How to Write Like Stephen King

by Pamela Hodges | 80 comments

There are many ways to approach writing a story: you can interview your characters first, plot the story before you start writing, or use Stephen King's approach, which is to start with the situation.

How to Write Like Stephen King

I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible. —Stephen King

In On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, King suggests that stories are found objects and it is the writer’s job to “watch what happens and write it down.”

I want to put a group of characters (perhaps a pair; perhaps even just one) in some sort of predicament and then watch them try to work themselves free. —Stephen King

Discovering as You Write

Using King's suggestion, I thought of a situation and a predicament and then wrote the story. The story wasn’t plotted beforehand; the characters' personalities came out as I wrote the story. The characters were two women who were neighbors. The predicament is one of the women finds out her neighbor has been killing her cats.

I wasn't sure where the story would go. I allowed it to develop as I wrote the story.

The story I ended up with wasn't the one I thought I would write. I let the character lead the plot.

Sally sat on a stool in front of the workbench. She heard the hum of the furnace and the ticking of the clock. The room smelled of rat poison and dried blood. She stared at the hides tacked to the wall. They were covered in cobwebs.

They were cats. Her cats.

Characters Over Plot

Peter Meinke, an American poet and author, says, “In my stories, I usually begin with a character who interests me and let him or her take me where he wants to go.”

“The piano tuner was a huge man, crowding the doorway. I hadn't known he was coming, but I got up from my desk to let him in; my wife was still out shopping.” —Peter Meinke, “The Piano Tuner,” winner of the 1986 Flannery O'Connor Award for short fiction

While you are writing your story you might get an idea of where the plot will go; however, Meinke suggests you let the plot go and follow the characters.

King asks “what if” questions and thinks of several situations which he turns into books.

What if vampires invaded a small New England village? (Salem's Lot)

What if a young mother and her son become trapped in their stalled car by a rabid dog? (Cujo)

—Stephen King

Stephen King believes stories that are character driven are more interesting than plot driven stories. He doesn't manipulate his characters by prewriting the plot; he watches what happens and then writes it down. King starts with a situation.

Start Writing

Do you plan your stories before you write them? Do you start with a character or a situation? Do you know where your story will end before you begin writing?

These are all valid ways to write stories. But today, perhaps you might try beginning with a situation and following a character who will lead you to the end.

Do you agree with Stephen King? Do you think starting with a situation and letting the characters tell their own story is better than writing a plot first? Let us know in the comments.


Today we will use the same approach Stephen King uses to write a story. Your story doesn't have to be horror; it can be fantasy, romance, thriller, adventure, cat cosy, or any gender you choose. Let's “put a group of characters (perhaps a pair; perhaps even just one) in some sort of predicament and then watch them try to work themselves free.”

Today we will take a character and put them in a situation, and then write to see what the character or characters wants to do.

Here are a few situations you can use, or you can create your own:

What if you were on an airplane and you were sitting next to an escaped convict?
What if you found a dead body in the airport lounge?
What if your only weapon against the robber was the banana you dropped on the floor?

Write for fifteen minutes. When you're done, share your practice in the comments, and don't forget to leave feedback for your fellow writers!

How to Write Like Louise PennyWant to write like Louise Penny? Join our new class and learn how. Learn more and sign up here.

Join Class

Next LIVE lesson is coming up soon!

Pamela writes stories about art and creativity to help you become the artist you were meant to be. She would love to meet you at


  1. Christine

    Last night I found a picture on Pixabay that inspired me. You might call it a scene or a situation. I’m posting it on my blog today.

    A few mornings ago I decided to do a 100-word story, just as a writing exercise. But what kind of story? My mind went to Snoopy and his “It was a dark and stormy night.” Okay. That could be my opening scene, too.

    And then? From this situation came the following little tale. I found a suitable picture from Pixabay to go with it, and I was away.


    First the thunderclap, then a spine-chilling scream shredded the tenseness in the darkened room.
    Natalie, peering into the storm, gasped and whirled around. “I wish you’d left that wretched bird in the rain forest.”
    “But I like my parrot,” her cousin replied. “He’s great company when I’m alone. Besides, he reveals secrets.”
    “Oh, really?” Natalie glanced at Regina but in the dim lamplight she missed the malevolence in the other young woman’s eyes.
    Regina watched the shadows flickering against the walls. “For example, he’s told me why you’re waiting so anxiously for MY fiancé to arrive.”
    “That’s ridiculous!”
    “Is it, Nat?”

    • At Home With Grandma

      Ok, where is the rest of the story? This made me want to keep reading, might be the beginning of a book! Great job!

    • Christine

      Thank you. Maybe now I should let the story run away with itself? 🙂
      Truth is, my mind works like an electric current: I’ve never started a story until I could see a fairly clear path to the end. I clear that path in my mind before I ever sit down to write — because I don’t like doing a lot of editing.

    • At Home With Grandma

      Yes! step out on a limb an see where the story takes you! You can do it! Try something new, you never know, it could turn out to be your best work!

    • RAW

      Dear @ Home, I used your pseudo name to create a potential story…. See how you like this!!!

      An imaginative 10 year old boy, Jim, is obsessed with space ships and flying saucers visits his grandmother for a week during the summer
      only to discover she is an alien being who killed his real grandmother and hidthe body under the house. He tries to tell every adult he knows in the small town where his grandmother lived, but everyone already knows his stories are all so fantastic, no one will believe him. He is crying wolf yet again!

      But what is this alien grandmother doing? Where did she come from? What does she really look like underneath the wrinkles? Why did the alien pick his grandmother to kill? How many other grandmothers
      are really aliens in disguise? Finally, how can Jim convince anyone he is telling the truth and the planet has been invaded by would be grandmothers! Watch out for those chocolate chip cookies she makes!

    • At Home With Grandma

      Goodness! I’ll have to show this to my grand kids. Keep them guessing, am I really good ole G-Ma or an alien!! LOL!

