It is cruel, George R.R. Martin, the amount of glee you take in killing off everyone we love in the A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novel series. In fact, we’re not sure which is worse: your initial offing of those we adore, or having to then rehash said losses in vivid, on-screen glory during HBO’s Game of Thrones. Whatever the case may be, the author discussed both iterations of Westeros during a joint event with fellow wordsmith Robin Hobb this week in London, and confirmed our greatest fears.
Namely: as the series draws ever-nearer to its end point, the killing becomes a heck of a lot easier to do. Because of course it does! Emotional manipulation is perhaps the only thing deadlier than a game of thrones, in our humble opinion.
“The way my books are structured, everyone was together, then they all went their separate ways and the story deltas out like that,” the author stated. “Now it’s getting to the point where the story is beginning to delta back in, and the viewpoint characters are occasionally meeting up with each other now and being in the same point at the same time, which gives me a lot more flexibility for killing people.”
But all that terrible gut-wrenching stuff: why do it? Why hurt us in this way? Martin essentially threw up his hands (metaphorically speaking) in an “Are you not entertained?!” sorta way in his response to the issue: “I could have written a story about a well-adjusted family. Ned Stark comes down to King’s Landing and takes over and solves all their problems. Would that have been as exciting?”
He also went on to provide a bevy of tips to young and/or aspiring writers while simultaneously showcasing just how grand a project can get when you really, really commit to it. “[The story] was initially proposed to be A Game of Thrones, A Dance of Dragons, and The Winds of Winter. There was a period when I thought I’d never get to A Dance With Dragons, because the second book became the third book, and then it became the fourth book, and then it became the fifth book. The tale grew in the telling,” he said.
“It’s all very well to discuss some of these things in the outline, but when you sit down to write it, other plots occur to you, secondary characters come in, you think of an interesting subplot. Suddenly the stew is much richer, but it also takes more bowls to fill it up.”
As for his favorite stories to tell? That should come as no surprise: “I’ve always had a soft spot for the outsider, for the underdog. ‘Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things,’ as the title of one of the [TV series] episodes goes. The angst that they have in life makes for more conflict, makes for more drama, and there’s something very attractive about that.”
“My Game of Thrones is told by outsiders of both types. None of them fit comfortably into the society into which they’ve been born, and they’re all struggling to find a place for themselves in which they’re valued and loved and respected, despite what their society considers their deficiencies,” he explained, touching on the series’ emotional resonance with much of its audience. “And out of that, I think, comes good stories.”
So: who do you think will die in the next installation? Let’s pretend we’re GRRM for 5 minutes in the comments.