Monday, June 24, 2013

Holy Crap, I'm Critiquing Stephen King's Work...

In preparation for Stephen King's Doctor Sleep coming out, in which Dan Torrance [as in Danny Torrance] is the protagonist, I decided to re-read The Shining.  

Let me give you just a little background on my favorite writer, before I go on.  According to Wikipedia, he's written eighty-seven pieces [which include novels, short-story collections, novellas, e-books, non-fiction, a screenplay, a couple of comic books, and a poem -- you get the idea].  And if Google spreadsheets can be trusted, those eighty-seven pieces add up to 35K+ pages [not words, pages].

The Shining, which hit the book stands in 1977 [the year I graduated high school], was his third novel to be published. So needless to say, his writing has grown over the years and has changed with the times and the expectations of the publishing world.

Yes, I say 'needless' now, but I didn't think about all that when I picked up The Shining this time, thirty-six years after I'd originally read it.  No, I thought about how much I enjoyed it the first time, about the scene with the topiary animals [which I mistakenly remembered as having happened to Danny, not his father], about the creepy history of the hotel, about how after reading Salem's Lot at sixteen, Stephen King had once again written something capable of scaring the stuffing out of me.

And I couldn't wait to dig into it again.

But this is where my story gets wonky.  I'm about halfway through the book, and I'm thinking, wow there's lots and lots of telling -- not showing.  For example, not even three chapters in [or something like that], Wendy, the mother, while laying in bed [so no action other than her being drowsy] reflects on her life with Jack and what happened to Danny, etc... for a whole chapter. Basically it is a full chapter of flash-backs.  Same with the father, Jack.  Further in, there's a chapter of Jack reading newspaper articles about the hotel.  Even Danny does a bit of looking back on his short five years.  We get the arm-breaking incident from three different perspectives. What hit me was that that type of writing is frowned upon these days.  I was beaten soundly [okay, exaggerating a bit] for things like that when I was a new writer.

Back-story slows the action.

Maybe you should start the novel sooner. 

No one cares about all that.

SHOW us; don't TELL us.

And yet, I don't feel like all this telling takes away from the story. Yes, it could be cleaned up a bit, but it's still a fabulous story.  And when Stephen King shows you something, you can't get it out of your head.   So maybe a little bit of telling from the Master is a good thing. And yes, I noticed the discrepancy in style, a lot, but like I said, I've had it beaten into me that you don't do things like that, at least not in this millennium.  A new -- 'uneducated in the rules of writing' -- reader may not have even noticed.  [I do tend to edit as I read now, re-writing as I would have written a given story.]

So, I'm writing [no pun intended] off this problem that I'm having as a change in the rules of writing over the past thirty-six years, or maybe because so many more people are publishing now, the rules have become more rigid.  I know that Stephen King's new novels fit right in with today's requirements for what constitutes a 'good writer'.  I know that I only wish I could write as badly as Stephen King.  [That's for all the snotty, literary fiction people.  Hey, I read/write literary fiction, and he's still my favorite author. So there!]

With that said, I'm enthralled with Stephen King, and there are parts of The Shining that still has the ability to scare the stuffing out of me.  Oh my god, the old woman in the tub.  How scary is that?  Danny's only five in the story.  If I saw something like that, I'd pee my pants too, even now.

And I'm looking forward to reading Doctor Sleep.  Although Joyland will likely come first. I can honestly say that of the eighty-seven pieces that Stephen King has written, I've read at least half of them, and several multiple times.  [Doctor Sleep and Joyland are included in that eighty-seven.]

You want to know more about Stephen King, you say. Well, let me google that for you.  There are about a bazillion websites out there.  Go look for yourself.

But if you're really lazy, you can start here:

No comments:

Post a Comment