    • RAW

      Sorry Grandma! I couldn’t help myself.

      I am trying hard to come up with 50 potential story ideas, and your pseudonym just hit me. I will pare the 50 down to 10 and write a 3 page outline for each of those… or at least some ideas about where the story will go, and then from those I will select 1 or 2 and try to write a full screenplay… BTW, I watched entirely too many “Twilight Zone” episodes and loved every one of them. Can you tell? ha, ha..
      Cue the music… “There’s a sign post up ahead!” “Watch out! You have just entered, “The Twilight Zone!”

    • At Home With Grandma

      Glad to be an inspiration for a story idea! Definitely too much Twilight Zone! LOL!

    • Debra johnson

      yea I agree what was Nat’s answer I’d like to read the rest of that story.

  2. At Home With Grandma

    What if your only weapon against the robber was the banana you dropped on the floor?

    Patsy closed the dryer door and began to fold the warm clothes she’d just removed from it. Looking up from her task when the door opened, she watched a man in a hoodie approach the attendants window. Then in horror, she realized that the laundry mat was being robbed! Ducking down between the rows of machines, she glanced around to see if anyone else had noticed but no one was there. When had the place emptied out? She had been so engrossed in her book she hadn’t seen everyone else leave as they finished their laundry.

    Now, hiding behind a row of washers, Patsy wondered what she should do? Should she call 911? But her phone was in her purse on top of the washer with her clothes. The robber would see her if she tried to reach for it. Should she just cower here like a coward and play it safe? What other options did she have? Then she spied her banana, the snack she had brought with her from home. When had she dropped it on the floor?

    An idea began to form in her head, but she pushed it aside. Rick was always reminding her how her impulsive thoughts got her into trouble. But this might actually work!

    • bernadette

      How Mean to stop here! Go go go on, please!

    • At Home With Grandma

      That’s all I got in my 15 minutes! I’m still waiting to see what Patsy comes up with myself!!

    • Christine

      I find it exactly the same many times: so easy to come up with a suspenseful opening hook — but where to go from there?
      I can picture her dilemma, having been present one day when a robbery was committed by a thief with a sawed-off shotgun. Believe me, you lie low and don’t do anything to draw the crook’s attention to yourself!
      Your next questions here would be, did the thief shoot the attendant or only grab the money and run? Did he try grabbing Patsy’s purse or not? the answer to these will determine Patsy’s next moves.

    • At Home With Grandma

      Awe! I was thinking that with the banana being the “weapon” I could verge on the ridiculous a little, not necessarily realistic. We ARE talking fiction here right? I don’t mean unbelievable but just a little on the far out side of things. I’ll post a post script and you can let me know if I’ve gone too far. Thanks for the feedback!

    • RAW

      Cindy –

      Your story was a good one, even if it was predictable. I thought about writing this assignment, but am afraid mine would end up being pornographic and not suitable for this venue! ha, ha.

    • RAW

      For real Christine? You were present in a real robbery? A bank? A drug store? How many others were present? Did he get caught?
      Were you a witness in his trial? Was he convicted?

    • Christine

      It was a low-key episode as far as actual danger went. When we moved to Montreal, Quebec, we had to get Quebec license plates (tags to US folk) for our car. At that time the Dept of Motor Vehicles only accepted cash — so you can imagine how much money the cashiers had collected by the end of the day.
      I was with a friend there about an hour before closing. It was a large room with several rows of seats, each formed an arc in front of a few wickets. Maybe ten wickets. Easily 60 people present. We were seated when we heard words over the loud speaker: “Toulemondenbas… etneregardaypas” was all I got.
      Suddenly everyone around us began dropping to the floor. Some hunched down, faces to the floor. The guy waiting at the cashier in front of me prostrated himself completely. I was quite bewildered, but my friend fell to the floor, too, so I did likewise. (Later my friend told me they’d said “Everybody down. And don’t look.”)
      Being clueless, I cheated. I looked. A chunky guy in sweats, with stringy longish dark hair ran through the area in front of the cashiers’ wickets. No mask even — but he looked like half the chunky guys in Montreal. He carried a cardboard tube, maybe a yard long, holding it at one end. So I didn’t see the gun. After he was out they locked the door and the police arrived about 20 minutes later.
      I doubt he was ever caught, but after a few episodes like this they decided to (risk getting a few NSFs and) accept cheques & debit cards at the DMV. Debit cards have made life a lot simpler in some respects.

    • RAW

      Wow! Am glad it ended the way it did and you are living proof.
      Before I ever knew her, my wife worked at a drug store in Detroit. Once she had a gun stuck in her face and two of the three robbers fled the scene with cash in hand. The third was shot and killed by a drug store guard who had just arrived at work and interrupted the robbery..
      There was a trial, and my wife had to testify, but she told me she never learned the outcome of the trial. My guess is she was kept from hearing it so as to not influence her testimony.
      True story!
      R. Allan

    • At Home With Grandma

      See above for conclusion!

    • RAW

      I love it! But I agree, you MUST show us how she can use a banana to foil the would be robber.

    • At Home With Grandma

      Thanks, I’m not a fiction writer, so this was all I got in my 15 min. maybe I can still develop it, but I’m at a loss so far…

    • RAW

      Flex your imagination muscle! The more outrageous your idea is, the better to delight your audience. Getting the original idea is the hard part. After that just let the story unfold or flow out of you. The one part I have learned is that the story must be consistent (to itself), and it must be believable given the circumstances you create.

      Am sure you have heard the expression, “Life is stranger than fiction!” It’s true. Why? Because so much of life doesn’t make sense. It just happens, often for reasons we don’t understand. But fiction must be understandable to be good. Your readers must be able to connect the dots, and if you are good, you can surprise them with something they did not predict, but it will be something that makes sense to them after they read it and think about it.
      Does that help?

