Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Stephen King’s Easter Eggs for Writers

In the world of DVD’s, an Easter Egg refers to a hidden message or feature.

Well Stephen King has been putting them in his books. And I don’t mean the trivia or little items he puts in that tie to his other books or works by other authors/singers, but rather revelations/insights of what it is to be a writer. Bits that will resonate with other authors for the truths they are, inserting a layer to the work just for those who share the craft or those who are becoming addicted to it.

Two titles scream with this easily overlooked subtext (well easily overlooked by anyone but a writer that is) and they are Misery, and King’s latest release, Lisey’s Story.

Mr. King sells millions of copies each year. The masses love him, a lot of critics hate him. I double love him, not only for his stories and the beauty of his craft, but for these extra bits of his writer’s soul he is sharing with those to whom the words also sing.

His writing secret/popularity seems to stem from the awesome real life detail he places in his books. Some of it is dirty, but all of it is real - and I am not talking about murder, violence, or abuse (though those certainly add to it), but I mean the little things - brands of cars, music, food, likes and dislikes, nicknames, pet names, snot, bowel movements or lack thereof, urinary infections, dirt under the fingernails, everyday more unpleasant things that we all have to deal with but don’t necessarily talk about in normal conversation. These details ground the reader in vivid reality so that when things take a left turn, they are oh so much more plausible. (That doesn’t even count his evil ways of giving just enough hints of things to come to keep you turning the page - we all want to see the train wreck after all - human nature at its most basic.)

Anyway, back to the Easter Eggs…

Misery saw print back in 1987. At that time in my life I was just beginning to struggle with trying to understand the craft of writing and finding my voice so I too could weave tales to entertain others. The book dealt with the darkside of fandom, of obsessions taken too far. But it was also all about writing! About the generation of ideas, of stories wanting/needing to be told. It reveals how writers aren’t always in control of what they write, or when they can write - how sometimes the writing possesses and rules them - not the other way around.

On the technical side, you get insights on the business of writing and being published. How all is not money and glory, but how there are difficulties, a darker side. How some can take something as simple as a story, something meant to entertain, and take it where it was never meant to go.
But like I said before, all of this is presented as subtext, part of the details, the grounding, but to those who have the bug, it added a whole new dimension to the work, it was revealing and wondrous. It created a connection to one who has gone the distance, and gives hope and inspiration to those who wish to follow the same road.

(On a personal note: Of all his books, I think this one is the most terrifying. Though in the movie they break parts instead of cut them off, I still haven’t been able to work up the courage to see it.)

Lisey’s Story is one of King’s most recent releases. This one too has loads of treasures for authors. I loved how he used the characters to pay homage to his wife’s support over the years and also reveal a side of the business to the reader most never think about - the writer’s spouse! And just like Lisey, many of them go with their husbands/wives to conventions and offer support, company, a myriad of other little things, yet they are virtually unknown and mostly ignored. It also points out that sometimes fans forget the author is a person and come with the same baggage, lack of confidence, and problems as anyone else. They just don’t normally see all that, since what they are shown is the professional persona all writers need to culture and maintain. Writers are people too!

Other info shared talks about where her husband got his ideas - from his experiences, his life. And that you have to work at stories, they don’t come out beautiful or perfect every time. Sometimes a path taken only leads to dead ends. (Been there! Done that!)

He also brings up the idea of a word pool even as he uses the concept of time as a pool, where a dropped pebble resonates through the whole and moments in time are not necessarily linear but can intersect. Lots of little gems. (Got me so wound up I had to do this post!)

So if you are looking to learn about writing, the business, the darkness - these books are for you. A lot of great stuff in there. And the stories themselves are awesome! Enjoy!

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