Opening Thoughts:

Ok, I know this is only one chapter. I’m going to try to do an experiment so see if I can get content out faster if I write up one chapter at a time instead of two.

Anyway, Stephenie Meyer has claimed that her characters, Bella in particular, are very mature. Just keep that in mind while I go through this chapter.

Chapter 9: Theory

The last chapter ended on a cliffhanger, as Bella was getting into Edward’s car at Port Angeles. One inside, Bella continues to press Edward about his powers.

“Can I ask just one more?” I pleaded as Edward accelerated much too quickly down the quiet street. He didn’t seem to be paying any attention to the road at all.
p. 179

Reckless driving is an aphrodisiac . Who would have thought?

Anyway, even though Edward has all but admitted that he has supernatural powers, he continues to evade questions. I guess Meyer has to create tension somehow. So Bella and Edward continue this verbal dance as we slowly coax out more secrets. First, we learn how Edward was able to track Bella without his mind-reading powers.

“Fine then, I followed your scent.” He looked at the road, giving me time to compose my face.”
p. 180

That line alone should have been sending up little red flags in Bella’s mind, but as we’ve already established, she is a moron. Instead of pressing Edward, she hastily changes the subject, letting our lead man spill some more exposition, explaining how his powers work, and explaining why Bella’s mind eludes him. Perhaps we will finally understand how Bella managed to confound someone so powerful and perceptive.

“I don’t know,” he murmured. “The only guess I have is that maybe your mind doesn’t work the same way that the rest of theirs do.”
p. 181

Ok, look I’ve been inside this girl’s mind for almost 200 pages, and nothing remotely unique or special or even offbeat has come up. Are we expected to take Edward’s word for it? Saying it does not make it so, Stephenie. Look, I get it, you don’t have the skill to make your viewpoint character seem truly unique and special. This isn’t necessarily a damning criticism. Even among legitimately good authors, there aren’t many who can convince a cynical reader that their characters have any special, indescribable charm (the best that I’ve encountered so far is Lyra, from the His Dark Materials fame). Lacking this talent doesn’t necessarily make you a bad author. However, it means that you should not, under any circumstances, make your protagonist’s “specialness” central to your bloody plot.

For now, I’ll imagine that Edward’s sentence ended with the word “work”.

“Like your thoughts are on the AM frequency and I’m only getting FM” p. 181

Ok, I’m just going to move on.

Edward’s exposition is briefly interrupted while Bella freaks out about his reckless driving. After he grudgingly reduces his speed to the double digits, Bella explains how she figured out Edward little secret (in case you can’t remember, Jacob told her, and she did a google search). And gradually, it all comes out. Edward is a vampire. If surprised you, then congratulations! You are officially dumber than dirt.

Now, to Stephenie Meyer’s Credit, she didn’t have a cheesy, melodramatic sequence where Edward is like “Say it,” and Bella whispers “Vampire”. The dialogue actually feels somewhat natural now that Edward isn’t drawing out an asinine guessing game. This conversation works in large part because nobody actually says “I’m a Vampire!” or “You’re a Vampire!” Nobody needed to say it; it simply became apparent over the course of the conversation. If only the rest of the book had this conversation’s restraint.

Now, I am going to do on a quick digression. Part of the reason why Twilight resonates so well with the squealing fangirl demographic is because it is very easy to forget what Edward is confessing. In any halfway sane scenario, I’m sure most people would be leery of someone with supernatural powers and an overwhelming desire to kill people. Take a look at this segment of conversation.

“You’re angry,” I sighed. “I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“No,” he said, but his tone was as hard as his face. “I’d rather know what you’re thinking— even if what you’re thinking is insane”

“So I’m wrong again?” I challenged.

“That’s not what I’m referring to. ‘It doesn’t matter’” He quoted, gritting his teeth together.

“I’m right?” I gasped

“Does it matter?”

I took a deep breath.

“Not really,” I paused. “But I am curious.” My voice, at least, was composed.

He was suddenly resigned. “What are you curious about?” p. 185

This dialogue could easily have been spoken by middle-schoolers who had just admitted that they like each other. That’s what the tone of this dialogue suggests. You probably can remember back when you were a seventh-grader tormented by feelings you didn’t know how to express, terrified that your crush might discover your affection while secretly wishing he or she would return it. Well, that’s what Edward sounds like. He makes rash declarations, hesitates, goes back on himself, drops hints, makes intentionally vague statements, and follows them up with flashes of grudging honesty. Edward is treating his vampirism like a seventh grader treats a crush.

