This sweeping, medieval fantasy novels-of-well-over-five-hundred-pages saga is everywhere you look these days – magazines, bookstores, blogs, HBO. George R.R. Martin is a former television screenplay writer and novelist. During his tenure writing for the boob tube, his scripts were replete with dramatic fight scenes and epic wars, requiring vast numbers of extras, weeks of filming and access to exotic scenery and landscaping. His producers told him time and again, “George, this is wonderful but it would cost five times our production budget to produce it.”
So he turned back to what he’d done prior to writing for TV, which is novels. No budgetary restraints there. You can create entire universes, tax-free. Hire multiple species of extras if you like. Build mountains, paint ’em with polka dots, erupt a sun or two, travel back in time. None of it costs a dime except if you’re printing in ink. He talks more about it here in a 2011 interview with NPR.
George’s innate passion for epics has now caught fire, and only a network like HBO could give Game of Thrones near its full due. It’s a great show, which my fiance and I enjoy immensely, and it stays largely true to the books. (WARNING: When considering the HBO show and books, definitely expect strong language, sickening violence and immoral sexuality. Not for children.)
But like every show and every movie, you’re limited again by time and cost. READ THE BOOKS! Powerful chapters – each with its own action arc and poignant, quotable dialogue – carry you into the medieval world of George’s imagination through the Stark family.
For me as an author, I’m studying closely how George transitions from one scene to another. How he kills off minor characters – AND MAJOR ONES! – without so much as a blink. How he writes dialogue that is succinct and important – no namby-pamby talk about the weather. I like how he refers to writing a novel as “building a cathedral.” It’s got to have appropriate structure, intricacy and a sort of reverence to stand the test of time.
Where I’m at in the series:
- Book 1 – A Song of Ice and Fire – 704 pages. Read it. Loved it. HBO show follows it closely.
- Book 2 – A Clash of Kings – 768 pages. Amazing!! Give me more!!!
- Book 3 – A Storm of Swords – 992 pages. Devoured it! Fantastic!!!!
- Book 4 – A Feast for Crows – 753 pages. Ok, so so. Happens simultaneously with Book 3, which is interesting, but highlights other characters. He really has a huge amount of characters. How does anyone keep up with it?! Apparently George even calls on fanatical followers to check his facts.
- Book 5 – A Dance with Dragons – 1056 pages. Slow going now. Book really slows down. Features many minor characters and dark scenes.
Is that the end of the series? No way. Cathedrals take a long time to build. Both “The Winds of Winter” and “A Dream of Spring” are still under construction. Readers fear George R.R. Martin may never finish them…but I’m less fearful, as I’m certain the publishers-that-be (sorry, pun on powers-that-be) would assign a dedicated fan/writer to continue his legacy, similar to how Michael Crichton’s final book Micro was completed by Richard Preston.