Opened in 1910, the Overlook Hotel serves as a playground for the wealthy and privileged for decades. The location hosts presidents, millionaires, and movie stars as well as mobsters and prostitutes over its long history. This long history is also marked by violent events, including murders and suicides. By the time the Torrance family arrives at the Overlook, the hotel has become sentient, actively consolidating psychic power for its own benefit, which is why it wants Danny. At the Overlook, ghosts haunt the corridors, elevators move of their own accord, and topiary animals come to life. It is unclear whether the hotel has been made sentient by the psychic power of events on the premises or whether it has always been sentient, made so by a supernatural power that has caused the hotel's long history of violent activity.
Danny Torrance's parents affectionately call him "Doc" after the cartoon character Bugs Bunny, whose catchphrase is "What's up, Doc?" Danny has shine, or extraordinary powers of perception, including mind reading and the ability to see the future. These powers cause him tremendous anxiety. Even before he and his family move to the Overlook Hotel, he worries about his parents' marriage and his father's job prospects. At the hotel he sees visions of past violence and has nightmares about his father trying to kill him. The Overlook wants Danny dead so it can absorb his powers and make itself stronger.
Born John Daniel Torrance in Berlin, New Hampshire, Jack is the product of an abusive home. He turns to drinking to cope with the demons of his past. There are hints Jack has some shine, like his son; this may contribute to his drinking problems. After Jack accidentally breaks Danny's arm in a drunken rage, he swears off drinking, but this doesn't stifle his rage. When he angrily assaults a student at the school where he teaches, Jack loses his job. Faced with few prospects, he accepts a winter caretaker position at the Overlook Hotel, hoping to finish writing a play and turn around his career. He ignores his misgivings about the Overlook, and under its evil influence he attempts to kill his family.
Wendy Torrance tolerates her husband's behavior, even after Jack breaks Danny's arm and loses his job, because she believes Danny would be devastated if she and Jack separated. She also has few options because of her own damaged relationship with her mother. Wendy thinks Jack is his own worst enemy, and she works hard to make the best of an increasingly bad situation because she loves her family. When Jack finally loses his grip on reality and the Overlook Hotel threatens to eclipse their lives, she fights back against both her husband and the hotel.
When Dick Hallorann meets Danny he immediately recognizes Danny's shine, and he discusses the boy's ominous visions about the Overlook Hotel. Dick has had similar visions, but he reassures Danny they are not real and not dangerous. Dick turns out to be wrong, but he goes to great lengths to help Danny when the boy calls out to him psychically. Dick's second meeting with Danny comes when Dick arrives at the Overlook to rescue the boy and his mother from Jack and from the hotel's wrath.