I’ll give Meyer some credit for this, as the metaphor of vampirism for adolescent love gives this series what little charm it has, and is very powerful if you buy into the “forbidden love” idea. There’s only one problem. EDWARD ISN’T TWELVE.

There’s no simpler way to say it. Edward is a ridiculous character. Our author may have have written a clever metaphor, but in the process abandoned believable characterization. There is no reason for Edward to behave the way he does, and every new revelation makes it harder to believe that he is a 100 year old man struggling against his compulsion to murder. One might expect that, in a century of living, one would outgrow this self-absorbed melodrama, and learn to treat his condition with some discipline and maturity. Unfortunately, Stephenie Meyer is only willing to allow Edward enough personality to entertain her indulgent fantasy.

Understand, I am not saying that there is only one way to write a 108-year-old vampire. Nor am I calling the “vampirism is forbidden love” inherently absurd. Authors should be free to give their characters life in whatever way inspires them. However, this does not give Stephenie Meyer the liberty to make Edward act like an angsty eighth-grader. At least, not if she wants to be taken seriously by any intelligent readers. Imagine how much more interesting Edward would be if his grief was more subtle and dignified, or his personality more reserved. This was the charm of Mr. Darcy, the leading man from Pride and Prejudice on which Edward was partially based. Like Edward, Mr. Darcy nursed his love for Elizabeth Bennet in private. Jane Austin’s lead man, however, was so composed that her protagonist spent most of the book thinking he was a stuck up prick blind to his compassion or nobility. Though Mr. Darcy’s affection for Elizabeth is made clear fairly early, his dignity and reserve still add an element of mystery to his character. Behind his actions, there is always a sense of purpose, even if the reader doesn’t know what his purpose is. Meyer, it seems, was aiming for “mysterious” and hit “bipolar”.

Anyway, back in the exposition. Edward proceeds to deny most of the traditional Vampire mythos. No sleeping in coffins, no burning in the sunlight, and so on. He also talks about his diet (animals only), and goes back to his old habit of mentioning every few pages how dangerous he is.

“They’re right to keep their distance from us. We are still dangerous.”

“I don’t understand”

“We try,” he explained slowly, “We’re usually very good at what we do. We sometimes make mistakes. Me, for example, allowing myself to be alone with you.” p. 187

Of course Bella doesn’t listen because she’s so desperate to spend time alone with him.

“Tell me more,” I asked desperately, not caring what he said, just so I could hear his voice again

He looked at me quickly, startled by the change in my tone. “What more do you want to know?”

“Tell me why you hunt animals instead of people,” I suggested, my voice tinged with desperation. I realized my eyes were wet, and I fought against the grief that was trying to overpower me. p. 187

Yes, Bella is crying at the prospect of having to get out of Edward’s car. I’m speechless. How can anybody read (or in Stephenie Meyer’s case, write) shit like this and call Bella a strong and independent character? I mean, are you saying that women should be completely dependent on a man for their emotional security, and that it’s healthy to be filled with overpowering grief at the mere thought of a conversation with him ending?

Also, I have to wonder, is this really the type of relationship that Twi-hards dream of? Wouldn’t they prefer to fantasize about a relationship were both people are…. I don’t know…. happy? I’ve lost count of the number of times talking to Edward has made Bella cry.

And perhaps more to the point, if Bella is supposed to unusually mature, then why does every little thing crash upon her like an overstated tidal wave? I mean, really. I thought she was supposed to be collected and level. Wouldn’t growing up as the “adult” in her house make he less inclined partial to melodrama? If she was able to seduce Jacob without batting an eyelash, why is she suddenly crying for no reason? Meyer can’t write a consistent character.

And I’ve become really fond of rhetorical questions.

Anyway, Edward for some reason doesn’t notice that Bella is crying, and talks more about his eating habits. Yes, if you didn’t already know, they call themselves “vegetarians”. I guess it’s funny because they eat meat. And roughly in this manner their coy little chat continues.

.

“I’ve noticed that people- men in particular- are crabbier when they’re hungry.”

He chuckled. “You’re observant, aren’t you.”

I didn’t answer; I just listened to the sound of his laugh, committing it to memory. p.188

A little obsessive, aren’t we?

“Why didn’t you want to leave?” It makes me… anxious… to be away from you.” His eyes were gentile but intense, but were making my bones turn soft. “I wasn’t joking when I asked you to try not to fall in the ocean or get run over last Thursday. I was distracted all weekend, worrying about you.” p. 188

I guess two can play the “obsessive” game. It’s also fantastic to see just how little confidence Edward has in our strong, independent protagonist. It’s like everything he says feeds Bella’s insecurity. Of course, Bella admits that being away from Edward makes her anxious as well, which prompts yet another rant about the dangers of vampires.

