Sanderson vs. GRRM Plots

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by molybdenum, Nov 28, 2008.

  1. molybdenum

    molybdenum Analyze That

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    This may contain very minor spoilers for Brandon Sanderson's Well of Ascension.

    Okay, this seems like a very strange comparison, considering that these two authors are completely different, but I always see George RR Martin getting a lot of credit for his shocking plot twists. I just finished a re-read of Well of Ascension, and I can't help but think the way Brandon Sanderson was able to twist his plots took a lot more talent than GRRM's shock value.

    Now I'm not trying to say that Brandon Sanderson is a better writer, he's nowhere close in terms of characterization and world-building. But getting shock value is easy to do if you just kill off someone everyone thinks is a main character. That's what Storm of Swords twists consist of. But what Sanderson does in Well of Ascension is amazing. He leads you completely in the wrong direction, the entire time foreshadowing the fact that he's leading you completely in the wrong direction, and still surprises you at the end.

    The ability to twist plots to unpredictability isn't overly difficult. It's the way Sanderson does it in basically all his books that amazes me.

    Am I out to lunch here, or do people agree with me on this?
     
  2. Andols

    Andols I like stories

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    Thanks for adding to my to-read pile.
     
  3. goodboot

    goodboot coma patient

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    I completely agree with you sir. No real spoilers will follow this, but if you haven't read the book, I'd still avoid reading the rest of this post.


    Another difference I can spot is that Sanderson's twist left me feeling good, whereas Martin's twists normally leave me feeling pissed off. I can appreciate both, mind you. If a book can't make you feel something as you read it, it's really not worth the time, and sometimes I appreciate the books that bum me out more in the long run. However, I've been on a buzz-kill book spree lately, so finishing Well and still being in a good mood was a nice change of pace.
     
  4. pat5150

    pat5150 Staff

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    No offense, and I'm a fan of Brandon, but comparing GRRM and Sanderson in terms of plot twists is like comparing filet mignon and ground beef. Both can be good depending on the recipe, but one is a world away from the other...

    Patrick
     
  5. goodboot

    goodboot coma patient

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    Perhaps it is an odd comparison. I was just adding my thoughts on how their respective twists left me feeling afterward. A shallow addition, perhaps, but I don't contribute much in the way of comments around here and I've been itching to post something.
     
  6. ThornofCamorr

    ThornofCamorr Registered User

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    I read Well, but I dont think I know what twists you mean. Nothing really shocked me in those books either. I mean they were good, but the deaths seemed more like an inevitable whittling away of side characters. Maybe its because they didn't have enough time or spotlight to get the reader attached to them.

    Now the red wedding... thats a f***ing TWIST. Only time Ive ever dropped a book in shock and awe. It wasn't like, oh look a meteor dropped out of the sky and killed a main character. This stuff was set up for hundreds of pages.
     
  7. goodboot

    goodboot coma patient

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    I can definitely see your point about the deaths in Sanderson's trilogy. None of them are all that surprising. I wasn't really referring to deaths when I spoke of the twist though. It was the end that surprised me, and the identity of a certain prophesied figure spoken about throughout the books. Maybe I'm just dense, but I honestly didn't see it coming. I probably should have, but I didn't.

    And sir, I wholeheartedly agree about the Red Wedding. I almost threw the book across the room when I finished with that part.
     
  8. molybdenum

    molybdenum Analyze That

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    As I said, it's kind of a weird comparison, but I still think it's a valid one.

    I'm not saying that GRRM twists were any less shocking then Sanderson's, in fact, the red wedding was considerably more shocking. What I'm saying is I think it's much more difficult to pull off the plot twist at the end of Well of Ascension then it is to kill off a supposed main character. GRRM's twists is SOS was brilliant, but to do what Sanderson did, have us thinking completely the wrong way for the entire book while foreshadowing that he's leading us astray, that takes a lot more talent then just killing off characters.
     
  9. Eventine

    Eventine Uh, Staff Member

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    If you enjoythat type of thing I'd recommend trying some of Christopher Priest's work.
     
  10. ThornofCamorr

    ThornofCamorr Registered User

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    Oh yeah those things with the text at the tops of the chapters. Those are pretty cool, Im kinda sad I didn't put more effort into figuring those little puzzles out. Looks like I missed something cool.
     
  11. hippokrene

    hippokrene Peckish

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    I just finished Well of Ascension. Like Final Empire, it has a ‘final plot twist’ that's so obvious, I can't imagine anyone not seeing it before it happens. If not the actual clues in the text, then the simple fact that this is the second book a trilogy.

    I wonder if people are surprised because they take longer to read the entire book so they forget things. For each book, I read half of it one day and the other half the next day.

    On the other hand, Sanderson had two surprises I thought were very clever:
    The identity of the second kendra and the meaning of the first lines of the story.
     
  12. molybdenum

    molybdenum Analyze That

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    You're obviously much more adept at catching plot twists than I am...there's no need to be so condescending about it.

    In fact, your two plot twists that you thought were rather clever, to me were a bit more obvious than the final twist. I guess it depends on the kind of things you were paying attention to. For instance, I had no idea any twist was coming. You were probably expecting some sort of twist, and just looking for what it could be.
     
