How to write a Stephen King novel

Many people think that only Stephen King can write Stephen King books. This makes sense at first glance--his name is right there on the covers, after all--but in fact, anyone can write a Stephen King novel or short story.

It's true! By following these simple rules, you too can create stories about dysfunctional people getting eaten by monsters.


It's set in Maine

All Stephen King stories are set in Maine. Even the ones that aren't set in Maine are set in Maine. Especially those ones.


There are only two age groups

All characters under the age of twelve should act and speak like toddlers. Anyone over thirty-five acts and speaks like a curmudgeonly old geezer. In between there's a hazy grey area where any given character could just as equally be a teenager or a fully-grown adult.



Your Stephen King story should have at least one old coot in it, either directly or referenced. He should have a twee old-timey name like Spoot McMuggins.


Repetitive phrases

You should have at least one odd little saying or line that your point-of-view character repeats incessantly. Like, at some point ol’ Spoot should see a faded advertisement with “MAKE YOUR DAY STUPENDOUS” or something written on it, and then he'll repeat that in his head multiple times, possibly as he’s being eaten by a mutant ground-sloth or whatever.


Stomach-churning violence

Liberally interject your story with incredibly graphic violence and gore, preferably for no real reason. Maybe a protagonist will be thinking about Spoot McMuggins, and they'll say “Ol’ Spoot Muggy was driving his 72 Cadillac down Lake Road South when he front-ended a Bronco. His brain flew right out of his mouth and splashed all over the car windscreen. The police officer who arrived at the scene would never forget the sight as long as he lived.”

(It makes your violence more shocking if you say that the people who witnessed it were psychologically scarred for the rest of their lives).


Product placement

You should regularly bring up current movies, TV shows, books, electronics and software to give your story a feeling of realism. It helps to have your characters praise things that your readers will also like, using the following template:

(character) thought that (product or creative work) was a damn fine (book/movie/TV show/electronic/app/whatever). Damn fine.


Make your villain suck

It’s absolutely imperative that your villain is incredibly disappointing. The reader will pick up a novel about a mutant ground-sloth and be all like “cool I can't wait to see the ground-sloth”, but then they'll be totally bummed when it turns out the ground sloth is the physical avatar of a demon named Bob Glargg, who feeds off of human unhappiness and gloats about how evil he is.

A really good way to make a villain suddenly uninteresting and hard to take seriously is to reveal that they're actually some sort of mythological of folkloric creature rather than some random supernatural being. Like, for a specific but entirely hypothetical example, maybe it could turn out that your shape-shifting child murderer who steals people's identities to frame them for crimes is actually a Mexican boogeyman, and this is communicated to the characters via them watching a cheesy luchadore movie.

You know, just hypothetically. This totally didn't literally happen in the bestselling The Outsider, the reading of which may or may not have been the impetus behind this post.



Cancer should feature in, or at least be brought up in, your Stephen King story. Just, like, for no real reason.



If you don't want to put cancer in your story, you can substitute in 9/11.


Everything is connected

All of your stories should be part of a vast, interconnected shared universe. There will never be any point to this beyond having a vast, interconnected shared universe purely for the sake of having one.

Be a rapidly aging man

Make zero attempt to disguise the fact that you're a very old man who yearns for the fifties and sixties. Maybe you could have a man in his thirties or forties praise the “wonders of telecommunication” and refer to an office projector, which he has apparently never seen before, as a “gadget”. Just speaking hypothetically again.