It was a nice day... AND THEN EVIL CAME!
—The Collected Work of Stephen King, ultra-condensed version
We all gotta die, baby. I'm just trying to make it a little more interesting.
The current[when?] dominant author of the horror genre, Stephen King has added much to its stock of tropes. Many of his works reference each other, building up a larger universe. Known for being ludicrously prolific but also for producing far better writing than most people who pump out stories at his rate, and many who take a lot longer about it.
Many of his books have been made into films. Few of those have been good films, and most of those that are good are, ironically, not horror films. This is often due to the directors of the given movies having no idea how to convey the thoughts of King's characters, which often affect their situations just as much as their actions, into workable scenes.
For a list of his works which have pages on the wiki, see Works by Stephen King.
- Carrie - Scrapbook Story about an abused girl with Psychic Powers who takes a terrible revenge after a Prank Date to the prom. King's wife stopped him from throwing the manuscript out and convinced him to finish it. Made into a movie by Brian De Palma that received two Academy Award nominations (for acting), which later received a sequel and a made-for-TV remake. It was also made into an infamously terrible musical that has become a byword for "flopped on Broadway".
- 'Salem's Lot - Vampires in a small town in Maine, and the efforts of a few to get rid of them. Made into two TV miniseries. King's first visit to the Creepy Small Town, which he keeps coming back to, under a variety of names and states. Notable that his publisher advised him NOT to have this as his second book, lest he be pigeonholed as a horror novelist. Guess they got over it.
- The Shining - Winter spent in a haunted hotel. Cabin fever taken to the extreme. Twice adapted as movies; first a loose adaptation by Stanley Kubrick, which King was not very satisfied with, then a more faithful TV miniseries scripted/watched over by King himself. The arguments about which version is "better" have been long and passionate.
- Night Shift - Anthology of short stories, several of which have been adapted into movies:
- Dollar Babies -- King helps out independent filmmakers by selling the rights to use his short stories for a dollar and a VHS copy of the film. The rights revert back to him. Many of King's short stories have been filmed as Dollar Babies.
- The Stand - After the End, good and evil clash as a dozen characters journey across the land. The unabridged version of The Stand could probably be used as one. Made into a TV miniseries, with a new feature film in the works, as well as a tie-in Comic Book series.
- The Dead Zone - The protagonist is plagued by visions of a terrible future. Made into a movie starring Christopher Walken, and then served as loose inspiration for a TV series. Notable as a prominent American novel containing the "lone gunman" assassin figure as the main hero/protagonist.
- Firestarter - Andy McGee and his daughter Charlie are on the run from the Government Conspiracy, which wants to use their psychic powers for their own nefarious uses. The father is a known factor, but they have no idea what Charlie is capable of. The story may have invented the psychic power of "pyrokinesis". Made into a movie starring George C. Scott and a young Drew Barrymore.
- Cujo - Mother and son trapped in The Alleged Car by the titular rabid dog. Made into a movie by Lewis Teague, who would go on to direct Cat's Eye. By this point, King's substance abuse was so bad that he cannot remember writing this book.
- The Guslinger - First in The Dark Tower series starring a protagonist that embodies that exact trope, searching for the ultimate truth.
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
- Different Seasons - Anthology of four novellas with Idiosyncratic Episode Subtitling
- Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (or, Hope Springs Eternal) - Hope springs eternal, even in prison. Made into the number one movie on IMDb's Top 250.
- Apt Pupil (or, Summer of Corruption) - A teenage boy learns about the Holocaust right from the source. Made into a movie starring Sir Ian McKellen.
- The Body (or, Fall from Innocence) - Four young friends trek into the woods to see another boy's corpse. Made into a movie under the title Stand by Me.
- The Breathing Method (or, A Winter's Tale) - A woman wants to keep her child, no matter what. Has never been made into a movie, and it would probably be really hard to do so.
- Christine - The Cool Car from Hell. Made into a film directed by John Carpenter.
- Pet Sematary - Sometimes the dead walk. Sometimes, dead is better. Made into a movie.
