BryndenBFish

Meta: How a Dark Turn in GRRM's Favorite POV Contributed to the Long Wait for ADWD

15 posts in this topic

Intro

As has become the case the longer the wait for TWOW takes, I've come to really enjoy researching, thinking and writing about more meta topics in ASOIAF. One of my favorite topics is how GRRM writes ASOIAF -- especially the last 2 books and TWOW. Today, I wanted to talk a meta-theory on one factor why ADWD took so long to write. Hope you enjoy!

A Dance with Dragons took 11 years in total to complete. Yes, A Feast for Crows was released in 2005, but GRRM had "half" of ADWD completed before AFFC was published. At the end of AFFC, GRRM infamously estimated that he would be done ADWD "in a year." But we know what happened next. GRRM ran into writing problems and ended up rewriting most of what he had already written for ADWD. What was once thought to be a one-year wait turned into a grueling six year writing process for GRRM and his fans.

One of the major problems in GRRM's writing was the Meereenese Knot, but there was another problem for GRRM -- one that hasn't been explored in much depth: Tyrion Lannister.


GRRM's POV Writing Style

When talking about GRRM's writing style, I think it's important to zero in on how GRRM writes ASOIAF. GRRM does not write the books in a linear fashion. What I mean by that is that GRRM's typical style is to write multiple chapters or chunks of chapters from the POV perspective of one character until he grows tired of writing him or her or hits a roadblock and transitions to another POV character. In mid-1999, he described his writing style thusly:

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Question: Do you generally write a certain POVs chapters in batches? Or are Dany's chapters, given how generally unconnected they are to the rest of the books as she goes along her own plot thread, easier to do that way? I suppose the momentum can help with a tough character.

GRRM: Yes, I generally get in a groove on a particular character and write several chapters or chunks of chapters at once, before hitting a wall. When I do hit a wall, I switch to another character. - SSM, 7/14/1999

 

This is a fairly unique way of writing that has all sorts of highs and lows. On the high side, GRRM can "groove" on one character for an extended period of time and get into the character's head to write an extraordinarily involved, almost manic series of chapters -- think Ned's final chapters in AGOT or Tyrion's Blackwater chapters.

Still, there are drawbacks too. For one, the non-linear style means that GRRM will often get pretty far ahead of other POVs on the timeline and will then have to head backwards in his timeline to "fill in the gaps." Oft-times, this gap-filling necessitates re-writes to chapters that GRRM already completed (something George found to his horror as he "unwrote" much of his ADWD material from 2006-2007).


GRRM's Favorite POV: Tyrion

Everyone at this point knows that GRRM's favorite character in ASOIAF is Tyrion Lannister. GRRM wrote the dwarf to match many aspects of his personality, though obviously not his appearance. In addition to being GRRM's favorite character in his own series, GRRM has also talked about how easy it is to write him, especially in contrast to his other characters:

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Some characters are easier to write and some harder, however. Dany and Bran have always been toughest, maybe because they are heaviest on the magical elements... also, Bran is the youngest of POV kids, and very restricted as well because of his legs. At the other end of the spectrum, the Tyrion chapters often seem to write themselves. The same was true for Ned. - SSM, 7/14/1999

Tyrion as GRRM's easiest POV character to write is a resounding theme in many of his earlier interviews:

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Question: Which character, for you, is the easiest to write? Why? Who is the most difficult?

GRRM: Tyrion is easiest. Hardest are Jon and Dany. Bran is hard as well . . . in part because of his age. - GRRM Online Chat Interview With Event Horizon 3/18/1999

Question: Let's talk about Tyrion. He really blossoms during A CLASH OF KINGS.

GRRM: Tyrion is one character I find very easy to write, as well. The hardest characters are Jon and Dany — in part because they are so removed from the main action, and in part because their chapters have the heaviest "magic quotient." - GRRM Online Chat Interview With Event Horizon 3/18/1999

GRRM said that his favorite character is Tyrion Lannister, and he identifies a lot with Tyrion. GRRM said the Tyrion chapters are very easy to write, and they seem to write themselves without any effort from him. - SSM, 7/15/2005

Circling back to GRRM's writing style of writing from a particular POV until hitting a roadblock and switching, I think that Tyrion was GRRM's go-to POV character for the first 3 books that he ends up switching to when he hits a writing roadblock with another POV. As way of evidence, one interesting thing that GRRM has said is that he wrote almost all of Tyrion's ASOS chapters during the timeline of writing ACOK:

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Q: Were circumstances and timing of Tywin's death something you planned for a long time or another case of characters "taking initiative", like with Cat?