      I like fiction because as you write it, your imagination is your only limitation. If you can imagine it, you can think of ways to make it real.
      Imagine an elephant that can fly? That’s Dumbo!!!
      That was Disney’s genius. He tapped into childhood imagination and enriched our world in a way, I dare say, that no one had done before.

    • At Home With Grandma

      Thanks, you’ve inspired me to try for a conclusion.

    • At Home With Grandma

      see above for conclusion!

    • Christine

      Congratulations! Not unpredictable, but it does give a nice ending. (It’s hard to do much with a banana, after all. 🙂 )

    • Cindy Prindle

      Ugh! I hate being predictable but I had fun writing it.

    • Tammy Adams

      Love that you chose the banana and I love that you made Patsy feel so real. She sounds like a handful! Hahaha

    • At Home With Grandma

      Creeping forward along the row of washers on her hands and knees, she snatched her banana up and continued forward until she could peek around the corner toward the attendant’s window where the would be thief was holding a knife, demanding money. The poor attendant was shaking so hard, she couldn’t get the cash drawer unlocked.

      Patsy sat on the floor with her back against a washer and absent mindedly peeled and ate the banana. What if she snuck up behind the robber, stuck the banana into his back and yelled, “Police, get your hands up” ? Would he believe it long enough to get him to give up the knife? Her wild imagination was getting the better of her again. Besides, she knew she wasn’t brave, or stupid enough to pull that stunt off. She tossed the banana peel aside and crawled back to a safer hiding place wishing she could do more.

      She heard the ding of the cash drawer as it opened, and the thief demanding that the attendant stuff all the cash in the bag. A pause, then a thump, but no ringing of the bell over the door as the robber made his get-away! She peeked around the corner and there lay the hooded figure of the thief, prone on the floor. What on earth?

      Grabbing one of her long sleeved tops and running forward, she yelled for the attendant to call 911. Then she pulled the unconscience robbers arms behind his back and tied them there with the sleeves of her top, ran back to her laundry, grabbed another top and proceeded to tied up the man’s legs as well.

      Once she had him unable to escape, she felt for a pulse and watched for the rise and fall of his steady breathing. What on earth had happened to make him just collapse onto the floor? Then she spied her banana peel near the prone figure’s feet and realized that he must have slipped on it, fallen and hit his head on the floor! Just then, she heard the sound of sirens approaching…

  3. Aspholessaria

    I tend to go with Stephen King, although I often have a rough idea where I want it to go. My characters don’t always agree though, but I don’t fight them. They know their story best, after all.

    In my latest effort, though, I know the ending but am a bit unsure how we get there. Oh, I do have my main characters sorted out.

  4. RAW

    Yes! I tend to be on the S. King side of writing, but I also like to let the ideas percolate in my brain to see where they can take me. It helps to write some and then give it a rest… sometimes literally. I once discovered a great surprise ending to a book I had been working on when I woke up one day with the idea in my head and had to write it down immediately!

  5. KP

    Funny you quoted King’s On Writing, I just got it for Christmas and love it. I’m not a fan of Stephen King’s writing (I’ve tried but I’m not a horror fan), but I do love his writing about writing if that makes any sense.

    Like Marley, the body was dead. Of that much, Scott was certain. Slumped deeply in the overstuffed chair in the corner, there was no rise or fall of the chest. No blinking of the glassy eyes or soft exhalation of breath. A small, battered suitcase sat between the dead man’s feet and an unfinished glass of whiskey rested next to his cooling fingertips.

    Scott leaned closer while simultaneously tilting his head back (Scott was a germaphobe and under the irrational fear that dead germs might somehow get in his lungs) to see if he could find a clue to the deceased’s identity. There was nothing, though. No name tag or badge to yield any clues.

    Scott straightened up and looked around helplessly. There was nobody else in the lounge at this hour. Airport staffing had suffered deep cuts in the recession, but surely it wasn’t ridiculous to expect an airport lounge without a dead body.

    Should he go get a cleaner? What would he say? “Excuse me, but there’s a dead man in the lounge next door.”

    The embarrassing thing was, Scott had been talking to the dead man for the past five minutes before he realized something was wrong. He was exhausted and had shuffled in, plopping on the couch across from the corpse and flipped open the Times. He didn’t see a word, though. He was fuming. It was late and his flight had been delayed – again – and he wanted to complain. He flicked the paper and huffed noisily. The television mounted in the corner was discussing the weather and Scott had muttered something under his breath.

    Of course, now it all made sense as to why the stranger didn’t respond.

    Scott felt his scalp prickle as he gazed at the body. He was 41, for God’s sake. He ran seminars for corporations and lectured on leadership and harnessing your company’s potential. Scott Milford was regularly featured in magazines about self-improvement.

    It would be highly frowned upon for him to run out of the lounge screaming bloody murder.

    It was just that he was kind of a germophobe, too. And was it his imagination, or was it starting to smell a little weird?

    He tried to reach out to touch the man, but couldn’t bring himself to do it. Instead, he reached down and, keeping his eyes on the man the entire time, inched the suitcase out from between his feet. It was soft leather, a rich mocha with years of use etched into its surface. Scott licked his lips. It felt like a crime to be pawing through a dead man’s belongings, even if it was just to find an ID card. Or paperwork. A cell phone. Anything to provide a hint. The man was old and seemed regal, even in death. He was probably somebody important, a president or CEO. People were probably wondering where he was. His chin rested on his chest as though he were dozing, except of course he wasn’t.

    Scott plunged his hand into the briefcase then hesitated. Maybe it was full of important documents. Maybe he should just go find someone. Except now he would have to explain why his fingerprints were on the suitcase (surely they took fingerprints?) What if the suitcase was full of money? Or government secrets?

    The first thing Scott pulled out was a Hustler.

    • At Home With Grandma

      Good one! You sure do get a lot of words out in 15 min. This has the makings of a great story, keep going!

    • Courtnie Donaldson

      I was really getting into your story. Please finish writing it. I need to know more.

