George RR Martin on the importance of death in storytelling


“Game of Thrones” was famous for many things: popularizing long-form storytelling, pushing the limits of television budgets, and killing off characters as if it were going out of fashion. From Ned Stark to Stannis Baratheon to Daenerys Targaryen, no character was safe. The shock audiences felt watching these characters get pushed around is a sign of how few shows are actually ready to go, but “A Song of Ice and Fire” writer George RR Martin still has some. is part of its storytelling.

As Martin explained to The Independent, his distaste for low-stakes storytelling dates back to his childhood, when he was dissatisfied with the superhero comics he read. “The stories never went anywhere,” the author said. “Superman would be there, and his girlfriend Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen his best friend, Perry White the editor of the Daily Planet, and something would happen. At the end of the story, everything would be exactly as it was at the beginning. history, issue after issue, year after year.”

But then Stan Lee started publishing stories at Marvel, and everything changed. “Stan Lee’s writing was so much better than what you were getting,” Martin recalled. “Things happened. Spider-Man was progressing. It was so refreshing.”

It’s all Stan Lee, and you can see it all over my work! Characters who kill in unexpected ways, characters who aren’t what they seem, characters who are part good and part evil. Gray characters. You don’t know in which direction they will jump when the moment of crisis comes. Stan Lee’s fingerprints are everywhere.

George RR Martin: “If you’re going to write about death, you should feel it”

Of course, the most famous example of Martin brutally killing characters is in The Red Wedding, where Robb and Catelyn Stark are unexpectedly knocked out of the picture after we’ve followed them for three books (or three seasons, if you’re talking about the TV show.) “I finished the whole book except for the Red Wedding,” Martin recalled of writing “A Storm of Swords.” learn to know and love. Nine years I had been with these characters, and now I was going to kill them horribly! It was hard.

It’s a horrible chapter, and it upsets people. It makes people angry, it makes people sad. People throw the book against the wall or into the fireplace. When it was on TV, it had the same effect on tens of thousands, if not millions of people. In my mind, that’s good. We are talking about death here!

I find it all very refreshing to hear and sincerely wish more writers would take inspiration from Martin and kill their characters; even letting them stay dead would be an improvement. “We have all experienced death in our real lives,” Martin continued. “Your parents die. Your best friend dies. Sometimes in a really tragic situation, your children die or your wife or husband dies. It’s terrible. It affects you. It makes you angry, it makes you sad. In our entertainment, television, film, books, over the centuries, as it evolves, death is often treated in a very cavalier way Someone is dead, we have a mystery, and the detective must find out who the did. We never consider who the corpse is, or what his life was like…what it’s going to be like without him. If I’m going to write a death scene, especially for the main characters, I want the reader that’s what the red wedding, I think, successfully accomplished, people felt that death.

That said, Martin believes his reputation as a fictional mass murderer has been exaggerated. “Star Wars kills more characters than me!” he said. “In the very first Star Wars movie, they blew up the whole planet of Alderaan, which has about 20 billion people, and they’re all dead. But you know what? Nobody cares. Everybody on Alderaan is dead. Oh, OK. But we don’t know the people of Alderaan. We don’t feel their death. It’s just a statistic. If you want to write about death, you should feel it.

Martin will get another chance to put that philosophy into practice when the “Game of Thrones” prequel show “House of the Dragon” premieres on HBO and HBO Max on August 21.

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