Stephen King was my first grown-up adult author obsession. I’ve been a fan for decades.
But what makes Stephen King’s writing so good?
Stephen King’s writing is so good because of his conversational writing style, focus on characters and realism, and his slow-burn approach to building plot tension. King’s stories and characters feel and sound real. Readers grow emotionally attached to them and their fictional struggles.
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about what makes Stephen King’s writing so good.
11 Reasons Stephen King’s Writing Is So Good
After furiously reading and studying Stephen King’s writing for the last 30 years, I believe there are 11 big reasons why his stories fascinate and terrify us.
Here are the 11 reasons Stephen King’s writing is so dang good.
1) Raw Realism
Stephen King is a master of the horror genre and his writing stands out for its raw realism.
He imbues his stories with a vivid sense of realism, which makes them all the more terrifying. King does not give readers an easy way out or a pat solution to the story’s problems.
Instead, he allows them to experience the full effect of his characters’ emotions and struggles in their fictional world.
One example is The Shining, in which we witness Jack Torrance slowly unraveling psychologically as he attempts to care for his son during a secluded winter in the Overlook Hotel.
His descent into madness is made even more chilling by the backdrop of this eerie hotel.
Not to mention the isolation the characters experience while being locked away from society. It feels real because readers can relate to many of Jack’s struggles, making it all the more horrifying when things take an unexpected turn.
The same holds true in other Stephen King stories such as Pet Sematary and IT.
In these stories, the story monsters are rooted in both real-life fears and supernatural terrors. Realistic settings make these stories come alive, leaving readers with chills down their spines that linger long after they finish reading.
This naturalistic style of storytelling is part of what makes Stephen King’s writing so powerful and effective in capturing readers’ imaginations.
2) Emotional Depth
Stephen King’s writing is good because it stirs strong emotions within his readers.
He goes beyond mere plot and horror, creating stories with a greater emotional depth. A depth that has left readers mesmerized for decades.
The Shawshank Redemption is a prime example of this, where King turns the ordinary prison experience into a journey of psychological discovery and hope.
Through the protagonist, Andy Dufresne, we witness how he slowly builds himself up from despair and loneliness to discovering inner strength and self-confidence.
This transformation makes him sympathetic to readers.
It also provides them with a sense of hope for others’ potential for growth no matter how dire their circumstances.
Similarly in Stand By Me, King creates a touching coming-of-age story where four boys set off on an adventure together to search for the body of a missing child.
Along the way, these characters learn about themselves as well as others around them.
Ultimately, they grow closer despite their differences in an emotionally charged story. The power of friendship is poignantly showcased throughout this story.
It is through this emotional depth that King’s work speaks to so many different people.
3) Focus on Character Over Plot
He allows readers to get to know his characters inside and out, providing them with insight and understanding into their motivations, struggles, and inner workings.
This makes King’s stories more engaging and memorable by creating an emotional connection between readers and the characters.
For example, in Misery, King focuses on exploring the depths of protagonist Paul Sheldon’s psychological state, as well as his captor Annie Wilkes’ fragile mental health.
By delving deeper into the psychology behind both of these characters, King creates a suspenseful world in which readers gain an understanding of why they behave the way they do.
We come to care about both of these people despite their opposing goals.
It is through this focus on character that we are fully invested in their journey. Even if we don’t agree with or even like the characters, we understand them.
The same holds true in other works like Pet Cemetary, where – through character – King explores the pain and desperation of losing a child.
Through his emphasis on character over plot, Stephen King crafts enduring stories that strike at the heartstrings and remain etched in our minds long after reading them.
4) Slow Burn Escalation of Events
One thing you can’t say about Stephen King is that he rushes his writing.
In every story I’ve ever read from him (or movie I’ve watched), the stories and characters evolve slowly. He seems to prefer a slow-burn approach to plot progression.
Instead of jumping straight into the action, King takes time to gradually introduce his characters and settings.
His deliberate pacing allows readers to become deeply invested in the world he has created. A slow-burn approach allows him to create suspenseful moments that build up naturally over a long period of time.
For example, in his novel The Shining, King slowly reveals details about the history of the hotel by sprinkling clues throughout the narrative.
By the time he finally describes what happened there decades ago in horrific detail, readers are already familiar with its characters and settings, making it even more haunting.
Another example comes from It.
Here, King carefully layers multiple storylines together as different characters experience their own struggles with fear and mortality, which eventually leads to a powerful climax that leaves readers on edge.
5) Imaginative Fantasy
King’s writing is also good because of his unique ability to weave imaginative fantasy into thrilling stories.
From epic tales like Under the Dome, which follows a small American town that finds itself cut off from the outside world by an invisible shield, to Fairy Tale, a novel about an alternative universe based on classic fairytales, King crafts worlds and characters that capture readers’ imaginations.
We could list so many examples:
- Zombie pets come back from the dead
- Alien slugs
- Giant mist monsters
- Entire alternate worlds with gunslingers
- Shopkeepers with supernatural powers
- Alien spider clowns with red balloons
The combination of grounded realism in his settings and imaginative flourishes of strange creatures and elements makes his stories exciting and unforgettable.
For instance, Under the Dome explores how people react to increasingly desperate circumstances when their fate is entirely in the hands of an unknown force.
Meanwhile, Fairy Tale contains familiar characters from children’s stories reimagined in a hauntingly beautiful alternate reality.
