The Shocking Truth About Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” #amreading #books #Twilight

Posted by on August 27, 2012 in Debatable Topics | 25 comments

The Twilight Saga took the reading world by storm, igniting passion in millions of readers across the world. Sometimes I wonder what those early reviews used to look like, before the book became so popular. I imagine a lot of people had good things to say about it, and that led to a lot more people buying their own copy. Soon after that, I’m sure, people started buying it to see what the big deal was. I admit, I had no idea about any of it until my kids’ babysitter handed the books off to me.

Then, as I was work-shopping my own book in various online writer groups, I came across many discussions on the book. And just about every writer I came across there (and since then!) HATED Twilight. The complaints varied from how terribly written it was to how unhealthy the characters’ relationships were, and so on. Heck, even most book blogs I stumble across these days have a plethora of negative things to say about the series. I’ve even seem some people insult the intelligence of others because they did like the books, though that seems par for the course in the book world these days.

And yet, the book has sold millions. So why is that? And why do so many people hate her books?

Why Twilight is Popular Even Though Many Writers and Book Bloggers HATE the Series

Here is what Twilight has to offer:

1) Two people who are desperately in love but would have to make great sacrifices in order to be together.

2) A lead female role (Bella Swan) that is (mostly) a blank canvas, meaning that any reader can “step into her shoes” so that THEY become Bella and get to have her experiences, which they want to have because . . .

3) the lead male, Edward Cullins, is mysterious, strong, sensitive, more-experienced, and sexy (though this is subjective).

4) vampires (yes, millions of people still love vampires).

Why Writers HATE Twilight

1) The writing. Many writers say the writing isn’t good enough. Theirs is of course better, so how come Twilight is selling millions when they can’t even land an agent?

What they might be missing: Everyday readers who aren’t writers and don’t study the craft of writing don’t know the writing is “bad” (this is also subjective). They also don’t want to know and don’t care. They just want to enjoy a good story. The story is also written in 1st person from a teenager’s point of view. Should Bella tell her story like William Buckley?

2) It’s popular. Maybe not all writers hate books because they are popular, but from what I’ve noticed, as soon as a book becomes popular, authors who haven’t YET had the same success seem to hate the book. I’m not saying that is necessarily why they hate it, but it IS possible that jealousy is a factor, even if only subconsciously. I imagine it’s also frustrating that books are becoming bestsellers that break all the writing “rules” while they follow the rules and can’t find a publisher.

What they might be missing: Even if a writer isn’t jealous, I suggest they look at why people DO love the book instead of why they SHOULDN’T. If a writer consistently hates bestsellers, they may be out of touch with the general reading audience, or they may just have non-mainstream tastes, which is perfectly fine: they just need to be aware if they have niche tastes and are writing for a niche audience, as that will help them publish and market their novel.

3) Vampires. It must be annoying for those who write other genres to see vampire fiction continuing to do well year after year. We keep seeing writers and bloggers saying “vampires are out” but there are still millions of readers looking for the next vampire fiction read!

What they might be missing: It might be a good idea to look at WHY people love vampire fiction. Is there anything about vampire fiction that might also make other books without vampires really addicting? Is it the idea of immortality, is it feeling safe from death or threatened by it? Is it forbidden romance or is it haunting affairs? What do vampires subconsciously symbolize to the average reader? Or  is it just plain fun to read about them? This is what writers should ask themselves when they are baffled that vampire fiction is still selling.

Why Bloggers HATE Twilight

I’d say most writers don’t like Twilight and the same goes for the majority of bloggers (even though most readers seem to love it!). Will anyone ever all love on book? No. But when a book is as popular as Twilight, a lot of people will read it to see what the hype is about. This is why we see things like people saying they don’t like the book because Bella is 17 and Edward is centuries old. Well, that’s how most vampire romance novels are. If someone doesn’t like that, I have to wonder why they are reading a vampire romance! Often people read books they wouldn’t normally because they are popular. Also, a lot of bloggers are ALSO aspiring writers, so many of them view books with the “writer’s lens” instead of the readers lens. Their review and rating show that they know what writing is supposed to be. That’s why, IMO, there is such a difference between the opinion of readers and the opinion of bloggers and writers when it comes to this book.

Closing Thoughts

We all know that Stephenie Meyer isn’t Faulkner, but she’s one hell of a storyteller, and that is why Millions of people love her books. Truth is, a great story is worth more these days than great writing. Writers and bloggers may disagree (and I don’t blame them; I, too, put a lot of work into my prose) but the truth remains that there are more READERS than writers and bloggers in this world, and READERS just want an amazing story to get lost in.

