Stephen King is a name synonymous with horror and, for most of us, his name is one of the first that pops into our heads when we hear the words ‘author’ or ‘writer’.
When it comes to his work, King is a master at writing what he knows and it’s just that: writing. He is aware of the struggles, the successes, the character building, the defamation, the obsession, and the isolation. Some of King’s most prominent characters are masters of the pen themselves, many publishing similar works that King fans line up on the shelves of their libraries. Whether it’s a battle with addiction, writer’s block, or an alter ego, these 8 Author Characters of the King-iverse keep the pages turning and the adaptations coming.
8. The Big Shot: Gordon “Gordie” Lachance in Stand By Me (1986)
Some experiences change your life, forever. Gordie Lachance of Stand By Me, Rob Reiner’s (The Princess Bride) adaptation of Stephen King’s novella, The Body, experienced loss and adventure in the summer of 1959. It’s a turning point in his adolescence which he uses to not only reflect, but to write about. Gordie is a passionate writer, a star student in the English department. He submits his writing pieces to periodic publishers and tells his friends stories to pass the time. Known as the “Big Shot Writer”, Gordie is a strong standing comparison for King himself. He is independent, loyal, and sharp, aware that the pen is always mightier than the sword.
7. The Skeptic: Mike Enslin in 1408 (2007)
If an author does not believe in the material and content he or she sets forth, is it quality work? In an attempt to debunk supernatural phenomena and cash in on a lucrative book series deal, author Mike Enslin plans to spend the night in a haunted room of The Dolphin Hotel in Mikael Håfström’s (The Rite) adaptation of Stephen King’s 1408, a short story borrowed from his collection Everything’s Eventual. Enslin is a skeptic and non-believer making his money by pretending to be scared by things that go bump in the night. What the author isn’t prepared for is to come face-to-face with the materialization of the material he’s shamelessly milked over the course of his career. Ten Haunted Nights in Ten Haunted Places might just hit the sale bin quicker than he anticipates.
6. The Leader: Bill Denbrough in IT (1990, 2017, and 2019)
Between Tommy Lee Wallace’s (Halloween III: Season of the Witch) two-part television series and Andy Muschietti’s (Mama) modern-day remakes of Stephen King’s most popular work IT, there are enough scares, imagery, and characters to keep audiences fully satisfied. Bill Denbrough, the Loser’s Club leader, remains one of the strongest constants amongst the adaptations and a truly beloved character throughout the King-iverse. Though Bill suffers from a nervous stutter, he refuses to let it impact his ability to turn a phrase and command attention with a powerful speech. As a Derry native, survivor of Pennywise’s 27-year feeding appearance, and brother to one of the clown’s young victims, it’s obvious where the award-winning horror novelist finds motivation for his work.
5. The Copycat: Mort Rainey in Secret Window (2004)
Writer’s block can drive you, well, insane to say the least. Plagiarism is often the deft result of the inability to source creativity, but can also be the cruel accusation intended to ruin any kind of artist’s good name. David Koepp’s (Jurassic Park) Secret Window follows established author Mort Rainey as he struggles to overcome his broken marriage and heinous writing funk all while dealing with malicious threats from a stranger claiming the author has gained notoriety by copying his personal work. Based on Stephen King’s novella, Secret Window, Secret Garden, Rainey’s distress portrays common problems that plague most authors throughout their career and the vindictive effect they have on the individual psyche. The solution? Dig up inspiration by burying the distractions.
4. The Alter-Ego: Thad Beaumont/George Stark in The Dark Half (1993)
What’s in a name? Fiction novelist Thad Beaumont struggles with the concept of identity as his cerebral literary works fail to sell under his real name while his crime novels written under a pseudonym, George Stark, achieve success in Stephen King’s The Dark Half. The film adaptation, directed by the grandfather of the undead George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead), sees the author go head-to-head with his sinister alter ego when Stark becomes a real entity bent on sharing a unique bond with his creator. The Dark Half is King’s love letter to his own equally successful pseudonym, Richard Bachman. Though the manifestation is a part of him, Beaumont has no other choice but to rid the world of Stark. He was, after all, not a very nice guy.
3. The Pariah: Ben Mears in ‘Salem’s Lot (1979, 2004)
Thomas Wolfe put it simply: You can’t go home again. If you are Ben Mears, you really shouldn’t go home at all. As a former resident of Jerusalem’s Lot, Mears is an author searching for writer’s block relief that has stunted his mind since the death of his wife. Stephen King’s haunting vampire novel, ‘Salem’s Lot, follows Mears as he returns home to jumpstart his inspiration and encounters more than he bargained for… or remembered. Adapted for the screen as a television miniseries directed by Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and later modernized by Mikael Salomon (Hard Rain), ‘Salem’s Lot is a story and film that has terrified audiences for decades in the same manner as the town’s fanged predator, Kurt Barlow. Mears may be older, wiser and braver, but the town that he escaped from is still a source for some unbelievable writing material.
2. The Celebrity: Paul Sheldon in Misery (1990)
Fame is something almost all aspiring writers seek, but a status Stephen King heeds with a heavy warning. As an established author of the Misery Chastain book series, Paul Sheldon is used to the celebrity and adoration that surrounds him as well as his fictional characters in Rob Reiner’s Misery. Based on one of King’s best-selling novels, this film adaptation places Sheldon in the coincidental hospitality of his deranged Number One Fan, Annie Wilkes. Gushing appreciation quickly turns to deadly obsession as Wilkes presses her favorite writer to finish the series… to her specifications… or suffer the consequences. King’s story drives home the allegorical belief that when authors find themselves at the mercy of their fans the notion that misery loves company takes on a more literal meaning.
1. The Caretaker: Jack Torrance in The Shining (1980)
When it comes to King’s most notorious author characters, it’s no surprise that the axe-carrying heavyweight reigns supreme. Jack Torrance, immortalized by the great Jack Nicholson in Stanley Kubrick’s (A Clockwork Orange) adaptation of The Shining, is a struggling writer and recovering alcoholic. As the winter caretaker of The Overlook Hotel, Jack, as well as his family, are subjected to complete isolation and solitude. Perfect conditions for writing, right? Wrong. Don’t interrupt Jack’s train of thought, for he is fully immersed in the haunted history of the hotel and his quality of production speaks for itself. A quick drink-break in the ballroom is well deserved after hours of pounding away on his typewriter. We all know the results when it’s all work and no play.
Granted these authors are fictitious subjects in King’s stories and the subsequent film and television adaptations, they are key proponents of his writing talent and identity. Utilizing trauma, memory, creativity, influence, childhood, and dependency, King has built a truly unique literary universe established on hundreds of thousands of pages. These particular characters are not only vessels that allow us a peek into the psyche of Stephen King as a writer, but meta-devices used to illustrate the driven highs and troubled lows of an incredible career author.