“Don’t you see, Bella? It’s one thing for met to make myself miserable, but a wholly other thing for you to be so involved.” He turned his anguished eyes to the road, his words flowing almost too fast for me to understand. “I don’t want to hear that you feel that way.” His voice was low but urgent. His words cut me. “It’s wrong. It’s not safe. I’m dangerous, Bella —- please, grasp that”

“No.” I tried very hard not to look like a sulky child.

“I’m serious,” he growled.

“So am I. I told you, it doesn’t matter what you are. It’s too late.”

His voice whipped out, low and harsh. “Never say that.”


p. 190

His voice whipped out, growling, his anguished eyes cutting into me. “It’s too late,” I intoned, my voice low and harsh God, I’m drowning in the melodrama. Look, no matter how low and urgent Edward’s voice may be, it is a piss poor substitute for real tension. Likewise, having Edward say that he is dangerous does not replace actual danger. Again, saying it doesn’t make is to. If your dialogue is powerful enough and the situation warrants it, you shouldn’t need to describe how low and urgent each line is. Readers will get the idea.

A lesson to all of you perspective writers: If you want to create a sense of danger, actually put your protagonists in danger. Write situations where they truly could die/suffer/lose everything important to them. And then have them behave like it. You may know that your protagonist is going to come out ok in the end, but your characters shouldn’t. And they shouldn’t act like it either. Kill this urge to protect your characters as soon as possible, because it leads directly to stories like Twilight, where the first 200 pages are without any suspense or tension. Why should we be afraid for Bella if she isn’t even afraid for herself?

The tragedy about Twilight is that it would have been so easy to make the story better. A vampire is stalking our protagonist, breaking into people’s minds to track her location every moment of every day, all the while his fighting feral compulsion to drink her blood. Stephenie Meyer made this situation boring by absolutely refusing to acknowledge the danger in any of Bella’s thought or actions. Bella’s blind certainty of Edward’s goodness is both stupid and boring. Let her be conflicted. Let her have doubts. Let Edward scare her. Let her behave the way a normal person would if a vampire was stalking them. Elizabeth Bennet spent the majority of Pride and Prejudice convinced that Darcy was an arrogant ass hat, and the story works brilliantly. Unfortunately, Meyer cared more about idolizing Edward than telling a good story.

The conversation with Edward has neared its end by this point. Edward drops Bella off at her house, promising that he would see her the next day. Once Edward leaves, Bella greets Charlie and calls her friends, who are still on the road. With that plot hole figured out way, Bella then goes to bed. The Chapter finally ends with the paragraph that can also be found on the back of the book.

About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him— and I didn’t know how potent that part might be— that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.
p. 195

Okay. Bella. First. You have been on friendly terms with this man for maybe a week or two. You are not unconditionally or irrevocably in love with him.

Second. I find it stunning how, in a single paragraph printed on the back cover of her book, Meyer managed to kill any suspense her story might have had. It’s almost systematic. What is Edward? He’s a vampire. How does Bella feel about that? She loves him anyways. Will Edward drink her blood? Well, that’s not spoiled on the back of the book, but Meyer has been consciously trying to make him the least threatening vampire ever. What’s left?

Nothing. Nearly 200 pages of nothing.

And because this article has been sadly lacking gifs, I’m going to leave you with this little bit of funny.

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Comment

  1. Romantic Vampire Lover on 2 March 2010, 15:20 said:

    Lovely; I liked the comparison between Edward and Darcy; very perceptive of you. Wonderful insight (and pics) as always. :D

  2. Kawnliee on 2 March 2010, 15:41 said:

    This articles what I consider to be one of the most depressing things about the Twilight series, which is just how good it could really be. There’s all kinds of potential sprinkled throughout the books, and Meyer actually does a pretty good job writing several of her minor characters (Alice and Jasper come to mind). It could have been a really good series, if Meyer had just written it logically. And hadn’t been dead-set on making it a “true love” story.

  3. Puppet on 2 March 2010, 16:10 said:

    Great Article, Artimaeus.

    and Meyer actually does a pretty good job writing several of her minor characters (Alice and Jasper come to mind). It could have been a really good series, if Meyer had just written it logically. And hadn’t been dead-set on making it a “true love” story.

    I almost liked Jasper and Alice. >.>

  4. dragonarya on 2 March 2010, 16:34 said:

    See, Smeyer’s admitting Twilight is wish fulfillment right there in that article. “Mature” my foot.
    Also, that pointer about putting characters in danger was good. Definitely something to remember.