I’m not saying writers shouldn’t strive to write the best they can. But they can expect that if THEIR book becomes a hit, there will be a ton of other authors and bloggers saying it’s NOT well-written. Many of us writers can’t help but think of how WE would tell the story or how WE would craft a sentence. That doesn’t mean Stephenie Meyer (or any other writer) did it in the worst way possible. It just means they did it differently from how we would do it.

Besides, who is going to argue that Twilight is the WORST written book on the planet? I certainly won’t. Unlike many of my colleagues in the writing field, I found that Twilight was an engaging read. I understand the reasons some people didn’t like it, and I also understand that some people didn’t like it for the wrong reasons. But one thing I think we can all agree on, is that Meyer did a great job of engaging a VERY large audience. Kudos to her success.

* * *

Rebecca Hamilton is a USA Today bestselling Paranormal Fantasy author. Her bestselling Forever Girl Series is available at online retailers and has been optioned for film with Witten Pictures. The Hungarian edition has been published with IPC books and the German edition has been published with Darkiss, a Harlequin imprint.


  1. As my favourite bookstore owner says ‘Readers will forgive a lot for a story they crave’. There is something about the story of Twilight that sweeps the reader along, when another book, written to the same skill level, with a less compelling story, would not.

    It’s not so much that readers don’t know what bad writing is (they often can’t explain it, but they’ll ‘know’ when a book isn’t ‘grabbing’ them and often it’s about the quality of the writing) – but when they engage with a story as fully as they do with Twilight, they just don’t notice.

    There must be something about some kinds of stories that are just hard-wired into many people’s brains.

  2. The prime requisite for a successful writer is storytelling. Say what you want about the deficiencies of successful writers, they have storytelling skills, and it’s debatable whether or not that skill can learned. Those who have it prosper, and those who don’t wish they did.

    Ultimately, the reader just wants a good story, and symbolism and all this other stuff we put so much emphasis on is really just window dressing. A story works or it doesn’t. Most readers couldn’t care less about the fancy adornments we add. There is beauty in simplicity.

  3. Perhaps there’s another layer to this issue of why writers often don’t like Twilight: It’s not just the quality if the writing, but we are ATTUNED to it. We spend so much time trying to find what’s wrong in our own work, we’re used to finding what’s wrong in ANY work.

    Writers are built to critique. I think almost every writer out there who is trying to make their mark had the same moment at some point in their history: They read a book and thought “Huh… I could do this writing thing. Maybe as good as this or even better!”

    For me, I thought the story was okay – in the first couple of movies. I thought the sparkly vampires thing was a bit silly, but once the romantic plot got going it wasn’t bad. Some of the fight scenes are great! However, I cannot read the books. I just can’t. The writing is a major distraction.

    Frankly (and I may be lynched for this) but I think Tolkien is similar in some ways – a great storyteller, but not a very good writer. Oh, Tolkien can paint sweeping landscapes and give such amazing imagery. But it goes on and on and ON! However, his stories are fantastic – if you can trudge through the writing.

    Then again, if you think writers are hard on Stephanie Meyer, you should see what chefs do to each other on those Food Network and Cooking Channel competitions! HAHA!

    • You won’t be lynched for having an opinion :) I agree that writers read with their critique hats on. If 100 writers would give your book 3-4 stars, it’s probably a 5 star book HAHA. Because no matter how amazing you are, writers WILL find something wrong with it.

      Also, I got writing because of the Vampire Kisses novels. I was like . . . oh, if this gets published, I can do this writing thing! Little did I know . . . Ieat my words. But I still don’t like those books.

      I am one of those people who think some writers go on and on too much. BUT they get away with it and some readers love that. I’d say Stephen King is like that. His rule o cut 10% and then cut another 10% makes sense for him. He can do that and his books would still be 50% longer than if I told the same story haha (and that’s scary since I’m not exactly known for my brevity!).

  4. I really liked Twilight. It’s the series that pulled me back into reading and writing after a two year lull. At first when I heard about it I refused to read it because of all the hype. Then the friend I used to make fun of Twihards with told me she read it and liked it and lent me her copy. I was hooked.

    I think the whole vampire thing is about the danger–the “bad boy” effect. I’m a sucker for bad boys.

    As far as the writing goes, I guess I didn’t have my editor hat on when I read it. I just enjoyed the story. Besides, it was her first novel and she’d never really attempted to write anything before, what can we expect? Writing skills don’t develope overnight, it takes time.

