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General Reddit 2017 ()
#451 Copy

fortunefavorsthecold

What is the final page count? The first two books were monsters (in the best way). I think part of what sets you apart from some other authors is that you're very transparent with your writing progress. The progress bars on your site, your updates on twitter, et cetera. Anyway, long story short, I am really freaking excited to read what's in store for everyone, and I may just re-read WoK and WoR to get back in the mood.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, Words of Radiance was spring 2014, incredibly.

Oathbringer would have been out last year, instead of this year, but the story went long. First draft was 520k words, compared to 300k words for TWoK and 400k words for [WoR]. However, in revisions, I buckled down and did some serious pruning for the good of the book--so Oathbringer is somewhere around 450k words now, going into final proofreads. November 14th drop date in the US.

More and more, I'm certain I can't do these every two years, as I had originally hoped. They are to intricate, and I need to take a break from the world to let things simmer and brew between books. But we'll see.

General Reddit 2017 ()
#452 Copy

WisdomDoode

I think he is a bit hesitant to incorporate these stuff openly because he thinks that it might be perceived as tokenism. Do I have it right u/mistborn ?

Edit: If Mr. Sanderson decides to show up; the deleted comment was about you mentioning one of your characters was gay but he didn't get a chance to date anyone yet therefore it is not really out there.

Brandon Sanderson

It's partially that, certainly. But in the case of Bridge Four, it's more about the fact that the guys just haven't had time to start many relationships. It's only been a few months, in-world time, between thinking they were doomed to having respectable jobs. Give the fellows some time. Most of the guys, gay or straight, are looking. (Excluding the married ones and the asexual one.)

Wisconservationist

I hope I didn't offend, it was exaggeration for effect, nor do I think the lack of sexual depiction or even mention is done ham-fistedly, there's always a well formed, even subtle, reason WHY your characters don't tend to be particularly sexual, at least not the major POV characters, be it culture or circumstance, I've just noted that it's something of a theme, which I ascribed, perhaps erroneously, to "delicate mormon sensibilities".

Brandon Sanderson

I wasn't offended. I do tend to respond quickly to threads, however, so I know I can come across as terse sometimes. No worries.

By way of conversation, you might enjoy a story from when I was writing the second Mistborn novel. My editor called me one day, and said, "All right. I can't figure it out. Are Vin and Elend having sex or not?" I said, "Of course they are. They've been together for over a year at this point." His response was, "Well, why not say so?"

It was the first chance I had to vocalize something that I hadn't even really figured out myself--something that just felt like the right way to tell my stories. I explained that there were many readers, like my sister, who wanted to be able to pretend that the male lead and female lead in the story were going to do things the way she wanted them to, with a level of chastity that made no sense in the culture. There were other readers who would want to imagine wild Allomancer sex happening every night.

In this case (though it may not be every case in my books) I felt it was best not to intrude as the author, as what was going on in the bedroom wasn't plot relevant. In addition, there was a certain...privacy I wanted to afford them, because of Vin's difficulty with intimacy in the first place. I don't know if that makes any sense or not, but while Wayne's sexual exploits can be front-and-center, it felt specifically wrong to go into Vin and Elend.

That said, I'm totally a prude. The Daenerys chapters from A Game of Thrones, for example, were too much for me, and are a large part of why I didn't continue with the series despite thinking the first book was very well written.

You should go listen to the Writing Excuses episode we did where we interviewed an erotica writer on how to write sex scenes. Mary spent basically the entire episode poking fun at me. (Though I'd like the record to stand that I was NOT blushing as much as she implies on the recording.)

Goodreads: Ask the Author Q&A ()
#453 Copy

Hanna

What advice would you give to someone who is trying to write an epic fantasy novel for the first time?

Brandon Sanderson

Turn off the internal editor. Write with passion, and don't spend a lot of time on revision. You will grow so quickly as a writer during your first book that you want to power through it, learn a lot about the process, THEN do your revisions. Otherwise, you might end up stuck in an endless loop of revising the first few chapters.

Also, don't spend so long planning that you don't get around to writing. The goal is to train yourself to learn how to write—and you only do that by actually writing.

General Reddit 2017 ()
#454 Copy

NotOJebus

If Wax/Marasi had worked out, he'd probably have been okay with it, for example.

Was there ever a chance this was going to be the case?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, there was a slight chance. It wasn't what I had planned, but even an outline writer like myself must be willing to change plans as a story adapts. So until a book is published, there's a chance things will change.

However, in this case, the more I wrote, the more confident I was that this path was the right one.

Goodreads: Ask the Author Q&A ()
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Sharade

The fantasy universe is very fond of antiheroes lately, so I was surprised when I read your books with charismatic and inspiring lead characters, who, almost single-handedly, give faith to people and make them claim back their dignity. What is so compelling about creating characters such as Kaladin or Kelsier?

