Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Critique of Twilight

Nobody has submitted anything for me to analyze, so today I'll be critiquing an excerpt from everybody's favorite source of sparkly vampires--Twilight! I got this off of Oprah's website. I know Stephenie Meyer will probably never read this, it's merely an exercise.

Now, to be fair, I've always wanted to do this. That is, make this book bleed red. So excuse me if I have a little too much fun with it. *Giggles.* Here we go:

"You know Bella, Jacob?" Lauren asked—in what I imagined was an insolent tone—from across the fire. That's a lot of names all in a row. There has to be a better way. And the POV character is saying she imagined the speaker's tone was insolent... Why not say "in a tone I thought sounded insolent." The current wording is awkward.

"We've sort of known each other since I was born," he laughed, smiling at me again. People don't laugh words. Try it right now. It was super awkward, right? Either replace the comma after "born" with a period and capitalize "he" or word it "he said, laughing, and smiled at me again."

"How nice." She didn't sound like she thought it was nice at all, and her pale, fishy eyes narrowed. Fishy eyes? I kept reading it as "fleshy." By now you're bogging the reader down in too much stage direction during the conversation, interrupting the natural thought process.

"Bella," she called again, watching my face carefully, "I was just saying to Tyler that it was too bad none of the Cullens could come out today. Didn't anyone think to invite them?" Her expression of concern was unconvincing. Is this the same "she"? Why did you put a paragraph break between this and the one before it? Again, too much stage direction. I know it's in dialogue (and therefore doesn't follow the same rules as other writing) but the sentence "I was just saying to Tyler that it was too bad none of the Cullens could come out today" is super awkward, and could be streamlined a great deal. Try "I was just saying it's too bad the Cullens couldn't make it today."

"You mean Dr. Carlisle Cullen's family?" the tall, older boy asked before I could respond, much to Lauren's irritation. He was really closer to a man than a boy, and his voice was very deep. Here you're telling us that Lauren is irritated, when the POV character doesn't know that's the specific emotion going through her. She may know that Lauren grimaced at his reply, or shot a glare his way. I personally find it irritating to have the POV character backtrack and correct herself after she'd already moved the thought process back to Lauren, and give too much description during a dialogue exchange. Does it matter what exactly his age is, or what his voice sounds like, at this instant?

"Yes, do you know them?" she asked condescendingly, turning halfway toward him. More over-stage-direction.

"The Cullens don't come here," he said in a tone that closed the subject, ignoring her question. I'm not sure what a tone that closes a subject sounds like, having never really heard one myself. I've had people say things with a serious expression on their face, and after a moment of staring turn away, but the tone in itself could just be taken as angry or stern. Right here it's just more over-direction. And it's obvious he ignored her question--he didn't answer it. Don't treat the reader like they're too dumb to pick that up on their own.

Tyler, trying to win back her attention, asked Lauren's opinion on a CD he held. She was distracted. Telling instead of showing. This should read more like "'Hey Lauren, what do you think of this CD?' Lauren turned to talk to him instead."

I stared at the deep-voiced boy, taken aback, but he was looking away toward the dark forest behind us. He'd said that the Cullens didn't come here, but his tone had implied something more—that they weren't allowed; they were prohibited. His manner left a strange impression on me, and I tried to ignore it without success. He's a boy again, I see. His tone is extraordinarily specific and multi-tasking. And wouldn't the last sentence be better if it read "I tried to put it out of my mind, without success"? Ignoring something takes time, whereas putting something out of your mind you can fail at withing seconds.

Jacob interrupted my meditation. "So is Forks driving you insane yet?"

"Oh, I'd say that's an understatement." I grimaced. He grinned understandingly.

I was still turning over the brief comment on the Cullens, and I had a sudden inspiration. It was a stupid plan, but I didn't have any better ideas. I hoped that young Jacob was as yet inexperienced around girls, so that he wouldn't see through my sure-to-be-pitiful attempts at flirting. If they'd known each other for so long, how does she not know how Jacob is with girls? And why is she calling him young here? And why does she decide to flirt with him and call it a plan?

"Do you want to walk down the beach with me?" I asked, trying to imitate that way Edward had of looking up from underneath his eyelashes. It couldn't have nearly the same effect, I was sure, but Jacob jumped up willingly enough. First sentence out of dialogue would be better as "trying to imitate the way Edward looked up from beneath his eyelashes." It's more streamlined, less clunky.

Overall thoughts: I was not impressed. At all. Aside from what I wrote above, this scene is completely un-engaging. Every page of your book should have tension, to draw the reader forward to the next one, but the only thing keeping me reading here was to get through the critique. I know you're a big sensation like Brittany Spears was ten years ago, but I would recommend listening to advice of more experienced authors like Brandon Sanderson and create more engaging characters and plot.

Well, what do you think guys, was I too harsh? Do you disagree with anything, or would you add something of your own?

Please feel free to submit your own writing for the chopping block!


  1. Oh my. So much red. You really went to town on it, didn't you.
    This has to be the most I've ever read of Twilight and I have the series on my shelf.

    1. It's hard to tell with my addition but this is only about a page of it. That makes me laugh.

  2. I forced myself to read Twilight to learn something from its amazing success. But couldn't really find anything to take away. Not impressed with the writing, the story, the characters, the pacing, the world building, etc. Maybe that's the take-away: cultural phenomenons can't be explained so don't try to emulate them.

    1. The thing is, there's plenty to take away from the Harry Potter series. Imo, it gets a little too long and bogged down, and I didn't care for the ending so much, but the first book is what got me into reading, so it will always hold a fond place in my heart. I think what did it was the pacing...it was keeping me up into the night every night until I finished it.

  3. Hah! I was expecting this to be super funny, but it's actually a very astute critique. Well done, Laura.

  4. Stopping by from Matthew's blog at the QQQE. Love your critique, it's spot on! Nice to meet you. (:

  5. Interesting. See you tomorrow at theQQQE.

  6. Hi! I just got your post on the beta reader blog site. Yeah, I'm looking for more writing crit partners.
    Oh and this post was awesome. Very through breakdown of the scene. (And I about nearly gave my self a head ache trying to look up through my eyelashes. the only way it works is to squint and that just looks derpy. hahaha)

    1. Wow, you literally made me laugh out loud trying to imagine that.

  7. Thanks everyone for stopping by from QQQE!

  8. I actually like stage direction in dialog; people do more than talk when they have a conversation. I would actually have preferred stage direction instead of the word "condescendingly." (1) Don't tell me the attitude, show me. (2) How does the POV character have direct access to that character's mind? But I agree with everything else you said here and especially enjoyed the point about improper backtracking. So thanks! You've just provided me with what will probably be my entire lifetime's experience with these books with good reasoning as to why I should gladly go no farther.

  9. I loved this. I read super fast and I tend to automatically cut out any crap in the writing. It's like my brain skips right over it or something. I didn't realize how poorly these books were written until I went back and read them out loud with my then-twelve yr. old. I barely made it through the first two and gave up about a quarter way into the third when Bella and Jacob have a long conversation about nothing that went on for like three pages.

    And, I'm surprised you didn't comment on the fact that on every other page of the book (at least--sometimes more often)Bella is panting after Edward's angelic face, or sweet-smelling breath or smoldering eyes, all the while putting herself down and wondering why such a perfect being would ever want her. I was wondering myself by the end of the book.

    SUCH a bad message for young girls. And, Bella really needed to get a hold of herself. I hated that within a couple months of knowing Edward she was totally ready to ditch her family and become a vampire forever. Ugh.