6 Times Stephen King Featured An Author Character

By: Sam Fletcher, August 2nd, 2023 10:08 am.

Part of what makes Stephen King so enduring is that you can easily tell you’re reading one of his stories. A horror legend, he’s established a trademark style. From his Castle Rock setting to everyday characters in fantastical scenarios, he’s always been his own writer.

One recurring theme is his use of the author insert.

Often narrating the story, King will typically have a writer as a central character. Here we’ll take a look at six of his best while trying not to give too much away.

But let’s face it, everyone knows these stories at this point.

Paul Sheldon – Misery (1987)

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King has stated that he based ‘certain parts’ of the writer Paul Sheldon on himself. Clearly, he took some inspiration from his own life, but there’s more to this classic thriller than meets the eye.

Following a snowstorm car crash, Paul finds himself bedridden with his ‘number one fan’ Annie Wilkes attending to him in her home. As he’s the creator of her favorite romance series, Annie demands he writes her way, growing ever more unstable. It’s the ultimate love letter sent return-mail to King’s most demanding fans.

But it’s a novel about addiction too. While King did base this on a previous fan outcry to him writing fantasy (1984’s ‘The Eyes of the Dragon’) instead of horror, Wilkes also symbolizes his dependency struggles. And this makes sense considering how she literally keeps him drugged, showering him with praise one moment before hobbling him the next. She just won’t let go.

Luckily King kicked it and he’s still writing strong today.

Thad Beaumont/George Stark – The Dark Half (1989)

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Sometimes our inner demons drag us down to the pits of hell.

Here the writer is Thad Beaumont, a recovering alcoholic living in Maine. Writing under the pen name George Stark, Thad lays the now exposed pseudonym to rest in a publicized mock burial. Unfortunately for him (and everyone else), Stark blinks into existence and heads off on a murder spree.

It was during the 1970s and 80s that King wrote as Richard Bachmann. He also, as mentioned, had a battle with alcoholism, and this became personified in Stark.

It’s not the first time he’s featured potent metaphors for alcohol-driven rage either. Another would be…

Jack Torrance – The Shining (1977)

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And here’s Johnny!

Apologies to Stephen, we all know how he hated the Kubrick film (that quote being famously ad-libbed).

Author Jack Torrance hopes for some quiet time in the isolated Overlook Hotel, staying with his family to work as the caretaker there while finishing his novel. That’s when Jack’s son, Danny, discovers he has psychic powers (‘The Shining’), seeing ghosts and premonitions of evil. And soon Jack, a recovering alcoholic, starts to take a turn for the worse, as the hotel starts to weave its magic.

King draws from experience, not just with Jack, but also his own experience at The Stanley Hotel and a nightmare he had there. He’d later write a follow-up with ‘Doctor Sleep’ depicting the aftermath of childhood trauma when Danny grows up.

William Denbrough – It (1986)

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Or Bill as he’s known to the rest of the Loser’s Club.

While the story isn’t narrated by him, Bill’s the unofficial gang leader, with his clear-headed approach to fighting the demonic entities befalling Derry, Maine. ‘Stuttering Bill’ as a child in the first half of the book, he loses his speech impediment, becoming a successful writer in the second half.

But the story’s all about dealing with their shared childhood trauma, and understanding lost innocence. Like Bill, King uses the page for a sense of catharsis.

Gordon LaChance – The Body (1982)

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Narrating his childhood, Gordon ‘Gordie’ LaChance is another successful writer with a story to tell. An excellent coming-of-age novella, it’s uniquely grounded in reality without a single ghost or ghoul in sight.

Many will remember the film ‘Stand By Me’ with Richard Dreyfuss’s narration. Telling the story of when he and his friends were twelve years old, Gordie reminisces about searching for a body back in Castle Rock, Maine (where else!). Together they attempt to find it and report it while avoiding a group of bullies planning to do the same.

But, most importantly, we get to hear ‘The Revenge of Lard-Ass Hogan’ from young Gordie, and this is what great storytelling’s all about.

Ben Mears – Salem’s Lot (1975)

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So it’s time for King’s take on vampires.

Heading back to Jerusalem’s Lot, Maine, where he saw horrors during his childhood, Mears plans to write a novel about the spooky old Marsten House. But it’s ancient vampires he meets, and they’re out for blood. Ben takes a more active role, dealing with this ancient evil head-on. To put it bluntly, he’s a writer with attitude.

He’s also gotten writer’s block, another recurring theme. Some take a quiet country retreat, while King has Mears waking the undead. And it’s all the more awesome for it.

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Craig Grimes
Craig Grimes
9 months ago

And, of course, The Dark Tower.

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