5 things I learned from Game of Thrones

grr got

Joe’s Post #38 — A few of the people on this planet have not watched HBO’s “Game of Thrones”. To my mind, it is the best show on TV, an epic, character-driven story set in GRR Martin’s fantasy world. It’s made me laugh. It’s certainly made me cry. It’s made me miss supper and believe me, that’s a big one!

And that got me thinking.

How has it affected the way I write? So, 5 things I’ve learned.

1) Do not be afraid to kill off your characters. Oh, I will go back to my own novel with a knife, now. Watch out cute bears! Be warned handsome hunters wooing my protagonist. I’m coming for you. (It’s far too easy to fall in love with your creations. Hey, you’ve birthed them, spent time with them, struggled with them, but sometimes they have to die.)

Many with disagree with what was done on the second to last episode of season 3. Some are even very angry. But here’s my thinking. It got everyone talking. Has anyone given up watching that show based on the last episode? Probably not. But oh momma, has it ever fired up the viewers. Who could not want to find out what happens next?

What more could a writer want?

2) Setting: Gloriously shown on TV, the settings breathe life into the story. The bleak and frozen land beyond the wall. The stark throne room in King’s Landing, complete with a throne made out of swords. The haunted ruins of Harrenhall.

The settings are so well done, both in the books and on-screen, that they become characters unto themselves. When I go to do my rewrite, I will look at kicking up all my settings. I will make them sing. I will make them shine. I will make a world that is both grand in scope and glorious in its details.

3)  How to make a villain likeable 101: Oh my goodness does this show do that in spades. The transformation of Jamie Lannister from ‘oh I want that guy dead and dead now’ to ‘oh isn’t he heroic?’ is nothing short of a masterpiece of writing. And here’s the kicker … he’s the same guy he was in the beginning as the man we hated as he is when he becomes a man we like. That’s the genius of the writing.

When you’re watching the show for the 9th time, take a look at how it’s done, at how the layers are peeled back to reveal not a two dimensional douche but a man who loves, perhaps not wisely, but passionately, a man who’s had to make some very hard choices and a man who is in serious need of a good PR department.

I know my villain’s backstory and why he so desperately desires to bugger up my heroes’ lives. I do. But I need more of that in my story. I need to flesh him out. Dig him out of his hole. Expose him to light. And, who knows, maybe like JL, you’ll find him a little more compelling.

4) Details matter: From the crests of all the houses, from the harpy above the free cities, from the curved swords of the Dothraki, it’s not enough to have grand settings, the little things matter, too.

I’ve got a few cool details in my world but what if I had more? What if I looked at every character, every scene, every moment in the story and asked, how could I make this better?

grr books5) There are no rules for writing: That second to last episode proved that, but look at the story as a whole. He wrote a fantasy story, a brave choice in and of itself. (I mean, who wants to walk into a party and explain that you do THAT for a living!) He has a bazillion characters we follow. He’s not afraid to kill people we love. He’s got a HUGE story that may very well take a hundred books/shows to finish and yet with all the rules that he breaks, we simply HAVE to watch the show, have to find out what happens next.

It’s because George Martin knows how to tell a good story and damn the rules. Not damn all the rules, you understand, but damn those that get in the way of him telling a great story.

He knows how to inspire the readers/audience, but he also inspires me.

He inspires me to do better. To write that amazing story that everyone will want to read.

That’s the most important lesson we can all learn as beginning writers. Write the story you want to tell. Write that story that everyone will love.

Now, back to my critiquing. Only one novel left.

6 thoughts on “5 things I learned from Game of Thrones

  1. It’s easy to write a story that is poorly written, has cardboard characters and no real setting, but grabs you by the neck and yanks you through the book, vomiting as you go – just look at what’s his face, the men’s adventure writer – Clive Cussler. GRR Martin proves it can be done with exceptional writing, and on a huge scale. This is not a story about people – it’s a story about history and what it does to people. About how the consequences of our actions aren’t always seen or anticipated, and how that affects good people, bad people and mediocre people. And it’s magnificent. Even as I hate Martin for killing off almost all my favourite characters, I still admire what he does, how he does it, and how very, very well he does it.

  2. You’re absolutely right about not neglecting the details — Martin’s attention to detail really helped bring those stories to life. What he did with Jaime Lannister’s character was also masterful.

    However, I stopped reading book 5 halfway through because he kept killing people and bringing in new characters I wanted to skip over. I picked it back up again briefly when we started watching season 3, and he killed two major characters in one chapter! Maybe I’ll pick it up again now that we’re between seasons…

    • I struggled with all the new characters brought on stage in the later books as well, Christi. And to me there were still plenty I loved and would have been happy to follow. Yet, funny thing, I began to love the new ones as well, even if they took away from the main story-line a bit.
      It should be interesting to see what they do on TV.

  3. “Not damn all the rules, you understand, but damn those that get in the way of him telling a great story.” This is what Beethoven did when he shoved European music from the ornamental classical period into the visceral romantic period. It was one of(the many) thing that made him a great composer.

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