Haley Saffren ‘20/ Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
There are plenty of ways to terrify people. Isn’t that the goal this time of year? These days, the news alone is enough to provide the maximum scare factor, but the writing of an effective and impactful horror story is difficult to get right. There are the easy and obvious scares, like hidden figures and ghostly presences, and then there are the more complicated and impactful effects, like tapping into people’s worst fears. Authors who write horror sometimes forget that while simply scaring audiences is the desired effect, the story itself is at the heart of the haunting. The horror genre wouldn’t be as engaging without a thought-provoking backstory and three-dimensional characters (even the ethereal ones). One author in particular has mastered the horror genre and is the king (pun intended) of creating relatable characters and a frighteningly intriguing story. It should come as no surprise that this author is Stephen King.
Some of his stories are considered the scariest books ever written. The most well-known include It, The Shining, and Carrie; we could stop there and be scared enough. What makes Stephen King’s books stand out is the way he’s able to make bizarre situations terrifying. Take Christine, one of King’s lesser known stories, for example. It follows a high school boy named Dennis who purchases a new car named Christine. The car is possessed by unknown, supernatural forces that eventually start to affect Dennis. A possessed car sounds silly as a storyline, but Stephen King manages to breathe life into Christine through the eyes of a high school boy obsessed with his car. As Christine consumes Dennis’ psyche — and the two kill high schoolers in a brutal car chase — the reader believes in this frightening relationship. This is King’s best attribute as a horror writer, bringing the bizarre to everyday life in a horrifying way. Most of his stories reveal elements that seem too ridiculous to be scary, but King’s writing provokes genuine terror in readers who can relate to the situation in some way.
Another unique aspect of Stephen King’s writing is his long windedness. This may seem like a negative for a new King reader, but he has a flair for being effectively excessive with his words, characters, and plot. His attention to detail gives dimension and build-up to the characters, setting, and story. Everyone knows that the longer the wait, the scarier the outcome. If a scene is creepy, King will describe, at length, each abnormality as if it was ordinary, building a dimensional creepiness to the scene and story. This method especially works when gore is involved. When gore is graphic for the sake of being graphic, it can border on ridiculousness. However, when King describes gore, he circles around it as if the reader shouldn’t be looking at the scene. His details feel incredibly invasive, which heightens the tension. At times, this device causes the gore to be more intense and graphic. Everyone should read a King book, especially those who want to genuinely be scared to their core.
Many consider Stephen King to be the best horror story writer of our time, which is not a title given lightly. His stories are built using devices that create and enhance terror. Each detail adds to the horror, from a small tree in the background, to a powerful car revving with life in front of you. Ridiculous concepts become odd and frightening realities. At this eerie time of year, a King book will heighten your awareness, delight your senses, and keep you reading for hours due to the inability to put the book down. This Halloween, if you’re a Stephen King lover, try a new King book, and if you’re a King novice, try giving one of his many works a go.