14 April 2009

Learning from the King Part II

In the liner notes for "The Gingerbread Girl," Stephen King writes: "I like suspense stories that turn on crucial little details. This one has a lot of them." I like those kind of stories, too! In fact, that's another key to keeping your horror story out of the slush pile. The protagonist, Em, in "The Gingerbread Girl" needs every asset she has--and a bit of luck--to survive the psycho killer. As a result, details become important. The wooden chair Em is taped to is starting to rot. When Em bangs into the refrigerator, some ice from the dispenser spills on to the floor. The man she hopes will save her doesn't speak English. Em's father spent a day teaching her how to properly fall from heights. The beach is mostly deserted because of the season. The waves are high because of the earlier rainstorm. Etc. etc. 

King uses details in two ways. First, they bring life to the story and make it feel real. Second, they pile on top of one another and end up playing a role in the action. Details are another way to transform the mundane into a sparkling original.

2 comments:

lesleylsmith said...

More good advice from Editor Dave and the King! I guess they don't call him King for nothing!

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I think weaving details is an excellent way to take stories to the next level. Sometimes I feel the horror stories in our slush haven't cooked long enough--the author hasn't taken the time and care to fully flesh out everything beyond trope.