In 1958, Bill Denbrough, Mike Hanlon, Ben Hanscom, Eddie Kaspbrak, Beverly Marsh, Richie Tozier and Stan Uris (who call themselves The Losers' Club) each have horrifying encounters with the creature which takes on the shape of their greatest fears (but Its most prominent form is that of a sadistic, balloon-wielding clown called Pennywise). They are also being terrorized by the neighborhood bully, Henry Bowers, which only strengthens their mutual bond. The Losers decide to hunt down the creature and destroy It. Eventually, they track It down and in the ensuing enormous battle of wills (known as the Ritual of Chüd) they hurt It badly. As they flee Its lair, they realize the power they held as a group, a common purpose to defeat that which had not only hunted them but was the cause of so many child deaths in Derry, was weakening.
The narrative jumps forward to 1985, when murders are once again taking place in Derry. Mike Hanlon, the only one of the Losers who has remained in Derry, is convinced that the creature has returned and calls each of the Losers reminding them of the promise they made as children. Each of the six other Losers have gone on to success and wealth, but had completely forgotten about their childhood' s friendships and traumas. They all return except for Stan Uris (who kills himself after receiving Mike's phone call) and begin piecing together their hazy memories. They also each have encounters with It.
It decides to use Henry Bowers (who had harassed the Losers and himself encountered It in 1958) who is now committed to the Juniper Hill Asylum in order to kill the Losers. Bowers tracks them down and seriously injures Mike. The five remaining friends then make their way into the sewers to confront and destroy the creature for the last time.
The seven Losers are the children united by their unhappy lives, their misery at being the victims of bullying by Henry Bowers, and their eventual struggle to overcome the eponymous 'It.' They are clearly characters in the King tradition of sympathetic, plausible heroes who find themselves caught up in an evil they cannot quite comprehend but against which they must do battle.
William 'Stuttering Bill' Denbrough: Also known as "Big Bill." His brother George was murdered by It in 1957. Bill feels somewhat guilty of the murder because he'd been the one who sent George outside to play where he was killed. Ever since George died, Bill has been partially ignored by his parents. Beverly Marsh develops an intense crush on him during their time in the Losers Club and when the group return to Derry in 1985 they sleep together, but do not carry their relationship any further. He is the most determined and resourceful of the Losers and is the one who, both in 1958 and 1985, confronts It in the Ritual of Chüd and eventually destroys It. As an adult he marries Audra Phillips, a successful actress bearing a strong resemblance to Bev. As with other King characters Jack Torrance, Paul Sheldon, Ben Mears, Bobbi Anderson, Thaddeus Beaumont, Mike Noonan, Louis Creed and numerous others, in 1985 Bill is a writer.
Benjamin 'Ben' Hanscom: He was dubbed "Haystack" by Richie, after the professional wrestler Haystack Calhoun. Because of his weight, he has become a frequent victim of Henry Bowers who once used a buck knife to try to carve his name into Ben's stomach (he managed an unfinished 'H' before Ben escaped). Ben develops an intense crush on Beverly Marsh and the two get together after the 1985 defeat of It. In adult life, he becomes a successful architect and loses his excess weight. His building skills become useful to the Losers: from making two silver slugs to an underground clubhouse where Mike and Richie have a vision of Its cosmic crash into the site which would later become Derry, Maine.
Beverly 'Bev' Marsh: The only female in the group, Beverly is a pretty redheaded girl from the poorest part of Derry who has an abusive father who beats her regularly. She develops a crush on Bill Denbrough and her skill with a slingshot is a key factor in battling It. The boys are described as being fond of Beverly; all of them at some point have romantic or sexual feelings for her. As an adult she becomes a successful fashion designer, but endures several abusive relationships, culminating in her marriage to Tom Rogan who sees her as a sexual object and dissaproves of her chainsmoking, using it as an excuse to beat her. After a brief reunion with Bill, Bev subsequently departs Derry with Ben following the death of her husband (who was nearly used by It to kill the Losers).
Richard 'Trashmouth' Tozier: Known as "Trashmouth," Richie is the Losers most lighthearted member. Richie is always cracking jokes and doing impersonations which later prove very powerful weapons against It. He is "too intelligent for his own good," and channels his boredom in hyper-active wisecracking, to the point of being self-destructive (his flippant remarks to Henry Bowers leads to his near beating by Henry and his friends). His childhood trauma stemmed from his rapid-fire insults being compulsive and almost subconsciously triggered. He is the most devoted to keeping the group together and he sees 7 as a magical number (besides 3). He believes the group should have no more, no less than seven members. As an adult, he is a successful disc jockey. Like Ben, he has a crush on Beverly, though it isn't crucial to the plot. He has very bad eyesight and wears thick glasses as a child.
