Parts, Chapters, Breaks: How Structure Affects the Reading Experience

Ever notice how some books are divided into Chapters, and some aren’t?  How some books break things up into “Parts”, “Books”, or even “Acts”?  How sometimes there are Prologues, Epilogues, Asides, and Interludes, but sometimes there are none?  Sometimes the Chapters have titles, sometimes they’re just numbered, and sometimes they’re time-stamped?

What’s up with that?  Further, how does the structure of a book affect the reading experience?  And, most important, why the hell am I blogging about this?

Well, I’ll answer the last question first: I love looking at book structure.  I’m a bit of a weirdo in that respect, I know, but I really enjoy breaking a novel down and examining its form, its layout, even its chapter length, because whether an author intends it or not (and I honestly think they rarely do) the layout of a novel affects the reading experience just as much as the content, even if that impact is more subtle.  So let’s break it down.

Chapters

Breaking a book up into chapters is not only the standard for modern novels — it’s pretty much expected.  Chapters allow the reader to pause during reading, often (though not always) having reached a temporary halt to the narrative.  A Chapter is usually a miniature story in and of itself, a brief snippet of the larger narrative: if the novel is about a journey to a distant land, a single Chapter can chronicle a day of travel, an encounter, or reaching some landmark along the way.

Depending on author preference, Chapters are sometimes titled, and sometimes just numbered.  I, personally, have done both, depending on the tone and flow of the story.  Chapters with names often highlight a smaller event that begins or is resolved in the course of that Chapter, while Chapters without titles are sometimes indicative of a more flowing narrative.  Ultimately, it all depends on the author.

In novels with complex structures, Chapter titles can help call out setting, time or character POV (Point of View) to help indicate to the reader what’s going on.  George R.R. Martin, who uses a large number of character POVs, uses this approach to identify which character the reader is with for that chapter; Gillian Flynn used a similar approach in Gone Girl.

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Sometimes books don’t have Chapters at all, and this stands out because we as readers are so used to having breaks in the narrative (if for no other reason than to tell our brains to check our watch and remind us that we shouldn’t stay up all night reading…).  Books without Chapters sometimes do so for a purpose: in The Road, Cormac McCarthy is describing a post-apocalyptic world where time has essentially lost meaning, and life has become a fugue of repetitive travel from one dreary locale to the next.  Reading the book without Chapters (just breaks in the text) puts us into the mindset of the characters, and by the end of the book we’re just as exhausted as they are because we’ve been trudging though a (metaphoric) landscape, just as they have.  In Molloy, Samuel Beckett takes a similar approach to highlight the monotonous and stream-of-consciousness nature of an investigation by telling an 80+ story in only 2 paragraphs (the first of which is just 2 pages long).

the-road-cormac-mccarthy

Parts/Books/Acts

Just as Chapters are ways of organizing the narrative components of a novel, Parts (or Acts, or some other title the author may decide to impart based on their personal preference) are often a means used to organize the Chapters themselves.  If a novel is extremely episodic or divided into large story arcs, Parts 1, 2, etc. might be used to divide those sections of the story; similarly, a Part of a novel can sometimes be used to mark major story shifts when the narrative switches geographic locations, periods of time, etc.

John Marco’s excellent “The Jackal of Nar” is a fine example of this structure, breaking down the story into several Parts: Richius’ days in the war, his journey to meet his emperor, his eventual return to the land where he lost someone important to him, etc.  Just as each chapter tells its own small story, each “Part” tells a single arc of the novel’s plot, so that in the end it almost feels as if we’ve read several tightly connected novellas in a series.

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The number of “Parts” or larger sections in a novel depends entirely on the overall plot.  Highly sectioned and episodic tales can benefit from this structure, while novels that are more stream of consciousness or whose stories aren’t divided into a tidy plot don’t normally make use of “Parts”.

Sometimes, a Part – which generally contains several Chapters – becomes a Chapter in and of itself.  Russel Brand’s The Sweet Hereafter tells the story of a school bus accident from the points of views of five different characters, but rather than switch back and forth between those characters over the course of the novel (as is the norm for a book with multiple POVs), Brand’s book has one long chapter devoted to each character’s POV, and each section of the novel tells the same tale from an entirely different perspective.

