Monday, September 1, 2008

Whose Characters Are They Anyway?

I have a confession. I am a fan of Twilight. I know there are many fans well out of their teen years, but it still feels wildly inappropriate crushing on a fictional teenage vampire at my age. Although technically Edward is older than I am, and maybe with a little Botox on my part...but this post isn't about my personal hang-ups, it's about the latest book in the Twilight Saga - Breaking Dawn.

While I didn't attend any 'countdown to midnight' bookstore parties, I couldn't wait to read Breaking Dawn and finally find out how the story would evolve and ultimately end. Would Bella pick Jacob over Edward? Would Edward and Bella really get married? And the biggie - would Bella get her dearest wish to become a vampire and be with Edward forever? As a fan, I had formulated my own future for all involved, which is the very best part of fiction and why books are usually better than movies. So I was more than a bit disappointed when my most pressing questions were answered within the first few chapters of the book.

This post is also not a review of the book, and I wouldn't want to be a spoiler (although anyone who really wanted to read Breaking Dawn was probably finished by August 3rd) but suffice to say, for me, it went from being a human story with supernatural aspects, to a completely supernatural story that I wasn't prepared to read. In other words, it didn't go the way I imagined and I had to put the book down and digest it before I could read on. This is when my writer's mind took over and asked the question - whose characters are they anyway?

Of course, they are Stephenie Meyer's, and this is her vision, so why couldn't I just go along for the ride? I know I'm not the only person who wasn't dazzled by the plot but what right do any of us have to feel this way? As a writer, it's difficult enough to let characters take their natural course without forcing our own desires onto them, but imagine having to please a legion of fans? (I know, from my lips to God's ears)

The writer in me wanted to give it a fair chance in spite of my inner fan stomping around saying "But it wasn't supposed to happen this way." Once I got over my own ideas, Breaking Dawn didn't disappoint. While it may not have been as captivating for me as some of the other books, in the end, the characters kept calling me to hear their story.

And isn't that what it's all about?


  1. Robin, I think you've hit a very important nail right on the head....Who's characters are they? When we write, we have to give our characters the freedom to go where they want and become who they are. Sometimes that's easier said than done. We THINK we know our characters and the story they need to tell, but sometimes it doesn't work out exactly as we had planned.

    It's even harder when we critique other people's work. Naturally, we have only our own ideas about the story - and they may not be in sync with the author's. A critique is supposed to help a fellow writer. That's what we're trying to do. We must be careful not to make assumptions, but to be as open as possible.

    It's an interesting question.... Who's characters are they? Sometimes they are their own.

  2. After what happened yesterday with Stephenie Meyer's work-in-progress, Midnight Sun, there's no doubt as to whose characters these are. Someone leaked a partial draft to the internet, now she's putting the ms. on hold indefinitely. Quel nightmare. Check out SM's post on her website.

  3. I hope she doesn't put in on hold for too long. The partial on her website is very cool!

  4. I think one of the most fascinating things about writing is letting brains and fingers decide what happens. That shitty first draft that holds nuggets of story that come from nowhere. I love it when I can force myself to keep writing without revising. When I am somewhat unfamiliar with what I wrote when I begin to revise. At that point, I don't know whose characters they are, but that is when they begin to become mine.

  5. I feel so awful about what happened to Stephanie Meyers. No writer should ever have that happen to her work. The characters are definitely hers.

    But, of course, when it comes to the intent of Robin's question... I definitely know the frustration of when a book goes a totally different direction than the one I had anticipated. The writer has every right to do it. She invented the characters after all. But when the story goes off in a TOTALLY different direction from the one I anticipated, I can't promise that I'll go willingly along for the ride.