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Friday, September 18, 2009

Why I Love Stephen King


I don’t like horror or violence, but I love Stephen King. Why? Because the man can write! What’s more, if I’m stuck or find myself sliding into bad habits, I can pick up his common-sense memoir On Writing and suddenly know what to do. Do I then only love his book on the writing craft? No, I just prefer Stephen King stories like The Green Mile to ones like Carrie. I guess that makes me a non-purist fan. What his novels and short stories have in common, though, is that they’re superbly written. Here are some favorite Stephen King “wisdom teachings” that helped me reduce my Choosing Sides novel from 115k words to 98k words.

· Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.

· It’s always about the story.

· If you do your job, your characters will come to life and start doing stuff on their own.

· I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless … and, second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.

· My basic belief about the making of stories is that they pretty much make themselves. The job of the writer is to give them a place to grow.

· … starting with the questions and thematic concerns is a recipe for bad fiction. Good fiction always begins with story and progresses to theme; it almost never begins with theme and progresses to story.

· All novels are really letters aimed at one person … Every novelist has a single ideal reader.

· Editing formula: 2nd Draft = (1st Draft – 10%)

· The most important things to remember about back story are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting. Stick to the parts that are.

6 comments:

Jm Diaz said...

Now I'm gonna have to go and look up this memoir in writing. Thanks!

Ann Victor said...

Although the content of his books give me nightmares (I read Pet Cemetery soon after one of my old cats died and I lay awake for weeks afterwards!!) I'm also a great Stephen King fan for the same reason: he makes words sing.

However, while his "On Writing" is a good book on the craft of writing I found that I preferred Margaret Atwood's "Negotiating with the Dead". She deals with the almost mystical side of the creative process, where King focused on the technical side.

Judith Mercado said...

In a Stephen King "moment," on the evening of the day I wrote my post about him, I turned on my television and what movie was playing? The Green Mile. Hmmm. Jm, I think you will enjoy tremendously his take-no-prisoners approach to writing technique. Ann, I'm going to get Atwood's book. She's a favorite of mine, too.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I've been contemplating picking King's book up, but haven't gotten around to it. But I think your blurbs convinced me- what great advice!

I especially like the editing formula. My first draft is at the chopping block right now!

Kathryn Magendie said...

· "I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless … and, second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible."
Yup, this is me - can't do plot, won't do plot, mostly because can't do plot. For me, it's all about the character, but then I guess the character is the story :)

I love SK's short fiction, too. I love his psychologically based horror novels - like Dead Zone--that book is heartbreaking.

Sheila Deeth said...

I enjoy a lot of his books, and especially his short stories. His book on writing's one of the best I've read too.