Prologues & Epilogues

There are some pretty serious feelings about whether or not Prologues or Epilogues should even be used in novels anymore, with a great number of people saying “Hell no, I never bother reading them”, but with most authors I know stating “I use them if necessary”.  Most “How to Write” books tell you NEVER to use Prologues, yet writers like Robert Jordan generally had Prologues numbering 50 or more pages in every book in his series.  (The argument that always follows is “When you get as popular as Robert Jordan, you can use Prologues…until then, don’t do it.”)

I still know many readers (my wife among them) who simply skip Prologues altogether.  I tend not to be a huge fan of them unless I feel they serve a purpose, like setting up interesting (but not necessarily vital) background info on the setting, or if the Prologue happens to be the only chapter not told from the main character’s point of view.

Epilogues are seen even less seldom.  Most of the important stuff is wrapped up in a novel’s last few chapters; an Epilogue, to me, is more like an afterthought, the fate of an interesting secondary character or the solution to the last piece of unresolved plot, not so important that the reader is on edge waiting for it but interesting enough that the author feels its inclusion is warranted.

For the most part, readers I’ve met either skip the Prologue/Epilogue or else don’t really care about them.  They both seem somewhat old fashioned to me, but I’ll still use them if they seem necessary.

What sorts of novel structure do you find enticing/off-putting?  Authors, what’s your tendency?

About the Author

Steven Montano is the author of Red Tide at Morning, The Last Acolyte, the Blood Skies series and The Skullborn Trilogy.  He and his family live in Michigan.

Learn more at http://steven-montano.com/

The Trouble With George R.R. Martin

by Bruce Blake

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Recently, our good friend Scott Bury lamented in his post, Spies Everywhere, how it seemed that Hollywood and Sony had been ripping off his ideas.  Inspired by his post, I decided to take a closer look at a similar subject.

One George R.R. Martin.

Perhaps you’ve heard of him…he is writing a little series about some place called Westeros.

Like most of the free world–and by free world, I mean anyone who has cable, a DVD player, or loose enough morals to take advantage of sites like thrones, Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire, Westeros, George MartinProject Free TV–I’ve recently finished watching season 4 of A Game of Thrones. Unlike the majority of people watching this excellent series, I have also read the first three books of Mr. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. For those of you who are unaware of the parallels, that means I am in the same place both televisionally and literarily (I think I made at least one of those words up).

Since this is the case, I decided it was time to pick up the fourth volume, A Feast for Crows, and get it read before season 5 arrives so I can stay ahead of the game and bother my wife, who hasn’t read the book, by letting slip the odd important detail before it happens whenever she makes me mad.

I’m not far into the book–only about 150 pages (and still waiting for something of importance to happen. It’s sad that, the more successful an author gets, the less say the editors have…happened to J.K. Rowling and Stephen King, too)–but I’ve come to notice a pattern in the books of Mr. Martin’s that I’ve read.

George RR Martin is stealing my ideas. Here’s how my observation differs from Scott’s, however:

George isn’t just stealing my ideas, but he’s doing it, writing them, and publishing them before I ever have them!

Mr. Martin smiling about another idea he stole that I haven't even had yet!

Mr. Martin smiling about another idea he stole that I haven’t even had yet!

The unmitigated nerve! I imagine that a number of other authors are finding much the same thing when they read his series. What it boils down to is that the man is so creative and imaginative, and the series looks to be stretching on for so long, George may actually use up every good idea there is to be used in fantasy.

How many of you have had the idea of an army created from men bred from the time of their birth to be warriors? Or of people who can ‘warg’ themselves into animals (you may have used a different term)? God trees? Cities built on islands interlinked by bridges (Scott Lynch must be stewing over that one!)?

Similar comments may be true of many other lengthy fantasy series but, to be honest, I haven’t read too many of them. I started Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series years ago, but found it too slow-moving to slog my way through all one hundred and thirteen books, so abandoned it after about 400 pages. The only author we likely can’t accuse of pre-stealing our ideas is JRR Tolkien (as I’ve probably wondered on the very blog in the past…should I change my name to Bruce RR Blake? Would that guarantee me some measure of success?). Since Mr. Tolkien pretty much invented the entire genre, it is he whom the rest of us deign to pilfer from.

