Celebrating Goldman's birthday! Although he was originally known as a novelist, Goldman broke out into screenplay writing in the late 60s to great success.
Its often said that Stephen King can make anything scary. Clowns. Dogs. Your next door neighbor. The master of horror can twist and weave his way into your psychosis with but a few words on the page. And seeing how its Halloween, let’s revisit King’s novels and take a look at his library to get spooked once again. Here are a few of King’s scariest works, best read after dark.
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Misery doesn’t have goblins, ghosts, or ghouls, but its horror is more frightening because its horror is based in reality. A chilling look at fandom gone wrong, this book tells the tale of what happens when a work of fiction becomes too much of an obsession. Writer Paul Sheldon suffers an accident during a snowstorm and is rescued by Annie Wilkes. Although seemingly sweet at first, Annie reveals she’s quite insane and is not happy with Paul for the ending of his last book, where her favorite character got killed off. So Annie takes Paul hostage and forces him to rewrite the book. A disturbing portrait of the more psychological variety, this one is also a disturbingly accurate showcasing of an obsessed fan that goes too far that rings even more true today.
4. ‘Night Shift’
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Night Shift is an anthology of short stories that contain some of King’s best and scariest works. Included in this collection are Graveyard Shift, where a group of men investigate the abandoned basement of a steel mill and find it infested with giant rats. Quitters Inc. showcases a hapless smoker who will do anything to stop his addiction. The Mangler is all about an industrial laundry machine that gets possessed by a demon and how it violently kills those who come into contact with it. What are the rest? You’ll have to crack it open and see for yourself, if you dare.
3. ‘Salem’s Lot’
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Salem’s Lot is a chilling novel about vampires invading a small, sleepy little town with a lot of dark secrets. Full of genuinely horrifying imagery, lots of gore, violence, and very frightening vampires, this novel is not for the faint of heart but is sure to please any fans of the children of the night.
2. ‘Durma Key’
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Durma Key is a lesser known Stephen King work but its just as gripping and scary as any mainstream novel. A scary, psychological story, we aren’t going to spoil anything of this one but its scary the same way Misery is. Its about the perils of creativity, the mysteries of one’s past, and with a touch of supernatural to add some spice, this one is one that should be read by more people.
1. ‘Pet Sematary’
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This is it. Pet Sematary is probably King’s scariest work. King himself almost didn’t finish it because of how upset it made him. Drawing inspiration from a relief life incident where King saved his young son from being struck by a truck, King spun this tale out of his own fears and it certainly shows. When a father’s son is hit by a truck, he buries him in a cursed burial ground that brings the dead back. Having already done this with his cat, the cat comes back meaner and seemingly undead. And when his son comes back, things take a turn for the absolute worst. Riveting, utterly terrifying, and full of frightening imagery, this book will linger with you in ways a book often doesn’t.
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You read the title, now let’s get going!
But first, let’s set up one rule: all of the monsters on this list have to be fictional. No non-fiction real people. No, “I read a book on Manson and he was evil so why is he not on this list?” No. All these people are fiction, figments of an author’s imagination.
With that said, let’s start off with:
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I have nothing against children (that’s a lie), but she’s just plain EVIL! From the first pages of A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Austere Academy, you know this girl is trouble, and she is. Duncan and Isadora, two orphans already at the academy, are forced to live in a shack due to not having parents or guardians to sign the permission slip for the dorms. Carmelita begins referring to their shack as the Orphans Shack.
And that’s before our trio, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, make their way into the story.
When she and Violet have the same class, Carmelita takes it upon herself to poke Violet with a stick and whisper “orphan” every few minutes. Plus, she takes it upon herself to remind the orphans that, well, they’re orphans. Even worst, she calls them “cakesniffers!”, a confusing but still ultimately insulting jab at their…lack of cake?
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Come The Slippery Slope, Carmelita meets Olaf and Esmé Squalor face to face. Without a second thought, she abandons her parents and becomes their child.
