Stephen King on Writing

One of the most-read authors in the world, Stephen King is a master novelist in his own right. In his memoir, On Writing, he shares tips, ideas, and techniques for aspiring writers all over the world.

In an interview with The Atlantic, King talks about the vital role an opening sentence plays.

An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story

That is excellent, succinct advice. This is something that even transfers to writing web series or films in today’s climate. I was pitching a show to a digital network in 2016 and they asked me to just narrate the first 20 seconds. The first 20 seconds (acts as the first line) is when a viewer decides if they will continue watching the show or not. It seems very trivial and there are definitely shows where the first 20 seconds have been a drag but well-written shows, shows which have impacted you, definitely pull you in within those 20 seconds. (Think Breaking Bad)

The opening is an introduction, an invitation, a way to set up intrigue. The first line of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is-

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. 

This tells you that the Dursley’s were about appearances, about being ‘normal’ a word which indicates that there is something in the book that would not be considered normal. It’s clean, simple, and yet pulls at you.

A really bad opening line convinces the reader to not buy the book. It also makes the writer’s job difficult as poor openers can make it challenging to take the story ahead. All of King’s books have opening lines that set the story, share his voice, and base the foundation for the story to progress seamlessly.

Another lesson King shares is one that most writers *know* but tend to forget or ignore, is writing every day. The more you write, the more connected you are to your story and your characters. A break can leave you feeling adrift and also cause you to lose conviction.

Once I start work on a project, I don’t stop and I don’t slow down unless I absolutely have to. If I don’t write every day, the characters begin to stale off in my mind- they begin to seem like characters instead of real people. The tale’s narrative cutting edge starts to rust and I lose my hold on the story’s plot and pace.

There are many other lessons King shares for writers in his memoir but these two have left a strong impact on me.

What do you think about writing? Do leave a comment or suggestion if you like the post!

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