LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  George R. R. ...

Why is George R.R. Martin apologizing?

This is the second of a series of articles to look at professional writers and how reading can help your writing.

The first part of this series focused on Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson.  His specialty is scientific writing both for professional scientist and the general public.   This week the author of choice is George R. R. Martin.  He has penned a series of books that are best described as fantasy.  This series called “A Song of Fire and Ice”, but it is more popularly known by the HBO series taking the title of the first book, “Game of Thrones”.

These books provide an excellent example of continuation of story line.  Although most authors have complete ideas that can be conveyed in a single book, there are time when an idea is so grand that it must be provided over a long sequence of books.  The most difficult part of this type of writing requires the author to find break points, stops in the story that provide some closure but also drive the reader to return for the next installment.  This is where the author starts to become a screen writer.  Other examples of this type of writer (staying within genre) are J.R.R. Tolkien with his “Lord of the Rings” series, and J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series.

As you read each of these works, there is always a breathing space, point in the books where the action slows down for the reader.  These breaks or relaxations of tension are needed to give the reader a chance to set the book down.  If the action is non-stop, like a Bruce Willis film, the reader will get burned out.  The difference between a well written book and a movie is that the movie has the attention getting sight and sound distractions that a book cannot provide directly.  These breaks are in addition to the breaks that signify the end of one book, with enough of a cliff hanger (or unanswered questions) to lead into the next work.

The selections identified here have all been made into movies or television mini-series.  Most book series are actually tailor made for just such a transition.  Of course, if you actually have the opportunity to have you work transfigured into another media, remember that there will have to be editing.  Where you describe a scene for 300 words, is but an instant on the screen.  Your effort to build a tension between two characters may come in just a few words but may take much longer, with actors positioning and delivery much more important than the dialog you created for your reader.

The examples given are all novel length stories in a series.  Short stories can also be used for this type of activity.  Some series are only drawn together by a single character rather than a theme or grand overall vision.  All of the works discussed here are series of six or more books ranging in length from 200 to 800 pages.  Others, such as the James Bond books by Ian Fleming are about 100 pages each, with one being a series of short stories.

The point of this discussion is that if you think you have too big of a story, you can still write it.  This effort will be long, and finding break points will be hard.  All writing is noble, even if the result is not presentable.  Work your ideas knowing that you may have to present them to your audience a course at a time.  Going back George R. R. Martin, he has had to apologize on numerous occasions to his readers.  He takes a long time to get one of his books put together.  He has had to break the story in ways that some readers have not liked, such as ignoring some characters for an entire book to concentrate on them in the next.  In interviews, he has admitted that he just has too much to present.  He is extremely successful at writing and still has the same problems the rest of us amateurs face.

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Martin writes about writing in his weekly column Ramblings from Martin.

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