Think about it. Her parents sent her to Prufrock Preporatory, a boarding school. I know rich people send most of their kids away for boarding school, but this just stinks that her parents don’t even like Carmelita, and honestly, who could blame them?
When Olaf and Esmé have our trio in their grasp they discuss which Baudelaire to leave alive for the fortune, and Carmelita suggests keeping Violet so they can tie her hair to things.
In the Grim Grotto, Olaf shows his human side with his annoyance at this little monster. Who can blame him? Every moment she’s on the page she just shows off how bratty she is.
You’re a cakesniffer and she eats cake! / Image Via Lemony Snicket Wiki – Fandom
Come The Penultimate Peril we’re on Olaf’s side when he abandons her and Esmé, since Esmé refuses to discipline the girl and Carmelita needs to be taken out back and shot Old Yeller-style.
What does Carmelita do next? She submits a book about how wonder she is to be used as evidence in a potential trial against Count Olaf and the Baudelaires.
Disloyal, wicked, and evil, Carmelita is a true monster. Don’t beleive me yet? Here’s the song she sings over and over again in The Grim Grotto:
C is for ‘cute’
A is for ‘adorable’!
R is for ‘ravishing’!
M is for ‘gorgeous’!
E is for ‘excellent’!
L is for ‘lovable’!
I is for ‘I’m the best’!
T is for ‘talented’!
and A is for ‘a tap-dancing ballerina fairy princess veterinarian’!
Now let’s sing my whole wonderful song all over again!
10-The White Witch
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The main antagonist of The Magician’s Nephew and of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Jadis is cold hearted demon. Not only did she murder God (Aslan), she enslaved Narnia to a thousand year winter. That wouldn’t be so bad, trees do annoy me, but she made it so it’s never Christmas but always winter.
To make it worse, she persuaded Edmund to turn against his friends with Turkish delight.
I have the right mind to call Jadis Judas.
IMage Via A Wiki of Ice and Fire – Westeros.org
This is hard, considering a lot of the characters in A Song of Ice and Fire are terrible people, but I say Tywin takes the cake. Yes, Joffrey is a psychopath, but Tywin is worse. Here’s why:
He emotionally abuses Tyrion
He uses Cersei as a brood mare
He sends The Mountain off and “didn’t know” that the Mountain would rape/kill Elia Martell and bash her two baby children against the wall.
Worst of all, Tywin is a perfectly rational person. This isn’t an issue of “bad genes” or anything like that. He was disrespected as a child, and thus he intends to never be disrespected again. Now that he’s an adult with the power he always dreamed of, he hasn’t stopped. He’s not bloodthirsty, he’s apathetic. Family is everything, and he won’t stop until he holds all the power over Westeros, no matter what the cost.
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I know he’s a vampire and that might be a good excuse for biting people, but going strictly off the Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Count is kind of a monster. Yes, he has to suck blood, but I’m not going to hold that against him. At his core he’s a predator. There’s no right or wrong that comes into play here because when you need to eat, you need to eat.
So he is even on this list? Well, let’s look at what he does…
He imprisoned Jonathan Harker.
He impersonated Harker so he could commit heinous crimes in his name, despite the fact he can transform and quickly get away, not impersonation required
He slaughtered an entire ship full of men.
He preyed on Mina just to hurt Jonathan and her family
Dracula doesn’t just feed because he needs to feed, he revels in his predator status just to terrify his prey because he finds it amusing. He’s like a shark that tells you, “I’m going to eat you whole and you’re going to want to scream but you’ll be suffocating as you slide down my throat”.
Dracula takes it a one step, and a couple more, from what his nature requires.
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Morgoth, Melkor, he’s known by several different names, but either way he’s a monster. We learn that in The Silmarillion that, after falling from glory, Morgoth corrupted all those in his wake. You think Sauron is bad? Sauron works for this monster.
It was only when Morgoth, after declaring war against the Elves and Men and slaughtering much of them during the First Age, that he was bound in chains and thrown into the void, leaving Sauron to trouble the world, as we see in The Hobbit and the Lords of the Ring trilogy.
