The current dominant author of the horror genre (although he prefers to not consider himself such), Stephen Edwin King (1947-) has added much to its stock of tropes. Many of his works reference each other, building up a larger universe. Known for being ludicrously prolific but also for producing far better writing than most people who pump out stories at his rate, and many who take a lot longer about it.Many of his books have been made into films. Few of those have been good films, and most of those that are good are, ironically, not horror films, with the most standout exception being The Shining, even if it is very different from the book. This is often due to the directors of the given movies having no idea how to convey the thoughts of King's characters, which often affect their situations just as much as their actions, into workable scenes.King is also in a rock band with a shifting lineup of fellow writers (including Dave Barry, Amy Tan, Ridley Pearson, and Mitch Albom) called The Rock Bottom Remainders. He is the father of horror author Joe Hill, and is purportedly the inspiration for the G.I. Joe character Crystal Ball (his son Owen is the namesake for the character Sneak Peak).For a list of his works which have pages on the wiki, see Works By Stephen King.Not to be confused withStephen Hawking.
Stephen King's Works (in order)
Carrie - Scrapbook Story about an abused girl with Psychic Powers who takes a terrible revenge at the prom. King's wife stopped him from throwing the manuscript out and convinced him to finish it. Made into a movie by Brian De Palma that received two Academy Award nominations (for acting), which later received a sequel and a made-for-TVremake. It was also made into an infamously terrible musical that has become a byword for "flopped on Broadway", though a 2011/12 revival did modestly well and even produced a cast album.
'Salem's Lot - Vampires in a small town in Maine, and the efforts of a few to get rid of them. Made into two TV miniseries. King's first visit to the Creepy Small Town, which he keeps coming back to, under a variety of names and states. Notable that his publisher advised him not to have this as his second book, lest he be pigeonholed as a horror novelist. Guess they got over it.
The Shining - Winter spent in a haunted hotel. Cabin fever taken to the extreme. Twice adapted as movies; first a loose adaptation by Stanley Kubrick, which King was not very satisfied with, then a more faithful TV miniseries scripted/watched over by King himself. The arguments about which version is "better" have been long and passionate.
Night Shift - Anthology of short stories, several of which have been adapted into movies:
"The Lawnmower Man" — A bit of a special case. Lawnmower Man was purported to be derived from the Stephen King story but had so little to do with it (even citing that there's a lawnmower in both stories is a stretch) that King actually took legal action to remove his name from it. The original title was Cyber God, and the Stephen King title was only brought on board to raise sales. Later adapted into a much more faithful Comic Book story.
"Graveyard Shift" — A young drifter gets hired at a dilapidated textile plant, and is picked by the Jerkass foreman for a team tasked to clean out the plant's basement. They find rats. A lot of rats...
"Battleground" was adapted into a segment of the TNT miniseries Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King.
"The Boogeyman" and "The Woman in the Room" were both adapted into short films (the former directed by Jeffrey Schiro, the latter by Frank Darabont [The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile]), and packaged into a 1986 VHS presentation entitled Stephen King's Nightshift Collection.
"Sometimes They Come Back" was adapted into a 1991 TV movie starring Tim Matheson. Two sequels followed: Sometimes They Come Back...Again (1996) and Sometimes They Come Back...For More (1999). Neither sequel had anything to do with the characters or events of the original.
The Dead Zone - The protagonist is plagued by visions of a terrible future. Made into a movie starring Christopher Walken (and directed by David Cronenberg, no less), and then served as loose inspiration for a TV series. Notable as a prominent American novel containing the "lone gunman" assassin figure as the main hero/protagonist; King has stated that his original concept was, "Could you make Lee Harvey Oswald the good guy?"
Firestarter - Andy McGee and his daughter Charlie are on the run from the Government Conspiracy, which wants to use their psychic powers for their own nefarious uses. The father is a known factor, but they have no idea what Charlie is capable of. The story may have invented the psychic power of "pyrokinesis". Made into a movie starring George C Scott and a young Drew Barrymore.
