Master horror writer Stephen King, in a recent interview said: “Both Rowling and Meyer, they’re speaking directly to young people… The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.”

At first impression Mr. King’s comments may seem insensitive and perhaps as evidence of an aging writer being jealous of a young and popular one. At least this was the reaction of many of Stephenie Meyer’s fans: “King is jealous: no one buys his books anymore.” “Name one of King’s books that is popular today: none!” “He can’t see a young writer succeed.”

Having read most of Stephen King’s books, and -I must confess- none of Stephenie Meyer’s, I went to my local bookstore and bought Twilight.

Here’s an excerpt:

Jess drove faster than the chief, so we made it to Port Angeles by four. It had been a while since I’ve had a girls’ night out, and the estrogen rush was invigorating. We listened to whiny songs while Jessica jabbered on about the boys we hung out with. Jessica’s dinner with Mike had gone very well, and she was hoping that by Saturday night they would have progressed to the first-kiss stage. I smiled to myself, pleased. Angela was passively happy to be going to the dance, but not really interested in Eric. Jess tried to get her to confess who her type was, but I interrupted with a question about dresses after a bit, to spare her. Angela threw a grateful glance my way.[chapter 8, Twilight]

What is wrong with the above? Very inartistic indeed! Truman Capote would call the above paragraph, “Typing,” not writing. The paragraph contains not one single balanced sentence, let alone a well balanced sentence. And, yes, all sentences are of the amateurish or childish pattern S-V-O (subject, verb, object–John hit the ball; john hit the ball; john hit the ball; etc). Has Meyer ever heard of “sentence variation”? Has she ever heard of exciting “sentence openers”? Also, you might go through the entire book and not find one example of the use of nominative absolutes–the essential ingredient of action writing.

Next I bought several of Jo Rowling’s books of the Harry Potter series, and I was delightfully surprised. Rowling is a master writer; a master of grammar, syntax, and rhetoric. If you love the English language, you will find well balanced sentences, and cadence and rhythm, and echoes that could be the envy of any literary writer. Because she writes for children, her production isn’t considered literary by many critics, but eventually she will be hailed as a literary writer, just as Mark Twain, C. S Lewis, Kipling, and Dickens were.

Stephen King might just be right in his criticism of Stephenie Meyer, not because he is jealous of her success, but because–as we can see in the above excerpt–Meyer’s writing isn’t writing at all, but typing.

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