Sunday, August 7, 2011

Complex Characters (or where I fangirl George RR Martin)

I've decided my favorite characters--heroes or villains--are the ones that I'm not really sure about.

In the last few months, I read all five of the books in George R. R. Martin's series A Song of Fire and Ice. One of the main plotlines revolves around The Game of Thrones because 15-20 years before the book opens, there's a rebellion, the former ruling family is overthrown and most of them killed off, and the leader of the rebellion makes himself king. Only he was a better solider than he is a king.

I could say I devoted a lot of sleepless nights to the several thousand pages in the series so far because I love the worldbuilding. (I do, it's the closest thing to Middle Earth I've ever read). I could say it's because I love the fact that no one is safe that I know GRRM won't pull any punches. (Sometimes, I don't love that, though.) Or I could say that I love the twists, the gasp inducing scenes that always convince me I have to read just one more chapter. (There are some big ones).

But really, it's the complexity and moral ambiguity of all the characters. Because for each character, everything happening in the books relates to that rebellion, to what happened to them in their past. They remember events differently and their actions are based on those memories. When I first started reading book one I was convinced who the good and bad guys where, only when I got to book two and started reading from some of those "bad" guys' points of view, I realized they weren't all that bad. In fact, in some instances, my opinion was completely turned on its head.

There are other great examples of really complex morally ambiguous characters that I've loved. When I was reading Harry Potter my opinion of Snape and whether he was good or bad changed with each book. And it took me most of The Hunger Games to figure Haymitch out. And that's why I found them so interesting.


Liz Norris briefly taught high school English and history before trading the southern California beaches and sunshine for Manhattan's recent snowpocalyptic winter. She harbors dangerous addictions to guacamole, red velvet cupcakes, sushi, and Argo Tea, fortunately not all together. Her first novel, UNRAVELING (Balzer+Bray April 2012), features a 17 year old girl who mysteriously comes back to life after dying in a car crash. She sets out to avenge her father’s murder, solve the case he was working on, and stop the rapidly approaching apocalypse. And unravel the mystery of the boy responsible for bringing her back to life.


  1. Know just what you mean. That Snape, what a worm, or was he??

  2. I haven't read George R. R. Martin before, but will definitely have to now, because I adore complex and morally ambiguous characters.

  3. I've been hearing a lot of good things about George R. R. Martin lately. I'll definitely take a closer look at the book.

    Unraveling sounds great. I'll add to my "Books to look out for" list.

  4. The coolest thing about Martin is that he seems to kill off the "thinner" characters first. It's almost as though he can spot the guys who are a little too one-dimensional and sets them up for the chop. Most of the crew who got poleaxed in GoT were the characters who only really had one motivation, leaving behind the secondaries that hadn't been fleshed out, and truly ambiguous folks.

  5. I just watched the first episode and loved it. Haven't read the books yet, but think maybe I should! I'm really hoping the blond girl in that promo poster gets her revenge on her crazy brother.

  6. Oh Dany is one of my favorite characters!