What I will argue is that the man knows how to write a novel. He can spin a story, sustaining momentum on each page to keep the reader from wanting to close that book.
How does he do it? Well, you’d have to read his memoir, On Writing, to learn that. However, after reading The Stand, I’ve come up with 3 things storytellers can learn from Uncle Stevie.
1. Don’t be afraid of seeming a little weird: Stephen King has a personality all his own. He’s got a creative way of slapping down a sentence. But that’s not all that one could see as weird. I mean, King comes up with some strange folks to populate his novels. Weird things happen to them. A lot of people think Uncle Stevie has one warped mind on him. They think he’s a little off. But giving into his wide creativity without fearing that people will think he’s an odd duck has not only filled his bank account, it’s allowed him to put together some of the most imaginative (and terrifying) works of fiction in modern literature.
2. Set up the reader’s expectations. Then knock those expectations to the ground: It’s the old bait and switch. Build up the idea that one thing will happen then…KABLOOOEY…shake it up. Don’t be afraid to do this several times. King certainly isn’t. For instance, “They never saw Stu Redman again”, causes certain expectations in the reader. King carried through with that sentence, but not in the way I would have guessed. KABLOOOEY!
3. Make them confused about how they feel about that bad guy: In The Stand, Randall Flagg is one bad dude. It’s established from the beginning. The guy is pretty much satan. But, let me tell you, there was one scene which was written SO EXPERTLY that I doubted if he really was bad. Uncle Stevie tricked me! Made me feel the way the other character in the scene felt: confused. This makes for good conflict, right? It makes for a 3-D antagonist (bad guy). I love that.
What have you learned as a storyteller from an author you admire? How about things you’ve learned NOT to do from reading?