The Negative Reader

Drinking Tea and Trashing Books

When writing, one of the most important things that a person must do is plan out what is going to happen. Of course, for many writers, these plans are sometimes forced to change.

For instance, in Harry Potter, Rowling originally had the entire ending chapter written out, so that she knew where the seven books were going to be heading. However, somewhere around between the fourth and fifth books, Rowling realized that she’d written an epic plot hole, which caused much of the fifth book to be writing around it, and during the final books, everything had to change from plans.

Gravity Falls originally had the Cipher wheel as nothing more than a sort of decorative thing, but when Alex Hirsh saw the work, effort, and thought that people were going to in order to decode the thing, he eventually integrated it into the finale, even if it didn’t change anything in the end.

Lord of the Rings went through so many changes that the original plot ideas are almost unrecognizable. It’s one of the reasons that when people say that Jackson was building off of some notes on the Hobbit that Tolkien had been writing out for a rewrite, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they would have found their way into the rewrite, if there ever was one.

Plans change. That’s something that all writers have to understand. When you force a story to follow your original vision, you have major, major, problems.

And that was something that Meyer ended up doing.

Forever Dawn and its legacy


I’ve mentioned this a few times, but for those who don’t want to go back and go over everything I’ve written, Forever Dawn was the original book long epilogue for Twilight. The story was much like Breaking Dawn, almost spookily so. The differences were things like Laurence staying ‘good’ and helping Cullens, the werewolves playing next to no real part other that minor cutouts, and Victoria being the one who ran off on the Volturi to squeal on the Cullens for having eating a baby and making a vampire kid

There was an imprint, however some things, such as the love triangle, weren’t there.

This was something that Meyer had written intending on writing it only for herself, but then, as she started making money, and things started going well, she decided to keep going.

And so New Moon was born, and after it Eclipse. Now, both of these, while boring, do act like sequels. They advance the story and characterization. Kind of. You got more on the minor characters and the werewolves that Meyer had planned from the start but didn’t admit to, were also fleshed out. You got more on the world, such as the Volturi, and the fact that Meyer was making her newborn vampires the most dangerous.

She gave us more tension, relatively speaking, in the relationship between Bella and Edward, first with his going off to sulk and later when there was the run around with Bella not wanting to get married (but wanting to be a vampire).

The characterization of other characters was even advanced. Rosalie went from a thin Scary Sue who had been ‘created’ for Edward and rejected into one of the most tragic characters in the entire series, and Leah, who ironically is the only character with a real character arc, was also introduced as a means to show the reader the all consuming nature of imprinting (it’s romantic, honest).

Now, it wasn’t good. It wasn’t good by a long shot, and I’ve spent a lot of time talking about why it wasn’t good, but it was fulfilling the basic needs of storytelling to build off of itself and lead the reader in the general direction of the plot.

Then came Breaking Dawn.


Meyer had Forever Dawn on her computer from the start of the series. Now, in some ways, planning backward is a good thing. A lot of authors usually plot out both the beginning and the end of the book, or even a series, so that you can tell where things are going to go from there. It can really help you to better know where you’re going and what you’re doing, and for someone like Meyer, who tends to just sort of go and not worry too much about where her story goes, it probably is the reason she had a coherent story to begin with.

It’s important to understand that Forever Dawn was an epilogue. It was just a sort of ending to tell you what happens after the main story ended. There wasn’t a real firm plot to Forever Dawn because, regardless of it being well over the size of a normal book, it was still an epilogue. It was meant to tell what happened to the characters after the main story. It’s not an actual story, and in many ways, that’s part of the thing’s problem.

The plot, such as it was, was little more than saying that after the main story of Twilight, Bella and Edward quickly got married, Bella get pregnant, Jacob imprinted, the Volturi got involved but were convinced not to do anything, and everyone lived happily ever after.

There was no resolution to the thing involving the Volturi because there didn’t need to be. The main story was done. You don’t introduce and resolve major conflict in your epilogue. The story was told, this was just the shameless fantasy that Meyer wanted to have about how perfect life would be if she had managed to bag a vampire. In many ways, the greatest problem with Forever Dawn is perfectly simple: it was completely wish fulfillment.

