Sunday, 4 November 2007

Stephen King

Given that I am not your usual candidate for horror stories, I love and adore any book by Stephen King.

This addiction started with the book ‘IT’, in 1997 on a surfing holiday to Cornwall. I borrowed it from our B&B to sit and read on the beach in-between attempts to catch a wave, and got so engrossed in it that the proprietor said I could take the book home. After IT, I quickly began working my way through his back catalogue, and was pleased to discover there were tons out there to choose from. It is hard to say which are my favourites, but IT, Firestarter, The Shining and Needful Things are definitely in the top ten.

Stephen King is the sort of storyteller whose tales linger, way after you put down the book and step back into your own world. They creep, they wake you up at night, and they have the power to instantly take me out of my surroundings and put me wherever he wants me. This ability is priceless, especially when you commute for three hours a day on trains and tubes, like I used to. Books are our equivalent to time travel, I think, blue police boxes and flashing lights not necessary.

It is the way he writes as well, not just the actual story. He makes good use of italics, brackets, breaking rules such as starting sentences with lower case letters, and short paragraphs to denote something creepy. Let’s use The Shining as an example.


He would just walk right past that old fire extinguisher and go downstairs. He started towards it, moving closer to the wall until his right arm was brushing the expensive silk paper. Twenty steps away. Fifteen. A dozen.
When he was ten steps away, the brass nozzle suddenly rolled off the fat loop it had been lying
on and fell to the hall carpet with a dull thump.


‘Listen to me Danny. It wasn’t your daddy trying to hurt me. And I didn’t want to hurt him. The hotel has gotten into him, Danny. The Overlook has gotten into your daddy. Do you understand me?’

Short sentences / paragraphs

The lions were closer to the path. The two on his right had subtly changed positions, had drawn closer together. The tail of the one on the left now almost jutted over the path. When he had come past them and through the gate, that lion had been on the right and he was quite sure its tail had been curled around it.

They were no longer protecting the path; they were blocking it.

The whole shebang

(You promised.)
(Promises were made to be broken.)
He jumped at that. It was as if that thought had come from outside, insectile. Buzzing, softly cajoling.
(Promises were made to be broken my dear redrum, to be broken. splintered. shattered. hammered apart. FORE!)


The combination of stilted sentences and different styles seem to help heighten any tension, and it is a great way to play the reader’s emotions, especially with creepy tales. A good thing to remember when writing, methinks!

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