George R. R. Martin: ‘You can’t write about war and violence without having death.’


In his latest interview with Joy Ward, prolific epic fantasy novel writer George R. R. Martin of A Song of Ice and Fire fame (which you most obviously know) talked about various aspects of his life, how his life molded way into him taking up writing as a profession, and mostly importantly for his dear fans, on why other novels, movies or shows killing off only extras is ‘such a cheat’.

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While a number of questions about his early life and how he ended up becoming a full-time writer where answered, we decided to take a closer look at the matters that trouble fans of the famed HBO show Game of Thrones and the of the book series ASOIAF. Answering the the question ‘How do you use death in your writing?’, George’s straight and clear answer was:

I don’t think of it in those terms, that I’m using death for any purpose. I think a writer, even a fantasy writer, has an obligation to tell the truth and the truth is, as we say in Game of Thrones, all men must die. Particularly if you’re writing about war, which is certainly a central subject in Game of Thrones. It has been in a lot of my fiction, not all of it by any means but certainly a lot of it, going all the way back to “The Hero,” which was a story about a warrior. You can’t write about war and violence without having death. If you want to be honest it should affect your main characters. We’ve all read this story a million times when a bunch of heroes set out on adventure and it’s the hero and his best friend and his girlfriend and they go through amazing hair-raising adventures and none of them die. The only ones who die are extras. That is such a cheat.

He goes on to add:

That’s such a cheat. It doesn’t happen that way. They go into battle and their best friend dies or they get horribly wounded. They lose their leg or death comes at them unexpectedly.

Death is so arbitrary. It’s always there. It’s coming for all of us. We’re all going to die. I’m going to die. You’re going to die. Mortality is at the soul of all this stuff. You have to write about it if you’re going to be honest, especially if you’re writing a story high in conflict. Once you’ve accepted that you have to include death then you should be honest about death and indicate it can strike down anybody at any time. You don’t get to live forever just because you are a cute kid or the hero’s best friend or the hero. Sometimes the hero dies, at least in my books.


It is no secret that characters in his epic fantasy in the land of Westeros and Essos are known to live their times out at the most surprising moments, and Martin’s comments in this interview shed much light into his understanding of his creation, and how he views other universes that do not share the same opinion. Game of Thrones is wildly popular among teenagers and adults alike, much to the credit of the writer himself, who keeps the story completely original as intended by him, unmoved and unbiased by public opinion about his story. And this excerpt from the interview reaffirms the same.

For more about the mystical land of A Song of Ice and Fire and the TV serial Game of Thrones, stay tuned to ASidCast!