Scene Types

In lit fic world, scenes are typically vague in their intent. You spend time in a character’s head, see them talk or argue or sleep with somebody, wander along the waterfront – exist, really. ASOIAF, which has a lot of plot, relies on discrete mechanisms to effect that plot.

Here are the scene types I noted in my readthrough:

1.) A character is coerced into doing something they don’t want to do. (The prologue ranger, Dany marrying Drogo).

2.) Discussions/arguments about what to do/bargaining. Much like House of Cards. (Cat telling Luwin to buzz off about the appointments.)

The strong drink was making Tyrion light-headed, but not so drunk that he did not realize that the Old Bear wanted something from him. “I hope I can repay your kindness.”

“You can,” Mormont said bluntly.

3.) Action sequence. (Syrio is attacked, the Tourney of the Hand, Tyrion’s battle.)

4.) Travelling sequence.

5.) An enigma is laid out or an action is promised. (Cat delivers news about Arryn’s death and the king’s imminent visit)

6.) A predicament is sketched out / relationships are described (Dany’s wedding, Arya’s dislike of Sansa, her friendship with Jon, the tensions between the royal boys, Jon hating life at Castle Black). “Everything sucks” scenes are important to have periodically, the reader has to be aware of the psychological pressures that the character is going to try and relieve.

7.) Present information is disclosed (Bran listening in on Jaime and Cersei), or historical information is reviewed (Ned talking about Jaime sitting on the Iron Throne). Jon’s first chapter at the wall has to set up the command structure, how he’s fitting in, as well as the physical realities of the place.

The boring stuff is when you get information about one character/landscape that doesn’t affect how they’ll act towards others, or “change the game”. Bran’s whole bit about how much he loves to climb goes on for two pages too long, and his flying dream is similarly tedious. The ride through king’s landing is boring to me, but I expect a lot of fans will relish that local color.

The narrative cycles between these types of scene. Consider Tyrion on the road. You begin with landscape, switch to some information dumping with the dragons, and then Tyrion begins to prod Jon about his familial relationships and his decision to join the Night’s Watch. We learn that Tyrion hates his father and sister, and that maybe Jon has some similar resentments. This also leads to Ghost demonstrating his power, and a bit of mutual respect between Tyrion and Jon.

Every chapter is like this. There is some central action to the scene, but Martin takes the opportunity to shoehorn in some other information. Two effects: gets more information in!, and evens the reader’s attention. Like with Cat and the attempted assassination. Before the fire is set, we get a brief scene with her, Luwin, and Robb, showing us where she’s at in her grieving process as well as Robb’s growing confidence as lord of Winterfell. Which is a fine little bit on its own, but works even better as the setup to an attempted murder.

Bran’s test ride of the saddle follows the same template. We learn that Robb is concerned about defending the north, and then transition into an ambush sequence.The scenes always have another move they can make, that’s what’s dynamic about them.

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