Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On Writing

by Stephen King

A memoir on writing, from Stephen King to his students and fans.  
  Unfortunately for me, (as it turned out) I was never a Stephen King fan, but I began with an open mind as I was curious to see what the mega-successful author had to say about how he writes.

First, I understand that a King fan who has read most of his books would most likely have a different view of On Writing, but that's not me. I've managed to watch parts of 2-3 movies adapted from his books, and have read none. This put me at a complete disadvantage when trying to understand this book, because King constantly refers to his titles as examples of this or that, without ever explaining further. To one unfamiliar with his books, I was lost and felt shut out of the narrative through much of the book.

On Writing combines the typical "how I got started/how I got my first break" narrative with the usual basic rules and platitudes about plot, story, characters, language, grammar, dialect and pace one finds in so many books on writing as a craft or career. I found nothing unique or new in that regard, and believe me, I was looking. As all such books do, King encourages the reader to just keep writing, keep writing, and something will come through.

It was interesting to read how he does not determine the ending of the story before he begins writing, and he opens up to tell us how he got the basic ideas for many of his books (interesting, but not as informative for one who never read them. I think it would have taken very little extra to explain the books mentioned so the unexposed reader could have benefited as well.) Through about 9/10 of the book, I read along, hoping for either a new and exciting tidbit--or to get to the end.

Then, out of the blue, Mr. King turned an otherwise blah book into something I could not put down. I now see why he's a bestseller--he can really write. King ends the book with the riveting story of his own devastating accident, which occurred on the road near his vacation home when he, a pedestrian, is hit by a van and nearly killed. He is airlifted to a trauma center and the remainder of the book is his own story of pain and recovery, and his return to writing. King's ability to tell a story, his command of the art of writing, shone through in that final section. Of course, this is as it should be for one of the most popular storytellers in print. Now, if he could just move away from the horror, blood and gore, I would be able to read his work!

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