The thing that makes Mr. Martin’s reverse larceny most concerning is the massive amount  of exposure his ideas have received. Seven million people thiefwatched the season 4 finale on HBO, and I presume that number doesn’t include the pirates who watched it (Arrr!). If I’d discovered some unknown–or even relatively known–author had plagiarized my cool ideas before I had them, I probably wouldn’t be quite so concerned. But seven million people watched one episode…one episode!!

How will I ever get credit for a reasonable idea if he keeps writing?

I may as well give up this genre and start writing about  a boy who goes to wizard school…wait. What? Someone already did that?

See what I mean.

So, George, I beg of you…lay down your quill, unplug your Selectric typewriter, lose the password to your laptop. For God’s sake, and for the sake and sanity of all the fantasy authors in the world, leave some good ideas for the rest of us!

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Bruce Blake is currently writing the third book in his Small Gods series and it was George Martin’s use of the term ‘small gods’ in A Feast for Crows that sent him over the edge.

You should still read his books, anyway.

Game of Thrones Revisited

Hi Everyone, Bruce here. Thought I’d poke my head in for a second to introduce you to someone you’ve already met…A.M. Justice. She graced us with her presence awhile back as a guest, but I’m pleased to tell you that Amanda has agreed to join the Guild of Dreams as a regular contributor. Watch for her biography with all her links to go up soon. In  the meantime, say hello to A.M. Justice. (Beware…spoilers ahead)

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Last time I appeared here on Guild of Dreams I wrote a humorous piece speculating where the showrunners for HBO’s Game of Thrones might take the series, if they wanted to veer away from the plot of The Song of Ice and Fire. Yet David Benioff and Dan Weiss have always reached the key narrative milestones of that series, even when they’ve taken a different route than George R.R. Martin to get there. This season picks up right after the infamous Red Wedding, when the Stark family’s quest for justice died. (Or did it? The Stark clan isn’t quite done for, with all Rob’s siblings still at large, and you can lay odds that one of the Red Wedding Party will return to haunt the Westeros countryside.) As for my silly forecasts last summer, I think I may have scored a bull’s-eye with Prediction #2. Didn’t Arya and Sandor make the cutest couple when they teamed up to slay an inn-full of ruffians?

Game of Thrones, George MartinBut let’s talk about why Martin’s series is so successful. What accounts for its broad appeal? My husband liked sword and sorcery pulp fiction as a boy (he loved the Conan books), but he never embraced high fantasy and his adult tastes run toward stories where the houses have indoor plumbing. Yet he’s a GOT fan. While the show’s relentless commitment to all men must die may leave him a bit shaken, he tunes in with the same fervor he felt for Breaking Bad. When I asked what draws him to the show, he said, “Well, it’s all about the characters.”

And those are great characters, aren’t they? Well developed, with complex motivations and emotions, those people know how to grab a reader by the collar and not let her go. The books are written in apostolic third person—with each chapter helmed by one of about a dozen different characters. Four or five of those names will make me say, “One more chapter,” when I turn the page to find that character’s point of view, no matter that it’s two o’clock in the morning. Those individuals’ story lines are too compelling to set aside. Plus, I can’t resist noshing on the delicious stew of bloodlines and family dynamics. (I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the mystery of Jon Snow’s parentage, and I’m certain Ned Stark isn’t his father.)

But what I like about Martin’s series is its realism. The world is as fantastical as any created by Tolkien or Jordan or LeGuin, and has some elements that defy explanation. (As a biology geek, I’m baffled by how a forest ecosystem survives north of the Wall, where there’s always snow. Tree seedlings need bare earth to take root.) But the characters are real—complex, three dimensional people with desires and skills and problems that we can relate to because we see them in every day life. While Westeros has its mages and witches, its wraiths and its dragons, there’s no mythic Dark Lord who must be vanquished in The Song of Ice and Fire; their war of power is for the political, not the magical kind.