GRRM: That scene was largely written even before A CLASH OF KINGS was published. Hell, I'd been setting up that "Lord Tywin shits gold" line since his very first appearance in A GAME OF THRONES. - SSM, 5/12/2001

This makes a lot of sense considering that GRRM wrote 15 chapters for ACOK and then 11 chapters for Tyrion in ASOS for a total of 26 chapters even before ASOS was published. Given the amount of chapters that GRRM wrote, I think it's a fair bet that GRRM often turned to Tyrion when he ran into writing issues in other POVs.

But something changed after ASOS.


A Dark Turn for Tyrion

When fans consider the length it took to write AFFC/ADWD in contrast to the first 3 books, many look at the wait but don't see the causes for it. One of the major causes was an increasingly complex narrative found most strongly in the Meereenese Knot. His partial solution to some of the problems was to split his POV characters by location into 2 books, but the most pressing issues would be found in his ADWD POVs.

Given that ADWD has many POV chapters from characters that he has a hard time writing in the first place (Jon, Dany, Bran), ADWD would prove to be a difficult book to write. However, the difficulty was compounded further when his go-to POV became exceptionally difficult to write.

Before the publication of ASOS, GRRM talked about how easy and effortless it was to write Tyrion, but the writing of Tyrion became much, much more difficult. Instead of gliding through Tyrion chapter after Tyrion chapter, we get glimpses of GRRM's writing progress with Tyrion in ADWD like so:

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Finished a Tyrion chapter yesterday, one I’ve been struggling with for months. Made a major change to the end of the chapter, one I think works much better than what I had before. Also tackled another Tyrion chapter that had been giving me trouble, mainly by ripping Tyrion out of the scene entirely and rewriting the whole damn thing from another point of view. Not quite done with that one yet, but I think it will work better as well. However, I am keeping the old Tyrion POV version of the same events on my computer, just in case I change my mind later and decide to go back. – This, That, and t’Other Thing, 12/12/2007

And then we get GRRM talking about the Tyrion/Shrouded Lord chapter that was complete that he ended up cutting out of ADWD altogether:

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I write a chapter, sometimes several, decide later it isn’t working, go back and rewrite and cut it all out.These are aspects of the creative process that are NOT FOR PUBLIC VIEW. I am wrestling with my story, my characters, and my muse, and that’s one wrestling match you won’t see on Pay Per View.Someday I will die, and I hope you’re right and it’s thirty years from now. When that happens, maybe my heirs will decide to publish a book of fragments and deleted chapters, and you’ll all get to read about Tyrion’s meeting with the Shrouded Lord. It’s a swell, spooky, evocative chapter, but you won’t read it in DANCE. It took me down a road I decided I did not want to travel, so I went back and ripped it out. - GRRM comment, Notablog, Highs and Lows, 10/23/2007

So what gave? How did Tyrion become so difficult to write? Well, the character of Tyrion changed dramatically between ASOS and ADWD. While Tyrion was always a cynic and had some darkness in him, the dwarf became damn-near nihilistic in ADWD. He rapes women, fantasizes about raping and murdering his sister, poisons people with mushrooms, manipulates a boy to foolishly invade Westeros without the support of Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons and wants to haunt Westeros from the grave after he dies. Tyrion is an ugly mess through ADWD, and this is a bit of a change from his character in the first 3 books.

So you can start to see where some of the problems in writing emerged. Where in the past GRRM would hit a roadblock in writing and then possibly switch over to Tyrion for an easier road, that road was unavailable to him. Tyrion was difficult to write and this likely led to many headaches for GRRM. Transitioning Tyrion from being the pragmatic, sarcastic asshole we loved in the first 3 books to a dark nihilist was likely extraordinarily difficult for GRRM to write.

In fact, in 2010, GRRM said as much:

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Another tidbit I liked (this I think from Friday night): that while Tyrion was his favorite character and the most like himself, and for those reasons perhaps the easiest for him to write. These chapters have been harder in Dance because of the dark turn Tyrion's story has taken. - SSM, 4/16/2010

Speaking personally, I believe that GRRM's treatment of Tyrion in ADWD was extraordinarily successful and compelling, but I certainly understand how difficult that process must have been for George.


Conclusion

The darker Tyrion that GRRM struggled with was a consistent struggle for GRRM, but towards the end of ADWD, Tyrion seems to be returning to some form. By the end of the book, Tyrion, while not quite overcoming his dark turns earlier in the book, is becoming the pragmatic, cynical, sarcastic asshole again -- joking while being auctioned off and winning the support of the Second Sons in typical Tyrion fashion.