Brandon Sanderson

I find that the antihero angle is very well covered by other authors. I am fascinated by people who are trying to do what is right because most everyone I know is actually a good person--and a good person needing being forced to make unpleasant decisions is more interesting to me. The great books I read as a youth inspired me; I'd rather dwell on that kind of story than the opposite. (That said, it's great that the genre is big enough for both types of stories.)

It IS interesting to me that over the last twenty years, what I do has become the distinctive one.

Manchester signing ()
#456 Copy

Questioner

Where do you get your people from? Do you take inspiration from people you know in real life?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, yes I do. Sometimes, sometimes not. As I said, usually the seed that starts a character for me as I grow them is a conflict. For Kaladin it's the conflict between being trained as a surgeon and finding out you are really good at killing people, and how do you deal with that. For some it can be very simple, for Sarene I had a friend who is a woman that is 6 foot 2, or whatever she is, *to the side* How tall is Annie? She's tall. Anway, Annie's tall, and she always complains about how tough it is to be a tall woman. Which is something I never thought of, I'm like "I'm going to use that. I'm going to make use of that in a story," Of course that isn't her whole personality, but that little seed, you drop down and I grow a personality around it as I try someone out... That person I knew, a piece of her turned into a character. For other things, it's just trying and trying and trying untill something works, as I explained before. It is "What has their life done to them", often times it's "What are the passionate about? What do they want? Why can't they have what they want?" Those sorts of things lead me into creating a character

Goodreads: Ask the Author Q&A ()
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Kritika

I'm blown away by all the different types of people you portray in The Stormlight Archive (different cultures, social classes, genders, varying levels of...morality). What kinds of things help you create such diverse casts of characters? I'm imagining that you have a secret encyclopedia somewhere that helps you keep all your cultures and customs straight!

Brandon Sanderson

I do, actually, have a secret encyclopedia. It's a wiki on my computer, filled with information. That helps me keep things straight. However, specific inspirations are often in the people I meet. I do spend a fair amount of time looking through the internet for blogs/forums populated by people who think very differently from myself. This helps me create realistic portrayals.

Goodreads: Ask the Author Q&A ()
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Matteo

Why do you so often include some sort of religious government in so many of your worlds? Is it something that comes from looking at how history developed on Earth, or do you think your religious faith influences the way you write/worldbuild?

Brandon Sanderson

There are a lot of reasons. One is because it happened that way so often in our world. Another is my fascination with religion, and wanting to explore what people do with it. The biggest one, however, is related to how I worldbuild. I like things to be very interconnected, as I think that's how real life is. So, when I build a religion, I ask myself what its political ties are, as well as its relationship with things like the magic, economics, and gender roles of the culture.

Goodreads: Ask the Author Q&A ()
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Jerry Dol

How much time do you usually spend on creating a magic system?

Brandon Sanderson

It really depends on the book, the length of the story, and how integral to magic is to that particular story. Some are as fast as a couple of days; some take months and months. It is also difficult to answer this question because I spend a lot of time thinking about a book before writing, and the Magic is often part of that. I will often spend years with an idea growing in the back of my mind before writing--and in those cases, the actual "outlining" may take a month, but that doesn't begin to cover the time spent on the idea.

Legion Release Party ()
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Questioner

I was wondering, where did you get the idea for <crystals>?

Brandon Sanderson

It came from the crystal sword, and just grew out of that. Most of the things in the Alcatraz books, I start with an idea, and then I grow it outward. Which is the reverse process of how I normally write books, where it's where I outline and then build according to the outline. The Alcatraz books are me practicing the other style of writing, which we call discovery writing. Because I think writers need to know how to do both.

Prague Signing ()
#461 Copy

Questioner

Do you need to love writing to be a writer?

Brandon Sanderson

I think a lot of writers hate writing so I don't think it's required. I know a lot of writers who hate writing but love to have written if that makes sense. A lot of writers do love writing but a lot of writers love to have written.

EuroCon 2016 ()
#462 Copy

Questioner

I'm very interested about the laws of magic. You wrote so many books, but I think that history will specially remember you because of 2.5 words, right? "Limitations are a bigger sign than powers," right? So, limitations must be bigger than powers, and I think it's a wonderful, amazing second law of magic, and it actually should be applied to the fantasy genre as a whole, because therefore we could avoid 90% of all the garbage that is out there if we really applied this second law of magic. However, you don't apply it to all your works. For example, your work for young adults, you don't apply that law that much, so I'm wondering why it is not a universal law, but rather a law that in some things, like for children or young adults, you don't apply so much?

Brandon Sanderson

That is interesting. I actually take exception to several things here. The first is, I don't believe that 90% of things are crap, or that there is a lot of terrible fiction. I take exception to when people say that about our genre or about any genre. Books that get published and are written are loved by somebody. Maybe that's just the author and the editor--once in a while--but usually there is a strong fanbase, and just because one person doesn't like it doesn't mean it lacks value.