  5. Good post. A refreshing take on the twilight phenomenon.

    I think the reason Twilight is popular is because it really appeals to women. To be more specific, I read the first page (that’s all I ever read) and pretty quickly realized this was a book that was very feminine. I could easily understand why young girls were into this. It was the sort of book that helped them understand themselves as they developed into women. I assume the rest of the book series is in the same style, so I think that’s what sold it. It appealed to female readers really, really well. Not necessarily a great story or great prose in the greater scheme of stories and prose. But in terms of appealing to female readers, the only book that has come close in recent times is its step-child The Fifty Shades of Grey. Note: I’m not saying there aren’t plenty of effective novels aimed at women—just that in terms of sales only 50 Shades seems to be comparable to Twilight. One can argue The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo belongs in that circle, but its really besides the point.

    Now what does I mean, it appeals to women but its not a good story. Well, let’s say by appeal to women, I mean it was very effective at stimulating emotions that are more commonly ascribed to women/feminine individuals (are generally are). But I don’t think a typical male would find it easy to become emotionally attached to Twilight. In the same way that probably most women readers wouldn’t be instantly immersed in a Tom Clancy title. A great story, presumably, would be close to equal in its ability to draw out emotions over a wide-scale of audience types.

    Ex: Harry Potter. Considered successful in various segments of reader types.

    Likewise, take a film like Transformers 3. Very effectively sold to a male audience even though the story sucked. It offered enough to make up for its lack of a story—nice visuals, cool explosions, the fun of seeing childhood heroes brought to life on the big screen. I speculate this could have been the case with Twilight. Maybe female readers just really enjoyed being able to imagine themselves having a relation with a man like Edward Cullen.

    I won’t say the Twilight series is nearly as trashy as many bloggers/writers say, but I don’t think it deserves much credit either.

    • I would just be careful saying Fifty Shades of Grey is for the same audience 😉 I do also see where some bloggers criticize Twilight of the “message” it sends, but to be honest, lots of books send that same message and no one cares. Why? Because the average reader isn’t looking for some possible message. They are just looking for entertainment. I will agree that many books are geared toward either a male OR female audience,and Twilight’s primary audience is female. But lots of books do that. It had to be something more :)

  6. This is one of the most well stated blogs I have ever read on the Twilight subject. I’ll admit it, I loved the books. Were they perfect? Heck no, but really, how many books are?

  7. There’s one bit a lot forget about these books: Bella does have a persona that Meyer defined. She’s far from a complete blank slate.

    And what is that persona? A manipulative woman who plays with and uses two supernatural beings under the idea of romance. Call me a cynic, but I think even readers who don’t care about prose/style/plot/ect. can at least see that in these books. Of course, the tables turn in the last book, then the men are the bigger monsters. On the subject of abortion no less.

    • I see that more with the movies than the books. With the books, I see more that she is just a teen with high emotions and confused about where her heart lies.

  8. Let me start by saying that I am NOT a writer. Truth be told, I’m not really much of a reader either, though I daresay I’ve read more books than many of my friends.

    My disabled teenage daughter kept begging me to read these books to her as all of her friends were reading them. I figured I liked vampire stories well enough, so why not?

    I barely managed to finish the first book as the writing was so poor. Keep in mind that I am NOT a writer, nor do I profess to have any talent to spin a tale. That being said, I am not completely ignorant to good writing either. I found it extremely difficult to read several hundred pages of simple sentences.

    Needless to say, I didn’t read the rest of the series. However, that did not stop me from buying the rest of the series. My daughter loves the stories and has her caregivers/babysitters read them to her.

    • It’s great that she loves the story and can be excited about it! I can understand not wanting to read a book you feel isn’t well-written though. I’ve felt that way before, too.

  9. I have to say that I don’t like twilight. First off..even though I wasn’t a big fan of the Sookie stakehouse series…the ‘similarities’ twilight had to it was rather..large.

    second..I’m a HUGE vampire nerd and mythical creature nerd all together. Vampires…just don’t sparkle.

    However, there is folklore somewhere (germany I think) About blood drinking fairies who do sparkle in the sunlight, lol.

    The characters. I liked Alice and Jacob, but Bella was too….snobby. and..I hate the word but..marysue-ish. Constantly puts herself down but ALL the boys are falling head over heels for her.

    Edward to begin with I didn’t like. His attitude to me is just too…abusive boyfriend. Had she gone with Jacob i would have kept slight interest.

