1. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Why Stephen King Can't Write (according to some guy)

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by minstrel, Jul 21, 2014.

    I came across this.

    Any thoughts? I'm inclined to agree with him.
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Well, I agree that I'm not exactly a fan of King's work. Especially during his Mammoth Novel period, but I'm not sure the point Mr. Person Dude was making in his blog. King often employes a very rambling, slightly meandering syntax. I'm often not sure where he's going with something, I feel importance being written in a certain direction, but nope, it's just detailing of stuff that never comes up again. Ever. I mean, insert {The Stand Completely Unnecessary Length} cliché here.
     
  3. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I've read the article and the comments. From what I gather, the author thinks Stephen King should be as specific as possible when he describes his setting, citing phrases such as 'winding roads', 'big auditoriums', and 'maze like police tapes' as problems. I don't know about you, but those presented clear images in my head. What's so vague about any of those descriptions? What's wrong with letting the reader use a bit of his/her imagination?
     
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  4. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Personally I like the tone King writes with. It's not as much a narrative as much as casual conversation. In fact I would place my writing somewhere between his tone and that of Vonnegut. They both tell a story instead of just putting it in print.
     
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  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I disagree on almost every element of the article.

    First, the author objects to a descriptive passage, declaring that it's "vague". Part of the passage is:

    ...When Augie reached the top of the wide, steep drive...

    Would making this more specific really help? I could imagine trying to add specifics:

    ...The drive was forty feet wide and extended for six hundred yards, ascending at a steepness of about thirty degrees...

    And my reaction to that is "Eew." The original passage gives me a clear visual. My more specific rewrite shatters that visual.

    I know what a drive is. I know what I see as "wide" in terms of roads. I know what I see as "steep" in terms of roads. I form a picture. That picture may not look exactly like the picture in Stephen King's mind, and that fact doesn't matter. In my mind, I've added blue sky, clouds, grass, and a big, reddish hunched building of roughly mid-nineteenth-century design. I don't know where those details came from, and I don't care. I've got a picture.

    Second, the author of the article takes the fact that Stephen King places story above description, to mean that Stephen King doesn't value words. That's a stretch that has essentially no basis.

    Stephen King is a good writer. He's not a "great" writer, not a writing genius, and he himself is clearly aware that he's not; he's stated it, very clearly, in On Writing. But he's a better writer than the author of the article, at least judging by both the article and the preview of the author's book on Amazon.
     
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  6. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Reading it, I went from not really knowing anything about King's writing (since I have never read any of his books) to respecting his writing. The post makes exactly the opposite of the point that it attempts to make.

    I am baffled as to why that paragraph from Mr. Mercedes is selected for criticism. I read it quickly, pictured the scene very clearly with no confusion, and moved on.

    Lesson learned: if you have trouble building a mental scene from a passage because the words are not "specific" enough, then before you make a fool of yourself, you should stop to consider that the deficiency might actually be in your own cognitive abilities (imagination), not in the writing.

    The advice quoted from On Writing, while I had not read it until now, is exactly the advice that I live by when I write, and the mere quotation of it is stronger than the refutation to it.
     
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  7. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I concur. From what I know of Stephen King, he leaves just the right amount of details for us to paint a picture in our heads, then he continues with the story. That's how I want to write: vague enough for people to use their own imaginations, but specific enough so they have an idea of where they are in relation to the story.

    And is it just me, or doesn't it scream arrogance that the guy who only wrote 11 books is acting like he's smarter than the guy who has 350 million books and counting on the shelves?
     
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  8. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    He's claiming that King is a bad writer based on only a few passages, so his argument is very weak as it stands. As much as I think King is a mediocre writer, I can't agree with what this guy has written.
     
  9. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    It is just you. It screams "ad hominem" to suggest that.
     
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  10. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Sorry, it was my first impression when I read the blog.
     
  11. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    JD Salinger only wrote like 3-4 novels and he is considered one of the greatest writers of the Twentieth Century.
     
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  12. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    All right, so I was mistaken. My bad.
     
  13. Cogito
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    King can write. His popularity isn't solely due to marketing.

    The problem is that his ego has run amok. He doesn't think he needs to edit, or that anyone is qualified to point out material to remove. He has grown big enough that no publisher would dare press him to carve away the flab from his novels.

    Under the Tome Dome is a particularly malodorous example. Harvested from a once-abandoned project, it wanders more aimlessly than the stunned residents of Chester's Mill, and culminates in a real stinker of an ending, for anyone stalwart enough to slog the literary muck to reach it.

