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Telepathy Not Required

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(Author’s note: trigger warning for quotes from Stephen King’s It concerning sexual abuse.)

Looking back on my childhood reading habits, I realize that I was a terrible “girl.” As a young lassie growing up in the 80s, I should have gone to Beverly Cleary Elementary, moved on to Judy Blume Middle School, and graduated with honors from Sweet Valley High. (Full disclosure: I did read these authors. I read just about everything I could get my hands on.) But none of them spoke to me, inspired me to write. When I grew up, I wanted to write like Stephen King.

Stephen King is not a purveyor of  fine “literature.” He’ll tell you so himself. Fancy prose and valuable life lessons are not the point (though there are some mini philosophy lessons woven into his tales if you’re paying attention.)

The reason I relate to his stories? Psychology. Inner voice. Often it’s more about what his characters don’t say than what they do. Thanks to italics, we’re privy to what they think: what’s motivating the girl chained to the bed, or the dad trying to save his son from the monsters that have overrun the supermarket. It’s why most Stephen King movies, honestly, kind of suck. Because what makes his books scary is about the insanity within.

I relate to this. When I can’t sleep at night, it’s the thoughts running through my head that keep me from dozing. During the daylight hours, it’s having to quell the impulse to do something utterly irrational that makes me wonder if I’m crazy. And it’s scary as hell.

An example, if you will indulge me.

Beverly Marsh, one of the characters in It, suffered sexual abuse at the hands of her father. He excuses his behavior by telling her he’s just “worried about her.” Bevvie’s mother is no fool – she knows something’s not quite right in her little domestic circle, but she’s not ready to confront it. In this excerpt, Beverly is also awakening to the fact that her father’s concern for her is more than just paternal love.

“Bevvie, does he ever touch you?”

“What” Beverly looked at her mother, totally perplexed. God, her father touched her every day. “I don’t get what you -”

“Never mind,” Elfrida said shortly. “Don’t forget the trash. And if those windows are streaked, you won’t need your father to give you blue devil.”

“I won’t

(does he ever touch you)

forget.”

“And be in before dark.”

“I will.”

(does he)

(worry an awful lot)

(It, p. 403)

King could have written in agonizing detail about Beverly’s thoughts and motivations. He did not. Instead, we get to experience what she is thinking directly. In my opinion, it’s more visceral, more moving than a paragraph of prose. It just works.

And it’s influenced me. In my novel (don’t tell me that you’re a blogger and don’t have at least the inner workings of novel or potential novel on your hard drive, or you can add “liar” to your c.v.), my protagonist is a teacher who wakes up one day to find that overnight the world has changed. Early in the story, she’s not sure exactly how – but it’s beginning to dawn on her that she’s a little different than everyone else. Here’s a brief passage in which she realizes she’s not in charge of her classroom anymore:

“Sit down, Mr. Frye.” He didn’t appear to hear her, but just continued moving toward her, the look in his eyes intense, and…something else… fear?

“Biggie, PLEASE return to your seat.” The buzzing got even louder, roaring, crashing, her head pounding in rhythm to the throbbing of the noise. Blackness started to creep into her peripheral vision. Hal’s dry, reasonable voice fled.

SIT DOWN DAMMIT OH GOD IT HURTS WHY WON’T HE LISTEN TO ME

The boy stopped as if frozen, and the buzzing cut off abruptly, switched off. That was when the laughter began.

There was no other way for me to write how Julia was feeling. Maybe it’s because of the way I read – quickly, pulling the gist from large description filled paragraphs in my haste to get to what happens next. Maybe it’s a reflection of my nature, impatient, mercurial. Or maybe it’s just mental release. Whatever it is, I’m heartened to know that it works.

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Written by Jen Szymanski

September 13, 2012 at 9:59 am

27 Responses

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  1. “Nice posting,” she wrote as simply as possible.

    (I wonder if they’ve ever read “The Talisman” by Stephen King and Peter Straub? Should I mention it? Nah. they probably have already, after all, it’s my favorite book by King.)

    yourothermotherhere

    September 14, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    • “Absolutely,” she replied. “It’s one of my favorites, too.” 🙂 (Thanks for your kind words.)

      jenami

      September 15, 2012 at 10:04 am

      • “LOL!”

        yourothermotherhere

        September 16, 2012 at 9:03 am

  2. Ah-ha! I’m a blogger and I do not have the potential workings of a novel on my hard drive! That said, I have about 3-4 screenplays, but that’s totally beside the point. And in screenplay land, you can’t write what characters think.

    Maybe I should try a novel though… mix things up a bit.

