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Plain, Simple Tailor

We’re Missing the Point

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I see a lot of theories about Jon’s parents. A lot. Ashara and Ned, Benjen and Lyanna, Ned and Lyanna...

I think we’re missing the point. 

There’s a reason why R+L=J exists. It’s not pointless. It is literally the entire motivation for Ned’s character. Ned’s character makes no sense without it. 

What would Ned just having a kid with Ashara do for the story? How does that tie into the themes? How is that motivation for the character? 

That’s what good theories are. Stuff that ties into everything, that clears it up, that enhances the theme. 

Stuff like N+A=J or B+L=J is just contrarian bullshit trying to capture the initial spark of the theories that actually make sense. 

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Yes, but you're not describing what is the actual point.

Ned Stark sacrificed everything in order to save an innocent child's life. Specifically he sacrificed that which is thought to be most precious to him, his honour, when he committed treason and betrayed his best friend by lying about Jon's parentage. He prioritised a child's life over everything.

The point is that it will be in contrast to Rhaegar. Rhaegar had Jon for the purpose of sacrifice. Rhaegar will have prioritised saving the realm over the life of his innocent child.

And so it will fall to Jon to choose which father's footsteps to follow in, Ned/Stark/Ice or Rhaegar/Targ/Fire.

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Also recognize that in Martin-world, people don't make decisions based on how it suits the literary requirements of the story of their lives. They make decisions based on their needs in the here and now. So if in the end it turns out that Jon is not Rhaegar's son but someone else's, this is no less plausible because the circumstances of his birth would have been to suit that other man's purposes, not Rhaegar's -- and Ned's promise to Lyanna will be no less urgent but not for the reasons we think.

 

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9 hours ago, John Suburbs said:

Also recognize that in Martin-world, people don't make decisions based on how it suits the literary requirements of the story of their lives. They make decisions based on their needs in the here and now. So if in the end it turns out that Jon is not Rhaegar's son but someone else's, this is no less plausible because the circumstances of his birth would have been to suit that other man's purposes, not Rhaegar's -- and Ned's promise to Lyanna will be no less urgent but not for the reasons we think.

 

But the characters exist in Martin-world. They tie into the themes because...that’s what stories are. 

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15 hours ago, Plain, Simple Tailor said:

But the characters exist in Martin-world. They tie into the themes because...that’s what stories are. 

I think this is a mistake that most people make with Martin. Unlike other writers, Martin's characters do not act because it fits into the theme of the story they are in or it is necessary to fulfill their arc in ways that are satisfying to the reader. In Martin-world, there is no story, there are no themes, plots do not resolve themselves into neat little packages. Characters are driven by their own motivations, whether that is greed, lust, insanity, or honor, principals, love.

Google Martin's explanation of writers who are architects and guide the action to a preconceived conclusion, and those who are gardeners who plant seeds in the text and allow them to grow. Martin says he is a gardener.

This is why we have Dany on a seemingly endless diversion in Essos, rather than just have her dragons grow at accelerated rates and a quick return to Westeros. This is why we get Brienne on a pointless quest looking for Sansa in all the wrong places. This is why the hero of the previous tale, Rhaegar, died in battle to a drunken, boorish wife-beater, when a more satisfying ending would have been his victory and return to KL to live happily ever after with his new wife. All of this is too tropey, however. The reason Martin truly stands out as an author is because he has abandoned all of these conventions to tell a real story with real characters doing things they really would, not behaving in contrived, predictable manners that lead to neat, tidy, theme-fulfilling endings.

So maybe RL=J is the truth, but maybe not. There are many reasons why Lyanna would exact a promise from Ned. And I'll note that Rhaegar is not the only Targaryen who could have fathered Jon.

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Posted (edited)
36 minutes ago, John Suburbs said:

Martin's characters do not act because it fits into the theme of the story they are in or it is necessary to fulfill their arc in ways that are satisfying to the reader. In Martin-world, there is no story, there are no themes, plots do not resolve themselves into neat little packages. Characters are driven by their own motivations, whether that is greed, lust, insanity, or honor, principals, love.

This is a false dichotomy. A story can have characters driven by their own motivations and still include themes or satisfying arcs.

There are plenty of themes in the books that have already been published: how honor can be a hindrance in politics, what makes a good ruler, the effects of war on the commoners, conflicting oaths,... And although the series are not concluded, we have seen satisfactory character arcs such as Dany's chapters in the first book, Jaime's POV,..

36 minutes ago, John Suburbs said:

Google Martin's explanation of writers who are architects and guide the action to a preconceived conclusion, and those who are gardeners who plant seeds in the text and allow them to grow. Martin says he is a gardener. 

