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Finding King: Ever wonder where Stephen King got his inspiration?

by Deleone Downes, Special to Alpha Textbooks

“What Jackson and King do best, as part of their horror storytelling, is to take a character(s) from  beginning of the novel and completely destroy any preconceived notions you had about them by the end of the novel.  Often good becomes evil, bad develops a conscious.”

Humble Beginnings. I’ve long been a fan of Stephen King. I remember a time when I was attempting to convince my teachers that I was capable of reading stuff that the ‘big kids’ read. When my teachers finally caved in and I was shown around the library and into the areas previously off-limits to the ‘little kids.’ I have a faint memory of immediately gravitating towards R. L. Stine and Mr. King, despite the librarian’s suggestion to read Nancy Drew and The Babysitter’s Club. “No!  He will give you nightmares,” she said, and about King, “He’s even worse.” But, what’s worse than a nightmare?

Mental Download. So, for a kid who was pretty stubborn, I took their advice. I stuck with R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series for quite sometime, even fangirled it out before the term was popular/existed, rushing home to watch the show after school. Later, however, I decided to up-the-ante, so to speak, and ‘upgrade’ to Stephen King.

Under the Dome - Stephen KingThe King Effect. The last Stephen King book I read was quite a few years ago. But when I finished and put it down on my night table, I had this feeling that I had just experienced some truly amazing literature. So much so that I will brag and big-up, props and promote this book as a must read until, well … I die, I suppose. That book is King’s Under the Dome, somewhat recently made into a television show.

A Literary Exploration. Reading often gives a new meaning to the famous potato chip mantra, “You can’t just have one.” Why? Because when you finish a good book, you start wonder er (1) what other stuff they’ve written; (2) what, if any, other authors have a similar style; and, the most obvious question, (3) where do they get their ideas from? Let’s explore:

King’s Inspiration.  When I was in university, I attended a fourth year seminar course. We read an extremely morbid book by author Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Later, I would find out that Stephen King credits Jackson as one of his inspirations for horror fiction writing.

No Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing. I would compare Jackson’s main character, Merricat, in We Have Always Lived in the CastleWe have always lived in the castle - S. Jackson (1962) to King’s character, Junior Rennie, in Under the Dome (2009).  Merricat  appear quite normal on the outside, but there is a psychological storm brewing on the inside, which later consumes her leading them into the abyss, where she does terrible things.  King’s character of Junior is no different.  And, I think this is where we see the student paying homage to the teacher.  What Jackson and King do best, as part of their horror storytelling, is to take a character(s) from  beginning of the novel and completely destroy any preconceived notions you had about them by the end of the novel.  Often good becomes evil, bad develops a conscious.

The Taught Teach.  Stephen King is a literary giant.  And, I’m sure there are author who’ve been inspired by his writings, none come to mind (or even Google search results) that have captured the essence of horror storytelling, used that foundation and built on it to redefine the craft like King did with the writings of those who inspired him.

Etched in the Psyche. Regardless, the man has the market cornered.  And he has definitely left a mark on pop culture with many of his work successfully making the transition from the page to the big screens and small screens: Carrie, It, Haven.  So, perhaps King IS in fact inspiring generations, but through a different medium.

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