Meyer, being Meyer, never really realized, or maybe never cared, that since she, in her own words, realized that she wasn’t ready to stop telling the story of Edward and Bella, that she was going to need to change things around.

The Problem

What ended up happening was that rather than using Forever Dawn as a sort of basic idea of what was going to happen, she forced the series into Forever Dawn. And it showed. While I have major issues with Eclipse, both it and New Moon at least attempted to drive the story and characterization forwards. The characters did move on from their first incarnations as well, but the strange thing is that once Breaking Dawn hits, everything is back to book one. You could actually cut out the second two books, and very little would have been lost. While the Volturi were established, the hints of Jane’s own secret agenda that would be resolved in the final book never came up again, the characterization, such as it was, of the Cullens also essentially was forced back into book one. And kind of characterization of the human characters was completely gone.

Everything had to happen like in Forever Dawn. And that made a lot of weirdness.

For instance, any actual threat that the Volturi were to anyone who wasn’t Bella and the Cullens was forgotten because in the original epilogue, they’d only been here as a threat to Edward and Bella. There were ineffective villains because they couldn’t be anything but ineffective villains. They were meant to be, essentially, another James, a random bad guy who showed up at the end, and rather than Edward saving her, she saved him and everyone else.

They were there to show Bella’s final, amazing transformation into a vampire. She was superman, just like she’d said in the first book. Meyer was showing a reversal of Edward and Bella. It’s one of the reasons that she really wasn’t interested in a fight. It wasn’t necessary. The whole thing had been there for Bella, and no other reason.

The werewolves are the characters where Meyer’s forcing everything into the mold of Forever Dawn shows the most. Jacob of the other Quileutes were basically nobodies in the first book. Jacob existed to spout some exposition and return to non-existence. Later, when Meyer realized that the werewolves were necessary for her ‘clever’ ending, Jacob imprinted on Bella’s kid, and since the pack wouldn’t hurt an imprint or their family, they had to help.

However, by the time that the actual series is written, Meyer’s werewolves are actually a second set of characters. Issues such as Leah’s problems with imprinting, and Sam’s leadership are introduced, and Bella is actually developed slightly. Maybe not well, but Bella in Eclipse is not the same person as Bella in Twilight.

It’s only natural. Characters change, and that’s a good thing.

Then, Meyer reached the final book, and she already had a plan. Oh, she knew that she was going to have to change things, but she had her plan and she was going to stick to it. The problem was, much like her very premise, Meyer tried to force the other two books into her original vision, not really worrying if Forever Dawn had been nothing more than an epilogue.

The other two books had become nothing more than fluff. They only had two reasons that they even existed anymore. One, so that Meyer could keep writing about them, and to make some loose ends and resolve them before the actual end, all characterization, other potential plot threads, and everything else was forgotten, so that Meyer’s original vision could come true.

The Effect

In the past, Meyer’s wish-fulfillment had worked out just fine. Her fans had rallied behind her. In reality, she had no reason to think that this wouldn’t be more of the same. And it shows. All of her interviews right before the book comes out are her usual, bubbly, ‘lol I’m so crazy’ stuff that you usually see from writers.

The problem was that Meyer’s lack of understanding of her audience and the fact that she was trying to force the story into the original vision was a bad combination. One that essentially broke down her entire writing career.

What Meyer didn’t understand was that the fans weren’t there for Bella. Most of them didn’t even like her all that much. They were there for Edward, or they were there for Jacob. Edward became little more than a footnote in Bella’s perfect life, and Jacob feel in life with a newborn baby. Neither team was thrilled by this.

Breaking Dawn broke the fandom. There’s no other way to say this. Twilight’s fandom was powering on happily, completely ignoring its critics until this book came out. I’m not sure how many people remember this, but it was glorious. There were youtube videos of angry fans burning the books, some girl finally saying rather than burning the books, they should return them.