Cujo - Mother and son trapped in The Alleged Car by the titular rabid dog. Made into a movie by Lewis Teague, who would go on to direct Cats Eye. By this point, King's substance abuse was so bad that he cannot remember writing this book.
"The Mist": An eerie, impenetrable fog brings monsters into our world. It's gone on to influence a number of highly influential games, such as Half-Life and Persona 4. Made into a movie starring Thomas Jane.
"The Raft": Teenagers trapped on a wooden raft by something resembling a carnivorous oil slick. Adapted as a segment of Creepshow 2.
"Gramma": A child learns his invalid grandmother was a witch in the most hideous way imaginable. Adapted as an episode of the 1985 revival of The Twilight Zone.
Misery - Author held prisoner by deranged fan. King said that Misery is a metaphor for substance addiction, which he was struggling with at the time. Made into an Academy Award-winning movie (for acting).
The Tommyknockers - A flying saucer slowly mutates a town's populace into aliens. Really stupid aliens...with absurdly advanced technology (as the book puts it, they're Thomas Edisons rather than Albert Einsteins). It's not a good combination. Like Misery, another excellent metaphor for addiction and co-dependency. In On Writing, King states that he did not intend the story to be a metaphor, but that his subconscious probably did. Made into a miniseries starring Jimmy Smits and Marg Helgenberger.
The Dark Half - A writer's pseudonym comes to life, and he's not happy. Yet another substance addiction metaphor, as explained by King in the introduction. Written just after King was "outed" as the man behind Richard Bachman, and inspired a little bit thereof. Made into a movie starring Timothy Hutton and directed by George Romero. Also, made into a Video Game nobody remembers anymore.
Gerald's Game - Bondage gone wrong...as in, "husband dies of heart attack while wife is still handcuffed to the bed" wrong. As of 2014, some madfool is reportedly planning to make this into a movie. First of the "abused wife" trilogy.
Dolores Claiborne - "Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has to hold onto." Made into a movie starring Kathy Bates (Rotten Tomatoes gives it 87%). Second of the "abused wife" trilogy (explicitly connected by a solar eclipse and weird empathy to Gerald's Game).
Nightmares and Dreamscapes - Anthology of short stories, some of which were adapted for cable TV in a miniseries of the same name.
The TNT miniseries adapted "The End of the Whole Mess," "Umney's Last Case," "Crouch End," "The Fifth Quarter" and "You Know They Got a Hell of a Band."
"Chattery Teeth" was adapted into the second half of the 1997 FOX-TV film Quicksilver Highway, starring Christopher Lloyd (The first half was based on the short story "The Body Politic" by Clive Barker).
"The Moving Finger" was filmed as the series finale of the horror anthology Monsters (and starred Tom Noonan as Howard Mitla).
"Dolan's Cadillac" was made into a 2009 thriller starring Wes Bentley and Christian Slater.
The original script of "Sorry, Right Number," which was broadcast as an episode of Tales from the Darkside, appears in this collection.
Rose Madder - Abused wife escapes her cop husband, starts over in a new city. Husband finds her, but not before she finds help from someone...or something. Third of the "abused wife" trilogy (subtly connected to Gerald and Dolores).
Desperation - AU version of The Regulators. Travelers get caught in the wrong desert, in the wrong little town, at the absolute worst time. Made into a TV movie featuring Ron Perlman as the crazy demon-possessed sheriff.
Mr. Mercedes - King's "first hard-boiled detective book" about an ex-cop tracking down a mass murderer. Part one of a planned trilogy.
Revival - An upcoming novel. So far the only thing known about it is its title.
Finders Keepers - The sequel to Mr. Mercedes. Due out in 2015.
Aside from his own work, King also wrote a number of novels under the Pen Name of Richard Bachman:
Rage - A kid commits a school shooting and has a strange discussion with his classmates. Written long before the events at Columbine High School. No longer in print by King's request.
The Long Walk - In a dystopian alternate version of 1980s America, the government runs a contest every year: 100 teenaged male contestants, selected from thousands of entrants nationwide, are sent on the titular journey down the Eastern Seaboard. The rules are simple: Walk. Do not leave the road. Maintain a speed of at least 4 miles per hour. Fall under that speed and draw a warning. Fall under that speed with 3 warnings and you are shot. Last walker alive wins his heart's desire. The story follows one year's group of 100, with predictable results.
