If you’re a fan of the medieval fantasy genre, then the autumn of 2022 will likely have been an exciting time, as two enormous franchises launched their latest shows.
Firstly, in August, we were treated to the much-anticipated prequel of the Game of Thrones saga, House of the Dragon (HotD). This saga tells the story of the Targaryen dynasty around 100 years before the events we know and (mostly) love from Westeros.
Meanwhile, a couple of weeks later, in September, The Rings of Power (TRoP) began streaming on Amazon Prime. A prequel to the world-famous The Lord of the Rings books and films, this story takes place in Middle Earth 2,000 years before Frodo and gang will make their trip to Mordor.
From the worlds they inhabit to the power struggles between their rulers, there are many parallels to draw between the two worlds created by George R.R. Martin and J.R.R. Tolkien – most notably that it seems you must have two abbreviated “Rs” in your name to be a successful fantasy writer.
However, while watching these two TV shows, one notable difference makes itself readily apparent: while the writing in HotD has put the devastatingly poor final season of Game of Thrones well behind it, TRoP has fallen well short of the quality of its source material.
Fortunately, while TRoP might be a disaster, a dichotomous relationship between two shows like this can teach us a great deal about good writing – and, more importantly, why bad writing is so destructive. Here’s what we can learn from these shows.
You don’t need to patronise your audience to explain complex concepts
First is the importance of not patronising your audience. Whether it’s potential clients reading your blogs or television fans enjoying a show, your audience are a smart bunch, so there’s no need to treat them like they aren’t.
In HotD, we as an audience are dropped into the middle of a story we know nothing about, with characters we’re yet to meet. As the episodes progress, we organically learn about the relationships and plotlines from careful, subtle context clues, which we piece together ourselves because we are smart little cookies.
Yet in TRoP, everything must be clunkily explained to us in painstaking detail. Whether that’s long lines of exposition-soaked dialogue between half-baked characters, or the monotonous monologues from the leading lady, no stone is left unturned in putting everything in front of us.
Instead, we are beaten over the head with the stone until the writers could be sure that their ham-fisted point has got through to us.
Personal finance is an inherently complicated topic, and sometimes you do need to include additional bits of context and pieces of information to get your point across.
But readers or web visitors don’t like to be patronised, so you need to avoid explaining things in a way that will make people feel stupid.
Writing should be accessible and not presume knowledge, but equally not be condescending. A tricky but vital balance to achieve.
You need a balanced marketing strategy that doesn’t neglect written content
Even if you haven’t watched TRoP, you might have seen the various headlines about it being the most expensive TV show ever produced.
Reporting from Business Insider claims that the first season alone cost Amazon an eyewatering $715 million to produce.
By some metrics, this spend was a resounding success. Indeed, the official @LOTRonPrime Twitter handle tweeted: “25 million global viewers in the first 24 hours. Thank you for making #TheRingsOfPower the most watched series premiere on @PrimeVideo.”
Yet from a writing perspective, the show is an abject failure. For all the spectacle and, in fairness, exquisite visual effects, the writing has suffered. The dialogue in many scenes is so stunted and uneven that it entirely detracts from all the hard work that’s gone into fine tuning other elements.
In other words, written content can suffer if you prioritise everything else.
Marketing is just the same. A good strategy is constructed of many elements, with web copy and written content a part of a larger puzzle including branding and web design.
But you need to balance the emphasis on each of these elements. There’s no point in having a stunning website if the copy on it is confused and doesn’t communicate who you are or what you can do for clients.
You need to spend your marketing budget effectively and efficiently to create a cohesive strategy, treating writing as an integral part of it.
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