    • drjeane

      Yes, please continue. I did notice that you mention the germaphobia twice (paragraphs two and nine). I loved the realization by Scott of his having been talking to a dead man for five minutes.

  6. Anna banana

    I always start with a situation, too. I struggle with outlining the story. King’s approach in writing works for me.

  7. William E Daye

    What if you found a dead body in the Airport Lounge?
    “We’ll catch up when flight lands okay?” he said into his blue IPhone. There was nothing he enjoyed more than his holiday visits home from college. “All right man?” he paused. “See you shortly.”

    Colton Tannehill clutched a large coffee in his right hand and slipped his phone back into his pocket. Landing at Newark Liberty International Airport when Christmas was just around the corner couldn’t happen soon enough, he watched as passengers strolled through the busy Tallahassee International Airport visiting various vendors. His body throbbing from the previous day’s workout he couldn’t wait until he reached the lounge near his terminal. Whistling to the tune of Billy Joel’s “For the longest time,” he finally reached the sitting area. He was fashionably late, he still hadn’t gotten used to out of state college deal.

    Hauling his wheelie carry-on bag behind him, Colton wondered what the weather in Newark was. He slid into a seat and began scrolling on his phone. He put his coffee on the tiled floor and lifted his leg across his body. The end of his designer sandal bumped into something. He didn’t take notice to it at first. He reached down to grab the coffee and bumped something again with his elbow.

    “Oh, my apologies s—-,” Colton stuttered. He realized what he had been accidentally bumping and kicking was a dead body.

    Sheltered from anything that could be considered obscene or disheartening for most eighteen years of his life, Colton stared in disbelief. The man slumped over in the seat motionless. Fully clothed with a FSU hat on. He appeared to be in his forties.


    • Christine

      Sheltered from anything that could be considered obscene or disheartening for most eighteen years of his life…

      I take it he didn’t ever watch TV? 😉

      If I were a REAL editor I’d highlights the “most eighteen years” and say “This is author trying to feed reader some info here. Cut it.” Or if it’s so relative, stick it in the second paragraph: Eighteen-year-old Colton clutched a large coffee in one hand… (Theright hand is also irrelevant.)

    • William E Daye

      Hey Christine, thanks for your thoughts. I’d expect there to be some things to be said especially considering it was a fifteen minute prompt. I really like and admire that you looked at this from an editor standpoint.

    • Christine

      You’re welcome. I’ve been getting some editing pointers from an expert lately — and what he can’t cut out! But he explains each change.

      If you appreciate an editor’s view, consider this sentence:
      His body throbbing from the previous day’s workout he couldn’t wait until he reached the lounge near his terminal.
      First: reverse order. Subject first; clauses later.
      Second: the two parts of this sentence seem unrelated; their connection needs clarifying. Are you saying he needs a drink to sooth his sore muscles, still achy from yesterday’s gym workout?
      (Muscles & bodies don’t really throb like head or tooth aches.)

    • William E Daye

      I was trying to say like he couldn’t wait until he reached the lounge so he could rest his sore body from the previous days workout. Sitting down as if he was tired from walking through the airport.

    • Christine

      Okay. Lounge brought to my mind the thought of a drink.

    • William E Daye

      Seating area. Probably could have just said that. 🙂

  8. Christine

    Oh, the parrot did indeed hear and then repeat snatches of a conversation Natalie had with Regina’s beau when she was upstairs. “I do love you Nat. I do. Awwk! “Oh, Tom! I love you, Tom! Awwk. Oh, Tom!”
    Regina will confront Nat with these incriminating statements. Nat of course will try to play down the importance of the silly bird’s chatter, but in fact she’s very much in love with Regina’s fiance, Tom — and he with her.
    Alas, it’s Regina who has the rich daddy, an important someone who can set Tom higher up on the ladder of success…
    Now I’m really getting into it. 🙂

    • At Home With Grandma

      There you go! Run with it! The suspense is killing me! Will true love win, or is the desire for money and status stronger?

    • Christine

      Tom comes to realize what life with snobbish, selfish Regina will mean for him. He & Nat run off to Australia and buy some sheep. 😉

  9. mim

    This is my first time. I read your stories and they are good. Often when I write I have a end or a place to go and my characters get me there.

    When I awakened I found that we had spent almost five hours together – in an airport waiting-room. Our flight was canceled. The snow outside was cold and hateful; with wind that could peel the skin off your face. Ohhh, it was bad. I looked over at my, chair – mate, for the night, and he was resting so peacefully. He was an elderly gentle – man. He told me of his journey. He was on the way home to see his family for the last time. He was dying; cancer and it was inoperable. He has two grandchildren and two grand-dogs. A young girl, 8 and a young boy, 9; one by each of his children. The dogs, I remember because he talked about them all evening. Doc and Ruth, both poodles; therefore, rotten, according to him. Doc once stole some cheese off the kitchen table and had the whole family looking for the cheese. His daughter went back to the supermarket admonished the bag boy, and got another pack of cheese only to come home to a sick dog lying next to an empty plastic bag of cheese. His laugh was contagious like a yawn; once you heard it – you had to join in.
    I looked at that peaceful faint smile and hesitated to wake him, but I was getting hungry. I reached and grabbed his hand only to fine that it had grown cold like the snow and the wind – outside.

    • Bruce Carroll

      Very touching. If I may be so bold, consider starting a new paragraph with “His laugh was contagious….” As it is, it sounds as if Doc is the one laughing.

  10. Josh Lee

    I ran. I had never felt the need to run like this before.

    What I just witnessed was beyond comprehension. It was terrifying. It was disgusting. It had turned my stomach into a bundle of knotted ropes.

    I thought about what had led me here. My day started normal enough. I woke up, went to the bathroom, and had my customary cup of O.J. I was preoccupied by the Saturday morning cartoons that were on television, which was left on in the living room from the night before. I hadn’t put together how unusual that was for my household until I noticed the half drank glasses of grape juice sitting on the coffee table. I assumed my parents had gotten up early for some juice as well. But where were they?

