When Writing Goes Bad

or, Why I’ll Probably Break Up With Game of Thrones

I don’t think I can talk about the season 5 finale of Game of Thrones without spoilers so…


You have been warned.

I took the death of Jon Snow at the tail end of the season 5 finale, “Mother’s Mercy,” hard. At this point, I think I am done with Game of Thrones. I don’t plan on reading any more of the books and I don’t plan on watching season 6. I know I’m not alone in this. And for people who have stood by HBO and George R. R. Martin through this 5-year journey of murder, rape, and betrayal, it is pretty telling that the death of Jon Snow is “the last straw” for so many people. But I believe that as a writer, it is important to consume media both as a watcher and as a writer.

So what went wrong and why? And how can I learn  from this experience?

george-rr-martin-kill-a-starkMartin has gotten a lot of passes from people for his depiction of death and violence in his fictional Westeros. His writing “turns tropes upside down” and is “realistic.” But is that why we consume media? For realism? Do we all turn into a show set in a fantasy environment full of dragons and men who can change their faces for realism? Additionally, Westeros isn’t a real place. To say that Westeros is based on “the real world” is a BS argument when it isn’t a real place at all.

I think Martin has gotten enough passes.

Good writing connects readers with characters. Good writing makes readers want to follow your characters on their journey to the end of the book/series of books. If readers stop connecting with your characters for whatever reason, then you have failed as an author. I think this is where I am at with Game of Thrones. At this point, I don’t see a reason to care about the characters or keep going on this journey.

jon-snow-nothinnohtinI think some character death or brutalization is acceptable. William Faulkner famously said, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” Martin himself said that when he was 12-years-old and read The Lord of the Rings for the first time, Gandalf’s death taught him that anyone can die. I think the death of Eddard Stark in the first season/book of Game of Thrones was a fascinating plot twist. That certainly was turning tropes on their head. Even the death of Robb Stark, Eddard’s son, I could understand. Martin himself said that after Eddard, everyone expected Robb to win, so Robb had to die. But by that logic, Martin could just go down the list until everyone in Westeros is dead. You can’t keep following that line of reasoning forever.

There has to be a line. You have to be able to cheer for someone. Someone has to still be standing at the end. There isn’t anyone at the end of this journey for me. I feel like watching show for the last 5 years and the hours spent reading the books and the endless Facebook arguments over GoT characters and the showrunners’ choices were all a waste.

I should have been writing instead.

How about you? Have you ever broken up with a book series or TV series? Do you think Martin has killed one too many darlings?