Literary Writing Style of Stephen King

With his unusual “what…if” style, Stephen King stands tall among fantasy and horror writers of his age. His unique style favors realism in his fiction that he bedecks with different techniques. Some of the best features of his writing style in terms of word choice/diction, syntax, figurative language, rhythm in language, rhetorical patterns, and themes are as follows.

Stephen King’s Word Choice

King’s pet words about writing are that a writer must write on daily basis supplemented with good reading. That is why he has used a wide variety of words in his novels. He never stays short of words, as his novels If It Bleeds and The Long Walk demonstrate. It seems that he uses appropriate words at appropriate places, the reason that every other of his novels is a successful piece of fiction, as this passage from If It Bleeds shows. This passage shows that most of the time he uses very simple, direct, and monosyllable words. Sometimes, he reverts to polysyllables words also, but it occurs when it is absolutely necessary for the context.

We were on our front porch when we had this conversation, drinking glasses of Sprite, and Dad cocked a thumb up our road (dirt, like most of them in Harlow) to Mr. Harrigan’s house. Which was really a mansion, complete with an indoor pool, a conservatory, a glass elevator that I absolutely loved to ride in, and a greenhouse out back where there used to be a dairy barn (before my time, but Dad remembered it well).

Stephen King’s Sentence Structure / Syntax

Although Stephen King is an expert in diction, he is also a master at writing excellent sentences. Most of his sentences end on an adverb with the usual subject-verb style. This shows his writing’s weak flow but it creates ambivalence. However, what baffles the readers is not the syntax but the variety of the structures that he employs to move his story forward. This passage from The Long Walk shows his sentence style.

Two girls stood beside a battered MG at the bottom of one dip. They were wearing tight summer shorts, middy blouses, and sandals. There were cheers and whistles. The faces of these girls were hot, flushed, and excited by something ancient, sinuous, and, to Garraty, erotic almost to the point of insanity. He felt animal lust rising in him, an aggressively alive thing that made his body shake with a palsied fever all its own.

Stephen King’s Figurative Language

Although in using images, King is matchless, he is also an expert in using allusions, specifically modern allusions. His use of metaphors bedecks most of his novels and short stories, while similes intensify this feeling when readers come across some unusual events in his storylines. Interestingly, he even makes personifications of words when teaching writing. Some of the figures of speech could be identified in this passage taken from his novel, The Long Walk.

He made a determined effort to push them from his mind, but they kept creeping back in. How must it have been, dry-humping that warm, willing flesh? Her thighs had twitched, my God, they had twitched, in a kind of spasm, orgasm, oh God, the uncontrollable urge to squeeze and caress . . . and most of all to feel that heat . . . that heat.

Stephen King’s Rhythm and Component Sounds

Having a good flow in writing has pointed out the reason of the rhythm of Stephen King’s language. His language seems moving on the tides or floating on the wind. This is only because of the sound components or sound devices. Specifically, his use of mono- and polysyllables coupled with consonant and vowel sounds have helped his language flow well. This passage from his novel, The Long Walk, shows it amply.

Stebbins. He hadn’t thought about Stebbins in a long time. He turned his head to look for Stebbins. Stebbins was there. The pack had strung out coming down the long hill, and Stebbins was about a quarter of a mile back, but there was no mistaking those purple pants and that chambray work shirt. Stebbins was still tailing the pack like some thin vulture, just waiting for them to fall.

Stephen King’s Rhetorical Pattern

The rhetorical pattern of King is basically narrative though he supplements it with comparison and contrast as well as character descriptions. In using rhetoric, he is a master of logos and pathos. All these strategies make up the main argument of his fiction writing. He usually turns to repetition, as the above passage from The Long Walk shows that he even repeats names several times to stress upon the main idea.

Stephen King’s Themes

King has used various themes in his writings. Specifically, the loss of innocence, abuse, the conflict between good and evil, vampires, fantasy, hypocrisy, and friendship. He even writes about coming of the age, horror of the unknown, fear of the aliens, and several other ideas.