C. G. McGinn


Ramblings about Books and Writing

"The Ratman Forgive You, this Time."

Read a Book

That's right, we're reviewing Stephen King's The Stand! So dust off your Blue Oyster Cult CD, and give Kareem Abdule Jabbar some serious consideration for a Golden Globe, because we're kicking it back to 1994 with The Stand TV miniseries!

No, I'm kidding. My thoughts on the very long book instead:

I first read The Stand in high school. For a slow reader I think I read it into my freshman year of college. Probably not, but I'm sure it took me a while. The book gave me nightmares about dead people. At the time, dead people were still a scary thing, probably because I hadn't been to too many funerals, and I was still somewhat scarred from watching Stand by Me at an age much younger than whatever the appropriate age for watching Stand by Me is. Dead body's were scary shit for a little kid and I'm still a little unnerved by them even today. 

I made the mistake of watching the 4-part miniseries before reading the book, so character development took a back seat to the Girl from the Breakfast Clubthe dude who would later go on to have no legs in Forest Gumpand the former basketball star who received top billing and a spot on the cover for his portrayal of the 'king of the minor characters'. 

The re-read presented an aspect of The Stand that my still-developing teenage mind would have scarcely grasped.

Everyone dies. Sorry if I just ruined the book for you. The world is wiped out by a flu-like virus doctored up in a government lab. Spoiler Alert!

King is known for his pop-culture references. It's part of his style that makes him so widely read. He throws in these nuances and the reader is ushered into his world by the connection to real life events. Simply by playing David Bowie on a character's radio, King has put your into his world, which is not unlike our own.

In The Stand, King does something diabolical with this use of pop-culture. Simply by referencing George H.W. Bush, Madonna, the Rolling Stones, and others, -putting the reader into this all-to-similar world- conjures up a much darker, deeper level of horror. Without explicitly saying it, the reader infers that these people, these famous, well-known people have all died of the plague. Tragedy always hits the hardest when it happens to someone you know, and the band, the politician, and the, whatever the hell Madonna is, are all known enough by the masses to bring the tragedy right to the doorstep of the mind. It makes for great writing when you can pull the reader into your world.

I'm glad I was able to appreciate The Stand now that I'm older and hopefully a little bit wise. 

Write a Book

Taking a break from the writing to gain some perspective on the story as a whole. Working on a rough outline and figuring out pacing. As one who does not like to outline, this was a discouraging process. But I think I've found what works best for me. And that's the great thing about this whole writing thing: there isn't a magic formula or set of steps that must be followed to the letter in order to make this work.

I've started scribbling out the main points, not chapter-by-chapter but in a rough mix between scenes and changes to the settings. I'm keeping myself from getting hung up on details and just sticking to character development and major events, and how they connect to one another as the story unfolds. I've also thrown out some ideas that turned into obstacles as things progressed.

I'm sure one day this writing section will be exciting, maybe even enthralling to read. For now, well, you'll just have to settle for the mundane. 

There was one exciting bit of writing news that I can add here. Daniel O'Malley, author of The Rook heard about me awarding him with Best Read of 2014 from my last post. He had this to say:

So I think that makes me an official member of the fan club. I'm going to have to learn the secret handshake, and hope the rites of initiation don't involve paddles.

Hey Dan, I'm honored to have a place in  your pool room!