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Worst of all, according to a prophecy, Morgoth will rise again.
Morgoth, Melkor, whatever you want to call him, he’s the OG monster in Tolkien’s leafy universe.
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In a world where everyone doesn’t listen to each other and people are routinely mistaken for others, Patrick Bateman fades into the background, and he loves that fact. But, subconsciously or otherwise, he leads a double life as a murderer.
Wealthy, materialistic, this Wall Street investment banker does less time working and more time going to parties. Plus, he tortures women and poor people and gays and children. Or maybe he doesn’t, it’s left very vague whether all his killings are actually happening.
She eats it, calling it minty. Twist! Since he doesn’t like his girlfriend very much, he given her a chocolate covered urinal cake.
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Real or imaginary, that’s…uh…ewwwww
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Annie Wilkes is the scariest character Stephen King ever created. Obsessive, psychotic, and worst of all…human.
She only appeared in Misery, and she certainly made an impression. The embodiment of every obsessive fan out there, Annie finds popular writer Paul Sheldon after a car crash. So she kidnaps him, ties him to a bed, and refuses to let him go until he writes a book. Paul is forced to indulge her every whim lest there be tragedy consequences.
When he tires to escape, he chops off his foot with an ax and cauterizing his ankle with a blowtorch. When his typewriter breaks down, she cuts off his thumb with an electric knife. When a state trooper comes to her house, she runs him over with her riding law mower.
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The titular character of Fifty Shades of Grey, Christian is abusive, emotionally unstable, and an all around prick who the author doesn’t think is problematic any way.
For one, he claims he’s in BDSM but in reality he just likes hurting women who have brown hair. Like his mom “the crack whore”. When Ana tells him she’s a virgin, he stomps around the room before deciding that he has to ‘take care of it’.
Yes, he was abused by an older woman, but he refuses to say she did anything wrong. Not only does he refuse to say she did anything wrong, but you better not tell him he’s wrong or else…
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Not the monster, the doctor who created him. This scientist is the true monster of the story.
After creating life itself, Victor looks upon his creation and sees something that is clearly not human. He sees something breathing, thinking, alive, but less than perfect, and so he rejects it, shuns it from the world.
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The creature seeks revenge against him, but are we to blame the creature? Forced away from the one who gave it life into an unforgiving world, the creature could not thrive, only survive. His vengeance is not just wrath, it’s justice for the mistakes Victor has created.
While he regrets creating the creature, Victor does not look upon the creature with understanding. Instead he calls the creature ‘fiend’ or ‘demon’ and pursues him to the Arctic, intend to kill it. He falls through the ice and dies, warning other not to meddle with life, but failing to teach them the lesson of empathy.
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Cold blooded, Victor Frankenstein is the monster, the only monster, in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.
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Humbert Humbert uses language to seduce the readers, and he almost succeeds. But lest we forget: he’s a pedophile, obsessed over a girl he calls Lolita. That’s why the book is called Lolita.
For the record, her real name is Dolores.
Back to Humbert. He marries a woman to get closer to his daughter and, once the woman dies, he kidnaps her.
The worst of it is that Humbert Humber makes himself a sympathetic pedophile. He criticizes the vulgarity of American culture, establishing himself as an intellectual, and considers his sexuality to be a sign of his culture.
A monster, if I ever saw one, but nothing compared to our number one pick…
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“The Judge” appears Blood Meridian very early on. We’re following the kid who goes to a revival meeting when a man bursts into the tent and tells the crowd that the preacher up on stage isn’t a real preacher, but a man wanted in three states.
The man who burst into the tent is “The Judge” and you might not know it, but he’s one you have to watch out for.
But compared to the illiterate drunken rapists surrounded you, the Judge is a breath of fresh air. Just look at that first scene! He showed everyone who that ‘preacher’ truly was. He has morals.
If you think about it, that means you’ve put your trust into this monster.