The gardeners/architects comparison only relates to the amount of planning that one does before starting to write. It has nothing to do with the content of the novel.

Edited by The hairy bear

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On 6/16/2019 at 2:57 PM, Plain, Simple Tailor said:

Stuff like N+A=J or B+L=J is just contrarian bullshit trying to capture the initial spark of the theories that actually make sense. 

There are many reasons for all the ideas that are not R+L=J. For instance, some readers don’t accept that this mystery has been solved ages ago, and want to come up w/ an alternative. And to some, the more out there the alternative, the better; then, on the off off off chance they are correct, they become that special individual who alone “figured it all out”. Other readers hate hate hate Jon and the Starks and love love love the Targs, and they can’t stand the idea that the character they hate hate hate so much is half Targ. And this crowd has a subgroup that strongly defend the idea that Jon is the son of Lyanna with Brandon, or Eddard, or Benjen - it doesn’t really matter which one, as long as there’s some sibling-fucking incest inserted into the Stark family tree. Then there’s yet another group who thinks R+L=J is “too obvious”. I’m sure there are other groups, these are just the first three I could think of. 

Also, everything @The hairy bear said. The idea that just because Martin is a gardener and doesn’t plan ahead in detail doesn’t mean there are no themes and such in the story. IMO.

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2 hours ago, John Suburbs said:

I think this is a mistake that most people make with Martin. Unlike other writers, Martin's characters do not act because it fits into the theme of the story they are in or it is necessary to fulfill their arc in ways that are satisfying to the reader. In Martin-world, there is no story, there are no themes, plots do not resolve themselves into neat little packages. Characters are driven by their own motivations, whether that is greed, lust, insanity, or honor, principals, love.

Google Martin's explanation of writers who are architects and guide the action to a preconceived conclusion, and those who are gardeners who plant seeds in the text and allow them to grow. Martin says he is a gardener.

This is why we have Dany on a seemingly endless diversion in Essos, rather than just have her dragons grow at accelerated rates and a quick return to Westeros. This is why we get Brienne on a pointless quest looking for Sansa in all the wrong places. This is why the hero of the previous tale, Rhaegar, died in battle to a drunken, boorish wife-beater, when a more satisfying ending would have been his victory and return to KL to live happily ever after with his new wife. All of this is too tropey, however. The reason Martin truly stands out as an author is because he has abandoned all of these conventions to tell a real story with real characters doing things they really would, not behaving in contrived, predictable manners that lead to neat, tidy, theme-fulfilling endings.

So maybe RL=J is the truth, but maybe not. There are many reasons why Lyanna would exact a promise from Ned. And I'll note that Rhaegar is not the only Targaryen who could have fathered Jon.

You do realize Martin regularly talks about the themes of his books, right? 

And Brienne is only on that quest because she has to deal with her emotional baggage, WHICH TIES INTO THE THEMES 

The reason why Rhaegar died is because the story had to happen. That’s why writers do things. Because the story has to happen. 

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On 6/16/2019 at 8:12 PM, chrisdaw said:

Yes, but you're not describing what is the actual point.

Ned Stark sacrificed everything in order to save an innocent child's life. Specifically he sacrificed that which is thought to be most precious to him, his honour, when he committed treason and betrayed his best friend by lying about Jon's parentage. He prioritised a child's life over everything.

The point is that it will be in contrast to Rhaegar. Rhaegar had Jon for the purpose of sacrifice. Rhaegar will have prioritised saving the realm over the life of his innocent child.

And so it will fall to Jon to choose which father's footsteps to follow in, Ned/Stark/Ice or Rhaegar/Targ/Fire.

In the end Jon will follow Ned and sacrifice what he has for the betterment of the realm. He will choose duty over love and Westeros will prosper as the result.

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2 hours ago, Starkz said:

In the end Jon will follow Ned and sacrifice what he has for the betterment of the realm. He will choose duty over love and Westeros will prosper as the result.

Ned didn't choose duty over love when he saved Jon from Robert. Ned didn't choose duty over love when he named himself a traitor and proclaimed Joff the true king.

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2 hours ago, Starkz said:

In the end Jon will follow Ned and sacrifice what he has for the betterment of the realm. He will choose duty over love and Westeros will prosper as the result.

Until now, neither Eddard nor Jon ever choose duty over love.

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6 hours ago, John Suburbs said:

I think this is a mistake that most people make with Martin. Unlike other writers, Martin's characters do not act because it fits into the theme of the story they are in or it is necessary to fulfill their arc in ways that are satisfying to the reader. In Martin-world, there is no story, there are no themes, plots do not resolve themselves into neat little packages. Characters are driven by their own motivations, whether that is greed, lust, insanity, or honor, principals, love.

