I’ve recently become addicted to George R.R. Martin’s phenomenally popular Game of Thrones.
The fantasy saga features many kingdoms, cities, rulers and lands. This series pits long-standing families against each other in a bid to put forth the one true King. The plot and characters are far too complicated to get into in just one post, but something that struck me is Martin’s use of House words, or mottoes.
A few examples:
House Stark: Winter is coming
House Baratheon: Ours is the Fury
House Lannister: Hear me Roar (and, A Lannister always pays his debts)
House Targaryen: Fire and Blood
The family known as Stark are a cautious, practical bunch, wary of the pending dark times. Every move they make can be traced to their family words. The Lannisters are pompous, wealthy, conniving and manipulative. They lie, cheat and pay heaps of gold in exchange for power and safety. Children are schooled in these House words, so they grow up to know their enemies.
Just as a book has a theme, your character has a motto, whether you name it or not. If faced with an intruder, would your character draw a weapon, cower under the bed or offer all cash on hand in exchange for safety? If your character would fight a thief and an injustice, his motto might be that of House Martell: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.
Which motto guides your character’s every move, her every step toward the one thing she yearns for more than anything, or away from what she fears most. I’m midway through the first draft of my next book. It’s time I figure out my characters’ defining words.
Think of your favorite characters. What are their mottoes?