    And the romance to me just didn’t feel like romance, just an abusive relationship.

    • a lot of people do hate twilight for the same reasons. but fact remains, S.M. engaged millions. I rather look at what she did right than what she did wrong. I’m happy for her that she has had great success. I hope for every person to have success (and yes, authors are people, even if they become objectified in some ways) :)

  10. In my humble, unprofessional opinion, the MAIN reason I think Twilight appealed to the masses is because it was the first time Vampire as Love Interest idea went mainstream. Vampire myth has always been the same: they are predators, killers AND KILLERS. The immortality, danger and their dashing, never fading good looks always appealed to the reader. it something unreal and unattainable. Like the forbidden fruit. Thats the appeal of the Vampire. Stephanie did something different and made a vampire into an every day teenager, someone who can actually be REAL. The problem is the execution of her idea. She crammed every stereotypical trope into her idea of “epic” romance without taking into consideration the complexities of human or even vampire nature. She engaged millions because it was something, dare I say, NEW on the MAINSTREAM market. I’ll give her credit for putting Young Adult genre out there along with JK Rowling, but the bottom line is, Twilight books are simply terrible.

    I read all four and it made me so mad how little respect Stephanie had for Jacob Black, the most interesting character in the book. She treated him like a puppet to energize the so-called “angst” in the epic love that is Edward and Bella. Even the angst was poorly executed. Its an instalove that lasted for four books. No build up, no tension, no nothing. Poor Jacob never had a chance, yet she had him strung for THOUSSAAANDDS of pages. Even had him wait for Bella’s offspring till she reached ripe adult age, which is beyond creepy, and these books are ALL about a LOVE TRIANGLE, which was never a triangle to begin with. Hell, in New Moon she had a chance to create something out of Bella and Jacob, but she chose to have her attempt suicide only to have schizophrenic hallucinations of a man who abandoned her so easily, it made my head spin. Bella just had to have it all. And poor Jacob paid the price, along with so many other readers who read Breaking Dawn fighting the urge not to vomit. There is a reason why Mary Sue term exists, and Bella is the crowned queen of them all. How can any woman or a teenager resonate with her is beyond me, but to each their own.

    Twilight is like a FastFood burger. First few are good, then you realize how terrible they are for you and not that tasty. There is a GOOD reason people and bloggers hate it. Its poorly written (you do NOT have to be a writer, published or not, to appreciate and recognize good writing) and emotionally co-dependent relationships is not something we should romanticize. Sorry for the long rant :)

    • don’t apologize :) I welcome the debate. And in fact, I think you make great points. My point would be that, from a writer standpoint, she succeeded in achieving success, even if some people think it’s undeserved. So you have to look at why she accomplished that–even if you think the reasons she did should not have had the results they have :) [speaking of a general you, not you personally!] But almost every writer I know just bashes her and says she doesn’t deserve her success. Thing is, that’s not for us to decide. Even if we hate a book, we should be happy that another authors created something that OTHER readers like–or, at the very least, be respectful of it! I can understand why, from a reader standpoint, some readers love her books and some people hate them. I can’t understand, from an author standpoint, why some authors feel the need to say she doesn’t deserve her success. That’s subjective. If you create something millions of people love, you deserve your success, even if millions of other people don’t love what you created. I like the fast food burger comparison, too. And to be honest, sometimes, I want a fast food burger, even though I know it’s bad for me. But the reason Twilight rip offs don’t work is because even those who like fast food usually don’t want to eat it every day! They already had their fill, and now they want something different. I’m very happy for Stephanie’s success. She obviously tapped into something with her work that made millions of people happy. I hope one day I can accomplish the same. Of course, I would hope I can also do so while writing well-developed characters and keeping my prose clean, but my reading life would be boring if every writer were the same. I guess it comes down to this: I can see someone hating a book, but I don’t see a need to say an author’s success is undeserved. (Of course, to each their own–I might not see the need to say those kinds of things, but other might!) Also, I just can’t ignore that when you look at readers, some love Twilight and some hate it; but when you look at authors, few love it and MOST hate it. I think partially that is because writers can be more critical of writing, but, in SOME cases, I think some authors let jealousy cloud their judgement. Speaking of vampires, I like them scary and evil, most of the time, but I don’t mind the not-so-bad ones sometimes, either. But even if I only liked one, I’d still like happy that there are options out there for people who like different things than me. For example, I like paranormal books–but do I think a book isn’t a book just because it’s not paranormal? Of course not! I don’t like sci-fi, but I don’t think sci-fi writers are getting it wrong or that Star Trek doesn’t deserve it’s success. Those things appeal to people even they don’t appeal to me. Sometimes it’s interesting to explore WHY. What is appealing to those it is appealing to? That’s a fun thing to ponder. And that ends MY long rant lol.