I’m also fond of Martin’s work because he writes in the gray zone of human morals, and so do I. When I began work on my first novel Blade of Amber, none of the Westeros novels had been released and moral relativism was uncommon in fantasy. However, it’s the norm in everyday life, where few are wholly good or wholly evil. The complexity of the human spirit is what makes us interesting, and it’s our flaws that make us loveable (depending on the flaw, of course). We don’t root for Tyrion Lannister because he is erudite, clever, and suave; we love him because he’s a deeply empathetic man who always tries to do the right thing. Then there’s Tyrion’s brother Jamie, who began the series as a villain but who has evolved into one of my favorite heroes as his character arc has taken him away from his family’s power-seeking. I will always put off sleep for a Jamie chapter. Of course, in The Song of Ice and Fire, no good deed goes unpunished, and the harder Tyrion or Daenerys or Jon try to save those around them, the deeper they descend into hell. I’ve put those three together on purpose; don’t be surprised if they end up astride Daeny’s dragons before the series end (that’s not a spoiler—it’s pure speculation on my part).A Wizard's Lot, A.M. Justice

Reviewers have compared my work to Martin’s, and I’m happy to play in a corner of the same ball park. Knownearth—the planet where my characters live—is a simpler place than Westeros, with fewer cultures, fewer religions, and only one major feud. But my work is all about the characters too. Vic, the protagonist of The Woern Chronicles, is a complex woman with gifts and insecurities that fate hammers into an alloy as strong as Valerian steel. She’s far from invulnerable, though; underneath a badass façade, she’s an emotional wreck, and the power she gains at the end of Blade of Amber isn’t nearly as limitless as it may appear—something that quickly comes to light in A Wizard’s Lot, the second Woern Chronicles novel. Yet because realism is important to me, I’ve made all the residents of Knownearth as three dimensional as the people I meet on the street every day. My work is all about the characters, and a page-turning narrative that I hope makes readers say, “one more chapter,” even if it’s two o’clock in the morning.

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eec1db10808be84e2901e46760195bdbA.M. Justice writes fiction from distant times and places and chronicles journeys in the here and now, when she’s not in the Dark Playground taking Zimbio quizzes (she’s Tyrion, according to the GOT quiz). As the newest member of the Guild of Dreams, she looks forward to sharing her waking dreams with all of you. To see more of what’s on her mind, drop by the KnownEarth Works website, follow her on Twitter, or hang out on her Facebook page.

 

Getting to the Heart of Character Development

– by Autumn Birt

Every story needs a unique idea (or at least a new spin on a classic!), but good character development can keep a reader going despite plot flaws far longer than a brilliant plot with flat characters. At least for me. And if you go by the comments and complaints out there, for most people as well. We write in a era of character driven novels.

The typical problems are stories with great ideas and cardboard characters. There are so many levels of poor character development: no interaction with other characters, speeches that are information dumps, no nuanced emotions. What is your pet peeve? Mine – have you ever begun a story where it felt like the character showed up the same time you did? A character who knows as much about the fantasy world as you on page one, but they supposedly grew up there?! Those books get tossed onto my “too frustrating to read” pile pretty quickly.

a-game-of-thronesOf course, characterization can be too good. I’m a huge fan of George R.R. Martin’s writing. I keep a few passages from A Game of Thrones mixed with my writing notes to inspire me. But I stopped reading the Song of Ice and Fire Series in book 2. Too many characters that I liked had died and the pace was too slow. Despite brilliant writing, I cared too little about the plot and too much about the characters to continue!

When it comes down to it good characterization, especially with several unique individuals in a novel, is tricky.

I’m editing the final book of my epic fantasy series. By this point, I know all the characters so much they feel real to me. Which is great! There is nothing easier than having a character with a strong personality to make your writing flow. Set up a scenario, drop in person X and let them have it. Chaos ensues and you are left trying to keep up.

But I had a recent reminder that getting to this point wasn’t so easy. When I started writing book 1, things didn’t go so well. Actually, I scrapped the whole book after the first draft, deciding there were a few good ideas but it needed reincarnation more than CPR. Part of the problem was the characters. I was only dealing with four at that point and I still didn’t know who they were or why they did what they did.

