Stephen King is regarded as one of the best (possibly the best) horror writers of the current time. He has written over 60 novels and 200 short stories spanning multiple genres—horror, mystery, fantasy, crime, science fiction, non-fiction, and more. If you’re a horror or mystery writer, here are 5 Stephen King books/short stories that you should read.
1. Under the Dome
This 1,000+ page novel has a very large cast of characters. While this may be confusing for some readers, the character development that takes place throughout the novel is incredibly realistic and well written. The premise of the book already gives a reason for changes in the way characters act—a small town wrought with tension is suddenly trapped underneath an inescapable dome.
2. Salem’s Lot
If you’ve read this novel, then you’d know that it’s mostly about vampires. But King manages to twist their stereotypes, making them more realistic—and horrifying. (Slight spoiler ahead!) By letting the readers get to know the characters before turning some of them into vampires, King adds a deeper connection to the story and the characters within. Twists on clichés and stereotypes are something many writers struggle with, and King does a great job of keeping the common character (vampires, in this case) recognizable but with some changes.
3. The Body
This short story isn’t exactly horror, per se, but it does include some gruesome elements that could qualify as scary for some readers. Overall, this story is a great example of real, fully developed characters that seem like they could be real people. The four boys that the story follows—Gordon, Chris, Teddy, and Vern—are all incredibly realistic, with reasonable strengths and weaknesses. Their growth over the course of the story is a great example of character development in fiction.
4. Mr. Mercedes
Similar to The Body, this novel, part of a trilogy, excels in its inclusion of well-rounded characters with convincing flaws. It does a great job of exploring the characters’ faults as well as their moral compasses and strengths. Additionally, the plot is detailed, engaging, and perfectly paced. It almost exactly follows the three-act structure. It starts off by presenting the main characters and then the conflict arises. Allies are found and King introduces a clear motive, immediately creating tension. Finally, it reaches its climax and the story settles down.
This novel is probably one of Stephen King’s most famous works. It’s on this list because it’s an exemplary example of horror. King takes a common fear—clowns—and turns it into something that evokes even more fear, because all of the characters are relatable. King doesn’t shy away from gory descriptions and images, which adds to the horror. This novel teaches a writer how to write a proper horror story: gore, realistic fear, palpable characters, and a fascinating villain.