Why I think Stephen King is a genius.

These are some of the things I feel that the horror story does, but I am firmly convinced that it must do one more thing, this above all others: It must tell a tale that holds the reader or the listener spellbound for a little while, lost in a world that never was, never could be. […] All my life as a writer I have been committed to the idea that in fiction the story value holds dominance over every other facet of the writer’s craft; characterization, theme, mood, none of those things is anything if the story is dull. And if the story does hold you, all else can be forgiven.

Introduction to Night Shift

Stephen King

A few weeks back I was reading excerpts from The Shining in order to get a sense of what third person sounds like when executed correctly. It was great and helped me get through tackling that point of view.

Recently a friend of mine read some work that I had done and said it reminded her of King. After I rolled my eyes and called her a liar and she incessantly claimed her innocence and genuineness, I took a step back and realized how little of his work I’ve actually bothered reading. So, I went to the library and picked up Night Shift, which is a collection of his short stories, and The Shining, as well. (I had been reading The Shining through Google Books which was rather taxing since it skips pages due to publishing rights.)

I decided to read through Night Shift because I wanted to actually read Children of the Corn. It was fabulous, of course, and hair-raising…and then I read The Boogeyman.

As I child, I had an incredibly paralyzing fear of the dark. I can’t explain it but, gradually, I got over that fear and threw out the nightlight by the time I was about 10 or so — the exact age escapes me. In retrospect, I suppose reading The Boogeyman was a bad idea but it was just so enticing.

The End Result: I am terribly afraid to sleep at night without some source of light and cannot look into the direction of my closet in the dark without having my eyes closed. With time, over the last week or so, things have gotten better. But it was as if I was pulled back into my childhood.

I know it’s rather irrational and I know the story isn’t real but I cannot stress how real it FELT.

The dread hit me after I had finished the short and then I thought about King and said to myself: that bastard. I meant that in the most endearing way possible, nonetheless and it was because of the contents of this post that I placed that specific quote up top.

Even through chills and grimaces, I could not put down the book and I still continue to read through his work. Amazing.

As a writer, I aspire to spark emotion in readers effortlessly. If I want the reader to cry, then he will cry without realizing tears are streaming down his cheeks. It takes time and practice — it takes hours of reading and writing to get there. I know this because I am trying to find that time to enable myself to get there.

Stephen King literally put the fear of the dark right back into me — his words channeled something that I had thought I overcame over a decade ago. Guess not.

In reading King, sometimes I forget I’m sitting in bed holding a book. To have your soul pulled into the pages of a book is a refreshing experience.

I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t put a smile on my face…even if it scares the heck out of me.


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