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MY THOUGHTS ON STEPHEN KING

May 22, 2013

Since one of the genres I write is icky bug (horror for those of you not familiar with my terminology), one could assume it’s mandatory that I worship at the feet of Stephen King, the “master” of horror. I hate to dash your stereotype, but though I like most of his movies, I’ve only read one of his books all the way through and it bored me to tears!

I find Mr. King a dreadful bore as a writer.

Why, might you ask, do I harbor such harsh opinions for the “god” of all horror, and to many, of all writing? The simple fact is that his work, to me at least, is more character driven than plot driven even if technically, that may not always be true. They’re based on how the characters react to a (usually horrific) situation, rather than how the situation dictates the story for the characters.

The other day we went to see the new Star Trek movie. That notion was reinforced when I saw the extended previews for the new miniseries Under The Dome. Mr. King talked about how he loves to see how people will react a situation. His books bear this out because they are usually pretty thick and wordy, which is what I don’t like about them. They take up a lot of real estate with the internal thoughts of the character and a lot less time moving the plot along. Some of you, as well as many readers (especially his fan base) love that type of writing. For me, I prefer something to happen. I like to know bits and pieces about the character as the story moves along, but I don’t need to know minute details told in long form!

I am not here to tell you, as a writer, to avoid this style of writing. Obviously, it has worked quite well for him. After all, he’s a millionaire. However, there are plenty of icky bug readers that are not fans of Mr. King for the same reason. His plots can move at a snail’s pace. There may be other reasons also, but that is the one that bothers me the most.

Another issue I have with him, though I’ve only seen it in one movie that clearly stands out, is the way he ended The Mist. I have no idea if he ended the book the same way because I never read it. If he approved the movie, I have a feeling it did. I hated that movie more than I can put into words, just because of the ending. For the author to do that to his or her audience just plain sucks. Some people love that type of stuff. I, for one, hate it. I won’t say what happens just in the off chance you haven’t seen the movie. Judge for yourself.

On the other hand, I have great respect for him as a writer. He knows his stuff! He’s a tremendous talent that needs to prove nothing to anyone. He’s written some great stories and his fan base and book sales show he’s struck a nerve with millions of people. His style, though not my favorite, is a big seller. It is a way to go so if you’re inclined for that style, I’d highly recommend his non-fiction book, On Writing.

I like most of his movies (except The Mist). However, I couldn’t get through the books because of his wordy writing. One day, I may break down and try one of his earlier stories like Carrie or something else, even though I’ve leafed through them and saw the same old crap I saw in Insomnia, the one I did read. I like the plot to move.

Would I turn down a chance to meet him, talk to him, pick his brain? Of course not! Would we agree on everything? Probably not. However, I think it would be a lively conversation. Would it ever happen? Not likely. He’s too big, just like Dean Koontz. Other authors I love, I’ve actually met face to face or corresponded with which also tells me something. They’re accessible, he’s not because he’s so popular.

I know of plenty of writers that follow his style (to a lesser degree) and have read a lot of work inspired by him. I’ve been inspired by him but not for his wordy ways, but for his taking on icky bug and making it mainstream. He’s one of the few authors that has done well with it. Probably because he’s made his stories character driven instead of plot driven!

One thing I also admire about his writing, at least from almost every book of his I’ve sampled, is that he writes in solid third person. That’s a huge plus!

Happy writing.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 22, 2013 5:57 pm

    Your comments about King provide further evidence for one of my favorite cliches: There’s no accounting for taste. Not my taste, not yours! I like King for the things you don’t like about him. I agree, his plots often go nowhere. King even agrees! In his book On Writing, he makes no bones about it: His greatest shortcoming as a novelist lies in his endings. Under the Dome was particularly disappointing. A new writer could never gotten away with that lame ending, especially after 1100 pages. But I greatly enjoy his characters, probably because that is where I have the most to learn as a writer. I expect to watch the mini-series, but for once I won’t look forward to the ending. Or I could hope for the bizarre: Maybe the network will repair it. A network improving a bestselling book … that would be a first!

    • May 24, 2013 2:18 am

      Dale,

      Thanks for the comments and welcome to my site! Yeah, there are good things about Stephen and bad things. I guess I can say I’m a great admirer of him and his ability to write, just not most of his work. Sounds like a contradiction in a way, but that’s the only way I can describe it. Funny, I just saw an interview with him this afternoon on the net. He’s hot right now because of a new non-horror novel he wrote and of course, the mini-series Under The Dome.

      Rock on!

      Fred

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