- Cycle of the Werewolf - A small Maine town is menaced by a werewolf over the course of a year. A sort of combination short novella and Graphic Novel, featuring illustrations by Bernie Wrightson (of Swamp Thing fame). Made into a movie, Silver Bullet.
- The Talisman - Epic quest across America and its dimensional cousin, co-written with Peter Straub. A proposed movie adaptation has been in Development Hell since 1985 (with such names as Will Smith, Michael J. Fox, and Steven Spielberg being connected with the project at various times), and was at some point expected to see light as a miniseries, but nothing has came from it.
- Skeleton Crew - Anthology of short stories that leads off with the recently adapted The Mist.
- IT - A small Maine city is infected by an Eldritch Abomination disguised as a Monster Clown, and only the children know. Made into a TV miniseries most notable for Tim Curry's portrayal of said clown, and adapted again for a duology of films, with the first one to be released in 2017.
- The Eyes of the Dragon - Fantasy fairy tale of a king imprisoned, a brother on the throne, and the Evil Chancellor who might be just a tad familiar.
- Misery - Author held prisoner by deranged fan. King said that Misery is a metaphor for substance addiction, which he was struggling with at the time. Made into an Academy Award-winning movie (for acting).
- The Drawing of the Three - Second Dark Tower book. The gunslinger calls his True Companions, and boundaries of worlds are crossed.
- The Tommyknockers - A flying saucer slowly mutates a town's populace into aliens. Really stupid aliens...with absurdly advanced technology (as the book puts it, they're Thomas Edisons rather than Albert Einsteins). It's not a good combination. Like Misery, another excellent metaphor for addiction and co-dependency. In On Writing, King states that he did not intend the story to be a metaphor, but that his subconscious probably did. Made into a miniseries.
- The Dark Half - A writer's pseudonym comes to life, and he's not happy. Yet another substance addiction metaphor, as explained by King in the introduction. Written just after King was "outed" as the man behind Richard Bachman, and inspired a little bit thereof. Made into a movie starring Timothy Hutton and directed by George Romero. Also, made into a Video Game nobody remembers anymore.
- Four Past Midnight - Anthology of four novellas:
- The Langoliers - Passengers on a flight going through a storm get stranded in a dying, empty copy of their world, with a strange noise growing closer... Made into a TV miniseries.
- Secret Window, Secret Garden - An odd tale about the price of celebrity, in a way. Made into a movie (Secret Window), starring Johnny Depp.
- The Library Policeman - Everybody's worst childhood fears about what happens when you lose a library book, except real and happening to adults.
- The Sun Dog - A prequel to Needful Things, about a Polaroid camera with a dark power.
- Needful Things - A shop with bargains galore, each at a terrible price. Made into a movie which starred Max von Sydow.
- The Dark Tower - Third in the Dark Tower series. Roland's True Companions are completed, and travels through the decaying remains of a world that has moved on.
- Gerald's Game - Bondage gone wrong...as in, "husband dies of heart attack while wife is still handcuffed to the bed" wrong. You so wish someone had the stones to make this into a movie. First of the "abused wife" trilogy.
- Dolores Claiborne - "Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has to hold onto." Made into a movie starring Kathy Bates (Rotten Tomatoes gives it 87%). Second of the "abused wife" trilogy (explicitly connected by a solar eclipse and weird empathy to Gerald's Game).
- Nightmares and Dreamscapes - Anthology of short stories, some of which were adapted for cable TV in a miniseries of the same name.
- Insomnia - Elderly widower becomes involved in a struggle to determine the fate of the universe. No relation to the 1997 Norwegian movie thriller of the same title or its 2002 American remake with Al Pacino and Robin Williams.
- Rose Madder - Abused wife escapes her cop husband, starts over in a new city. Husband finds her, but not before she finds help from someone. Or something. Third of the "abused wife" trilogy (subtly connected to Gerald and Dolores).
- The Green Mile - Jesus reincarnates, is killed again. Made into a movie starring Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan.
- Desperation - AU version of The Regulators. Travelers get caught in the wrong desert, in the wrong little town, at the absolute worst time. Made into a TV movie featuring Ron Perlman as the crazy demon-possessed sheriff.