So, I jumped into all the typical techniques of character development: bubble charts, character sheets, photos for visualization, and world building to understand lifestyles. I was ready to write!

Color - that is where I went wrong! I didn't use colors!

Color – that is where I went wrong! I didn’t use colors!

Only I didn’t. They were still, at best, reflections of me. Not unique and rounded.

I was getting pretty desperate by this time, wondering why all the tried and true characterization tips weren’t working (and were making me feel like an obsessed stalker). I’m really not sure where the idea came from, but one day I sat down and wrote a short story from Niri’s point of view, in first person, that took place the day before Born of Water began.

Her world opened to me.

I knew she had been taken from her family by the Church of Four Orders when she was nine (the bubble chart told me!). Feeling how that affected her, described in her voice, changed my entire perspective of… well her. AND how she viewed the world and the Church and even why she chose to save Ria, despite the consequences.

So, of course, I wrote ‘before stories’ for each of the characters and learned more than any bubble chart ever could have told me (I still do use the character description sheets though. They help me keep physical details straight!). I realized why Ty had come home to Mirocyne and why he had left for his apprenticeship nearly a year late. Ria’s fears became understandable as much as Lavinia’s optimistic hopes.

RofF-Cover-final smallAlmost as good as finally having a true understanding of my characters, it placed them firmly in their world. They had lives before the novel began (on a day when everything went crazy). The problem of having them feel ‘dropped in’ to their world evaporated.

And another strange advantage that came out of this technique was that I realized how differently each character interacted with their world. Niri is educated. She uses big words in dialogue AND in her thoughts to describe what she sees. Ty and Lavinia, siblings that grew up sailing, can name every board, line, and sheet of a boat. They would never think ‘left’ or ‘right’ but ‘port’ or ‘starboard.’ Character mindset is anchored in far more than highlighting associations and past experiences. Lives are shaped by more than the big events you might jot out in a bubble chart.

I’m looking ahead to the next story I’ll write, wondering if I will use this ‘before’ story method again. And then I realized, I did. I’ve spent quiet a bit off time thinking of the characters’ lives prior to the novel’s opening. I might not have written it down (yet), but I still worked out the details before I ever started typing.

So, here is a new method to add to the character development list. What else have you got? I’d love to hear of other character development techniques that worked for you!

Autumn is currently editing the final book in her Rise of the Fifth Order epic fantasy series while holding a smash-up competition between WIP to see which one will be written next. Unfortunately, the dystopian military scifi seems to be winning… go figure. She shouldn’t have let them keep their guns.

Fantasy book review: Blade of Amber, book 1 of the Woern Chronicles by A.M. Justice

by Autumn M. Birt

Blade of AmberWell before we get started, I think it is only fair to give you the blurb on the book so you know what the heck I’m talking about!

Blade of Amber tells the story of Vic, a young woman who wants vengeance. Taken from her homeland and sold into slavery, Vic soon escapes and becomes the Blade, a soldier renowned for cunning and daring. She also wins the heart of Prince Ashel, a minstrel who prefers drinking and gambling to fulfilling any royal obligations. When Ashel s captured by solder of her former master, Vic sets out on a mission of rescue and revenge. But when the Kragnashias, a mysterious insectoid species, give her the power of wizardry, Vic realized she is being forged into a weapon. The question is, by whom and for what purpose?

I was hooked when I read the description. Reading it again now after having finished the book, I can’t argue with it but feel it barely sketches the story line and the depth of characters running through this novel. I’m impressed Ms. Justice was able to boil down such a complicated plot to one paragraph!

Epic fantasy with a hint of scifi, Blade of Amber is riveting in its detail of new lands and cities experienced through strong characters. This world is unique and not the typical sword and sorcery. Societal customs can be shocking, which deepens the impression that we, along with the main character Vic, are foreigners in a new world. I lovedthe edge of scifi that opens the novel and threads throughout the story with hints of science now felt to be a myth along with magic – another indication of how far this story is from the typical medieval-esque setting. From the first page, this is a journey that author A.M. Justice carefully unrolls.