Questioner

Sturgeon's Law?

Brandon Sanderson

I don't believe in Sturgeon's Law.

Questioner

No?

Brandon Sanderson

I think it's complete bunk.

Questioner

Okay?

Brandon Sanderson

In fact, Sturgeon did not believe in Sturgeon's Law, if you asked him. He did not believe in it, I do not believe in it. I think by perpetuating Sturgeon's Law, which is that 90% of everything is crap, what we are doing is we are buying into people outside of science fiction and fantasy pointing at us and trying to make us feel bad about our genre. This is not to say that you can't criticize, you definitely can, and there is a very important place for critics, looking at books and at the genre. But once, I thought about Sturgeon's Law, and I actually tried to decide if critics actually hated 90% of everything. And so I went to Rotten Tomatoes, and I picked the harshest critics I could find, and every one of them liked seven out of ten of these movies they saw.

So, while I think certain things can be pointed at, and say, "This is poorly done, because it is failing to achieve it's goals," we should not look at something that's achieving a different goal from what we think it should achieve, and call it crap because of that. If you can see, this is a point of a bit of interest to me. If someone points at, for instance, a lot of people in the genre disliked Eragon the book, I've referenced the movie earlier. But, is it bad for the millions of children who read that, and it brought them to fantasy and became the foundation for why they love our genre?

Questioner

Compared with the movie, it's not bad, right?

Brandon Sanderson

*laughs* Yeah. So, going back to your original question, though, my primary YA work is The Rithmatist, which is a story about a boy with no magic at a magic school, and is inherently a story about having no power, and having limitations. If you are referencing, instead, Alcatraz, my other series, it's about a boy whose magic power is breaking things, and he has no control over it. So, this is a story about a child who is in foster care, who has no control over his life, and his lack of control of his magic is a metaphor for his lack of control over his life. But Sanderson's Second Law is about finding the conflict. Making characters powerful can be a problem, but it doesn't have to be. For instance, Superman is usually held up as a character who is considered too powerful. But if you look at the best stories involving Superman, the story is always about what he can't do. He can fly, he can shoot lasers from his eyes, he can lift giant boulders, but he can't make a woman love him. This is what I mean by limitations being more important than the powers. A Superman story can be very interesting, but his powers can often be irrelevant.

Goodreads: Ask the Author Q&A ()
#463 Copy

Jesse

I love stories in any medium, and I would love to tell one myself. But, I don't think I have anything in particular to say that hasn't been done a thousand times before. I invariably come across some story that already parallels my ideas. What makes a story worth telling even when its like has been done before?

Brandon Sanderson

The answer is simple: YOU are what makes your story worth telling. Harry Potter wasn't an original story, and yet told very well, it became an excellent series.

My suggestion to you is to ask what unique passions or life experiences you have that aren't found in the average fantasy book. This genre still has a lot of room to grow. A person passionate about sports could write a very different fantasy novel from one passionate about lawn care—assuming they take what they know and love and make us, as readers, come to know and love it as well.

Good luck!

Firefight release party ()
#464 Copy

Questioner

So when it comes to the superhero genre and female characters, I feel you have the two types. You have the damsel or the super sexualized black widow that is awesome. How has that been a worry for you?

Brandon Sanderson

So she's talking about the-- In superheroes you usually have the damsel, so you have the Mary Jane that needs to be rescued, or you have the black widow, hypersexualized thing like this, and the question is has that been a worry for me. It is something that is in the back of my brain, it's not  just a problem in superhero fiction, it's one of the ones that it is most manifest in. You will find the problem in most genres of speculative fiction, especially action genres. There's also what they call the-- There's the archetype of the Mother and the Crone. Those are your archetypes that women get to play. And it's been in the forefront of my brain a lot, in my writing, because I think as a writer the further you go as a writer the more you need to be aware of when you are falling into a cliche and when you're not. So yes it is something I've thought about quite a bit, particularly when I was writing Firefight "How am I going to deal with Megan as a character? And how am I going to deal with Mizzy as a character? And how they differ." So it was something I was thinking about very consciously as I working about on these books.

I think one regret I have a little bit is that I feel Mistborn I did a great job with Vin, but there's not very much of a female supporting cast in those books. It's kind of the archetype  that there's one girl in the whole city and then everyone else. And you kind of run into this and things like that and I was a little less conscious as a writer in those days. But it is something that I think all writers need to be aware of. The thing is that we talk a lot about feminist theory because it tends to be most manifest when men are writing, but when women write there is also one that they do that is they tend to make the guy like this perfect guy and what happens is the guy has no personality he's just perfection and the girl is either a klutz or a doofus or she can't do anything right and the guys are all these perfect ideals. And that's when women write, when men write it's like the girl exists to be saved or to be lusted after. You just have to be aware as a writer these are going to be very natural to you because of our society or whatever we've seen a lot in storytelling, and you just have to become aware of them. And as soon as you become aware of them you can start working on them.

