Book & Move Review: On Writing / Stand By Me – Stephen King

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Stephen King, On Writing
I finished reading Stephen King’s book On Writing a while ago and have been letting it percolate in my mind while I studied for my last NCARB ARE exam. (That’s why I don’t finish books and post them on here nearly as often as I’d like to.) Part autobiographical memoir, part how-to, part telepathy, Stephen’s book is an inspiring read for many a would-be writer such as myself. I appreciate his approach to writing: unearthing a hidden treasure. I find when I’m inspired by stories, I start out with a scene, like a movie or a dream playing in my mind. Sometimes I just hear the words. Mr King’s unearthing process seams like an approach I’d like to try, and believe me, I’ll be rereading the book to get more out of it now that I have some breathing room to do so. I appreciate his honesty because his book never implies more than he says: this book will never make you a great writer, but it will make a good writer out of a decent writer.

I have two favorite sections to this book. The first is his description of writing as telepathy. Honestly you should read it just for that. Its the most poetic way I’ve ever heard any form of art described. If you don’t think of Stephen King as the poetic type, just do a google search on his quotes – they’re very eloquent. (My personal favorite comes from Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption: “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”) My other favorite part of the book is his way of explaining the old idea write what you know. He writes horror, its his favorite genre, and has been since he was a child. That doesn’t mean his life is horror, he incorporates elements of his life into a setting that becomes horrific. At one point, he even mentions if you’re a plumber who loves sci-fi, write about a sci-fi plumber. This way the character can seem relatable to the reader, even if the situation is odd.

At the end of May, while I was reading On Writing, Vancouver’s Empire Theatre presented Stand By Me as their Fan Favourite selection that month. Stand by Me is based on his short story The Body, which can be found in his novella collection Different Seasons. (It also contains Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption which became the movie The Shawshank Redemption.) I heard that The Body was somewhat autobiographical for Stephen King, and when paralleled with the autobiographical section of On Writing I could start to see some similarities. Gordie LaChance’s relationship with his brother seems to have been inspired by Stephen’s relationship with his brother. The style of Gordie’s story telling (I’m thinking about Lardo here) isn’t a far cry from the way Stephen speaks about his own childhood: he had a baby sitter who sat on his face and farted.

His book On Writing actually re-inspired me both to read and write. There was a time when I devoured books. I would read books the way people eat chocolate: I can’t just read one chapter. On Writing reminded me why. He got me reading more frequently (despite my exam studying) and writing more, little bits at a time. So, Mr. King, thanks for the telepathic inspiration, perhaps one day I’ll message you back.