But, what was most important was the posts on posts of fans saying that this book ‘didn’t feel like their characters’. They were right. It wasn’t. Now, I’m not going to pretend that I like Meyer’s characters. I don’t. I think almost all of them are two dimensional cutouts, but at the same time, the fans were completely right. Those characters were different. They had suddenly been yanked back to how they’d been in the first book, and for some characters, that was pretty flat.

For characters like the werewolves, who’d had no personality, they faded away more and more after Jacob imprinted on Renesmee. We’re told what happens, but they’re not really important anymore. They were just background in the original and they are that now.

The Cullens and Bella even mostly dropped what character development that they’d had, and were right back to the way they were.

In most respects, it was as if the former two books hadn’t really happened, and, yes, the fans noticed. And that, as well as Meyer’s own reaction, essentially ended Meyer’s career.

This was the book where Meyer’s original mistake, that of focusing her entire book on only one real vision, really bit her, and probably the only one. The reason was simple: while people were perfectly happy to have Meyer’s wish fulfillment mesh with their wish fulfillment, Breaking Dawn mostly ended up erasing Meyer’s own characterization and continuity in the name of remaining true to her own vision.

Fixing It

Let your story grow. Things change, things grow, you grow. Sometimes the story that you started out telling isn’t the story that you end up telling. You’ve changed, and that’s a good thing.

Meyer needed to let her story grow too.

Twilight and Forever Dawn were stories that were written at a specific time, and with a specific mindset, but in a series where two more books had been written, a lot needed to be changed. As hard as it is, sometimes, things move past the visions you originally had for them. Characters change, the plot alters. Even things that authors loved aren’t necessarily things that you can put into a final draft. That is one of the places that the phrase “kill your darlings” comes from.

Meyer had created two more books, and with those books, characters had changed, subplots had formed, and the expectations of the audience had altered.

Maybe they would have been ok with Breaking Dawn if that book had been right after Twilight. Maybe. But as it was, Meyer tried to force her series back into its original vision, and unlike before, when her obsession with her dream was ignored by readers, who were projecting bits of themselves and their ideas of themselves unto the characters, this was something that no one could make better.

As it was, Meyer, and all writers who find that their original vision is becoming less and less like something that is possible, that’s ok. You change, stories change, and one part of writing is, unfortunately moving past the first ideas that come to you. Often first ideas aren’t very good. Fault in Our Stars might be pretentious clap trap in my opinion but Green at least had the understanding that the ending where Hazel and the Crabby Dutchman band together and kill a drug lord for…reasons without repercussions in memory of Augustus was stupid. There are several writers who ended up changing an ending that they liked better because they knew that the revised one suited the story better.

It’s hard to revise, and it’s hard to let the story grow past that idealistic first stage, but it’s something that needs to be done.

Final Thoughts

Meyer took her initial vision very seriously, and in the end, while she managed to avoid it for longer than I thought possible, she eventually suffered for it. The reason was a combination of the fan’s own expectations, Meyer’s refusal to allow her story to grow beyond her original vision, a lack of understanding of what her fan base even wanted, and a story that was formatted like an epilogue, with little lasting conflict (be it Bella actually struggling or even the main confrontation at the end), too much happening in the background, and a sudden jerk of character development backwards.

In some regards, it’s a little sad to watch the very thing that Meyer thought was so important to her books, staying true to her original vision, end up as the thing that essentially destroyed her own work.

However, she claimed that she loved her characters, and regardless of saying that this was their true personalities, she should have considered if they’d really do the same things after the plot had happened. Would Bella, who didn’t really like the idea of marriage because it was too big of a step for her, (regardless of becoming immortal, but whatever) really suddenly want to have a child at eighteen? Would she really be willing to potentially die for that child? That answer should have been no.

If Meyer wants to really come back from the problems of the Twilight Saga, what she needs is not to write a gender bender, but to consider if her original vision really is something that CAN be published well and move from there. It will take time, it will take humility, and it does take sacrifice, but, at least as I see it, forcing a story to do something that makes no sense is worse.

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