Monday, January 21, 2008

Twilight: Inspiration in Creating a Novel

Stephanie Meyer has written a series of 'vampire novels' that have been tremendously successful especially among teens. They may not have been perfectly crafted books in every respect, but they are very compelling and the male 'leads' she created are marvelous each in his own way. One need not puzzle as to why these books have been as successful as they have been. The concepts are potent and she is a great storyteller. The first 'Twilight' book now is being made into a film.

I do not consider the 'Twilight' series to be equal to the 'Warriors' series as truly great literature possibly because 'Warriors' encompasses so much in terms of world-building, mythology, philosophy, social and heroic themes. I firmly believe that the 'Warriors' books will be classics. The 'Twilight' series always may be popular romances and they certainly draw upon universal concepts but they are not quite on the same level. Even so, the 'Twilight' series is quite an accomplishment and I was interested to read an interview with the author.

Stephanie Meyer claims that she never has seen a vampire film in her life and never read 'Dracula' by Bram Stoker. She did read Ann Rice but on the whole, steered clear of vampire literature, preferring to keep her own vision pure. Oddly enough, I thought that the 'Twilight' series appeared to be influenced a little by 'Underworld' but that cannot be the case if she never saw those films...

She never watched 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' and she never watched 'Angel'. Her own shaping of the vampire myth and its similarities to many other contemporary visions of the species renews my faith in Jung's theory of the 'collective unconscious'. Her 'Twilight' series was inspired by a dream she once had, but who is to say what thoughts and influences swirled in her subconscious?

Another very different contemporary vampire novel is 'Peeps' by Scott Westerfield. Westerfield is a talented writer who has managed to captivate the teen audience with a number of novels that deal with issues of self-esteem, appearance and social pressures. 'Peeps' includes some very detailed and graphic essays on parasites of various unsavoury kinds but the novel on the whole is cleverly written and devised. The ultimate 'enemy', however, is a bit too 'creature feature' for me. I much prefer Stephanie Meyer's vision to that of Scott Westerfield, although I enjoyed both.

It is clear that Scott Westerfield deliberately chooses to target the teen audience, although his books can be enjoyed by older adults. Stephanie Meyers on the other hand declares that she did not intend to write 'teen fiction' but gravitated towards a schoolgirl heroine simply because she felt that to be the most dramatic age in a person's life and those memories to be the most intense.

Her books essentially are romantic novels with a supernatural twist. It is the idea of a type of romantic love that is stronger than death, stronger than species and stronger than any instinct of self-preservation that fuels her novels. To some extent, the 'Twilight' series are Gothic novels in a contemporary form.

I am not the sort of reader who particularly wishes to know about a writer's 'real' history or life. I always believed that if writers choose to project themselves through their literature alone, that is their right. Furthermore, very often when I have met writers who have been favourites of mine, I have been severely disappointed in the man or woman behind the books. In many cases, it seems as though all the humanity and all the best qualities of the individual have been poured into the creative work and little is left to admire or respect in the writer's actual life. Fair enough, in my opinion. A man or woman has the right to be an absolute beast or boring creature if that is the price of creating a work of genius.

I did not seek out an interview with Stephanie Meyer, but one caught my eye, especially when I saw that we shared a love of 'Muse'.

She stated that if she were limited to one CD on a desert island, she would choose Muse's 'Absolution'. I love 'Muse' myself and 'Absolution' is high on my list of favourite popular music recordings, but I don't think I would choose it over classical music if one were allowed only a single CD. Gounod's 'Faust' still remains a favourite of mine and I think that, if I had to listen to the same CD over and over again, 'Faust' would outlast 'Absolution'.

I suppose the reason I find her interesting is the fact that, while writing a vampire series, she deliberately chose to blind herself to the whole history of vampires in literature and popular culture. Perhaps that is a source of her creative strength and determination. In taking her dream and rendering it into flesh, she pursued a vision that could not be satisfied by anything less than its realisation at her own hands.

I always have been fascinated with vampires myself. Perhaps if I had not read so many vampire novels and seen so many vampire films, I would be more determined to transform my own vision into reality. Does my role as a reader and audience bleed me of creative energy ultimately? In spending so much of my life appreciating the work of others, have I become disposed to indolence and less driven creatively to express my own visions?

When I read 'Lord of the Rings' I invariably wish that I had created it myself. When I read the 'Warriors' series, I invariably wish that I had conceived and brought it into being... With this is a feeling that the greatest that can be created has been created by some one else. This is patently false, of course. After all, Erin Hunter's 'Warriors' series was created decades after Tolkien. 'Harry Potter', another powerful creation, is recent as well. There may be nothing new under the sun, but the means by which it can be expressed are infinite.

Must I lock myself into a room without books or film in order to be forced to create something original from the depths of my own psyche? If it always is easier to amuse myself with some one else's creation, when will I finally put that temptation aside to begin a real work of my own?

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