A Decade Remembered

For my work, I was tasked in combing through ten years’ worth of Starke County Leaders to find highlights from the last decade. It’s only natural, while making your way through almost 500 editions of a newspaper, that I began to think about the highlights from my own life.

Dictionary.com defines highlight as “an important, conspicuous, memorable, or enjoyable event, scene, part, or the like.”

I think it’s important to consider the fact that a highlight can include negative events as well as positive ones. After all, you can’t take the good without taking the bad. For example, look what happens to the Jedi Order when you don’t study the Dark Side of the Force. You end up on the bad side of Order 66. Nobody wants that.

Here are some of the highlights from my own personal decade:
– I celebrated my one-year wedding anniversary on July 11, 2010.
– In March 2010, I wrote this joke: Q. What do you call a sleep walking nun? A. A Roaming Catholic. It was received with mild success.
– In 2011, I went back to school at IUSB. Instead of Computer Science, I began studying English.
– In December 2012, I wrote a 1,600-word paper on King Arthur’s court collapsing due Marxist Theory. It was pretty spectacular.
– My grandfather, James Norton, passed away on March 7, 2013. He was a great man, role model, and grandpa.
– Signed with Permuted Press to have my book series published in February 2014.
– Spent an amazing week in Seattle for the American Writers & Publishers (AWP) conference with fellow IUSB writing friends.
– In 2014 I got a mortgage for a home in Plymouth with my wife of five years.
– On March 2, 2015, I found out that Permuted Press cancelled the book contract.
– I finished my college education at IUSB in May 2015. It took me 11 years, but I did it.
– Left my job at IUSB and started work at the Pilot News Group, where I’m still employed and loving it.
– Found out I had a ginormous blood clot in my left leg. That was fun (sarcasm).
– November 2015 I signed a new book contract with Burning Willow Press for that series that was earlier canceled.
– In 2017 I became a published author. Since then I’ve published three books, four short stories, and a combined book with several other authors.
– After a two-year separation my wife and I divorced in 2018. This event ended nine years together.
– When BWP closed in 2019, my books were once again homeless. But only for a day when Random Evolved Media offered to pick them up.

There have been many other good and bad highlights that I won’t mention. From the list above, it looks to me as if my life has been filled with more bad memories than good. That might make some people feel depressed. Admittedly, there were times during the last ten years that I feel deep into depression. I still do sometimes.

Since I’m a nerd, I thought of this quote from the BBC show, Doctor Who. “The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things,” says The Doctor, portrayed by Matt Smith. “The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”

There’s no way of knowing what the next ten years will throw at us. However, as long as we cherish that pile of good things while learning how to overcome the pile of bad things, I’m sure I’ll be writing another decade rewrap. And hopefully you’ll be here to read it.

Goodbye 2010-2019 and hello 2020-2029!

See you all next year.

Book vs Film: Scaring your Audience

Since it’s October, I thought it’d be appropriate to write a series of scary topics to coincide with All Hallows’ Eve. To kick off this series, I’ll be discussing the differences between a horror book and a horror film.

Boo!

By your reaction (yes, I’m watching as you’re watching this) I failed in my attempt at a jump scare. You see, that’s the main difference between a visual media and a written version. For those that don’t know the term, a jump scare is used to scare the audience by surprising them with an abrupt change in image or event. Typically, that means something, or someone appears in front of the audience and often accompanied with a loud noise. At this point, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two friends of mine. One friend, we shall call Angela, is particularly good at two things: hiding and jump scaring the other friend. The other friend, we shall call Kenny, is particularly good at one thing: being scared. Let’s just say, jump scares are an effective way to frighten your audience.
When used in films in an effective manner, jump scares can be a sudden payoff to a long period of suspense. As the tension builds up, the jump scare is the climax. They’ve been called “one of the most basic building blocks of horror movies.”

