: views from the Hill

Friday, July 14, 2006

[WRITING] Stephen King on Imagery

Wordplay, mentioned in the immediate past post, has an article by Stephen King: IMAGERY AND THE THIRD EYE which begins thusly

Some critics have accused me -- and it always comes out sounding like an accusation -- of writing for the movies. It's not true, but I suppose there's some justification for the idea; all of my novels to date have been sold to the movies. The assumption seems to be that you can't do that sort of thing without trying, but as some of you out there will testify, it's the sort of thing you very rarely can do by consciously trying.

So, you're saying, why is this guy talking about movies when he's supposed to be talking about writing? I'll tell you why. I'm talking about movies because the most important thing that film and fiction share is an interest in the image -- the bright picture that glows in the physical eye or in the mind's eye. I'm suggesting that my novels have sold to the movies not because they were written for the movies, but simply because they contain elements of vivid image that appeal to those who make films -- to those for whom it is often more important to see than it is to think.

Novels are more than imagery -- they are thought, plot, style, tone, characterization, and a score of other things -- but it is the imagery that makes the book "stand out" somehow; to come alive; to glow with its own light. I'm fond of telling my writing classes that all the sophistries of fiction must follow story, that simple caveman invention ("I was walking through the forest when the tiger leaped down on me...") that held his audience spellbound around a fire at night -- and perhaps he even got an extra piece of meat for his efforts if the story was a good one, the first writer's royalty! But I also believe that story springs from image: that vividness of place and time and texture. And here the writer is always two steps ahead of the film director, who may have to wait for the right weather, the right shadows, or the right lens (and when the real world gives way, as it so often does in my books, he must then turn to the special effects man).

Where does good imagery come from?

Good question.

King answers in his inimitable style.

No comments: