With season four of Game of Thrones almost upon us, I’ve been in the throws of rewatching the first three series.
I have to admit that I was a latecomer to both the books and the tv adaptation, but I picked up the first novel in the A Song of Ice and Fire series last year, having heard the hype, and I’ve been hooked since. What with one thing and another I’m still only part way through reading A Storm of Swords – so I’m actually playing catch up to some of what I’ve seen in season three.
For me the Game of Thrones experience has been a lesson in characterisation and the importance of a realistic, believable character journey. What I love about George RR Martin’s fantasy world is that the inhabitants in it are all REAL. Every one of them – even those that might be considered lead heroes – can bleed (and so much more). No one is safe, and on a couple of occasions I’ve been left turning pages back and forth thinking to myself that there must be some sort of trick; that couldn’t have just happened to that guy, it must be a double or magic or something… Only it’s not. As a reader we’re used to being delivered stories about heroes who can’t be stopped, seemingly up against incredible odds yet somehow they come through (perhaps a little changed but certainly still with a pulse). Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a good unbreakable hero (I’ve written about a few and certainly read and watched plenty) but I admire George RR Martin for both his bravery in not allowing anyone to truly be ‘safe’ and for his ability to deliver such rich, fully-rounded characters that he’s then happy to bump off.
As a writer you can find yourself developing emotional connections with characters; in fact I think in order to deliver believable characters it’s important, to really be able to understand how they would react in certain situations. George RR Martin must have this connection too – each chapter is written from a characters’ perspective and every sentence drips with the inflection and vocabulary that the character would use. As mentioned, my takeaway lesson here as a writer is to be bolder, write from a place of love for the characters, yes, but do so with the verisimilitude of the story in mind at all times.
Lessons aside now, as a reader, A Song of Ice and Fire is exactly my kind of thing; it takes epic fantasy/sword and sourcery and gives it a firm kick between the legs. The result is a series that’s gutsy, takes no prisoners and doesn’t allow you to second guess the next chapter. What’s equally fantastic is that the tv series plays so closely to the source material that we’ve finally got some incredible, brave tv that also happens to be in one of my favourite genres. I’m all for it, and can’t wait until April for the next installment.
Now I just somehow need to finish a book and a half in four weeks. Goodbye social life…