There is so much to this novel that I’m not sure how to tell you about it. I was enthralled with the world, story, and characters before I reached the mid-point. I admit, the romantic in me wanted more from the ending. But this isn’t romance. This is epic fantasy and a nicely wrapped up, heart-filled ending does not fit this story. In fact, the grit and suffering remind me very much of George R.R. Martin’s writing.  If you love his Song of Ice and Fire series for how it does not shy from pain and its impacts on characters, you’ll find a lot to love in this book.

Perhaps my only disappointment was that Vic may have too much power by the end of the novel. But the power does not alleviate her flaws… and in fact may prove that power does not overcome a broken psyche. A.M. Justice has created a world rife with passions and ruled by strong characters whose need for vengeance spawn wars and destroy lives… even their children’s.

I highly recommend Blade of Amber. The story line, setting, and characters are all refreshing in their depth and originality. In fact, I enjoyed the book enough that I had to ask the author how she came up with the story and if she had any antecedents about writing it. A story this epic and broad had to have a back story!

This is what A.M. Justice said:

The plot and characters of Blade of Amber were developed when I was very young; I wrote the first version of the story when I was in high school, primarily as an escapist adventure about a bookish teen with self-esteem issues who nevertheless wins the heart of the handsomest boy around. The writing in that first attempt is horrid, and I often think I should burn the notebooks containing the original story. But I loved the characters too much to shelve it, so I just kept working to improve the prose and the storytelling. Eventually it evolved into what it is: a warped retelling of Rapunzel in a blended science fiction-fantasy setting. You can find some more of the thought process behind Blade in this blog post of mine: http://www.knownearthworks.com/blog/2012/10/12/getting-to-the-girl-power.html
 
The plot of Blade of Amber came together very smoothly–it was the quality of the writing that needed to be improved over time. However, the sequel, A Wizard’s Lot, was a tough book to write and took me a long time. I’m a pantser and I kept writing the characters into blind alleys and box canyons and had to back up and go down another path time and again. I have learned to never throw out a scene once I’ve written it, and the document file where I dumped the cut scenes from Wizard is longer than the book itself.
 
When I finished A Wizard’s Lot, I thought that was the end for Vic and Ashel, and I never intended to write another story about them. However, when I decided to self-publish Blade, and was going over it a last time to polish it up and get it ready for public consumption, I started to wonder what those characters would be doing “now.” I was roughly Vic’s age (early twenties) when I finished the the first draft of Blade of Amber (the manuscript I wrote in high school was different enough I don’t really consider it the same book). I’m in my forties now, and I wondered what Vic would be doing as a mature adult. The answer came out as Scion of Sovereigns, Book 3 of The Woern Chronicles. That novel is currently in the hands of my beta readers and will be released some time next year. A fourth novel in the series is planned but is back-burnered at the moment because I want to finish another work in progress, a historical novel about a fictional protege of Galileo Galilei.
A little more about A.M. Justice:

Me without mirror.

I’ve been a professional writer and editor in the life sciences for over two decades but have been writing fiction even longer—the first story set in the fictional world of Knownearth was written while I was still in high school. As an avid SCUBA diver, I dream of a future when I have the time to hang out in a dive shop all day, and I fancy the idea that this dive shop might be in Buenos Aires, so I can dance the tango whenever I want. Until that time comes, I live and write in Brooklyn, NY, with a husband, a daughter, and two cats. Although I’m partial to fantasy and historical fiction, I love well-written books—and well-made movies and television—of all genres.

For more information and updates, you can find me on the Web at these locations:

Website: www.knownearthworks.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AMJusticeWrites

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KnownEarthWorks

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6903962.A_M_Justice

Roads not Traveled on the Game of Thrones

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Today we have a guest post from author A.M. Justice. She gives us a humorus glance on roads not traveled:  5 Narrative Paths Hinted at in the Season 3 Finale of Game of Thrones, Which Would Drive the Plot Wildly off Course (from the Books). Hmmm…I wonder if HBO will consider any of these? Welcome to the Guild of Dreams, Amanda, and thank you so much for the guest post!

