Artist Spotlight: Stephen King


The first Stephen King book I ever read was the first one he wrote, Carrie, and it was quite recently as it happens. This is not one of those stories where someone finds their inspiration at a super young age, and suddenly their destiny is revealed to them; it’s the story of me finally finding someone I could respect and even see as a role model going forward. I discovered King not so long ago when I was already a prolific reader, which is good because he’s an acquired taste. King is someone who had gone through many of the struggles we all go through and found a way to overcome them. Friends of mine have called him verbose, said that he’s better in conception, but not execution or brushed him off as just plain rubbish. I’m writing this now to the state for the record that while opinions on art are subjective, King’s detractors are unequivocally wrong.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I don’t claim King is the perfect writer, far from it. Such a thing does not exist, as every writer is painfully aware. Dear old Stephen, in particular, has written probably as many bad novels as he has good. Therein lies the reason he’s such a fantastic writer. You can appreciate the ups because of the downs. Let’s put it like this – not every painting can be the Mona Lisa, and not every cathedral can be the Sistine Chapel. Likewise, not all King’s books can be The Shining – now and then, we’re going to have to open up a Tommyknockers and be sadly disappointed from the get-go. But would he appreciate The Shining without The Tommyknockers? Can we understand good art without bad art?

More importantly, you have to respect a writer with the courage, like King, to write what he wants to write – regardless of what others think of his books; you always know he’s writing the things he enjoys writing. This is the most crucial lesson most young writers learn; not caring what others think and editing your work to please others, which will only stifle voice and creativity. King has never been afraid to authentically write what he finds entertaining or explore his demons on the page (Misery is a pretty surprising metaphor), confident in his ability to find an audience without pandering to it.

Now I have to address King’s somewhat polarising prose style. Honestly, though it may not be the most subtle, I can’t see the problem with it – when reading him, I may have occasionally cringed, but I’ve also almost always been in admiration of the clarity of his voice, the ominous suggestions of something not quite right. Mostly what I’ve always loved is how he swiftly creates a living, breathing characters in just a few expositional lines. Let me take you back to the example of Carrie, where within only the first few scenes, we understand almost perfectly all of the motivations and inner struggles of all the main characters, including Carrie, the treacherous Chris Hargensen, the sympathetic Rita Desjardin, slightly bumbling principal Grayle and of course (before we meet her) the dastardly antagonist, mother Margaret.

Stephen King may well be my favourite author if I have one. Not all of his work is perfect, but that only enhances my appreciation for the excellent stuff, as well as the fact he’s never been afraid to be himself with his writing. I think that’s the essence of why he’s arguably the most successful writer of our generation (sorry J.K Rowling fans!), because he writes for himself, and he does it so well!

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