1. Deal Your Characters the Worst Hand — and watch how they bloom (or buckle!) under the pressure. Common writing advice is to never give our characters a break, but how many of us actually do it? It’s time to take out your frustration and make your characters the punching bag. Think about the very worst thing that could happen to your characters and do it. Jaime Lannister got his sword-hand chopped off, Sansa Stark was forced to marry into the family that killed her parents, Jon Snow had to live with the Wildlings to save the wall. Figure out what your character’s greatest fear is and exploit.
2. Say Goodbye in the Most Permanent Way — G.R.R. Martin is notoriously known as the Character-Killer, and he does it will pizazz. But don’t go lobbing off your character’s heads off willy-nilly. There has to be a reason that moves the story forward. Ned Stark’s death was one of the most brutal and mind-blowing in the series, but his death was a catalyst for the rest of the series.
3. Repetition Rocks — Catchphrases and repeated prose are a great way to help create the world and give your book a tone that’s uniquely yours. Repeated phrases can not be used to create an important motif in the book, but they can also be a way to tie your reader into the world. Winter is coming, the night is dark and full of terrors, a Lannister always pays his debts: these are all GOT signatures that are not only important to the story, but are also fun to say at parties!
4. Environment Can be a Character — The Song of Fire and Ice books are rich in detailed descriptions of setting and environment. From the cold of Winterfell, to the stifling city of King’s Landing, to even objects such as the Wall: these environments have description and backstory which make them seem like a character all of their own. This makes Westeros feel alive.
5. There’s No Such Thing as Heroes and Villains — One of the most amazing things about A Song of Ice and Fire is your never truly sure who you’re rooting for…the characters are so distinctly fleshed out that it’s hard to name one as truly heroic and truly villainous. Sure, there’s the consistently valiant Jon Snow, and the insane Joffrey, but name any other character, from Tyrion to the Hound to Arya Stark, and you’ll find a long list of noble and despicable things on their resumes. By making your characters flawed and morally-struggling, it can help the reader relate to them, and make your antagonist a more varied and realistic character.