Recently, the use of jump scares has been criticized as overused and a lazy method to scare the audience. Which is true. Going back to my two friends, Kenny is like the audience and Angela is like the movie. Kenny’s been scared so many times by Angela that he’s used to it by now. Of course, that just means that Angela (and films) have to figure out new ways of scaring.

In a literary work, the author doesn’t have the above-mentioned technique to scare readers. Like film, authors must find alternative ways to scare the reader. One of those methods (there are many and I have just a limited amount of space, so I’ll only cover one in this article) is to create a false sense of security.

Simon Kurt Unsworth, author of The Devil’s Detective, talks about creating a false sense of security. He explains that if you make your story based in the real world so that readers recognize and relate to it, then add elements that show that world’s weaknesses. “Real fear comes from seeing in the narrative a set of events that, if they occurred, could threaten what’s important to the reader, and could change their world into something they no longer recognize or understand,” he once said. He goes on to say, and I really like this line, that “monsters aren’t really scary; monsters walking up the street where we’re living and threatening our children? That’s scary.”

Why do you think Stephen King’s books are so scary? IT, The Shawshank Redemption, The Institute, The Shining, Carrie, Firestarter… I could go on. He’s written so many books that are set in the real world and shows us that sometimes it isn’t a scary monster that’s the villain. It’s often society or the government that’s scarier than the space alien that feeds on children’s fear and then feasts on their flesh.

Even when your story is fantasy, there are still elements of realism that can be incorporated into it to make it more relatable to readers. In Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, the characters are effected by addiction and mental issues even as they traverse across Mid-World on the Path of the Beam. Sometimes, the things that scare you are the ones that live inside your head.

Like the King of Horror once said in The Shining, “Sometimes human places, create inhuman monsters.” Sure, he was talking about a haunted resort, but it also meant Danny’s father turning into a homicidal abusive patriarch.

The real world is scary folks. Hopefully, we only experience it through the pages of a book or through the screen. It’d be nice to think that. Maybe that’s why we read and watch cinema. To escape the horrors of our everyday life. One last quote by Stephen King, I know, I quote him a lot. I think this sums up the article so here goes:

“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win,” King said. Isn’t that the scariest part of life and literature, when the monsters win?

Victory is Sweet

When it comes to games, I’m pretty competitive. Of course, if you ask my nieces and nephews, they’ll tell you I’m ruthless. When playing Risk, I’ll backstab my allies. When playing Sorry, I’m not sorry. I don’t try to collect four of the same kind in the game of Spoons. I just pass cards and wait for the first spoon to be grabbed.

In Candyland, there is no mercy.

Because of my ruthlessness, I’ve been accused of being too hard on the kiddos. Whenever I’m accused of this, I defend myself by stating that I want my nieces and nephews to win. And I do want them to win, but I want them to win because they achieved it. I want them to learn that if you want something in this world, you need to work for it.

When one of my nieces started playing Candyland, my wife (at the time) and I played. I took my turn, my wife took her turn, and then my niece took her turn. Now, if you’ve never played Candyland, the game doesn’t use dice to advance. Instead, you draw cards from the top of the deck and then advance to that color or location. My niece had drawn the Chocolate Swamp card that advanced her to the end of the board. While my niece was celebrating, I looked at my wife suspiciously. It only took one look at her mischievous smile to know that she’d rigged the deck. I understand that my niece was like three or four at the time, but it was irritating that my wife had just handed the victory to her.

Now, I know what you all are saying. “But Jim, it’s your niece. She’s like three-years old.” Or, “But Jim, it’s only Candyland.” Or “But Jim, you’re a monster.”

Believe me, I’ve heard all of these before. Sure, it’s only Candyland. But what about after Candyland? If we allow children to become used to winning because “it’s only Candyland,” then they’ll become used to winning. And like it or not, we can’t win all the time.

