Seven Reasons We Read Stephen King, #1

This is going to be fun. 

I want to post some short articles on why I think the constant reader is -- constant.  Why do we come back to King when the world is full of wonderful writers?  I saw a new Grisham book today, but realized I don't have time to read it.  I mean, the Stand comes out next month!  And I want to read the Library police.  When it comes to fiction, I think King is simply the best.  Why?

Reason #1 : He's Fearless.

You can smell fear dripping off some writers.  They're scared to kill a character off; and when they do, they have to bring them back.  Star Trek boldly killed Spock -- then they blinked and brought him back.  King doesn't play stupid games with the reader! 

The courage of the writer is important for the following reasons:
A writer needs to get out of the way and let the story tell itself. They must be willing to kill characters and bring misery on people they've fallen in love with, so that stupid story can unravel the way it's supposed to.   I think that sometimes the story heads in directions that even Stephen King doesn't expect!

This comes partly because King does not write with an outline.  In fact, he says stories that didn't work for him were the ones he plotted. 

Courage also means that he lets the characters show us uncomfortable sides of humanity.  Were there moments you felt for Oswald?  Or were there times you hated Roland?  That's because characters are not just good and bad, the best of them have depth.  Allowing characters to live means that they sometimes curse, hold opinions the author does not and exhibit both noble and dark behavior. 

Here are 5 novels that show the courage of a writer:

1. The Stand.  One reason we love The Stand is not only is it big, you actually don't know what's going to happen next!  Characters you think are on King's cutting block hang in there to the end.  Of course, some of us have read The Stand so many times, it has lost that initial power of suspense.

2. Cujo.  I don't want to ruin the book for you, but it is gutsy!  King once again allows the story to tell itself without getting in the way, and the result is wonderful. 

3. Pet Sematary.  This novel is full of surprises -- unless you watched the movie first!  (Where is the audio?)  The novel is gripping because it is the story of a typical nuclear family dealing with the worst thing in the world for a parent -- the death of a child.  But the novel does not take expected directions!  And again, those dark endings take nerves of steel. 

4. The Mist.  The novella has the courage to leave the ending open!  I think that takes real courage for a writer to not eel the need to fully conclude the story.  Of course, sense it is told in first person, King could not exactly kill his main character off.

5. Thinner.  While not my favorite novel, it's strength is partially in the fearless writing of Stephen King.  He follows that novel down uncomfortable avenues and let's us cringe with him.  And then, as usual, once he's got us all cringing and scared, he laughs his head off. 

So, what novels do you think reveal Kings courage as a writer? 
Or, perhaps even more fun, what novels did he totally wimp out on? !


  1. I would say that maybe the best example of this is "The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower," for reasons I won't discuss here so as not to ruin the ending for anyone who hasn't read it yet. If THAT ain't courage, I don't know what is!

    I'd also add:

    "Cell," which goes in some interesting, unexpected directions as it reaches its end;

    "It," specially in terms of the big sex scene;

    "Storm of the Century," especially when you consider that it was written expressly for network television;

    and "Duma Key," which gets progressively more grim as it goes along. There are a good number of shorter stories which you could probably also put in this category, ranging from "Survivor Type" to "The Breathing Method" to "A Very Tight Place," all of which feature situations which are almost certain to totally put off a certain percentage of readers.

    I would list these as examples of books in which it seems to me that King pulled his punches in some way, mostly in terms of finding a resolution: "Needful Things," "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon," "Dreamcatcher," and "Under the Dome."

  2. I agree with the choices of "Cujo," "Pet Sematary," and "Thinner." "Cujo" ended with a punch in the gut, which made for a fine ending. It provided a fair (in the compromising definition) resolution. "Pet Sematary" kept you on your toes throughout and "Thinner" provided a fine way to end the novel.

    I also agree with Bryant about "IT." While I thought the novel tended to drag on, he was indeed not afraid to take the lives of characters we grew attached to.

  3. I have to tell this story about "Cujo". I had read the book and though I found it suspensful I guess I didn't consider it as being as scary as some of his other books, like the Shining. So when the movie came out at the theaters, my wife didn't want to go. A friend of mine and his wife went with me to see it. My friend's wife was a little hesitant about going but I told her it was a bit scary but I had read the book and it wasn't that bad. So she went with us. I was wrong!! That movie affected people like no other movie I have ever seen even to this day. You are hit with so many emotions at the end; sadness, happiness and suspense and fear that it was emotional overload for many members of the audience. I remember many husbands consoling their wives as they left the theater and my friends wife wouldn't talk to me she was so upset. Don't overestimate the power of the King!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Some titles you haven't mention


    The long walk