Stephenie Meyer, on how she came up with the idea for her bestselling tween-fantasy-romance Twilight [according to Chas Newkey Burdens’ biography “Stephenie Meyer – Queen of Twilight“], relates a dream in which she saw a vampire, and shared a… moment… with him. This experience stayed with her – so much – she had a first draft of Twilight in just three months. I don’t think Meyer gets enough recognition for this — but her books actually beat JK Rowling’s record by topping the bestseller lists for longer than Harry Potter.
Well, the truth is, I’m a die-hard Twilight fan. In 2009 I was in a mad dash to complete exams, term papers, projects, and the recruitment process in my 2nd year at the full-time MBA program at IESE Business School (University of Navarra) in Barcelona. So, to relieve the stress, I read some Twilight. In between classes, I put it in my pigeonhole. This got noticed. (Everyone else had real business cases in their pigeonholes). And soon my well-read, significantly worn, copy of Twilight made the rounds of just about every girl I knew at the IESE Business School by spring of 2009. When they weren’t playing musical pigeon-holes with my New Moon and my Eclipse, they came on little Vespas to collect Breaking Dawn from my apartment by Playa del Mar (next to Port Vell). I only have Stephenie Meyer to thank for getting me through to graduation!!!
Stephenie Meyer, in my mind, is a genius. Writing romance sounds like an incredibly daunting thing to do (for a business major like yours truly). To successfully weave a romantic plot, you need to drag out emotional conflict between the protagonists for chapters, and at the same time, maintain a small external subplot that only takes 20-40% of the overall space. Nevermind that the external subplot is good enough for a real fantasy story world that spans more than a fantasy trilogy!!! I mean, she chose a genre that really has something for everyone, not to mention opportunities to modularize and scale up. Midnight Sun, which unfortunately never was published, took on the entire plot of Twilight, from Edward Cullen’s point of view. It’s incredible that Meyers could do that — it goes to show the work she put into creating these memorable characters — Midnight Sun would have been a stand-alone bestseller in its own right.
The three known stereotypical romantic plot lines, according to Story Plots 101, run like this: Phantom of the Opera (guy chases girl), Cinderella (girl chases guy), and Romeo and Juliet (both fall in love with each other and: doom, doom, doom!). What’s really interesting about the Twilight series is, that you get essentially all three plot lines across the books, with a nice love triangle in between, and recurring motifs from beloved books like Pride and Prejudice, Romeo and Juliet, Jane Eyre, Anne of Green Gables… Meyer openly acknowledges that she was influenced by Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, William Shakespeare, L.M. Montgomery, and Orson Scott Card. How could you not end up loving her books, when they are fashioned after a compendium of books we all already love, and give you a morsel of each to taste?
Michael Sheen, who played Aro in The Twilight Saga movies, said in an interview that this was a compelling story because it’s about the stages of falling in love for the first time. I’d argue that it’s a compelling story because it uses the vampire storyline as a plot device to bind love with survival, not just on a microcosmic basis with the protagonist’s inner journeys (overcoming baser instincts of fear/primal hunger), but on a macro-level, with the survival of the species. It is inherently a simple idea, and yet so universal. I think that’s how Meyer manages to escalate tensions and conflict so grippingly within the couple, the community around them, and the greater species.
I thought it was incredibly funny when boys in the MBA program decided they had to get their hands on this series and figure out what the girls were so excited about. Of course, they wouldn’t quit making fun of us. Like we care. The one thing I’ll always be grateful for, as with any good book, is the fact that while the economy was crumbling to pieces all around me, Twilight put me in such a good emotional state. I mean, isn’t that the whole reason we read, to escape real life for a bit? It was awfully decent of her to make Edward very handsome. And to give Jacob a six-pack. And to have them both take their shirts off. And to write the first book from Bella’s POV so we could live vicariously through her!!! I read over and over!!!
Inspired by Meyer, I gave myself permission to write…as a hobby at first… and I bought myself the entire set of The Twilight Journals. Every day I sat down to find my voice, journalizing long-hand in one of these delightful black hard cover books, with bleeding red seams, and images and quotes that inspired the story. I went through about 10 of these a year, so now I have 30 of these, with ideas written down towards the Black Tail!!! There is definitely something magical about creating one’s very own fantasy romance within these pages.