As an author and a survivor of a failed marriage, I know about not winning all the time.
When my two nephews started playing chess, I never let them win. My oldest nephew was about five or six at the time when he started playing the game. My second oldest nephew started about the same age. Both are formidable opponents to this day. In fact, I recently played my second oldest at a game and he nearly had me in checkmate.

proud uncle2
My nephew upon realizing he’d just checkmated his uncle.

I’m not a chess genius, but I’m pretty good. And with that ruthlessness, I’ve become elevated to a Bobby Fischer legend status in that household. My sister has beaten me less than a handful of times, and I think my brother-in-law had beaten me once. Other than that, I’m undefeated.

Well, that was until Zeke, the oldest at 12 years of age, defeated his uncle. He didn’t even know it at the time. It wasn’t until I extended my hand in defeat that he realized he had me in checkmate. The legend was defeated.

Seeing his face flush in realization and the gigantic smile was worth the six or seven years of being ruthless. He won because of his own cunning and merit, not because I gave the victory to him.

The publishing world is like a ruthless uncle. It will never hand you a publishing deal. It wants you to do the work. Write that novel, submit it, wait all of those agonizing months, and suffer rejections. Maybe, you’ll taste victory.

Don’t quit playing the game. Even if you receive rejection letter after rejection letter, keep it up. Strengthen your game, know your opponent, and plow ahead. My nephew could have given up playing the game. I assure you he had moments after a crushing defeat where he thought I was undefeatable. The next day when I’d walk into their house he’d say “Uncle Jim, let’s play chess. This time I’m going to beat you.”

proud uncle
Victory is Sweet!

I promised my nephews and niece that if someone defeated me at chess, I’d take that person to Dairy Queen for a reward. Last night, I did just that. We ate medium Oreo Cookie Jar Blizzards while talking about the game. Just a smiling teenager and his proud (and now humbled) uncle. For my nephew, victory never tasted sweeter.

If my nephew can topple that undefeatable and ruthless uncle, then you can get that book/poem/artwork/ (insert whatever goal you have) accomplished. Do the work, persevere, and never quit. Maybe then, you too, can taste victory.

The Social Writer: Blogging Platforms

Continuing with the series The Social Writer, this week I’ll be talking about blogging platforms. Now, last week I discussed why a writer might want to begin his/her own blog. Let’s say you decided to take my advice and start a blog. But then there’s a hitch: you don’t know what blogging platform to host your awesome blog.

Well, have no fear, Mastering the Craft is here!

blogging for writersRecapping from last week, I am still reading Robin Houghton’s book “Blogging for Writers: How Authors and Writers build successful blogs.” It’s published by Writer’s Digest so you know it’s going to be full of stuff that writer’s will want to know. In all seriousness, so far I’ve found it to be full of stuff that I, as a writer, would want to know. If you’d rather go out and buy the book instead of reading this column, I’d fully understand.

So, back to the task at hand. You’ve probably visited or heard of some of the blogging platforms I’ll be discussing shortly. You might be wondering though, what exactly is a blogging platform? Houghton describes them as “the software that powers a blog. You could think of it as the underlying construction, like a house-is it timber-framed or brick-built? Once the house is built, you may not be able to tell. Most blog platforms do pretty much the same job.”

There are so many of these platforms out there and it’d take more effort than I’d like to spend so I’m going to give a summary of three of the more popular ones. Here goes.

WordPress.com. This is the platform my website uses (www.james-master.com) and I find it very comfortable to use, yet also a little challenging. Let’s say it’s for intermediate level internet users. Prices can range from Free to $45 per month. Of course with most things, the more you pay the more perks you have access to. Stages include Free, Blogger ($3/month), Personal ($5/month), Premium ($8/month), Business ($25/month), and eCommerce ($45/month). All of those prices are billed yearly. That’s how they get you. You think, of that’s not a bad price, but then you’re panicking when they want you to pay a crazy amount.

