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  1. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Supporter Contributor

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    Revisiting Stephen King

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Naomasa298, Jun 27, 2020.

    I've been re-reading Salem's Lot, to try and get a handle on Stephen King's style.

    The first thing I noticed was that there are a lot of dialogue scenes - that is to say, scenes that are *completely* dialogue, certainly more than I remember. And it seems to work.

    Secondly, he also spends a lot of time including atmosphere-building irrelevant details, which don't generally advance the plot but serve to build the picture of a backwater, drudge-filled small town. This goes against the mantra I've sometimes heard of "don't include anything that doesn't advance the plot" (which I've never held to), but it's not exposition.

    His action scenes are short and sharp. He doesn't drag things out and his descriptions are punchy, and enough to tell you what's going on. The surprise in the scene is usually a short sentence e.g. "Danny Glick was staring at him from the window."

    Salem's Lot is early King, so I don't know what's he's like now (I haven't read any of his novels since Misery).

    If anyone else has any other insights, I'd be interested in hearing them.
     
  2. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    It's been a long time since I've read any King, but that does sound right. I read Salem's Lot pretty early on and it remains probably my favorite of his. My first was a short called Jerusalem's Lot, which was a prequel. Or a followup? Crap, now I don't remember.

    As I recall he also spends a lot of time developing the personalities of the main characters. That doesn't really go against accepted doctrine, but it seems like he goes in there for a long time and really digs deep into what makes them tick, going way back into their childhoods etc.

    He also takes what seems an ordinary thing, a photograph or a memory, and keeps digging deeper into it successively as the character studies or thinks about it, and it begins to become terrifying to them.

    Also, the first 3/4s of the story are always the best, and when he pulls back the curtain to show the monster or whatever it is, it gets pretty silly.
     
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  3. Adam Bolander

    Adam Bolander Senior Member

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    I never really liked King. He's a talented writer and obviously has his audience...his massive, MASSIVE audience...but I always felt like his books were too long. Too full of details that didn't matter to the story one way or another. I know that character building and world building are important, but to me it crosses the line between "immersive" and "holding up the plot."
     
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  4. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    ^ I felt that way about some of them, the ones I didn't care for, but when it comes to the ones I like, I want to dive deep into all that detail and for it never to end.
     
  5. GraceLikePain

    GraceLikePain Senior Member

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    The only one of his I've ever read is Running Man, which started okay, but then just became ridiculous. I don't want to spoil it, but there is unnecessary gore and nothing really edifying. Not really interested in giving anything else of his a chance, particularly with what I heard about happens in It.
     
  6. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    He's a talented writer, yeah, and he certainly had the talent to be a genuinely excellent writer. Either it was the swimming pools of booze, the truck-loads of drugs he was on the 70s or 80s, or the fat paychecks, but he stopped caring about some aspects of writing as much - and just set about pumping out stories. That's fine, you know, but honestly I prefer King when he's writing more self-consciously, like the short story The Man in the Black Suit, or The Body - a novella. They have genuine literary chops, and there are more than just those two.

    One thing I don't like about him is that there's often a lot of potential that could have been fleshed out if he had only bothered to redraft it. It's clear from On Writing that he doesn't think through the plot as he redrafts. It's more like he writes it again, just correcting a few minor grammar errors or something. When he begins something (he has admitted) he just jumps onto the keyboard with a vague idea and hopes for the best, so the structure of his books are super loose. I think readers like me will find him frustrating because - say - The Tommyknockers was almost saying something interesting about nuclear energy. So almost that I don't think he noticed it himself, and the theme sort of petered out and didn't go anywhere. People have said that book is about King's drug addiction, but that's a little lazy - it's like saying a Tool song is about drugs. That's seems to be people's go-to when they don't understand something.

    I mean, being fair, a lot of King's writing in the 80s is about either his drug problem or his fame. Misery, Dark Half, and it seems if it's not about those two things his books aren't really about anything other than the actual story.

    I'm not saying that's a problem, I might sound like I'm being harsh on him. I'm honestly not, I'm a fan of his, but I read King differently from how I read certain other writers. I don't take him seriously, but I'm also not going to say nothing the man wrote is serious - there are some, and they are gems. You have to dig through a heap of Tommyknockers to find it though.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2020
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  7. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Supporter Contributor

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    I recall him saying that he didn't recall writing Cujo because he was high for most of it.

    I can't say I can condemn him for jumping on a keyboard and hoping for the best - I do it all the time!
     
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  8. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Yeah. I do it too. For short stuff anyway.

    I can't condemn him for it either - some people just work best like that. I know a few writers who jump in like that to get a plot down, and then plan it out and rewrite it based on that plan - and some people plan it then go ahead with the writing. Whatever works - I meant only that because there's not often a clear structure to his books it can be frustrating when you try to look for one.

    It is a book that's clearly been structured, and while I don't think it's his best book I find that personally more interesting than some of his others.

    He'd be great to listen to, telling stories around a campfire.
     
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  9. ruskaya

    ruskaya Active Member

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    there is something in King's writing that hits my guts. His characters always seem so true. I can't really explain it. I like Carrie, The Body and another short novel of which I cannot recall the title, but they seem to be all about people or in the case of Carrie a portrait of a small town. I found those very fascinating and I consider him masterful in those writings. I stopped reading him with Salem's Lot, I though it was too focused on ambience, and the characters seemed bland. I can see however why he has such a following, especially of people who enjoy paranormal and horror.
     
  10. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Though I'm not exactly a King aficcionado, I've certainly read his work and I think it works for him for the same reason it works for China MiƩville. They're both quite good at painting the entire canvas. Edge to edge, corner to corner. It's not a situation where the artist is painstakingly detailing a little sketch in the corner of the canvas that doesn't really fit with the rest of the composition.
     
  11. OctagonalPhantasm

    OctagonalPhantasm Member

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    I haven't read too much of his work, but my biggest gripe is his endings. He sucks so much at endings. One example here being "The Stand." And to be fair, I only ever read the unabridged version, which has something like five million pages and weighs as much as a beagle. I got through all five million pages because I LOVED that book. Until the ending, when it pretty much happened as an afterthought. Imagine you've read 4,999,900 pages of a book, and this epic climax which has been building up since page 1 is observed by a character not even present in the thick of the action. It's literally like, "Oh, that happened," with "that" being the momentous climax of this ponderous tome of a novel.

    Another example is "Misery." Again, another book I really enjoyed. And then the climax happened and there's still something like 150 pages of book left. Through each one of those 150 pages, I wanted to shout, "PLEASE JUST STOP WRITING NOW!"
     
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  12. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I've got to be honest, I really liked that about Misery. It was showing how Paul coped with the psychological effects after he managed to escape, he was still 'seeing' Annie everywhere and she was haunting him. If anything, I kind of wish King had focused more on developing that bit.

    Mind, I think the film did it better.
     
  13. OctagonalPhantasm

    OctagonalPhantasm Member

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    That's a good perspective on it actually. And I agree that the film did it better. That's another a common problem, I think, with his books. The film often does it better.
     
  14. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Contributor Contributor

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    I wish he'd write more short stories. I know the money's not there (though he would probably still cash in), but his early short story collections are excellent. (Skeleton Crew, Night Shift) They also avoid his main problem, which is the strange let down endings. Sometimes he just weasels out and ends the story because he's out of paper (i.e., cocaine). Not so in those shorts. Even his Bachman novellas were nicely done.
     
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