By Aaron Ritchey
Whenever I meet anyone who doesn't like Stephen King, I immediately mistrust and I hate them. I’m a HUGE Stephen King fan, and I just finished reading 11/22/63, which is just one of his many masterpieces.
Yes, I am a Stephen King fan, but I also am full of envy and hate. He’s too good. I revel in his genius and then despise him for his craft. At times, he’s so good I want to kill him dead and then eat his heart and absorb his storytelling spirit. Wasn't that like a story in Night Shift?
Anyway, here’s why Stephen King must die because he is just too good:
- THE DEVIL: Many of my friends think Stephen King doesn't need an editor, more like a chainsaw, to cut his books in half or more. I whole-heartedly disagree. The brilliance of Stephen King is that he sets up his world with such details that you are immersed in the experience. He uses the senses, he uses ad slogans, he uses the minutia of the day-to-day to create a world so tangible, so real, that when in introduces the big, bad wolf, we readers are unnerved. Stephen King has mastered the idea that the devil is in the details, and yeah, he writes horror, so at times, it’s actually a physical devil. If there is one area I need to improve, it’s on adding details to setting, to characters, to really create the world of my story in the reader’s mind. In On Writing, King argues that reading a novel is actually telepathy—his thoughts are transferred into our minds and we see what he sees and feel what he feels. How does he do that? Through details.
- HIGH NOON: Stephen King writes page-turners. Why? Because he knows all about Sometimes he does it subtly, sometimes blatantly. It’s why reading his books is so addictive. He will write something like, “And that was the last time Ed saw his wife alive.” Right away, we want to know what is going to happen to Ed’s wife! Yeah, blatant foreshadowing, but it works. Also, what I love about King is that he will set up the big High Noon gunfight, to give us something to worry about, to look forward to, and every page brings us closer and closer to that inevitable crescendo of violence. In The Wolves of the Calla, most of the book is in anticipation of the big gun fight, and it kept me turning pages.
- QUICK KISSES: So we have the big high noon gunfight in the distance. In 11/22/63, it was trying to stop the Kennedy assassination. However, he gives us pay-offs along the way. While the High Noon climax is the macro-foreshadowing (as is the mystery of Ed’s wife), he also uses micro-foreshadowing, but he doesn’t keep us dangling in an anticipation for long. These are like quick kisses of satisfaction. He introduces story questions, sets it up so we are curious, and then answers them in the same chapter. Again, this keeps us reading because we want to know! He doesn’t just give us the answers right away, but keeps us on edge. Which is another reason why his books are so long. They have to be, to enjoy the experience.
- MOTHER’S MILK: So we are plunged into a very real world with lots of details. We have the High Noon gunfight in the distance. We have quick kisses of satisfying story answers along the way, but in the mix are layers of conflict that keep us breathless. Or at least with a niggling bit of anxiety about what might happen. King milks conflict. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read where the conflict is a single layer that is wrapped up quickly. Please, keep me on edge. For example, 11/22/63, we have the homeless guy outside of the time portal. He’s not right. He’s crazy, and we know, he holds the answers, but King keeps him silent because he adds another dimension to the conflict. As does the romance with the high school librarian. As does the evil bookies who realize our hero knows way too much about the past to be lucky. Throw in a psychotic gunman trying to kill the president, and the conflicts add up.
- THE DAREDEVIL: King writes fast, writes his heart, shoots from the hip. His novels aren’t perfect, but perfection is overrated. The Walking Dead is a popular show not because it’s perfect, but because it gets certain things right, the important things. So too, Stephen King gets the basics just right. Not perfect, but right.
So yes, King is a master, and, really, I don’t want him dead. He’s good, but he’s spent a lifetime working on his craft and taking chances. I will read his books until the Grim Reaper drags either him or me into that cold grave.