How to Read Twilight


twilight-movie-posterStephanie Meyer needs an editor. I contend that a writer gets one free “career” use of the term “smoldering eyes,” but Meyer uses the verb at least five times, just in Twilight. (One of my close associates refers to this as “Cobalt Blue” writing) Don’t get me started on her lazy and tedious obsession with gazes, eyes, and smiles. In a 498-page novel, there are 294 mentions of “eyes,” at least 31 gazes, and 184 mentions of smiling characters.

It’s enough to make an MFA’s eyes fill up with tears, as she collapses sobbing into her unpublished, but smoldering, manuscript.

Of course, my husband and I are reading the book aloud to each other anyway. While individually, our tastes skew to concept sci-fi and literary fiction, our collective taste tends toward middle-brow genre novels featuring vampires, medieval fantasy, or other stuff written for teenagers.

Now that we’re about halfway through Twilight, the unwieldy dialogue tags and incessant description of smiles and eyes has finally started getting to us (note to Meyer’s editor: get on that), so we decided to go Oulipo on the novel and make some word substitutions. Instead of reading “eyes” we substituted “doodlewickets” and instead of “smile” we substituted the embarrassingly crude “fingerbang,” and “smolder” has become “notarize.” Here’s some of the resulting hilarity:

p. 141 “Nice day out, ” he commented. “Yes,” I agreed with a grin. He fingerbanged back, his brown doodlewickets crinkling around the edges. When Charlie fingerbanged, it was easier to see why he and my mother had jumped too quickly into an early marriage.

p. 170 He seemed unsettled. He stared into my doodlewickets and I saw how light his doodlewickets were, lighter than I’d ever seen them, golden butterscotch.

p. 211 Abruptly, his unpredictable mood shifted again; a mischievous, devastating fingerbang rearranged his features.

p. 219 My doodlewickets, of their own accord, flickered to him. I fingerbanged sheepishly as I realized his posture was identical to mine, fists clenched under his arms, right down to the doodlewickets, peering sideways at me. He grinned back, his doodlewickets somehow managing to notarize, even in the dark.

p. 247 “Her brilliant obsidian doodlewickets were unreadable, but her fingerbang was friendly.”

It’s actually a testament to Meyer’s knack for creating suspense that we’re going to finish the book, and likely the series, despite its egregious diction, and its plot, which is at best problematic in a feminist sense, as it’s light on the characterization for Bella, and heavy on the creepy-stalker (ahem. Romantic) vampire who makes decisions for her.

But, sometimes, when you want to make your husband’s doodlewickets notarize, a light, suspenseful novel is what it takes to make him fingerbang.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 28th, 2009 at 9:40 pm.
Categories: Blog, Creative Writing, Features.

21 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Christine

    Hilarious. My friends who’ve read the books tell me that they get better – either she got a better editor or the editor got more control. What I hear is that the prose never becomes great, it does become less painful to read! Enjoy.

  2. George

    I agree with Christine. The later books do betray a firm editorial hand. They’re all pretty laughable and highly anti-feminist, which I can say with authority having read and enjoyed each.

  3. I got through the first one by eventually just reading the first sentence of every paragraph and the dialog. The others’ Wikipedia pages received healthy reads.

  4. Beff

    How is “smoldering eyes” a verb?

  5. Beff

    And: you might enjoy this take on the series…http://stoney321.livejournal.com/317176.html

  6. Scromboid

    I get really confused when ‘web writers’ and forum trolls attack a widely published best selling author for her creativity, hard work and dedication to her craft.

    What is the last thing you’ve written worth reading? Seriously. While I’m not a huge fan of the books, you cannot disagree with their brilliance and their tone. Furthermore, what Stephanie Meyers did to the genre has changed it in a way that has not even been fully realized yet – and a way for vampire folks to be mainstream again.

    What she has accomplished is nothing short of amazing. Consider sitting at your little desk and writing, entirely on your own, the next blockbuster book that sweeps the world by storm and is picked up to be a major motion picture that goes on to smash box office records. Imagine doing that all by yourself ‘with no editor’. Now do it four more times.