The easiest way of getting away from doing this is to avoid tokenism, meaning if you are going to put someone in who is a certain ethnicity or is different from yourself or one thing like that, if you force yourself to put two in you then suddenly can't make them the stereotype because otherwise they are the same character and that forces you to really think about that and is one very easy way. I can go on for hours about that so take my class and ask me and we can talk about it.

Legion Release Party ()
#465 Copy

Questioner

How do you decide what perspective you put it in? First person, third person?

Brandon Sanderson

A lot of it depends on the number of viewpoints I'm gonna have for a book. It's a pretty easy thing, but if I'm gonna have one viewpoint, I'll put it almost always in first. Not always, but almost always, because I can use the tools. Genre influences it also. First person's more prevalent in YA than it is in adult. And kind of, like, what tone do I want for it? Like, the first person book I'll do in the Cosmere, I probably won't do one until I do Hoid's book. Because he's the storyteller telling you the story. And the other ones, I want to be trustworthy, like the narration of which, even if a specific viewpoint is untrustworthy, the narration is trustworthy.

Idaho Falls signing ()
#466 Copy

Questioner

I was intrigued ever since I saw your State of the Sanderson about Death Without Pizza.

Brandon Sanderson

It's good. I'm one chapter, or no I guess it's like three chapters. I'm one day's work away from finishing my revision, to then kick it back to Peter [Orullian]. I'm really, really excited how it's turning out. He knows his metal culture really well, and one of the tricks has been integrating that without making it feel jokey and things like that. I'm very pleased with how it's going.

Questioner

What kind of metal influences were you going for?

Brandon Sanderson

...Peter really likes the lyrical metal like that, like Dreamtheater. I don't know my subgenres very well, but Apocalyptica gets a mention, that's one I knew, Dragonforce gets a mention, I knew them. But I guess Dragonforce is the same subgenre. My job is worldbuilding and plot, and his job is character voice and making sure all of that works. I'm fascinated by it all.

Questioner

So is he more in the editing process, or is he an official co-writer?

Brandon Sanderson

He's a co-writer! I came up with the plot and the worldbuilding, I sent it to him, he wrote the whole first draft. Now I'm doing the next draft and then I'm kicking it back to him to do another pass and make sure the voice still matches, and then we'll take it out to publishers.

Questioner

What's the character's name?

Brandon Sanderson

The main character's name is Jack Solomon.

Goodreads: Ask the Author Q&A ()
#467 Copy

Val

How quickly are you able to get back into the storyline flow when you begin another book? e.g. Do you have to review notes extensively for a few days?

Brandon Sanderson

This is one of the most difficult things for me to do. I wish I had a better way to do it, actually. I usually lose a few days or more while trying to get into a book I've stopped for some reason. My primary method is to read what I've written before (or, if it is a new book in a series, the last part of the previous book.) That tends to help get me into a mood, so to speak. But it can take days of thinking, working, and throwing away my work to get into the groove.

ICon 2019 ()
#468 Copy

Nimrod Rappaport (paraphrased)

Have you read 1984?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes, I have.

Nimrod Rappaport (paraphrased)

In your lecture you talked about the three P's: premise, progress and payoff. I wanted to ask you about 1984 because I read the book and was engaged by it and I don't see how the three P's appear in the book, why is it so interesting?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

The thing is that George Orwell is very good with setting, he can make very interesting worlds. The progress in 1984 is that of a person losing its mind, the payoff is in how broken he is the end and how his conscience has been shattered.

Footnote: The question was asked after the "tips for writing" lecture.
Direct submission by Nimi142
Oathbringer release party ()
#469 Copy

Questioner

Which is your favorite of the Ten Fools, and why?

Brandon Sanderson

Uh-- I don't know. I honestly don't know.

Questioner

Can you give me a name of one of them, then?

Brandon Sanderson

That I haven't named yet? Those are in the notes, I have to look those things up. I don't know. We're gonna do a Ten Fools painting for the next one, maybe. We were gonna do it for this one. I'm not sure who my favorite is. I'd have to sit and think about it, perhaps more time than we have right now. It's going to depend on Isaac's sketches of them and things like that. Maybe, uh, Jezrien's fool. Probably Jezrien's fool.

Questioner

What's the name of that one?

Brandon Sanderson

I can't remember. Like I said, I have 'em in a list. I have to go look at the notes and look them up every time. I don't use them, like, I just write--

Questioner

Not like the Heralds, that you're using all the time. They're just the Ten Fools.

Brandon Sanderson

Right, I just use, even when I'm writing, I'm like "Jezrien's Fool," and then I go look up the name of it.