Roadwork - The planned demolition of a man's home for a highway extension sends him on a seemingly irrevocable path of self-destruction.
The Running Man - Lower-class worker trying to pay daughter's medical bills in dystopian USA enters a game show designed to test the effectiveness of the police state. They hunt him, he evades them. If caught, he will be killed. Halfway through, he discovers that the game is rigged. Ends with wife vilified and murdered and daughter dead, but it's okay, because at the very end he crashes a plane into the skyscraper where the game show host is working. The plot of the movie adaptation (with Arnold Schwarzenegger) does not bear very much relation to this description; it handles some of the same elements, but plays them as parts of a glitzy Game Show rather than the more straight dystopian nightmare of the book.
These first four were originally released individually, and then reprinted in an omnibus titled The Bachman Books.
Thinner - Obese lawyer is hit with a Gypsy Curse, causing him to rapidly lose weight. Adapted into a movie.
Blaze - A mentally deficient conman kidnaps a millionaire's child. Marketed as a "posthumous" work of Bachman; actually a rewritten and edited version of a lost King manuscript that predates even Carrie.
In addition, King has also produced several non-fiction works of note:
Danse Macabre - invoked An examination of horror and science fiction based on King's personal experience, including his personal Nightmare Fuel and a rant about horror movies not influencing people to commit real world horrors.
Faithful - A collaboration of lighter mood than his fiction that follows the 2004 Boston Red Sox to their first World Series win in eight decades.
On Writing - An autobiography and a how-to for up-and-coming authors.
King has also written the screenplays for several TV miniseries:
Golden Years: An elderly janitor at a top-secret research base gets caught in an accidental explosion and begins reverse-aging.
King also wrote the screenplays for the 1985 film Cats Eye and the 1992 film Sleepwalkers, collaborated with George Romero on the 1982 theatrical anthology film Creepshow (as well as its sequel Creepshow 2 and the sequel-in-all-but-name Tales from the Darkside: The Movie), and went behind the camera to direct the 1986 film Maximum Overdrive, adapted from his Night Shift story "Trucks", in which people are menaced by trucks and other vehicles that are brought to murderous life by radiation from a comet. Ironically, the story was later adapted again, rather more faithfully, under the original title.He is also part of a rotation of featured columnists in Entertainment Weekly magazine.
Several pages of Gardener's introduction feature a disturbing description of what alcoholism feels like from the drunk's perspective. The urge to drink is also explored heavily in Doctor Sleep
American Accents: Being a Down-Easter himself, King has a knack for accurately depicting the various dialects of the northeastern corner of the country — mostly Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and (especially) Maine.
This shows up in several ways; as King himself has said, "write what you know." A lot of his stories are set in Maine. Many of his main characters are writers. Many have struggled or are struggling with addictions and/or marital problems.
His love of music is also an incredibly pervasive element. If someone quotes a song, it's either very good, or very, very bad...
Baseball is also a recurring theme, whether directly or indirectly. At the least, virtually ever Stephen King novel ever written mentions a character wearing a hat or t-shirt representing the local baseball team—even if it's a minor league team.
A somewhat bizarre case seems to show up not in his writing, but in the commentaries he does on the DVD versions of his mini-series. He always: 1) praises the mini-series format, and 2) bashes War and Remembrance for (according to him) single-handedly destroying the mini-series format.
Gary Hart is mentioned in a number of his works: becoming President in the short story "The Jaunt" and in an alternate universe in The Dark Tower, and Paul Sheldon's car has a Hart for President bumper sticker.
King is a proud owner of a Welsh Corgi, a particularly adorable breed of dog. The dog itself actually shows up in The Dark Tower series. More amusingly, a fictional corgi nearly saves the day in Under the Dome, though a human screws up the corgi's gift.
