Stephen King's work constitutes a franchise all its own, complete with a shared universe and figures who often appear in multiple works. The scope of his writing often disguises one of its best features: the genuine, often heartfelt renditions of his various protagonists and supporting figures. As he revealed in On Writing and elsewhere, there are often personal connections to the characters in his book: most notably Jack Torrance, who famously channeled the author's fears about his very real battle with drugs and alcohol.
At a symposium in Lisner Auditorium in 2014, King was asked about the connection to his characters and which ones he considered his favorites. His answers were illuminating not only in the ways they reflected the author's point of view but how some of them came to embody his worst fears. A brief list of them follows in the order King mentioned, along with a description of any adaptations involving the character.
King Listed Misery’s Annie Wilkes as His Top Pick
"Annie Wilkes was fun," King said dryly when asked to pick just one character. She's certainly among the most storied of King's career. Misery was originally intended to be released under his Richard Bachman pseudonym. It recounts the tale of a celebrated romance author abducted by Wilkes -- his unhinged "Number One Fan" -- who holds him hostage and forces him to write a novel just for her. The character is an obvious stand-in for some of King's more intense fans, likely making her cathartic to create as well as fun. Rob Reiner directed a lauded adaptation in 1990, and Kathy Bates won the Oscar for her brilliant portrayal of Wilkes. Lizzy Caplan also played her in the second season of Hulu's Castle Rock miniseries.
King Named Lisey Landon as a Favorite Hero
Like Misery, Lisey's Story involves a famous author and a deranged fan. In this case, the title character saves the author from being shot. The pair wed and he dies, only to leave the widow facing dark supernatural secrets he left behind. King's writing is notable for its strong portrayals of women -- for which he cites both his wife and mother for inspiration at the symposium -- and Lisey Landon fits the bill. King cited her as a hero in contrast to Annie Wilkes' monstrosity. An eight-episode miniseries based on the book premiered on Apple+ in 2021, starring Julianne Moore as Lisey.
Stand By Me’s Boys Were Too Loveable to Forget
"The Body" appeared in Different Seasons, a collection of four short novellas that avoided King's usual stomping ground of horror and the supernatural. The four boys were childhood friends in the town of Castle Rock and embarked upon a multi-day trip to find the corpse of another boy supposedly hit by a train. The story was told from the point of view of one of the quartet, who had grown into a writer as an adult and mused on the respective fates of his three friends as he recalled the incident. Reiner directed a film adaptation in 1986 -- renamed Stand By Me -- which has since become a classic.
The Dark Tower’s Eddie Dean Holds a Special Place in King’s Heart
The Drawing of the Three was only the first appearance of Eddie Dean, who played a central role in The Dark Tower saga. Roland the Gunslinger finds him in New York City: addicted to drugs and acting as a mule for the mob. He liberates the young man from his criminal associates and -- after breaking his addiction -- Eddie joins Roland on his quest for the Dark Tower. His addiction can be viewed as a reflection of King's own, but it's his sharp tongue and the way it gets him in trouble that King seems to favor. Dean has yet to appear on screen, having been left out of the badly received 2017 Dark Tower movie.
It's Richie Tozier Is a Fan Favorite Among King and Fans Alike
Richie "Trashmouth" Tozier belonged to It's "Loser's Club," and, like Eddie Dean, his sarcasm often gets him into trouble. King quickly made the connection between the two characters at the symposium. Richie's friends admonish him with the phrase "Beep beep Richie" whenever his verbal jabs go too far, and it's become common parlance among King's fans (the questioner repeats the line at the symposium). Richie has been played by more actors than any other on this list. Seth Green played him as a boy in the 1990 miniseries, with Harry Anderson portraying the adult Richie as a successful stand-up comic. Finn Wolfhard played the young Richie in both the 2017 and 2019 big-screen adaptations of It, and Bill Hader stepped in as the adult Richie in 2019's It: Chapter 2.