It jumps back and forth through time, between the summer of 1958, when a series of child murders in Derry, Maine spur seven 11 year-olds, the self-proclaimed "Losers Club," to try to track down the creature responsible; and 28 years later, 1985, when the killings start again. Like the twin time zones of the major characters, King also serves up twin monsters — Pennywise the Clown, or It, a demon with a thousand faces that has been operating in Derry for a very long time, and Henry Bowers, an older classmate of the Losers and a sadistic bully who spends most of his free time terrorizing anyone he deems weak or in his way.
[George Denbrough, illustration by Alan M. Clark and Erin Wells]
The Losers are:
"Stuttering Bill" Denbrough, whose brother George was the first of Pennywise's victims murdered in 1958. The de facto leader of the Losers Club, he becomes a successful horror novelist and is clearly the author's stand-in. I found Bill the least sympathetic of the group, however. All of the characters hero-worship him, but I couldn't see why.
Beverly Marsh, the only female member of the Losers. The six Losers are all in love with Beverly, as much for her beauty as for her plucky attitude. She has an abusive father and later an abusive husband. I wasn't convinced by a lot of Beverly's actions. She was viewed as smart and strong by her pals, but King frequently has her acting weak and unsure of herself and too dependent on the closest male in the vicinity.
Ben Hanscom, an overweight kid who has no friends until he meets the Losers in their play space, the Barrens, a thickly wooded, almost jungle-like area of town. The most well-rounded and sympathetic character, Ben has an innate sense of how things work and grows up to become a successful architect.
Richie Tozier, a fast-talking kid who likes to do "Voices" and who later becomes very successful West Coast radio DJ. Some of the voices King has him do — all racial stereotypes — a black servant's voice, a Foghorn Leghorn-like white Southern gentleman, and a Mexican right out of Treasure of the Sierra Madre seemed more than a little questionable, but Richie is still a likable character. His humor is something that is proven to be effective against It, but King introduces that fact and then drops it.