I recently read through the plot summaries of the televised version of Game of Thrones, finding the exercise very instructive.
I know better than to compare my relatively simple romantic fantasies to his sprawling epic. The Song of Ice and Fire is a world-spanning, politically, ethnically, religiously rich and diverse sage with a cast of what seems thousands. It’s a symphony beside my simple love songs.
So, what can I learn from studying this symphony? The value of tension for one thing: withholding. Don’t give them what they want. Certainly not right away. And secondly, don’t be afraid to violate expectations.
My main characters are going to be basically decent and end up together – that’s the promise of a romance. But that doesn’t mean they won’t screw up, or that they’ve never done anything to regret, or might not be misperceived and misunderstood as less admirable people than they are. I can and should raise questions about their character, intentions, motivations and actions. I can and should avoid or delay providing answers as long as possible to the questions I raise, or provide them only to raise others.
It’s more than okay to raise certain reasonable expectations about the course of events and let something completely unexpected happen instead – unexpected, but in keeping with what’s given – let’s play fair.
Doubt and uncertainty are your (the writer’s) friends. They build up the reader’s curiosity about what happens next.
“It’s a long story” spelled out, makes for more interesting content than any brief recap. Though be careful long and convoluted don’t become long and tedious.
Characters can be terse, to better effect if scene-setting and exposition make further elaboration unnecessary. That said, dialogue can be a very effective means of scene-setting and exposition.
The next step is to go back to my own manuscript and consider exactly how to apply these lessons. First of all, arrange a few scene breaks to interrupt the narrative before some key question can be answered...