  11. I will admit, I actually enjoyed the Twilight series. I was a little disappointed at the almost battle at the end, but still I enjoyed it. Was written with perfect prose? No. But then like you said, its subjective.

    I know one of the complaints I’ve heard is that Bella met Edward and then wanted to be with him the rest of her life and really didn’t care what else she did in her future as long as she was with him. The complaint is that she was too young to fall in love like that and that she didn’t a bunch of drive to go to college and have a career.

    However, I never had an issue with it. I guess because I met my husband on my 16th birthday and felt exactly that kind of love. We married less than a year later when I was still 16 and he was barely 18 (no I was not pregnant, we didn’t have our first child until 5 years later)and we are still deeply in love and happily married. We just had our 18th anniversary. So I know for a fact that kind of love exists.

    As far as Edward being almost 100 years old and Bella only being 17, how is that anymore disturbing to people than the other Vamp romances where the vamp is several centuries old the the heroine is in her early twenties?

    I know a lot of people were shocked and disturbed by what happened with Bella’s daughter and Jacob in the last book, but really? Who didn’t see that coming from a mile away?

    And people go into all kinds of things about this and that and honestly, I think many are over analyzing it. Its just a story. If it clicks with you, great. If not, that okay too, but there is little reason to go around trashing any book just because you don’t like it.

    I can understand those who give an honest review that they didn’t like it. But those who go to great lengths to trash it, tear it apart and stomp on it? I can only assume a little bit of jealousy must be involved in behavior of the type.

  12. I also noticed how few people go after Christine Feehan for the relationships between the vamps and the human women they find to be their mates. Talk about overbearing and controlling. Edward is a kitten compared to a Carpathian Male. Yet no one rants against Feehan for this. She is tremendously popular and her Dark series is huge. Yet she escapes (for the most part) the ranting about the relationships. Maybe it’s because she isn’t as popular as Meyers.

  13. I devoured the books. I literally couldn’t put them down. I’m not even sure why. I was so drawn into the story. Are they well written? No. Do they entertain? Yes. Even my writing instructor last spring will say the same thing.

  14. I love the book, after watching the movie not so much. Even hated it.

  15. I agree on all counts here. I loved Twilight books, even enjoyed going to the movies with my husband. Every single one of them. I won’t sit and argue with people over it either. Liking, loving, or enjoying a book is an experience unique to the individual. That said, jealousy does have to play into it somehow for other writers. She got big really fast. That tends to burn those of us who spend years slaving over manuscripts. Obviously there was something there her agent loved, or she wouldn’t have been signed.

  16. On a personal level, I HATED the book. I finally threw it across the room after getting to the psychological abuse. But that was my personal issues talking.

    As an editor for a small pub co, you are right. I can barely find any book that I can lose myself to, without doing subconscious editing. If I find them, I hold them tight.

    As a writer, I wish her the best of luck. I am happy she succeeded. Jealous? No. EL James jealous? No. They hit on a need. Go! Just because I don’t like it, doesn’t mean it’s bad. I hated Tolkien too.

    I’ve also heard that many like it because Bella is a weak character – and easier to identify with than the plethora of strong female characters. Perhaps this is true, and for those of us that cannot identify with that kind of character, it doesn’t mean we can bash others for it.

    I still hate the books. But I’m glad you found YOUR reasons for loving it :)

  17. I loved the Twilight series, and I also loved Meyer’s book “The Host.” Meyer has a true storytelling gift. There is an emotional intensity to her books that pulls the reader in and makes them FEEL. In the end, isn’t that what the reader (and the writer, too, for that matter) desires most? . . . I’ve read several books with beautiful prose that weren’t able to induce any emotion in me whatsoever, and it is those books that I consider to be failures.

  18. I loved Meyer’s Twilight series, and I also loved “The Host.” Meyer has a true storytelling gift. She is able to engage the reader on a visceral level and make them FEEL. In the end, isn’t that what the reader (and the writer, too, for that matter) desires most? I’ve read several novels with beautiful prose that weren’t able to induce any emotion in me whatsoever, and it is those novels that I consider to be failures.

  19. Sorry for my double post. I got an error message after the first one, so I rewrote it. :-/

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