Game of Thrones, writers, and the art of deception

I’m assuming everyone has seen the mind-blowing season finale of Game of Thrones by now. If not, leave like a Lannister is after you and go watch it. I’ll wait for you.

Okay, now that we don’t have to worry about revealing any spoilers, let’s talk about the slick con that Game of Thrones played on its viewers.

The power of stories can be a fascinating and mesmerizing force, regardless of whether that story is unfolding on the movie screen, the television screen, or the Kindle screen. We get sucked into the point of view that we’re seeing, so enthralled with what’s happening in front of our eyes that we forget there’s a whole fictional world outside our view that has stuff happening there, too.

We saw Sansa doubt her safety around her sister. We saw Arya find the planted note that resulted in a heated argument with Sansa. We saw Littlefinger fanning those flames of doubt and fear in Sansa’s mind, leading the sisters towards an inevitable confrontation. We even saw Arya say she could become Lady of the House. All she would need is Sansa’s face.

We saw Arya get called in front of Sansa, with the Lady of House Stark sitting before her like a judge ready to pass sentence.

And then we saw the rug get pulled out from under a completely surprised Littlefinger as he realized—too late—the sisters were united against him. And the viewers were just as surprised. And thrilled.

We were surprised because we forgot. We forgot that while we were watching Tyrion, Jon, and Daenerys have their adventure north of the Wall, things were still happening at Winterfell; the story was still unwinding. We just weren’t seeing it. I imagine Sansa and Arya meeting in secret and laughing about Lord Baelish trying to come between them, perhaps feeling sad for the little man who thought he could come between two sisters who had each endured so much loss and pain.

That’s one of the tricks every author can use. Create an adventure that is so thrilling, so engrossing, that your readers forget that other things are happening elsewhere, and then watch those four-star and five-star reviews roll in when your readers are pleasantly caught off-guard by your slick style.

Every author has heard the old adage about showing instead of telling. But don’t show everything until the time is right.

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One Comment on “Game of Thrones, writers, and the art of deception”

  1. Nice post Marty. It was very satisfying to see Littlefinger get his comeuppance. What is the old saying … Karma is a bitch because you are never the driver, or something like that.

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