    I checked the dining room. Maybe they had made chocolate chip pancakes! They knew those were my favorite. The dining room was empty, apart from my backpack that contained the unfinished homework that certainly wouldn’t please them.

    Then it hit me. They were in the sun room! The weather had just recently changed and allowed us to spend time in the room with the mesh for windows. I ran through the hall that connected the two rooms for my healthy filling of pancakes only to find it empty as well.

    Now I was concerned. My parents were always around. It was never hard to find them. Dad sat on the couch. Mom took the chair where she got to take in the sunlight. Where were they?

    I took the long trip to their room upstairs. I wasn’t up there very much but I always enjoyed climbing the spiral staircase that led me to it. I opened the door only to find the horror that ruined my Saturday and many days to follow.

    I was told later that they were engaged in an act of love. But I didn’t find it very lovely.

  11. Abigail Clark

    I actually found this website “I Write Like” and after inputting a paragraph of one of my most recent works, it had calculated that I write like Stephen King! Reading this made me realize how easy writing can actually be – thank you!

    • Bruce Carroll

      According to I Write Like, I write like Agatha Christie. I’ll take it.

  12. Bruce Carroll

    She sat next to me on the airplane, taking the aisle seat. She was a criminal. Of that, I was certain. Her dusky blonde-brown hair and the scar on her forehead made her hard not to identify. This was Caroline Gath, convicted for kidnapping and attempted murder.

    Recaps of the trial were all over the news in the wake of her recent escape from Jackson State Penitentiary. The case against her had been iron-clad, or so the reporters said. She had kidnapped the twin sons of a wealthy business magnate, and had tried to kill one of them even after the ransom had been paid. Five hundred thousand dollars. Half a million, for the safe return of his two young boys.

    Her escape had gotten less coverage than the trial. She had been seen, according to news reports, getting into a white pickup truck driven by an unknown accomplice. The truck had headed onto the interstate, going north, the opposite direction of the airport.

    My heart raced as the plane taxied onto the runway. The flight attendants were giving their spiel, completely unaware of the escaped convict sitting on row 12. My chest was tight. My mouth, dry.

    Any minute, I told myself. Any minute and someone will recognize her. She’ll be escorted by the Air Marshall. Any minute, now.

    But that minute never came. After hearing about oxygen masks, using our seat cushions for flotation devices, how to buckle our seat belts (did we really need to be told how to do that?) and that the nearest emergency exit could be behind us, the flight attendants were done with their presentation, and the plane began its charge down the runway.

    My heart pounded and a cold sweat broke across my brow. In another moment we were airborne. And Caroline Gath, the infamous escaped kidnapper was sitting right beside me, calmly thumbing through an in-flight magazine. When did in-flight magazines become catalogs? Money drives everything in our culture. It can even drive someone to become a kidnapper.

    As we climbed into the night sky, I breathed a sigh of relief. I reached over and patted her thigh. I leaned close to her.

    “As soon as we’re out of the airport in Tokyo,” I whispered, “we’re home free.”

    • RAW

      Awesome Bruce! You got me! I didn’t see the ending coming!
      If I may, I would like to add a clause to your sentence.
      “I leaned close to her and gave her a kiss on the cheek.”

      ha, ha!!! Love it!!!

    • Bruce Carroll

      Thanks. The kiss is the perfect touch!

      Confession time: I knew where this was headed before I started.

  13. helena1765

    Even in silence there was chaos. No words needed to be spoken, but everyone was screaming with there eyes. We were on the brink of a war that would destroy us. No one dared breathe all there was a spoken fear among them. Anarchy had been an issue here and now someone finally took over, a ruthless man. The man was thick and muscular, he looked like he would squeeze the life out of you with his bare hands, people said he was a monster. Before Kalopsia fell we were fine, then our president committed suicide and we fell into the hands of anarchy. Our country was always corrupt; lies. Thievery and murder were not uncommon, but things had the illusion of being more beautiful than they really were.
    Everyone pretended that nothing was going on in the streets. This place was to pretty they said, we live in a paradise God breathed on and it was beauty beyond words, it was magical. The sky was always blue and the ocean was bluer. The sand on the beaches was white and at night a thousand stars danced in the night sky. When the sun rose a thousand colors danced in the sky. The mountains with a fresh ocean sent and crisp cool air and luscious green grass provided a whole view of the country‘s breathtaking scenery. Deep valleys with clean rivers so clear you could see all its depths. They say think of the prettiest place you’ve seen, and times it to infinity. Tourists came here and cried when they had to leave, but we cry everyday now.
    I can’t remember how or why president Juan Faldeja killed himself but he did. He wasn’t as corrupt as the other candidates but he did killed someone to get in office, we all assumed that his act of murder had haunted him to much and he couldn’t take the guilt anymore it was funny how so much corruption went on in a heavenly paradise.
    After his death our country closed down and then lost its mind. I remember the first night there was a riot. I’d never seen so much death and blood in the streets, but that’s what had happened. The monster man created a gang of people of all ages the youngest was nine. They started in the night dragging people with prized possessions and beating them in the streets for there things, burning things and breaking in stores for the meager amounts of food and water. Killing people for there clothes and houses, killing people all night long just to laugh. It lasted till the sun came up and they did it over and over.
    “We are falling apart” my dad told me, he laughed nervously and his intense blue eyes met mine. “But we are strong people, one day we will bounce back.”
    But things got worse, schools shut down because everyday kids were killed and schools were raided for the tiny things we had, a teacher got killed in the bathroom for a roll of toilet paper once! Then churches moved to homes and other secret places our buildings were taken over to house his people and serve as a way to intimidate us. The country flag in places that us people went to was turned upside down, it sent out the message we are in desperate times and only God can save us. Hospitals became the worst place to be on earth. Lots of dying people in the halls, each room had twenty people in it at least it was too much to keep up with. The ill and injured. You were better off trying to fight whatever ailed you yourself. Banks were worthless, if you wanted something you stole it before anyone else could. We were all hopeful and praying for God to save us, but God was only protecting us from the worst that was yet to happen. God would pull us through this, but people got mad at God so God decided to lift his hand.
    Eventually the monster took over everything, we were in total denial but, this is where we now are. One day the monster got his guts and he hacked the main radio system giving an order no one could ignore.
    “Everyone go to the president’s mansion NOW if you don’t my men find you and kill you and your family in the streets………
    We got the message and there was no way to retaliate. So with fear we all crowded onto the front yard of the mansion. It reeked of dead bodies and there were blood stains were every where. He came out on the steps and his army poured out and herded us in with guns, no one had guns anymore all the bullets were taken and what good is a gun without bullets? There was no escape. He came out, he really was a monster he was a giant big buff and muscular with a cold smile like a serpents. He was healthy compared to us starving souls and stronger. He had a nasty scar on his pale face and the torches made him look more evil. The mansion was a big with mansion surrounded by palm trees, it had marble steps that led up to the grand house. His voice boomed over us a nasty, gravely sharp voice, he sounded like a monster.
    He stepped his foot on the marble and the earth shook no one dared breathe. We all looked at the monster but he wasn’t a monster he was just human. But that’s what made him a monster. every time you looked in eyes you saw all you feared. Funny how someone can have that effect on you right?’ he opened his mouth and spoke words no human would ever speak.
    “ I see we are in need…. Of a leader right? he snickered. Then glared at this crying baby.
    “ Shut him up, it would be tragic I made him shut up, right? then he pulled out a metallic gun and shot a kid while he was in his mother’s arms, she wailed and then got shot. Unable to speak yet we all knew where this was going from the beginning and dreaded the moment that was coming.
    “ NOW, he boomed with an evil maniac grin I am your new leader nothing comes before me and if you don’t want to die you will do as I say. I am capable of anything you saw the baby thaaa……
    I never got to hear what he said, my dad took my arm and he ran with me he had a huge sack on his back with probably other bags in it too. We bolted off into the woods and my mother was with us too also with a large sack. We ran and ran gunshots in the background people falling over and an unmistakable silence, louder than any scream I ever heard, the world blurred by. I felt like I was deaf and blind to the world as we ran until there was nothing, nothing but three broken people in a vast plain under the unbroken midnight sky.

