Authorial Prerogative and the Truncation of Story Arcs

Spoilers for Season 2, Episode 9 of Game of Thrones below the jump.

Or in other words, who the **** does G. R. R. Martin think he is?

So. On Sunday night TV-watching but non-book-reading Game of Thrones fans discovered what their literary brethren had known since the year 2000 when A Storm of Swords came out. Namely, that twinkly-eyed hero Robb Stark, his mother Cat and pregnant wife Talisa don’t make it to the end of the story. Instead they’re shockingly, brutally butchered at the wedding of Cat’s brother Edmure to one of the daughters of Walder Frey.

The face of evil.

(Robb had promised Frey he’d be the one at the altar. Married Talisa instead. Thought all was forgiven. It wasn’t.)

Following the episode’s stunning conclusion, the interwebs were overwhelmed by a tsunami of outrage, indignation and even grief–which has always seemed to me like a strange reaction to the death of a fictional character, but each to their own. Twitter being Twitter, an account was quickly created to capture the best reactions: They’re mostly fantastic.


I’m clinically depressed after watching that Game of Thrones episode #wtf

if I develop separation anxiety its because of Game of Thrones. WHY DOES EVERYTHING I LOVE HAVE TO DIE?

And my personal favourite, and the point of this ramble:

@GameOfThrones HBO should cancel this show as a lesson to deter treacherous writing and i don’t care if its in the original book

Wow. I’m sorry, but who the hell do you think you are? You seem to think that because you watched twenty-eight episodes of a TV show and came to like some of the characters, that the writers have no right to bring those characters’ lives–and story arcs, from the writerly point of view–to what you consider a premature end.


(I’m not even going to touch ‘I don’t care if it’s in the original book’ other than to say changing one of the key events in the source material would be ‘treacherous writing’.)

You don’t like the way the story has gone? Then exercise your own prerogative, and stop watching. Or put the book down. No-one’s making you keep going. But don’t for a second think that when you paid for that book–or HBO cable subscription–that you were entering some kind of contract where the content provided would satisfy you exactly.

You pays your money, and you takes your chance. It’s G. R. R. Martin’s world, not yours, and he can do what he likes with it. That’s his prerogative.

(But having said that, if Tyrion dies, I’m going to cry.)

Tyrion. Presumably checking for the Grim Reaper creeping up on him.
Tyrion. Presumably checking for the Grim Reaper creeping up on him.

9 thoughts on “Authorial Prerogative and the Truncation of Story Arcs

  1. I was one of those shocked to silence, and then later voiced my shock on Facebook and Twitter, albeit not so colorfully. I haven’t read the books yet, because I’m hooked on the show and want to finish that first. But I can understand the outrage and know it is based on emotional hurt. So it’s pure emotion and these people, me included, can be forgiven for caring about those characters, for allowing our mouths to get carried away. Episode 9 was brutal. The thing about good writing, whether it be for TV or books, is that it makes you care. It doesn’t matter whether the characters are fictional. That is beside the point. We invest time and emotion in writing and in creating colorful characters and do the same when we read. If we didn’t, it would defeat the point of having fiction in the first place. Besides, humans are emotional beings at their core. As a writer, creating characters is only half the work. Readers put their own spin on things. Who knows what goes on in a person’s mind when they read a story or the reasons they grow attached to a particular fictional character? What is certainly true is that the emotions they feel are real, so when something happens to a character, there’s real pain there.

    1. Sure. But there’s a key difference: “OMIGOD THAT WAS SHOCKING AND I WAS INVESTED IN THOSE CHARACTERS SO NOW I AM SAAAAAAAAAAAD” is fine. That’s people reacting to good storytelling.


  2. Having read the books, this is one of the scenes to which I’ve been looking forward. As my wife has been away, I’ll be watching it tonight. My challenge is where to set up a video camera to capture her expression (she has only watched the tv series.)
    As to killing off major characters, this is one of the reasons I love GRRM’s writing. It’s very frustrating to read a book, especially a fantasy book, where there is no feeling of jeapody. With Martin, you genuinely have no idea whether a character will survive danger, and for that he should be applauded.

    1. Absolutely. I’ve not read the books, myself, but I knew from the moment they offed Ned Stark in S1 that anything goes in Westeros. I’m surprised people are surprised, to be honest!

      Good luck with your ‘film project’, though I think she might be suspicious when she spots the webcam perched on top of the TV 🙂

  3. Pingback: Les Mystérieuses Cités de Plomb : quand le public se fait défenseur du droit moral sur l’oeuvre | :: S.I.Lex ::

  4. Pingback: Les Mystérieuses Cités de Plomb « SAM7BLOG42

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