The other day I decided to bite the bullet and checked out New Moon, the follow-up to Twilight, on audiobook to listen to going to and from work. Even though I wasn’t very impressed with the quality of writing in the first one (for which I have been much vilified by my teenage employees), I believe the story, if not how it’s told, has some merit and I’m just curious to see where the damn thing ends up. If nothing else, maybe I can take away something that will help me sell millions of novels to unsuspecting teens.
I’ve said before that listening to an audiobook is a different experience than reading one from print. The Harry Potter series, for instance, is enhanced a great deal by the remarkable talent of Jim Dale narrating the audio versions. Hearing the book being read gives you new insights on things that you might miss as a reader. So, with that in mind, I’ve developed a theory about Stephanie Meyer that may explain why she writes the way she does and, rather than waste a lot of my time and yours detailing all the things I don’t like about her writing, I’ll just throw out my theory and see what you, my astute reader(s) think(s).
I don’t think Stephanie Meyer knows much about people.
Now, I’m sure you may be wondering how I could make that sort of statement just from reading one novel and listening to part of another, so I’ll explain myself. I believe that a writer, to perform the craft effectively, must know and understand people–how they act, how they speak, how they think. I spend a great deal of time interacting with people through work and my other commitments and pay close attention to everything about them, from their mannerisms to their dialects, so I can go back and write about those things as possessed by my characters with honesty. Some writers try to cover up these weaknesses. For example, H.P. Lovecraft, for all his imagination, was a loner who spent little actual time in conversation with real people. Consequently, his fiction contains very little dialogue–he simply did not have a solid basis from which to write accurate speech patterns.
Meyer’s perception of the people in her book seems to come not from her perceptions of the real people around her, but rather from characters she may have read about in other books–Austen and others who have flavored her own brand of fiction. Her dialogue sounds unreal, more of an ideal of what dialogue should be rather than the way people would actually speak. Particularly when her characters go off on a long bit of it, you can hear her cramming bits of exposition into the statements, rather than accounting for the way people actually talk about such things.
Also, I’m sick of hearing about Edward Cullen. Not that I don’t understand Bella’s emotional attachments to him. I do. What I’m tired of hearing about is his physical description–his perfect features, his smooth voice, etc. As a reader, once I’m given a description of a character, I’m good on that account for the rest of the book unless something about it changes. With Edward, it’s almost as though Meyer is using the vampire’s good looks as a means of justifying his violent temper and borderline emotional abuse of Bella. What kind of message does that send to young girls? It’s okay if your boyfriend is verbally abusive, as long as he has chiseled abs.
Anyway, I’m willing to debate this issue with anyone who has read the books and thinks other than I do. I haven’t finished the series, of course, and I hope things do improve as I go along, but if the story wasn’t so enjoyable, I’d fling the disc out my car window at 70 mph.
As for my own work, that update will have to wait. Stupid laptop battery.