JordanCon 2016 ()
#470 Copy

Questioner

As your characters have evolved and grown, as we've seen in different books-- We've also seen, like with your character Wayne, kind of the sense of humor inside of the characters changed, and with him we've kind of seen this-- I guess, uh, kind of more seedy and base sense of humor with him, which in some ways made him more lovable and more of a favorite sense of humor. But like with kids, I've kind of been like-- worried a little bit.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah Wayne is…

Questioner

--with the age level and I'm wondering if we're going to see more characters like that grow in as we're looking at Mistborn Era 2 and 3 coming out, and if so, do I need to be more concerned, or is it really gonna be, or is it… what methods, do we need some rating system.

Brandon Sanderson

*amused* Rating system… *laughter*

Questioner

*audio obscured*

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, I would say that this is more, "I write the character that fits the situation" rather than any sort of an evolution on my part of this, so… I don't know. I will… really, I would leave that to other people. This is kind of one of those weird things where, like, I will both get on the same day, sometimes, e-mails from someone who's like "how can you be so crude in your books, I thought your books were supposed to be family-friendly" followed by "why won't you address adult topics in your books *laughter* why do they all feel so children-esque, child-esque", and I would assume that those are the types of e-mails that everyone gets, even George RR Martin. *laughter* "When are you gonna get to some real adult themes, George?" I'm sure there's someone who's sent that e-mail to him. Um, yeah, I write the books, you know, I have… I'm certainly not as interested as some authors in digging into the more... quote-unquote "explicit content", but at some points there are characters like Wayne where I'm like, "you know, I need to write this character who they would be", and I can have them dance around the worlds-- words to obstinate *laughs* that was not an intentional slip! Dance around the words to obfuscate things and stuff like that, but if I don't let Wayne say some of the things he wants to say, then I'm not being true to that character in the same way I wouldn't be being true to Dalinar if I didn't let him, you know, be the strictly "I follow the rules" type person that he's become, because both of those types of people exist in the world.

Um, your specific question on Era 3 of Mistborn, um, is… I don't anticipate a Wayne-like character, but who knows? Right, Era 3 right now is kind-of focused on two Terris people, the main character and her brother, and she's a computer programmer in the early days of computer programming, and--

Bystander

Fortran.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, like a Fortran programmer or something like that… And, you know, it's going to be-- Her story will be a little bit more geek-culture-ish and things like that. You'll have very fun with the artwork in those, let's just say that.

I can't promise you one way or the other what I'm going to do, so I think what you're-- what you should be doing is reading them yourself and then deciding for yourself with whom you will share the books.

Firefight release party ()
#471 Copy

Questioner

What is it like for you when you end a characters life? Like how is it for you emotionally?

Brandon Sanderson

How is it for me emotionally--

Questioner

Like when I lost a character in Mistborn, I couldn't read. I was done.

Brandon Sanderson

...The thing about it is I am a planner as a writer. So I have usually prepared a great deal. That means that I am prepared and ready for the character's passing. And the way that I usually build in character death is that it is more the characters demanding it than I'm killing them. It is them saying "This is the risk I demand to take" and me as the narrator saying "Well that risk has certain consequences and sometimes I will protect you from those consequences, sometimes I won't" The narrator will decide when I should and when I shouldn't, but the character decides when they make those risks, if that makes sense? It's kidn of this pseudo-organic process, talking about characters is  the one that is most organic to me-- Plots and worlds I can talk a lot about the nuts and bolts, with characters it's a feeling and an instinct of what they would do. And then I have to decide what I do with the consequences to that. But usually I've planned it out quite a bit ahead of time, it doesn't happen off the cuff for me and so I'm ready for it. I do apologize but I feel that it makes a stronger story.

Firefight release party ()
#472 Copy

Questioner

I want to know how long it took you to write your first book.

Brandon Sanderson

First book took about three years.

Questioner

Three years?

Brandon Sanderson

I got a lot faster after that.

Questioner

<How did you do that?>

Brandon Sanderson

Practice. Know-- Confidence, knowing what I was doing. Finishing a book you're like "Wow I can actually do this" and after that like-- It was like, this is a weird metaphor, but it's like the first time I got a girlfriend, had a relationship for a while, "Why was I so stressed about getting a girlfriend? That was actually-- I can do that!" and after that I dated a lot. You know what I mean?

Oathbringer release party ()
#473 Copy

Questioner

How do you come up with names that sound awesome?

Brandon Sanderson

It's harder than it sounds, no pun intended... If you wanna know how to name things, find the podcast where we answer that on Writing Excuses, we go into in depth, that'll help you out. But basically I'm looking for, like, lists of baby names from languages that I don't speak, and trying to play with those names until I find something that sounds good.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#474 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Three

The Fight against the Koloss

One of my biggest worries about the beginning of this book is that the fight scene here is too long, particularly for the beginning of a book. But I wanted to show this fight in chapter three for a few reasons. First, I wanted to have a dramatic beginning. I also wanted a good excuse to reintroduce Allomancy and how it works, and I've found that battles are the best place to do that. Finally, I wanted to indicate what the feel of this book would be.

