In slight departure from my regular subject matter, I thought it prudent in the wake of the recently-released, Dr. Sleep, to pen an article that would usually find its way online in form of a eulogy. I hope the irony won't be lost on Mr. King in the slim chance that he reads this piece. I have a theory that most writers look to those who influence them with the hope that someday (assuming their inspiration is still alive) they will have the chance to sit with the individual over a cup of coffee and chat. I am exactly halfway through Dr. Sleep and its magic, characters, and story reminded me that now is as good a time as ever.
Dr. Sleep - the 50% review (no spoilers)
In this sequel to The Shining, the reader is introduced to old characters and references to the happenings of the previous novel and the Overlook Hotel. The ability that Danny Torrance considers both a gift and a curse (also called the shining) is still present in his life. The quick introduction of the True Knot counterbalances this theme perfectly because the reader sees similarities in the shinning and the power wielded by the True Knot. The sins of the father have found their way to Danny in his drinking and once again, King relates to the human side of the supernatural in every player within the game. No matter how extravagant the moment or the work of magic, the reader is able to see the human behind it all. This is the magic of this story. As I go on to finish it in the next two days I have resigned myself to the fact that what I expect to see will probably be the last thing to happen and while that may disappoint some, it exhilarates those of us who understand that endings in real life rarely meet our expectations. There are other reviews out there which give this story more credit than I (given I haven't finished it yet), so go to those for further information. As a fan and the before mentioned "inspired", there are other things to say.
As a Fan
Stephen King has the uncanny ability to link the supernatural with the human element, bridging the gap between the intangible and the touch of everyday life. The first King work I ever read was The Gunslinger. As a cowboy fanatic who favored Clint Eastwood's version, I related to the character immediately. After reading the Dark Tower saga, I went to Salem's Lot, then The Stand, and then IT. The list went on from most of his novels to his many short stories. Among the uncountable connections between his vast array of work, one stands out that supersedes subject matter and setting, the creation of the character. King can create a character so real it's as though he or she is sitting across from you. You know just who they are. You've seen them in your travels and talked with them in your home. You may even have them in your family. If fiction is the truth inside the lie, then King's characters are the truest voices of all and the creation of them is something that every writer, young and old, can learn from. As a fan of your work Mr. King, I thank you for crafting stories that exist not just in nightmare, but in dreams themselves.
As a Writer
When I started writing seriously, the fear of the task was overwhelming, partly because I didn't know where to start and partly because I knew that I would never measure up to the literary titans of the writing world. I set page goals, took writing classes while in college, and did my best to read every book on the craft while writing every storyline that came into my head. I assume most fledglings have the same issue and encounter the same problems. For me, the book On Writing changed the game. It showed a methodical process that incorporated simple goal setting like daily word counts and focal points for improvement (grammar, etc.). Little nuggets of wisdom like "you are a talented writer if you use money from a story to pay your utility bill" reminds the reader that goals can be simple and applicable to real life rather than the fever dreams often associated with the craft. The result is a writer who takes what they see translates it for everyone else. Again, there is magic and that magic is attainable for anyone brave enough to dedicate themselves to the worthy cause. For writers, Mr. King shows the requirements of the craft and mandates that those willing to undertake the task to do so with prudence and dedication. No frills; no grand receptions. Just an empty room, an empty page, and the difficult task of telling a story.
Every story begins as a premonition perceived on the far side of dream. Writers seek to go to that place and through words, show everyone what they see. Stephen King has perceived enough dreams to demonstrate that it's not just possible, but repeatable. As a writer, Mr. King's influence on my development has been foundational. He has shown that story exists everywhere, from the traumatic moments in life to those times when things are seemingly mundane. That turn of eye, the hooded man at the counter, the dark truck stop on the side of the highway, and the rusty drain can all have a tale as translated by the human experience. For this, and for reasons uncountable, I say a very sincere thank you to the man who continually shows us that the magic exists.