Misery's bible


Stephen King’s Misery is (I think) one of his most interesting novels. It’s the very creepy and effective story of an obsessed fan (Annie Wilks) who keeps the author of a beloved series locked up in her home until he produces the sequel she wants to read. Never mind that he doesn’t want to write one. When he does write one, eventually, under duress, the axe-wielding psycho Annie is dissatisfied and makes him do it all over again.

And of course, it’s hard not to see King in his main character; who else is he going to draw on but himself, the man with legions of adoring readers? (The movie, directed by Rob Reiner, is one of the few successful attempts to translate King to the screen — Kathy Bates as Annie (above, left) is priceless.)

One thing that struck me in the story is the part where Paul Sheldon tries to explain why he couldn’t produce the novel Annie wants: he doesn’t have his bible with him. By which he means, all his notes about the series, the characters, the background, the timetable, all that good stuff. Paul sneers at Annie’s lack of understanding of how these things work.

Well, I write a series (when the next novel is published in early summer, I’ll have over a million words in print), and I don’t have a bible. No well organized book of background material for me to refer to. If I can’t remember what color somebody’s eyes are, I have to go find that (luckily, I can search through the manuscripts on the computer quite quickly). If I don’t remember how old so-and-so is, I’ve got to reconstruct that. And I often forget what I’ve named minor characters.

Sloppy me. I’ve tried many times to organize my copious notes. Because I do keep them. Somewhere around here are character studies for all the major and many of the minor characters. But I can never find them when I want them. I can never find the notes from my reading of histories, either. Very sloppy me.

I’ll try to do better. But if I became super organized about these things, and never made a mistake, I might put the copy editor out of work, and I certainly would deny some readers the pleasure they get from pointing out my errors. Wouldn’t that be unkind and inconsiderate of me?

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.