- Wizard and Glass - Fourth The Dark Tower book, mainly revolving around Roland's former ka-tet and his personal I Let Gwen Stacy Die.
- Bag of Bones - A grieving widower returns to his old vacation home since his wife's death only to realize it's nestled in a Town with a Dark Secret. Made into a two-part movie aired on A&E.
- The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon - A little girl gets lost in the Appalachians... with no supplies... for weeks. Made into a pop-up book.
- Hearts in Atlantis - Vietnam-era story anthology. First story was made into a movie.
- Dreamcatcher - Four old friends get stuck out in the forest on a hunting trip, right when the aliens land. Made into a movie.
- Black House - Sequel to The Talisman, again co-written with Peter Straub.
- From a Buick 8 - Rural Pennsylvania police keep a car - or some thing shaped like one - secreted away from John Q Public. After finishing it, King was hit by a van while the driver was throwing meat to his dogs and nearly died. He worked the accident into the Dark Tower books that he had yet to write.
- Everything's Eventual - Anthology of short stories, including the following:
- 1408 - An author attempts a stay in a haunted hotel room; things only get worse for him from then on out. Made into a movie starring John Cusack.
- Riding the Bullet - A man trying to hitchhike to his dying mother's side hitches a ride with a terrifying man. Originally an eBook, also made into a film.
- Everything's Eventual - A young man is hired by a shadowy individual to send emails that make the recipients commit suicide.
- The Little Sisters of Eluria - A Dark Tower side story, where Roland meets some strange vampires.
- Wolves of the Calla - Fifth Dark Tower book.
- Song of Susannah - Sixth Dark Tower book.
- The Dark Tower - Seventh and last (chronologically speaking) Dark Tower book.
- The Colorado Kid - Murder mystery that ends as unsolved as ever. Served as loose inspiration for the Syfy television series Haven.
- Cell - A cellphone-based Zombie Apocalypse. A movie adaptation is currently mired in Development Hell.
- Lisey's Story - A love story with a horrific edge; King's examination of what his wife's life might have been like if he had been killed in the car accident.
- Duma Key - A man discovers his paintings can alter reality.
- Just After Sunset - His newest anthology of short fiction.
- N. - A psychiatrist finds himself pulled into his dead patient's delusion. Adapted into a multi-part cutout-animated video series before publication.
- Under the Dome - A town comes apart at the seams after it's enclosed inside a mysterious barrier.
- Blockade Billy - Story of a baseball player mysteriously erased from the record books...and for a pretty good reason.
- Full Dark, No Stars - A collection of four short stories.
- 11/22/63 - Man travels back in time to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy.We'll see how it goes.
- The Wind Through the Keyhole - The eighth book in The Dark Tower series, but serves as an interquel to Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla.
- Dr. Sleep - A forthcoming sequel to The Shining.
- Mr. Mercedes - A retired detective investigates the case of a run-over when the alleged driver writes to him. King's first hard-boiled detective book, and the first of the "Bill Hodges Trilogy". To be adapted into a TV series in 2017.
- Revival - An Electricity-based faith healer tries to get into knowledge of the afterworld. turns out that tit qualifies into Things Man Was Not Meant to Know.
- Finders Keeper - second novel of the "Bill Hodges Trilogy".
- End of Watch - third novel of the "Bill Hodges Trilogy".
- Sleeping Beauties
Aside from his own work, King also wrote a number of novels under the Pen Name of Richard Bachman:
- Rage - A kid commits a school shooting and has a strange discussion with his classmates. Written long before the events at Columbine High School. No longer in print by King's request.
- The Long Walk - In a dystopian alternate version of 1980s America, the government runs a contest every year: 100 teenaged male contestants, selected from thousands of entrants nationwide, are sent on the titular journey down the Eastern Seaboard. The rules are simple: Walk. Do not leave the road. Maintain a speed of at least 4 miles per hour. Fall under that speed and draw a warning. Fall under that speed with 3 warnings and you are shot. Last walker alive wins his heart's desire. The story follows one year's group of 100, with predictable results.
