July 1, 2010 – My Opinions on Twilight (Part II)

Something that was never addressed in any of the books, and which bugged me (although I admit I have more interest in vampire creation myths than even most vampire fans), was the fact that the vampires were never explained.  We finally got to hear, in the third book, the creation myths of the shape-shifters.  And I liked it.  No, it doesn’t explain how shape-shifters could possibly be physically possible, according to the laws of science, but I am content, when it comes to things like this, with a magical or spiritual or religious explanation.  So long as there is an explanation.  The one problem was that it needed to have been in book two.

But no similar creation myth for vampires was ever made known.  Do they have no legends about how they came to be?  Why they have the traits that they have?  Edward mentions that they have a whole arsenal of weapons which allow them to better bring down their prey; it implies some sort of genetic selection, but it never develops it any further than that.  After all, how can genes cause something to live without a heartbeat?

In my first book, I do have a very brief overview of where vampires come from.  Their story is that they are descended from Cain, who was given some unknown trait, which set him apart from regular people.  But it was Cain’s descendants, the children of Lamech, who actually started drinking blood so they could live forever.  And then God “turned His back on them,” which is open for interpretation (as is pretty much anything in standard religious scriptures, especially ones that are running parallel to and occasionally overlap the Old Testament). 

But, even with the creation story in place, Kalyn gives another plausible explanation, when she says, “I assumed vampires are an evolutionary offshoot of humans.”  It’s the same for humans, you see: religious creation myths running parallel with the theory of evolution.  And, just like humans, vampires can chose to believe one or the other, or manage to mash the two together.  (If you stuck through my blog posts on Vampire Physiology 101 and 102, you’d know I have a scientific/genetic explanation for vampires planned out—which, of course, supports the idea of evolution—thanks to a virus; although this is not revealed in the first book.)

Meyer could have used some of that in her series.  It doesn’t matter to me what creation myth she came up with for her vampires, or what scientific or evolutionary explanation she gave for them, I would have just like to have seen it.  Magic, devil-spawn, curse of God, evolution… something.  She got so very close when she mentioned vampire legends from all over the world, but she never put the final pin in place; she never gave the ultimate, single legend for the existence of vampires; she never added her own creation myth to the group.

Something else that Meyer saves until too late is the development of the secondary characters.  Alice and the rest of the Cullens are pretty flat, one-dimensional characters until the third book—and some aren’t developed until the fourth (and some aren’t developed at all; I would have liked to have seen more of Esme).  It almost seems that she didn’t know anything about them when she started, and she gradually warmed up and got a feel for them as the series goes on.  Now, that’s the case with any writer—that you have to take the time to warm up to your characters—but I have the theory that it’s best to warm up to them before you complete the first book.  For me, that meant writing parts of the second book and scenes that never made it into either one just so I could get a feel for them before I actually finished the first book. 

Because Meyer waited too late to share information about certain characters, she had to contrive long reminiscences in the third and fourth book of how some of the Cullens came to be vampires.  These were too long and tedious, and I don’t think she did a very good job of making it sound like an actual person telling their life story.  It sounded like a non-personal story written for a book, then crammed inelegantly into the mouth of a speaker.  It made for bad dialogue.  If, however, she had developed these characters earlier, she could have sprinkled tidbits of information about them throughout all of the books and wouldn’t have had to bog down in long retellings (which also work better in the third-person-personal, because no one has to actually say them; you can just state the information).

And does Edward have a flaw, other than being a vampire?  He’s got the patience of Job to put up with Bella, he loves her like an addiction (does anyone else think that vampires, like shape-shifters, must imprint?), and he seems capable of forgiving her anything and suffering anything to make her happy—even Jacob.  But does he have a flaw?  I think this is why girls/women love these books so much and guys try and gag themselves at the mere mention of the series.  Edward is just another Prince Charming, as flawless as any other hero-prince in a fairy tale.  And women eat that up.  Women want men who open the door, carry their things, pay for the meal, keep them safe from all dangers, love them unconditionally, and never demand anything but love.  He is a perfect man.

Great way to sell books, I’ll admit, but it breaks one of the fundamental rules of writing, which is that your hero should have a flaw and your villain a charm.  I’ll admit that it can be hard to make villains charming, but this series didn’t really have a serious villain—a Professor Moriarty-style arch-nemesis, so I can forgive that.  I don’t think you need to worry about that with minor villains.  But Edward could have sure used some flaw other than the fact that he was a vampire (which, let’s face it, no one considers a flaw but him—which doesn’t count). 

Come to think of it, does Jacob have a flaw?  The only one I can think of is that he just won’t give up on Bella.  Which he should have done.  Does self-flagellation constitute a character flaw?  At least he shows anger.  Edward has a brief flare of jealousy, which quickly dies down, but Jacob’s jealousy is much more realistic and believable.  He does also run away from his problems (which isn’t the same as when Edward leaves, which he does thinking it will make Bella safer).  So, yeah, I guess he has some “flaws”—or what I would better term realistic human responses (“human” being used lightly).

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