Friday, September 07, 2012

A Few Things I've Learned From A Game of Thrones

Warning:  fan girl here.  I am reading George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, and it is awesome.  As in it makes me want to turn in my laptop and give up writing for good.  You may not be a fan of epic fantasy, but I'm sure you know what I mean.  We all have writers that make us feel that way, cause they're so dang good.  Well, that's how Monsieur Martin affects me.  He is Tolkien on steroids, a dark and twisty Rowling.  If Thomas Malory and Shakespeare had a baby, this is what it would look like.

So, enough gushing, already.  Here are some things I've learned from the series (and I'm only on book four!):

1.  World building.  OMG, the history and world building in this series are incredible.  Politics, pageantry, wars, rivalries, longstanding hatreds, tragedy, backstabbing, spying, betrayal, family feuds.  Layer upon layer of it, making for a rich reading experience and total immersion into the world.  Yes, the names are weird and there are a lot of them.  Some of them even have the SAME names -- I've lost count of all the Walders and Aerys.  Don't pay them any mind.  Don't try to keep the various houses and sigils straight.  Read for the story.

2.  POV.  Every chapter is told from a different character's point of view, and there are a LOT of characters!  What you get is the big picture, a more complete understanding of what's going on and the impact the War of the Five Kings is having on everyone, men, women, children, warriors, and villians.

And speaking of villains . . .

3.  Multilayered creepers and mad kings.  Power hungry women frustrated by the social restrictions of this medieval world.  These guys make Machiavelli look like a boy scout.

4.  Character arcs.  One word: Kingslayer.  Jaime Lannister is a guy with a built-in ick factor that is off the scale.  (Spoiler alert)  He and his twin sister have been lovers since they were adolescents.  Ewwww, right?  Wrong.  By the end of book three, you LOVE the guy.  Not what he's done with his sister, mind you.  But the guy is a hero.  Wow!  How many writers can make you eat that bucket of worms and enjoy it? 

5.  Plot twists.  I can usually see things coming, but Martin consistently surprises me.  He does things I don't expect, that I wouldn't do as a writer, which leads me to . . .

6.  Killing your little darlings.  Mr. Martin has no problem killing his little darlings, even characters we have come to love.  It's that whole reality thing.  You know, that life isn't always fair and the good guys don't always win.  Well, the good guys are out numbered and hard pressed in this series.  But instead of making me want to throw the book against the wall, it pulls me through the pages. 

What about you?  What books or series have had a significant impact on you and your writing?

12 comments:

Suzanne Johnson said...

Oh, I've been wanting to read this so badly...and now I just have to. I'm not normally an epic fantasy girl, either, but I haven't heard a single bad thing about this series, even from other non-epic readers. (Except I have to finish the Dark Tower series first!)

I feel that way (i.e., giving up) when I read the memoir books of Rick Bragg (All Over But the Shouting, Ava's Man, and Prince of Frogtown). Also JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood because she creates such complex, broken characters.

Lexi said...

There are many authors that make me feel that way, but this guy . . . The sheer scope and magnitude of what he's done blows my mind!

Louisa Cornell said...

I haven't read the books yet, as I have a fear I will start and not want to finish until I have read them all and I have writing and researching to do! I have watched the first season on DVD and I must admit the story grabs you and does not let go in spite of the "ICK" factor. You WANT to know what happens next. Maybe once I sell my first book I will read the series as a reward.

Tolkien was very much that way for me. I read his books in junior high and was (and am still) amazed at his ability to create such a complex world.

Colleen Gleason's Gardella Regency Vampire series is another that has intrigued me and opened my mind to possibilities as a writer.

And Mary Balogh's Dangerous series is, to me, a study in how to build a character over an entire series of books until in his book, the last book, you know Wulfric, you want to know more and most of all you want to see him happy. Now THAT is a great writing skill.

Lexi said...

Louisa, I am a Tolkien fan, too, but Martin does it better. Heresy, I know, but I think the reason I'm more captivated by this series even than LOTR is the female characters. LOTR doesn't have any strong females, except for Eowyn, and she but briefly. This series? Numerous multi layered female characters believably told. Don't wait to reward yourself with this one! It's ah-mazing! BTW, I loved Slightly Dangerous too!

Cari Hislop said...

I haven't read Game of Thrones (or watched any of it), but over the years I have been sucked into other writer's worlds. Frank Herbert's Dune series is incredibly layered. I bought the first book to read again last year, but I haven't read it yet.

I don't write series, but my Regencies all exist in one world so most of the books interweave and I've ended up building my own world. I tend to spend reading time sucking in facts and snippets of information to feed my writer. You never know what will be used. This last week I finally bought Harriette Wilson's Memoirs (she was a Regency courtesan). Since starting it I'm finding it hard to put down. She's hilarious! I wish I'd read it years ago.

Lexi said...

Cari, the Dune series is another great example of world building. Memoirs of a Courtesan, huh? Sounds fascinating!

Chris Bailey said...

Game of Thrones sounds worth the time! Thanks for the recommendation. I love digging into a series. Preferably with maps.

Lexi said...

I know! I love maps. I keep referring to the maps in front, trying to orient myself and picture where they are. The hubby says he never looked at them!

Carla Swafford said...

I love/hate series. I love seeing characters grow and change, but often they grow and change into someone I don't care for.

The series I prefer are those that have different primary characters from the same world in each book. And don't have more than one character's story line going on.

Not sure if any certain series or author influenced my writing. To think of it, probably Shannon McKenna.

Lexi said...

When characters we love turn out to be someone other than we imagined, it feels like a betrayal, doesn't it, Carla? There are a number of characters in the Game of Throne series that go through some big changes. ;-)

KC said...

I love Game of Thrones. Right now I am on A Feast for Crows. I have to say I'm a bit disappointed. We are introduced to all new characters who we have to get to know and follow. Kinda exhausting. As it is I am slugging thru that book, but you can't deny what a great writer he is. WOW! Just wow.

Lexi said...

I know, KC, right? I am on the same book! It feels sort of strange, like we've abandoned our friends from book 3, but I am enjoying it anyway. He is amazing!