Ladies and gentleman, a man who needs no introduction for once this overused line is true. Practically everybody knows who Stephen King is, so we'll skip the biographical stuff. Do you want to write popular fiction? Then you need to read On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. There are other categories of people who may profit from this friendly book: those who don't aspire to a writing career but who nevertheless find the process interesting, those who enjoy candid personal memoirs, and those who want to learn more about Stephen King. Added up, these categories probably come to half the human race, so it seems that King has done it again.

On Writing is indeed a memoir of the craft as practiced by one of the most popular authors in history. It is pure Stephen King slangy, energetic, sloppy, unexpected, vulgar, and impressively frank. It begins with some of King's horrifc memories of early childhood, including his abuse at the hands of a babysitter and his excruciatingly painful treatments for ear infections. He describes his early interest in reading, particularly about horrors, and his natural tendency to write the sort of things he read. As in much of his nonfiction, King seems to be chatting about his enthusiasms over a beer with a friend.

You will find the author speculating on why he's drawn to the graveyard side of fiction instead of the domestic comedies and family melodramas on the sunny side of the street. However, King doesn't delve too deeply into his own psyche, for fear of jinxing his muse. His theme throughout On Writing is that you must trust your instincts and write about whatever moves and interests you not what you think others might want, and not what you think might sell. Of course, King knows he's not Tolstoy or Proust, and he makes a clear-headed appraisal of his own talents. King discusses dialogue, description, motivation, and imagery. Surprisingly, he is skeptical of the need for plot. He wants the characters to move the story. Perhaps he's more literary than he realizes.

Like all of the better guides, Stephen King's On Writing inspires the reader to create. "Writing," King says flatly, "isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well."

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