Follow the Genre, Honey!
I admit; I’m not a published fiction author. I may write the occasional fanfic or short story in my free time. And, yes, I finished NaNoWriMo last year, so technically I’ve written at least 50,000 words of fiction.
But since I’m not actually published, I’ll just go ahead and admit to not being the expert. However, I’ve read a lot over the course of my 23 years, and I’d say that gives me some power to express my opinion, whether people like it or not. Of course, I’m also fairly diplomatic. So I’ll just start by saying that I refuse to bash or rant on any book unfairly. Most likely I’ll just point out discrepancies and leave it at that.
With that in mind, I started off the New Year by reading a new series that I originally told myself I’d never read. Good friends convinced me I should try it out to see why it was so popular. So I’ve been reading the Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer.
In all honesty, at this point, who hasn’t been affected by this breakthrough novel that crashed a whole genre of writing?
Note that I don’t mean she killed a genre. She seems to be the kind of author who takes a story idea, a genre, and some mis-matched concepts and flies into the realm of said genre, doing a crash-landing of epic proportions. The thing is: this particular crash-landing is in the same vein as that of the animals in the movie Madagascar, who instantly became celebrities due to their abilities to scare off the dangerous predators that threatened the way of life of a defenseless habitat.
That’s my view on Twilight. Meyer took a genre that’s fairly well represented down through the classics (vampire fiction), married it to a more culturally popular genre (teen fiction), and twisted both genres into a coupling that both instantly attracted readers and automatically repelled fans of the genre.
Why is this a big deal?
Personally, I’m a fan of following genre conventions in writing. There are several reasons for this, but really the big one is simple. Genres work. Think of how many women read romances in a year. Romances work because they have patented guidelines, give away just enough description, go just far enough to attract the readers and get them addicted to the genre. They pant for the thrill, the danger, the romance, the excitement and go after it like a deer to water.
Cue intro to Meyer’s world. Vampirism is an old genre. I don’t know that you can technically call it a genre, but I’m doing that now. In fact, some of the history of vampires goes all the way back to Genesis, if you can believe it.
Different cultures have different portrayals of vampires, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that vampires began to be serialized in books and stories that would live on after their authors’ deaths. Perhaps it’s for this reason that I think we should look more to the historical depictions of vampires rather than Meyer’s. Vampires looked very different than her bright, sparkling Edward Cullen and the rest of the beautiful Cullen family.
At first, what I read annoyed me. I won’t go into details about my opinion of the plot or Meyer’s style; that’s for another blog. But reading the ways in which she twisted vampirism into something sweet, innocent, and easy to swallow so that her readers would appreciate it was annoying. I know it’s teen fiction, but in this day and age, teenagers have seen a lot more and know what violence, death, destruction, and depression look like.
I haven’t finished reading Breaking Dawn yet. I’m a little over 400 pages into it. This is, by far, Meyer’s best work of genre-bending yet. My eyes nearly popped out of my head at the beginning of the book, and I haven’t managed to get over the sudden transformation from “tame vampirism” to “half-vampire child’s birth overshadowed by sudden werewolf imprinting on said child.”
This boggles my mind.
All I can say, after reading as much as I have is that I would prefer Meyer’s next series of books not shatter the traditions of fiction writing quite so profoundly. I may not be a vampire fan, but you can’t escape the lore and legend surrounding these creatures of the night. Meyer’s depiction of day-walking, animal-hunting, sun-sparkling, compassionate, bloodlust-resisting, invincible vampires sends all those former depictions crashing to the dust.
Bram Stoker would roll over in his grave to read such a thing.
In short, my position on the Twilight Saga is simple: next time, follow the genre, honey!