I've only read Sandkings and The Icedragon, but from them I got pretty good vibes in regards to satisfying endings.

What has me on edge is that GRRM seems into the war of the roses and other histories and those hardly ever has good arcs or "meaning" - mostly you find a character interesting and get disappointed at how futile and "wrong" (= un-story-like) stuff plays out when it dies on the same page.

I was hoping we'd get something in-between the two but it seems we won't even get an Elizabeth I-depressive-but-successful-type-ending. Now I think it will be like "they fought for generations and then the last living descendant got run over by a cart".

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21 hours ago, The hairy bear said:

This is a false dichotomy. A story can have characters driven by their own motivations and still include themes or satisfying arcs.

There are plenty of themes in the books that have already been published: how honor can be a hindrance in politics, what makes a good ruler, the effects of war on the commoners, conflicting oaths,... And although the series are not concluded, we have seen satisfactory character arcs such as Dany's chapters in the first book, Jaime's POV,..

The gardeners/architects comparison only relates to the amount of planning that one does before starting to write. It has nothing to do with the content of the novel.

Of course they can, but that doesn't mean the will necessarily do so because the characters are not thinking about creating a satisfying arc or fulfilling themes and a book. They are living real lies and making real decisions based on their, often short-term, goals. 

So, yeah, Dany had a nice arc in the first book, but then she flatlined over the next four. How much more satisfying would it have been if her dragons had reached maturity at the end of Clash and she had invaded Westeros in Storm? Or if Ned was sent to the Wall only to escape and lead the north in rebellion? Or if Renly had survived, defeated Stannis, then Tywin and reached a deal with Robb? If Martin had done this, he would have had a nice, tight three-volume series like he wanted, but he would have had to contrive ways to make his characters do things that are out of character for them, ultimately leading to a less-than-satisfying story.

No, the gardener approach means you create characters and allow them to grow and develop in ways that are natural for them, not force-fit them into your preconceived conclusion.

In regards to RLJ, the false dichotomy is that it will destroy themes and ruin arcs if it is not true. This is clearly not the case.

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19 hours ago, Plain, Simple Tailor said:

You do realize Martin regularly talks about the themes of his books, right? 

And Brienne is only on that quest because she has to deal with her emotional baggage, WHICH TIES INTO THE THEMES 

The reason why Rhaegar died is because the story had to happen. That’s why writers do things. Because the story has to happen. 

Of course he has themes. I never said he didn't. What he doesn't do is create contrivances in his text to support those themes.

In what way does going on a wild goose chase that leads nowhere allow Brienne to deal with her emotional baggage that any number of other arcs would not? No matter where she goes or what she does, she has emotional baggage to deal with. Why bother with the inner thoughts of a Dornish prince who only gets himself killed when there are many simpler ways to release the dragons? The whole story could be much tighter, move along much more efficiently without sacrificing themes and arcs that are important to the story, but not without creating contrived situations and abandoning character in order to get people to do what is necessary to move the plot along.

Rhaegar died because he was not as good a fighter as Robert, and even then it was a close thing. If Rhaegar had won, the story would still have happened, although it would have been a much different story. We would have had the ultimately satisfying arc of the noble prince defeating the warmongering, rebellious brute and his cold, unemotional northern accomplice, and then the doings of Lord Benjen Stark and his family as they negotiate southern politics and the northern threat.

You say all of these things "had to happen." I disagree. All of these things did happen and Martin is telling the story as it is happening now. He is the only writer that I am familiar with who is doing the exact opposite of what you are saying: he is putting his own ego aside by not telling the story that "has to happen" and telling the story that is just happening.

RLJ may or may not be true, but to say that it will destroy themes and arcs and characterizations if it is not true is jumping the gun. There are all kinds of ways it can turn out to be false even if it does not conform to the themes, etc., that you've already settled on.

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16 hours ago, Sigella said:

I've only read Sandkings and The Icedragon, but from them I got pretty good vibes in regards to satisfying endings.

What has me on edge is that GRRM seems into the war of the roses and other histories and those hardly ever has good arcs or "meaning" - mostly you find a character interesting and get disappointed at how futile and "wrong" (= un-story-like) stuff plays out when it dies on the same page.

I was hoping we'd get something in-between the two but it seems we won't even get an Elizabeth I-depressive-but-successful-type-ending. Now I think it will be like "they fought for generations and then the last living descendant got run over by a cart".

I think the ending will be satisfying, but only if the reader recognizes that Martin is not about tying up arcs in nice little bows where all the bad is defeated and good triumphs. If anything, his main theme all along is that this does not happen in true, real-life stories.

