Last year Stephen King received recognition for his work in literacy from the Librarian of Congress at the 2016 Library of Congress Book Festival in Washington, D.C.
They recorded his talk and loaded it up to YouTube which is awesome because I had an opportunity to watch it.
Stephen King did not disappoint. I love this guy! You know … in the ‘I’m a fan girl’ kind of way. He talked about the Dead Zone and how he foresaw Donald Trump – scary that his work of fiction could have overtones to reality but there it is.
He told funny tales about being a famous author and discussed how to increase literacy in the community. This was very inspiring as he talked about reading for fun, about falling into other worlds and living through characters.
He said (and I’m paraphrasing) that people who do not read live one life and it may be a great life, but people who read, live thousands of lives.
I loved that message because whenever I read a story I get to experience what the character is going through but I don’t need to live their pain in my physical life.
And when I was younger (in my early twenties) I didn’t read much. It took me a lot of practice to learn to read well and then to enjoy the experience. I didn’t grow up loving stories mainly because I didn’t understand the joys of other worlds and characters. I found reading difficult but over time my literacy jumped and I found that I LOVED reading and I loved writing. And that, in a nutshell, is how I came to be writing my own fiction.
Now, when I read books I have an opportunity to change my perspective on important topics and I learn that not every person who does ‘bad’ things is acting from a place of malevolence. Some characters have motivations that stem from a place of thinking they are acting for the highest good. And that makes the character complex and far more interesting to read about.
So a lot of what Stephen King talked about resonated with me, both as a person who once did not value reading and as a person who is so in love with reading I am never without a novel or a non-fiction book now.
Another interesting thing Stephen King talked about was how odd it was to see so many people in the crowd because writers are supposed to be secret agents. He said, “We’re supposed to observe you, you’re not supposed to observe us.”
I thought that was a great comment because as a writer I find myself observing people. Sometimes I’ve thought that I shouldn’t do that, but to write authentic characters and to gain inspiration for stories I realised that I needed to be engaged in the world around me (to a degree).
Mostly, I look at people’s emotions and how emotion impacts behaviour and the decisions and actions taken. It’s endlessly fascinating to me. I often contemplate behaviour and the principle of cause and effect as I write.
A number of my writing teachers have encouraged me to observe body language; to watch people and to do my best to notice the small giveaway signs of their thoughts and emotions too. I do this, but sometimes I think I do it more subconsciously than on a conscious level because I don’t sit across from people and just watch them. I listen to what they are saying, I do observe their body language from the perspective of being present with them and engaged in the topic at hand.
Yet I must admit that watching people teaches me so much about how to write believable characters with congruent and incongruent emotions and body language. Observing people (on TV and in real life) is fantastic way to develop my creative imagination as well as a vital skill for creative writing. So I reckon Stephen King, with all the years of experience and writing success, has a good point about writers being observers.
So, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Stephen King’s talk. He’s an inspiration both as a writer and as a mentor (even though he wouldn’t know me from a bar of soap).
And if you have time and you’re interested in Stephen King, literacy, creative writing or just interested in having a laugh because he is an entertaining speaker, that you’ll take time to watch his talk on YouTube too.