Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about novels and novelists and whether they are true or false.
NOVEL URBAN LEGEND: Stephen King’s wife fished his work on the novel Carrie out of the trash and forced him to finish it.
A major example of a matter of chance having a major effect on how a person’s life turned out was the case of Stephen King’s first published novel, Carrie.
Carrie is best known for the film adaptation staring Sissy Spacek…
but it was also Stephen King’s first published novel…
It was his first published novel, but it was not his first finished novel, and in fact, it was almost never finished at all!
At the time he began working on Carrie, King was already a prolific short story writer, but he had no luck selling his first three finished novels. As a man searching for SOME sort of hook or inspiration, he decided to write a short story about a teenage girl after a woman chastised him for only writing about male leads. He decided to write about this troubled telekinetic teen to show that he COULD write a female lead.
However, after finishing a few pages, King soured on the story and threw it into the trash.
His wife, Tabitha (seen here with King at an event a few years back….)
fished the pages out of the garbage and told King he should give the work another try.
He agreed and soon he expanded the short story into a novel and soon that novel would be the first of his novels to sell, but certainly not the last!
The story has been exaggerated over the years to involve much more grandiose versions of the story, like King finishing the NOVEL and throwing the NOVEL into the trash before his wife digs it out. One version of the story involves Tabitha fishing the finished novel out of the trash and submitting it without King’s approval or notice.
The real story, as I note above, is a good deal less provocative – she simply told him to give a short story (which he had only written a few pages of, basically one scene) another try.
Now don’t get me wrong, that’s very cool of her, and it’s remarkable how it all ended up, but as cool of a story as it is, I think it’s worth noting that the “real” story is a good deal more subdued than some of the fantastical versions of the story.
The legend is…
STATUS: Basically True
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org