In fact, it's very possible that in TWOW, Tyrion's return to form may continue. In 2014, GRRM talked about Tyrion in TWOW:

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Spoiler

"Tyrion and Dany will intersect, in a way, but for much of the book they’re still apart. They both have quite large roles to play here. Tyrion has decided that he actually would like to live, for one thing, which he wasn’t entirely sure of during the last book, and he’s now working toward that end—if he can survive the battle that’s breaking out all around him." - EW, 6/26/2014

 

Whether this transitions into easier writing for Tyrion is really anyone but Martin and his editors' guess, but it is interesting to note that he's read or released

Spoiler

two Tyrion chapters from TWOW already.

Perhaps again, Tyrion has returned to the fold as GRRM's go-to POV switch in TWOW, but really, that's speculation until GRRM or someone else says so.

Thanks for reading! Special thanks to /u/MightyIsobel, /u/bookshelfstud , /u/hamfast42 , /u/fat_walda , /u/admiralkird , /u/jen_snow , /u/JoeMagician /u/glass_table_girl for allowing me to bounce these ideas off of them some months ago. Thanks!

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Interesting read! I love this delving into the SSM's!

The part about the Shrouded Lord is very interesting. I wonder how it relates to Tyrion's associating the Shrouded Lord with Tywin after his near-death experience

He dreamt of his lord father and the Shrouded Lord. He dreamt that they were one and the same, and when his father wrapped stone arms around him and bent to give him his grey kiss, he woke with his mouth dry and rusty with the taste of blood and his heart hammering in his chest.

Also, if the meeting with the Shrouded Lord was to take place somewhere in or near the Sorrows, GRRM might have been referring to the chapter here

Beyond the veil of dream, the Sorrows were waiting for him. Stone steps ascending endlessly, steep and slick and treacherous, and somewhere at the top, the Shrouded Lord. I do not want to meet the Shrouded Lord

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Thank you.  You form a very explainable reason for the length of time between books.  

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When that happens, maybe my heirs will decide to publish a book of fragments and deleted chapters

Hadn't seen this before. I don't want GRRM to.... you know, but I would love to read this book! 

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Nicely done B-Fish, I've really enjoyed hearing you on History of Westeros.

What do you make of the Tyrion Targaryen theories?  I admit I used to be highly skeptical, but I think I'm coming around, in no small part to LmL's podcast, "Tyrion Targaryen"

Would it make sense that a character becomes harder to write as he devolves into a villain?  The development of a villain or anti-hero has become a very popular mode of story-telling in recent history (think Tony Soprano, Walter White, even the Star Wars Prequels).

There are all sorts of cool complexities to add now that Tyrion is setting up to be one of Dany's chief advisors.  If he is Dany's half brother, how will their shared heritage unfold?  Will they encourage the worst in one another? Or will his relationship with his brother and his knowledge about why Jaime slew the Mad King dictate his conduct?  

One of Tyion's witticisms I always enjoyed was that we are all dancing on the strings of our forebears, makes you wonder how that will manifest in Tyrion, huh?  

Nice thoughts here.

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A very good point, I believe, a character gone dark is very difficult to write. Hopefully, Tyrion is going to cheer up a bit, and GRRM speed up :-)

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1 hour ago, The Dragon Demands said:

But what *caused* this dark turn?

From what I read in the novels, Tyrion had been extremely loyal and honor bound to House Lannister.

His trial for killing Joffrey and Jaime's confessing what happened with Tysha sent Tyrion over the edge. For Martin to have written it he would need to understand the emotional consequence of betrayal. As in, when your family, good, bad or indifferent conspires to rip the scales from your eyes and show you their truth.

That is a difficult thing to come back from. Martin is bringing Tyrion back from the edge as I was shown with all those interactions with Penny.and Jorah. How Tyrion interacted with Penny and Jorah was how Martin saved Tyrion's and Jorah's humanity.

 

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I can see how difficult a previously fall back character could be to write in their change of character.   I think we get some of the very best story from Tyrion and dammit, I'm eager to see how he sees Dany's set up in Mereen.   But Gads, if the easy Tyrion is hard to commute to the other side of the difficult writing it seems there may be times of crippling disadvantage to writing Jon, Dany and Bran.   Mel's a magical character and I remember GRRM saying something to the effect that she is his most misunderstood character.  I think we all expect another POV from her in TWOW.  Seems we don't get many character specific updates with TWOW.   Still this update is a lot better to read than all those depressing click bait articles.   Thanks.  

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9 hours ago, Curled Finger said:

I can see how difficult a previously fall back character could be to write in their change of character.   I think we get some of the very best story from Tyrion and dammit, I'm eager to see how he sees Dany's set up in Mereen.   But Gads, if the easy Tyrion is hard to commute to the other side of the difficult writing it seems there may be times of crippling disadvantage to writing Jon, Dany and Bran.   Mel's a magical character and I remember GRRM saying something to the effect that she is his most misunderstood character.  I think we all expect another POV from her in TWOW.  Seems we don't get many character specific updates with TWOW.   Still this update is a lot better to read than all those depressing click bait articles.   Thanks.  

