What 26 Minutes of Twilight Silence Can Teach Us

Clearly, the Twilight Saga, with over a hundred millions books sold, does some things right — does them well, even. Elements about the characters connect with the readers. The story is enjoyable for at least a few million people. We — non-Twilight-enjoyers — berate the series quite a lot, perhaps too much. But there is just so much rate to be.

Take, for instance, this wonderfully edited selection of scenes from the Twilight Saga movies. Compiled by the YouTube channel Screen Junkies — the channel that produces the ever-popular Honest Trailers series — the following clip contains about 26 minutes of Twilight characters staring at each other:

A drug for Hollywood directors, “meaningful stares” make it into nearly every Hollywood movie. These scene anchors often mean nothing to the viewer. They can sap a plot’s rhythm and insert unnecessary punctuation for more necessary dialogue and actual physical action.

But this is not just a Hollywood problem. This is a first draft problem. Too often in my own writing, I return to a scene and find it rife with boring action. “Jason looked at the parcel in Stef’s hand.” Or: “Williamson watched the leaves swirl away.” Or: “I studied the veins in her hand.”

A little bit of this kind of writing can be okay. Sometimes we, as authors, need to discretely communicate that a particular character noticed an event or visual characteristic somewhere. But more often than not, especially when writing from first person or third-person close, the readers intrinsically assume any descriptions are noticed or at least obvious to the main character or speaker.

So instead of describing “her hand,” I can more efficiently apply a verb to the description and keep the passage more efficient. “The veins in her hand throbbed blue.” Or even better, I could have those vivid hands performing a plot-pushing action: “The veins in her hand throbbed blue as she squeezed my throat.”

Now we’re talking! Which is more than Twilight did in those 26 minutes.


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