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Encapsulating a character ... [May. 6th, 2012|01:18 pm]
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One of my favourite books about how to write is Stephen King's "On Writing". King, like John Irving, has such a distinctive voice when he writes - that New England laconic that infects my writing style for weeks after I've read something of theirs, sticking to my fingers like creosote, staining my keyboard with their rhythms.

So, following links on a dull May Bank Holiday Sunday, I found a post by Neil Gaiman where he'd interviewed King for the Sunday Times and then, because the Times interview is behind a paywall, has posted the interview on his blog. And one of the things that King said put my back up at first. He's written a sequel to The Shining.

I'm not a big fan of sequels that come out many years after. Le Guin managed it with Tehanu, but it took 10 years for me to (grow up and) like that book once it had been published. The questions it asked and answered about what had happened to Ged in the first three books were questions that it took me a long while to appreciate needing to be asked. Scott Card's 'Shadow' books were disastrous - take a character (Ender) that went through hell, and then take all his victories away from him 20 years later because the authors new favourite character (Bean) is working in the background, making things easier. It's revisionism, pure and simple.

So when King said he had written a sequel to The Shining, my instinctive reaction was to be wary.

And then he said this:

“I wanted to write Dr Sleep because I wanted to see what would happen to Danny Torrence when he grew up. And I knew that he would be a drunk because his father was a drunk. One of the holes it seemed to me in The Shining is that Jack Torrance was this white-knuckle dry drunk who never tried one of the self-help groups, the like Alcoholics Anonymous. I thought, okay, I'll start with Danny Torrence at age forty. He is going to be one of those people who says 'I am never going to be like my father, I am never going to be abusive like my father was'. Then you wake up at 37 or 38 and you're a drunk. Then I thought, what kind of a life does that person like that have? He'll do a bunch of low-bottom jobs, he'll get canned, and now he works in a hospice as a janitor. I really want him to be in a hospice worker because he has the shining and he can help people get across as they die. They call him Dr Sleep, and they know to call for him when the cat goes into their room and sits on their bed. This was writing about guy who rides the bus, and he's eating in a McDonalds, or on a special night out maybe Red Lobster. We are not talking about a guy who goes to Sardi's.”

And, you know? That's just such an awesome summary of 30 years of someone's life, 30 years of what would have happened to someone who went through what Danny did at the Overlook, 30 years of never being able to let go of the past.

I'm very much looking forward to reading this.

[User Picture]From: renniek
2012-05-06 06:38 pm (UTC)


Totally agree on the 'Shadow' books. Bean = Ender++, apparently, without the likeability. Epic fail!
[User Picture]From: littleonionz
2012-05-06 07:14 pm (UTC)


On Writing, is such an easy book to read. No magic -- he might as well have written; "There's only one Stephen King, deal with it." But I have a feeling he could write a shopping list that would keep you gripped. I don't think I'll be reading the sequel to The Shining; I want the little boy to have a good life, not one tainted by what seems to be the melancholia of an aging King.
[User Picture]From: greatbigshowoff
2012-05-07 02:03 pm (UTC)


I thought it was a great interview. I haven't read 'the Shining' but I'm tempted to, especially now there might be a sequel.