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April 22, 2009

Writing Well Doesn't Need to Be Scary - Stephen King - On Writing

We all learn and use language to communicate - and when you think about it - most of our communicating is telling stories. We tell stories to our children, to our friends and to our families. Every conversation, every friendship, every job interview is an exercise in story telling. Who better to learn from than someone who has made a name for himself purely as a story teller.

Stephen King....

...in his book On Writing explores both the circumstances that made him the writer he is, but also some tips to good writing and making the most of language.

It was a discussion with Amy Tan while on tour with the band, the Rock Bottom Remainders that inspired King to write this book. "No one ever asks about the language," Tan said in response to King's query about the sorts of questions that she doesn't get at author appearances. "Serious" authors get asked that but they don't ask the popular novelists who, he says "care about language in our humble way, and care passionately about the art and craft of telling stories on paper."

Stephen King's writing tips are as simple as they are profound. Consider these;

A "story is a fossil you find on the ground, and you gradually dig it out slowly." Take your time to master a language. Tell your story fully - but also clearly and directly.

He doesn't focus on the plot in his stories. He puts "a group of characters in some sort of predicament and then watch them try to work themselves free."

I have written a little fiction and after you get sense of who a character might be, it is fairly easy to see how they might respond to any given situation. And it is even more fun to use your imagination muscles to create unique and challenging settings for your characters to confront each other - or themselves.

"If you want to be a writer," Stephen King says, "you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot." King calls reading the creative center of a writer's life. He advocates reading in small sips as well as long drinks - in waiting rooms, in line at the theater, in the checkout line at the grocery store, on the treadmill at the gym, or anywhere you might have a few stray minutes.

One of the best ESL students I had came to me with almost no formal training, but had been reading (usually out loud) passionately and relentlessly.

If you think about it, we all have learned our native language by soaking in it. If you have a new target language, read it, hear it, seep yourself in it. It will become yours, and you will become its, far more quickly than you might imagine.

Stephen King's On Writing is available in paperback at stores or online.

My best to you,


Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

In May I want to welcome readers to present thoughts on the ideal job. What do you most want to do? Where would you like to be? Who would you want to work with?

About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf spent about six years working for a Native American Tribal College, a few years teaching various humanities, English, writing and ESL courses with the community college system in Washington State (including one year as part of a faculty exchange program with The Beijing Foreign Language University). While in China, Morf was briefly a radio host for CRI (China Radio International) and did recordings for the "English can be enjoyable" book and tape series. Morf currently teaches English and writing for a local technical/vocational college with many international students. Morf prefers international and independent films, foods he can't pronounce, music no one else likes and riding his bicycle in unlikely and ridiculous situations.

Posted by mmorf at April 22, 2009 09:47 AM

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