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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

*Twilight Spoiler* and a Hero's Journey

As you all know I recently read Twilight. And as most of you Twilight readers probably know, the first book has the first three chapters of New Moon at the very end. So, that was able to hold me over until I could run to the book store to pick up the next book. Last night, I was finally able to buy New Moon and was very excited to begin reading when a thought occurred to me... (but please do NOT read on if you do not want the ending spoiled for you...)

I thought... Hey wait a minute! Bella didn't save herself in Twilight!!! True, she stood up to the antagonist of the book, but ultimately it was Edward and the others who save her and kill the Tracker.

This goes against EVERYTHING we are taught. We are told our MC must battle the antagonist him/herself. The MC must conquer the antagonist (or not -- a novela noir). No adults are supposed to help, and this is true from PB all the way up to YA.

JK Rowling broke a lot of rules but mostly about page count and she wasn't afraid to show a very evil antagonist in a MG novel or to show a child hero fighting. Obviously, by the end, Harry was a YA and was intended for a YA audience. But, her rule breaking, I feel, was for the betterment of children's literature.

However, to write that your MC does not win the battle scene from her own wit and cunning, I am not sure how I feel about this. Bella does, on her own, go with the intention of fighting, even if that means ultimately her death. She does fight as hard as she can, but in the end, fails and needs to, unknowingly, rely on the others to save her. Plus, SM doesn't even show us that battle scene.

Is this how she makes it OK? We see Bella's intention to battle the Tracker and even though she loses, as we are reading it, we still felt satiated for some reason. Maybe it is because we never see how the others fight and win. If we did, it would become their battle scene. Is this how she got away with breaking this rule and leaving us almost unaware that her MC didn't fight the ultimate battle scene... because it was never shown. Even Bella (written in first person...) doesn't know the battle scene, which is why we cannot know the true battle scene.

This reminds me of what my screenwriting teacher used to say... Know the rules, so you can break them. I guess this is exactly what SM did. We can all argue that eventually, if Edward and the others always save Bella, this will become a glorified fairy tale with a fair maiden waiting to be saved by her man, but as you know... I am way behind all of you and have not yet read past chapter 4 of New Moon - so please do not give too much away...


What do you think about this? Why were we still satisfied at the end? What do you think about breaking rules? Do you think you are doing that in your WIP? And what is the difference between us doing it and hearing at every SCBWI event that we can't break those rules and yet here are these two great writers who not only did, but are laughing all the way to the bank? Please share your thoughts about this, I really want to hear what you have to say...

20 comments:

Gottawrite Girl said...

I love it when writers break the rules and plot something unexpected... but it still has to satisfy! That is kinda why we read - because there is such a comforting order in the ribbon-wrapped plotted-world of books. unexpected is divine, but it must somehow leave me feel like there is order, justice and hope!

Jeanie W said...

Picking apart TWILIGHT is a great exercise. I think one of the most important ways to learn how to write is to read extensively in your genre: both the classics and newer publications. Then you can see for yourself what works and not get locked into the limited view of a few creative writing teachers or a few books on writing craft. Some of the "rules" are really just a matter of personal taste or limited imagination.

Thanks for another great post.

beth said...

While I do think it's true that breaking the rules can be a useful tool of a writer, I also kinda think that SM didn't break the rules: she didn't write a hero's journey, she wrote a damsel-in-distress fairy tale disguised as a hero's journey.

PJ Hoover said...

Good post. I'm not entirely convinced SM new the rules and broke them intentionally. I think she wrote a compelling book with a happy ending and got it published and sold gazillions of copies. But Bella continues to be a relatively weak character throughout the series.
And scanning down I just read Beth's comment and agree. Did SM make a conscious choice to write a damsel-in-distress novel? Maybe.

Sheri said...

Great insight everyone! I do wonder if writers break the rules consciously. I think not, as well. I think it's more that we have a story we want to tell, the way we want to tell it. Then it is people, like me, who analyze it and say... Hey wait a minute, here!

Susan, it IS nice to know that in the book world, all is well in the end and a nice escape from the reality of "life's not fair."

Jeanie, thanks! I just keep thinking out loud and it's nice to know there are those of you out there listening... And it's true, reading has been my greatest teacher this past year. I learn more by reading novels then reading "how to's." Both can be inspiring, but I tend to learn more when I SEE it done, rather then read HOW it's done.

Beth, very valid point! You're absolutely right!!! She didn't write a hero's journey and it is a fairy-tale in disguise. Now, that you say that, it is so obvious!

PJ - this is exactly what I was afraid of, that Bella continues to be a weak female character... but if we remind ourselves it is a modern day fairy tale, then I guess it is not as upsetting.

Barrie said...

Well, I haven't read the fourth book. But....you are not the first person to complain about Bella not saving herself.

Sheri said...

Barrie, I'm sure you're right.

When I am reading a series behind the rest of the world, I shelter myself from spoilers and refuse to read any reviews, etc. I did read one blog - maybe Writing Out Loud... I can't recall... where this book was discussed as a must read. That's how it got on my list and I that's where I learned Edward was a vampire, but I have not read any other reviews. I did see a trailer...

But again, I am sure I am not the only one to think the things I am thinking and because I’m behind the eight ball, I guess I am being redundant.

I can't wait to get to the fourth book and see what all the hullabaloo was about. Again, I have no idea and I DON'T WANT TO KNOW, other then 1/2 her fans were disappointed and 1/2 said SM had no choice. And I'm sure when I do read the 4th book, I will say many of the things that have already been said...