    Drew

    September 14, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    • I disagree – I think screenplays count. They’re novels, just in another form. 🙂

      jenami

      September 15, 2012 at 10:05 am

      • I agree with Drew on that front. I don’t have any potential novels in the works, but then again I aspire to write creative non-fiction (memoir and travelogue). That totally doesn’t count.

        rmk

        September 15, 2012 at 10:14 am

  3. It was that sense of the inner crazy that used to appeal to me as well. That and that he was very, very funny to me when I was about 13 years old. (The novelty has since worn off). Now I understand what the inner crazy is all about, and I think it’s too scary to think about.

    ashanam

    September 14, 2012 at 10:20 pm

  4. 😦 Thank for share 😦

    Vn-Japan

    September 15, 2012 at 12:03 am

  5. That’s an amazing article! Actually I just started blogging recently. But it sure inspired me to start writing a novel!

    pmandhyan

    September 15, 2012 at 12:22 am

  6. i am a blogger, yes and i just added ‘liar’ to my cv 🙂

    archbist

    September 15, 2012 at 12:36 am

  7. Stephen King appeals to me in the same way. Some one once told me it’s because I’m detail oriented and Stephen King never leaves anything, albeit what’s necessary for building tension, to the imagination. I, personally love The Dark Tower series. *I only read non-fiction, and Stephen King*

    theandihall

    September 15, 2012 at 4:20 am

  8. I like the name of this post, very clever.

    I also hate the idea that in order to read a book it has to be “literature”. If you like reading it then it’s worth reading. Stephen King is excellent and that style works well for you.

    rmk

    September 15, 2012 at 10:15 am

  9. there should be a rated “R” warning as it is pretty cruel of an out of genre posting – I’d say to bring up news issue topics of murder gore, like a girl chained to the bed or wrongful abuse with the inclusive word of accalimed sexual abuse… calling rape a sexal assualt…as opposed to rape abuse and the utilization with these Titles as Stephen King typically markets scary things not claiming a title of “Telepathy not Required” with reader attention grabbers of the type of stories or movies shown within what is utilized as fiction containing non-fiction realistically type of actions which could occur.Thus non-fiction things don’t always contain fictional occurences.

    The title “Telepathy Not Required” gets the attention of a reader might thinking within intellectual facets of various better ways but bringing up crime as other genres of comedic humors and action films yet the humor dramatics are not the same as a scary ‘thriller’ (ergo – chains)

    I would do a reblog – retitle – what the hek happened to- well, then there is typically the reader thing going as One reads word press expecting a completly different DEVELOPED format – one with not an offensive shocker to read the title then switch to worse than an incorrectness…

    It just hasn’t been the reputation of wordpress to jump with this type of style which could be seen as misleading or cruel.

    rosetteismyname

    September 15, 2012 at 10:23 am

    • Point taken. I will put a trigger warning beneath the title.

      jenami

      September 15, 2012 at 10:25 am

      • Thanks. I was also liking the title but if it weren’t for the trigger warning (thanks jenami) I would have been super disappointed. I am feeling good though.

        To jenami, happy to see an aspiring novelists get an FP, congrats. I have to say you make a great point with the whole mind reading within character dialogue. I quite like it, but i guess it’s not the typical way of literature, but why do typical if you’re going creative i the first place?

        Lila

        September 15, 2012 at 9:22 pm

  10. loved your post! it set me thinking… 🙂

    Teju

    September 15, 2012 at 11:41 am

  11. I miss 80’s books! ❤

    FoghornUnicorn

    September 15, 2012 at 6:33 pm

  12. just so u know, ur character(julia) got me tensed and embarrassed cuz they didnt hear her…. i wud call that success on ur part!…
    and great post!!… keep writing!!..
    its been in my head for a while, but i havnt started working or thinking of working on a novel… i love fiction but i think i cant make much up… i might write my own story, twist it a bit…a bit more i mean :p…. but yea u got me thinking about my potential novel 😉 thanx 🙂

    mirrormon

    September 16, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    • Many thanks. You should write – I think everyone has a story to tell, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction!

      jenami

      September 16, 2012 at 7:40 pm

  13. I too was a bad “girly” reader. Read SWH in grade 2 because I was reading anything I could get my hands on, and lets face it, YA wasn’t nearly as well done then as it is now. I started with Dean Koontz, then moved to King. There was nothing quite like reading The Stand when SARS hit Toronto. Now when I write mystery and an underlying note of horror underlies everything. Good analogies though! I think more importantly though, Stephen King knows who’s thoughts to share. He doesn’t jump around more than he should.

    hcfbutton

    September 17, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    • Definitely agree that YA has come a long way in 30 years. (Maybe that’s why I still read it even though I’ve aged out of the target demographic.)

      jenami

      September 18, 2012 at 6:53 am

      • Me too! I still appreciate it, and tell my mom who teaches in that age group what to look for.

        hcfbutton

        September 18, 2012 at 9:10 am

  14. Great piece of advice! I will try using italics in my stories. Thank you for sharing!

    mindfulacting

    September 18, 2012 at 8:20 am

  15. I really liked this post. Stephen King “used to be” one of my favorite authors. You write well, I look forward to coming back to read!

    angelteacher

    September 18, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    • Thank you so much for your kind words!

      jenami

      September 18, 2012 at 5:19 pm

  16. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an extremely long comment
    but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.

    Anyways, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

    girlsbarcelona

    July 21, 2013 at 7:12 pm


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