Thursday, February 10, 2011

Delivering the Goods

I just finished reading Breaking Dawn, the fourth book in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. It wasn't just the subject of vampires that prompted me to read the books Meyer had created for young adults; I did it for the same reason I read Harry Potter: to keep up.

Breaking Dawn presents the culmination of a romance between Bella, an ordinary high school girl, and Edward, a vampire. We know going in that Bella wants to become a vampire, too, and that Edward wants to marry Bella. With a three-book buildup, the author's job is clear: Breaking Dawn must answer one tough question over and over again--What's that like? And she does.

It doesn't matter that the Twilight series is fiction. It doesn't make one bit of difference that Bella's and Edward's experiences–like those of all the other Twilight characters--are made up. We want to know.

It's easy to glide through an explanation, minimize it, hint at it, or skip it altogether--but the thing I liked best about Breaking Dawn was that Stephenie Meyer didn't do that. She took us over new ground in satisfying detail, which is the only way she could have told this story. I'll avoid examples; my point is not to spoil the experience for future readers, but to say that this is what I learned.

Books can teach us a lot about writing. I didn't always find the Twilight series compelling, not all the way through, but I kept going. Two thousand pages later, Breaking Dawn showed me how important it is for an author to deliver the goods and make good on the reader's investment.

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