    Sour grapes, all of you. You folks are shameful… and disrespectful to the craft.

  7. S'rel

    Because something is widely dispersed and selling in large amounts, Scrombie, doesn’t make it worth diddly. That’s like saying Madonna’s plastic sex-bracelets have social merit because everyone in grades six through twelve stocked up in 2004.
    The only thing the success of Twilight illustrates is the general public’s declining self-respect for themselves, by vigorously defending such a shoddy production.

  8. Matt

    Scromboid- this isn’t craft, it’s typing.

  9. Chris

    Normally I would agree with scromboid that authors, published or not, should scale back the criticism and snark on popular books (i.e. Stephen King trashing James Patterson because his writing is formulaic and simple). If people enjoy a book let them enjoy it.

    However, I got through eleven hours of the turgid turd that is “Twilight” (that’s right, I listened to the audio book) and can say it was one of the worst books I’ve ever heard/read. Poorly edited doesn’t begin to describe it. I don’t even think Meyers does a good job building suspense. NOTHING happens until the baseball scene, and at that point we’re halfway through the book. I only managed to finish because it was so popular and figured it had to have a good ending. Instead I finished the book wishing Bella had been killed as she would have died in real life like the Darwin Award winner she is.

  10. I can Read

    sir Scromboid, you can criticize a book once you’ve read it. That opinion is more than valid. I’ve read the first book and I was horrified that thing ever became popular.
    Let’s see….promoting teenager sex and pregnancy…and an older teenager who automatically falls in love with a newborn baby! yeah such a great series of pedophilia and what not!
    Stephanie meyer called Shakespeare a misogynist- a woman hater through Bella’s “thoughts” (who happens to have a suspicious resemblance to herself hmmmm). Shakespeare was not a misogynist- far from it! Anyone who knows his writing must remember his dedicated poems to the Black Lady (our nickname- not his). He was obsessed with this woman and completely devoted. The shower of affection, adoration, compliments were written even after she left him.
    Stephanie Meyer wrote this novel in three months…..because she dreamt of a really good looking guy in the woods and she became obsessed over this dream of a hot guy and continuously poured herself into the dream trying to capture him.
    Basically she had a wet dream and wrote about it by expanding upon….this creepy stalker who is automatically in love with her.
    She also mentions Edward has no liquid within his body…yet he impregnated Bella with semen/sperm (most definitely stick snot-like liquid).
    She glorified sex and perved out on it. That book she wrote in three months….Do you know how many publishing companies REFUSED her writing? A lot. Until…by golly gee a woman slobbered all over it saying something along the lines she couldn’t “get enough of edward”.
    Instead of truly editing her piece and taking her in to make it better, the editor wants a piece of her own Edward.
    Just because something is a huge hit does not mean it is good. The secret is: Marketing. -and good looks.
    That book is nothing but a clash of her self-inserted desire, a dream of Mr. Sparksalot and stealing generic plot points. Even her mock-up covers were nothing but tacked on messes shucking any flow in the image and she calls herself a ‘visual’ person. I say what she did was high school beginner in the visual department and a blinded gullible teenager.

  11. Writing is like acting, anyone can do and be successful given a rash or talent and/or luck. For every widely famous, barely able to perform a sentence, himbo actor out there, there is a three hundred highly skilled, MFA Classical actors working at the country’s Olive Gardens.

    As an actor, I’ve adjusted to the idea that a monkey can do my job. That no matter how many years I’ve worked, trained or taught, it means nothing as far as the actual dodge I’m putting in my pocket. I feel comfortable about that and less bitter about the Keanu Reeves of the world.

    I’m only saying this because the repetitive posts knocking Twilight kind of have a tinge of bitterness to them.

    Yeah, Meyers prose is clunky, but so is Whitney Cumming’s bad hand acting…and she has two shows on the air. What can you do? People like Meyers enough to have made her extremely successful. You can wonder at the insanity of people’s tastes, but it doesn’t change that.

