TW: MENTION OF SCHOOL SHOOTING
On the fourth Stephen King book now. Whoo. This will be looking at the third book that Stephen King published.
RAGE by Stephen King
Okay, so a quick history about this: Stephen King published Rage under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman. Eventually, he let this book fall out of print because it was linked to a school shooting.
Charlie Decker, the narrator, takes his math class of 30 students hostage and kills two teachers.
Story within a Story
So, King uses an interesting narrative structure where he has characters tell stories within stories. And King uses it again in The Gunslinger when the main character tells the story of his visit to a town that had turned against him.
King has characters start to tell stories, but before they start, he starts a new chapter and gives an entire chapter to the story. We learn more and more about Decker’s past and his home troubles. You get to know his character and empathize with him, and are wondering constantly what drove him to what he did. And that answer is never really given.
Other characters also tell stories about their lives. One about sexuality, one about purity, one about being poor. And that is a very interesting way of telling the backstory of each character.
Descent into Mental Instability
It’s interesting to note that this is really the first book where King starts to delve into…I don’t know what to call it other than madness. Coming from a disability studies standpoint, I don’t like that term because madness is an identity and to lump school shooters and Shining killers and (insert other Stephen King characters here) is wrong. So, maybe mental instability? Ultimately, it is something like divergent thinking that is very difficult to follow. I don’t know, please let me know if there is a better way of wording this because I want to use a better word, but can’t think of one.
But this is the first time that King writes a character who slowly descends into divergence. Now, Charlie Decker, the main character, is already residing in that place. However, it isn’t until he opens fire that it becomes apparent.
I think the biggest takeaway for me, even though the story made me very uncomfortable, is tell a story within a story. If you are struggling with telling a story, try having a character tell that story. And, if you feel that the character isn’t needed any longer, take out the character parts and you have the story that you want to tell.
So, I think that is a very powerful narrative technique because it takes some of the burden off my shoulders because I don’t have to write it in the narrator’s voice, which may be in contrast to how the story needs to be told. To give an example, I am struggling with telling the story of failing to open a locker because it’s in third person limited, something like that, a simple story, can be much more dramatic in the first person. But switching from third to first confuses readers, so, you have a character tell about their thoughts and emotions as they were trying to open it.
Hm…yeah, interesting. But yeah, this book is not for the faint of heart and read it when you have spoons if you choose to.