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George R. R. Martin explains how he writes outcast characters for Game of Thrones

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George R.R. Martin and Theon Greyjoy
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In the captivating world of “Game of Thrones” and “The Song of Ice and Fire,” George R. R. Martin weaves intricate tales surrounding outcast characters. Through storylines of characters like Tyrion Lannister, Arya Stark, and Theon Greyjoy, Martin captures the struggles of those who differ from societal norms.

These characters, characterized by compassion and internal conflicts, bring depth and realism to his storytelling. They engage readers with their relatable journeys of self-discovery and the pursuit of their place in the world.

George R. R. Martin’s character development process

George RR Martin on Creating Outcasts

In an interview, George R. R. Martin was asked a comprehensive question relating to the outcast nature of some of his major characters in the series:

Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf character in Game of Thrones and in The Song of Ice and Fire is probably everyone’s favorite character. He has this really memorable moment where he says, ‘I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples and bastards and broken things.’ So many of your characters are these outsiders.

They’re either different, or they’re disabled in some way like him, and they seem to be the only characters that are capable of true compassion, and yet they seem to suffer for it. Now it’s is this something you’re conscious of doing, George, as you’re writing the book.

Yeah, definitely I mean, yes, I have a large cast of viewpoint characters for the most part; they all have something that makes them a bit of an outcast.

George R. R. Martin describes his outcast characters

Tyrion is a dwarf, jon snow is a bastard, and Dany, who’s you know, beautiful, is a penniless exile who’s being essentially sold off in marriage. You know Arya is born to a noble house, but she’s kind of this wild child who she doesn’t conform with her proper gender roles. Brienne of Tarth, even more, doesn’t conform to her proper gender roles, and because of that, she suffers a lot of scorn and rejection because she’s not a proper woman in terms of her society.

Sam Tarly is fat and bookish when a lord is expected to be warlike and strong and fierce and good with a sword, and Sam, as a pawn would rather read and dance and listen to music, and so he suffers a lot of rejection, and I could go on.

The case of Theon Greyjoy

Theon Greyjoy, a relatable outcast from Game of Thrones

Credit: HBO

Then George R. R. Martin went on to describe the case of Theon Greyjoy and the conflict within him:

“Even a character like Theon Greyjoy, who’s not a character that a lot of people are fond of because he’s a weak character, I mean, he’s physically strong, he’s very skilled with a bow, he’s you know a good warrior, but he’s a character who’s suffering a lot of confusion about his place in the world because you know he’s born of a noble family, but his father raised a rebellion, and his elder brothers were killed during that rebellion, and he was handed over as a hostage at the end, theoretically a ward they called it.

But still, a hostage if his father creates trouble, he used to be hung, you know, so that was a frequent practice in the middle ages when you didn’t really trust one of your underlords or an enemy who had bent the knee you took some of his children as wards or hostages, and so he’s a Greyjoy by birth and by some standards he’s the heir to the iron islands.

But he’s been raised in the household of Eddard stark, and there’s part of him who you know he has these two fathers looming over him neither one who he can ever quite please and he’s desperate to find his place in the world as one or the other, but from that confusion, a great drama arises.

George R. R. Martin on creating conflict within characters

He then stated how human conflicts interest him, and that’s what he likes to read and write about:

I think the best fiction, the best stories arise out of conflict. I’ve always taken as my mantra. William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech where he said the only thing worth writing about is the human heart and conflict with itself.

I think that’s true of all fiction, whether it’s science fiction or fantasy or literary fiction or mystery fiction, the human heart in conflict with itself, the characters who are having problems, who are trying to decide the right thing to do, who are trying to make some sense of their life, who are trying to find their place in the world or any of these issues these are what make characters real.

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These are the things that real people do, and that’s the characters I love to read about. Those are the characters I love to write.

Read Next: George R. R. Martin reveals his favorite castle from Game of Thrones.

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Aryan, a freelance writer with a profound passion for the English language and literature, also happens to be an ardent fan of "A Song of Ice and Fire" and its television adaptation, "Game of Thrones." Fascinated by the intricate world-building, compelling characters, and rich storytelling of these epic sagas, Aryan finds great joy in delving into the depths of their narratives and analyzing the nuances they offer.

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