Screenshot (40)
Screenshot of the pricing and what it includes from WordPress.com

 

• Blogger.com. I had no idea that Blogger.com was owned by Google so automatically I was logged into my webpage. “It’s like trading off some control for more convenience,” writes one review site. The site also states that Blogger has very little in terms of content management. While you can buy a custom domain, a blogger on Blogger.com is free and you get essentially unlimited resources to run your blog. I might actually try this one.

Wix.com is the third blogging platform. They have a basic free package like all the others, but then they have their four different levels including Combo ($13/month), Unlimited ($17/month), Pro ($22/month), and VIP ($39/month). The one thing that I like about WordPress.com is that they tell you ahead of time that the price is billed monthly. With Wix.com, they say the price, but only tell you it’s billed yearly later on. For instance, the Pro plan is $22 per month if you pay for one year. If you pay it month-to-month it’s $27 per month. Of course, if you pay for three years it’s only $16/month. So there’s that.

Screenshot (41)
Pricing and what it includes from Wix.com

 

Here’s what you need to think about when making the choice of where your blog is going to call home: Do you like the look and feel of the blogging platform sites? Do you have the budget for the higher tiers? What are the goals for your blog when thinking about the future?

The last piece of advice I can give you is this: search for other blogs that use the platform you’re thinking about. Do your research. Read some reviews about it. And always remember that you can start on the free option and then upgrade to a higher tier later on.

If you use a blogging platform, let me know in the comments which one and if you like it or if you are looking for a different one. If so, which one?

Writing is not Life

Writing is not life

 

Around this time of year, I always contemplate about the past. For good reason too. Ten years ago, my wife and I were married. Four years ago, I graduated college. Three years ago, after a quick downward spiral my wife went to live in another state. One year ago, our divorce was finalized. All these things happened around June or July.

It’s easy to focus on the negatives of your life. When I look back throughout the length of my 33 years, I tend to remember the negatives more than I do the positives. However, today I’d like to talk about one of the positives of my life. My ability to write.

My earliest memory of creatively writing is in the fifth or sixth grade. My parents were in the process of their divorce and my family was fractured. Jeff, my best friend to this very day, and I spent just about every recess on the playground with our notebooks and our pencils. We wrote about dinosaurs mainly because of our fascination with the film Jurassic Park (1993). I wish I’d kept those notebooks. Not to publish of course, because they’d be atrocious. Just for the memories.

My next memory of writing comes during seventh grade. It was a Creative Writing class, my first intramural elective. I wrote a short story called “High School Horror.” The plot centered on a serial killer inside a school killing all the bullies with a well sharpened pencil. If I had to psychoanalyze myself, I’d have to say that I wrote this as an emotional response to my first few grades of being bullied. In the summer between sixth and seventh grade I had started gaining weight and kids can be cruel. This was before all the gun violence in schools. If it’d been after, my teacher wouldn’t have commended my attention to detail. She’d be alerting me to the principal and I probably would’ve been kicked out. Zero tolerance and all.

I didn’t really write anything in high school until my senior year. However, during that last semester of school I started writing a fantasy that, to this day, has never been finished. Maybe I wrote it in order to come to terms with having to face the real world. I’d come back to it throughout the next few years because my reality was pretty terrible.

The first year my wife and I spent together, we rented a house on Ewing Street in South Bend. It was a two bedroom with a partially completed basement. The plan was to have that second room as part office and part craft room. However, as things go, life doesn’t go according to plan. My in-laws came to stay with us. So now we had four adults, one teenager, three dogs, and a cat living in that tiny, tiny home. My in-laws didn’t work for a living and spent all day at the house. I completed my first book, now published, because I spent my time at home stuck in the isolation of that intended office (now turned into a bedroom) writing.

When my divorce was finalized, I wrote a manuscript. I poured into it all of the pain, suffering, and every depressed-filled moment I went through during the two years of separation. The entire story was written in under two months on a spiral legal pad with a fountain pen. The main character was me, but without my faith in God. And it ended with the main character’s suicide.

