What Game of Thrones can teach creative writers about hidden context

Source: HBO;  Margaery and Cersei walk together.

We saw it a few nights ago in the latest episode of Game of Thrones, in First of His Name. Margaery and Cersei are standing side by side, both staring out at the new King Tommen talking about King Joffrey, about the new king, about whether or not Margaery still wants to be queen. Talking about everything else than what is truly on their minds.

Game of Thrones, or more specifically, Game of Throne’s characters, presents a fine example of the importance of hidden context for creative writers.

In context:  Margaery and Cersei are having a conversation, they are talking about the troubles on hand: a recent death, a new queen and what they should do now. Margaery, is polite, beguiling, charming. She knows how to twist words to her favor, to ask a question, yet answer it in the same sentence. Meanwhile, Cersei’s words are clipped, sometimes barbed. The things she says are meant to shock, to entice some reaction from the person next to her, to try to make the person she is having a conversation with, uncomfortable.

Out of context: The tension between the two. The fact that they aren’t looking at each other. The pauses between words. The politeness. Margaery wants the throne and is doing what she can to get it. Cersei doesn’t like Margaery, but knows she must play nice and make small talk, or in Cersei’s case, idle threats. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

While the two, strong, beautiful women are making conversation, most of what goes on between them is what they don’t say. The glances, the gestures, the false smiles. Cersei says it best with a glance, a frown, or a twitch of her eye.

And all the while, there is tension.

You hear it time and time again, from a lot of creative writers, or teachers of the craft. There must be tension. Without tension of some kind there is no story, no problem or obstacle to overcome.

If two characters are having a conversation, and everything is happy, perfect, agreeable, there is no reason for the conversation and as such, there is no story.

That’s why it is so important to create great detail in your stories. Sensory details. Describe the scene and character and conversation in detail.

With detail you will create the tension, and in that tension is what isn’t being said – the hidden context. Which is sometimes the most important thing of all.

What are your favorite stories or TV Shows? Who are your favorite characters in them? And what does it teach you about writing or story telling?

Thoughts below if you’ve got ’em!




3 thoughts on “What Game of Thrones can teach creative writers about hidden context

  1. Great write up. That’s a very insightful point about how there’s a lot of tension in between the lines of what’s not being said. Margarery wants to be The Queen more than anything. Having seen her visit Tommen in his bedroom last episode, we know that she’s just sweet talking Cersei. Cersei is manipulative too, she’s playing nice in hopes that Margaery will put a good word in with Mace Tyrell, a judge at Tyrion’s trial. Cersei is on good behavior this episode but only to suck up to the judges haha.

    • I agree, she did a lot of mingling didn’t she? Talking to that Prince Oberyn too. I love the tension between the two woman – any scene between them the dialogue is always so careful, love that! Thanks for reading!

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