say about Twilight that hasn't been said before. Those of you who despise Twilight have probably read reams of articles about its problems already, and those of you who adore Twilight are probably
sick and tired of hearing these problems again and again.
The trouble is, I find that most of the arguments about Twilight gravitate around the messages it seems to put across: how it effectively seems to set back women and men's attitude towards women back towards women by about 100 years - such as Bella's utter reliance on Edward to the point where she ceases to function as a human being when he is not there.
Now, although I do indeed have my own personal issues with this aspect of Twilight, for this Showcase I'd like to take a different tack: let's just take the story at face value, of a girl falling in love
with a vampire, and nothing more. Let's focus purely on Twilight's story structure and characterisation.
The result? Yeah, well, it's still sorely lacking.
The thing is, when I first started reading Twilight, for the first fewopening chapters I was pleasantly surprised. The writing style is simple yet functional, the pacing feels smooth, and the introduction
of Forks is decent.
And then Edward walks in.
Now, at first, they hate each other. Edward seems physically repulsed by Bella, and Bella understandably takes this reaction to heart and is hateful back. At this point, I thought: "Great! So this is what the rest of this fairly weighty novel is going to be about, right? How these two eventually put aside their differences, forge a friendship and ultimately a well-earned romance."
Well...no. Very, very early on in the book, No less than a quarter of the way into the book, Edward and Bella have suddenly put aside their differences and declared their undying love for one another. Wait, what? Where did that come from? This sudden U-turn and declaration of love kills what promise Twilight had as a story on both major fronts: characterisation and plot.
From a characterisation point of view, it feels completely unearned. I have no problem with romance on the page - in fact it can be the great motivator's for characters - but for it to mean anything, it needs to drive the characters. To either fight to earn the hand of the one they love, or to protect the love they have built. Bella and Edward's sudden romance feels hollow because there has been no fight, no sacrifice to earn it. So it feels fake and lacks weight, two things a believable romance need to have. Beyond that, neither Bella nor Edward seem to have any other motivation, aspiration or drive in the story, so when this one and only character-building potential - of characters building from loathing to loving - is resolved far too easily and too quickly - it kills their character on the page.
Which leads me onto the second problem this causes: plot. Because up until that point of declaration, there was nothing else to care about. No other antagonistic force that keeps the reader turning the page. I mentioned early on in my Off The Shelf series that, in order to maintain a reader's interest and to keep the plot ticking, there needs to be at least one question unanswered, one thing that will keep the reader worried and keep moving ahead through the story to find the answer.
And up until that point, there was no other plot, no other issues that needed to be resolved or tackled. No villain, no school bully, no ticking time bomb or looming threat of any kind. So when the only plot development that the reader has to cling to - Bella and Edward's developing relationship - is basically resolved when there is still 300 pages out of a 400 page to go, you have to wonder what could possibly fill the next three quarters of the book. The answer is, unsurprisingly, nothing. This is where the cynic in me would say that Meyer never had an interest in plot really - that she wash itching to just get all of that icky character building or plot development out of the way - and just get on with indulging in a vacuous and tension-free romance. Only in the last handful of chapters does a threat appear, and it literally comes out of nowhere.
And I'm sorry, I disagree completely with anyone who would say "Oh, but Edward is fighting his inner demons! He could hurt or bite Bella at an moment!" This is clear from the get go that this is supposed to be a romance. Be honest; did you ever, honestly truly feel that Bella was in danger from Edward at any point? Meyer has already made it clear that she is not only disinterested in building tension, but she actively avoids it. I mean, she has a character whose special skill is to dispel tension among people!
This is why I feel that the movie adaptation, while still sorely lacking as a result of the weak source material, actually fares better than the novel because it addresses some of these points. The threat that appears so suddenly at the end of the book is threaded through the movie, albeit with ham-fisted "meanwhile..." cutaways. Bella actually has an emotional reaction to finding out Edward is a vampire, whereas in the book she literally shrugs the fact off - again, shunning any potential for narrative tension. And movie-version Edward actually has an edge of self-loathing to himself, declaring himself a "monster". Oh, it feels tacked on as hell, but at least it's something.
I don't despise Twilight. 'Despise' is such an intense feeling, and I struggle to feel any kind of strong feeling with a novel that is just so empty and devoid of any feeling itself. When I finish a book, even ones I hate, at least it occupies my mind for a little while longer. But with Twilight, nothing stuck. Nothing mattered. Just...nothing.