    • Helena

      Ok so it’s not what exactly was one of the prompts but this idea cane to me and the character’s story

  14. DV

    I shove my way through the lounge doors with my suitcase’s wheels struggling to keep up behind
    me. Rush, rush, rush, can’t I get anywhere ahead of time? So much for changing
    my daily habits from perpetually late college student to fully functioning

    I take a deep breath, and feel the cool breeze of the airport air conditioning fan over my
    skin. It was a humid day in Atlanta. The air was slow and oppressive, not good
    for getting much done. Still, my business meeting went fine. I was selling printer paper and toner to a midsize retailer in the city. The sale had been an easy one, The office manager looked
    at my cleavage more than he looked me in the eye.

    I plopped down on the low ridding couch and took in my surroundings. The lounge looked brand new, the smell of fresh paint lingered in the air, and the furniture looked as if it
    had never been sat on.

    I took the Louis Vutton knockoff from off my shoulder and began to dig through it’s giant
    contents for my flight information. Vowing to get a purse organizer, I gave up and dumped the oversized handbag onto the couch cushions. Books, Tampons, Nail Polish, Water bottles,
    and endless supplies of paper scraps came pouring out into the pristine lounge.

    Damn. It’s time to get a new system. I found my flight information, and began shoving everything
    back in.

    I slid from the couch to the floor, grabbing for the spare nail polish, and hair ties that
    littered the floor. On my hands an knees, I hurried to grab everything before
    someone walked in and found me in my disheveled glory. I lowered my head to
    look under the couch for escapees, and two glossy blue eyes stared unfocused
    back at me.

    A scream pushed past my lips, and I pushed away from the couch, falling onto my side, then
    scrambling away.

    “Help! Someone Help!” I couldn’t take my eyes off the those two blue iris’s and the gray
    skin that surrounded them.

    The airport check in attendant opened the door and looked skeptically at me.

    “D-D-D-Dead body!” is all I could stutter out as I picked myself off the floor, and
    hurried to put the man between me an the corpse stuffed underneath the couch I
    was just sitting on.

    “There is a dead body underneath the couch.” I say breathlessly.

  15. James Alfred

    Wanting to be able to write a story but not knowing where to really start at. I was told by a group of people to start with The Write Practice so here I am trying to learn to become a writer and get started with my book.
    I have the ideals stuck in my head but can’t seem to get them. I fight and fight to get them on the white screen of my lab top. Oh here comes the kids again. Dad what are you doing? Why are you trying to write Dad? Dad that is so dumb Dad. Why?
    I think to myself I will just read it and see how it looks and wait for them to go to bed. So i do that and

    I just stop and think to myself wow I really do suck. I don’t even have 10 pages done yet. Crap my spelling is just wow, where did i come up with that.I spend the rest of the night taking care of the spelling and guess what it is time for me to go to bed. What a day less than 10 pages done and i still suck. I should just stop trying to do something I cant do that well anyways.

    Thank for reading.

    • RAW

      For heaven’s sake man! Stop beating yourself up! You didn’t run before you could walk, and you didn’t walk before you could sit up!
      You just have to give yourself a break and keep at it. Don’t think negative thoughts. Just do it. Write something. Take a break and write something else!

      Don’t stop and edit as you type. Save that for tomorrow or the next day. The important thing is to get SOMETHING down on paper. Then let it sit for a day or two and come back to it. Two things will happen… 1) You will see it with Fresh Eyes. You will wonder why you wrote what you did and you will see a better way to express the idea; and 2) You will give your mind a break from trying so hard to get an idea down. Your subconscious will work on you while you sleep!!!

