Whether you enjoy Stephen King’s books or not, his gift for storytelling is tough to deny. Over the years, I have devoured many of his novels, the most recent being Under the Dome in 2009.
But ever since publishing a book and diving into the writing craft—albeit still in the shallow end—I read books differently. I think all writers do.
So I decided to do something I rarely do: reread a novel.
The Shining now re-haunts my nightstand for three reasons:
- To reacquaint myself with the Torrance family in anticipation of the novel’s sequel, Doctor Sleep, coming out in September.
- To see if King’s writing shines as brilliantly to me today as it did in the past.
- To see if his words still scare me. I’ve long maintained The Shining spooked me more than any other book. Ever. Ooh, so scary for Carrie.
But that was years ago. High school to be exact. Back when I wore sad clothes and ugly shoes. Then again, some things never change.
Here’s what I am discovering from rereading The Shining:
From a Writer’s Standpoint:
- King spends pages and pages setting up the story and developing the characters, and although this is great for the reader, it’s a luxury new authors can’t afford. Try this as a newbie and watch your manuscript disappear in a pile of agent slush. Nowadays, it’s “get to the story quickly or else.”
- He writes using an omniscient narrator, meaning King switches between Jack’s, Wendy’s, and Danny’s points-of-view within the same scene, and at times the narrator describes events the family can’t know. Others have called The Shining’s narration third-person limited, but if this were the case, each scene would come from a single character’s viewpoint, and the reader would not be privy to those details in which the character is unaware. Although an omniscient narrator is not my preference, it works in a story about a haunted hotel, where characters’ thoughts tumble together like clothes in a dryer.
- In my opinion, King took liberties when narrating from Danny’s point-of-view (tiny spoiler alert ahead). Five year olds do not understand the sophisticated words and concepts that Danny does (meshing cogs, quell, lassitudinous—really?). But the child is gifted, not to mention telepathic, so that eases my criticism a bit. Use of the omniscient narrator further increases the plausibility. Well played, Mr. King, well played.
From a Reader’s Standpoint:
- The good: King retains his power of sucking me in like a wet vac and tossing me into his world.
- The bad: King no longer scares me.
In fact, books and movies in general no longer scare me. That sucks. I used to love the feeling of needing to look up to see if anyone was “there” while I flipped the pages or stared at the screen. Guess I’m too old and pragmatic now.
But at least Mr. Rubin is not:
Though a brave, strong, sensible man in real life, my husband is the family jumper in scary-movie land. On a good night, a small cry accompanies his fright-induced spasms.
But don’t worry; Mr. Rubin’s sense of self is much too strong to be dampened by this girly trait. In fact, not long ago, as we watched the opening scene of Paranormal Activity 3, Mr. Rubin repeatedly jerked his legs up and down.
“What are you doing?” I asked, perplexed and annoyed.
“Just warming up for the jumps to come,” he replied.
Ah. Smart man. No need to risk a torn hamstring…
Do you read like a writer? Do scary books and movies still work their magic on you? Are you a strong, confident wuss like my husband?