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Roads not Traveled:  5 Narrative Paths Hinted at in the Season 3 Finale of Game of Thrones, Which Would Drive the Plot Wildly off Course (from the Books)

by A.M. Justice

For readers of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books, the plot alterations and character conflations found in HBO’s Game of Thrones are a huge part of the fun of watching the TV series—bridging characters like Ros or revisionist ones like Talisa Maegyr freshen up the show and keep us guessing about where it’s going.

hbo-bringing-back-game-of-thrones-for-a-third-chapterDuring seasons 1 and 2, although the journey may have followed different paths, the finale brought us to more or less the same destination as the books. This is true of season 3 as well, although it ends at approximately the half-way point of A Storm of Swords, the third Song of Ice and Fire volume. However, several plot and/or character changes have me speculating on where the show could go, if showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss want to abscond with it and take it somewhere entirely different than creator Martin intends (which they don’t).

From that starting point, here are 5 anti-spoilers. None of these scenarios occur in the books, so if Benioff and Weiss want to run with any of these ideas, it would add a whole new level of suspense to the show:

1. Theon escapes from Ramsey Snow, crosses the Narrow Sea, and finds his way to Yunkai, where he joins the Unsullied and owns the name Reek. Now an ordinary soldier in Daenerys’s army, he embraces his shortcomings and rises to become Gray Worm’s second in command.

2. Arya and Sandor make their way across the battle-torn countryside, slowly but surely becoming friends, just like Walter Matthew and Tatum O’Neal in the Bad News Bears. Sure, we just saw the same thing happen between Jaime and Brienne, but it’s different this time, because it’s with a grouchy disfigured man and a cute moppet of a girl, both of whom would kill you as soon as look at you. The odd couple joins a traveling circus, where they pretend to be a father-daughter knife-throwing act.

3. Yara Greyjoy and her band of 50 Ironborn warriors land on Westeros to rescue poor Theon, but soon hear of her brother’s escape to the Free Cities and beyond (see #1, above). Since Osha has disappeared with Rickon, Yara assumes her real name (Asha, in the books), because now nobody will confuse an Ironborn princess with a wildling peasant. Yara/Asha also starts acting a little more like Asha—less dour, more lusty and fun-loving—and so wins the heart of Mance Rayder, whom she meets when her band’s wanderings take them north of the Wall.

4. Did I say Osha disappears with Rickon? Silly me. I meant Rickon and Osha (who changes her name to Sally, so there’s no confusion with Asha/Yara) arrive safely at White Harbor, where Sally/Osha institutes a weight loss program for the Manderly clan. This involves a low-calorie diet consisting of steamed fish and kale, along with an exercise program that consists largely of Shaggy Dog chasing the Lords of White Harbor around their keep.

5. Established as drinking buddies on the show, Tyrion and Cersei have spent quite a lot of time in seasons 2 and 3 drinking wine and commiserating over Joffrey’s psychopathic behavior and Tywin’s domineering fatherhood. Having found common cause, the siblings put aside their differences and with the aid of brother Jaime, engineer a coup that ousts both Joffrey as King and Tywin as Hand. Patterning themselves after Aegon the Conqueror and his two sisters, the three Lannister siblings rule Westeros together, while Joffrey and Tywin are sent to live out their days on Tarth under the watchful eye of Brienne.

A bit about A.M. Justice:

Me without mirrorI’ve been a professional writer and editor in the life sciences for over two decades but have been writing fiction even longer—the first story set in the fictional world of Knownearth was written while I was still in high school. As an avid SCUBA diver, I dream of a future when I have the time to hang out in a dive shop all day, and I fancy the idea that this dive shop might be in Buenos Aires, so I can dance the tango whenever I want. Until that time comes, I live and write in Brooklyn, NY, with a husband, a daughter, and two cats. Although I’m partial to fantasy and historical fiction, I love well-written books—and well-made movies and television—of all genres.

For more information and updates, you can find me on the Web at these locations:

Website: www.knownearthworks.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AMJusticeWrites

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KnownEarthWorks

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6903962.A_M_Justice