... orr or and the Supernatural-all the things that seem to be the most overtly commercial. It's a grave mistake because they lose many levels of his work by doing the obvious. (Wukovits 68) King can provide a lot of content for a director to work with. Dialogue is done in a way that it seems real. The characters talk in a way that reader would talk. He targets his audience and transfers that over to his dialogue.
The characters as well are ones that are easily related to, but at the same time have a lot of things going on at the same time. For instance, Gordie is the everyday kid, but has issues with death, his parent, school, and so much more. The director can use all this content and since there is so much the director has a lot of options. All these examples of King's writing style and his focus on imagery can be found in many of his works. Using "The Body" as an example of King's imagery, there are several examples that can be found that did and did not make it to the film. For one King uses a technique called staging with his characters.
Staging is the way the characters stand in relation to each other or other objects which is used as symbolism. For example, if a couple was standing close to each other most likely the viewer could pick up they are in love and are happy. On the other hand if another couple was standing ten feet away from each other with their backs turned to each other the view could most likely sense some tension between the two. In "The Body" King uses subtle hints to the reader about the characters's staging, usually done in one sentence or phrase very quickly. Such as when the group of kids are walking, King may say who is ahead or who is lagging. King throughout the novel pairs up the four kids in the following way: Vern and Teddy are usually together and Chris and Gordie are usually together.
Even in dialogue the pairs can be found throughout the novel with Chris always talking to Gordie and so on. This pairing up can be viewed as one group represents parents and the other children. In the novel Chris and Gordie are the ones that do all the saving of Vern and Teddy, representing parents protecting children. Chris and Gordie act like guardians, since they are the ones that are really growing up and Vern and Teddy act childish. When the reader sees this image in their head, this pairing can be seen and translated into the way just stated; parents and children. The pairing also shows Gordie going from what he used to be, a child, into what he is becoming, an adult.
Staging is evident in other parts of the story as well. At one point in the story, Chris begins to talk to Gordie about friends dragging him down. (King 384) ) After this, King uses a different pairing for a short bit. King has the group lined up Chris, Vern, Teddy, and Gordie across with Chris and Gordie on the outside. The four kids are walking down the path following the railroad track. This image can be translated into what Chris was talking about with Gordie.
Vern and Teddy are bringing them apart. This use of staging was transferred into the movie very well. Of course it may be a little harder to see the image for someone who is reading the book, but King does a wonderful job of giving these hints of staging. Since King has his stories set up in a frame already, he knows how to stage his characters to get the most meaning out of the image. Staging is just one technique King uses; there are other techniques throughout the story. Another example of imagery that King uses is in his sub-story "Stud City".
King opens the story with a wonderful image of Chico, who is the main character of the story. This opening image can be interpreted well enough to learn a lot about Chico. King writes, Chico stands at the window, arms crossed, elbows on the ledge that divides upper and lower panes, naked, looking out breath fogging the glass. A draft against his belly. Bottom right pane is gone. Blocked by a piece of cardboard.
"Chico" He doesn't turn. She doesn't speak again. He can see a ghost of her in the glass... (King 313) In this image we can see notice first the broken pane replaced with cardboard. This symbolizes Chico's financial situation, so we can learn he really isn't well off financially. Then there is Chico himself and his posture that tells a lot about him.
First, we see that his arms are closed. This signifies that he is being unsociable and not very open with his feelings. Usually when someone is open they will open themselves physically such as a hug or something to that nature. Having Chico's arms closed shows that he does not want to be with this girl right now or does not want to deal with her. Second, we can see him looking out the window most likely we know he's thinking of something. The rain outside represents what he is thinking about.
In stories, storms are usually associated with negative things, such as evil or bad premonitions. In this case, we learn he is thinking of his deceased brother. Another example of use of storms is towards the end when the boys actually find the body. As they get close and tension rises, so does the storm. This is just one detail that can be interpreted in this one image. The next detail we see is the girl in one of the windowpanes.
The fact that she is in a pane is a technique called framing. Framing is when a person or object is set inside some type of framing which could be made from anything such as door way or even buildings in the background. She is set up in a box which is made from the window pane. This technique is used to capture the viewer's eye and bring attention to it so that it can be overlooked. The fact she is in the image and on the window gives the viewer the idea that Chico is thinking of her in some way as well.
So far we have seen examples of staging and framing by King, so it's real easy to see that he really does have his story set up in a frame already. King's images are ones that are made for a reason. Another example of King's imagery telling stories is his deer scene. When describing the deer, King describes the deer's facial features very well. The reader can get a very good picture of this deer.
King then states how Gordie is staring at this deer in awe. From this picture we see can connect the faces of the Gordie and the deer together, so we know they are related. In the movie, this is done in a way so that the eyes are used as a common connector. The two images of Gordie and the deer are switched back and forth, but the eyes stay in the same area. Either way, since we know they are connected we relate Gordie with the deer. The deer represents nature and nature is something that is innocent and uncorrupted.
When the deer runs away that is the exact moment the theme of the story is conveyed, "fleeting innocence" (Mayer 59) Since we connected the deer with Gordie through imagery we know that Gordie is losing his innocence with this journey. Another film technique that King utilizes in his work is the actual structure of the stories. Like films, the images are conveyed to viewers in a way that leaves the image in their head. King knows how to place an image into his reader's head very well. When writing his stories King tries not to overburden the reader with too much of an image. King will let the image set into the reader's head so that they can take the image and interpret it.
For example, when writing The Shining King wrote it in such a way that each chapter is set in one place with a limited scene in that location and letting each new scene have a different location. (Bare Bones 137) This structure very much resembles the structure of a screenplay as seen above which gives more evidence of how King thinks like a director. When reading the screenplay each scene would be set by its' location first, so the reader would have a setting in their head. This style helps the reader focus on the image at hand and not be confused with multiple images. This style is evident in "The Body" as well, with each scene allocated to one chapter.
Most of the time when a new chapter is introduced a new location is introduced as well. King likes to show his images so that the reader can get more out of the reading, given the reader can interpret the image. Analyzing images made from words can be difficult at time and might require a good imagination, but with King that task is as hard as it seems. Reading King's works, he fills them with enough description to create a solid image in the reader's head. It's up to the reader to take this image and learn from it, which does take practice.
Once accomplished, though, a reader can get so much more from King's work and even get more of an eerie feeling. It is easy to see that King almost thinks like a director when he writes. He uses images that can be interpreted to tell an even deeper story. King's stories are really words that create images that the reader sees. In knowing King's use of imagery, when reading any of King's stories it is good to stop and actually take in the image that King is describing to us. The image that he gives us isn't just for graphic purposes but actually to enlighten the story.
A lot of symbolism can be found in the images King chooses, as explained above. King has a director's mindset and uses images that a good director would use. It's up to the reader to take these images and learn and analyze them to fill gaps in the story. A story can become much more complete when looking at a picture rather than reading in between the lines.
Bare Bones: Conversations on Terror with Stephen King, ed. Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller (New York, NY: Carroll & Graff Publishers, 1992) 282.
Bergmooser, Mark. "The Outsider's guide to selling to Hollywood". Writer's Digest Vol. 78 (1998): 34.
Field, Syd. Selling a Screenplay: The Screenwriter's Guide to Hollywood. New York, NY: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1989.
King, Stephen. "The Body". Different Seasons. New York: Penguin Books USA, 1982.
293-436. Mayer, Geoff. "Stand By Me", Metro (9/1/1992): 56-59.
Wukovits, John F. Stephen King. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, Inc., 1999.