A Song of Ice and Fire: Structure/Word Count Case Study

The post about word count and subplots was getting long, so I’ll break this out here:

I think George R.R. Martin is writing parallel novels inside each of his books.

  • There is a main plot and a main character to each book.  You can figure this out by counting which POV character has the most chapters; usually, the main POV has an undistinguished number of chapters in the first half of the book, and then comes to dominate the number of chapters in the latter half of the book.
  • The main POV character’s “novel” seems to have a main story and multiple subplots.  If that “novel” were stripped out on its own from each, it would probably be 120-150K all by itself (I should check this but haven’t yet).
  • The other “novels,” a.k.a. POV characters in each book, have main plots, mostly without subplots but sometimes with.
  • All “novels” except the main POV’s have a strong chance of terminating abruptly, simply so the main POV can dominate the latter half of the novel.
  • This doesn’t mean that the main POV won’t get killed (ahahahaha), but that the main POV will at least have a solid beginning, middle, and ending to their story within that book.  If they live, then they’ll have stuff ahead of them, but the arc for that book will feel more or less complete.
  • Some of the POV characters’ “novels” span from book to book, so you’re only getting a beginning, part of a middle, or an end per book.
  • Some of the POV characters’ “novels” truncate abruptly with no real ending/wrapup, so you feel cheated (when they die or get massively screwed and you’re just left hanging).

In conclusion, GRRM is probably structuring his books specifically to mess with your sense of how a story “should” be, and killing off characters just so you can have the requisite number of pissed-off moments per book.

I need to do a lot more work on ASOIAF, so this is really tentative 🙂

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