Wow, okay, first of all I want to strongly recommend reading Tanith Lee’s The Silver Metal Lover. I saw the cover and didn’t think I’d like it and I’ve been out of the sci-fi funk for a few years now (the Ender series by Orson Scott Card is such an amazing sci-fi story, I didn’t think anything could compete), but this novel just gripped me. It got me thinking about why I like it so much, since the writing isn’t particularly astronomical and the main character was a bit of a pansy in the beginning. But the growth of her character (and she has a spine! And wit! And all of these interesting thoughts that make the writing so great, I can’t even pinpoint what it is I like about it) and the developing relationship between the two main characters is so real, so believable, that even as I am mentally trying to analyze the text and read from the perspective of a writer, I keep jumping thirty pages ahead and realizing I got no analyzing done. I am that sucked in. But anyway, that’s the intro for this blog, since it got me thinking about the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer and a conversation on worldbuilding that I had with Night_mare last night.

Which leads me to one last bit of praise: Night-mare is phenomenal. The detail she has for her stories, the richness of her characters and their backstories and the backstories of their families and friends, and all the people and creatures who won’t even show up in the stories you will some day read but shape the world none-the-less… it’s helped inspire me to think more deeply about my own stories. I feel much more comfortable writing now, like I’m slipping into a familiar pair of shoes and walking around a familiar street. I don’t need to make you believe I am in this other world because I am walking it, describing what I see, instead of trying to sell you on the idea of it.

Okay, time for a little bit of Twilight-bashing, but not in the usual “it just sucks and degrades women and is terrible writing!” that you may be accustomed to. I am going to approach this as a writer, trying to piece together what is effective and what is not effective, from my perspective. I am going to point out things that struck me as unbelievable, to the point that I was ripped out of the story and I did not believe what the story was telling me. I am going to point these out in the spirit of learning. One last disclaimer before I start: I enjoyed Twilight. I’ve read the series several times. There are parts of the story that I feel work brilliantly, most notably the conversations the characters have. The dialogue is excellent and totally believable. A lot of the buildup is very well done and leaves you worrying about what will happen next. I have problems with the action scenes, the overall story arc (which includes about twenty pages of climax after three hundred pages of buildup), and a lot of the two-dimensional character-building but that will have to wait for another blog.

So let’s get right down to it. Where to start… so many problems I had. Let’s start with, what I think, is the most obvious.

1) Vampires: okay. Sparkly vampires. That’s one tough pill to swallow, especially with so many good examples out there of vampire stories that work (Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series, The Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost, the Jane Jameson series that I recently read and fell in love with by Molly Harper, even Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles, although I’m not a fan of the books). I will give Twilight credit for taking the vampire thing and making it unique with the sparkles thing. Do I particularly like it? No. Do I think it was a good explanation for keeping vampires out of the sun? Only until modern makeup was good enough to cover that up. I know we get some half-assed explanation in the very last book about how vampire venom, which has replaced all the human bodily fluids (more on this in a bit) disintegrates everything it touches (Bella’s contacts keep disintegrating when she goes to a lawyer to get money and a fake ID for herself and Nessy). So I can maybe postulate that any makeup a vampire would put on his or her skin would be disintegrated given enough time through vampire-venom-sweat… but doesn’t Bella say something about vampires not sweating? Also, why would they sweat if their body temperatures are so much lower than humans and they have no need for body temperature regulation anyway… and on that same note, why would Bella’s eyes require moisture at all since her eye would never become irritated, being so indestructible? Also, why is it direct sunlight that shows off the sparkly skin? What about a really strong flashlight – would the sparkles come out then too?

These are all questions that, if the writer has an explanation to (at least in her head or that are convincing enough to be believable in the context of the story), awesome. But this is never explained to the reader in a truly satisfactory way. The explanation that is given is also very dine-and-ditch, just a throwaway comment about it to cover up the inadequacies of the explanation. Even the vampire powers make more sense (although I have a huge problem with Jasper’s gift, as his appears to be more chemical than magical in nature and just… yeah, not even touching that one; don’t get me started on the vampires in Breaking Dawn who have all kinds of weird abilities). In my experience in fantasy of any kind, if all else fails, it’s magic. It just is. If you bring science into the conversation, have all the answers ready.

