Earlier I had talked about the agony of the pace of the first Twilight book, the agony of the detail, and whether Bella was a passive character.
In The Art of Dramatic Writing, Egri devotes the three parts of his book to Premise, Character and Conflict, and on p.109 he says this:
There is really no such thing as weak character. The question is: did you catch your character at that particular moment when he was ready for conflict?
And suddenly Bella makes sense: the girl’s not ready. She kind of likes her dad. (She’s not ready to hate him.) She kind of likes her mum. (She’s not ready to hate her either.) She kind of has some friends; she’s cruising along OK.
You get the feeling she doesn’t feel strongly about anything in particular. Ergo: she’s not actually ready or interested in anything much either.
The interesting thing is that for this particular genre, it doesn’t seem to matter that she’s in a state of indifference. In fact, this seems to be the exact element that makes Bella so popular. She’s mirroring a state of mind. Teenaged readers love to see themselves in a book, a movie etc., and teens are ready to jump at Most Things Emotional, whether it makes sense or not.
Meyer has managed to capture that feeling of being in the limbo-land of teenage-hood, between child and adult, ready for responsibility but not permitted to use it due to the constraints of manufactured concepts of danger and consent that drive 21st Century attitudes to life.
For other genres, this might be more problematic. And, indeed when employing sotrytelling for business purposes, assessing character (or client/customer) readiness is critical in order to know where to pitch your product or service.
As I mentioned previously, I find it bothersome that the female characters aren’t more proactive, like Buffy or Kiki Strike, but whatever Meyer and her publicity machine are doing, they’re doing it right.
Life ain’t art, and life rarely makes a good story, so throw in a couple of vamps and some werewolves for good measure, and perhaps we can start talking about a story.