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Learning From Stephen King

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

Never in a million years did I see myself reading IT by the horror master himself, Stephen King. Yet, here I am, the end of May, about 20 percent into one of his scariest novels. The story that houses the most terrifying clown, Pennywise or simply, IT.


Major News (hopefully this isn't a spoiler for anyone if you are late to reading the novel like me).

I finally picked "It" by Stephen King back up yesterday! I have to say, his mind is something else!

If you haven't read it, and only watched the film (original for me), like me then I suggest taking a swing at reading this! When I finish, it will be the longest novel I've ever read.

Getting my spook on for the rest of May (probably a lot of June).

Shoutout to Haley Newlin for giving me the courage to not only read horror but read Stephen King! This is her all-time favorite, and I am so glad to keep supporting her writing journey, by seeing what her genre is all about!

Check out her debut novel, "Not Another Sarah Halls" - Available now! Pre-order, her second novel, "Take Your Turn Teddy," this July!

“Swear to me swear to me that if it isn't dead you'll all come back.” ―Stephen King, IT

As a writer, even not being in the horror genre, there are still techniques I can learn from Stephen King. While I am reading IT I want to share what I am learning concerning writing style, description, and telling a really good story.


King is known for his chilling descriptions, ones that stay with you long after you close the book. Yet, I have noticed that the word choice is almost kept fairly simple with bigger words weaved here and there. In my opinion, that is what makes his description so intriguing - you never know how he is going to describe a situation or person.

I first noticed his unique style of description when Pennywise was first described in Part 1. I was immediately wowed at how little detail went into it, but how the description still captured the essence of IT.

A few summers ago, I watched the original film, and well Pennywise scared me. This was most likely before the world had a clown scare, but clowns were not my favorite. Reading King's description, I can see how much the producers really paid attention to his creation of the notorious clown.

If you notice from the description, King didn't use over the top imagery to create his iconic character.


A cross between Ronald McDonald and that old TV clown - Bozo. Wild tufts of orange hair. The smile painted over the white pancake was red, not orange and the eyes were a weird shiny silver... ______

The best descriptions come in few words and leave room for the reader to explore the imagery. I believe that is what King does throughout his writing. He creates just enough to put an image in our minds then he lets us run with those thoughts.


So once again Bill Denbrough found himself racing to beat the devel, only now the devil was a hideously grinning close whose face sweated white greasepaint, whose mouth curved up in a leering red vampire smile, whose eyes were bright silver coins. A clown who was, for some lunatic reason, wearing a Derry High School jacket over its silvery suit with the orange ruff and the orange pompom buttons.

- Part 2, Chapter 8, page 387


Encouragement Weaved Throughout The Story

Stephen King is literally saying, 'Writers never give up on your dreams or your stories. Try. Try. Try Again.'

In this scene, on page 129, King is showing how Bill struggled to get his first manuscript published. He had a drawer full of rejected manuscripts, yet he never gave up hope. Then one day, he got word that a publisher wanted to take on his story.

Meaning, as writers, we never give up hope. We keep pushing forward. We keep submitting and hoping for the best until it happens.

Developing Multiple Characters

It is no secret that there is a range of characters throughout this novel. I imagine keeping those all straight was a major struggle at times, being how it says he wrote this book over the course of two years. Or maybe he is just that good.

With my novel, even now with writing a sequel, I have trouble keeping track of five characters, whereas King created and developed a full cast of people. Even reading, keeping up with who is talking or experiencing a scene is hard, but so interesting at how the storytelling changes from character to character.

Throughout the unique storytelling, the wording changes with each character or the dialect. For example, when young Bill is talking, readers get to see his stutter, but it considerably shifts when King talks from his adult persona. That is development - personality and trait shifts that create a character's vibe and background in the story.

Even sometimes, in the scene with Georgie's school picture, we see that young Bill isn't portrayed as stuttering, but it is still from his point of view. He is telling a story, but when he is talking to his friends or directly speaking to the reader, his stuttering comes out even in his adult persona.

Not only does he develop multiple characters (their adult and children personalities, as well), he makes their scenes together flow naturally. Meaning, he makes it look easy to write a scene with more than two characters talking back and forth plus thoughts and emotions tied to those conversations. I admire this because making sure every character is mentioned in a scene isn't as easy as King makes it look in Chapter 10, where the Loser's Club comes back together after more than 20 years apart. Not only did he factor in including each character but how their relationship to each other changed while they were apart. Even though their childhood is long gone, they suddenly mix like no time as passed at all. As if, their childlike wonder has come back for this one moment together.

How did I learn from this?

I learned that, as a writer, we are multiple personalities wrapped up in one person with an itch to write a good story. We create characters with deep and personal backgrounds of their own but ones that can come together with one common theme through conversation. How they relate to each other creates the tone and mood for the scene ahead. Whether that is intense or calm. With King's style of writing, he lets us see each side of every character in their reactions. He doesn't hold back anything, yet still lets us wonder how exactly the characters are feeling with each new piece of information.

What did I take away from this?

Let the characters write the scene for you. Meaning as you write the scene and develop their words and reactions, they drive the outcome of that scene. How they react makes you say the next thing and the next. With dialogue, I piece together what I want the reader to know. But in a way, the characters are telling me the story as if they are real and not fictional. Being able to see the conversation played out in my head helps me create real conversations that make someone want to know what's going to happen next. That is exactly what King does. In Chapter 10, I found myself reading fast because I wanted to know how everything would turn out. Even without seeing the movie first, I believe that I could have pictured what was going down while the Loser's Club was sitting around the table.


To celebrate reaching the halfway point of this incredibly unique horror story, I wanted to capture some things I learned from King along the way. No matter a writer's genre, we can still learn writing techniques from him.

King teaches us to face our fears by writing horror stories with a central young adult plot weaved throughout the story. He creates relatable characters that his readers are able to see grow into determined and successful adults. He binds them with a promise so deep that it may as well kill them in the long-run.



Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers.

Stephen Edwin King was born in Portland, Maine in 1947, the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King.

In 1971, He married Tabitha Spruce.

Stephen made his first professional short story sale ("The Glass Floor") to  Startling Mystery Stories in 1967. Throughout the early years of his marriage, he continued to sell stories to men's magazines. Many of these were later gathered into the  Night Shift collection or appeared in other anthologies.

In the fall of 1971, Stephen began teaching high school English classes at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels.

In the spring of 1973, Doubleday & Co. accepted the novel Carrie for publication. On Mother's Day of that year, Stephen learned from his new editor at Doubleday, Bill Thompson, that a major paperback sale would provide him with the means to leave teaching and write full-time.

King is the 2003 recipient of  The National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters and the 2014 National Medal of Arts.

Originally written by Tabitha King, updated by Marsha DeFilippo.

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