King’s imaginative storylines captivate readers with complex plots full of horror, mystery, and suspense.
He succeeds in creating fantastical settings that take readers on unforgettable journeys. Through these vivid worlds and eerie plots that draw heavily on elements of the supernatural, he pushes readers to ask questions about morality and our own realities.
6) Prickling Foreshadowing
Stephen King’s writing is especially thrilling due to his skillful use of foreshadowing.
He masterfully plants hints throughout his stories that slowly reveal the unexpected twists and turns ahead. In IT, one such clue is the red balloon, which ominously floats in and out of scenes signaling danger and death.
Each appearance of the balloon serves as a reminder of the unknown menace lurking within the story.
King weaves this sense of looming terror in many of his stories by introducing subtle clues that send chills down readers’ spines.
Again, in IT, when the red balloon appears it carries an oppressive weight that leaves readers feeling uneasy and anxious about what’s to come.
The masterful use of foreshadowing helps make King’s stories some of the most compelling horror tales ever told – building suspense with paradoxical “slow burn” urgency until something devastating or shocking finally arrives on the page.
7) Relatable Fears
Stephen King has the ability to tap into readers’ own fears and turn them into stories that resonate with people.
He does this by creating relatable moments of terror and dread, often drawing on everyday occurrences for inspiration. Take for example Dreamcatcher, a novel about four friends who discover an alien virus in the middle of a snowstorm.
This ability to take abstract feelings of fear and transform them into tangible storylines is part of King’s genius.
He takes the mundane elements of everyday life, like toilets, and infuses them with menace, tapping into existing anxieties in an effective way. In Dreamcatcher, his aim was to create a similar feeling of dread as the infamous shower scene in Psycho – something which he achieved through the introduction of vicious alien slugs crawling up from the toilet bowl.
By understanding what scares us most on a visceral level, and then taking those fears further within his stories, he’s created some of the most iconic horror novels ever written.
8) His Fireside Chat Style
His stories read like he’s actually talking to you.
He has a conversational style that draws readers in – as if he’s right there with you telling the story. It feels comfortable and familiar, like sharing a campfire tale with an old friend.
His writing is accessible and clear, avoiding complicated language and big words that might confuse or intimidate readers.
This approachable style helps King pack powerful punches into his stories without bogging them down in flowery language.
It’s this friendly tone coupled with gripping storylines that makes him one of the greatest authors ever.
9) He Writes for His Ideal Audience
Another reason why Stephen King’s writing has been so successful is that he writes for his ideal reader.
He doesn’t pander to the general audience by watering down his stories or toning down language; instead, he embraces profanity, crudeness, and darkness in order to capture the attention of those who truly appreciate his style.
His unwavering commitment to writing for someone who loves the way he writes has enabled him to build such a successful career.
Instead of worrying about pleasing everyone with watered-down content, he focuses on creating stories that will be beloved by his core audience.
10) Connected Universe
What makes King’s writing even more impressive is that many of his stories can be seen as part of a larger metaverse, sometimes referred to as the “King-verse.”
This metafictional universe consists of characters and events that appear in multiple works by King.
These connections allow readers to gain an even deeper appreciation for his genius. The King-verse is an incredible feat, as King creates entire worlds filled with complex characters who often cross over into other works.
His ability to make each story feel unique while also weaving them together gives readers something special to dig into as they continue to explore his books.
This complexity also brings out nuances that may have been missed on your first read-through, leaving plenty of room for discussion.
The interconnected nature of Stephen King’s writing creates vast opportunities for speculation and debate among die-hard fans – from trying to figure out how Pennywise from IT can be connected to The Stand, or tracing back the history behind everything in The Dark Tower.
It’s truly amazing how far he has gone with making all these stories exist within the same space – and it will no doubt be explored in detail for many years to come.
11) He’s Well Read
Stephen King is an incredibly well-read and experienced writer who is able to draw from a vast array of stories, characters, and ideas.
This gives his own work an edge that keeps it fresh.
When writing his stories, King makes sure to remain aware of current events and literature trends, allowing him to avoid the pitfalls of cliché storytelling.
He is so adept at utilizing a variety of sources that he often finds funny ways to reinterpret classic themes or incorporate them into new creations.
His works remain exciting as he continuously reinvents the same topics with new twists that make his stories stand out.
Not only does this keep the reader enthralled but it also allows King to create intriguing plots that continually surprise fans while keeping them hooked on what will happen next.
Here is a good video about why Stephen King’s writing is so good (with tips from the author himself):
How Is Stephen King Different From Other Authors?
Stephen King is a unique author for many reasons.
He is considered one of the greatest living horror writers, yet he also has a wide range of genres in which he writes, from fantasy and science fiction, to crime and suspense.
His writing style is often described as both dark and accessible, creating an atmosphere of unease while still capturing the simplicity of the written word.
He creates stories with compelling plots and believable characters that readers can empathize with.
In addition, his vivid descriptions are some of the most iconic visuals in modern literature. Stephen King’s works remain popular decades after their initial release because he brings something special to every story – horror or otherwise – that other authors simply cannot offer.
Final Thoughts: What Makes Stephen King’s Writing So Good
I’m currently reading Fairy Tale and it’s a great example of all of the reasons why Stephen King remains an incredible storyteller.
The story is relatable, emotional, and impossible to put down.