The Writer and the Fan: Thoughts on Mother’s Mercy

**Here there be spoilers about the Game of Thrones season five finale**

via casaharington on tumblr

via casaharington on Tumblr


The writer and the fan in me are constantly at odds.

The season five finale of Game of Thrones did a great job of highlighting this fact. As a writer, I understand the need to kill beloved characters for the sake of narrative integrity and vision. I have done that in my own writing with little concern for the future, potential reader’s delicate feelings. To me, the creator of the world and her characters, that death is destined, unchangeable, simply fact.

The fan in me does not deal in those absolutes.

The fan in me loved Jon Snow. And last night, this morning, throughout the day if I let my mind wander, the fan ached.

Now, before you laugh, judge, or think you are better than me because you care about the real world, I encourage you to consider, for a moment, why we absorb into art in the first place. Why actors act, writers write, musicians compose, and on and on: we want to connect, to make sense or make light or make broken something from our real world. There have even been studies done that show readers are more empathetic human beings.

We need art to help us understand the world we do live in.

As a creative person, I may also be more inclined to feel deeply for the characters I spend time with — whether they be my own or someone else’s. In the two years since I began watching Game of Thrones (we binged the blu-rays during the hiatus between season 2 and 3), my affection for the Bastard son of Ned Stark has become a thing of amusement to family and friends. I have received texts and Tweets and Facebook tags whenever someone ran across news about this character. I even wrote a character analysis about him once.

Fine, you can judge me a little. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

I remember feeling this way as an eleven year old reading To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time, sobbing over the attack on Jem and Scout, broken for these characters that had become (and forever will be) a part of me. I remember when I was sixteen, reading Harry Potter and turning into a broke-down zombie bride, waking in the middle of the night to check that the book was still beside me. I wrote essays about Harry. I wrote off other humans who couldn’t understand how I had been changed, utterly and completely, by the experience of going to Hogwarts.

I remember it from earlier, too. From Anne of Green Gables, from Pollyanna, from Charlotte’s Web and The Chronicles of Narnia.

And when I discovered The Hunger Games at twenty-six, and was suddenly thrust back into that experience of visceral, untainted affection, I remember spending an entire day crying after finishing Mockingjay. I was without the words to explain why I couldn’t shake the feeling of loss and longing gnawing away inside me.

Jon Snow is dead. We can speculate as fans that he will resurrect, but the line coming from the Thrones camp is one of finality. Kit Harington, the actor who was Jon for these five seasons of Thrones, has given interviews expressing his certainty that he is done. They could all be lying, milking it, but for now, I am just trying to grieve the loss. Because even if Jon comes back, it won’t be the same.

The writer in me understands this. Even if this is not the death I would have ultimately given him — a point I have argued with anyone willing to listen since I woke up this morning. But, this is not my show, and as much as my affection affords me the right to pine for the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch or to nerd rage over this loss, I can’t change it. I have nothing to bargain with David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and all my empty threats about quitting the show, well, they aren’t listening to them.

But I can allow the fan in me a chance to feel sadness. To feel cheated. To feel like Jon — my Jon — deserved better than death at the end of a mutinous dagger. I have to because that is why I consume and create art. Feeling pain is wonderful and valuable, it provides an opportunity to grow, to learn. Is it silly to cry about Jon Snow’s death? Maybe. But ignoring what I have gained and now lost through his death, that would be a missed opportunity. That would be a mistake, as a writer and a fan.

And I’m both. I’m proud to be both.

(Clarifying: HBO and Kit Harington both have an obligation to maintain the line that he is gone because the show ended on a cliffhanger. My perspective is simply to believe that even if Jon (and the actor who plays him) comes back, the character of Jon Snow as we have known him will be altered. I expect, if they are going to bring him back, he will likely have a different identity (being reborn/renamed), and that will be how they get around the statements they have made this week.)

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8 thoughts on “The Writer and the Fan: Thoughts on Mother’s Mercy

  1. All last night and this morning, I refused to accept it. I read numerous fan theories, possible ways that Jon Snow could in fact still be alive. Then I read Kit Harrington’s comments. And then I watched interviews with David & Dan, all but confirming what I knew was true, but hoped it wasn’t.

    It’s not cowardly at all to mourn characters. Sometimes, we know them better than our own friends, spend more time with them than our own family. We inhabit their minds so in turn, they inhabit ours. I cried for Ned Stark, the same way I cried for Robb and Catelyn. I held out for as long as I could, but I cried for Jon Snow as well. As angry as I am, I know why it happened. And I knew it was coming. Still, that didn’t make it any easier.

    This was a lovely post. Fans and readers are often so misunderstood. Why we obsess, why we care about people who aren’t real. But they are. That’s the gift of fiction. It’s always a pleasure to read from another fan’s perspective. I look forward to reading more from you!

    • I went through the five stages of grief. I’m waffling between between acceptance and bargaining right now, so it’s getting better.

      So true! Fans are given a bad rap, or treated like fools, at times, and to me, if you aren’t a fan of something you are missing out on an experience that can broaden your understanding of humanity, as well as your connection to it. Thank you for reading!

  2. Reblogged this on See Stephanie Write and commented:
    I love how Rebekah’s post really highlights the attachments we make to characters in our journey as readers and writers. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I rejoiced, hated, and/or mourned a character because of my immersion into their world.

  3. After my initial, “WHAT??? What the what???!!!” reaction to seeing Jon Snow and his band of mutinous brothers, my next thought was your reaction to it 🙂 I like that people I know are “connected” to shows and characters and books. I think of it in the same way the smell of chlorine reminds of us summer camp or certain foods remind us of family get-togethers.

    So here’s to Jon Snow *raises glass* one hell of a character!

    • Me too! That is one of my favorite parts about the YA writing community. Writers in general seem to feel deeply for characters, but the YA community of writers are especially understanding! xo

  4. I’m so sorry for your loss. Now I understand what your dad meant last night when he said you were in mourning yesterday when he saw you. 😔

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