Edward "Eddie" Kaspbrak: Eddie is a frail-seeming hypochondriac whose asthma is psychosomatic. He has a worrying, domineering mother who, ever since his father died, has used Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy to bully Eddie into caring for her. Eddie is easily the most physically fragile member of the group. Richie calls him "Eds," which he hates (as is demonstrated when It bites off Eddie's arm and his dying words are to Richie, who calls him "Eds:" "Richie, don't call me Eds. You know I...I... [without finishing his sentence, "I hate it when you call me that"]"). He is a Methodist. When Henry and his friends break his arm and his mother tries to prevent the Losers from visiting Eddie in the hospital, he finally stands up to his mother and tells her that he is no longer the helpless kid she believes. He eventually runs a successful limousine business, but is married to a woman very similar to his mother. He is eventually killed by It in the final struggle after using his inhaler to wound It, making him the only direct adult victim of It (all others were killed indirectly). He also finds the strength to defend himself from Henry Bowers, eventually killing him with a broken bottle. He bleeds to death in the sewers after his arm is bitten off, ultimately dying in the gang's arms.
Michael 'Mike' Hanlon: Mike is the last to join the Losers when he is racially persecuted by Henry Bowers. The Losers fight back against Bowers in a tremendous rock fight. Mike is the only one of the Losers to stay behind in Derry and he is the town librarian who calls the others back when the killings begin again in 1985. His father kept an album filled with old photos which were important to Derry's history, including several of Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Through the knowledge he acquires of Derry and It he becomes an amateur historian of the town. He is seriously wounded by Henry Bowers and nearly dies as a result of Henry piercing an artery in his leg. He manages to seriously wound Henryl driving him off (Henry's wounds allow Eddie to finish him off later) and calls the hospital managing to get help regardless of Pennywise's attempts to block him. In the hospital a nurse controlled by It tries to kill him but the other Losers (in the sewers) share their energy with him and he manages to defeat the nurse. Mike later recovers from his wounds but like the others starts to lose his memory of the experience.
Stanley 'Stan' Uris: Also known as "Stan the Man." Stan is the skeptical, bookish Jewish member of the group (Uris does, however, admit that his family take a relaxed approach to their faith, rather than practicing it devoutly). Logic, order and cleanliness are deeply ingrained in his psyche. He is the least willing to accept that It actually exists and relies on logic more than anything else. Stan, much like Mike, is racially persecuted by Henry. As a kid, his main hobby was birdwatching. He later becomes a partner in a large Atlanta-based accounting firm. However, in keeping with being the character least able to accept the supernatural and the non-rational, he commits suicide by slitting his wrists and writing "IT" with his own blood while taking a bath upon receiving Mike's phone call. Rather than return to Derry to face the ancient terror, despite being the one to slice the Losers' palms in a blood oath, his character is simply unable to endure the horror as an adult.
Pennywise The Clown (IT): The eponymous villain of King's epic novel is described by Bill Denbrough as a glamour, or a shapeshifting monster who appears to its victims as whatever they fear most, though It often uses the shape of a clown as bait when stalking younger children. It calls itself the "Eater of Worlds", and manifests itself on Earth as the evil life-force of the entire town of Derry, forming a part of the physical geography and infrastructure of the town as well as the minds and actions of the people in it. It sustains itself by sleeping and waking in a cycle of approximately 27 years, during the 18-36 month peaks of which it stalks the town and murders people, mostly children. Some of its victims have been found partially eaten, but It probably does not consume their meat for energy as humans do. It is thought to draw power from causing extreme fear in the victim's moment of death, and as many people fear being eaten more deeply than simply being killed, It's intimate tie to fear is probably what causes It to eat some of its victims' bodies. It's victims are mostly children, owing to the powerful, elemental nature of the fears of children. It fell to earth from outside the universe (yet still within the greater expanse of the macroverse) in prehistoric times, as witnessed by Mike Hanlon and Richie Tozier in a smoke-induced vision in 1958. The nature and exact time of It's arrival is unknown, but it can be assumed to have been at least several million years ago, owing to the difference in climate and biota observed by Mike and Richie during their vision. It claims to be eternal, but eventually Bill Denbrough is able to literally crush It's heart in his bare hands. All living things must abide by the laws of the shape they inhabit, and the monster is destroyed.
George Denbrough: The first character introduced in the book, George is Bill's younger brother. He is a stereotypical child, innocent and curious. He is killed when It, appearing as Pennywise, rips off his arm. George's death is the first in the fall of 1957 and it is what drives Bill to defeat It. In 1958 It threatens to appear to Bill as George. However It never does so until 1985 (excluding Its appearance to Richie and Bill in Georgie's room; when it springs from the Canal in a photo wearing Georgie's face) in the sewers. When Bill sees It as George, he works through his grief and overcomes Its ruse.
