Tag Archives: George R.R. Martin

7 Writing Lessons from George R. R. Martin

Like many people, I’ve gotten hooked on George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire (adapted for television as Game of Thrones ). I’m reading it not only as a fan of epic fantasy, but also as a fantasy writer. Whether you like the books or not, there’s a lot to learn from them.

For example…

(NOTE: This post contains spoilers through A Storm of Swords, which is the third book of the five that are currently out. If you’re watching the TV series and haven’t read the books, you probably won’t want to read further — the current season will end halfway through the events of A Storm of Swords. I haven’t read the last two books yet, so if you have, please don’t post spoilers for the last two books.)

1. Some readers will follow you anywhere…if they trust you. Martin is infamous for killing off characters you thought were safe by the rules (or tropes) of fantasy writing. Granted, he’s lost readers because of it — dark, gritty fantasy isn’t for everyone. But he still has huge numbers of readers clamoring for more. Why? Because they’ve grown to trust his storytelling skills. He’s shown that he’s in control, that his plotting is well thought out, that he doesn’t kill characters without a good reason. More than that, he tells a story that people want to hear, despite the risks.

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Women in A Game of Thrones

One of the strengths of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, is its gritty realism. His writing doesn’t pull its punches. Among other things, that sensibility extends to his society-level worldbuilding. Today we’re looking at his treatment of women through that lens.

(Note: I’ve read the first two books, A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings, and haven’t yet watched the HBO series. There will be spoilers for both books. If you’d like to chime in, you’re most welcome, but please limit your discussion to the first two books/seasons.)

Cersei Lannister

Cersei Lannister. Image credit: http://www.hbocanada.com/gameofthrones/

Martin’s world is a classic medieval fantasy world, based on a feudal society where women are bargaining chips and their possible futures are severely limited. Many fantasy writers working in similar worlds take some liberties here to allow their female characters more autonomy and a greater range of options. Martin has chosen to stick with historical realism. This isn’t a bad thing in itself — science fiction and fantasy author Lois McMaster Bujold wrote an extremely strong noblewoman in Paladin of Souls under the same constraints. Let’s look at how well Martin does.

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If You Liked… A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones book coverSo you liked A Game of Thrones / A Song of Ice and Fire and you want more of the same. Certain online retail giants can give you some ideas for other books. But there are a lot of facets to the story and the world that George R. R. Martin has built. Different facets appeal to different people, and that means there’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to recommendations. For this edition of “If You Liked…”, I’m going to concentrate on character preferences.

If your favourite character is…

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