Sunday, November 25, 2012

10 Stephen King Stories Featuring Writers as Characters

Stephen King often uses authors as characters in his stories. It's possible that no other author before him or during his time equals him in this particular enterprise. And it's impossible for you as a serious writer not to find yourself parodied in one of King's stories.

Most of the writers in King's stories (if not all) are men. Nevertheless, the sort of distress they often get themselves stuck with is not gender-oriented. King, at one time announced he was hanging his pen on stories featuring writers as characters. I believe that was in the note on Secret Window, Secret Garden published in a collection of novellas called Four Past Midnight back in 1990. But alas, in 1998, a Stephen King novel, Bag of Bones featured a writer as the main character and going through the worst dread that could ever happen to a writer-writer's block. You can never trust a storyteller, han?

Bag of Bones (1998)
This novel is by far, my favorite Stephen King book. It features the writer, Mike Noonan, who is going through the worst case of writer's block, as the main character of the novel. He has not written anything, besides his laundry list, that is, for the past four years or so.
King says he was inspired to write this novel after reading a story about Virginia Wolfe who is reported to have been so prolific she had to deposit her books in a safe. The book borrows its title from Thomas Hardy who said, "The most brilliantly drawn character in a novel is but a bag of bones"

Noonan's block is worsened by the death of his wife, Jo, who passed away with their unborn child on the pavement of a pharmacy. But Noonan doesn't realize the death of his wife and the baby is in part, fulfillment of a generational curse. If you want to learn about the art of writing and how to deal with writer's block while having fun, read Bag of Bones. It's King's best effort, so far.

Secret Window, Secret Garden (1990)
Morton Rainey is the main character in this novella. He is a writer and recently separated from his wife. As a review says, Rainey is trapped in the demonic depths of a writer's worst nightmare. He has relocated to his summer home awaiting the finalization of his divorce from his wife when one hot afternoon, a stranger wakes him from his siesta. He opens the door and sees a guy who looks like a character from a Faulkner story. The first words the guy says to him and which marks the opening line of the novella are, "You stole my story." And from that point in time, Rainey's nightmares begin.

Stephen King masterfully twists the plot line, sometimes Rainey is a split personality, possessed by this strange character, John Shooter, who appeared at his doorstep uninvited. The story revolves around a writer exhibiting rare symptoms of dissociative disorder. You can't guess where King is taking you, even after the story is told. The suspense is just too intense.

Here's a short story and part of the collection, Skeleton Crew about a writer who receives the gift of a custom built word processor from his fifteen-year old nephew, Jon. The machine has supernatural powers to execute whatever commands a user typed.

Richard Hagstrom, a struggling writer, uses the word processor to bring back his nephew who died in an accident caused by his drunken father–Richard's older brother. But not before deleting his son and wife from the face of reality. Word Processor of the Gods is a short story that attempts through allegories, to show how fiction immortalizes our dreams and hopes.

1408 (2002)
Of this story, Stephen King said, "I never intended to finish it. I wrote the first three or four pages as part of an appendix for my On Writing book, wanting to show readers how a story evolves from first draft to second."

Mike Enslin visits places haunted by ghosts or spirits or some other evil and then writes about his experience. Olin, the manager of the hotel tries to discourage Enslin from going up to Room 1408 (the number adds up to 13–the so-called evil number), where several paranormal activities had occurred but his attempts were rewarded by fierce rebuttal.
Enslin went into room 1408 but barely escaped with his life when the thing in the room set him ablaze.

Misery (1987)
Imagine meeting a fan of yours who wants you to write one last novel for an already concluded romance series you have been writing. You may not want to consider it as an option but she can be persuasive... with an axe! That's the scenario the main character in this story, Paul Sheldon, finds himself thrust into. Involved in an accident, bugged down by a broken ankle and rescued by a psycho nurse who is responsible for the deaths of over 100 people, Paul Sheldon is in a worst-case scenario. And Annie Wilkes is the perfect muse for any complacent writer, believe that!

Lisey's Story (2006)
This is the story King said was inspired by visions of his own death after his now famous accident. He returned from the hospital to find his wife had rearranged his study and the thought came to him what becomes of his wife after he dies.

Lisey Landon, wife of the deceased writer, Scott Landon is faced by scores of people demanding her late husband’s unpublished manuscripts to the point of threat. The story is paranormal romance at its best.

The Road Virus Heads North (2002)
Richard Kinnell is a horror writer who picked up a picture with supernatural powers at a yard sale. The original owner and artist had hung himself in his basement but not before pinning a note to his breast which read, "I can't stand what's happening to me."

Eventually, Kinnell, observes that the picture keeps changing and he tries to rid himself of the thing. He dumps it in among the pine trees behind a fast food joint. However, when Kinnell gets home he finds The Road Virus, that is the name of the picture on the wall at his home.

Salem's Lot (1975)
Is the story of a writer, Ben Mears who returns to a town, Jerusalem's Lot ('Salem's Lot, for short) where he grew up and had been away from for years. He finds the town almost in the same condition as he had left it but at the same time, he discovers an unspoken evil hovering over the town.

It's a vampire story with a twist. King said he did a "restructuring and updating (of) the basic elements of Bram Stoker's Dracula to create 'Salem's Lot."

The Shining (1977)
Jack Torrance was hired to take care of a large hotel all winter but the tide turns against him. He becomes psychotic and tries to harm his family. His son, Danny, and wife eventually escape owing largely to the 'gift' of The Shining the kid possesses.

The Dark Half (1989)
Thad Beaumont is a writer in distress as his pseudonym gains substance and tries to steal his reality. Beaumont was switching genres and had celebrated the fact with a mock funeral of his pseudonym with a picture on the cover page of a magazine. A few days later, the grounds keeper of the local cemetery discovers a 'hole' in the same spot Beaumont had used for his mock burial.

Something had dug its way out of the 'grave'. Then the killings began and Beaumont's fingerprint is all over the evidence. Yet, Beaumont has proof he was home on the night of the murders. This story is allegoric presentation of how fiction can influence the life of a writer.

Stephen King has more stories which, involve writers but I intend to end my ranting with Dark Half. If you want to learn the craft of writing, do read King's nonfiction book On Writing but do not stop there, read his novels, as well. You'll learn vastly by following that route.

Keep your pen bleeding.


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  1. Well, you write about what you know, right? And what does he know better than writing? Which by the way, he shares excellently in "On Writing."

    So glad to see Word Processor of the Gods get a mention - that's a great one!

  2. Of course, On Writing is a great book. I have a copy, as well. Stephen King speaks at length on how he became a writer, how he landed his choice of genre and especially, encourages young writers to write what they believe in.

    I love Word Processor of the Gods. I sometimes find myself wishing it was longer than it currently is.
    Thanks, Sandra for visiting.

  3. “Bag of Bones” is one of the top stephen king books with the main character being a writer. I can relate to this book as well as I often suffer from writer’s block and know what it’s like.

    1. Thanks, Roderick for visiting. And I appreciate the comment so much. Thanks.


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