Book one was underscored by the heist story and book two by the siege of Luthadel. Book three is underscored by epic war. That's not all it is, but the wars and battles are a big part of what drives this book.

Unfortunately, having to stop to explain Allomancy slows things down. I think I did it better in this book than I did in book two, but it still makes this fight a tad dry.

Goodreads: Ask the Author Q&A ()
#475 Copy

Brady Dill

What kind of college classes (not English courses) would best prepare someone for writing fantasy?

Brandon Sanderson

Whatever you're fascinated by! You can incorporate basically anything into a story. If you love numbers, study economics. If you like history, pick an area and type and become an expert. Whether it be law or botany, you will find a way to use it in your books.

Goodreads: Ask the Author Q&A ()
#476 Copy

Justin Carmony

One of my favorite things about being a Brandon Sanderson fan is how consistently you publish books, I always know you'll have a new book coming out without having to wait years. What do you do to help keep up the consistency and overcome the times when you sit down and the "creative juices" aren't there, or at least not easily accessible?

Brandon Sanderson

I throw away a fair amount of fiction. If it isn't flowing, I write anyway, then file that chapter away under junk. I also hop projects a lot. I've found this makes me much more creative and eager to write.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#478 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Four

Sazed's Depression and Search for Truth

And we finally get to do the first Sazed chapter.

It seems that each book presents different challenges. In book two, Sazed's scenes flowed easily and perfectly, much as TenSoon's chapters did in this book. However, in book three, I couldn't get Sazed's chapters to work right. I had to do several revisions.

The main problem was that in the first draft of the book, Sazed just sat around moping all the time. I wanted to show him in the clutch of depression, having given up on all of his religions. In that draft, he'd already decided that all of his religions were false and that there was no hope.

But his chapters were a major drag. They were rather boring to read, and even when exciting things were happening, Sazed himself was just too depressing. That came from two problems. First off, his depression just didn't feel right—it felt like I was telling people he was depressed, rather than showing someone who really had depression. Secondly, he wasn't doing anything. That's an accurate portrayal of someone with depression, but it sure is a drag to read.

So, I revised heavily and came up with the idea of Sazed looking through his portfolios searching for truth. I like how this turned out. Not only is he being active now, but it feels to me that he's more depressed—despite being active—because of the way he thinks and the edge of despair you can feel each time he eliminates one of the religions in his portfolio.

At the same time, I took out a lot of his thoughts about how depressed he was, and instead just let his outlook on things show that depression. I'm still not sure if I got the balance perfect or not, but this is such an improvement on the previous drafts that I am very pleased with it.

Words of Radiance San Francisco signing ()
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Questioner

Why did you gloss over *audio obscured* for Jasnah?

Brandon Sanderson

Again you'll want to read on, but Jasnah-- that was not going to happen in this book. In the initial plot it didn't happen, and Shallan was unable to, in the initial scenes I wrote, be able come into her own and so I had to make major revisions to the plot for this outline, the biggest thing I did was that. And once I did that the story started working.

Idaho Falls signing ()
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Truthwatcher_17.5

Are we ever gonna see a Twinborn who has Feruchemical iron and Allomantic pewter, and he's pretty much-- sort of like how Ham was training Vin about how to use her body, and we just gonna see this amazing martial artist on a massive scale?

Brandon Sanderson

It is totally possible. I'm not gonna promise any given combination, 'cause the-- I've changed several times the powersets of characters while I'm planning, so.

Stormlight Three Update #5 ()
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amealz

How do you decide on how much time passes between your world's big "magical moment" and present tense? For example, in Stormlight thousands of years pass between the Recreance and Shallan and Kaladin kicking it in a chasm. How do you know if 1,000 years or 100 years is appropriate?

Brandon Sanderson

There's no set rule for this, I'm afraid. I just run on instinct on this one, though I'm helped by having a larger continuity and timeline between books, so I have an idea of how things have played out cosmere-wide.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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Kyrroti

What's your process for writing Rosharan Myths such as Fleet's race? They are always my favorite parts of the Stormlight novels.

Brandon Sanderson

I love folklore, and spend a lot of time looking into the folk myths and stories for various cultures. I try to make the various myths, particularly those shared by Wit, have a different "Voice" from my normal narrative voice, as I want them to feel like legitimate ephemera from the world.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Prologue

Szeth uses magic

In Mistborn, by intention, I saved any big action sequences with the magic until the characters and setting had been established. This was intentional.

I did the opposite in The Way of Kings.