Author Avatar: King writes himself in as an important character in The Dark Tower books, where in a parallel universe, the action of him writing the books affects the outcome of the main characters' lives. Also, there's the tendency of his main characters being writers (See below) and their ability to be described as "like Stephen King, but..."
Author Existence Failure: Narrowly averted in 1999, when King was struck by a van while walking along a road. His personal brush with death was later incorporated into several of his works, including his Dark Tower series, which he hastened to complete so he wouldn't leave it unfinished if this trope came down for real.
Oddly enough, he ended up long outliving the guy who hit him.
Author Phobia: King is known for writing about things that scare him personally.
Autocannibalism: "Survivor Type" centers around a surgeon and drug runner who becomes shipwrecked, and is ultimately forced to do this.
Bench Breaker: "The Gingerbread Girl", from the collection Just After Sunset, features a version of this. The protagonist is duct taped to a chair by a psycho who will return in a little while to kill her. She's unable to get free of the tape, so she ends up breaking the chair instead to free herself. This later comes in handy when the psycho returns, as she's able to use the splintered remains of the chair to fight him off.
Billed Above The Title: You will never have any doubt whether Stephen King is the author of a book or not, because you can't miss the words "STEPHEN KING" taking up almost the entire front cover. With a little tiny spot at the very bottom for the actual title of the book. Ironically, many non-horror films adapted from his work, including "Stand by Me," "The Shawshank Redemption," and "Dolores Claiborne" (in other words, the best of them) have avoided using his name for the simple reason that consumers would mistake them for horror films when they were not.
Bitter Almonds: Subverted in Paranoid: A Chant when the protagonist believes arsenic smells like bitter almonds.
Breaking and Bloodsucking: In "The Night Flier", the eponymous Night Flier pays a visit to the elderly Sarche couple. The following day, the husband shuts down the airfield and the wife visits the beauty parlor. The husband is found with his head torn off on one end of the trailer. The wife is found, her blood completely drained, in bed; with new lingerie, a peaceful expression, and a copy of The Vampire Lestat.
Continuity Nod: Many books make brief, casual, and often vague references to characters and/or events from previous King novels that may or may not have anything to do with the current novel, but that fans who have read those novels would be able to recognize.
There's a massive example in 11/22/63 - the first bit of the book takes place in Derry, Maine, the setting of IT. Jake goes there to stop a man from killing his family and being sent to Shawshank. During his time there, he meets Richie and Beverly, visits the storm drain where George was killed, and hears Pennywise calling out to him at the ruins of a local ironworks. Later on, he moves to Jodie, Texas, where he hears of a rival football team from nearby town of Arnette, where Stu lives at the beginning of The Stand. The title vehicle from Christine, as well as the Takuro Spirit, a car mentioned several times in The Dark Tower, make appearances as well.
Creator Cameo: King often makes cameo appearances in the film adaptations of his works; his high point probably being his portrayal of the eponymous hick in the Creepshow segment "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill."
Creator Provincialism: The majority of his stories are set in his native Maine. When he started spending part of the year in Florida, he started setting some of his stories there. Several books were set in or around Boulder, Colorado, when he lived in Colorado for a while. And all of them are set in the U.S. (except the ones set in fantasy worlds) and his entire body of work has only two notable non-American characters, the English Nick Hopewell in "The Langoliers" and the German Kurt Dussander in "Apt Pupil" (the latter is because a Nazi concentration camp commander can't be American).
Cthulhu Mythos: King is a great admirer of H.P. Lovecraft, and as detailed below, has included both overt and subtle homages in his own work.
Disappeared Dad: Appears in several of his works. His own father left his family when King was two.
Door Stopper: The Stand, Insomnia, Under the Dome, The Tommyknockers, IT, 11/22/63 and others.
He acknowledged this tendency of his in the author's note to one of his short story collections. "Every story wants to be a novel, and every novel wants to be approximately 3000 pages long." He once described himself as suffering from "Diarrhea of the word processor".
Eye Scream: He uses this trope frequently. He's got a special brand of it; melting eyes, included in The Green Mile and "In the Deathroom", where horrific electrical executions are involved.