2) Werewolves: one word: imprinting. God. Just. SIGH. Just shoot me. Because this? This is nothing but a plot device to get Jacob (without struggle) out of the way for Bella and Edward to have a perfect relationship. To find “someone else” for Jacob. To essentially say that whole time he was in love with Bella? He was in love with the ovary in her that would one day become Nessy. I hated this part in the book so much, especially because I just… I saw it coming. I was so pissed when I read this part, I slammed the book closed and refused to read it again for three days. It was just so… easy. All that character build up! All that attention to detail, to Bella’s growing attraction for Jacob, all that human jealousy we saw from Edward that showed his uglier side, all that cocky arrogance from Jacob that made him so human and so vulnerable… poof. All gone. No resolution at all. Just… band-aid. Huge freaking band-aid.

I just finished Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (last book in the Hunger Games series). I’m not going to give the ending away, but let me put it this way: all that build up between Peeta and Gale and their crazy love triangle? Yeah, there’s an actual resolution. It makes sense. It isn’t just, “I found another girl, cya, have a nice life!” No, it was raw. It hurt. But you felt stronger about the ending because they earned it. There were consequences for their actions and decisions.

Therefore, I am attributing the whole failed Edward/Bella/Jacob love triangle to terrible worldbuilding because the ribbon and wrapping paper explanation of imprinting? It’s a cop out. It’s a way of not writing that horribly tense scene where Bella has to grow a freaking spine and pick one, then deal with the fall-out from the one that isn’t picked. You don’t shove Jacob off onto a newborn, Bella’s daughter, because it’s convenient for the plot. That’s sloppy storytelling.

3) Plotholes the size of craters: I believed the story, as a reader, until Bella became pregnant in Breaking Dawn. Sure there were a few hiccups – Bella’s family basically giving her up without a fuss, the weird home wedding, the top-of-the-line tank-like car that Edward “tricked” Bella into using because she’s a “trouble magnet.” Sure, got under my skin, but I could be swayed by the story. There was enough logic and continuity to the storyline that I could ignore little doubts and stay stuck in the world.

After Bella became pregnant… the problem is, I could basically foretell everything that was going to happen after that point. Bella didn’t care about kids before? Well guess what, she’s suddenly going to be obsessed with being Mrs. Mommy. She needs a protector? Rosalie has been obsessed with having babies since her first line of dialogue, so naturally she’d let Bella lose her life in order to have that baby. Yeah, that doesn’t send across a terrible message. How could Carlisle, who is so compassionate or whatever, keep such a monster in his family? A woman who is so self-absorbed that she would purposefully allow Bella to carry a “parasite” (Edward’s words, I believe) to term who is literally eating her from the inside? Ignoring the issue of abortion for the moment, I’m just saying: that baby was going to eat its way out of her. And then kills her? Because yeah, Nessy kills her mommy. Even after all their careful preparation, Bella is killed.

OH! And don’t even get me started on Bella as a vampire. Cop out. COP OUT COP OUT COP OUT. Where is my tortured scene of her trying to control herself? Where is Edward calling himself a devil, going to hell for what he has done to her? Where is her struggle? Where is her hard-earned triumph? Where are the consequences for her actions? Where is the real pain of her separation from her family (because there really wasn’t any – Charlie not talking much is no excuse to skimp on this scene)? Where is that demon child from her dreams? And why the heck was Nessy a girl if Bella was having dreams of a boy? Also, what the heck is with her “slightly” prophetic dreams? Where do those come from? Are they her powers too? But isn’t Alice supposed to have those dreams? (On a positive note: Alice being unable to see the future when werewolves are involved is actually good worldbuilding, as it felt believable while reading it and was never violated during the stories).

All of these questions are just that, questions. It’s a good thing to have these questions, as a reader, when reading a story because that means you are emotionally involved enough that you are paying attention and notice the holes. The problem comes when the reader is left feeling as if these questions don’t actually have an answer. Not just that they are NOT answered – that there IS NO answer.

For example, I just finished reading the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (like I mentioned before). Now, I wasn’t completely cool with the ending, but I never once fell out of the world woven around me. There were 13 total districts mentioned throughout the books and even though the book did not take place in every single one, I had a sense of knowing about those places. Were you to drop me off in that world, I could tell you which district I was in, where to find the Justice Building (and what it was for), the attitude and culture of the people, the inside jokes, the gallows humor, the style of dress, even what kind of food they ate. I would be aware of all these things right from the start because the world is so complete within the story that even these details are known to us. We don’t see every single location that is mentioned, we don’t know exactly how the science and technology works in this world, but we have enough knowledge about it that we feel we could figure it out. Or it simply isn’t important or worth knowing. Everything worth knowing, we know. Everything we are burning to know is just enough to keep us hooked without feeling completely listless. Again, the world is complete.

Next blog: romance. Yeah, I’m gonna go there. I didn’t think I would but the whole Twilight thing got me thinking: why do I root for certain couples and don’t care about others?