Title Pic: MDCarchives
As you may have seen, I got an article published on Listverse recently. I’m happy about that, of course. It’s the first time I’ve been paid for something I wrote. It also has me thinking of Stephen King. This is because of a quote I remember reading on his IMDB bio page. It reads: “If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” Well, right after I received payment for the Listverse article, I got my electric bill, which I paid. Apparently I’ve met King’s criteria for talented writing, assuming he wasn’t referring specifically to fictional short stories or novels. So that’s cool. Granted, the very next quote on the bio page says that talent is cheaper than table salt, but I'll still take being talented over not talented.
I’m a definite Stephen King fan in general. I’ve read quite a few of his novels… which means I’ve probably read less than half of them. (Though I have read the Dark Tower series.) He’ll probably write another novel in the time it takes me to write this post. I bet he could get his most recent grocery list published and make millions of dollars. And I’d probably read it.
Aside from being insanely prolific, Stephen King’s also been noted for having certain frequently recurring elements in his stories. They recur so often that Stephen King drinking games exist. (Google it if you want to get bombed one evening.) If you're into King, you can probably think of many of them: his novels are frequently set in Maine, there’s often a character who is a writer, there’s usually an evil bully who might just be criminally insane, and so on. Well, I’ve managed to notice a few other story facets that I swear King uses quite frequently but I’ve never seen mentioned. I’m here today to highlight a few of them. I’m going primarily off of my own memory for this, so I don’t have anything other than my own anecdotal accounts to cite as evidence. However, rereading every King novel I’ve ever read and taking notes feels a bit beyond the scope of this post. Trust me, though, these things are in his books.
This one’s pretty straightforward: Redheads seem to show up over and over in Stephen King stories. I want to say they’re often a bit tall, too, but don’t hold me to that. They’re usually pale, also. (Think of the oracle girl from 300.) The primary example I can think of off the top of my head would be Bev Marsh from It, but she’s hardly alone. I feel I’ve seen it often enough to simply conclude that King either likes redheads in general or had a hell of a crush on a tall, pale redhead at some point. Why not? I’ve always tended to gravitate towards darker-haired women. I could easily imagine that if I became a novelist, there’d be a lot of dark-haired women in them.
3: Fragile People
This one’s pretty subjective, but I wanted to include it. It seems to me that characters in Stephen King’s stories are often easily injured. (It’s very possible that I simply have a skewed or unrealistic perception of human durability.) If someone is punched, knocked out teeth are superbly likely. If someone trips on a sidewalk: a broken leg and a cracked skull. A person slips just a little with a kitchen knife: huge lacerations. Sit in a chair the wrong way and you might just end up with a ruptured asshole (That’s the proper medical terminology; I’m sure of it.) Yes, people really do sustain these types of injuries from their respective causes all the time, but I think the rate stands at nearly 100% in King’s books, whereas I’m quite sure that’s not the case otherwise.
I should mention eyes. It really sucks to be an eyeball in the Stephen King universe. It seems like lots of people suffer eye damage. Sometimes they’re just left with scratched up corneas and sometimes they’re blinded. I will grant that the thought of being blinded by the destruction of your eyes is very unpleasant. Instances of blinding are probably the closest King’s books have come to actually scaring me so far. I love his stories; they draw me in and keep me interested, but I can’t say I’ve ever been genuinely scared by any of them.
2: Faded Chambray Shirt and Jeans
This outfit shows up again and again. Over and over we get characters described as wearing a chambray shirt and jeans, with one or both being faded. I can actually cite some evidence for this one. I Googled “faded chambray shirt and jeans Stephen King” and got book results for Cujo and It among others. (I also Googled “chambray” since I really wasn’t sure what kind of fabric it is… and I’m still not sure.) I get the impression this outfit might have a slight country or cowboy vibe to it, so I suppose people in rural Maine wearing it kind of fits. The frequent recurrence of the faded chambray shirt and jeans might be more prevalent in his earlier work as opposed to his recent works, though. As a distant second in terms of recurring clothing choices, I’ll also nominate twill pants. (Now I’m going to have to Google that, too…)
1: Funny Profane Old Man
This is my personal favorite recurrent Stephen King element. Going by his books, Maine is full of bitter old men who’ve reached the point of not giving a shit anymore and will curse up a storm every time they fart. And they’re hilarious. Two examples that come to my mind are Watson from The Shining and Gary Pervier from Cujo. Gary’s a man who hopes his urine will one day become sufficiently rancid with alcohol to kill weeds! You can’t make stuff like that up, unless you’re Stephen King. Unless he didn’t make it up… I’ve wondered if King really knew an older man like this at some point in his life, and all these funny profane old men are based off this one person. If so, he must have been the most interesting man in the world, regardless of what Dos Equis says.
Or maybe this guy is the old man that Stephen King knew…
On a related note, Stephen King is really good at amusing use of profanity in general. I find myself wishing he’d write a book about cursing now. I would definitely read that. Whatever he writes next, I hope he keeps churning out his cool stories, even if he writes one about a chambray shirt factory in Maine that’s invaded by an evil force from another universe and has to be stopped by a writer, a redhead, and the hard-drinking profane old guy who runs the factory.