Ten days ago I missed you.
I cried and cried and prayed you’d call me.
I told myself I’d never be happy without you.
Five days ago you called.
You got mad for no reason and reminded me of all of the reasons we didn’t work.
You stomped my broken heart into the dust and then told me we’re friends again.
Today I can’t stand you.
You’re on my mind so much for all the bad reasons.
I can’t stand anything you do, the things I use to think were cute and quirky are just plain annoying now.
Everytime I run into you I resist the urge to lash out at you and tell you how annoying you are and how i’m so much better without you.
But if I hate you so much,
Why are you still on my mind?
Stephen King is an All-Time Great, arguably one of the most popular novelists the world has ever seen. And there’s a good chance that he’s inspired more people to start writing than any other living writer. So, as the Guardian and King’s UK publisher Hodder launch a short story competition – to be judged by the master himself – here are the ten most important lessons to learn from his work.
1. Write whatever the hell you like
King might be best known – or, rather, best regarded – as a writer of horror novels, but really, his back catalogue is crammed with every genre you can think of. There are thrillers (Misery, Gerald’s Game), literary novels (Bag Of Bones, Different Seasons), crime procedurals (Mr Mercedes), apocalypse narratives (The Stand), fantasy (Eyes Of The Dragon, The Dark Tower series) … He’s even written what I think of as being one of the greatest Young Adult novels of all time: The Long Walk. Perhaps the only genre or audience he hasn’t really touched so far is comedy, but most of his work features moments that show his deft touch with humour. It’s clear that King does what he wants, when he wants, and his constant readers – the term he calls his, well, constant readers – will follow him wherever he goes.
2. The scariest thing isn’t necessarily what’s underneath the bed
Horror is a curious thing. What scares one person won’t necessarily scare another. And while there might be moments in his horror novels that tread towards the more conventional ideas of what some find terrifying, for the most part, the truly scary aspects are those that deal with humanity itself. Ghosts drive people to madness, telekinetic girls destroy whole towns with their powers, clowns … well, clowns are just bloody terrifying full stop. But the true crux of King’s ability to scare is finding the thing that his readers are actually worried about, and bringing that to the fore. If you’re writing horror, don’t just think about what goes bump in the night; think about what that bump might drive people to do afterwards.
3. Don’t be scared of transparency
One of my favourite things about King’s short story collections are the little notes about each tale that he puts into the text. The history of them, the context for the idea, how the writing process actually worked. They’re not only invaluable material for aspiring writers – because exactly how many drafts does it take to reach a decent story? King knows! – but they’re also brilliant nuggets of insight into King himself. Some people might think that it’s better off knowing nothing about authors when they read their work, but for King, his heart is on his sleeve. In his latest collection, The Bazaar of Broken Dreams, King gets more in-depth than ever, talking about what inspired the stories in such an honest way that it couldn’t have come from another writer’s pen. Which brings us to …
4. Write what you know. Sort of. Sometimes
Write what you know is the most common writing tip you’ll find anywhere. It’s nonsense, really, because if we all did that we’d end up with terribly boring novels about writers staring out of windows waiting for inspiration to hit. (If you like those, incidentally, head straight for the literary fiction section of your nearest bookshop.) But King understands that experience is something which can be channelled into your work, and should be at every opportunity. Aspects of his life – addiction, teaching, his near-fatal car accident, rock and roll, ageing – have cropped up in his work over and over, in ways that aren’t always obvious, but often help to drive the story. That’s something every writer can use, because it’s through these truths that real emotions can be writ large on the page.
5. Aim big. Or small
King’s written some mammoth books, and they’re often about mammoth things. The Stand takes readers into an apocalypse, with every stage of it laid out on the page until the final fantastical showdown. It deals with a horror that hits a group of characters twice in their lives, showing us how years and years of experience can change people. And The Dark Tower is a seven (or eight, or more, if you count the short stories set in its world) part series that takes in so many different genres of writing it’s dizzying. When he needs to, King aims really big, and sometimes that’s what you have to do to tell a story. At the other end of the spectrum, some of King’s most enduring stories – Rita Hayworth & Shawshank Redemption, The Mist – have come from his shorter works. He traps small groups of characters in single locations and lets the story play out how it will. The length of the story you’re telling should dictate the size of the book. Doesn’t matter if it’s forty thousand words or two hundred, King doesn’t waste a word.
6. Write all the time. And write a lot
King’s published – wait for it – 55 novels, 11 collections of stories, 5 non-fiction works, 7 novellas and 9 assorted other pieces (including illustrated works and comic books). That’s over a period of 41 years. That’s an average of two books a year. Which is, I must admit, a pretty giddying amount. That’s years of reading (or rereading, if you’re as foolishly in awe of him as I am). But he’s barely stopped for breath. This year has seen three books published by him, which makes me feel a little ashamed. Still, at my current rate of writing, I might catch up with him sometime next century. And while not every book has found the same critical and commercial success, they’ve all got their fans.
