Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Turning the Lazy Susan

All right, let's talk about something for a second: this horrendous phenomenon of retelling stories from another character's perspective.

When I say this, I don't mean the Wickeds and Grendels of the world, those being mainly original works that expand upon their source material. What I'm referring to, rather, is something along the lines of E.L. James' Grey or its forerunner, Stephenie Meyer's never-finished Midnight Sun.

Not familiar with either of those titles? Consider yourself lucky. I will admit, right here and now, that I read all four of the main Twilight books as well as Midnight Sun, which is available via Meyer's website. I kept waiting for them to get better, or for something truly intriguing to happen; neither of those things came to pass. By the time I got to Midnight Sun, I was no longer hopeful, but like a knight who has undertaken an impossible mission in the name of his king, I felt I was duty-bound to take one last stab at giving Meyer a chance. That, I don't mind telling you, was a mistake.

It turns out that retelling Twilight from Edward's perspective was a terrible move because it made him seem even more irredeemably creepy, even more like an unrehabilitated stalker. And, frankly, it was a waste of time.

Because Meyer had already told this story. Revisiting it with another character as the narrator wasn't groundbreaking, and it certainly wasn't an improvement upon the original. Rather, it was an exercise in laziness. This is the kind of project you undertake when you're working on your first or second draft, playing around with voice and point of view. It's not the sort of thing you do once a project has been completed. To me, that says you're out of other ideas and can't pull yourself away from the thing that made your name.

Since Midnight Sun didn't make it to book form, though, it doesn't seem as brazen as Grey, which looks from where I'm standing like a pure money-grab. Because Grey is nothing more than a retelling of Fifty Shades of Grey from Christian's perspective. (No. I have not read any of the Fifty Shades books.) EL James, rather than moving on to new writing projects, has simply retooled her "original" trilogy; I say "original" because it started out as Twilight fanfiction. And now she's selling it, milking yet more profits from her cash cow, which is a disservice to fans of her writing as well as the craft of writing itself.

Of course, you can make the argument that nothing is ever really new and all that. But in these cases, there is literally nothing new. We owe it to ourselves as writers and readers not to support such endeavors, which lead to stagnation among consumers and our output. Instead, we should be exploring entirely new territory and expanding our horizons by seeking out more original works.

Don't let this become a full-blown trend in the publishing industry. We all deserve better.


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