How Stephen King Scares His Audience
With a boat from a sheet of newspapers floating in a rain-swollen gully. “This is how Stephen King” It “, his 22nd novel, written in 1986, begins, a passage that is truly exemplary of what King does best: cast a spell on her at once It is this unique ability that makes him one of the most One of the best-selling writers of our time has sold over 350 million copies worldwide and earned him the respected title of Master of Horror King is still a hard-to-talk writer in the literary arena.
Once described by the New York Times as “a writer of quite engaging and absurd clapping,” there was a long-standing discussion about whether Kings’ works are really literature or just glorified pulp. Nonetheless, King has managed to write some of the most famous and compelling stories that ever came out of this genre. What raises the question: how does he do that? Like every writer, King does not hesitate to share his sources of inspiration, especially writers such as Richard Matheson of “I Am Legend” and Bram Stoker of the now classic “Dracula”. But perhaps the writer closest to his style is H.P. Lovecraft, one of the most influential authors of the horror genre.
He single-handedly created a completely new subgenre, now more commonly referred to as cosmic horror, in which unknown cosmic entities and phenomena that transcend our understanding and are often portrayed as ancient, mythical monsters became objects of horror. But the Lovecraft monsters were never really monsters. Instead, they were metaphors that symbolized Lovecraft’s deep fear of rapid technical and scientific advances in the early 20th century. The helplessness he felt for the changes around him was reflected in the hopeless struggle of humans for forces far beyond their control. Lovecraft believed that people’s inability to truly understand their reality was the most merciful thing in the world, and that this would be enough to drive anyone mad.
In many ways, this is the same kind of horror that King deals with. Whether it’s a vampire, a haunted hotel or a rabid dog, the themes of King’s horror are all our fear of something else. In particular, the social fears of the American people. In “Danse Macabre,” King’s study of the horror genre, he explains that there are two types of horror. The first is the horror that plays on our phobic pressure points. These are fears based on our individual phobias, such as the fear of spiders or ghosts upon which many of the latest horror movies are based. But these horrors also have a clear limit, since they are aimed at a very specific group of people with this particular phobia. For this reason, more effective and successful horror works play with so-called national pressure points.
These are political, social and psychological fears shared by a wider range of people. As in the works of Lovecraft and King, they are represented by the abnormal and the supernatural. This distinguishes King, who is living through some of the most turbulent periods in American history. His debut novel “Carrie”, on the surface a book about a girl with telekinetic abilities, is a story about the suppression of female se*uality in the 60s, which was published just six years after the famous protest of Miss America in 1968 “The Shining, a book about a family stranded in a haunted hotel, takes up the concept of patriarchy, deeply rooted in American culture, to discuss the cyclical nature of parental heritage.
Sometimes it is more personal. Two of his most famous works, “Misery” and “Cujo,” deal with addiction and the associated lack of self-control and were written by King during his own fight with dru*s and alcohol. Like Lovecraft, the horrors that King represents are self-reflexive and grounded in our reality. Mrs. Carmody: And it’s his fault, yes it is, Pvt. Jessup: No! It’s not my fault! Narrator: Which in turn makes the horror feel so much more real. They are representations of American anxiety. Things that threaten the foundation of our society. And just like Lovecraft, it’s the reality that scares King. As he put it, it is not the physical or mental anomalies that really shock us, but the disorder in our reality that they represent. So, how does King do that on paper? The first thing to keep in mind is that the situation comes first. King books are often based on situations rather than complicated actions. Each of his works is based on a series of what-if scenarios.
How about an ancient, cosmic evil in the form of a clown, a small town in Maine? Then he throws a group of well-crafted characters in the middle of the situation. But they are not about to break free, just about watching what happens. And it is this spontaneity that allows some of the most unexpected and shocking moments in Kings stories. And it’s impossible to talk about Stephen King without talking about tension. As he himself said, Stephen King: Well, if you ask the ordinary, ordinary reader if there is such a guy or girl, I think I write horror novels.
I think what I write are exciting novels. Narrator: Another master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, once said that tension is “the most powerful means of getting the viewer’s attention.” And that’s what characterizes King. Gather your attention and keep it on something terrible, so you can not turn away. And he achieves this by using three of the most basic literary devices. The first step is anticipation.
Both his books and his adaptations are interspersed with lines and moments that suggest what is to come. Bill: Georgie? Attention. Narrator: For this reason, King’s stories have an overarching sense of downfall and fear. Unlike most horror novels and movies, it’s not the uncertainty of the danger that makes you nervous, but exactly when this danger will finally come. The next step is the recall, in which King increases the tension by constantly reminding the audience that the danger lurks. And it often takes a while for the danger to actually show its face. And then finally the payout. In which the tension we have built up reaches its climax and we finally face the danger we have been waiting for. And at that last moment, King makes us afraid. And you can see this very well throughout King’s career.
Paying for what started it all. The analysis of Stephen King‘s works is a great opportunity to understand what really scares us at the end of the day. His works are prime examples that show that our object of fear is very much present in our own reality. Sometimes it’s not the monsters or ghosts that scare us, but the horrors of everyday life lurking in the corners, waiting to strike. And King knows and understands this horror better than anyone else. And if that’s not enough to make him a master of horror, finding someone who deserves more would be difficult.