Stephen King, Stephenie Meyer and Twilight
Stephenie Meyer, upon waking from a dream, lucid and effervescent, immediately pours the filaments, the textures, the core truth into a book. In no ambiguous terms, this is resemblant of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s mythic creation of Kubla Khan… a vision gifted within a dream. Suffice to say, Taylor may have already been a poet before he received his vision, yet as history reveals time and time again, visions come at unexpected times to unexpected people – and we, with a meagre faculty of rationalism, are least equipped to criticise that the idea came to the wrong person.
Indeed, the dream that came to Stephenie Meyer is texturally rich, and has the layers of perhaps one of the greatest romances ever told, and Stephenie Meyer certainly has the sensitivity to translate it for today’s young audience. She has fully captured the depth of the love story – and, beyond anything, only a storyteller can do that (debatable as it is if a storyteller and a writer are one and the same thing).
Which brings me to Stephen King, and some of you may be aware of the comments he made about Stephenie Meyer, if not, check this. Firstly, Stephen King is a pop culture writer. The majority of his writings are hardly literature, and bearing this in mind, if he is judging Stephenie Meyer, then he is only so capable as to judge her ability to captivate an audience – but hang on a second, the one consistency in popular culture is that a person’s ability to captivate an audience speaks for itself by merely – book sales. Infact, if you wanted to speak about good writers, one of the few that integrate popular culture and simultaneously writes satire is Terry Pratchett. I find Michael Crichton to be a far better writer than Stephen King, and while we’re on the topic, J K Rowling is atrocious as a writer, but wonderful as a storyteller. But all this is using the term “writer” very loosely. Literature, as one would have it, is upon the makings of authors such as Salman Rushdie. Within popular culture, however, it is about engrossing audiences – not about writing in and of itself – the intentions are entirely different, it is about themes rather than the mastery of words.
What convinces me of Stephenie’s magical story is within her discription of how she wrote her book,
“All this time, Bella and Edward were, quite literally, voices in my head. They simply wouldn’t shut up. I’d stay up as late as I could stand trying to get all the stuff in my mind typed out, and then crawl, exhausted, into bed (my baby still wasn’t sleeping through the night, yet) only to have another conversation start in my head. I hated to lose anything by forgetting, so I’d get up and head back down to the computer. Eventually, I got a pen and notebook for beside my bed to jot notes down so I could get some freakin’ sleep. It was always an exciting challenge in the morning to try to decipher the stuff I’d scrawled across the page in the dark.”
There is a name among writers circles for this kind of writing. Billy Marshall-Stoneking, the legendary playwright of our times calls this “mediumistic writing”. I remember him explaining to me once during tea break at a writing workshop, that truly original writing is “catching”, not “throwing”… that is, writers aren’t inventing their characters – their characters are as alive and as pulsating as they are. They are, in fact, listening to the voice of their characters. If you make your character do something that is totally out of character, your character will fight with you, and sometimes, stop talking to you – until you are ready to listen again. This is why great writing has always been a struggle of the soul – it is not a picnic, it is a dramatic interchange that is life altering. Most “authors” do not write like that. Most authors imagine themselves to be the “creators” of their characters, as inventors of their fictional worlds, and go abour writing their stories in much the same way – and such authors do not stand the test of time – BECAUSE THERE IS NO SOUL IN THEIR WORK! For your stories to be immortal, you need to be listening – you need to hear the voices of your characters.
Suffice to say, Stephenie Meyer has dreamt a breathtaking vision, it is exhilarating and has earnt my respect because I have personally seen teenagers sit there in silence, lost in the world she created, their eyes LITERALLY GLEAMING with some insightful understanding of the magical. I say this with no exaggeration – it is almost as if a “seed” of something profound was given to Stephenie, and is passed on to those who read Twilight. Some concept both utopian and utterly, utterly, romantic.
Infact, just about the only book I would recommend of Stephen King’s is “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”, which is a remarkable introspection of life, and of his passion. It is the one work where a great level of soulsearching and effort had come from King, placing the book in Entertainment Weekly’s 100 Best Reads from 1983 – 2008. That is his only book in that list. It isn’t a perfect book, yet it has some crutial messages from a man who’s had a rare opportunity.
Stephen King has forgotten the meaning of romance. Perhaps to him, romance can only exist within the covers of a Mills & Boon, and that kind of thinking is unrewarding. There is, of course, the “manufactured romance”, a million and one replicas ready to feed you, dissapoint you, and ultimately harden your soul. Then there is the real thing, rare, and hard to find – oh so very rare that it comes to you as a fleeting thought, a spark here now, gone now. I believe it is this very thing that placed itself in Stephenie’s dream.
From Stephenie’s site:
I know the exact date that I began writing Twilight, because it was also the first day of swim lessons for my kids. So I can say with certainty that it all started on June 2, 2003. Up to this point, I had not written anything besides a few chapters (of other stories) that I never got very far on, and nothing at all since the birth of my first son, six years earlier.
I woke up (on that June 2nd) from a very vivid dream. In my dream, two people were having an intense conversation in a meadow in the woods. One of these people was just your average girl. The other person was fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire. They were discussing the difficulties inherent in the facts that A) they were falling in love with each other while B) the vampire was particularly attracted to the scent of her blood, and was having a difficult time restraining himself from killing her immediately. For what is essentially a transcript of my dream, please see Chapter 13 (“Confessions”) of the book.
Though I had a million things to do (i.e. making breakfast for hungry children, dressing and changing the diapers of said children, finding the swimsuits that no one ever puts away in the right place, etc.), I stayed in bed, thinking about the dream. I was so intrigued by the nameless couple’s story that I hated the idea of forgetting it; it was the kind of dream that makes you want to call your friend and bore her with a detailed description. (Also, the vampire was just so darned good-looking, that I didn’t want to lose the mental image.) Unwillingly, I eventually got up and did the immediate necessities, and then put everything that I possibly could on the back burner and sat down at the computer to write—something I hadn’t done in so long that I wondered why I was bothering. But I didn’t want to lose the dream, so I typed out as much as I could remember, calling the characters “he” and “she.”
From that point on, not one day passed that I did not write something. On bad days, I would only type out a page or two; on good days, I would finish a chapter and then some. I mostly wrote at night, after the kids were asleep so that I could concentrate for longer than five minutes without being interrupted. I started from the scene in the meadow and wrote through to the end. Then I went back to the beginning and wrote until the pieces matched up. I drove the “golden spike” that connected them in late August, three months later.
Read the rest of Stephenie’s article here. Now I leave you with Kubla Khan…
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round :
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree ;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery
But oh ! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover !
A savage place ! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover !
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced :
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail :
And ‘mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean :
And ‘mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war !
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves ;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice !
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw :
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ‘twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome ! those caves of ice !
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware ! Beware !
His flashing eyes, his floating hair !
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge.