Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Edward Cullen Strangelove, or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Twilight

By Aaron Michael Ritchey


I read Twilight after it first came out, way back in 2005.  People were saying it was going to be the next big thing, but dang, I had no idea how that could be.

I liked the book.  I liked the setting.  I liked how she handled the vampires, evolved to be sparkly and beautiful to make hunting so much easier.  Yet, I didn’t understand why that book, that story, became such a flashpoint.  A nice little love story set in Forks, Washington as a world-wide phenomenon?  Triple-platinum bestseller?  Really?

Some people hated it, and I couldn’t understand that either.  Wasn’t much to love.  Wasn’t much to hate.  It was all so simple.  The characters were fine.  The story was fine.  The writing wasn’t awful.  It was functional. 

I didn’t become a Twihard until I watched all five movies this past November in one day, at the theater, surrounded by young girls, middle-aged women, and a few men comfortable enough in their masculinity that they could get a little teary at all the angst and romance.

Now I get it.  Stephenie Meyer is a genius.  Not because she was so innovative, no, it was because she made things so simple.  The writing, the story, the characters, it was all so simple.  And moving.

There is a disconnect at times between the writing community and the general audience.  Writers don’t read like normal readers because we aren’t normal readers.  We are writers.  We devour books, and then dissect the pieces.  How could that chapter be better?  How can I avoid the clich√© there?  How can I use dialogue tags more creatively?  The general reader isn’t worrying about all that.  They want a story they can understand, that sweeps them off their feet, in a setting that seems real, and with characters they can identify with.  The general reader is very forgiving if the bones of the story speak to them.

Robert McKee of Story fame thinks story is all-powerful.  You can have iffy writing if the story is evocative, and I believe that.  Most people read fiction as an emotional experience, not a logical one.  And emotions are messy things.

The last Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn, Part II, ends with Edward and Bella in their meadow, gazing into each other’s eyes, in love, now, literally forever.  After thirteen hours of The Twilight Saga, I didn’t want to leave the theater.  I wanted to bask in their emotion, that perfect love we generally only experience in fiction.  Real love is messy and uncertain and takes work.  Bella and Edward’s perfect love is just plain perfect.  Sigh.

I want to write books that leave my readers feeling that sense of joy, wonder, and contentment.  The bad guys are all dead.  The troubles are behind our hero and his heroine, and the world makes sense.  That feeling, I believe, is more important than a perfectly balanced plot, or the depth of my characters, or my sentence variety.

Not that I’m saying I’m going to churn out first draft stuff and hope my story is good enough to hook readers.  No, I’m not going to do that.  But I do want to simplify my writing because I can make things so complicated so fast.  Ideally, my writing would be invisible—a simple doorway into the perfect fictive dream.  So, I’m going to focus on good, simple writing, a well-crafted story, and above all, emotional impact.  Perfect love.  Sigh.  Thank you, Stephenie Meyer, for giving us such a wonderful story.

About the Writer:  YA Paranormal author Aaron Michael Ritchey has penned a dozen manuscripts in his 20 years as a writer.  When he isn’t slapping around his muse, Aaron cycles to look fabulous, works in medical technologies, and keeps his family in silks and furs.  His first novel, The Never Prayer, hit the streets on March 29, 2012.