Wednesday, July 16, 2008

On Writing, a memoir of the craft

On Writing, a memoir of the craft
by Stephen King

I have read exactly one Stephen King novel. I saw part of Kujo, the movie, and I'm still scared of barking dogs. So, I'm not exactly sure why this book appealed to me. But it turned out to be a really great read, both from the standpoint of a writer and for sheer entertainment.

King tells us this is not textbook, and it's not. But it is full of advice. For example, "Adverbs are not your friend." He tells us how he writes. That he writes constantly when he is writing, even on holidays, lest his characters get "stale". He listens to loud rock music. And he says he does not "plot" his stories. I found this last particularly interesting.

In my view, stories and novels consist of three parts: narration which moves the story from point A to point B and finally to point Z; description, which creates a sensory reality for the reader; and dialogue, which brings characters to life through their speech . . .

. . . my basic belief about the making of stories is that they pretty much make themselves. The job of the writer is to give them a place to grow . . .

. . . I lean more heavily on intuition . . . my books tend to be based on situation rather than story . . .

. . . The situation comes first. The characters--always flat and unfeatured, to begin with--come next. Once these things are fixed in my mind, I begin to narrate. I often have an idea of what the outcome may be, but I have never demanded of a set of characters that they do things my way. On the contrary, I want them to do things their way.
Isn't that a cool concept? I love it so much, I'm going to try it myself if I ever get down to writing my stories.

The book is also highly autobiographical and we learn so much about King's life and experiences starting from a very young age. His story is as compelling as any novel.

If you are a writer, an aspiring writer, or just someone who appreciates good writing, you will love this book.


Jacqui Binford-Bell said...

I have to get this book.

I have written three novels and even had an agent for a while and the head injury intervened. I agree with him about not plotting.

Characters if real enough take over the book at some point anyway so plot be damned.

It is never good to start with a Stephen King film. There have been two of his books I could not read - Misery was one of them. But his books are long because he balances terror with an almost childish joy of his subject. Movies made from his books seem to cut out the joy and leave the unrelieved terror.

Becky Stauffer said...

I may need to pick up Danse Macabre as well. I gained so much insight from this one.