'A Game of Thrones' Inspired Me to Write My Own Epic Fantasy
By Jenny Derochemont
I grew up reading fantasies. It was a way for me to escape my world and enter a better world. When I read a fantasy novel, I knew that in the end, everything would work out. Which is fine when you’re in grade school and even early junior high. But, the older you get, the more you begin to realize that happy endings aren’t always guaranteed. I struggled a lot in my schoolwork and was terrible at making friends. While fantasies helped me escape, I yearned for something more. I wanted to read something where a character was going through the same things that I was. That’s when I got more into reading realistic fiction, but even at that, I would find it hard to connect with the main character. Sometimes I found myself relating to a side character who only appeared in two or three chapters.
When I first watched Game of Thrones and started reading the books, I was amazed at the balance of fiction and reality. It was unlike any show/book I had ever seen. In this story, princes weren’t always gallant and kind. Instead of being rescued by a prince, the princess gets rescued by a “monster.” Good men died, while villains prospered. All bets were off when it came to Game of Thrones. At any moment, your favorite character could die. They may even introduce a character who you think will play a key role, only to have them smashed to pieces. You may even see a character who you rooted for from the beginning turn from being the hero/heroine to the villain. This was the story I had been searching for all my life. Something real and a story that was not predictable. It was after watching two seasons of the show and reading the first two books that I realized I wanted to write a story like that—an epic fantasy with a sense of realism in it.
At first, I toyed around with a few ideas. But somehow they all seemed to end up being too much like Game of Thrones. All my villains ended up turning out like Cersei or Ramsay. And all my heroines began to feel like Daenerys. Even my heroine’s love interest was starting to shape into a cross between Jon Snow and Gendry. So I started reading and watching other epic fantasies. I researched how to build a world and create a history for your world. Before I knew it, the ideas were spinning around in my mind. Instead of drawing from the fictional characters I saw on TV, I began to use the outlines of people I knew.
I had the characters, the history, lists of houses and kingdoms, a crappy drawing of a map, and character profiles. I was ready to dive into my epic fantasy, and poured my heart and soul into it for months. When I finished, I was pretty proud of what I had written. After reading it through, I realized that what I had was a bunch of isolated events that needed stitching together. I really commend Martin, Weiss, and Benioff for being able to rotate multiple storylines. Their transitions are usually pretty smooth, and there is an ultimate purpose for each character and their storyline.
Of course, I realize that you can’t expect to get things right on the first try. I’d written novels before and know that it takes several drafts before you find a draft that you are confident your readers will love. I knew that taking on an epic fantasy would be hard work. It was hard work trying to keep track of all the Game of Thrones characters at first. But you learn. I rewrote my epic fantasy, tentatively entitled Anarchy, several times and somehow I felt like I was getting further and further away from my goal. The reason why that was is because my goal kept changing. And my main characters kept changing as well. I had some idea of how I wanted it to end, but somehow, I couldn’t figure out a route to get there. Each time I thought I found the right path, I would come to a standstill. I would stand there and scratch my head, telling myself that something didn’t seem right.
After two years of driving myself insane over this novel, I finally had to put it aside. I was going around in circles, and I wasn’t enjoying myself anymore. So I took a step back from it, but I didn’t want to stop writing altogether. I also did not want to give up on writing an epic fantasy. At first, it was hard for me to write because I felt defeated. I had never had this much trouble with a piece before. Eventually though, I got back up and started writing smaller stories. I even took to writing out my frustrations at some point, though I found that all my stories would turn into fantasies. Whether I wanted them to or not, I thought maybe it was a sign that I was ready.
Instead of going back to the original piece, I toyed around with a few other epic fantasy ideas tolling around in my head. Which eventually led me back to a story I had written for a fiction writing class back in college entitled, A True Warrior. What I learned from my previous attempts at writing epic fantasies, which is also something I learned from Game of Thrones, is that you can’t rush something like this. It takes time to build a world and get to know the characters that exist in it. Because if you can’t understand your characters, then you won’t get far in your plot. I also learned that it’s okay to fail and that no matter what you do as a writer to try and make your story come to a satisfying end, not everyone will be happy with your decisions.
Writing a series is hard work. Especially when you have 15 to 20 characters. Not everyone is going to have a happy ending. Some people have to die, some have to live with the choices they have made, and some will have the happy ending they have been looking for. Ultimately as a writer, we have to decide between satisfying our readers or doing justice to our story.
Game of Thrones has taught me many lessons in my life. It has shown me that we all have to go through rough patches in our lives before we get to the good. And that devotion and patience is key to writing a great novel, or a screenplay. For me, a good book, or TV show, is one that moves you. It breaks your heart and takes your breath away. It stays in your mind long after it is gone and makes you think. That’s what I hope to accomplish in my novel. I want to excite people, break their hearts, and make them think. Saying goodbye to Game of Thrones is like saying farewell to an old friend. It’s not easy, but then again goodbyes never are, and that’s how we know it meant something.