Character Development Lessons from Game of Thrones

Photo credit: pullip_junk on Flickr
So about two months ago I finally did that thing everyone and their brother was telling me to do: I watched Game of Thrones.

While usually I’m the kind of person that prefers to read the books before watching the movie (or, in this case, TV show), as the A Song of Ice and Fire books didn’t really grab me when I tried to pick up the first one, I made an exception this time. And…well…

Okay fine, I’ll say it—I’m hooked. (Yes, yes, you were all right, congratulations everyone. *sigh*)

I’ve been thinking for a little bit about why I’ve been enjoying the series so much, and the answer, for me at least, lies in the characters. Because damn, GRRM writes crazy interesting characters. Even the totally despicable ones are fascinating in their own right, which really appeals to me.

And so, because the characters are so very well written, I think there are some lessons that we, as writers, can learn from them. So let’s take a look at what makes these characters so interesting.

  • Every character has motivations, dreams, etc. What’s great about this is I’m not even talking about just the main ensemble characters—even minor characters, “evil” characters, and characters with short life spans are fully fleshed out with plans, dreams, desires, fears and powerful motivations. Whether it’s Olenna Tyrell (Margaery’s grandmother), Walder Frey, Renly Baratheonor someone else, every character is layered and ridiculously well-developed. 

  • No one is all good or all bad. Good characters make selfish decisions, and antagonistic characters have people they care about and base their decisions on (somewhat understandable) motivations. In fact, I’d say more characters fall somewhere in the gray area morality-wise than very good or very bad—which becomes especially interesting because you’re never quite sure how they’re going to behave. 

  • Characters make mistakes. Fatal ones, in fact, that end up getting themselves (or people they care about…or both) killed. This is huge because not only does it humanize the characters (after all, who doesn’t make mistakes?) but it also makes us doubly worried about them when we know their decisions could go awry very very quickly. Which leads me to…

  • Every character is in danger. This is sort of a controversial point about GoT, but I actually love it. Oftentimes, people go into a book (or series, or movie) assuming that the main “good” characters are going to emerge unscathed (or, you know, at least survive). No such assumptions can be made about GoT, which I weirdly like because it means I worry about everyone. It’s realistic (in the sense that no one is magically safe) and something I really admire about the series. 

Do you watch (or read) Game of Thrones? What lessons have you learned? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
Watch or read Game of Thrones? @Ava_Jae shares character development lessons to be learned from this popular series. (Click to tweet)

25 comments:

Heather said...

I think one of the things I've heard George R.R. Martin say in interviews is that when he writes, he really wants his readers to be scared that his characters will die. Which is why Ned Stark is just the beginning. You have to know that he won't hesitate to kill anyone off, and you have to CARE that he won't kill anyone off, either, which I think is why all four points contribute so nicely. Yeah, they're great characters... But you still have to fear for them. It's addicting.

Ava Jae said...

I've heard that about GRRM! I would say he definitely succeeded, ha ha. You're totally right, though, it wouldn't matter if he was willing to kill of anyone if we didn't care about anyone, which makes the above four points especially powerful.

crowTrobot said...

One of the things the books do, because of it's multiple POVs, is use the unreliable narrator. We can't really trust the text because of the character's bias, misinformation, or motivations. Events described in one chapter are remembered differently by someone in another chapter. Or we find out a character that described something first is later proved to be lying or just flat out wrong. Obviously the show can't really do this because of it's structure.

Meghan said...

I would pay good money to take "writing character development" lessons from GRRM. Especially, as you said, when it comes to minor characters. That's something I struggle with and he's so damn good at it.

MK said...

Yes yes yes to all of this. GRRM is the master of writing characters. The fact that you can despise a character at first, then end up hardcore rooting for him later on (ahem, Jamie Lannister) shows an extremely talented character developer.


I would urge you to pick up the books again but if you weren't hooked by the first one, chances are you won't enjoy them all--I loved the first one but found it really difficult to get through the fourth. (I made it though, and was rewarded by a more interesting fifth book, but now am waiting forever for the sixth...le sigh)

Ava Jae said...

Ohhh that's so neat! I absolutely love unreliable narrators.

Ava Jae said...

Oh, tell me about it. Though I have a feeling a GRRM writing workshop would sell out megafast lol. But yes, he's crazy good at character development including minor characters. It's pretty amazing.

Bolo Yeung said...

I completely agree e.g. Ned Stark and Jaime's POV of the sacking of King's landing are quite different

Ava Jae said...

Ha ha thanks for commenting, Michelle! :)


I think I'd probably like the super intense character development in the books, but when I tried to pick of GoT the voice just...wasn't my thing. I might try again, but as is, I have other books that are more of a priority (especially since those books are like bricks. Yeesh).

Ava Jae said...

That's so interesting! Huh.

Ava Jae said...

I might try again, but yeah...I didn't find the first one gripping enough to dive into (mostly it was the voice that turned me off). But the character development (and unreliable narrators, I'm told) is a definite temptation!


And I agree—some of these character arcs are crazy interesting.

Ava Jae said...

I love that! I've found that when I do use playlists (which is something I've done more recently, as this was written almost three years ago), that when I hear a song from the playlist, it often puts me right back in the world of the book in my head, which is pretty neat. :)

crowTrobot said...

Theon is the most notorious, for me anyways, when he took Winterfell and supposedly murders Bran and Rickon. I cheated and looked ahead to see if there were anymore Bran chapters. I did the same thing with Arya after the Red Wedding. I'm a wuss.

Ava Jae said...

That's actually pretty funny. But totally cheating!

shankar said...

game of thrones season 5
awsome nice post keep i up

Rebecca Her said...

My boyfriend isn't really into the whole 'medieval fantasy/swords and dragons' realm. He's more 'laser guns and spaceships/aliens and intergalactic wars' inclined.


But let me tell you, when I forced him to sit through the first season of Game of Thrones with me, Ned's death both SCARRED HIM FOREVER and HOOKED HIM LIKE A MARLIN. Mostly it's because just one episode before Ned died, my boyfriend picked him as his favorite character, because Ned was honorable.


Sorry, boyfriend, but like Ron read in Harry's tea leaves 'You're gonna suffer, but you're gonna be happy about it.' :D

Ava Jae said...

That's so funny! And you win with the Harry Potter reference. Thank you for the laugh. :D

Ned Stark said...

The Game of Thrones Season 5 trailer closes, in fact, with a telling scene between Varys and Tyrion. Later we also saw in trailor the eunich issaying about how badlly the seven kingdoms need a ruler who can be “loved by millions” Tyrion

To Watch Click::

Watch Game of Thrones Season 5 Online

Tiger Tanwer said...

Fast and furious 7 movie download


Fast and furious 7 torrent download

diamond said...

i really love the way you write
IPL 8 LIVE MATCH SCORES

IPL Schedule 2015 Download

Ipl 2015 live Scores streaming watch online

Ipl 2015 Theme Song Download

awesome post by you

Tarek Mahmud said...

http://moviesclub.onlinetopnewstime.com/

Jade Graham said...

when I tried to pick up the first one, I made an exception this time. And…well…
Best Site
to Watch Game of Thrones Online

Rajib Ahmed said...

Any news Update here...

http://onlinetopnewstime.com/

mahi verma said...

Watch Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 2 Online:The House of Black and White Live Stream on HBO go, Youtube, Vodlocker, Putlocker, itunes
game of thrones season 5 episode 6 online

VinceT said...

Ava - came across this blog piece while researching - I just released Writers Flow - Music For Writing - you may want to check it out http://writers-flow.com

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...