One of the courses I'm taking for my MFA this semester is entitled "Individual Aesthetic and Process" the goal of which is to develop standards of value appropriate to the genre in which the student (me!) wishes to succeed. Because I have such a dissociative desire to write both screenplays and fiction I've decided to explore my aesthetic and process with regard to both genres.
How in the heck am I going to do that? Good question. One element of the course requirements is to explore what makes effective and significant fiction and screenwriting by examining three novels which have been adapted to film, the subsequent film, and the screenplay then write responses to each discussing story elements, themes, and structure and how these either were or were not successful in the novel form versus the film.
Basically as a student of writing I want to learn how to write well. But what writer doesn't also want to experience success? Are writing well and success mutually exclusive? I don't think so. And to explore that question, the stories I chose to look at in both novel and film form are: Twilight, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and Whip It. These novels and screenplays were all written by women and, I think, range all along the scales of quality and success.
I wrote the paper on Twilight today, and I've gotta say that I just don't care how popular it was, how successful it was, how much money it made....I just don't like it. It's insipid, it disregards conventions (i.e., it's littered with excessive adjectives and adverbs which make the writing so much weaker than it should have been), and I'm seriously disturbed by some of the messages and themes (co-dependence, underage relationships, obsession, etcetera....).
When I read it the first time I fell for the soap-opera allure of it...like a vampire glamour it mesmerized me to just keep reading no matter how bad it was. It has a certain crack-on-the-page addictive quality to it, though I still can't identify exactly what that quality is because an objective look at it just makes me embarrassed that I fell for it.
However, on second read-through the flaws were much more evident and I actually had a hard time forcing myself to keep reading. The repetitive nature of references to Edward's astonishing beauty, strength, speed, marble-like form, cold skin, and overall perfection in general were gag-inspiring. And Bella's teen angst and utter lack of self-confidence was dispiriting.
The film was even worse.
In just a 3-page paper I couldn't attempt an explanation for the incongruous success of both the novel and the film. I'm stumped to explain it other than it must have struck a chord with its target audience (tween/teen girls who daydream of idealized true love, Prince Charming, and all the trappings thereof) and it was just the right thing at the right time. Nothing more than a quirk of fate.
So...what are your feelings about Twilight? Love it? Hate it? Don't understand it's appeal? Why do you think it was so successful?