Game of Thrones and the importance of the storyline

by Pierre Morsa

By now, the last episode of the cult show Game of Thrones has aired. I haven’t seen it, and I didn’t want to see it before writing this article. Whether it accurately follows the storyline of the books or not is a moot point, because said book hasn’t been written yet. And it shows. I won’t spoil anything, don’t worry. But everyone noticed that the screenwriting of the seasons that could rely on George R. R. Martin’s material was much better than the seasons that had to rely on external writers. And I will use that as an example of how important a great storyline is for a great presentation.

Let’s first look at the material that the showrunners used for the first seasons of Game of Thrones, the books collectively known as “A Song of Ice and Fire,” written by George R. R. Martin (aka GRRM). I’m not a fan of GRRM’s writing style. I find the general style of the sentences a bit “plain.” However, GRRM is exceptional at two things:

  • The storyline. The perfect plot and its twists were what made Game of Thrones what it is. By refusing to follow common writing wisdom in favor of a more complex, realistic and gritty storyline, GRRM created numerous shocks and surprises, but none of them were gratuitous. They were all at the service of the storyline.
  • Short killer lines that could accomplish in a few words what could not have been done in several pages of writing. Take Tyrion, for example. The fact that he is one of the most beloved characters in the series is entirely due to the great lines GRRM put in his mouth.

If you compare it to the seasons filmed without GRRM’s books, it’s plain that:

  • The storyline is much more conventional. There are a lot more deus ex machina moments. Some plot twists feel forced and illogical. It’s clear the writers wanted to capture the spirit of GRRM’s writing, but didn’t manage to put their plot twists at the service of the storyline.
  • The short killer lines are gone. Not much more to say. This is why Tyrion feels so useless during these last seasons.

What does it mean for your presentations? It means that the storyline always comes first. Everything you say and show has to be directly relevant to the storyline. The storyline will dictate how easy (or how hard) your presentation is to follow. The storyline will dictate how surprising, how impactful your presentation will be.

The storyline is not everything, as the short killer lines demonstrate. A presentation is much more: the quality of the delivery, the quality of the visuals, etc. But the storyline is its backbone, and cannot be rushed.