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You see, when the Judge burst into that tent he saw the kid. He didn’t just look at him, he saw into his soul. That’s good. Cormac McCarthy never says who the Judge exactly is, if he has gone mad, but if they told me he wasn’t human, if they told me he was the personification of evil, I’d believe it.
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I won’t try to convince you that I’ve never plotted any more than I’d try to convince you that I’ve never told a lie, but I do both as infrequently as possible. I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.
Those are from the words of Stephen King, the often titled the King of Horror, and he deserved that title even if his last name wasn’t “king”. However, that may not work for everyone. At ThrillerFest 2019, we here at Bookstr were able to sit down and listened to various authors debate this question. The question, in short, is this: Are you a plotter, or a pantser?
Before we run down a series of quotes and top this article off with a “just write” ending, let’s back up and define our terms.
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A plotter is someone who plots their story beforehand. J. K. Rowling is a prime example of a plotter.
A pantser is someone who writes their story “by the seat of their pants”. This means that, well, they make the story up as they go along. Stephen King is a prime example of a pantser.
Are you a Pantser?
Pantsers wing it
Those are from the words of Camille Minichino, at least that was the name we called her during ThrillerFest. She’s gone by many names, including Margaret Grace, Ada Madison, or Jean Flowers. Either way she’s written over twenty novels and many, many more short stories to boot, so it’s safe to say she knows what’s talking about.
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According to Camille, pantsers are often “very bored” and like to “take the journey with the characters.” Does this sound like you? Then maybe you’re a pantser.
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I’ve learned the hard way to get a really book down fast
Those words come from Tom Rosenstiel. Author, journalist, researcher and media critic, he’s “one of the nation’s most recognized thinkers of the future of media.” He’s also written two novels and nine books in total. In fact, his third novel, Oppo, is set for a December release.
Tom notes that making himself to write the book fast “[forces] myself to be more shark-like” in the editing process. He said that he finds that posted notes he has are “useless” and while he has an outline, he doesn’t tend to stick to it.
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Making it up is really fun
That’s from Bryan Gruley, who was nominated for the “first novel” Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America for Starvation Lake, notes that. On that book, Bryan notes that, “I tried to outline my first book” but it didn’t work.
Interesting! Even through he’s by nature a list-maker, he finds that outlines are “confining.” He just writes and keeps writing, not bothering rewriting what he wrote the day before. For the record, he writes two hours a day, five-hundred words a day.
Are you a PLOTTER?
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Now if you’re a plotter, or think you might be, then you’re not alone. Not only were many of the authors at this conference plotters, but some of the best quotes came from them, including this one:
It’s not like I’m going to discover new words by writing
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James Hankins, a former screenwriter then lawyer and now author, is a self-described plotter and proud of it. He likes plotting because he “hates wasting time” and would like you to know that, “I don’t have a terror of the blank page as much as a poorly written page from the day before.”
Makes sense. Critics don’t write scathing reviews about blank pages, they tear into poorly written pages.
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Joining James on the plotters side of things is Wendy Walker. When James put the in the coffin and said he hates “pantsing” because “It’s not like i’m going to discover new words by writing” (sorry, love that quote) she smiled and declared, “We have the same brain!”
Wendy Walker is a a former commercial litigator and investment banker who now pumps out thriller. Guess what she is? Well, considering this is the plotting section, she’s, of course, a plotter! Taking a page from the screenwriting gurus of our time, Wendy writes a six-to-seven page outline to help her with her book. Some of it is even on index cards. “Without them I’m scared,” she confesses. It helps her organize her thoughts.
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This is J.H. Bográn and he is an international author of novels, short stories, and scripts for film and TV. He’s also a plotter, and he structures his novels on a spreadsheet template chapter by chapter. This allows him to jump around. If he feels like it, he can jump straight to the torture scene.
This caused quite a bit of laughter, considering that he’s the Resource Development Manager for Habitat for Humanity Honduras.
Bográn also notes that he’s has an interesting routine. Since he runs a restaurant, he tends to sit in front of a computer all day. Thus, by the end of the day, he’s really tired of staring at the screen. . Thus he writes the first draft of his novel using pen and pencil and a notebook. He considers his typed draft to be his second draft. Let’s hope what happens to Paul Sheldon in Misery doesn’t happen to him.
