now.  I believe it was in the Epilogue of the third book that it switched like that to Jacob, and I didn’t catch the note, and for nearly two pages I was trying to figure out what in the hell Bella was talking about.  When you work in the third-person-view, it’s very easy and clean to switch between characters (just ask Harry Turtledove, who switches between characters every chapter, and sometimes more often than that). 

Being inside Jacob’s head started to get on my nerves.  For one, I think that was the most boring part of the fourth book, and almost all of that could have been eliminated.  And secondly, while Jacob is pretty well the same on the inside as he was when seen from the outside, Bella is super annoying when viewed from the outside.  When you know what she’s thinking, she’s not that way, but when you only see her from the outside, you have to think, “Geez, what did Jacob ever see in her?”  And you might even wonder what Edward sees in her.  Her low self-esteem and dependency (as seen from the outside) just grates on your nerves after a while.  Of course, when you’re in Bella’s head, though, you can see her desire to not be dependent.  And her low self-esteem is not nearly as noticeable. 

The only thing that redeemed the entire “Jacob” sub-book was the very last page.  He went to kill the baby, then imprinted.  That was great.  But I don’t think we needed everything else to get that one great thing.  We could have stayed with Bella up until she passed out on the operating table, and then there could have been a break, and we could have gone into Jacob’s head (it may have even worked, for just the couple of pages needed, to have switched to a third-person-personal) and still have seen the imprinting happen. 

The other main thing that happens while we are with Jacob is that he breaks off and becomes his own Alpha and makes a second pack.  But, in hindsight, does that matter?  Does having two separate packs as opposed to one (still under Sam’s leadership) effect the outcome of the final confrontation?  No.  Does it even affect the way that Jacob and Seth feel about the vampires?  Not really.  Yes, Jacob has the opportunity to warm to them a little, but once he imprinted on Renesmee (and does anyone know how to pronounce that?  I’m with Jacob that it’s a mouthful), how much he likes the vampires is moot.  He would have stayed with them no matter what for her.  And he could have certainly grown closer to them through that contact as well; he didn’t need the scene where he defended against his own pack to cement his alliance with the Cullen clan.

I think everything that happened in the entire Jacob book could have been dropped and the progress of the pregnancy could have been told from Bella’s point-of-view in one chapter, with that little Jacob exception at the end.  I think Jabob’s splitting off from his pack and having to keep watch was just something to add a little excitement to the overarching plotline that was really starting to drag.  It was like a support pole propping up a great beam-span.  Make the span less wide and you can get rid of the support pole, because the beam will not be so loaded, then, that it can’t hold itself up.

(To be continued tomorrow….)

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