      There are very few things you will ever do right on your first try. Don’t be afraid of failure. It’s how we all learn. We get up, dust ourselves off, and try again! Eventually we are doing something effortlessly and wondered what all the fuss was about.
      When Thomas Edison was asked if he felt like a failure after testing over 1,000 filaments unsuccessfully, he said, No! I’ve learned a lot! I now know 1,000 ways NOT to make a light bulb!

      Look at your failures as the road to your success and you will never consider yourself a failure again!
      BTW, Michael Jordon had a huge number of failures before he became a success. But unlike all the others, he just would not stop until he became the best.

      That’s my lecture for today. I hope you liked it.

      R. Allan Worrell
      Author: Father John’s Gift

    • James Alfred

      R.Allan Worrell,
      Wow that is what I needed a little wake up call. You are right in every way. I couldn’t walk without sitting up. Couldn’t run without walking. Thanks a lot. I guess every now and again one needs to remember those things.
      Thanks again for your reply.

    • RAW

      You can do anything if you keep at it.
      Persistence is the key. Edison said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration!”. I believe it.
      Since you are unhappy with your work tells me you have high standards. It will be a beautiful thing when you are finally satisfied! And then you will be a proud father and want to show the world what you have created! Keep at it!
      Never give up, and never say die!
      Cheers James!


    • James Alfred

      Thanks Allan,
      Thats means a lot to me. And you are right and i will keep at it until it is time. Thanks again for your time and your advice.

    • RAW


      Is Alfred your last name or your middle name? I want to know so I can watch to see what you publish!


    • James Alfred

      It is my last name.

  16. TerriblyTerrific

    I used to be a fan of “Stephen King.” He has some great books. They are very intriguing. I am writing some children’s books. And, poetry for now. Will keep this in mind.

  17. Edmund Stone

    Delayed flight? I looked up at the display in disbelief. I wanted to be home by this evening, but instead I’m stuck here; might as well make the best of it, I think to myself. I find a cup of coffee and something sweet. Then I make myself comfortable in a seat by a sleeping man.I look out at the large window as I watch a plane taxi down the runway. We are alone, he and I, two weary travelers longing for an exit to our current situation.
    “Looks like we’re in the same boat, huh?” I say to the sleeper. He gives no response. I yawn and stretch. The typical ubiquitous action in these situations.
    “I suppose this is pretty hard. I can understand why your sleeping. I wish I could.” He says nothing.
    Surely he can hear me? I nudge the man and he leans over into the side of the chair. He seems uninterested in my conversation. I can’t blame him. There is no excitement here, only misery and leg aches.
    “Do you think flight 109 will make it by tomorrow? I hope not, I hope for tonight. I wonder why it’s delayed? Maybe bad weather?” I say, laughing. He still doesn’t answer. I suppose he’s not the humorous type. I have to say my humor may be displaced and ill-timed, judging by his mood. I think of one last thing to say. Something that may stir some conversation with the man.
    “Okay, I’ve tried everything I know, but your a tough customer. I understand that you would rather sleep than talk, but I’m starting to get a little frustrated here. Don’t you have anything to say?” I tell him and hit him on the back with a little more force than is necessary. He falls forward into the floor. He lies there, no movement.
    I look at him with puzzlement, trying to ascertain what is happening here. I check his pulse and realize that he is dead. Should this surprise me? He is and elderly gentleman, probably at least eighty. I shouldn’t be indifferent to this, but I feel there is an injustice here.
    Why should this man die here with no one to account for this? I kneel beside him and pray. I pray for his family and those that care for him. But mostly I pray for this God forsaken flight to get here!
    I decide to go looking for someone in authority. The airport is large, but soon I find people. People everywhere, lying on the floor. Rows and rows of dead bodies.
    I feel very alone now. Maybe the plane isn’t coming after all. What a calamity.

    • RAW

      You must have been immune to the killer virus which was let loose in the airport! My guess is everyone was infected including the pilots!
      You see a plane try to make a landing and crash in a ball of fire at the end of the runway.
      You turn to one of the airport’s big screen TVs hanging from on the wall near the ceiling and you see the words, SPECIAL REPORT – Bird Flu Epidemic! is flashing in red at the top of the screen. Pictures of New York city are shown with hundreds of car accidents, monster pile-ups, and dead pedestrians lying everywhere in the street and on the sidewalks.
      You wake up in a sweat and remember that you are a microbiologist working at the CDC in Atlanta, and you tell yourself, “I have to quit my job!”.
      You get up, shower, shave your face, grab a quick cup of yesterday’s coffee and go to work.

    • RAW

      After I wrote the above ending to Edmund’s story, I realized it is the same form of entertainment we get when we go to an amusement park. We scare ourselves to death on a 300 foot roller coaster, and we are delighted when we don’t die. Then we climb back on the coaster, and we do it again! Why?
      We love to see people survive impossible scenarios (James Bond, Mission Impossible) in inventive ways in books and movies from the comfort of our living room couches.
      Is this our way of defying death? We look at the grim reaper straight in the face, laugh and then spit at him! “You’re not going to get me today!”
      R. Allan

    • Edmund Stone

      I like that ending. If I were to expand it, I would go in that direction. I’ve been a member of the Write Practice for about a year now and have grown as a writer in that time span.The connections you make there will expand your knowledge of the craft expoentially. I’m now submitting stories to publications as well as poems. I’ve read more books this year, than the prevoius ten years combined and I’ve written a lot of short stories. I also tackled NANOWRIMO. Being a writer is a learning experience. I saw your comments to James and i agree. The best thing you can do as writer is read and write

    • RAW

      Thanks Edmund!
      Do you have a favorite fiction book or author whose style you particularly like?
      Big Al

    • Edmund Stone

      I have several I like, but Stephen King rates in the top ten.I woulds= say ‘Misery’ is my favorite.