The years of 2017 and 2018 were the lowest point in my 33 years of life. At least so far, but I pray I never go through that misery again. As I look back on these low points in my life, two things are crystal clear to me. The first is that the ability to write is my coping mechanism. I’ve found that I write best when I’m an emotional wreck.

Before I wrote this column, I was looking through Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and in it I read this:

“There have been times when for me the act of writing has been a little act of faith, a spit in the eye of despair. The second half of this book was written in that spirit. I gutted it out, as we used to say when we were kids. Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life. That was something I found out in the summer of 1999, when a man driving a blue van almost killed me.”

When I read that paragraph, I knew what my column would be about. Writing isn’t life, but it’s a way back to it.

The second thing is that even when life is bad, God is good. It’s difficult to comprehend the idea of a loving God allowing bad things to happen to those that believe. I’m not a theologian, but I think about it this way: when crafting a sword, you have to heat the metal and hammer it into the desired shape. After a series of hammering, reheating, and more hammering you have your desired weapon. If it’s strong enough and doesn’t break, it’s something that you can take into battle. (That’s a very rough explanation of sword making and doesn’t go into every facet but work with me here.)

I believe that God wants us to be the best forms of ourselves. Just like a character in a story, in order to become better we have to overcome overwhelming obstacles.

“Protect me, God, because I trust in you. I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord. Every good thing I have comes from you,’” says Psalm 16:1-2.

Yes, God allowed these things to happen, but He gave me the ability to write. Without that ability, things would’ve been different.

Happily ever after…

Guilty pleasures. We all have them, even if we don’t want to admit it. I mean, that’s sort of the point of guilty pleasures. One of mine is watching movies with really sad endings. Like, if you don’t tear up during the film then don’t bother making me watch it. Then, as part of the guilty pleasure, I make other people watch them with me. Spoiler warning for some films I discuss today. Here are a few of my “go-to” guilty pleasure films:

  1. Me Before You (2016)
  2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  3. A Quiet Place (2018)
  4. Road to Perdition (2002)
  5. Avengers Infinity War (2018)

I know, I’m sadistic.

Before writing this, I started thinking about why I take pleasure in this odd activity. One reason is that I have no soul and can’t gauge emotions, so I want to watch other people when they’re sad in order to copy their emotions. Another reason I came up with is that I’m so depressed that I like to watch fictional characters in pain, this way I take solace that my life isn’t as messed up as theirs.

Maybe I just like realistic storytelling in my films and novels.

That’s right. Sometimes we don’t all live happily ever after. Sometimes the guy doesn’t get the girl in the end. Maybe the father dies at the end in order to save his boy’s eternal soul. Maybe everybody dies at the end of a zombie movie. Maybe the coach mercy kills the paralyzed athlete. Maybe, the bad guy wins and destroys 50 percent of all life in the universe.

Did I just spoil a bunch of films for you? Well too bad! Sometimes we have movie endings spoiled for us. Maybe you should have gone and watched them. Maybe… just maybe… we overuse the word “maybe.”

Now, know what you’re all saying. “But Jimmy, why would I want to go to the theater and watch a film with a sad ending?”

I completely understand. Look at the current “Infinity Saga” that Marvel just pumped out. Starting with Iron Man (2008) until Avengers: Endgame (2019), the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has produced 22 films. How many of those ended with a happy ending? Every. Single. One. Of. Them.

Again, I know what you’re saying. “But Jimmy, in Avengers: Infinity War half of all life was dusted. How is that a happy ending?” To answer that, I’d argue that Thanos the Mad Titan was the protagonist and the Avengers were the “bad guys” of the film. With Thanos completing his task, he achieved his happy ending.