    That and those books are like the McDonald’s of literature. They weren’t written with grand ambitions to create beautiful sentences and impress MFAs. They were written for the masses to consume quickly, a guilty pleasure. If you don’t like Mickey D’s, don’t eat it. Let everyone else eat the bleached meat of the world.

    Just sayin’.

  12. Frobozz

    You can make anything popular if you know your audience. In the case of Twilight the main demographic are young and emotionally needy women. Twilight is simply a bad romantic novel series (otherwise known as porn for women) combined with something that has always been cool… Vampires. She did not make them mainstream again because they have always been awesome.

  13. El

    Have you ever read fanfiction? It’s very addictive… some are very good, most are just like Meyer’s writing. They get thousands of comments from followers on fanfiction.net. Mostly from teens, but from older people too. What Meyer does is write fanfiction, as if made by 13 year-olds themselves. “Original” fanfiction (Edward is like a bastardized Angel from Buffy). Bella is a Mary Sue, their purpose is for you to pretend you’re her. That’s why she has no personality and two guys fighting over her. The only atypical thing for a Mary Sue in her is she can’t do anything well. Mary Sues usually poop rainbows and excel at everything.

    Anyway, what I find weird is how people like defending Twilight, even though they say they are not fans (they sound like butthurt fangirls and fanboys, always with the “you’re jealous” card). Why not let others poke fun at it then? Unless you’re a huge fan, I mean. Even if you’re a fan, how does criticism take anything away from your enjoyment? It can get tiring reading about it, I agree, I rarely click on these type of articles nowadays. But why not just ignore the article then?

  14. C

    Unfortunately, the thing about these sorts of fad books is that they’re like vampires; you can kill off one but the same book (as in same lacklustre junk) will spring back to life. Twilight, however, is a train-wreck of a book, you know it’s lousy, you know there’s no sign of the writing getting to a point where it’s really good but, at the same time, you pick up the next one to see if it ever develops a proper plot. I’ll give Meyer that much.

    @Scromboid
    ‘While I’m not a huge fan of the books, you cannot disagree with their brilliance and their tone.’

    Actually, yes I can, it’s called having an opinion. We all have one and it isn’t always the same as yours, deal with it. And I’m sure you’ve never, ever disliked a book you’ve read… Oh, nope, that must just be your sour grapes talking, not that you had other issues with the book!

    @El
    The concept of a Mary Sue who can’t do anything right has existed before Meyer’s came along. It’s usually used by the author as a way of defending their Mary Sue character by saying: “Look, she’s not a Mary Sue, she has flaws!”

    Unsurprisingly this sort of Mary Sue appears in fics exactly like Meyer’s – two guys fall in love with the girl, primarily because she’s weak and incapable of taking care of herself. Mad love triangle ensues.

  15. AMS

    I’ve read all the books, I won’t lie. However, I was within the demographic this was written for: emotionally needy, single, young. In a word? Desperate. This series, at the time, was my outlet for my angst at being who I was.

    Then I grew up, and the movies started popping out. Honestly, I think that’s when Meyer began gaining the ridiculous amount of attention she’s gotten as of late.

    I hope you’ll all pardon me for saying so, but did anyone read Harry Potter? Did you read the first few books? They have damn near the same feel (albeit less eyes and smiles?pardon, doodlewickets and fingerbangs) as all the Twilight saga novels. I agree with RegencyRebecca on the point that “[t]hey weren’t written with grand ambitions to create beautiful sentences and impress MFAs”, but I also agree with what most are saying:

    Twilight was written *exactly* like a fanfiction story. There wasn’t much “skill” put into the books, but for whom she wrote the stories, I figure it’s peachy-keen. While I know that anyone has the right to criticize any story they like, I find it silly that they seem to forget the demographic at which the novel is aimed, half the time.

    In the end, what it all comes down to is money: Twilight sold like crack to withdrawn addicts, which made it a commodity. You can cry and snark about it all you want, but the fact is, she made money. Should she be proud of her accomplishment? Perhaps (personally, I wouldn’t be).

  16. Thanks for this! It really brought a sparkle to my doodlewickets and a fingerbang to my lips!

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