- Roadwork - The planned demolition of a man's home for a highway extension sends him on a seemingly irrevocable path of self-destruction.
- The Running Man - Lower-class worker trying to pay daughter's medical bills in dystopian USA enters a game show designed to test the effectiveness of the police state. They hunt him, he evades them. If caught, he will be killed. Halfway through, he discovers that the game is rigged. Ends with wife vilified and murdered and daughter dead, but it's okay, because at the very end he crashes a plane into the skyscraper where the game show host is working. The plot of the movie adaptation (with Arnold Schwarzenegger) does not bear very much relation to this description; it handles some of the same elements, but plays them as parts of a glitzy Game Show rather than the more straight dystopian nightmare of the book.
- These first four were originally released individually, and then reprinted in an omnibus titled The Bachman Books.
- Thinner - Obese lawyer is hit with a Gypsy Curse, causing him to rapidly lose weight. Adapted into a movie.
- The Regulators - AU version of Desperation. A suburban summer afternoon gets very deadly very fast. Best known for being absolutely batshit insane. One character described it best as "Alice in Wonderland but the Nine Inch Nails version."
- Blaze - A mentally deficient conman kidnaps a millionaire's child. Marketed as a "posthumous" work of Bachman; actually a rewritten and edited version of a lost King manuscript that predates even Carrie.
In addition, King has also produced several non-fiction works of note:
- Danse Macabre - An examination of horror and science fiction based on King's personal experience, including his personal Nightmare Fuel and a rant about horror movies not influencing people to commit real world horrors.
- Faithful - A collaboration of lighter mood than his fiction that follows the 2004 Boston Red Sox to their first World Series win in eight decades.
- On Writing - An autobiography and a how-to for up-and-coming authors.
King has also written the screenplays for several TV miniseries:
- Golden Years: An elderly janitor at a top-secret research base gets caught in an accidental explosion and begins reverse-aging.
- Rose Red: Haunted house tale where the manse in question literally has a life of its own...and won't stop growing.
- Storm of the Century: An evil wizard arrives on a small Maine island during the titular storm; if the townsfolk give him what he wants, he'll go away...
- Kingdom Hospital: Eerie goings-on at a Maine hospital. An Americanization of Lars von Trier's Riget, combining supernatural horror with Medical Drama and a touch of Black Comedy.
King also wrote the screenplay for the 1992 film Sleepwalkers, collaborated with George Romero on the 1982 theatrical anthology film Creepshow (as well as its sequel Creepshow 2 and the sequel-in-all-but-name Tales from the Darkside: The Movie), and went behind the camera to direct the 1986 film Maximum Overdrive, adapted from his Night Shift story "Trucks", in which people are menaced by trucks and other vehicles that are brought to murderous life by radiation from a comet. Ironically, the story was later adapted again, rather more faithfully, under the original title.
He is also part of a rotation of featured columnists in Entertainment Weekly magazine.
- Action Survivor
- After the End: Most notably The Stand and The Dark Tower.
- Adult Fear: The loss or abuse of children is a recurring theme.
- The Alcoholic: Several characters, most notably Jack Torrance in The Shining and Jim Gardener in The Tommyknockers. King himself used to be an alcoholic.
- Several pages of Gardener's introduction feature a disturbing description of what alcoholism feels like from the drunk's perspective.
- Amazon Admirer: He says that, in addition to Tabitha Spruce wearing pretty stockings and owning a nice typewriter, this was why he fell for her. In a writing workshop where people were writing edgy poetry that lacked meaning, Tabby wasn't afraid to speak her mind while remaining calm and patient with terrible writing. She made allowances for his alcoholism and drug addiction, but drew the line and staged an intervention after Maximum Overdrive flopped, complete with a crew member getting injured. Stephen said that Tabby's faith in his ability to get clean only strengthened their bond.
- Anyone Can Die
- Attack of the Killer Whatever
- Author Appeal:
- This shows up in several ways; as King himself has said, "write what you know." A lot of his stories are set in Maine. Many of his main characters are writers. Many have struggled or are struggling with addictions and/or marital problems. More debatable: his tendency to dwell on details of bodily functions of all sorts.