Henry Bowers: The sadistic, psychopathic neighborhood bully who torments the Losers both in childhood and adulthood. Henry is shown to be a hateful and violent boy, racist and outwardly homophobic — in spite of that, however, he allowed Patrick Hockstetter to masturbate him after which he called Patrick a 'faggot.' His father is an alcoholic, who claims to have fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima, even going so far as to buy a katana from a bartender. Oscar "Butch" Bowers is portrayed as insane and blames the Hanlon family, the only black family in Derry, for all his problems. As a child Henry chases the Losers into the sewers with Vic Criss and Belch Huggins. The latter two die at the hands of It and Henry goes completely insane. Soon after he was incarcerated in an asylum for killing his father, then was held responsible for the child murders. Years later, he is driven by It to try to kill the Losers again. He fails to do so and is killed by Eddie Kaspbrak with a broken bottle after wounding Mike and being seriously wounded by him in turn (Eddie admits that he wouldn't have been able to kill him if Mike hadn't wounded and weakened Henry so badly first).
Audra Phillips: Bill Denbrough's wife in 1985. Audra is a famous actress. She and Bill have an occasional working relationship: she is set to star in an adaptation of a novel he wrote. When Bill leaves for Derry, he strongly urges Audra to remain in England and although she agrees, she leaves the next day to follow him. When she makes it to Derry, It uses Tom Rogan to capture her and uses her as bait to lure Bill Denbrough. When the Losers defeat It once and for all they rescue Audra but she is catatonic. The book ends with Bill using the last of his childhood's magic to bring her out of the catatonia. Audra has a strong physical resemblance to the adult Beverly Rogan.
Tom Rogan: The abusive husband of Beverly Marsh. Tom has a very predatory view of women and he thrives on the control he has over his vulnerable wife. When Beverly tries to leave for Derry, he refuses to let her and whips her with a belt (a practice so common he keeps it hanging in the closet). Tom is shocked when the normally docile Beverly fights back and almost kills him before leaving for Derry. Tom, desperate to find his wife, beats one of her friends until he finds out that Beverly is in Derry. Tom goes to Derry intending to kill Beverly and possibly her "writer friend" Bill Denbrough, whom Tom (correctly) assumes she is sleeping with. When he gets there, It uses Tom to kidnap Audra Phillips and bring her to Its lair under the city. Upon seeing It in Its true form, Tom drops dead from shock.
Victor "Vic" Criss: A bully and one of Henry's sidekicks. Among Henry's gang, Vic is most likely the smartest and most intelligent member and is the only one who truly realizes Henry's insanity, becoming increasingly reluctant to follow him. He has been friends with Henry since first grade in 1952. The novel describes Vic as having good morals despite helping Henry torment the Losers, more often wanting to scare or intimidate the Losers than actually cause them physical harm. When he makes comments and jokes, he often uses heavy profanity as well as implied or explicit violence. It is also noted that he is a more than fair pitcher during the rock fight, where he causes the most damage (partly and somewhat paradoxically because he did not want to be there). In early August, while in the Tracker Brothers store, Vic warns the Losers of Henry's deteriorating sanity. He also almost approaches the Losers to join them, but decides against it. By doing this, he seals his fate and joins Henry and Belch in following the Losers into the sewers, where the three encounter It in the form of Frankenstein's monster. It kills Vic by decapitating him. His corpse along with Belch's is later discovered by the adult Losers when they go to face It in 1985.
Reginald "Belch" Huggins: Another sidekick of Henry's who earned his nickname due to his ability to belch on command. He is very big for his age, being six feet tall at twelve years old. Like Vic, Belch has been friends with Henry since first grade in 1952. Belch is considered stupid by most people, which he makes up for in physical strength and fierce loyalty to his friends, especially Henry. He is believed to be a professional baseball batter. Belch follows Henry and Vic into the sewers to murder the Losers, only to encounter It in the form of Frankenstein's monster. After It kills Vic and goes after Henry, Belch defends him and attacks It. Henry leaves Belch behind and It overpowers and kills him by mutilating his face. His corpse along with Vic's is later discovered by the adult Losers when they go to face It for the last time.
