On “Pet Sematary” and Descriptions

I recently finished Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary.” As I focus on improving the description in my writing, I noted many great examples that illustrate why Stephen King is the master.

Whether you’re a fan of his or not, it’s impossible to not appreciate the skill at which he blends each detail of a scene without going overboard (as I tend to do).

From page 365:

“Gage Creed came in, dressed in his burial suit. Moss was growing on the suit’s shoulders and lapels. Moss had fouled his white shirt. His fine blond hair was caked with dirt. One eye had one to the wall; it stared off into space with terrible concentration. the other was fixed on Jud.”

The detail and specifics are great, giving a perfect picture of the character. Details like his “white shirt” and “fine blond hair” – even the details about his eyes – are lasting impressions.

Another example from page 346:

“Suddenly the mist lost its light and Louis realized that a face was hanging in the air ahead of him, leering and gibbering. Its eyes, tilted up like the eyes in a classical Chinese painting, were a rich yellowish-gray, sunken, gleaming.”

And we know specifically from the same paragraph what we’re supposed to remember:

“But what struck Louis were the ears, which were not ears at all but curving horns.”

In reading my own work, my specifics are either too much or not enough. As I read books like “Pet Sematary,” I hope I can find the right balance.

The book overall is a great read – and full of grief as well. One of the horrifying elements of the book is not the “scary scenes” – of which there are plenty – but instead the main character going through a terrible loss, something we all go through as humans. Mike’s Book Reviews noted the layers that can be experienced by reading Pet Semetary at different points in one’s life. As an adult, specifically one with kids, “Per Sematary” creates a completely different experience than for those who do not have a family.

The true horror is the reader’s subconscious ability to imagine themselves in the same situation as the main character. As I finished The book, I wondered myself: would I do the same as Louis Creed if struck with such grief?

I fear that maybe I would.

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