Every MCU film is predictable. You know going into the film that the hero will win, the bad guys will lose, and that everything will be alright. It’s boring. Don’t get me wrong, I love each and every one of those films, but that’s why I have my guilty pleasures. For once, I’d like to see a hero fail at the end of an origin film. That would give the hero an excellent redemption arc in the second and third film. Why don’t they do it? Two words: Box Office. If the film doesn’t do well, then there might not be a second film. You have to perform well in the first film. Meaning a happy ending where the hero wins the day.
You know, the more I think about it, the first film is like a presidential term. If the first one doesn’t do well, there won’t be a second one.

Films that end happily are also a lie. Do you want to know the biggest lie in cinema? Here it is: “And they all lived happily ever after.” It trains children, and depressed adult male writers, that if they try hard and do all they can to overcome their obstacles then they’ll triumph in the end and live “happily ever after.”

Horror movies aren’t even exempt. In the film Dawn of the Dead (1978), the main characters are evacuating from the mall as it’s being overran by zombies. Two of the characters die and turn into the undead while the very pregnant woman gets into a helicopter. Because in the 70’s aircraft births were the thing. The last guy was locked in his room with a gun to his head. He was waiting until the zombies burst in before killing himself, because that makes a difference. At this point, I’m waiting for the film to end darkly. Then, for some reason, the guy has a change of heart. A song that’s reminiscent of the theme to The A-Team plays and the guy fights his way through the horde of the undead to board the helicopter. Together, they take off riding into the sunlight. Happily Ever After.

Again, I know what you’re going to say: “But Jimmy, these are fictional scenarios that’ll never happen. And you’re saying they need to be realistic?”

Here’s my conclusion (tip to all essay writers: never write that as your last paragraph. It’s tacky). Every story needs to have some realism to it. I’m not saying that every ending to every story has to be sad, depressing, or soul crushing. It’s my belief that even in defeat, lessons can be learned. Movies should have more endings where the hero ultimately loses but learns something valuable from the defeat.

Now, as to my mental health, I’m sure you’re all concerned. Because, if I’m being honest with you last week’s rant and this one was depressing. Don’t worry about me.

I’m sure I’ll live happily ever after.

Game of Thrones Season 1 Episode 1

For my first Book vs Film, I wanted to write something epic. Really kick off my entry into this series with something big and bold. With this in mind, I was sorting through my book collection and my eyes settled on George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones.” At first, I thought it was too big, too epic. The books aren’t even finished despite the television show having just ended. How could I compare the books to the television show? Do I go through season by season? Since the source material runs out around the fifth season, BvF: GoT would only have about five parts to it.

That’s not epic at all. If I compare each individual episode to the books, now that’s something epic.

Plus, it’s something that will definitely kill time until the last two books are released (knock on wood). Now, for your enjoyment, I present to you BvF: GoT: Season 1, Episode 1.

By the way, if you’ve never read the books or watched the show: Spoiler Warning! Plus, why are you reading this if you have an interest in reading or watching it?

Initial Scene

The first difference I’ve noticed happens less than five minutes into the episode. The three men of the Night’s Watch are sent to track the wildlings. In the book, Will is sent to scout ahead for the wildling camp. He finds the camp and all the wildlings are dead. He reports this back to the leader, a highborn guy by the name of Royce. Royce asks for proof or a reason why they’re dead to which Will couldn’t really give so they decide to go investigate. In the show, Will finds them all brutally massacred and positioned in some macabre design.

Screenshot (15)
White Walkers attempt at art reminds me of kids pasting macaroni noodles on paper.

Another small detail, in the book only Will and Royce went to the wildling camp. In the episode all three went. Just a small change, nothing to blow your skirt up about.

Another detail that I’m sure the show cut for time limits. In the book, Royce defends Will and tries to attack the White Walkers. Will climbs a tree and Gared’s fate is unknown. In the show, we see no fight with the walkers and we see Gared get beheaded. RIP Gared.

If I had to say which I’d prefer, so far, I’d say I liked the show. The initial scene is short, to the point, and sets up the obvious threat that will loom over the rest of the show. With the brutal nature of the bodies and the beheading, it shows two things:

          The White Walkers don’t mess around when killing humans.

