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The Wikipedia article on Stephen King's Carrie says that Carrie is based on two girls in King's schools. It has this quote, with a "citation needed" attached:

She was a very peculiar girl who came from a very peculiar family. Her mother wasn't a religious nut like the mother in Carrie; she was a game nut, a sweepstakes nut who subscribed to magazines for people who entered contests … the girl had one change of clothes for the entire school year, and all the other kids made fun of her. I have a very clear memory of the day she came to school with a new outfit she'd bought herself. She was a plain-looking country girl, but she'd changed the black skirt and white blouse – which was all anybody had ever seen her in – for a bright-colored checkered blouse with puffed sleeves and a skirt that was fashionable at the time. And everybody made worse fun of her because nobody wanted to see her change the mold

Googling some phrases from this mostly returns blogs and other sites which repeat this verbatim. Two books seem to be of interest:

Neither seem to be a primary source.

Even the part about Carrie being based on those two girls has a rather vague source: "King, (2000), p.78". If we assume that this assertion and the quote are from the same source, Wikipedia lists two books published by King in 2000 that might be the source of this quote:

  • 2000, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Scribner, ISBN: 978-0-684-85352-9.
  • 2000, Secret Windows: Essays and Fiction on the Craft of Writing, BOMC, ISBN: 978-0-965-01851-7

Who is (are?) Carried based on? Is the above quote true, and if so, where did it come from?

  • I think it's in On Writing because I read that and not the other one. I'll if I can find it again – Shokhet Mar 6 '17 at 18:22
  • The story appears in chapter 1 of On Writing, but not in those exact words. The girls are named, though. Is that enough for an answer, muru? – Shokhet Mar 6 '17 at 18:39
  • @Shokhet sure. We can fix Wikipedia to use the quote you provide – muru Mar 6 '17 at 21:51
  • The piece I quoted in my answer was summarized here: theguardian.com/books/2014/apr/04/… – Shokhet Apr 30 '17 at 4:24
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In chapter 1* of On Writing, King says that Carrie White was based on two girls that he knew from high school. All the details mentioned in the question are there, but not in those exact words. It is likely that Wikipedia's source for their quote is Secret Windows. muru has left a comment with a link to a website with the exact quote, attributed to an interview of King in the April 1981 issue of the Twilight Zone magazine.

And I also helped myself, digging back to my memories of high school (my job teaching English didn’t help; I was twenty-six by then, and on the wrong side of the desk), remembering what I knew about the two loneliest, most reviled girls in my class—how they looked, how they acted, how they were treated. Very rarely in my career have I explored more distasteful territory.

I’ll call one of these girls Sondra. She and her mother lived in a trailer home not too far from me, with their dog, Cheddar Cheese.

[...]

The other girl I’ll call Dodie Franklin, only the other girls called her Dodo or Doodoo. Her parents were interested in only one thing, and that was entering contests.

[...]

Whatever the Franklins might have won, a supply of clothes for growing teenagers wasn’t part of the haul. Dodie and her brother Bill wore the same stuff every day for the first year and a half of high school: black pants and a short-sleeved checked sport shirt for him, a long black skirt, gray knee-socks, and a sleeveless white blouse for her. Some of my readers may not believe I am being literal when I say every day, but those who grew up in country towns during the fifties and sixties will know that I am.

[...]

Dodie and Bill Franklin got on all right at Durham Elementary, but high school meant a much bigger town, and for children like Dodie and Bill, Lisbon Falls meant ridicule and ruin. We watched in amusement and horror as Bill’s sport shirt faded and began to unravel from the short sleeves up. He replaced a missing button with a paperclip. Tape, carefully colored black with a crayon to match his pants, appeared over a rip behind one knee. Dodie’s sleeveless white blouse began to grow yellow with wear, age, and accumulated sweat-stains. As it grew thinner, the straps of her bra showed through more and more clearly. The other girls made fun of her, at first behind her back and then to her face. Teasing became taunting. The boys weren’t a part of it; we had Bill to take care of (yes, I helped—not a whole lot, but I was there). Dodie had it worse, I think. The girls didn’t just laugh at Dodie; they hated her, too. Dodie was everything they were afraid of.

After Christmas vacation of our sophomore year, Dodie came back to school resplendent. The dowdy old black skirt had been replaced by a cranberry-colored one that stopped at her knees instead of halfway down her shins. The tatty knee-socks had been replaced by nylon stockings, which looked pretty good because she had finally shaved the luxuriant mat of black hair off her legs. The ancient sleeveless blouse had given way to a soft wool sweater. She’d even had a permanent. Dodie was a girl transformed, and you could see by her face that she knew it. I have no idea if she saved for those new clothes, if they were given to her for Christmas by her parents, or if she went through a hell of begging that finally bore dividends. It doesn’t matter, because mere clothes changed nothing. The teasing that day was worse than ever. Her peers had no intention of letting her out of the box they’d put her in; she was punished for even trying to break free. I had several classes with her, and was able to observe Dodie’s ruination at first hand. I saw her smile fade, saw the light in her eyes first dim and then go out. By the end of the day she was the girl she’d been before Christmas vacation—a dough-faced and freckle-cheeked wraith, scurrying through the halls with her eyes down and her books clasped to her chest.

Italics are in the original; bold is mine.

As an interesting aside, King continues:

Both Sondra and Dodie were dead by the time I started writing Carrie. [...] Dodie married a TV weatherman who gained something of a reputation in New England for his drawling downeast delivery. Following the birth of a child—I think it was their second—Dodie went into the cellar and put a .22 bullet in her abdomen. It was a lucky shot (or unlucky, depending on your point of view, I guess), hitting the portal vein and killing her. In town they said it was postpartum depression, how sad. Myself, I suspected high school hangover might have had something to do with it.

I never liked Carrie, that female version of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, but through Sondra and Dodie I came at last to understand her a little. I pitied her and I pitied her classmates as well, because I had been one of them once upon a time.


*I have the e-book, so my page numbers are not going to help you much. I'm not really sure how the book is arranged, but it appears that this passage is in section (?) 29.

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