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The Value of Grit

Philip Overby

Article Team
I wouldn't say ASOIAF is full of nothing but cruel characters just doing cruel things for the sake of it. They all have their own separate motivations for the things they do. I get the sense that this is a dangerous world with lots of ambitious people. Of all the main characters, I'd say only Joffrey seems cruel just for the sake of it. He has no rhyme or reason for what he does, which makes him all that more horrifying. However, some of the other characters who have done cruel things, such as Cersei, has her own motivations and reasons for doing things the way she has.

I think the key for having a gritty world that people can connect with is in the characters. Anyone can just write something with lots of cursing, killing, and sex in it. It's like the horror genre has a lot to offer as well. But a lot of people only think of the grotesque stuff that comes with it and not the characters, emotions, etc.
I didn't say they were being cruel just for the sake of it; I was saying that numerous characters are frequently cruel (or just mean or rude or unnecessarily hostile) for no apparent reason. They may have motivations, but often we have no idea what they are. Yeah, people can be ambitious, but a LOT of the characters (not all the main characters, but many, MANY secondary characters) are just complete b**tards for no apparent reason. It gets old after a while. If I wasn't so invested in the lore and the characters, I'd have stopped reading by now, because it's super depressing.

Philip Overby

Article Team
I guess I'm more invested in the main characters that I don't care too much if the secondary characters all have clear motivations. Sometimes when I think about Martin's characters or stuff that happens, I think of American History X. I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it, but there are some things that happen in that movie that show the depth of human cruelty and hatred and the senselessness of some actions. I like all sorts of fantasy, but I tend to lean towards that which IS darker simply because that's my own personal taste. If a book makes me depressed, happy, frustrated, crazy, then it evoked an emotion and therefore is doing its job.


Interesting discussion.
I prefer a kind of hybrid version. A world where there's plenty of light and happiness until bad things happen. When they do, I like to see those bad things happen in realistic detail however and have realistic consquences.
I'm really annoyed by books that feature things like torture, rape, death of loved ones, serious injury or illness etc and those things don't have any consequences as soon as the happy ending is reached. Especially, if the characters involved are easily "cured" by finding love, defeating the bad guys or anything like that.
That doesn't mean I don't want to see hope but it should be realistic given the situation that has been created.
For me, the impact of "darker" events is much greater if they're coming upon people who've been happy and unsuspecting before than if the main character has been a homeless prostitute for all her life or a battle-hardened mercenary.
In no way do I want to state that stories about homeless prostitutes and battle-hardened mercenaries shouldn't be written and some of them may interest me as well but my favorite is the darkness creeping up in the ordinary.

I'm quite aware of the fact that my approach might pose problems as far as finding the right target audience is concerned though. My story has a main character who's mainly suffering from normal teenage problems and insecurity issues until she has to fight for her life which turns really nasty.