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#HoldTheDoor - Studies in Storytelling

Sara General

I'm a huge Game of Thrones fan. A good friend of mine gave me the first two books to read just before he died, so in many ways, they were special to me even before I read them. I remember him telling me about the Seven Kingdoms over bubble tea, how his favourite character was Tyrion and that the person he hoped would rule Westeros was a girl who was living across the sea. Still, it was several months after he died before I finally got around to reading them. I don't know why it took me so long to start them. I think I was scared that once I finished them, my last connection with my friend would disappear. 


Instead I found a world of story. A world of history and magic and politics and warfare and shocking loss. This series more than any other was what made me love fantasy. After reading it, I read more and more. Robin Hobb. Jacqueline Carey. Robert Jordan. Guy Gavriel Kay. Many others I can't name but can tell you where I found them—on a blog called Pat's Fantasy Hotlist that I obsessively followed for book recommendations. I even won a free book in one of his giveaways one time. I think it was called The Blood Knight. Anyways, I finished reading the series (A Storm of Swords was out by then) and quickly searched to find out when the next one came out. In the process of researching the book, I stumbled across the Song of Ice and Fire Forum. This place was a goldmine of discussion, theories, book recommendations, reading groups and so much more. I spent countless hours reading the forum threads, thinking and theorizing about the series and its wonderful characters. 


When I found out HBO was moving ahead with bring the books to screen, I was very excited. I'd seen how they'd done True Blood and as a reader of the Sookie Stackhouse series, I knew they would do an amazing job. There just seems to be a lot of creative flexibility with that network. Their shows are interesting, dynamic and beautiful in a way that television doesn’t always seem to be.


I haven’t been a fan as long as some people, but I’ve definitely spent a lot of time over the last ten years on the forum threads, obsessing over the untold stories of the series. Things like R+L=J, what Ned found at the Tower of Joy, Dany's visions, Loras's fate, Ashara Dayne’s relationship with Ned Stark. Whether or not Sansa will really marry Harry the Heir. If Aegon is the real thing. Whether Jaime will go to Cersei’s aid. Mysteries both big and small. 


But when one of those mysteries was finally revealed this past Sunday—the mystery of why Hodor only says “Hodor”—I was completely shocked. I’ve never in my life had such an intense reaction to a scene of television. And it had everything to do with the way the story was told. It wasn't because I'd read the books and liked Hodor more and longer than other people. It wasn’t because I’d been engaged in the mystery through the books. It was because his story was told with such intention and skill. I admit, I’m still amazed by the tragic beauty of it all. Everything. The shots. The music. The flashing back and forth between the two time frames. It was masterful.


I want to be able to tell a story that well. With words. With music. With intention and care. I want to be a better writer than I am. A better artist. I want to study. And read. And practice. I want to recapture from my own writing, what I felt watching Hodor hold the door. Because what I felt in that moment was enormous compassion and love.


I read a lot of articles and reactions to the scene. This Vanity Fair article mentions how the show runners brought in a special director for the episode—one who they knew had experience with time travel scenes and making them effective. That fascinated me (but made total sense). It also made me realize I want to do some studying. I want to practice some things. Experiment. So I decided to spend some time over the next few months studying the elements of storytelling that made Hodor’s scene—and other scenes so impactful. 


In a way it’s the perfect time for an experiment. I had writing plans for this year (write two books, a few short stories, a poem, a novella) and for the most part, I’ve accomplished the rough draft of all of those projects. Production wise—I have some time on my hands. With that in mind, I’ve decided to spend some time over the next few months studying the elements of the storytelling that made that scene so impactful. 


I’m starting with the book Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee. And I’ll definitely be sharing what I learn as I go along. 


And finally—because I can’t resist sharing my happy news—I gave birth to my baby this week! A little girl. And she’s glorious and precious and perfect and mysterious. Ah. It’s hard to express just how grateful and thankful I am for her and my little family. Nya:weh universe for this very special time! 


Okay. Til next time, happy writing everyone!