          The White Walkers are warrior artists. They kill and then decorate the battlefield. When they don’t enlist dead people, they use them as artwork.

Theme Song

I will never skip past this beautiful credit scene simply because of the GoT theme song. Sorry book lovers, point goes to the show for this one!

Stark Intro and Execution Scenes

Another big difference from the books. In the books, each chapter follows a different character. In the show, it blends together a lot of those storylines to conserve time. In this scene we are introduced to the entire family of the Starks in just one minute and twenty seconds of screen time. In that time we are told:

          Robb is the older and more serious brother from his stance.

          Jon is a more nurturing and teaching brother, giving Bran some archery tips. We also know he’s a bastard when he says “so’s your mother” indicating that Catelyn Stark is not his mother.

          Sansa is the more beautiful sister that’s better at needlework.

          Arya is the exact opposite of Sansa and is better at puncturing men with arrows than puncturing needles into fabric.

          We see Catelyn and Eddard (Ned) Stark watching over the boys as they train. This indicates that they are interested and involved in their children.

          Rickon. Almost forgot about that brat. Well, everyone else did so I won’t say more to that.

In the book we don’t see any of this yet. We go to the execution of the deserter. In the books it’s Gared. In the show, it’s Will. Both talk about White Walkers and everyone believes he’s looney.

The major difference is the way Ned Stark is portrayed. In the show, you first see Ned as a family man. You see him giving Bran encouragement and nurturing alongside his wife. In the book, he’s first shown as the Lord of Winterfell having to do his duty and execute the deserter. As Martin writes in the books, “He had taken off Father’s face, Bran thought, and donned the face of Lord Stark of Winterfell.”

Screenshot (16)
The show has these lovely scenes. “Nice day for a beheading,” said Ned (just joking).

That simple sentence does what most of the show does. It shows that Bran’s father isn’t always the stern, duty bound Lord Stark of Winterfell. He’s also a loving father.

Another minor difference is that Theon Greyjoy laughs at the most morbid things in the book. During the execution scene, Theon laughs at the decapitated head and “put his boot on the head, and kicked it away.” In the show, he did none of those things.

Direwolf Pup Scene

Very little is different. Bits of dialogue are changed and a few characters less in the show, but other than that much hasn’t been altered. In the show, Jon Snow doesn’t claim his direwolf for his own, however. That honor rests on Theon calling it “the runt of the litter.”

Great Hall Feast

The book portrayed the feast in the great hall of Winterfell following Jon and his quest to find the bottom of an ale mug. This is where the show’s narrative style is more advantageous. Game of Thrones shines when it comes to character interaction and the show has more characters interacting with each other than the book in this particular scene. Point goes to the show.

Different approaches to the narrative

The first big branch from the book comes 18 minutes into the episode. After the direwolfs are adopted by the Starks, it cuts away to a beautiful scene of King’s Landing. In the books, we don’t travel to King’s Landing that quickly. First there’s an interaction with Cat and Ned in Winterfell’s godswood. The chapter follows Cat as her character is fleshed out a bit more. We’re told that she is a Tully from Riverrun and that they don’t worship the old gods like the Starks still do. This sets up the lore. It also sets up the lore behind Brandon the Builder, the First Men, and the woods having faces carved into them. Cat and Ned share some dialogue about the children and their newly adopted pets. They also talk about the growing number of deserters. Cat delivers the news about Jon Arryn dying and that the King and his entourage are traveling for Winterfell. This scene is shown in the show only after the King’s Landing scene.

Screenshot (17)
Another great CGI location.

In the show, Ned and Cat don’t share that much dialogue. They don’t discuss the children. Cat skips right to showing Ned the message they’d received from the King.

