In 1993, George RR Martin wrote to his agent about an exciting new proposal for a trilogy of books. Before getting to the meat of his proposed plot, he talked about his writing process:
As you know, I don’t outline my novels. I find that if I know exactly where a book is going, I lose all interest in writing it. I do, however, have some strong notions as to the overall structure of the story I’m telling, and the eventual fate of many of the principle characters in the drama.
This writing process had served him well in the past as Martin was a commercially-successful author by the early 1990s. GRRM thought that they would serve him well for this new story he was working on known as A Song of Ice and Fire. And for a while, those “strong notions” and “not outlining” led GRRM into fascinating and unexpected directions in A Song of Ice and Fire. New POV characters came to the fore, new storylines emerged and the overall story evolved well-beyond the original pitch letter in exciting new directions. But there were hiccups too.
We started to see those hiccups when we analyzed the torturous process by which Dorne and the Dornish POVs entered the narrative, and we’re going to see it again today with the Ironborn.
Originally, there was no Euron, Victarion, Asha, Aeron or even Theon in the pitch letter. These characters either weren’t important to mention in the pitch letter or didn’t exist at all. Importantly, most – perhaps all – of their backstory didn’t exist either. So, how did these characters and their culture rise from nothing to fever pitch by the start of The Winds of Winter?
That’s the question we’ll answer today as we’ll chart how George RR Martin rethought some of his pitch letter ideas and then expanded his cast of POV characters to include Theon Greyjoy. And in the process of writing Theon’s POV chapters, GRRM introduced extensive worldbuilding and backstory. And all of that worldbuilding and backstory then became the springboard by which George RR Martin further expanded his cast of POV characters and angled the narrative towards the endgame of A Song of Ice and Fire.