Stephen King's Life and Accomplishments

Stephen King's Life and Accomplishments

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"If you have an imagination, let it run free." - Steven
King, 1963

Stephen Edwin King is one of today's most popular and best
selling writers. King combines the elements of
psychological thrillers, science fiction, the paranormal,
and detective themes into his stories. In addition to these
themes, King sticks to using great and vivid detail that is
set in a realistic everyday place.

Stephen King who is mainly known for his novels, has
broadened his horizons to different types of writings such
as movie scripts, nonfiction, autobiographies, children's
books, and short stories. While Stephen King might be best
known for his novels "The Stand and It", some of his best
work that has been published are his short stories such as
"The Body" and "Quitters Inc". King's works are so powerful
because he uses his experience and observations from his
everyday life and places them into his unique stories.

Stephen Edwin King was born in Portland, Maine, on
September 21, 1947, at the Maine General Hospital. Stephen,
his mother Nellie, and his adopted brother David were left
to fend for themselves when Stephen's father Donald, a
Merchant Marine captain, left one day, to go to the store
to buy a pack of cigarettes, and never returned. His
father's leaving had a big indirect impact on King's life.
In the autobiographical work, "Danse Macabre", Stephen King
recalls how his family life was altered: "After my father
took off, my mother, struggled, and then landed on her
feet." My brother and I didn't see a great deal of her over
the next nine years. She worked a succession of continuous
low paying jobs."

Stephen's first outlooks on life were influenced by his
older brother and what he figured out on his own while his
family moved around the North Eastern and Central United
States. When he was seven years old, they moved to
Stratford, Connecticut. Here is where King got his first
exposure to horror. One evening he listened to the radio
adaptation of Ray Bradbury's story "Mars Is Heaven!" That
night King recalls, he "slept in the doorway, where the
real and rational light of the bathroom bulb could shine on
my face" (Beaham 16). Stephen King's exposure to oral
storytelling on the radio had a large impact on his later
writings. King tells his stories in visual terms so that
the reader would be able to "see" what was happening in
his/her own mind, similar to the way it was done on the
radio (Beaham 17).

King's fascination with horror, early on continued and was
pushed along only a couple weeks after Bradbury's story.
One day, little Stephen was looking through his mother's

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books and came across one named "The Strange Case of Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." After his mother finished reading the
book to him, Stephen was hooked. He immediately asked her
to read it again. King recalls "that summer when I was
seven, [my mother] must have read it to me half a dozen
times"(Beaham 17). Ironically that same year, while Stephen
was still seven years old, he went to see his first horror
movie, The Creature from the Black Lagoon. This is
important because Stephen says, " Since [the movie], I
still see things cinematically. I write down everything I
see. What I see, it seems like a movie to me"(Beaham 17).

An event that probably had the biggest impact on Stephen
King's writing style was the discovery of the author H. P.
Lovecraft. King would later write of Lovecraft, "He struck
with the most force, and I still think, for all his
shortcomings, he is the best writer of horror fiction that
America has yet produced"(Beaham 22). In many of
Lovecraft's writings he always used his present
surroundings as the back drop of his stories. King has
followed in his footsteps with the fictional town of Castle
Rock, Maine. Castle Rock is a combination of several towns
that King moved to and from with his family in his
childhood. The main town that it resembles is that of
Durham, Maine. It was after the exposure to H. P.
Lovecraft's stories that King first began to write.

While growing up and moving around the way his family did,
Stephen was never able to make friends they way other kids
his age did (Underwood 77). Finally, when Stephen was
twelve years old, his family settled in the town of Durham,
Maine. For Stephen King, Durham was the place where his
imagination began to shine. It was at this time that
Stephen first began to make friends. Along with his
friends, Stephen would go the movies a lot. Stephen would
use the movies as an inspiration. Although he enjoyed going
out and having fun, whenever he would come home, Stephen
would immediately write down his experiences and
observations. Frequently, King would place his friends and
family into childhood fantasy tale, and one would always
know how Stephen felt about them because of how long they
lived in the story.

It was not until college that Stephen King received any
kind of real recognition for his writings. In the Fall of
1967, King finished his first novel, "The Long Walk", and
gave it to his sophomore American Literature professor for
review. After a couple of weeks and a couple of rounds
around the department, the English professors were stunned.
They realized that they had a real writer on their hands.
From then on, until he graduated with a bachelors degree in
English from University of Maine at Orono in the Spring of
1970, King concentrated on improving his writing technique.

