Never a member of ‘Team Edward’ or ‘Team Jacob’, I’m just not much of an expert on Stefenie Meyer’s Twilight series. Or much of a fan, to be honest. I skimmed a few pages of the first Twilight novel in a bookstore years ago, and have only seen random snips of the movies while channel surfing. But maybe I should say thanks to Stefenie Meyer. Well, more accurately, I do owe Rachelle Hampton for her funny 9.2.20 piece at Salon, “All 349 ‘Murmurs’ in the Twilight Saga, Charted And Ranked”. (link below)
According to Rachelle Hampton, Stefenie Meyer seems to be “unconditionally and irrevocably in love with the word murmur…there are hopeful murmurs and bleak murmurs, warm murmurs and tense murmurs, low murmurs and…well, even lower murmurs”. She went so far as to assemble an Excel spreadsheet charting Meyer’s use of the word murmur, discovering that the new Midnight Sun sequel/prequel included 67 murmurs, while the original Twilight series novels tallied 349 (which is a lot of murmuring). For the record, Breaking Dawn boasted the most, coming in at 111 murmurs.
While I may not be particularly interested in vampires that sparkle, moody teenagers or the Pacific Northwest, Rachelle Hampton’s analysis of Stefenie Meyer’s wordsmithing (and the gentle way she’s poking fun) prompted me to give the MS Word Advanced Find And Replace tool a go in my own work, something I probably should’ve been doing all along.
I was relieved to learn that I’d only used murmur twice in the completed Stiletto Gumshoe manuscript currently being queried – one murmured and one murmuring to be precise, and those over 200 manuscript pages apart. So far, no one murmurs even once in the in-progress follow-up novel, that one about halfway complete.
Still, that double-check prompted me to do similar word search/counts on all kinds of other words and phrases, terrified I’d discover that I employed word crutches or writerly ‘darlings’, those awful go-to words and phrases writers of all sorts turn to in a crunch or type almost by default. The result? Relief, once again, though just to play safe, I did change a word or two just to have something to show for the effort.
As an avid reader of postwar PBO mysteries, crime fiction and private eye series (some of which boast eye-catching covers but pretty awful insides) I can verify that many writers – particularly those of the pre-computer ‘first draft is the only draft’ school – beat some words and phrases to death. And no, I’m not going to assemble an Excel spreadsheet for you in order to prove this. Just take my word for it. At the very least, there were some very popular P.I. series wordsmiths sharing more or less the very same descriptions for every slinky female client, femme fatale and damsel in distress encountered, and using those again and again.
Not too much murmuring going on in a lot of those novels, though.
Right or wrong, I suppose that I lump Stefenie Meyer’s Twilight series in with the notorious E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey series: Mega-selling publishing phenomena that spawned super-successful film franchises, presumably leaving both writers more than comfortable for life. As well as their heirs. And their heirs. The two series seem to go hand in hand, appropriate since the Grey books began as Twilight fanfic. While some might grimace at the writing itself, there’s no denying that the novels caught on with the book buying and movie-going public, so any griping about their success just comes off as sour grapes. There’ll be no griping here, only gratitude to Rachelle Hampton, Stefenie Meyer (and maybe E.L. James, too) for reminding me to watch out for those word darlings and to double-check every so often in case things have gotten out of hand. I imagine I’ll automatically picture a sullen Kristen Stewart the next time my fingers start typing murmur.
Photo: Vincenzo Centrone