Patrick Hockstetter: A psychopathic and solipsistic bully who is part of Henry's gang (despite the other members being annoyed with him and his generally low reputation) and has been friends with him since 1955. Patrick keeps a pencil box full of dead flies, which he kills with his ruler, and shows it to other students. He makes sexual advances to Henry at one point. He also takes small, usually injured or stray animals and locks them in a broken refrigerator in a junkyard, leaving them there to die of suffocation. Along with killing animals, Patrick also murdered his infant brother, Avery, by suffocation when he was five years old. When alone with Henry after lighting farts with him and his gang one July afternoon in 1958, Patrick gives Henry a handjob and offers to give him oral sex. This snaps Henry out of his daze and prompts him to punch Patrick in the mouth. Henry then reveals that he knows about Patrick's refrigerator and threatens to tell everyone about it if Patrick tells about the handjob. Once Henry has left, Patrick opens the refrigerator to dispose of the animal corpses but is attacked by a swarm of flying leeches, his greatest fear. The swarm sucks Patrick's blood leaving large holes all over his body, which cause him to slowly lose consciousness as he is dragged away by It. When he awakens, It begins to feed on him. Because It normally takes on the shape of what the victims fear the most when not appearing as Pennywise, and Patrick doesn't fear anything except for leeches and being sent away, It's face appears as just something blurry and morphing when Patrick looks at it. His corpse is later discovered by the Losers when they go into the sewers to face It in 1958.
Eddie Corcoran: A boy who lives in Derry. His younger brother Dorsey is killed by their abusive stepfather with a Scotti recoilless hammer. Although he did not know his stepfather killed Dorsey, Eddie suspects. Eventually, he runs away to escape his stepfather. He is killed by It (first taking the form of Dorsey, then the Creature from the Black Lagoon) by decapitation. His stepfather is charged and convicted of his murder. He kills himself many years later after seeing Eddie dead. Eddie is the only child who is actually shown getting killed by It other than George Denbrough and Patrick Hockstetter.
Peter Gordon: A well-off friend of Henry's that lives on West Broadway, who thinks chasing Mike Hanlon is a game, though Henry's crazed and increasingly violent behavior (such as attempting to outright kill Mike with cherry bombs and M-80s) begins to alienate him. He has been friends with Henry since 1955 and is also the boyfriend of an unattractive girl with heavy acne named Marcia Fadden. When school goes out for the summer, Peter (menacingly) invites Ben Hanscom to play baseball with him and while on a date with Marcia, he insults the Losers at the movies. Like Vic Criss, he also realizes Henry's sanity is eroding, albeit only after the rock fight. He is never seen in the story again after the rock fight. It is implied that he was eventually killed by It as it is recounted that all of Henry's friends were killed by It.
Steve "Moose" Sadler: A semi-retarded and very slow friend of Henry's. He has been friends with Henry since late 1954. Moose joins Henry in tormenting Mike Hanlon, who's father worked on the Hanlon family farm. He also helped Henry break Eddie's arm in the park. His name comes from the character from the Archie Comics. It is somewhat implied that he dies in the summer of 1958 as the Losers later reminisce that all of Henry's friends are ultimately killed by It.
Gard Jagermeyer: A very slow and dumb friend of Henry's. He has been friends with Henry since 1955. Gard once pushed Richie Tozier to the ground, breaking his glasses. He is also shown in the rock fight scene against the Losers, but retreats with Peter Gordon as the first two participates in the rock fight to run away. It is possible that he was killed by It as was mentioned by Eddie Kaspbrak that all of Henry's friends were attacked by It.
Richard "Dick" Hallorann: A chef in Derry Army E Company. Although Dick Holloran plays a minor role in this novel by saving Mike Hanlon's father from the fire at the Black Spot, he later plays a more significant role in the novel The Shining.
William Hanlon: Mike Hanlon's father. At a young age, William joins the Derry regiment of the National Army. He soon comes to realize that there is a deep racial divide within the army and within Derry (although he does admit that there are a large amount of good citizens in Derry as well as bad, and it might actually be the place itself that causes such divides between its people). This led to the fire at the Black Spot, a renowned bar made by the outcast African American soldiers. As the bar becomes more popular, the governing bodies of Derry become jealous of the bar's success. This leads to the fire at the Black Spot started by the Legion of Decency (the equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan), although William believes the fire to be a prank that got out of control. After escaping the inferno, William witnesses It seizing a member of the Legion of Decency. It was in the form a giant bird that was "hovering" over the crowd by using balloons attached to each wing. He died of cancer in 1962, four years after The Losers defeated It for the first time.
Alvin Marsh: Father to Beverly Marsh. Although only mildly alcoholic, he abuses Bev and her mother and is extremely mysogenistic. However, there are times when Al is shown to be a loving and caring father to Bev. He died of unknown causes in 1980 (possibly killed by It).
Publishers Weekly listed It as the best-selling book in America in 1986.
The story was adapted into a film in 1990. It is a four-hour long miniseries that was praised for Part 1, and the acting of the young Losers and Tim Curry as Pennywise but was criticized for Part 2's melodrama and poor special effects at the finale.
As of March 22, 2015, a 2-part remake is being made by Cary Fukunaga.