    But look at his earlier writings. Carrie delivers sharp characterization and darkness of the soul, and does so economically. The original release of The Stand was great. The revised version, in which he restores all the material his publisher had him cut is still strong, but much wordier than it needs to be. The Shining was chilling and paints a vivid picture of psychosis and dry alcoholism, and the dynamics of abuse.

    King can write. But no one requires him to anymore. They merely pay him to crank out words.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But I think he sold more than eleven copies...

    (Yes, I realize that there are great painters who never sold a thing. I'm just not seeing this particular article writer as being in that category.)
     
  15. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think you are reading the quote correctly. Link said wrote 11 books, not sold 11 copies.
     
  16. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I guess I read that wrong. I'm sorry, can we just drop it?
     
  17. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sorry, yes, but the article writer said that he had sold 11, compared to Stephen King's 350,000. Since Stephen King hasn't written 350,000 books I assume that we are talking about "sold" to readers, not to publishers--that is, 11 copies.
     
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  18. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry I wasn't trying to beat you down, I was just responding to @ChickenFreak .
     
  19. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The paragraph he quotes does, in fact, stink (in my opinion, of course). He didn't raise the issue of sentence rhythm, but he should have. Read that paragraph aloud, if you can stand to. ;)

    My main point of agreement with the author doesn't have to do with that paragraph. It has to do with putting the "story" above the "words." This guy makes a great point when he mentions that painters care about brush strokes, film directors care about edits and music, etc. And writers should care about words, phrases, and how they all fit together to control the reader's experience of the fiction. Stephen King doesn't much care about those things and it hampers his work. He can write, when he cares to, but most of the time he just churns it out and his good stories smell funny because he isn't meticulous. He doesn't bother writing well.

    The blogger makes the point that the movie version of The Shawshank Redemption is better than King's original story. He's right. Frank Darabont does King better than King does. Rob Reiner did King better than King with Misery. (I actually kind of like the novel Misery; it is, however, too long for the story it tells, and I think it's way too self-conscious.)
     
  20. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think it's just you.

    If Person A has wild success in an effort, and Person B has essentially zero success, it's not unreasonable to consider that Person A might be a little bit better than Person B, and that Person B might want to consider that possibility. The fact that there have been great starving artists doesn't mean that all starving artists are great or that all well-fed artists are lousy.
     
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  21. 123456789
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    What this comes down to is a guy who has sold 11 novels criticizing someone who has sold 350 million novels. You can analyze King's work all you want, but someone who can pump out popular novel after popular novel, many of which went on to be used in major film adaptations, must know something.

    In On Writing, King describes his childhood and teen years. This guy wasn't sitting at home watching anime cartoons, he was writing for the school paper, trying to publish novels with the aid of his brother. This guy had a talent with words. He admits that he is not a literary writer, and that many will disregard him because of his chosen genre, and he accepts that, but to say that Stephen King can't write is an enormous accusation for someone of such repute. I think it is much more likely (and this is basically admitted in the article shared by the OP) that King is thinking more like a businessman in terms of word usage. It makes sense, considering that extra drafts take extra time, and that means less overall novels, for the serious commercial novelist. This is no different than any other business. King is a professional. He churns out novels. He does what he needs to to be successful. What's more important is that he is doing this out of his own ability, which suggests that he very much knows what he is doing, and that he indeed can write, regardless of how much he chooses to.

    Also, his advice in On Writing is so good, it's pretty obvious the guy writing this article is full of himself.
     
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  22. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry I have to disagree. I can give you examples that are just the opposite. As great as The Green Mile movie was I thought the book was much better. The same can be said for The Dreamcatcher. In fact The Dreamcatcher movie wasn't half what the book was.

    I guess liking King just might be one of those Coke vs. Pepsi type arguments.
     
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  23. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    No thanks. I do not subvocalize when I read, and I do not feel like creating a problem for the sake of creating a problem.
    And that is my exact point of agreement with King.
     
  24. Lewdog
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    Do you think the divide between King lovers and haters is psychological? People that are more visual are able to read King and build his worlds in their minds and fill the gaps with their own vision and they enjoy it, while there are those that are more analytic that have to have everything laid out for them, and they hate King for his vagueness.
     
  25. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But I'm not seeing that Stephen King said that. I just see the article writer claiming that Stephen King said that. Now, I, too, put the story (and by "story", I mean events, plots, characters, everything) over the words, but since the only way to convey the story is with the right words, I don't see that as an issue. To me, "story" isn't, "Fred went to Nebraska and murdered an armadillo..."--it's how those events are expressed, and that's done with words.
     

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