There are a couple of reasons for this. I spoke on the learning curve of this book; I felt it was best to just be straightforward with what I was doing. This book would be steep, and you'd see it in the first few scenes. Better to be straightforward with what you are.

At the same time, I felt that readers would put up with more from me. Fantasy readers can handle a steep learning curve, and tend to celebrate books that have a lot of meaty worldbuilding. I feel from my own experience as a reader, however, that I am wary of giving much effort to a book by a new author. Learning a new world takes work, and if an author is going to demand that kind of work from me, I want big payoff.

My hope is that I've earned my right to put out a book with this involved a setting. I've proven that I can tell a good story, and that it's worth the effort to get into one of my books and worlds. The Way of Kings is the most challenging book I've written; the payoff will be equal to that challenge. (I hope.)

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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Himenss

How do you choose flashback character for each Stormlight book? Do you rather build present day narrative around someone's flashback sequence or just choose whose flashbacks better fit with already existing main narrative? As an example, when you moved Dalinar's flashbacks from book 5 to book 3, did you re-outlined book 3 narrative to make it a better match, or you already had both Dalinar's narratives for books 3 and 5 present day and merely decided where flashbacks play the best counterpoint to what Dalinar is doing in the main timeline?

Brandon Sanderson

Moving Dalinar's flashbacks was based on the instinct I had from where book three's narrative was going to go. (After finishing the first two.) Though I have outlines for all of the books, a lot of my outlining process involves starting with a big event, then working backward from it. Sometimes, the steps toward a big event are themselves pretty big events.

People imagine, I think, an outline that is like the traditional "Heading A" "Subheading a" format. But it's not that, it's a big list of things I am pointing toward--and the most interesting steps to get there. So the process of building a novel is more about looking at that timeline, figuring out what steps make their own powerful moments, and constructing a narrative around them that makes sense. I will often be doing this with a dozen or more different sub-plots at once.

So when I "move things" from one book to another, it's often a matter of me building a book (say book two) and realizing that the break point for Kaladin's story makes way more sense if it stretches all the way to include the falling into the chasms sequence. From there, I realize I might not move as far along on Dalinar's plot as i might have thought, and I turn book three to focus more on that plot. Etc.

The flashbacks are the most flexible of these, in some ways, as they are compliments to a story--but don't need to come at any specific chronological point in the series itself. So I look for the places where they will simply fit the best and match the tone of the story the best, either by contrast or compliment

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Secrets

Obviously, there are a lot of things embedded in this scene for later books. I've noted frequently that with Mistborn, I got the luxury of writing the whole series before releasing it. I don't have that chance with Stormlight. I had to make sure all of my foreshadowing was placed and ready for later use.

I worry that so much of it is obvious, yet also confusingly so. The sphere that Gavilar give Szeth is barely mentioned in the book, for example.

No, I'm not going to tell you what it is.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter 11

And now comes the redemption chapter.

This is the sort of thing that I write books to do. It's the sort of chapter that I really hope to be able to pull off. That may seem strange to some of you, as it's not the climatic ending or the like—but it's the turning point of the story. Probably the most important one in the book.

I've said before that I feel Epic Fantasy is about return on investment. We often demand a lot of readers in terms of worldbuilding. There's a lot to catch up on and follow in a book like this. The goal, then, is to be able to deliver powerful scenes that make use of the investment.

The reward for the early chapters is this chapter. It lays a foundation for the entire book. I've brought Kaladin as low as I could bring him, and now we get to experience the scramble upward.

Perhaps I think about these things too much. However, this was exactly what was missing from Prime when I wrote it. I was baffled, at the time, as to why the book just didn't work. It had all of the elements of a good epicw, and yet the book felt hollow somehow. There were fun adventures to be had, but no real impact. What it needed was this sequence, which has a lot of motion (and hopefully heart) to it.

This chapter makes the book for me.

Starsight Release Party ()
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Questioner

Does gender play a role in how a spren chooses a Radiant?

Brandon Sanderson

It does but it is not a strict... It's just spren are going to have preferences like people have preferences and that does play into it but there's not really any sort of strict...

If you want to know narratively, behind the scenes, it tends to work to pair opposite genders together, because it just makes for better conversations and things like that. And it makes the cast fill out a little bit better with a little more variety. So that's why you see the writer side of me doing it, but in-world my kind of explanation is they have preferences.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
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paulgoatallen

Brandon: I'd like to ask your opinion of the current state of the fantasy genre....

Fantasy has always been a "series-powered" genre but it seems that lately several authors (or publishers) just don't know when to suitably end a long-running saga... Drawing out a series for the sake of more installments, it seems.

And there seems to be fewer and fewer standalone novels like Warbreaker and Elantris. (I love standalone novels, by the way, and am hoping that that "format" makes a return!)

Any comments on this from your perspective? Thanks!

