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Game of Thrones

What makes Game of Thrones so compelling? There are many reasons why binge watchers can’t stop watching, despite the desperate pleas of begging mothers, spouses, and significant others.

For me, the story showcases two elements that all writers should strive to emulate. First is the development of multi-faceted characters who evolve. Tyrion Lannister, for instance, is a physically outmatched dwarf who manages to overcome his sinister relatives. He avoids executions, evictions and extreme dangers, situations that are more difficult for a dwarf to escape. At first he is generally complicit in the commands dictated by his Lannister relatives. Next, you see him outwitting them. Then, you witness outright betrayal as he joins rival Khaleesi in her attempt to reclaim her right to the throne.

The second element is suspense. The character depth allows for twists and turns that are believable. Watchers witness specks of compassion in Jaime Lannister, e.g., in his protecting his brother Tyrion when other Lannisters would have taken Tyrion’s head. The groundwork allows for Jaime’s later bold move in jumping in front of a bear to save the life of his then captor, Brienne of Tarth, when he could have simply continued on his way to Kings Landing. The brilliant character development forms the basis for many other breathtaking twists. A writer can’t employ suspense appearing out of thin air. It has to be believable.

Game of Thrones offers lessons for writers. Characters shouldn’t be one dimensional cartoonishly evil (like Roadrunner) or thoroughly wholesome (like Mr. Rogers). Readers like to be awed with the clever development of interesting and complicated heroes and villains. Careful development also provides greater opportunities for suspense. You will not be able to appreciate the brilliance of the show until you begin to look past its brutal violence, orgies, and selfish acts.

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