Before I even start this, I have to mention that I know I missed some great characters. How could I not? Stephen King has written many badass books that contained more memorable characters than I could shake a stick at. So go ahead and rail against my ineptitude, but remember they're all great, so . . .
Roland Deschain is at the top of my list of memorable Stephen King characters because he is the Stephen King character. He is a gunslinger who dominates Stephen King's seven-novel Dark Tower series. The man is cooler than Clint Eastwood and slicker than Jet Li. He is also the baddest protagonist ever. His homeland is ruined. Every one he loves is dead. He spends his days hunting a damn powerful wizard through different planes of existence where some of the gnarliest creatures and people you can imagine dwell (yeah, lobstrosities). He has knowledge that not only our plane of existence but all others are in danger against an even greater evil than the wizard he hunts, yet he travels on, picking up a paraplegic, a boy, a drug addict and a doggish thing to help him along the way.
Detta Walker is one of three personalities that live inside the woman who accompanies Roland. She is also the paraplegic mentioned above. What makes Detta Walker so memorable (more memorable than the two other women who share her body) is that she is straight up gangsta. She comes from the New York of the 1960's and is vehemently racist against whites. Therefore, when Roland takes her out of her time and place, she's a little hesitant to take orders from a honky. She gives Roland more than a heap of trouble in her effort to assert herself, an effort that makes her character unforgettable. She's more volatile than dynamite. I have to admit, I admire the hell out of her, even if she clings a bit to color.
Randall Flagg/Walter o'Dim/Legion/Andre Linoge/Leland Gaunt/It
Randall Flagg, and all of his other incarnations, is the oil to Roland Deschain's water. He is obviously Stephen King's favorite antagonist, appearing in the Dark Tower series, The Stand and The Eyes of the Dragon (seriously under-rated and one of my favorites). At least, these are the novels where he is directly mentioned. However, there are several instances in which he calls himself Legion and is identified with Legion. Therefore, mentions of Legion in It (small mention), Storm of the Century (screenplay), Needful Things and possibly more may actually be the same bad guy. I admit, there is no direct mention of Legion in Needful Things, but the narrative points in that direction.
Some of the above connections to Randall Flagg are ones that I have made independently, but there were hints and all Stephen King books connect. However, for the sake of this post, I will stick to the definitive manifestations of Flagg and describe him from there. He is memorable because he is hell bent on destruction. It doesn't matter if it is a person, a town, a dimension or all of reality. He just wants to f*ck with stuff and he does it with such finesse. He loves being evil. He has not a glimmer of remorse, love or any other soft feeling. He just wanders around looking for a reality where there is something weak to take advantage of. Man is he good at being bad.
Oh, Carrie White. Who can forget that angsty, abused, ridiculed and victimized girl from Stephen King's Carrie? Even if you don't read, you have surely seen the movie, if only for the shower scene at the beginning. Anyway, what makes Carrie memorable is not so much who she is (there are plenty of poor abused souls in Stephen King's works); it is what she does. After years of suffering, Carrie realizes that she can do things with her mind. She does a few things that bring our attention to this, but then she starts to become accepted. She might be on the road to being happy. Haha, no such luck. As it turns out, the popular kids were tricking her. After getting soaked with pig's blood at prom, she takes revenge by burning the school gym down with everyone in it. She then goes on a killing/burning rampage through town before stopping her own heart. Unforgettable.
We'll keep this one short and sweet. Dolores Claiborne was the tough cookie protagonist of the novel Dolores Claiborne. She put up with another character coming up on our list (you'll know what is memorable about that in a minute) and she killed her husband after finding out that he raped their daughter. She was a simple, hard-working, gruff, but loving mother. Who can forget that kind of average awesomeness?
Vera is the woman who convinces Dolores to kill her husband, very subtly, after strongly hinting that she had done the same. In the end, it seems that Vera and Dolores love each other, but boy is Vera a thorn in Dolores' side. It starts with petty nitpicking, but the older and more senile Vera gets, the more she antagonizes Dolores. Stephen King gives you the idea that Vera is not really senile, but enjoys tormenting others. To be honest, the thing that makes her most memorable is her petty abuse of Dolores. In her old age, Vera needs Dolores to clean her sheets and change her bedpans. She does everything in her power to make it a living hell for Dolores, controlling her bowel movements in an evil way. She also leaves Dolores a fortune when she dies. Talk about eccentric.
Oh, Annie Wilkes, that nutty murderess. Annie Wilkes may be one of the most memorable Stephen King characters because of the film based on Misery. It doesn't matter, though. Whether on film or paper, she is unforgettable. In Misery, Annie Wilkes happens upon her favorite writer after he gets into a car accident. She brings him home to nurse him back to health. While he's healing, she reads the manuscript for his new book. In it, he kills her favorite character. When she sees this, all cockadoodie breaks loose.
Annie Wilkes keeps the author captive in her house while subjecting him to all kinds of inventive tortures, not the least of which is writing a different Misery book, which she basically outlines for him. (A writer's nightmare.) She also hobbles him when she catches him sneaking around the house. If you don't know what that is, Google it. It's horrible. Did I mention she's a serial killer?
Blaine the Mono
I'm going to say that Blaine the Mono is the most memorable Stephen King character for me. Blaine the Mono, or Blaine the Pain, is a train that has gone insane. (Don't ask how a train could lose its mind. Read the book.) Stephen King puts his main characters on this train in Dark Tower III and has them take a ride with a murderous monorail in Dark Tower IV. The monorail forces Roland and his companions to play a game of riddles. It gets rather nutty as Blaine is the very old, very advanced computer that runs the train, not really the train itself. Okay, it's hard to explain. Read the series, already.
I am almost certain that there will need to be a part two to this article. Feel free to mention any characters you think I missed in the comments section. That isn't a guarantee that they will appear in the next installation, as not all Stephen King fans are alike. However, you might knock lose a memory in this rusty brain of mine and I would appreciate the effort. Now, if you don't recognize any of the abovementioned characters, start with The Gunslinger by Stephen King and then don't stop reading until you're a Kingoholic.