Stephen King: Analysing a Brilliantly Twisted Mind

Written by Chris Baxter
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Acclaimed author Stephen King has been thrilling, terrifying, and reducing readers to tears with his intricately crafted, masterfully captivating novels for over 50 years. Despite the fact that reading his novels is not always as relaxing as, for example, playing on trusted bingo sites, the enthralling nature of King’s works creates such vivid and realistic scenes in one’s mind that you simply can’t put them down. Below, we’ve analysed how King does this…

The most vivid descriptions create the best hooks…

King excels in most, if not all, literary techniques and hooks. The way in which he creates a setting is practically unrivalled in modern day literature.

From the slowly dilapidating, joy-sucking streets of industrial Derry (as featured in ‘it’ and ‘11/22/63’, amongst others), to the eerie, satanic town of Salem’s Lot, King portrays zeitgeists and period-architecture to the highest standard, adding an emotional resonance with every description. It’s almost as if King himself has time travelled back and forth from past to future, photographing his settings in the form of words.

However, it is arguably the way in which King takes such ordinary people and places and makes them all so unordinary, that has driven him to the top of the horror writing (and thriller, fantasy, sci-fi, crime, suspense and more) genres. He creates characters that are no less normal than you or I, and transports them and us – the readers - into a world beyond our imaginations.


On creating characters…

King enjoys using child characters as ‘childhood is its own world that exists by its own rules and culture’. We could argue that all of King’s novels present a ‘coming of age’ element. His works involving child protagonists aren’t exactly didactic, but rather portray themes of growing up, learning (in a rather horrific way) and fighting for yourself/becoming independent.

For example, in ‘The Body’ (the original book that became the film ‘Stand By Me’), the quartet of Gordie, Chris, Teddy, and Vern head off on their adventure as boys, but return as men. In ‘The Institute’, Luke Ellis is seen as the beacon of hope, much like a father figure in a family is, traditionally. In Carrie, the sensitive, withdrawn teen is abrasively stripped of her cloaking innocence through something as ordinary as menstruation.

       ‘Put interesting characters in difficult situations and see what happens’

King makes his protagonists either likeable or relatable, whatever age they may be. Early on in a novel, he allows them to do something that places them in one of the two categories. For example, in ‘The Shining’, the first line implies that Jack Torrance doesn’t like his boss – a feeling we’ve all related to at one point or another.

As we mentioned above, King’s characters could be your best friend, your neighbour, or yourself, which is what makes it so easy for us as readers to feel an emotional connection with the protagonists.

How does King keep you reading?

King engages with and manipulates the reader’s thoughts throughout his novels. To picture him doing this, think about the way King flicks back and forth (particularly at the start of a novel) between the lives of different characters. Then, at the end of the book, they all culminate at a crossroads, and end up coming together to help each other, or standing off as adversaries.

Take ‘The Stand’ for example. A multitude of characters play out different storylines in a dystopian pandemic (a little worse than the real one!) and come together as one at some point in the novel. By doing this, King ensures that you can find something of yourself in his books and gives you this opportunity through the sheer number of characters, settings, and storylines he portrays.

On ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’, King explained how he believed his genre and writing helped during a time like the present. For him, being able to escape horror with horror ironically allowed readers to shut away a world still worse than their own, on the close of a book.

King’s ability to transport you to the furthest reaches of your imagination is unparalleled in the horror genre, and far beyond too. A brilliantly twisted mind.

Read 3220 times Last modified on Thursday, 28 July 2022 12:36
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Chris Baxter

Chris Baxter

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