Stepping Stones (Part 4)

Today’s blog:  Get Up and Go

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

– Stephen King

Welcome back to “Stepping Stones (Part 4)”

In previous posts, excerpts from William Cane’s book Fiction Writing Master Class examine the writing styles and techniques of some of history’s most famous authors.  Cane’s mission?  To share the masters’ secrets with  modern writers like you and me.

Cain explains how using the classical rhetorical technique of imitation, “…helps you grow as a writer, just as it helped …Faulkner, Dickens, and Shakespeare.”  He adds, “… you cannot expect to reach your full potential as a writer unless you learn to absorb from other writers.”  In his book, Fiction Writing Master Class, Cain examines more than twenty of history’s greatest authors, “pointing out exactly how you can adopt their techniques in your own writing.”

In the previous post, “Stepping Stones (Part 3)”,  five  authors from Fiction Writing Master Class were listed.   The one who generated the most interest would be featured here in part 4.  They included:

  1. Charles Dickens
  2. Franz Kafka
  3. William Faulkner
  4. Ernest Hemingway
  5. Stephen King

After much consideration….the featured author is …..

(Hint:  The opening quote)

Stephen King!

Write Like Stephen King

“Good books don’t give up all their secrets at once.”

– Stephen King

Stephen King’s words echo his most important storytelling tool – suspense.

In Fiction Writing Master Class, William Cane acknowledges the following about Stephen King:

“Suspense is so important to what he does that he actually refers to himself as a ‘suspense novelist’ …he creates it almost intuitively, he doesn’t use a magic formula.”

“To date he has published about …forty novels, many of which have been translated to the silver screen.  He even wrote a book on his craft, On Writing (2000).  But despite using that forum to talk about his life and his approach to grammar and style, he left out what is probably the most important subject: the whole issue of suspense. Yes, the one thing that Stephen King is probably most famous for, …this is omitted from On Writing, and its pretty clear why.  As he states in the introduction, ‘Fiction writers, present company included, don’t understand very much about what they do.’ ”  Not to suggest that “Stephen King doesn’t know how to create suspense – far from it!”

As you will soon learn, “…even though Stephen King doesn’t tell you how to create suspense in his writing book, he sure does tell you in his novels.”

“But I’m not writing a thriller,” you say? “Why should suspense be so important to me?” Because “no matter what type of story you’re writing, suspense is integral to the process of storytelling.”   For example, “Shakespeare never considered structuring Hamlet so that the hero would be killed in the first act; the whole play builds on suspense by making the audience eager to know whether the hero will discover the true killer of his father  and whether Hamlet will try to avenge the murder himself.”

“In its simplest terms suspense consists of making a reader anticipate some future event.”  And, “Stephen King usually creates the kind of suspense that causes readers to worry about what’s going to happen next. ”

Suspense, Stephen King Style

Stephen King employs three steps to create suspense.

  1. Provide hints to produce curiosity, a problem or a worry “somewhere down the line”;
  2. Mentions this thing or idea several times after he first introduces it;
  3. “Brings suspense to a peak during the payoff, the section of the story where the horror is most intense.”

“Remember that in Stephen King’s novels suspense is usually centered on creating reader worry. ”

King’s ability to do this in his first novel,  Carrie, as well as Cujo (1981), and  The Shining is described in detail in William Cane’s book, Fiction Writing Master Class: Emulating the Work of Great Novelists to Master the Fundamentals of Craft.

To continue reading about Stephen King and other master authors, you can purchase a copy of  William Cane’s book at:

This concludes the “Stepping Stones” series.  I hope you enjoyed excerpts from William Cane’s book on imitating the writing techniques of Stephen King and other literary giants.

Make it your aim to keep growing as a writer.  Share what sources you find helpful.  Who and what inspires you?

Meanwhile, know your story matters.

Sunshine and rainbows!

S. Whitten

Stephen King picture courtesy Google Images

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