  5. Nate Winchester on 2 March 2010, 18:03 said:

    This articles what I consider to be one of the most depressing things about the Twilight series, which is just how good it could really be. There’s all kinds of potential sprinkled throughout the books, and Meyer actually does a pretty good job writing several of her minor characters (Alice and Jasper come to mind). It could have been a really good series, if Meyer had just written it logically. And hadn’t been dead-set on making it a “true love” story.

    This is why I hope my fellow imps don’t let me do the same in nagasaki moon. ;-)

    Reckless driving is an aphrodisiac . Who would have thought?

    Hey, it’s why the ladies love me!

    “Like your thoughts are on the AM frequency and I’m only getting FM” p. 181

    And Futurama fans everywhere went: “She lacks the delta brain wave!”

    I’ll give Meyer some credit for this, as the metaphor of vampirism for adolescent love gives this series what little charm it has, and is very powerful if you buy into the “forbidden love” idea. There’s only one problem. EDWARD ISN’T TWELVE.

    Or… you know – VAMPIRES KILL PEOPLE!

    One might expect that, in a century of living, one would outgrow this self-absorbed melodrama, and learn to treat his condition with some discipline and maturity.

    SlyShy forgive me but I feel the need to defend Twilight on this one minor point.

    It does make a bit of sense if you imagine a person who has read minds for hundreds of years. Think about it. For him, there are no awkward social situations because he always knows what perspective the other person(s) is coming from and immediately clears up potential misunderstandings. In essence, he is the perfect social butterfly. Enter someone who’s mind he can’t read ([cough] for whatever reason). Suddenly he’s having to operate socially from a position he hasn’t experience in centuries. Perhaps even his mood swings is a result of this. He’s used to: “Speak -> read feedback -> proceed” but now he can’t see instantly what the reaction is and it’s frustrating the hell out of him. Could it have been better done? Oh yes. Which is what makes this even sadder.

    “I’ve noticed that people- men in particular- are crabbier when they’re hungry.”

    Must… resist…. obvious… joke. Geez it’s killing me!

    As for dialogue, everyone might enjoy this article I just found today.

  6. Artimaeus on 2 March 2010, 19:08 said:

    It could have been a really good series, if Meyer had just written it logically. And hadn’t been dead-set on making it a “true love” story.

    This is true. It’s sad because most of the mistakes she makes are really very avoidable.

    Or… you know – VAMPIRES KILL PEOPLE!

    Very true. I’ve really been reading this book for too long if I’m missing things like that.

    SlyShy forgive me but I feel the need to defend Twilight on this one minor point.

    I was thinking less about why he’s frustrated, and more about how he handles it. It would definitely be difficult to lose telepathic powers after relying on them for 100 years, but you’d expect him to cope with it without as many tantrums or mood swings.

    Must… resist…. obvious… joke. Geez it’s killing me!

    OM NOM NOM

  7. Nate Winchester on 2 March 2010, 20:07 said:

    Very true. I’ve really been reading this book for too long if I’m missing things like that.

    Well it’s easy to forget these things are vampires so I can’t blame you. ;-)

    I was thinking less about why he’s frustrated, and more about how he handles it. It would definitely be difficult to lose telepathic powers after relying on them for 100 years, but you’d expect him to cope with it without as many tantrums or mood swings.

    True, though some “childish” regression could be understood, it would have been better if she showed Ed growing. (and yes, some of my frustration about this lead to Edwin’s creation in NM)

  8. fffan on 3 March 2010, 02:35 said:

    oh great. Now SMeyer is not only a self insert in the story, but she’s also a liar. Pfft.

  9. dragonarya on 3 March 2010, 10:02 said:

    At least in my story, I give valid reasons why the traditional myths don’t apply: Garlic myth arose because vampires have sensitive smell, they cast shadows and reflections because they are solid and have mass, anyone would die with a stake through the heart, and while still more sensitive to sunlight than humans they’ve adapated to hunt their prey. I haven’t thought of a good one for crosses yet. But that was my first story and I’m working on another story now. :P
    And just for the record, I started this before Twilight was even published.
    Also for the record, my vampires do not sparkle.
    gigglesnort
    I swear, that idea is so stupid! Everytime I think of it I start snickering. And with all the marble similies SMeyer must have a stone/statue fetish.
    Ah. I’m rambling, I’ll shut up now.

  10. Sweguy on 3 March 2010, 18:44 said:

    Hm. Here I was, thinking this was another article with the same arguments that have been used over and over again. But actually, I found your words very much your own, and I feel a bit more enlighted than before. Thank you very much, Artimaeus!