Let’s talk about Game Of Thrones; not the show, the book series, A Song Of Ice And Fire. Ok, we’ll talk a little bit about the show – it did usher me to the books.
When the show came out, I was blown away. Never had I seen anything like it on TV. The acting, CGI’s, action, costumes/ props, dialogue, settings and plot were amazing. It was like watching a movie. It looked and felt epic. The characters were complex, but without losing their realism. Suffice to say, Game Of Thrones ruined all other TV shows for me.
When I looked a little further into the show, I soon learned that it was adapted from a book series. Although I was at a stage I had given up on fiction, I immediately knew that I wanted to read the books. And read the books I did. My love of fiction was reignited. I’ll break down the reasons why I loved the books.
As you watch the show, and then read the books, you are struck by how real everything feels. To begin with, no character is safe or sacred. Even POV characters die. This raises the stakes. You also begin to notice that every character’s actions have consequences. A character’s story has a definite trend. When they finally meet their end, you are shocked only because you’re not used to key characters dying before the final chapters.
Sometimes a character you love makes too many mistakes, or too big of a mistake. You know the path this will lead, but you still hope for leniency. Although it kills you when a favourite character dies, it also thrills you to know that there is no hand holding.
George R.R. Martin allows the scenes to unfold. It doesn’t read like there is a god figure (author) tweaking with the story or plot.
There were points I had to stop reading a chapter when I thought something bad was about to happen to a favourite character. I would move away from my computer and lie down for a moment. I would then mentally prepare myself for the worst that could happen. Once I thought I could handle the worst, I would resume the chapter.
Such was the power of fiction.
The world George R.R. Martin created is full of such detail that it ceases to feel like fiction. There are detailed maps, religions, cultures and histories. It’s like you’re reading actual history. You can tell that the research which went into it was phenomenal. If the World Of Ice And Fire ever existed, I imagined that it was exactly the way George R.R. Martin wrote it.
I knew that I wanted to implement such realism into my work. Labelling it fantasy or sci-fi is not an excuse to throw all logic out the window. I believe that when you build your world, come up with rules; rules which are followed by all characters, and which you don’t flout. Make the story believable. Allow it to make sense. A reader should think to themselves, “hmm, if such a world existed, I’m pretty sure it would be exactly as this guy wrote it.”
The characters are not cardboard cutouts. They each have a backstory which defines who they are starting out. We get an in-depth knowledge of the characters because we read the story through their points of view; the chapter titles indicating the POV character.
There are no heroes or villains per say (we as readers may choose to ascribe these qualities to the characters, the more we know them). It is a cruel world, and people are trying to survive, effect justice, maintain their positions or rise to power. Everyone is doing what they think is right or deserved. The purpose of the POV chapters is for the reader to understand the characters.
It is refreshing to get every character’s point of view. I find stories only from the “hero’s” perspective to lack in depth. Usually the hero/ protagonist is placed in high esteem, and the “villain” was born evil and represents all that is wrong with the world. Such a black and white view is overly simplistic and unsatisfying.
I knew that I wanted complex characters in my story. I also wanted to write the story through a number of POV characters, for the reader to get the full perspective. More than love or hate my characters, I wanted the reader to understand them.
From the Children Of The Forest, The First Men, The Andals, Aegon’s conquest, the house origins, the Rhaegar/ Lyanna love/ abduction story, and the list goes on. The elaborate histories make everything feel that much more real. George could write a series of books which explore the events preceding A Game Of Thrones. This rich detail adds to the realism. As you continue going back into the past of The World Of Ice And Fire, you become more and more fascinated.
George gave us a sampling of one of these elaborate histories in The Princess And The Queen, Or, The Blacks And The Greens, a novella included in the book Dangerous Women. It explores the Targaryen war commonly referred to as The Dance Of The Dragons.
I knew that I wanted to develop some history to my story. This would guarantee a realism you could not get any other way. I wrote a novella to explore a little bit of the character backstories.
The dialogue was smart, funny, blunt and engaging. You can always tell how smart an author is by reading their dialogue. Conclusion; George R.R. Martin is a creative genius.
We never forget phrases like;
When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.
The dialogue sold it for me. I would have been happy to just read chapters full of politicking and witty dialogue.
I knew that I also wanted smart dialogue in my book. I would stay away from clichés. There is nothing worse than reading a book full of dialogue which could have been lifted out of any old and uninspired publication.
These are the reasons I loved the books. George showed me a different type of writing; gritty, richly detailed, comprehensive, blunt and unforgiving. He helped me realise the type of writer I wanted to be.