In a previous post, I mentioned how you can take what someone else has created, and improve on it to make it your own for your campaign world. I think that’s what’s happening with the bigger fans of A Song of Ice and Fire. I refer to them as GRRM apologists, because they go through the books and where other people might see a plot hole, these folks come up with an incredibly convoluted fan theory that explains what GRRM was thinking and planning about that thing and they are tell everyone on the internet who will listen that they have just figured out another device of the “great” GRRM. They promise that as soon as the next book comes out, it will all be revealed. But then the next book came out and they weren’t exactly right. Turns out it was a plot hole - maybe one most people were willing to ignore, but not some clever clue.
The thing is, I often find the fan theories to be better and smarter than the actual story. OK, being better than some of the recent writing for the TV show isn’t that high a bar to beat, but I’m putting this out now, because I truly believe that the majority of fans are going to be disappointed. I have pondered whether he’s intentionally dragging it out, knowing that he probably won’t live to finish it, so his legacy will be as this phenomenal writer. Any disappointment in the final book(s) would be blamed on whoever they bring in to finish them. Then again, I really don’t think he’s that clever, and that’s my point.
Plot holes happen - they happen in nearly every form of storytelling. Even with seven fat books, some actions taken by the characters will always seem wrong and perhaps they are. I admit, part of my problem with GRRM is that he writes like I do, but no one is offering me a five books series. He is really slow and includes way too much detail about things that people really don’t want to know about. But we all know his ideas aren’t original. He’s based the whole thing on the War of the Roses and/or a couple of French interpretations. And he’s admitted that the “big” reveals have been figured out by the fans already.
Why do I always harp on this guy? Look, if you’re enjoying his books or the HBO series - that’s great! With that many words on the pages and that much time on screen, there has to be some cool stuff that will spark your creative process. But at least anecdotally, I’ve heard more people take the stance of “Oh, I could never create a world like his.” BS - of course you can! Especially if you were paid to do it over twenty plus years. Use his world for examples, both of what you can do and what you shouldn’t do. If you are going to write a world so complicated that even you can’t remember who everybody is, then give people a glossary of characters in the front of the book. Don’t involve NPCs in plot lines that run perpendicular to their stated goals and personality. Don’t utilize unimportant (or maybe just unlikeable) time traveling characters to screw with the players.
But most importantly, if you’re using any fantasy world for inspiration - from Middle Earth to Westeros - go ahead and use the fan theories just as much as you use the author’s original content. There’s a fan theory out there about why Gandalf didn’t use the eagles to fly the ring to Mordor that I absolutely love. It doesn’t have to come from the professional (originator) in order to give you what you need to create a unique fantasy world.