I've been reading the George R.R. Martin books and am on the third book, Storm of Swords. So far, Martin has killed off many of the interesting and likable characters: Ned Stark, Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark, Samwell Tarley, Lord Mormount, Kahl Drogo... while allowing despicable characters to remain alive. Like all the Lannisters, Gregor Clegane, the Freys, Melissandre... too many to count really.
I wonder why he does this? Is that his view of reality? That the good die and the bad thrive? Or that people we think are the important people in a story are not even necessary for the story to continue? Or does he just think it makes it interesting? Or maybe he's on the bad peoples' side and delights in cutting down the noble characters.
I have noticed, and it is kind disturbing to me, that Martin has managed to conjure in me a measure of sympathy for some of the grimmer characters. Occasionally I find myself hoping that scary people like Sandor Clegane and Jaime Lannister find love, or come to some other good end. I guess this means that the characters he has created are complex and the reader should not make up his or her mind too quickly. Of course, by the time your mind is made up, the character will just die anyway, right?
Why do I get so emotionally involved in the world of these fake people? I'm not sure, but I do have the habit of getting caught up in the realms of the unreal whenever I get involved with an engrossing series like this.
When I began reading Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, I would lie awake at nights wondering what was going to happen next. (Who is this Jamie, and will Claire stay with him in 18th-century Scotland? Or will she return to Frank and comforts like hot running water in the 1940s?) I read Stephen R. Lawhead's Arthur series when I was a new mother (ie. sleep-deprived) and started sort of imagining myself to be a secret Arthurian princess. It actually got me through the day, as it was also a bad scene where I worked at the time.
Actually, it kind of helps me to see the everyday people in my life as heroes struggling through an epic story. The characters in this grand novel are noble and despicable, beautiful and flawed. Complicated. Their story is fascinating and being played out right before my eyes. Lucky me!
Whether the characters in this story chose their own destiny or are just following the author's plot is one of those grand theological debates that I certainly don't know the answer to. Maybe it's some of each?
And what if, at the end, I find out that my story was just another episode of the Captain Underpants series? Well... at least I was Captain Underpants in a b*tchin' princess crown!