Are you both a Pantser and a plotter?
Image Via Cathy Day
So what is the take-away here? If you’re a pantser just write, and if you’re a plotter you should write your first draft by hand? What if you’re neither? What if you’re both?
If you’re both, then you are what we in the business call a “hybrid,” and, in fact, most writes are. The whole plotter vs pantser thing isn’t a binary one or the other, but rather, in the words of James Hankins, “[i]t’s a spectrum.” Pretty powerful considering he’s the guy who said he doesn’t write by the seat of his pants because” “It’s not like I’m going to discover new words by writing”.
Camille Minichino notes that she’s written five series already and thus knows the characters by now. Why plot a novel? But even through she’s a pantser, she notes that, “doesn’t mean you don’t know the ending or the major plot points.”
Bryan Gruley notes that even though he doesn’t know the ending, he “sees chapters ahead, just not the whole book.”
Image Via Jamigold.com
“How do you set up a dinner party?” Camille asks, “How do you approach it?”
When you have an answer to that question, then just apply that method to writing a book.
Do what the story requires.
Tom BLANK gives us this quote, and it’s right. Just sit down and write the story, word by word, sentence by sentence, page by page, write and type, write and type. And if you’re waiting for inspiration, well, in the words of Bryan BLANK:
You can’t wait around for inspiration. You gotta hunt it down with a club
So have fun, or as Brogan says, “Sit at the typewriter and bleed,” and remember the words of Stephen King:
To write is human, to edit is divine.
Featured Images Via Hollywood Reporter, Liberal Dictionary, and Parade
Hulu’s hit Stephen King adaptation Castle Rock is returning for a second season, this time taking inspiration for the main plot from King’s Misery. Emmy-nominated Lizzy Caplan (Mean Girls, Masters of Sex) will take the lead.
Yes, this season Caplan will take on the role of the dangerously obsessive Annie Wilkes, a former nurse who cares for novelist Paul Sheldon after he is injured in a car crash and breaks two legs. Throughout the story, Annie is preoccupied with Sheldon’s novels featuring the character Misery Chastain. As she reads, she becomes enraged by a twist in Sheldon’s plot, and decides she will do whatever it takes to make him undo his decision.
This psychological thriller was previously adapted into a movie by Rob Reiner and earned Kathy Bates an Oscar. It also became a play by Simon Moore. In Castle Rock’s take on the story, Wilkes is a superfan suffering from mental health issues. The story could potentially follow Wilkes prior t the kidnapping of Sheldon as her mental state deteriorates. This season will also include Elise Fisher most known from her work in Eighth Grade and Despicable Me who will play Wilke’s homeschooled daughter Joy, whose concerns are growing for her mother’s mental state.
Yusra Warsama (The Last Days on Mars) will play hospital director Dr. Nadia Omar and Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) will take on the role of her older brother who is building a Somali community center. In addition, Tim Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption) will portray Reginald ‘Pop’ Merrill and Garrett Hedlund will be his nephew John ‘Ace’ Merrill (Tron: Legacy, Triple Frontier) and Ace’s brother, Chris will be played by Matthew Alan (13 Reasons Why). There isn’t any confirmation yet if The Sun Dog storyline will intertwine with Wilkes’ or if Merrill’s Emporium Galorium will be introduced. However, it is known that the Merrills will face tensions with the Somali community and Wilkes’ arrival in Castle Rock will definitely increase their rivalry.
The first season of Castle Rock was filled with Easter eggs and crossovers from Stephen King storylines and it appears that the second season will continue to interlock various plotlines and characters from previous King novels with the introduction of Anne Wilkes and the Merrills.
This season will arrive in late 2019 on Hulu with Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason returning as creators with J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television. I for one cannot wait for the second season and should probably brush up on the first season again so I can prepare myself of the twists and turns of what should be an intense and darker continuation.
Featured Image Via Indiewire