Stephen King on Successful Novels

Stephen King was blown away by The Lord of the Flies when he first read it as a child. In this interview in The Telegraph, he goes on to explain how he found the novel and why it appeals to him. But the biggest takeaway are his thoughts on what makes a successful novel (emphasis mine):

To me, Lord of the Flies has always represented what novels are for; what makes them indispensable. Should we expect to be entertained when we read a story? Of course. An act of the imagination that doesn’t entertain is a poor act indeed. But there should be more. A successful novel should erase the boundary line between writer and reader, so they can unite. When that happens, the novel becomes a part of life – the main course, not the dessert. A successful novel should interrupt the reader’s life, make him or her miss appointments, skip meals, forget to walk the dog. In the best novels, the writer’s imagination becomes the reader’s reality. It glows, incandescent and furious. I’ve been espousing these ideas for most of my life as a writer, and not without being criticised for them. If the novel is strictly about emotion and imagination, the most potent of these criticisms go, then analysis is swept away and discussion of the book becomes irrelevant.

This is why I read fiction.

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Hat tip: @matthiasrascher

2 thoughts on “Stephen King on Successful Novels

  1. Hear, hear. I’ve always found that the best novels are ones in which I hate to see the main characters go and am surprised when I put the book down, walk outside my door, and I’m in Seattle, instead of Middle Earth, or Hogwarts, or Meiji Era Japan, or wherever the author has placed his book.

  2. […] I’m really quite warming to this Treasure Island idea… I feel it’s more of a “goer” than what I’ve been talking about in earlier posts. I hope that its combination of fiction and historical details makes it a stimulating and worthwhile experience of a doco. By making it an online piece, hopefully I’ll be tapping into and interacting with a new audience – and hey, if they have a technology addiction then maybe this’ll provide a distraction from their online time-wasting… “A successful novel should interrupt the reader’s life, make him or her miss appointments, skip meals, forget to walk the dog. In the best novels, the writer’s imagination becomes the reader’s reality.” – Stephen King, cited here. […]

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