July 29th, 2009
I’ve been reading the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. It was loaned to me by one of my sixteen-year-old students, and I started to read out of obligation, but now I have found that I’m hooked. It’s not that it’s the most brilliant, original, inspired fiction I’ve ever read, far from it in parts. There’s just something very soap operaesque about those four books that hooked me. A friend suggested that Meyer laced her book with heroin, I’m not sure she’s wrong. I can tell you this though, I’m thirty-three and I can’t put them down. If I were sixteen, I would have been building a shrine to Edward in my backyard. Hence, I now understand why my student had this fiery gleam in her eye when she gave me ‘Twilight’ to borrow for the summer. She wasn’t just loaning me a book, she was converting me.
But it has raised a couple of questions. And to be fair, there’s some spoilers coming your way – beware. Okay, so if Bella bleeds at all, even a paper cut, the Cullen family is likely to be at her throat sucking her ever so succulent blood from her body. I get that. However, and not to be obscene, she’s a healthy seventeen/eighteen year old girl. There is one time of the month when she will have to bar her windows and hide from her boyfriend and his family. Meyer doesn’t discuss Bella’s menstrual cycle, obviously it’s not a major plot point, but it is a notably glossed over complication of being in love with a vampire who can’t even stand for you to scrape your knee.
So should Meyer have addressed this issue? Or is she counting on my suspension of disbelief to carry me through the four book series believing that Bella never menstruates? Not to mention, the Cullen’s go to high school. For four young vampires who cannot be around blood, they are in the wrong place. Nary a day goes by when some kid doesn’t run into my classroom needing a band-aid for his cut finger or gashed arm or grabbing Kleenex for her bloody nose. Kids are messy, and bloody. High school would be a terrible place for a vampire.
Meyer isn’t the only author to do this. But as an author, it makes me think. It’s an interesting dilemma as a writer trying to decide what details to include about your character’s daily lives and routines. Too much and you have a book about brushing your teeth and driving in rush hour, too little and your character comes off like a magical fairy creature that never needs to urinate. I suppose most of our daily activities are implied throughout the telling of a story. However, when does implication lead to elimination of potential complications for the sake of convenience?
I admit, I wonder about odd things. I wondered throughout ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ what would happen if one of the women had to pee after they had just gone through the all day process of getting all corseted, tucked and tied into those fancy dresses? I wondered in Stephen King’s ‘Cell’ if the horrible phone call that went out to all cell phones and caused everyone to go mad was just limited to the phone, or was texting still safe? Could I still send and receive email on my phone without being driven mad by the invisible horror? If so, than the Iphone and the Blackberry have a definite market advantage in the event of impending apocalypse.
In other words, it’s a thin line between suspension of disbelief and absurdity. As I write my second book, I’m trying straddle it. Now, if you will excuse me, my protagonist has been needing to pee for hours now, I better go write a bathroom break before she pops.