The Battle of the Bastards was run by idiots - or - why the Game of Thrones has stupid fight scenes

Sympathy for George R.R. Martin

I’m not a fan of “Game of Thrones.”  I watched the first season and most of the second, but gave up at the third.  It never seemed to go anywhere and the constant killing of main characters bothered me.

Call me a traditionalist, but I believe that characters in fiction should serve a purpose.   It’s fine to kill off a main character (even the protagonist) if the plot justifies it, but after a while the trick gets old.  I think that more than anything else burned me out on the tv show.

As for the books, they would take even more time and I’m reliably informed that they are hyper-detailed, filled with even more political maneuverings – most of which comes to nothing because of course people keep getting killed.

Still, as I try to wrap up my own modest epic (and let’s be honest, I’d love to have even a tenth of Martin’s success), I find I have a fair amount of sympathy for what he must be going through as an author.

His books are big and sprawling and he’s working on an epic scale – a big part of his appeal, to be sure.  Plotting all of that has to be demanding and stressful, particularly when he’s publishing and writing at the same time.

One of the reasons that “A Man of Destiny” is being held back from publication is that I want to make sure everything lines up before I put it out.  More than once I’ve gotten the notion of introducing a plot twist only to have to backtrack because the downstream consequences were too severe.  In fact, I’d say that this is what I hate the most about writing a really long book.

Of course I’m trying to keep my prose lean and my cast of characters under tight control.  I have a few plots moving, but nothing even close to Martin’s tangled web.  I can only imagine what he must be going through trying to keep them all straight in his head.

The other problem is getting to the desire end.  From the beginning I knew where I wanted to go, but now I’m not sure if that’s the best place.  I have a scene in particular I’d like to write but I don’t know if it is still viable given all that has happened since I first thought of it.

Another problem is that these characters are getting quite interesting and I’m tempted to go in a different place.  Maybe my original ending isn’t the best.  Should I add a fourth book?

Of course, unlike Martin, the only pressure I’m under is what I place on myself.  My fan base is microscopic, and no one is clamoring for the book to be finished.  Martin, on the other hand, has an entire franchise at stake – let alone is reputation as an author.  If he botches the end, it will destroy the value of the show, all the tie-ins and pretty much consign his life’s work to the remainder bin.

Consider what happened to “The Matrix.”  The first move was a sensation and appeared to create a new sci-fi franchise for the ages.  There were books, games and all manner of spin-offs.

Then the sequels came out.  You don’t hear much about “The Matrix” any more.  It plays on sub-par movie channels and the ground-breaking special effects haven’t aged well.  The big thing to come out of it was the “red pill/blue pill” metaphor.  Everyone’s pretty much forgotten the rest.

That’s the risk Martin runs.  He came up with a nice metaphor (“a game of thrones”) and a good tagline (“winter is coming”) but everything else could be swept away in a spasm of fan outrage and a giant literary shrug.

That’s a pretty heavy load.

The tasks before me are twofold – to finish the rest of the series and then get book one ready to go.  Hopefully I’ll be there by August.


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