- His love of music is also an incredibly pervasive element. If someone quotes a song, it's either very good, or very, very bad...
- A somewhat bizarre case seems to show up not in his writing, but in the commentaries he does on the DVD versions of his mini-series. He always: 1) praises the mini-series format, and 2) bashes War and Remembrance for (according to him) single-handedly destroying the mini-series format.
- Author Avatar: King writes himself in as an important character in The Dark Tower books, where in a parallel universe, the action of him writing the books affects the outcome of the main characters' lives. Also, there's the tendency of his main characters being writers (See below) and their ability to be described as "like Stephen King, but..."
- Author Existence Failure: Narrowly averted in 1999, when King was struck by a van while walking along a road. His personal brush with death was later incorporated into several of his works, including his Dark Tower series, which he hastened to complete so he wouldn't leave it unfinished if this trope came down for real.
- Author Phobia: King is known for writing about things that scare him personally.
- Auto Cannibalism: "Survivor Type" centers around a surgeon and drug runner who becomes shipwrecked, and is ultimately forced to do this.
- Bench Breaker: "The Gingerbread Girl", from the collection Just After Sunset, features a version of this. The protagonist is duct taped to a chair by a psycho who will return in a little while to kill her. She's unable to get free of the tape, so she ends up breaking the chair instead to free herself. This later comes in handy when the psycho returns, as she's able to use the splintered remains of the chair to fight him off.
- Big Friendly Dog: Cujo starts out as one.
- Bigger Bad: With the Canon Welding mentioned below: the Crimson King becomes this.
- Billed Above the Title: You will never have any doubt whether Stephen King is the author of a book or not, because you can't miss the words "STEPHEN KING" taking up almost the entire front cover. With a little tiny spot at the very bottom for the actual title of the book.
- Bitter Almonds: Subverted in Paranoid: A Chant when the protagonist believes arsenic smells like bitter almonds.
- Bittersweet Ending: In most of his books (though not all; see the page The Bad Guy Wins for more on this), the good guys win... but always with big losses.
- Black Comedy
- Body Horror
- By the Eyes of the Blind
- Canon Welding: The Dark Tower starts to tie together all the other works, and possibly a few works outside of King's, towards the end.
- Chandler's Law: Practiced in The Stand and, likely, in The Dark Tower.
- Cosmic Horror Story
- Continuity Nod: Many books make brief, casual, and often vague references to characters and/or events from previous King novels that may or may not have anything to do with the current novel, but that fans who have read those novels would be able to recognize.
- There's a massive example in 11/22/63 - the first bit of the book takes place in Derry, Maine, the setting of IT. Jake goes there to stop a man from killing his family and being sent to Shawshank. During his time there, he meets Richie and Beverly, visits the storm drain where George was killed, and hears Pennywise calling out to him at the ruins of a local ironworks. Later on, he moves to Jodie, Texas, where he hears of a rival football team from nearby town of Arnette, where Stu lives at the beginning of The Stand. The titular vehicle from Christine, as well as the Takuro Spirit, a car mentioned several times in The Dark Tower, make appearances as well.
- Cozy Voice for Catastrophes
- Creator Cameo: King often makes cameo appearances in the film adaptations of his works; his high point probably being his portrayal of the eponymous hick in the Creepshow segment "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill."
- Creator Provincialism: The majority of his stories are set in his native Maine. When he started spending part of the year in Florida, he started setting some of his stories there. Several books were set in or around Boulder, Colorado, when he lived in Colorado for a while. And all of them are set in the U.S. (except the ones set in fantasy worlds) and his entire body of work has only two notable non-American characters, the English Nick Hopewell in The Langoliers and the German Kurt Dussander in Apt Pupil (the latter is because a Nazi concentration camp commander can't be American).
- Cthulhu Mythos: King is a great admirer of H.P. Lovecraft, and as detailed below, has included both overt and subtle homages in his own work.
- Deal with the Devil
- Department of Redundancy Department: The title The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower.
- Disappeared Dad: Appears in several of his works. His own father left his family when King was two.
