The inspiration for a writer can come from many places, but a sure fire way to know why a writer writes can come from his or her favorite author. Upon looking at me or some of my writing, you would never guess I am a huge fan of Stephen King, a master of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. His career has astounded me and given me hope for my career. He spent most of his life writing and doing at least two unrelated jobs to support his family. His short stories were published in magazines until 1973 when his first novel, Carrie, was published. It was then that his writing career became an ongoing one. He would continue to write novels, short stories, and collections for decades.
I first read King in high school. We read his novella Apt Pupil and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. I was immediately drawn to his ability to develop several main characters in extreme detail. From that point on, I vowed it would be my life’s goal to read everything he has written. So far, I have only made a small dent in the huge list of works he has written.
However, the books I have read encourage my own writing and keep my opinion of King positive. From his first, Carrie, to his most recent book, 11/22/63, King continues to surprise and horrify me.
For the haters, he doesn’t invoke shock and disgust lightly. There is a delicate nature that you must place horrifying terrible things. The fact remains that the readers of 2012 are not phased by gore and pain anymore. What would horrify and scare people 40 years ago when King was first publishing is not going to affect the readers of today. It’s sad that video games and action movies have made violence and killing more acceptable, but the horror King artfully places in his books is not appreciated by most of the public.
To me, there will always be a shock to what King writes because humans need to be shocked at what could possibly happen to them. Although his supernatural elements (time travel, magic, demons, ghosts) elevate the story to a different level, the underlying themes to his stories ring true in all of us. Kujo, fighting for your life against a rabid animal. Under the Dome, minus the mysterious electrified dome, the fear of a town cut off from the rest of the world is a very real possibility. Those elements are what make King’s stories terrifying. They could in one way actually happen and that slice of reality neatly tucked in between vampires scares the crap out of readers.
That’s what I love about him. He understand the human condition so well that he uses our worst fears or qualities against us. He reminds us that life is not all puppy dogs and rainbows. That bad things happen and only you can change the outcome of a bad situation. Every story I read of his gives me the drive to create the world like in the Dark Tower series or focus on place as he does with his home state of Maine.
Although King has met criticism by many, he is revered and loved by more for his dedication to the craft. After reading his memoirs On Writing, I told myself I would be just like King. Writing every day until I die. The funny thing about writers is that we need to write to survive, and even in the face of almost death we still find a way to write. In 1999, King was hit by a van and subsequently decided he might retire. It was difficult for him to sit down to write and his energy wasn’t high.
Yet, a few months after finished physical therapy he was writing the memoirs I just previously mentioned. He has continued to grace the shelves virtual and physical with insightful stories of human life. I hope that he has many more ideas left to write because I don’t plan to stop reading him now. He has written over 50 novels under his name and Richard Bachman. He has published almost 10 collection and even some non-fiction.
King has and always will be my inspiration for writing. I will use him as encouragement, for advice, and a guide through the tough world of writing.
Have you read Stephen King? If so, what books? Did you like his stories, why or why not?
Below is the list of books I have checked of my very long list:
The Dark Half (most of it, had to return it to the library)
Lisey’s Story (about half)
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption
Under the Dome