So, sure, the ending should be satisfying and produce some closure, but for people to think that if some favorite theory of theirs must be true in order to fulfill a preconceived notion of theme and plot, they are in for disappointment.

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2 hours ago, John Suburbs said:

Of course he has themes. I never said he didn't. What he doesn't do is create contrivances in his text to support those themes.

In what way does going on a wild goose chase that leads nowhere allow Brienne to deal with her emotional baggage that any number of other arcs would not? No matter where she goes or what she does, she has emotional baggage to deal with. Why bother with the inner thoughts of a Dornish prince who only gets himself killed when there are many simpler ways to release the dragons? The whole story could be much tighter, move along much more efficiently without sacrificing themes and arcs that are important to the story, but not without creating contrived situations and abandoning character in order to get people to do what is necessary to move the plot along.

Rhaegar died because he was not as good a fighter as Robert, and even then it was a close thing. If Rhaegar had won, the story would still have happened, although it would have been a much different story. We would have had the ultimately satisfying arc of the noble prince defeating the warmongering, rebellious brute and his cold, unemotional northern accomplice, and then the doings of Lord Benjen Stark and his family as they negotiate southern politics and the northern threat.

You say all of these things "had to happen." I disagree. All of these things did happen and Martin is telling the story as it is happening now. He is the only writer that I am familiar with who is doing the exact opposite of what you are saying: he is putting his own ego aside by not telling the story that "has to happen" and telling the story that is just happening.

RLJ may or may not be true, but to say that it will destroy themes and arcs and characterizations if it is not true is jumping the gun. There are all kinds of ways it can turn out to be false even if it does not conform to the themes, etc., that you've already settled on.

Quentyn existed as a deconstruction of an archetypical fantasy protagonist’s journey. And no other arc for Brienne would have allowed her to meet Lady Stoneheart, which will play into both her and Jaime’s arcs. Rhaegar died because GRRM had an idea for a story and that was part of the backstory. 

George isn’t an anarchist writer who doesn’t care. He’s a writer who carefully and painstakingly ties everything back to the themes. 

If he literally just shoved his themes to the side and completely didn’t care, then he would be a bad writer. 

And George, clearly, is not. 

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22 hours ago, Plain, Simple Tailor said:

Quentyn existed as a deconstruction of an archetypical fantasy protagonist’s journey. And no other arc for Brienne would have allowed her to meet Lady Stoneheart, which will play into both her and Jaime’s arcs. Rhaegar died because GRRM had an idea for a story and that was part of the backstory. 

George isn’t an anarchist writer who doesn’t care. He’s a writer who carefully and painstakingly ties everything back to the themes. 

If he literally just shoved his themes to the side and completely didn’t care, then he would be a bad writer. 

And George, clearly, is not. 

Sorry, but neither of these story lines is necessary. We already had the "deconstruction of an archtypical fantasy protagonist's journey" in Ned Stark, not to mention the evolution of the archtypical fantasy anatagonist into the archtypical fantasy protagonist. The only purpose Quent served was to loose the dragons, and that could have happened in any number of less complicated ways.

Same for Brienne. In what way did linking up with Nimble Dick and following him all the way out to the Whispers bring her closer to Lady Stoneheart? After all was said and done, she winds up right back at Maidenpool to find Septon Meribald. So here we have nearly half a novel of utterly useless plot, other than to learn the fates of a couple of minor characters from the previous novel.

I never said George is an anarchist or that he didn't care. But you have it backward: he doesn't create themes out of nothing and then force his characters into contrived situations where they have to make uncharacteristic decisions in order to fulfill those themes. He drives his plots in a realistic, sometimes meandering way, and the themes emerge on their own, like a garden.

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On 6/18/2019 at 5:55 PM, The Hoare said:

Until now, neither Eddard nor Jon ever choose duty over love.

Really?  Ned married Cat.  Ned took the position of Hand.  The only time Ned broke duty was when he lied about Jon, and when Cersei claimed to have both Arya and Sansa and threatened their lives.  No one know about the former in the books, and we have no idea if they ever will.  While his public confession to save his daughters is in itself understandable, realizing that Renly and Stannis would soon be bickering over the throne with the Lannisters is enough to give him pause if he wants to bring the North into a war.

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11 minutes ago, WalkinDude said:

Really?  Ned married Cat.  Ned took the position of Hand

Ha, even the most despicable of lords would accept these duties.

11 minutes ago, WalkinDude said:

The only time Ned broke duty was when he lied about Jon, and when Cersei claimed to have both Arya and Sansa and threatened their lives

Or when he didn't told Robert that Cersei's sons weren't his...

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