Welcome to a new series of posts I will be contributing over the summer. These are from several articles I wrote over the last year, devoted to my favorite author, George R. R. Martin. Today’s post is about narration. I hope you enjoy these, as I had a lot of fun writing them, and look forward to sharing them over the next few months.
Choosing how to tell a story has been an ongoing exploration in the world of fiction ever since us writers started trying to write our stories down. The appeal of the omniscient narrator invokes the truest spirit of the fireside story-teller, while the first-person tale gives the intimacy of a secret whispered in the ear. In our modern age of evolving fiction, perspective narration, a fusion of the two, is emerging as a powerful, engaging medium for the artists who choose the keyboard as their paintbrush.
Martin brings this medium to its edge. His chapters are a beautiful balance of sensory, emotional and mental descriptions, a live-action third-person that takes you directly into the characters he chooses to inhabit. This power is evinced in his ability to introduce a new character and immediately establish a connection to him or her. I’ve seen Barristan Selmy, the knight who’s always watching, always ready with a wise word for his queen, but now, in a short chapter (beautifully its own small story in a larger arc) I know him. Martin doesn’t rely on simple rules and idioms, either. He genuinely walks in each character’s shoes when he conveys for us these episodes. He’s not just writing; he’s acting, and doing a damn good job of it.
Then there’s Victarion. I haven’t seen this guy in more than 800 pages, and for me with my busy schedule that’s 5 months, but in the short course of a chaotic scene full of monkey shit and homosexual jibes, the spirit of the Iron Islander lives again. When Martin returns to this old character, he hasn’t changed. Victarion Greyjoy isn’t just a bunch of details on a profile page, crafted for the sake of an evolving story. He is the story, as much the whole of it as a component, like a cell in a living thing. That’s a real character, and that’s what I, as a writer, strive for in my own writing.
As one who wishes to learn from those who have a masterful hold on this wonderful craft, I take away from Mr. Martin the desire to make my characters come to life. That’s the heart of the story, as he so aptly reveals.
There’s the fireside storyteller, then there’s the first person account. Yet something new is emerging, a storyteller who makes their storytelling real – the hypnotist, with their hypnotic suggestions – and Martin is edging in closer with his pioneering masterpiece, leading the way for those of us who eagerly work to take fiction somewhere it’s never been before.
(Taken from a post at Following the Footsteps of the Masters, a blog devoted to the things that make epic fantasy great)