- Doorstopper: The Stand, Insomnia, Under the Dome, The Tommyknockers, IT, 11/22/63 and others.
- He acknowledged this tendency of his in the author's note to one of his short story collections. "Every story wants to be a novel, and every novel wants to be approximately 3000 pages long."
- Eye Scream: He uses this trope frequently. He's got a special brand of it; melting eyes, included in The Green Mile and "In the deathroom", where horrific electrical executions are involved.
- Eldritch Abomination: Pennywise, from IT, along with others, including the alien children from Under the Dome.
- There is a direct reference to Lovecraftian mythos in the short story Crouch End.
- And "CTHUN" from the short story N.
- Enlistment-Ending Minor Malaise: He mentioned in On Writing that he considered enlisting for the Vietnam War in the hopes it would inspire a book; his mother made him go to college instead because she didn't want him returning in a coffin. The biography Haunted Heart reveals that he wasn't qualified anyway due to punctured eardrums from a procedure meant to cure his ear infections as a child. (King wasn't that grateful as a child, saying the experience taught him to never trust doctors saying "This won't hurt.")
- A Fete Worse Than Death
- Finger-Twitching Revival: Carrie's hand jutting out of the ground in the film.
- The Fundamentalist: They occasionally show up, with Margaret White in Carrie being one of the most horrific examples.
- Mrs. Carmody in The Mist is also particularly nasty (even more so in the movie).
- Giant Spider: King is an admitted arachnophobe so these tend to show up.
- God Before Dogma: Religious characters who are not The Fundamentalist tend to favor this. Interviews with King confirm this to be his own worldview.
- Gone Horribly Right
- Groin Attack: Frequently of the non-comedic variety.
- Hard on Soft Science: In The Stand
- Hate Plague: Inverted in "The End of the Whole Mess".
- Haunted Technology
- Homage: The short story "Jerusalem's Lot" from Night Shift is a Lovecraft pastiche, written in epistolary style with sprinklings of Purple Prose, and contains a Shout-Out to that other Tome of Eldritch Lore from the Cthulu Mythos, De Vermis Mysteriis.
- Homicide Machines
- I Just Write the Thing: If On Writing is any indication, he usually starts out with characters and a premise, then works out from there what the characters would do and what would happen in response to their actions, with only a little thought of where the story will ultimately go. This means both that a character who's been heavily developed for 200 or so pages can get eaten on page 201 (see Dreamcatcher, The Mist), and that a character who was intended to die can wind up surviving through application of a previously-established resourcefulness ('Salem's Lot, Misery.) There have been exceptions where he tried to fit a story into a particular path, but the only one he still likes is The Dead Zone.
- This really comes to light in The Green Mile, where an aged Paul Edgcomb writes the first few chapters as though Coffey did murder those girls, despite the main plot point in the last half being the fact that he's actually innocent. He wrote the novel in installments, and admitted in the foreword of the first book that he himself may not even know how this thing ends.
- In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Strangely averted. All the most famous and successful adaptations of his films - especially the non-horror ones - avoid drawing attention to the fact that he wrote the original novel or short story.
- Syfy fixes this by making damn sure that every title is paired with his name religiously.
- Pointedly averted with The Lawnmower Man, which used his name but only the barest elements of one scene from the story. King sued and won the right to take his name from the film.
- Syfy fixes this by making damn sure that every title is paired with his name religiously.
- Inherited Illiteracy Title: Pet Semetary
- Infant Immortality: You would think children and babies are safe just like in any horror show, right? Oh no, absolutely not!
- Insufficiently Advanced Alien: The titular beings in The Tommyknockers.
- It Got Worse
- Kitsch Collection
- Lovecraft Country: This trope may as well be called "King Country" for how many of his stories have been set in New England (especially Maine).
- Meaningful Name: Stephen King means "crown the king", which is awesome considering how popular an author he is.
- Monster Clown
- Most Writers Are Writers: Started with Sue Snell in Carrie. Mike Noonan in Bag of Bones, Bill Denbrough in IT, and others.
