Can writers break free from their genres?

8:41 AM


My Halloween reading for this year is Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”. I figured... it's still Stephen King.

Nearly every writer on the planet recommends this book so I thought it was time for me to read it. Also, I found it in a used book store for 3 bucks.

I was semi-right in choosing this book for Halloween. I'm on page 35 and a lot of it already freaked me out.

I won't talk about the amazing writing lessons the book has because we already covered that. 

What called my attention was how strange his childhood recollections are. Like when he was four and his nanny feeds him seven fried eggs and then locks him up in a closet where he proceeds to throw up. Or when he graphically describes the painful procedures he had to go through at the "ear doctor".

Now, his life is not the only one filled with disturbing experiences. The thing is: he decided to fill his memoir with nothing but. 

It's not that he solely had bizarre experiences as a child, but that those are the ones he chose to remember and write about. 

Take, for example, the fact that he was sick. He chose to describe how horrifying his doctor's appointments were. 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, another author who struggled with illness most of her life, wrote about her poor health like this: "I dare say I shall soon be able to see in my dungeon and begin to be amused with the spiders".

That's still a little depressing but much more uplifting. But then, Browning was a lyrical poet. 

Could we make a connection between a writer's genre and his outlook in life?

I can't but help wonder if King excelled in writing horror stories because that's how he sees life. Maybe he tends to look for the disgusting and the disturbing aspects of life.

Could he write a less creepy memoirt and still be Stephen King?

Have you read "On Writing"? Do you think there's a connection between a writer's fictional world and his personal life?

Image via Do What You Love.

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9 comments

  1. very thought-provoking post. It's really like the chicken and egg, did he turn to horror because of his experiences? or did he read his experiences in such a horrific way because he is of a macabre disposition?

    I haven't read the book but I think I will. I'm always fascinated by the mechanics of writing, speaking of which, Ian Mcewan's recent book deals with this (along with numerous other narratives- such as creating identity), highly recommended if you haven't read it.

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  2. Exactly, it's difficult to say if the genre chose him or he chose the genre. Thanks for the recommendation on McEwan's book. I also like reading about the writing process, but I never read any of McEwans' novels. I was supposed to do an assignment on "On Chesil Beach" but I never got around to reading it... xx

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  3. he's one of my favourite authors, you should definitely give him a go. I haven't read On Chesil Beach though, but his latest one really is good x

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  4. This post was very interesting. I think in many/most cases there is a connection between the personal life and the work, but with some writers it's more obvious than others. I have to say, this didn't make me want to read Stephen King any more...

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  5. It's funny because we are taught not to interpret a book based on an author's biography, but they seem so connected. I don't want to discourage anyone to read Stephen King though! Specially since he is such a popular writer and all, but this book (at least the beginning) is a little unusual. xx

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  6. I'd say that there is always a "connection". Everyone has this kind of another dimesion inside, which we hide during everyday activities but which we want to let out of ourselves somehow, whenever we dream about belle epoque balls, gunfight and adventure, or some really sicko stuff ;)
    Best way is to write it into fictional stories. I write it, You will surely write tea parties into Your books, and some freaks like King write in horror all the time ;)
    I'd say that even his house is out of his horror world ;) http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6c/Stephenking_house.JPG

    As a side note... it's kind of surprising that King's book about writing is being received that well by the industry... as he's one of the most criticized bestselling authors... I've often heard people complaining that he makes a trilogy out of something that others would turn only into a short story :)

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  7. You made a good point: he is highly criticized and yet, "On Writing" was very well accepted.

    His house is very creepy, but it could be him playing with his own persona and books. (However, even for marketing reasons I still wouldn't live in that house!) ;)

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  8. brr.... I wouldn't be surprised if he would have Cujo guarding this fence ;)

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