    • RAW

      King has a terrific imagination and develops great characters, and I like him for that, but many, if not most of his books are so damn long! I tried to read, “The Dome”, and only got about 1/3 of the way through it!
      I heard recently that 100 page novels are the current rage. People want to have time to finish them!
      But I guess I like King’s novels in film. “The Green Mile” was one of my favorites. I can still hear the inmate stating his name, “Coffee, John Coffee… like the drink!” I just love that! What a wonderful character!

    • Edmund Stone

      I’ll have to admit, most of the stories I have read by King were audio books. I listen on my way to work, usually. I am reading the Gunslinger right now in book form, but am only a quarter of the way through. His novels are very long, but worth the read and the movies are great, but they don’t do the books justice.
      I love that line too, from the movie. That’s one book I haven’t read, I’ll have to see if I can get it on audio.

    • justin boote

      hello again. I found you! And what if the bodies were covered in bugs or something, and the airport was closed and there was no way out, and he’s trapped, and…and??!!!
      Commenting on writing, I do all mine the exact same way. Sometimes it’s just a sentence, or a rough idea. Usually I think ‘wouldn’t it be funny’ if ‘this’ happened. Then I’ll write the first paragraph and stare at it for a while with beer in hand, while I decide who does what. I’ve written 3000 word stories and at 2000, still don’t know what’s going to happen or how to finish, so;
      bring out beer, stare at screen and wait!

    • Edmund Stone

      I wrote that one evening between writing my current story and editing another. I wanted to go back and add to it, but couldn’t find the time, with the critiquing on the Write Practice and writing you have to take your pick. But I love the comments and the extra practice is good. But I still think the real magic happens on the Write Practice! I may take some suggestions though and expand the story. Thanks

  18. drjeane

    I’ve ordered King’s On Writing. Since I prefer to write in exactly the way he describes I’m sure I have more to learn from him.

  19. Karley

    The tiny stranger was flailing frustratedly in her helpless arms- but somehow, her mind managed to escape far from the nursery room and his deafening cries, and into a sea of panic-stricken regret. What had she done? What was she thinking when she took on the responsibility of caring for another human being? She could hardly take care of herself, for crying out loud! Her mother’s words echoed in her mind, leaving her with more self-doubt and pity than she could bear.

    She joined the baby in his miserable fit of tears. The two sat in the rocking chair holding onto one another and expressing their discomfort in the best way they knew how. If it hadn’t been for the sound of the door bell, the two might not have moved for the rest of the night. She lugged herself and the infant to the front door and opened it reluctantly.

    “Carrie, good God!” The woman gasped. “You look terrible!” She pushed past Carrie, into the front room, and set down her shopping bags. “Here, hand me the baby. Why don’t you go take a shower and then we can talk. I’ll feed him while you go get cleaned up.” She disappeared into the kitchen, cooing and coddling the baby (whose cries stopped immediately).

    Food…that must have been was what the problem was. Carrie shook her head as she turned on the shower faucet and undressed. She couldn’t even handle the simplest of problems and it was only day two back from the hospital. How was she ever going to do this motherhood thing?

  20. Ghazi Abbas

    I love Stephen King’s strategy. I use to start stories with no plan, but that stopped working for me, so I began outlining before I began writing, but after a while I realized that after I would write the outline
    I would have no fun while writing. There was nothing exciting for me, I knew every small detail of the story and eventually I would quit the story because I got bored. After that I tried to go back to writing with no outline and now that story is hopefully on it’s way to a published novel!

  21. Henry Gasko

    On the other hand, best-selling author Gwyneth Jones said, “I never change my plot for no one (well, almost
    never).”(quoted in Lisa Tuttle’s ‘Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction’.

    The complete quote is:

    ‘I always know what’s going to happen, but the why develops … Another way of looking at it: my synopsis marks out my playing field. This is the
    arbitrary grid which – because it doesn’t always hang together – forces me to develop my characters into more “natural” complexity. I often find myself in an
    impasse – as who does not? – where it suddenly becomes obvious that such and such a sequence of events does not make sense: Why should she believe him when he tells her X …? If he had the sense of a flatworm he wouldn’t go through that door … But she has to believe the unlikely tale, and he has to open the dreadful door, or my plot goes bust – and I never change my plot for no one. (Well, hardly ever).

    So for Jones, plot is king and character must obey its dictates, come hell or high water (literally). I find that doing it Stephen King’s way (character first) often leads to meandering and very uninteresting developments, and generally a lot of wasted time. Using the Jones method, you know something interesting is going to happen – you just don’t know why yet.

  22. Eric Beaty

    How to write like King: “Sally sat on a stool in front of the workbench. She heard the hum of the furnace and the ticking of the clock. The room smelled of rat poison and dried blood. She stared at the hides tacked to the wall. They were covered in cobwebs.
    They were cats. Her cats.” Yep. I’d say you nailed it!

    BTW, On Writing is one of my go to books for writing craft. I’ve had the original version ever since it came out, and it’s plenty worn with plenty of highlights and notations inside.



  1. How to Write Like Stephen King - Sulis International - […] Click here to view full article at […]
  2. Writing prompt: trapped inside for the night – Katelyn Piontek - […] In On Writing by Stephen King, he talks about his craft. He specifically mentions that he likes to take…
  3. Kill Perfectionism With This One Practice - The Write Practice - […] heard many stories are character led, whatever that meant, so I created a character; a gruff, bristly cowboy, leaning…
  4. كيف تكتب مثل ستيفن كينج؟ أن تكون «ملكًا» مسيطرًا على «مملكة شياطين» - ساسة بوست - […] طرق عديدة لكتابة قصة، ولكن ستيفن كينج يفضل أن يضع مجموعة […]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Say Yes to Practice

Join over 450,000 readers who are saying YES to practice. You’ll also get a free copy of our eBook 14 Prompts:

Popular Resources

Books By Our Writers

Vestige Rise of the Pureblood
- Antonio Roberts
- J. D. Edwin
A Shadow Stained in Blood
- Ichabod Ebenezer
Share to...