ChrisEldin said...

I think it's all about honesty.
If you can be the first to write what people are honestly feeling (not what's correct), then you've captured something nice. Something big. A friend of mine is doing that right now (in a different genre). She's saying what others are afraid to say. And doing it very well, I might add....

Sheri said...

That's a true statement Chris. And you've made me very intrigued about your friends permise to her book. I'd love to know what it is!

cindy said...

yeah, i don't really believe in any of the rule things, either. i think readers were satisfied with the ending because they expected and wanted bella to be saved BY EDWARD. it was his job as the invincible fast stalkery insanely beautiful vampire hero.

Sheri said...

Yeah and we love invincibly fast stalkery insanely beautiful vampire heroes, don't we!

Sarah Hina said...

I haven't read Twilight yet, so I didn't read your post.

But I just wanted to say that I'm sorry I haven't been by in awhile. I've been reading your posts through a feedreader, and need to carve out some time for commenting.

I know: excuses, excuses....

;)

keri mikulski :) said...

I do like when writers break rules. It makes for a different story, which is nice sometimes. But, I agree - it has to be satisfying. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I haven't finished Twilight yet. :)

Tabitha said...

I completely agree with Beth. I'm really interested in what you think of New Moon. I hope you'll post about it!

For me, I think the ending of Twilight is satisfying because of how the story was set up. I don't think anyone really expected Bella to be able to overpower a vampire. We give her kudos for trying, and would have seriously impressed if she'd succeeded on her own, but really, that wasn't expected.

This begs the question...does that mean that the endings of subsequent books shouldn't fall into the same category? That Bella should grow as a character and eventually be able to defeat a vampire by wit and resourcefulness alone? Or is the same kind of ending acceptable throughout?

Sheri said...

Sarah, don't be silly. Visit me when you can and when you want to. Comment when you are inspired to say something. My blog should not become yet another chore in your already busy life! (But I am glad you stopped by!)

Keri, don't be embarrassed. Again, on the same topic as with Sarah... reading shouldn't be a chore... I like when writers break rules WELL... A badly broken rule is irritating, right?

(Beware of Spoilers…) Tabitha, not to worry. I will not let you down. So far I am doing a lot of eye rolling at the histrionics of Bella over Edward’s departure. But I keep reminding myself – this is why it is a YA novel and not written for Adults. I guess we are all like this to one degree or another at 17, 18… It’s all about the boyfriend at those ages. And I agree, I didn’t really have any idea how Bella could possibly overpower a vampire. But you know what? I never knew how Harry was going to overpower an ogre, a dragon, a basilisk, Lord Voldemort!!! That was JK Rowling’s job, not mine. I was just along for the ride. I am not saying SM should have had Twilight end any differently necessarily, but of course, we, the readers, couldn’t imagine how Bella could win. That was SM’s job. And maybe… maybe, she took the easy way out. Just maybe… I still found it satisfying when I read it. It wasn’t until a week or so later that I realized what she had done. And Beth’s brilliance was dead on – it wasn’t a hero’s journey after all. And… I agree with your question and think it is a good one. Again, not to drudge up poor Harry, but there was no way he could have fought Voldemort in book 1 and won, or book 2, 3, 4, 5… He needed to grow as a character so would be ready to do battle come what may. And we worried for him, with him, but we knew HE had to do this battle. HARRY and no one else. That’s what I think for Bella too, but I already predict that will not be the case. I guess I will have to read on and find out for myself…

Tabitha said...

You're absolutely right that she took the easy way out. And I think she got lucky that her ending was still satisfying. Which is why I'm SO curious what you think of the rest of the books. How's New Moon coming? :)

motherx said...

I think Twilight worked but her other books in my opin were not as enjoyable. I have read them all apart from 'Breaking Dawn', as found myself being sucked into wanting to know what happens next. So I guess breaking the rules is good and I'm just not a very good judge!!

Angela said...

I'm a teen reading the series and I'm a huge fan. Your analysis though of Twilight brought a really interestig perspective. I had never looked at it this way before. I'm studying a hero's journey now in english (I'm actually writing an essay on itusing Twilight) and I think to an extent your point that with Edward saving Bella it loses its validity as a story of a hero's journey is correct, but at the same time, (though it was was said SM was taking the easy way out), Bella defeating a vampire herself would have been completely unreasonable (also the transition into Bella wanting to become a vampire herself wouldn't have flowed as well seeing as she had to get bit first to learn how it happened). Furthermore, couldn't it be considered that Bella didn't need to overcome a physical obstacle like defeating a vampire to complete her journey but rather overcome an emotional obstacle such as realizing the sacrifice of herself may save those who she loves.

The Deffenbaughs said...

Here's the twist that SM gave us: Who is the hero of the series? Is it Bella or Edward? We assume it's Bella because the story is in first person and because we see her leaving her ordinary world (Phoenix) at the beginning of the story. While she does return there at the end, consider Edward as the hero of the story. What is his ordinary world? Does he return to it at the end? This story is easily a journey for both of them. Both Bella and Edward follow all the steps of Vogler's journey and come out with a "gift" they did not have before.

Jane :D said...

Im doing Hero's Journey for English too. I chose Twilight for the book to be reviewed. Not a wise choice now that I read these comments D:

However, I need to finish writing a speech about the HJ and I have no idea when the call to adventure is D:
HELP!!

“Personal limitation exists only in our ideas of who we are. Give up all notions of who you are and your limitations will vanish.”

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