The killing scenes: George R.R. Martin and the Red Wedding

"I don't want death to be just an act break," George R.R. Martin says about the impact he wants viewers to feel in scenes like the Red Wedding

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Anderson Cooper speaks with George R.R. Martin, the author behind "Game of Thrones." Below is a transcript.


George R.R. Martin: You know, I have this reputation of being exceptionally bloodthirsty (LAUGH) and killing a lot of characters.

Anderson Cooper: People-- people say you're bloodthirsty? (LAUGH)

George R.R. Martin: And-- I don't think it's entirely true. I-- I think we have to fine-tune this reputation a little. You know, s-- "Star Wars" kills more people than I do. I mean, right in the opening of "Star Wars," they unleash the Death Star against the planet Alderaan. And--

Anderson Cooper: Right. But you don't know who's-- living on Alderaan or--

George R.R. Martin: Exactly. Exactly.

Anderson Cooper: And you don't know what the stormtroopers look like.

George R.R. Martin: It's a statistic. It's a statistic. It's-- oh, well, you know, 30 billion people just died. And then we're on to the next act. But in real life, we suffer when people die. We're afraid of death ourselves. We wonder what's gonna come after. When-- when we lose a-- parent, a sibling, God help us a parent loses a child, our best friend died-- one of my best friends died last year, the brilliant editor Gardner Dozois. Every one of these was an event that shook me, that made me sad, that-- that-- you know, and I want to have that effect on my readers. I don't want death to be just an act break. Oh, okay, this character you never knew and didn't particularly about is dead. Let's get on to the next swordfight. I mean, death-- death should mean something. It's-- along with sex, death, sex, love, these are the most important primal things that define what our life is like here on the planet Earth. So it has to be treated with-- importance. So I try to make you feel the deaths. I don't necessarily have more than any other people, but I try to make you feel them more. And the other thing is, I try to make them unexpected. So it's not necessarily--

Anderson Cooper: Well, yeah.

George R.R. Martin: --the-- the person you think is gonna die. You think Ned is safe, because he appears to be the hero. And the hero is always safe. Right? The hero doesn't die.

Anderson Cooper: Right. You can't have the hero die.

George R.R. Martin: The hero and the hero's girlfriend. No matter how much trouble they get into-- they somehow survive.

Anderson Cooper: You kill people off in completely unexpected ways--

George R.R. Martin: Well--

Anderson Cooper: --which makes the death all the more shocking--

George R.R. Martin: You know, they say you write the books that you wanna read. And I-- I love unexpected twists and turns.

Anderson Cooper: The-- the-- the Red Wedding scene.

George R.R. Martin: The Red Wedding, yes.

George R.R. Martin: That was the-- number one, that was the hardest scene I ever had to write.

Anderson Cooper: How so?

George R.R. Martin: I-- I knew it was gonna happen, but I couldn't bring myself to write it. It occurs about two-thirds of the way through-- A Storm of Swords, not right at the end. So when I got to that chapter, I skipped over it. And I wrote all of the post-Red Wedding stuff. And then when the entire book was finished, I went back and wrote the Red Wedding and made myself-- made myself do that.

Anderson Cooper: What about it was so hard to actually write? Because you feel for them? Or?

George R.R. Martin: Yes. Those characters are like real to me. I mean, I-- I live with them. I-- it's hard to say. I'm-- I'm inside their heads. I'm with them through-- through their triumphs, through their tragedies. To-- I-- I carried Robb with me for-- I started to introduce the character in '91 and I killed him in, like, '99. So, like, eight years this character. And Catelyn had-- had been part of my life. So it's-- it's-- it's tough. It's-- it-- it's-- it's-- emotionally, it is a little part of you, oh, okay, fix it. You're the author. Find some way that he can survive. And then, no, it has to be done.

The video above was edited by Will Croxton.