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Saturday, December 05, 2009

A Writer's Perspective--New Moon

I wish you could have seen the discussion that took place at my hair salon regarding the Twilight series. It started with our comparison of the New Moon movie to the book. From there, it grew into our thoughts on the series. There was a rather lively discussion between the hairstylists and myself about the last book of the series. Our debate centered on whether or not we approved of they way it ended.

One hair stylist was undecided, the other was a diehard fan, Twilight mom, and there was me, a writer who has divided my opinion into tiny little boxes—more a critique than an opinion.

Making our discussion all more fun was a woman, in her sixties, having her hair colored. She hadn't read the series, and kept staring at us like we were crazy as we discussed the nuts and bolts of the teenage love triangle between a mortal, a vampire and a werewolf. I found myself apologizing to her and trying to catch her up to speed on the discussion, which I think only made us sound all the more crazy. (Try explaining Jacob imprinting on Res-a-what-ever-her-name-is, and how it is that he knows her in the first place, you'll see what I mean.)

First, as a writer, I can't help but to be secretly glad when a novel becomes so saturated in our fabric that you can go to your local hair salon and have a debate about it. Reading is addictive. Get 'em reading!

Second, the phenomenon surrounding this series truly grows more interesting to watch—especially now, as it is being made into movies and more people than fans are discussing it. The movie critics are tearing New Moon apart. Every fourth day or so, I go and read reviews. They're pretty much saying:

-The protagonist is mopey and unlikeable.


-There is concern that teenagers are being groomed for an abusive relationship

-Nothing of interest happens (unless you like moping)

-The whole plot is pretty strange

-General distaste for the "fem-pires" who flock to the series

-Stephanie Meyers, at times, has been outright attacked

So how does a series that breaks so many of our rules still sell? Also fascinating is how many people expect political correctness in our stories and expect that the plot follow a predictable path.

Yet despite these terrible failures, people buy the book. People pay ridiculous movie prices, in a bad economy, to see the book put on screen.

Why?

Here's the box I've put that answer in. It touches an emotion or thought within people that isn't politically or socially correct. The writer wasn't worried about what she 'should' write, but wrote what fascinated her. It wasn't a candy-coated heroine, it didn't follow a 'correct' path or story arc, and it asked dark questions. Others connected, and they themselves grew fascinated. It grew big enough to garner society's interest. Society was shocked and took up soap boxes.

Which led to my discussion at the hair salon . . . and my stance that I was disappointed, because despite the lingering question in the series, 'would you trade in your soul,' it was never addressed.

The Twilight Mom hairdresser took the stance, "It's only fiction! It doesn't count!"

So where does this long, lingering post lead us?

Well, I can only tell you the conclusions I draw as a writer:

-I'm convinced that we need to write our novels the way we're convicted to, and not following a list of do's and don't. Wasn't it William Zinser who told us to write what interests us, and others will be interested. The movie New Moon followed the book. Most of us would advise someone not to write a depressed character for an entire book—but it worked. The book sells. And so does the movie, despite the outcry.
-Readers will connect to a story told truthfully—even if society doesn't like the picture it paints. Those who connect will understand. Wuthering Heights was such a book.

-But, I disagree that we should take the stance, 'It's only fiction.' Fiction counts. It has the power to influence lives, and judging by the general outcry stirred up over this series, I would say I'm not the only one who believes that.


For the stuff that doesn't pertain to writing . . well, I'll leave that to the fans and critics.

7 comments:

Noel De Vries said...

good stuff, jessica. it is so irritating to hear all the time, it's just fiction, blah blah. perhaps there is some truth to that for adults, but for the ten-year-old patrons at my library, twilight is very real. engrossing fiction shapes their opinions about love and life and what's worth dying for. engrossing films with hot shirtless teenagers just twist the knife.

p.s. this is good for a laugh, if you haven't already seen it:

http://community.livejournal.com/m15m/21825.html

Jessica Dotta said...

Thanks, Noel!

I checked out the link. The rainforest scene was funny.

For humor, this review takes the cake, (though a warning to ppl, it isn't nice to the books.)

http://www.reporternews.com/news/2009/dec/02/new-moon-review/

Niki Turner said...

Thank you for a refreshingly balanced post about Twilight and New Moon. Stephenie Meyer wrote a book READERS love, and I think that irritates a lot of writers writing books that writers will love and approve of. Just a thought, who are we writing for?

Jessica Dotta said...

Thanks, Niki, I appreciate that.

Janna Qualman said...

I really appreciate your thinking, Jessica. As one who writes fiction, I feel I'm aware of how much it does count, how deep the truths can go, even when made up. I hadn't yet applied that thinking to this series, which I have mixed feelings for, but it makes sense. Meyers wrote what was true to the characters' story. We should all do so well.

Jessica Dotta said...

Thanks, Janna, I appreciate it!

Linda McCabe said...

Jessica,

I've had similar conversations about the Twilight series where I'm the one strangely detached about the whole phenomenon.

Trying to explain why Meyer's vampires sparkle is the one aspect that I find is the hardest to the uninitiated.

You might be interested in a blog about the Twilight series that does in-depth literary analyses: Forks High School Professor http://fhsprofessor.com/

It is written by my friend John Granger who wrote several companion books about the Harry Potter series. Of special interest to him is looking at the influences of literary alchemy.