One short story that best shows the type and technique of
Stephen King's writing is "The Body." "The Body", which has
been adapted into to a Hollywood movie, was first published
in the collection of short stories called "Different
Seasons". The story is a tale of four twelve year old
friends who at the end of one summer go on a journey into
the woods to see a dead body. While on their journey they
learn about life, friendship, and are propelled from
innocence to experience. On the surface of the story it
appears to be a simple journey with its occasional mishaps,
but the true magnificence is that this story has a strong
autobiographical coincidence. The main character, Gordie
Lachance, is a boy growing up on his own through the memory
of his dead older brother. Growing up, Gordie, an avid
story teller, dreamed of becoming a writer. Before his
brother's accidental death, all his parents would ever care
about was his brother. Since his death, Gordie's parents
have presumably shut themselves away from Gordie. This, to
a certain degree is true of King. Because of his father
leaving when Stephen was two, and his mother taking on
around the clock jobs, he never really had any parental

The story itself is written with Gordie narrating in the
present time and looking back at the journey. At the time
of his flashback, Gordie is a best selling author who has
returned to his home town of Castle Rock to revisit his
past. This is ironic because at the time Stephen wrote the
story, he himself had just moved from Bolder, Colorado,
back "home" to the town of Bangor. King's childhood home
town of Durham is used in several different stories under
the fictional town name of Castle Rock. It is also
noticeable how in the story, when Gordie "looks" back in
time, his brother is the only person who cares for him. He
noticeably goes out of his way to look out for Gordie, and
is always encouraging him and asking him about his writing,
while all his parents seem to do is ignore Gordie. This
also can be related to King's past because while growing
up, his brother while only two years older then he, always
seemed to be there for Stephen and look out for him.
Probably the deepest imagery of the story is at the end of
the novel. Gordie is back at home and putting the finishing
touches on his latest work. While finishing up, Gordie is
interrupted by his son who is shown in a sense to be a
good-natured and caring boy. Gordie experiences a deep love
for his family at the time. This setup is presumably placed
in the story as an escape for King. In his autobiography
Danse Macabre, King tells of his fear of providing for and
caring for a family (Reino 112). This shows King pushing
away the fear, in a sense saying that he is all right. That
he has now embraced the idea.

One of King's best work is also one that does not fit into
any category of his usual writings. For an author who
usually writes horror, "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank
Redemption", is a story that is a refreshing sidestep. The
story tells of how Andy Dufresne, who is falsely tried,
convicted, and sentenced to back to back life sentences for
the double murder of his wife and her lover, deals with
being trapped within a dreadful situation that is out of
his hands. Throughout the nineteen years that he is in
Shawshank prison, Andy has to endure everything from a gang
called the "Sisters", who go around raping and beating
their prey, to being forced to create and run a money
laundering scheme for the prison Warden.

If this story was written without the authors name on it,
there is none of Stephen King's characteristic style,
except for maybe in one place in the story. The one
possible place that even hints that it is from the mind of
King is at the end of the story where Red is off to keep
his promise to Andy. Andy asks Red, that when he gets out
of jail to travel to a southern Maine town called Buxton
and look for something he buried in a "hay field under a
large oak field." The suspense of what was buried and the
description of the field in Buxton is what is typical of
Stephen King.

While the story is very uncharacteristic of King, it does
deep down relate to himself. The theme of hope and of how
Andy overcomes the situation is one that is tied closely to
King. It runs a direct parallel with his life as a child
and how his life has turned out. Just as Andy was thrown
into a predicament and later escapes and lives his life on
his own terms, Stephen, early on, was forced to move from
town to town with his mother and brother. In the end
Stephen escapes and now lives on his own terms.

Stephen King's works are very powerful because he uses his
experiences and observations from his life and places them
into his unique works. What seems to make Stephen King's
stories almost magical is that the settings of his stories
are placed into common every day places. Additionally,
Stephen's writings are true to life in peoples mind's
because he draws upon common fears.

Just as King's writing style and genre had been influenced
by movies throughout his life, he is now influencing the
same industry with his own vision and imagination. King's
writings are so widely appealing that over 42 of his works
have been based upon or turned into Hollywood movies which
have included stars like Jack Nicholson (The Shining), John
Travolta (Carrie), and Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank

Works Cited:

Beaham , George . The Stephen King Companion. Kansas City:
Universal Press Syndicate Company , 1995 .

Beaham , George . The Stephen King Story, A Literary
1992 .

King , Stephen . "The Body" in Different Seasons . New York
: Viking Penguin Inc ., 1982 .

King , Stephen . "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption"
1982 .

Underwood , Tom . Conversations on Terror with Stephen King

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