7. Voice is just as important as content
King’s a writer who understands that a story needs to begin before it’s actually told. It begins in the voice of the novel: is it first person, or third? Is it past or present tense? Is it told through multiple narrators, or just the one? He’s a master at understanding exactly why each story is told the way it’s told. Sure, he might dress it up as something simple – the story finding the voice it needs, or vice versa – but through his books you can see that he’s tried pretty much everything, and can see why each voice worked with the story he was telling.
8. And Form is just as important as voice
King isn’t really thought of as an experimental novelist, which is grossly unfair. Some of King’s more daring novels have taken on really interesting forms. Be it The Green Mile’s fragmented, serialised narrative; or the dual publication of The Regulators and Desperation – novels which featured the same characters in very different situations, with unsettling parallels between the stories that unfolded for them; or even Carrie’s mixed-media narrative, with sections of the story told as interview or newspaper extract. All of these novels have played with the way they’re presented on the page to find the perfect medium for telling those stories. Really, the lesson here from King is to not be afraid to play.
9. You don’t have to be yourself
Some of King’s greatest works in the early years of his career weren’t published by King himself. They were in the name of Richard Bachman, his slightly grislier pseudonym. The Long Walk, Thinner, The Running Man – these are books that dealt with a nastier side of things than King did in his properly attributed work. Because, maybe it’s good to have a voice that allows us to let the real darkness out, with no judgments. (And then maybe, as King eventually did in The Dark Half, it’s good to kill that voice on the page … )
10. Read On Writing. Now
This is the most important tip in the list. In 2000, King published On Writing, a book that sits in the halfway space between autobiography and writing manual. It’s full of details about his process, about how he wrote his books, channelled his demons and overcame his challenges. It’s one of the few books about writing that are actually worth their salt, mainly because it understands that it’s about a personal experience, and readers might find that useful. There’s no universal truths when it comes to writing. One person’s process would be a nightmare for somebody else. Some people spend years labouring on nearly perfect first drafts; some people get a first draft written in six weeks, and then spend the next year destroying it and rebuilding it. On Writing tells you how King does it, to help you to find your own. Even if you’re not a fan of his books, it’s invaluable to the in-development writer. Heck, it’s invaluable to all writers.
I will put the hours after a ‘read more’ in order to keep this from spoiling anyone who wishes to play the whole game without knowing the hours each chat appears. I’m not sure if this counts as spoilers, but I’ll tag this as so.
The following is the hours the chats appear. I believe time zones play no part since the chats will appear based on your own time zone, so I won’t add CST PDT EST or anything after the hour. All times are in both military and regular standard time.
NOTE: This is to help anyone who does not want to miss a chat.
Please also note, that the following will be after the common route. It will start with 5TH DAY and end on 11TH DAY aka FINAL DAY.
“Stop crying,” Rick Rescorla told his wife on the phone, on 9/11. “I have to get these people out safely. If something should happen to me, I want you to know I’ve never been happier. You made my life.” Revisit James Stewart’s moving account of the life of Rick Rescorla. An immigrant, war veteran, and Chief Security Officer of Morgan Stanley in the World Trade Center, Rescorla helped evacuate 2,500 people while the towers crumbled on September 11, 2001.
You find yourself enjoying cute, mindless dates with Luhan more and more as days pass. It’s been about two weeks since the two of you had started dating, and him in your life really reminds of how you’re free. You can do whatever you want now, live however you want.
Luhan is adorable. He’s funny and talented but also incredibly shy sometimes. He pampers you often and it’s safe to say that you’ve completely gotten over your crush on Suho.
Però tu ricordati che ti ho amato, tanto da non aver bisogno d'altro al di fuori di te.
Ricordati che sei stato tutti i desideri che potevo esprimere, anche quelli a mezzanotte, quelli quando avrei dovuto dormire e invece fissavo il soffitto pensando a te.
Ricordati che non m'importava della stanchezza che avrei avuto il giorno dopo finché t'avessi scritto frasi alle 4 di notte solo per farti sapere che mi stavi mandando in fissa.
Ricordati che hai fatto parte dei miei sogni più belli, di quelli che anche se voglio, non vanno via.
Ricordati che ho sentito il tuo profumo tra le mie lenzuola e mi è sembrato così bello da volerne ancora, sempre di più manco fosse stato cocaina.
Ricordati che a San Lorenzo ho guardato il cielo solo per te.
Ricordati che se mi chiedono chi amo mi vieni sempre in mente tu, anche dopo tutto sto tempo e dopo tutto sto casino.
Ricordati che le insufficienze che ho preso sono state colpa tua.
Ricordati che le ramanzine che ho ascoltato sono state colpa tua. Ricordati che non avrei mai preso una birra in mano se non fosse stata colpa tua.
Oppure ricordati di me che io mi accontento.