The book takes an interesting turn. It changes narrative and goes to Daenerys (Dany) and her story. Dany and her brother Viserys are exiled Targaryens. Their family used to rule the Seven Kingdoms and all that jazz. Viserys wants to retake the Iron Throne and is going to wed off his sister in order to acquire an army of Dothraki in order to do it.

Going back to the show, this scene in King’s Landing is not shown in the book. It starts with the bells of the Sept ringing and the funeral of Jon Arryn, Hand of the King taking place. This is also the first time you see the Iron Throne. This is also the first time we’re introduced to twins Jaime and Cersei. Soon enough, we find out through dialogue that Arryn knew something about Jaime and Cersei.

Screenshot (18)
When you play the Game of Thrones, you either win or you die. RIP Jon Arryn.

Sexual Content

So, before I say anything else, I know that the show is made by HBO. I also know that sex and violence sell. But, there’s a scene with Theon, Jon, and Robb and their all shirtless. Theon and Robb talk about getting shaved for the queen. They also talk about the prince, as said by Theon, getting to “stab” southern girls with his “royal prick.” That’s the whole point of the scene. Point to the book for not including this because it adds absolutely nothing to the plot.

Screenshot (14)
This is how I feel when I’m watching some of these sex scenes.

The first time we see Tyrion, Jaime and Cersei’s brother, in the show is when he’s with a prostitute. Such a great character and the first we see is him drinking and receiving a sexual act. In the book, we see Tyrion entering the Winterfell great hall and we’re given a description. The first actual interaction with Tyrion is with Jon Snow. Tyrion gives Jon some good advice. In the books, he’s not the whoring, drunk that the television show portrays him as. It’s truly a shame, but like I said, it’s HBO. Now, in all fairness to the show this portrayal sets Tyrion on a moral low note in order to build him up in later episodes. But still, I don’t like the show’s version.

There is a lot of nudity in this episode. Ninety percent of it is not needed, but there is one scene that warrants it. That scene is with Dany and Viserys. He’s inspecting her body and you see her breasts. In the book we see Viserys and his cruel nature as he twists one of his sister’s nipples. We don’t see that in the show.

Interesting thing to note when it comes to nudity. In the book, Cat and Ned are naked when Maester Luwin comes with news from Cat’s sister. Ned dons a robe, but Cat doesn’t mind that she is naked in the Maester’s presence stating “Maester Luwin has delivered all my children” and “this is no time for false modesty.” I find it funny that the show will show young women naked, but not an older lady when the book allows it.

One last bit about the sexual content in this episode. It deals with the difference in the consummation of Dany and Drogo’s marriage. In the book, it appears to be consensual. Dany objects, but then consents after a bit of foreplay. In the show though, it’s anything but consensual. In the book, it’s written romantically, and you can tell that it’s the start of an honest romance. In the show, Drogo is forcing himself on a crying Dany.

Narrative Style

As far as narrative, much has stayed the same. Plot points in both book and show are still there. However, the television show takes a more linear style. Instead of bouncing around to different characters in different parts of the world like the book, the show sticks with locations more than people. The exclusions to this are when Robert mentions in the crypts that there are still Targaryens left in the world. The narrative then shifts over to Pentos with Dany and Viserys as detailed above.

Final Verdict

Unfortunately, this is Book vs Film. There has to be a winner. The show and book are parallel in almost every way. The book has an advantage because there is more lore and detail in every section that the show cannot possibly portray. The show also has too much sexual content that detracts from the overall story and plot. The thing that sticks out over the book are the character interactions. Jaime and Ned talking to each other during the feast. King Robert berating Queen Cersei when they first arrive in Winterfell. Many others that I don’t have time to detail. The actors do an impeccable job which makes the decision clear. The narrative style is also easier to digest in the show than it is in the book simply because it’s linear opposed to moving from character to character in different locations.

That being said, Episode One is better than the book.

Am I right? Am I wrong? Let me know in the comments below. Make sure to follow my website to find out what I thought about the other episodes!