  13. hippokrene

    hippokrene Peckish

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    Neither of what I mentioned were plot twists.

    A plot twist is something that changes the goals of the character. The Red Wedding meant that the goal 'Rob becomes the King of the North and defeats the Lancasters' became null.

    On the other hand, this is how the murder mystery sub-plot played out in WoA:
    Vin finds a dead body.
    Vin searches for the murderer.
    Vin discovers the murderer.
     
  14. DailyRich

    DailyRich Damn fool idealist

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    But it would be a twist for the clues to indicate one person, only to have it revealed to be someone unexpected to whom the clues also apply.
     
  15. molybdenum

    molybdenum Analyze That

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    I'm finding many people at SFFWorld with a very narrow definition of words. You'll often find in a dictionary that the same word has 5 or 6 related definitions, yet it seems that people are constantly saying this word can only mean one thing. Hero in the Tolkien overrated thread is a good example.

    For example, Hippokrene, plot twist does not necessarily have to be somee changing the goals of the main characters, it simply has to be a twist in the plot. So, what defines a twist becomes the next question. I'd say it's anything that happens opposite what you (or at least the characters in the story) expect. For example,
    Kelsier dying in the first book
    would be a plot twist, yet the goals of the characters remained very much the same.

    That's just a long way of saying that I don't agree with your definition. If you can find evidence to the contrary, I'd certainly be willing to change my mind.
     
  16. algernoninc

    algernoninc Now I'm an axolotl

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    I 've just finished Well of Ascension, and I find it hard to compare the plots of Sanderson with those of GRRM. I know the original poster referred specifically to the plot twist at the end of book two, but overall I found Sanderson to write a pretty straightforward, linear story taking the characters from point A to point B. It's kind of obvious the author will need to turn the cards on the heroine in order to provide material for another volume. It's even pretty clear where the heroine will go in the third installment. With Martin there are seven to ten main storylines to Sanderson's one, and all of them strike off at a tangent in unexpected ways.
     
  17. thrinidir

    thrinidir dw4rf

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    Comparing GRRM and Sanderson is not completely valid; it's not wise to compare GRRM to every author out there...people have taken him too much as a referential point (comparing authors to GRRM to assess their value is not ok).

    Sanderson has his own merits, as does GRRM...but putting them in the same basket is a waste of time. GRRM vs. "random author name" reminds me of the countless futile "Metallica vs. Megadeth" threads you find on music forums.
     
  18. Luya Sevrein

    Luya Sevrein Humble Grifter

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    I think I agree, on some terms.

    Firstly, GRRM is one thousand times a better writer. He writes well and fluently. He builds worlds that I would just love to take a dive into, he creates characters that could be my friend, my enemy, my neighbour, and he brings them to life (and kills them...)

    Honestly. I have no idea of ONE SINGLE TRAIT of Vin's personality, because I swear to God that girl changes on an hourly basis. But, I know nearly every guard who captured Arya and Gendry in A Clash of Kings. I know their names and personalities better than I know one of Sanderson's main characters for fuzz sake.

    However, yes, a few of his plots seem to take years to get started, to be too obvious, to be to worked, to have twists that sometimes feel that they are just there because he is worried fans might think he is being to obvious, like some big, cruel circle. Like - SPOILER, maybe? - I personally want Syrio to be Jaqen, to be the strange man in Old Town, to be Arya's sort-of Guardian. But I think George might think it to obvious by the time he get's there.

    But, to be honest, aSoIaF is getting to the part where magic is really coming to life. Real fear, real trouble is bruing and not everything is about political warfare and council meetings. So, I think this point won't last for long. I hope, anyways.
     
  19. Luonas

    Luonas Statistician

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    I think I am one of the few who isn't that impressed with the Red Wedding, so while GRRM is stronger in other parts (one could ask why I have to state that when we're specifically talking about plot twists... ;) ) Sanderson is stronger in the plot twisting ways. And that applies both to The Final Empire and The Well of Ascension. That Robb's kingdom was finished was obvious even before the Red Wedding. Bereft of allies only a act of god (Martin) could have saved him and that would have made for a pretty crappy story-twist (if bigger than the red wedding). Sanderson twists the plot both by main character-deaths and other more subtle ways.

    His he an better overall author than Martin, of course not but were talking plot-twists here and not suprisingly Martin isn't best at everything.
     
  20. chokipokilo

    chokipokilo Unreasonable reasoner

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    I really didn't consider the Red Wedding a twist, just a rising action point. Martin hinted at it so much it was clear something big was coming. There are other, more unexpected twists in aSoIaF, though perhaps not as intense.

    On the other hand, I didn't see Ruin coming at the end of Well of Ascension, but given the clues and the fact that there was a sequel it was clear something was going to happen. Sanderson made you expect the unexpected, so there was a twist, but you knew there would be so it wasn't exactly shocking.

    SPOILERS
    The kandra/Zane deal was a much more unexpected twist in Well. Stannis appearing in the north was more shocking in SoS.