George R.R. Martin doesn't see the TV versions of Game of Thrones characters when he writes The Winds of Winter

When George R.R. Martin sits down to write The Winds of Winter, does he see Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke and the rest in his head? He reveals all:
Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister – Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO
Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister – Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO /

George R.R. Martin has been writing his Song of Ice and Fire books for over three decades now, much to the chagrin of fans who wish he would get a move on writing the sixth book, The Winds of Winter. That's a long time spent with characters who have since become iconic since to HBO's TV adaptation Game of Thrones, inluding Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage).

But when Martin sits down to write these days, does he see Harington, Clarke and others in his head? He was asked that question during a video chat the other month with fellow author Bernard Cornwell.

Cornwell is used to seeing his works brought to life onscreen. Sean Bean played the title character in a miniseries adaptation of his Sharpe novels, and Alexander Dreymon played lead character Uhtred of Bebbanburg in The Last Kingdom, Netflix's adaptation of Cornwell's Saxon Stories books. Cornwell got things rolling. "I think Uhtred is still the man I invented 15 or 16 years ago," he said. "I think Alexander did a wonderful job of playing him. It's a little bit like Sean Bean and Sharpe. I mean, I still see Sharp as my Sharpe, I don't see it as Sean Bean. But I hear Sean's voice whenever I write. I hear that Yorkshire voice...very clearly...Maybe not his face. I've lived with Sharpe now for 40 years and it would take more than a TV series to change my image of Sharpe and I think the same is true of Uhtred."

Martin is right there with Cornwell. "I would agree that the same thing is true of my characters," he said. "I started writing Game of Thrones in 1991. We sold the television option in 2007. So that's 16 years I've been writing about Jon Snow and Dany and Tyrion before the actors were cast or before we shot a foot of film. The images [of the characters as I originally imagined them] in my head are pretty well fixed, although we got great actors. The cast of Game of Thrones was amazing. But when I sit down and work on the latest book, it's not the TV versions that I see. It's the characters that I worked with since 1991."

Sometimes those differences matter. For instance, in the books, Tyrion Lannister hasn't had a nose since the Battle of the Blackwater in A Clash of Kings, where the bulk of it got chopped off. The show gave him a scar and called it a day. For all we know, his noselessness could be a plot point in future books.

Hopefully we'll get to read those books sooner rather than later. Martin has been working on The Winds of Winter since 2011, so whether he sees Peter Dinklage in his mind's eye when writing about Tyrion or not, we'll be happy so long as we get to read more about his adventures.

Next. winter king last kingdom. The Last Kingdom author compares Uhtred with Arthur from The Winter King. dark

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