- My Beloved Smother: A version appears in several of King's novels, especially Carrie and IT.
- Name's the Same Often re-uses names from other books to describe completely different people. Examples include: Patrick Hockstetter, who was a Shop scientist in Firestarter and a sociopathic schoolmate of the Loser's Club in IT; Martin Coslaw, who was the nice, crippled hero of Cycle of the Werewolf (and the film based on it, Silver Bullet) and a cruel disciplinarian in Blaze; he shows up a third time in Eleven Twenty Two Sixty Three as a high school football player and actor. Similar to a Continuity Nod (above). Also, has used names of people in his own life to help name some of the characters as a form of Shout-Out (see below).
- Next Sunday A.D.: Many of his books are set a few months after publication.
- Old Shame: King pulled Rage out of circulation after its potential involvement in several school shootings. He still regrets it to this day.
- Pen Name: Richard Bachman
- Person of Mass Destruction: The title characters of both Carrie and Firestarter.
- Police Are Useless: Though in From a Buick 8, the protagonists are police officers.
- Played with in The Drawing Of The Three, when some present-day cops (or gunslingers, from Roland's perspective) are sluggish boors while others are fit and competent. He lectures the former but praises the latter.
- The Power of Friendship: A frequent theme in many of his stories, such as IT and Dreamcatcher, are of childhood friends who have long since gone their separate ways but must now come together to defeat the Big Bad.
- Psychic Powers: A great number of his books at the very least touch some manifestation of psychic phenomena.
- Scrapbook Story: Carrie
- Shout-Out: Has named some characters after real-life colleages. Example: In the Castle Rock stories, the devious Verrill family is named after King's agent, Chuck Verrill.
- Shown Their Work: The solar eclipse that connects the three books of the "abused wife" trilogy was a real solar eclipse that happened in 1963.
- Silver Bullet: Cycle of the Werewolf, It
- Slap Yourself Awake: In "The Gingerbread Girl", the heroine bites down on her injured lip to keep herself from passing out when she should be trying to untie herself.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Take a guess.
- Simultaneous Arcs
- Skunk Stripe: Nadine in The Stand.
- Squick: Invoked in Danse Macabre when King describes his method.
I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I'll go for the gross-out. I'm not proud.
- Take That: Often toward ignorant right-wingers or educated snobs.
- Teens Are Monsters
- Teleporters and Transporters: King's short story "The Jaunt" combines teleportation with And I Must Scream.
- Theme Initials: R.F.
- Town with a Dark Secret: The titular 'Salem's Lot might be the best (worst?) offender. Other towns that repeatedly pop up are Derry, Castle Rock, and Tarker's Mills (Cycle of the Werewolf, mentioned in Under the Dome)
- Mejis in The Dark Tower.
- True Companions: Referred to as a Ka-tet in The Dark Tower. Also figures heavily into IT and Dreamcatcher.
- Unconventional Formatting: To varying, subtle degrees in several of his novels and stories.
- Undeath Always Ends: This shows up in several novels, especially 'Salem's Lot and Pet Sematary.
- Unintentional Period Piece: Tends to happen a lot with his earlier novels. He himself has said he's sometimes "too much a writer of the moment."
- The Verse: A good 80-90% of his stories mention or feature locations, characters, or events from his other stories, and a number of those are tied into The Dark Tower which ties them into the universes of some of his otherwise unconnected stories.
- Villains Want Mercy: In The Deathroom, the protagonist thinks that "in the end there might only be one way to tell the thugs from the patriots: when they saw their own death rising in your eyes like water, patriots made speeches. The thugs, on the other hand, gave you the number of their Swiss Bank Account and offered to put you on-line."
- Weirdness Magnet: He has referred to himself as one. Citing a time a fully dressed gin drinking Ronald McDonald sat next to him on an airplane during his first book tour.
- Went to the Great X In the Sky: In The Library Policemen, the town's resident drunk, Dirty Dave, is said to have gone to the "great ginmill in the sky".
- A World Half Full
- Would Hurt a Child: Not only would many of King's villains kill a child, but many of them actually enjoy it to no end. Yes, you read that correctly.