Monday, September 8, 2008

The character is King

Or, why every writer should read Stephen King.

Yes, you read that right. Yes, I even used the ‘should’ word. And I stand by it.

Stephen King has been writing for many years, he’s produced a tremendous body of work and penned a fantastic writing craft/memoir, On Writing. Required reading, by the way.

Whether or not you read horror (I generally don’t) or whether or not you like King’s distinctive style (another reason to try his books—voice in action) it’s worth reading his work for all you can learn about characterisation.

King’s characters live and breathe. They have history and prejudices. Bad breath and bunions. They are capable of incredible acts of stupidity and astonishing acts of bravery and self sacrifice. We get to know them not through rude slaps of biography or back-story dialogue and info-dump, but through the way they talk, think, feel and behave.

And so we care what happens to them. We pray Susan won’t fall to the vampire, we hope Cujo won’t get Donna and Tad (and we even have the futile wish things could somehow work out OK for that ill-fated, rabid dog) and we certainly do want to see Roland make it to the Tower.

Stephen King masters every aspect of characterisation, and he does it again and again. This is no accident and it’s artistic excellence. King’s characters are alive and well—or as well as can be expected. Somewhere.

So give Stevie a read. It might be fun.

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