Excerpt from “My Magnificent Seven” by Robert McCammon about The Shining!
Robert McCammon’s official website posted a new 3,100 word essay entitled “My Magnificent Seven” yesterday and it’s a “must read” in our opinion.
In addition to some intriguing updates about what McCammon is writing at the moment, he also went into great detail about seven books that he revisits from time to time.
Here is what he had to say about The Shining by Stephen King (and also a wonderful aside about Omniscient Third Person, a topic that’s probably a little too near and dear to our hearts), but please be sure to read the rest of “My Magnificent Seven” on the official Robert McCammon website because he highlights some really wonderful books you need to read if you haven’t already!
An excerpt from “My Magnificent Seven” by Robert McCammon:
Number Four: The Shining, by Stephen King, published by Doubleday in 1977.
This is The Complete Book. It has everything. It captures a small space of time for a family in crisis, but it really encompasses the entire lives of those involved. The creation of these characters and this situation is absolutely magnificent, and this has the best scene of an alcoholic who is “on the wagon” seeing the “flaws” of being “on the wagon” that will probably ever be written. The malevolent spirits (and Guiding Spirit) of the haunted hotel aside, this is just a great book about a man trying to hold his life and family together. This is so rich in description, symbolism and themes that you’d have to write a book praising the book. And of course, one of the central elements is timeless, that of an Evil force finding a weakness and exploiting it. That was ever true and will be true until the end of time.
I will digress here for just a minute and say that The Shining would not work nearly as well without multiple viewpoints…the Omniscient Third Person (or “God”) viewpoint. On looking up “Omniscient Third Person” on the Net, you find a description that says this viewpoint technique is most identified with novels of the nineteenth century. In other words, according to this description, it’s considered creaky and old-fashioned.
What the &***???????
I recently saw George Martin on TV defending his use of the Omniscient Viewpoint in Game of Thrones. Again…I’m puzzled. What’s so troubling about the God viewpoint? I’ve had my own run-ins with editors over this, and I can’t figure it out. A book with many characters and a lot going on can’t be written without multiple viewpoints. It simply adds to the richness of the book. Is it the reader now who can’t handle multiple voices? The editors? It seems to me that trying to consign the God viewpoint to the “old-fashioned” trashbin is a way of saying, “Modern writers don’t use that technique.” And…honestly…someone has said that to me.
Never in my wildest dreams or nightmares would I have thought that a writing technique I depend upon to tell a story would be considered a liability. I am told that “modern” readers can’t keep the voices and viewpoints of the characters straight. Is that true? I do know that many of the novels we as a society consider classics were written in the Third Person Omniscient. What is this denouncement of TPO saying about our society now?
Well, I may have just answered my own question. By writing “TPO” instead of “Third Person Omniscient” to save time, I may have rolled over the rock to reveal that many readers now are so pressed for time so they want to get done with it as quickly as possible (the benefits of selling a book as “a fast read” and “action-packed”). I’ve done the same thing myself in describing Numbers Six and Five above.
I don’t know, I’m just wondering out loud about this. It is certainly true that a book with Third Person Omniscient will be more complex than one written in Third Person Limited. Maybe real life is so complex that it’s too hard to keep up with multiple character viewpoints in a book? Or at least book editors think that’s true?
Why anyone would think this is a problem escapes me. I’ve heard the Third Person Omniscient described as “jarring”. I don’t get this at all.
Anyway, The Shining is certainly written with multiple viewpoints and many of King’s other works are too. I don’t know if anyone’s ever pointed out this being a “problem” to him, but there I was sitting watching George Martin defend it on TV, and that’s a fact.
Now go read the rest of “My Magnificent Seven” on the official Robert McCammon website!
Robert McCammon is the New York Times bestselling author of nineteen novels, including the award-winning BOY’S LIFE and SPEAKS THE NIGHTBIRD. There are more than four million copies of his books in print. His latest novel, THE RIVER OF SOULS, is the fifth book in the Matthew Corbett series. It is available now from Subterranean Press in both trade hardcover and Kindle formats. His next novel, THE BORDER, is SF/horror. It will be published in Spring 2015 by Subterranean Press. Visit his websites: www.robertmccammon.com and www.matthewcorbettsworld.com.