What can one say? In horror terms Stephen King is the confirmed master. His books never fail to excite his legion of admirers. He has a gift for drawing readers into his storylines and holding them there for the opening chapter to the last. He knows exactly how to pace the action in his stories. He knows how to slow everything down so as to explain important details to his readers. This usually involves some backstory where he goes into the past history of his characters. But he never lets this get in the way of telling the story. And when he puts the afterburners on and gets into the thick of the action he provides a thrill ride which few writers can match.
What is it about Stephen King which has enthralled a generation and made him one of the most prolific writers plying their trade today? I believe a lot of his appeal comes from his personable style. He can warm the hearts of his readers by making them identify with his main characters. He does this by giving them likeable personalities. Sometimes this can include some pretty strange quirks but this only gives them extra added appeal.
Stephen King has said in the past that his stories are character-driven rather than plot-driven. He builds his characters up first before bothering himself with the story which surround them. On occasions I have found this hard to grasp as his plots can be rather complex. However, I suppose this just goes to show how strong his characters are as the action they take part in soon takes on a life of their own.
I have mentioned this elsewhere on this site but it behoves me to return to it here and this is that humour is a key ingredient to any horror novel worth its salt. A horror writer has to break up the tension found in his storylines with humour. It gives the reader a chance to take stock and to digest all of the horror sequences which have gone before. A period of light-hearted exchanges between characters or a whimsical view by the narrator of an episode which has just occurred works on two levels. As I say it can allow the reader some much-needed breathing space away from all of the suspenseful action. But it can also lull him into a false sense of security, making him believe he is in a safe place when in reality more frightening scenes lie just around the corner. Stephen King is an expert at this. It is just one of many skills he has at his disposal to keep his readership coming back for more which is, of course, the goal of every horror writer or indeed any writer in any genre.
Curiously enough it took me quite a long time to start reading Stephen King’s novels. My younger brother read his books before me and he has never even been much of a reader! It was almost as if I had to grow into becoming a fan of King’s work in a weird sort of way. Elsewhere on this site (under My Horror Blogs) I have mentioned Clare McNally as a great inspiration to me in my writing. I found her novels a pleasure to read from the start. It felt like putting on a favourite pair of slippers. Her books were a perfect fit for me. But Stephen King is more of an acquired taste, although I found the more of his books I read the more I liked them. In that respect he certainly did grow on me throughout the course of time. Now I can’t get enough of his novels. They speak to me in so many ways.
I can certainly subscribe to a view expressed about Stephen King at the back of one of his novels. This is where a critic said he was like a modern day Dickens. His gift for storytelling is comparable to Charles Dickens and he is revered as much now as Dickens was in the nineteenth century. I could not agree more with this sentiment. I think it sums up perfectly the brilliance of Stephen King’s prose. To me he is a true master of horror fiction and deserves to be held in the highest regard.