GRRM has also said that what made Melisandre so misunderstood is that we couldn't see things from her perspective. Now that she has had her own POV, GRRM says that Varys is the most misunderstood character.

An interesting essay. However, I think I disagree. I think the problem was that GRRM felt forced to tell a part of the story he never intended to. He struggle with a way to make things interesting and relevant when he never wanted to tell some of the characters stories at all.

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On ‎2016‎-‎10‎-‎17 at 10:00 AM, bent branch said:

GRRM has also said that what made Melisandre so misunderstood is that we couldn't see things from her perspective. Now that she has had her own POV, GRRM says that Varys is the most misunderstood character.

An interesting essay. However, I think I disagree. I think the problem was that GRRM felt forced to tell a part of the story he never intended to. He struggle with a way to make things interesting and relevant when he never wanted to tell some of the characters stories at all.

But he did say that Tyrion's chapters in ADWD were harder to write because of their dark nature, as quoted in OP. So that's, at least, one of the problems.

@BryndenBFish Do you think GRRM encountered similar problems with TWOW?

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Just as clarification, I just want to point out that GRRM's writing of Tyrion in ADWD was only one facet of difficulty. The major one was the Meereenese Knot -- of which Tyrion played a role in. As for GRRM's problems for TWOW, I think we can only speculate. Part of my speculation is that GRRM is encountering two setpieces in his novels that look to have a conflagration of  characters in it: King's Landing and Winterfell. We know that GRRM was rewriting a

Spoiler

Theon

chapter in his notablog WINDS post back in January. At Balticon in May, GRRM reported that he had left a

Spoiler

Cersei chapter

on his desk before coming to the con. Do those imply that he's struggling with writing a Winterfell or King's Landing knot? It's really impossible to say.

The other possibility is that GRRM is dealing with a dark turn in his characters in TWOW -- much like he did with ADWD. I think the two candidates for this would be Daenerys and Jon. Dany's "dragons plant no trees" turn has been talked about ad-nauseum, but Jon's dark turn should be talked about more. If Jon is resurrected in TWOW, are we going to see some of the negative impacts that we've seen in other characters that have experienced resurreciton, ala Beric and Catelyn? Will Jon lose some of his desire to become a hero? Will he not have the same concern for innocent life that he displayed during his time as Lord Commander in ADWD?

These are questions that I can't wait to see come to play in TWOW (if they do at all).

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On ‎2016‎-‎10‎-‎19 at 2:25 PM, BryndenBFish said:

Just as clarification, I just want to point out that GRRM's writing of Tyrion in ADWD was only one facet of difficulty. The major one was the Meereenese Knot -- of which Tyrion played a role in. As for GRRM's problems for TWOW, I think we can only speculate. Part of my speculation is that GRRM is encountering two setpieces in his novels that look to have a conflagration of  characters in it: King's Landing and Winterfell. We know that GRRM was rewriting a

  Reveal hidden contents

Theon

chapter in his notablog WINDS post back in January. At Balticon in May, GRRM reported that he had left a

  Reveal hidden contents

Cersei chapter

on his desk before coming to the con. Do those imply that he's struggling with writing a Winterfell or King's Landing knot? It's really impossible to say.

The other possibility is that GRRM is dealing with a dark turn in his characters in TWOW -- much like he did with ADWD. I think the two candidates for this would be Daenerys and Jon. Dany's "dragons plant no trees" turn has been talked about ad-nauseum, but Jon's dark turn should be talked about more. If Jon is resurrected in TWOW, are we going to see some of the negative impacts that we've seen in other characters that have experienced resurreciton, ala Beric and Catelyn? Will Jon lose some of his desire to become a hero? Will he not have the same concern for innocent life that he displayed during his time as Lord Commander in ADWD?

These are questions that I can't wait to see come to play in TWOW (if they do at all).

So the worst case scenario is that GRRM got himself into not one but two new knots (and the Mereenese knot isn't even fully resolved). Looks like we could be in for a really long wait.

Edited by Takiedevushkikakzvezdy

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On 10/19/2016 at 7:25 AM, BryndenBFish said:

Jon's dark turn should be talked about more. If Jon is resurrected in TWOW, are we going to see some of the negative impacts that we've seen in other characters that have experienced resurreciton, ala Beric and Catelyn? Will Jon lose some of his desire to become a hero? Will he not have the same concern for innocent life that he displayed during his time as Lord Commander in ADWD?

So, Jon will become Darth Vader.

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