This really comes to light in The Green Mile, where an aged Paul Edgcomb writes the first few chapters as though Coffey did murder those girls, despite the main plot point in the last half being the fact that he's actually innocent. He wrote the novel in installments, and admitted in the foreword of the first book that he himself may not even know how this thing ends.
In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Strangely averted. All the most famous and successful adaptations of his films - especially the non-horror ones - avoid drawing attention to the fact that he wrote the original novel or short story.
Syfy fixes this by making damn sure that every title is paired with his name religiously.
Pointedly averted with The Lawnmower Man, which used his name but only the barest elements of one scene from the story. King sued and won the right to take his name from the film, even though some copies still have it labelled and presented as "Stephen King's 'The Lawnmower Man'".
Lovecraft Country: This trope may as well be called "King Country" for how many of his stories have been set in New England (especially Maine).
Magical Negro: King has admitted in interviews that he tends to overuse this trope, attributing it to his own White Guilt.
Mean Character, Nice Actor: He may write about spine-chilling subjects but King often comes across as a pretty friendly, laidback and witty family man. And if he likes your book, you can bet he'll give you a glowing recommendation on the cover.
Murder By Inaction: In one book (name, anyone?) a young boy's father has a heart attack in the woods, and he tells the boy to run to the house and get his pills. But on the way to the house, the boy starts thinking about all the horrific sexual abuses his father has inflicted on him, and starts running slower and slower until he's at a leisurely walk. And what do you know, he’s too late.
My Beloved Smother: A version appears in several of King's novels, especially Carrie and IT.
Name's the Same Often re-uses names from other books to describe completely different people. Examples include: Patrick Hockstetter, who was a Shop scientist in Firestarter and a sociopathic schoolmate of the Loser's Club in It; Martin Coslaw, who was the nice, crippled hero of Cycle of the Werewolf (and the film based on it, Silver Bullet) and a cruel disciplinarian in Blaze; he shows up a third time in 11/22/63 as a high school football player and actor. Similar to a Continuity Nod (above). Also, has used names of people in his own life to help name some of the characters as a form of Shout-Out (see below).
Phone Call From The Dead: This is the premise of "The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates", a surprisingly upbeat short story by Stephen King, of all people. A husband who died in a plane crash was trying to call his wife just before impact; she gets the call two days later, and gets to talk to him in the afterlife (which, apparently, is a bus station). She gets to say goodbye, and he warns her about a future disaster, which she manages to avoid.
Squick: Invoked in Danse Macabre when King describes his method.
I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I'll go for the gross-out. I'm not proud.
Teleporters and Transporters: King's short story "The Jaunt" combines teleportation with And I Must Scream.note To elaborate: the process is almost instantaneous in realtime but to the traveler, it takes an incredibly long time.
Town with a Dark Secret: The titular 'Salem's Lot might be the best (worst?) offender. Other towns that repeatedly pop up are Derry, Castle Rock, and Tarker's Mills (Cycle of the Werewolf, mentioned in Under the Dome)
Undeath Always Ends: This shows up in several novels, especially 'Salem's Lot and Pet Sematary.
Unintentional Period Piece: Tends to happen a lot with his earlier novels. He himself has said he's sometimes "too much a writer of the moment."
The Verse: A good 80-90% of his stories mention or feature locations, characters, or events from his other stories, and a number of those are tied into The Dark Tower which ties them into the universes of some of his otherwise unconnected stories.
Villains Want Mercy: In "In the Deathroom", the protagonist thinks that "in the end there might only be one way to tell the thugs from the patriots: when they saw their own death rising in your eyes like water, patriots made speeches. The thugs, on the other hand, gave you the number of their Swiss Bank Account and offered to put you on-line."
White Guilt: King has admitted in interviews that his tendency to overuse the Magical Negro trope is likely due to his own White Guilt.
Weirdness Magnet: He has referred to himself as one, citing a time a fully dressed, gin-drinking Ronald McDonald sat next to him on an airplane during his first book tour.
Went to the Great X in the Sky: In "The Library Policemen", the town's resident drunk, Dirty Dave, is said to have gone to the "great ginmill in the sky".