The King


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The King

By Nandy Ekle

 

Anyone who knows me knows I love to read. And I’ve realized the older I get, the more analytical I get. I read everything. I’ve even read things—completely to the end—all the way to the end. One reason is that I’m not a quitter. I hate the thought of an unfinished book sitting around. I may take a break from a book, but I will always come back and finish it.

The other less neurotic reason is that I’m a firm believer there’s something to learn from every single book. Simply the fact that a publisher found a nugget worth latching on to means there’s something there. You may have to work harder to find it in some stories, and you may decide the whole lesson is more of what not to do, but there is something.Another thing people know about me is that I love a story with psychological layers. The more layers, the better. The more psychological the better. And throwing a few ghosts in is the superlative of a good story.

Another thing people know about me is that I love a story with psychological layers. The more layers, the better. The more psychological the better. And throwing a few ghosts in is the superlative of a good story.

And people who know me know that’s why I like Stephen King. And my favorite Stephen King story is, hands down, no questions asked, The Shining. Legend says Mr. King was still teaching high school when they waited out a freakish snow storm at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. According to the tour guides at the Hotel, they were closing up for the season when the Kings walked in while the blizzard was blowing through the mountains. They were handed the keys to the hotel and told to make themselves at home and lock up on their way out. They were not told about the reputation the Stanley Hotel has as one of the most haunted hotels in the nation. After waiting out the storm with the spirits, Mr. King feverishly wrote The Shining in one setting.

Of course, this is legend, relayed to tourists in a place that plays the movie over and over and over 24 hours a day on their very own Shining channel on every television in every room in the hotel. I know because I’ve been there, and I’ve been on their history and haunted tour and heard the story directly from the tour guide.

Whatever part of that story is true, Mr. King says the book was a turning point in his writing career. And I know just enough about psychology, ghost stories, and writing to understand exactly why he says that. In the Introduction which he added with the date February 8, 2001, Mr. King states he reached a point where he knew he had to make the decision to reach higher than he had done before. And he did. And the result is a story with so many layers, so many issues, such strong characters, that this novel is easily his masterpiece.

I am re-reading the book for the umpteenth time because this is my Halloween tradition. Read my blog next week for a specific review of this amazing masterpiece of writing.

Congratulations. You have just received a postcard from the muse.

 

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The Constant Reader


POST CARD FROM THE MUSE

The Constant Reader

By Nandy Ekle

Anyone who reads Stephen King recognizes what a “constant reader” is. If you haven’t heard this phrase before, it’s the term of endearment Mr. King gives his fans, especially those of us who have been around since the 1970s, when Carrie came out, followed by Salem’s Lot, and then The Shining.

So what is it about his work that we crave? Some of his stories are unbelievable, some border on absolute silliness. But I find myself devouring even these as if they were coated with the fudge syrup I pour generously on my ice cream.

Well, I can tell you exactly why this genius’s words keep me glued to the page. And it’s exactly what I just said. He’s a genius with words. When a writer can make you gag with disgust after one sentence, that’s talent. If, after reading a page or two from a book, you find yourself hiding all the alphabet letters from the refrigerator, you’ve been immersed in greatness. If a hotel becomes a living character in a novel, and standing in the door of the hotel makes you feel like you’re shaking hands with a celebrity, that’s the work of a word genius.

My personal favorite Stephen King book is The Shining. In my opinion, this book is a masterpiece. I’ve read it more times than I can count, and I find a new layer every time I open the cover. The last time I read it I noticed something I had never noticed before. The first three or four chapters are back story. However, he does not info dump on us, the readers. What he does is place us inside the characters’ heads. We see, hear, feel, taste, smell, everything they do. And it’s in this state we learn why the characters are the way they are. And it is so real that it took me 30 plus years to analyze it.

In some places during the reveal of this backstory, Mr. King writes continuously without the interruption of punctuation. I believe the absence of commas, periods, and even spaces between words gives the feeling of swirling, as going down a drain.

And that’s incredible.

So, hear’s to you, Mr. King from a consummate Constant Reader.

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Experiment


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

 Experiment 

By Nandy Ekle

 

Voice. How do you have a voice in writing? Voice is an author’s uniqueness. This has to do with word choice and the direction you take your story. I might write with a very formal voice and my characters are very prim and proper, but you might write using more casual words and ideas and your characters more like every day people walking around at the mall.

Style is the way you tell your story. This can include punctuation, or the lack of it; where and why a writer breaks for a paragraph; or the length of chapters.

It’s no secret that I read a lot of Stephen King books/stories. I can read one page of a story and pretty much tell you if it’s something he wrote or not, even if it’s something of his I’ve never seen or heard about before. And that’s because of his voice and style. However, there are a few of his stories that have surprised me, and in a good way. In fact, one of the reasons I love certain King books over some of the others is because the voice and style is so different.

The Shining. I don’t know how many times I’ve said it, but I will continue saying it until I can’t say it anymore. This book is incredible because of the style (among a million other reasons). As a student of writing rules, I can point out where each rule has been broken. But each rule is broken for specific reasons, and it was absolutely done in absolutely the right place at absolutely the right time. There are places in that book where reading the words and the placement or absence of punctuation actually made me feel like I was caught in a whirlpool going down a drain. Amazing illusion!

The Eyes of the Dragon. The first time I read this book I had never heard of it. “Hhhmmm,” I said as I took it off the library shelf. At the time I was feasting on the fantasy genre, and that’s where this book fits. I was wonderfully surprised because      Mr. King uses a much different voice for this story. He actually sounds a little like          J. R. R. Tolkien in The Hobbit. I definitely suggest this book for anyone who wants to study voice and style.

Dolores Claiborne. Not so much a shift in voice form Mr. King, but a substantial shift in style. He wrote this story in the voice of a woman, and as a woman myself, I will tell you he did an amazing job of it. But as far as not sounding like Stephen King, well, he does. You see, Dolores is a woman who has a rough and hard demeanor. That’s actually what the story is about. Survival. The thing that makes the style so different is he did not break into chapters. The whole story is told in one long narrative. And, again, that was the right thing to do. There are times when stopping to change chapters is more distracting than anything else. The result is this book is a very fast read, in spite of the thickness of the book.

Okay. Now it’s our turn. A couple of exercises here. First, try to write part of your current work in progress in the voice of your favorite author, and the style they use the most. This will teach you to think like they do, which can be very helpful. Next, take a piece of your current WIP and use an opposite voice and completely different style. This will help you decide if you actually have the right thing in the right place at the right time.

Now, show off a little bit and post your experiment in the comments below.

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