Brandon Sanderson

It's a good question, Paul. One I've been considering, actually, for a long time. Certainly, there's an economic piece to it.

When a stand-alone comes out, it tends to gather praise from both readers and reviewers. Then proceeds to sell far fewer copies than a series book does. The Wheel of Time didn't hit #1 on the New York Times list until book eight or nine, I believe, and I don't think Sword of Truth hit #1 until book ten. Series tend to sell better. Even as readers complain about them. And so I think publishers do push for them.

But why do they sell better? Well, I think this is partially the learning curve factor. We like fantasy for the same reason that fantasy is hard to read: the learning curve. Starting a fantasy book can be tough because of how many new names, concepts, societies, religions, and laws of physics you have to learn and get used to. Epics, with their dozens upon dozens of characters, are even tougher in this regard. And so, after investing so much energy into becoming an expert in the world, we want to get a good payoff and be able to USE that expertise.

Beyond that, I think that fantasy is character driven—and when we fall in love with characters, we want to read more about them. Fantasy, particularly the epic series, allows us to follow characters across sweeping, life changing events. Fantasy (like historicals) give us lots of pages and time to know these characters. So we want more from them.

But the very thing that we love about fantasy in this regard also tends to present problems. We want lots of characters, but eventually this large cast gets overwhelms us and makes the books seem to drag. Personally, I think these complaints will be much lessened when some of these great series are done, and you don't have to wait years and years between volumes.

Anyway, Terry Brooks talks a lot about this in his biographical work Sometimes the Magic Works. (Bet you can find it here on BN.com, and I highly suggest the book as a quick, interesting, engaging read.) He mentions how, when he left Shannara to write other things, the fans begged and begged him for more. Until finally he broke down and gave them more books in the world.

A lot of authors I know tend to live in this state of perpetual wonder and amazement that, finally, people are actually enjoying and reading their works. (After all the years of failure trying to break in, I know that I feel this way a lot.) When someone comes to you and talks about how much they love one of your works, asking you to write more...well, we're storytellers. If people want a story, we want to give it to them. It's hard to say no. (Though so far I have.)

I intend to keep writing stand-alone novels. But I do so knowing that 1) they will not sell as well as series books and 2) readers will ask me for more, and so each stand alone will only increase the number of requests for future books that I can't write. I'm in the fortunate place that I can write, and publish, what I want—whether it be series or stand alone—and no longer have to worry about the money.

But, in my heart, I've got a strong desire to write a big epic. I grew up reading them. I want to see if I can do one, my way, and add something new to the genre. So maybe that's the reason. Looking through Robert Jordan's notes, reading interviews, I don't think he ever artificially inflated the length of his series because of publisher desire or money reasons. I think he loved the long-form epic, and wanted to tell the story his way, no matter how long it took. And as he added more characters, it took longer and longer.

In a way, being free from the worry of finances gives creators a chance to really explore their vision the way they want to. And...well, we’re fantasy writers, so we can get a little long winded.

Kind of like this response, eh? ;) Thanks for the question.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

This chapter in particular was a challenge to write. My experience with Sazed in The Hero of Ages warned me that a character deep in depression can be a difficult and dangerous thing to write. Depression is a serious challenge for real people—and therefore also for characters. Additionally, it pushes a character not to act.

Inactive characters are boring, and though I wanted to start Kaladin in a difficult place, I didn't want him to be inactive. So how did I go about making scenes of a depressed fallen hero locked in a cage interesting and active? The final result might not seem like much in the scope of the entire novel, but these chapters are some of the ones I'm the most proud of. I feel I get Kaladin and his character across solidly while having him actually do things—try to save the other slave, rip up the map, etc.

Syl, obviously, is a big part of why these scenes work. She is so different from the rest of what's happening, and she has such stark progress as a character, that I think she "saves" these chapters.

You might be interested to know, then, that she was actually developed for a completely different book in the cosmere. I often speak about how books come together when different ideas work better together than they ever did separate. Kaladin and Syl are an excellent example of this. He didn't work in The Way of Kings Prime, and her book just wasn't going anywhere. Put them together, and magic happened. (Literally and figuratively.)

FAQFriday 2017 ()
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Questioner

If a fantasy book had an unhappy ending, would that affect how it was received by publishers and readers?

Brandon Sanderson

This is an interesting question to be asking! I'm going to preface this by saying a couple things.

First, there is a difference between UNHAPPY and UNSATISFYING. These are two completely different things. For example: many classic tragedies are enitre stories with momentum pushing toward the tragic. A modern fantasy example would be some of George R. R. martin's work, where the books often have tragic endings, with the protagonists losing or dying. (Granted, his series isn't done yet, so there's no way to know yet if the final ending will be tragic or triumphant.)

These books are still satisfying, however. The tone of these stories implies that tragic events will occur--and sadness is a powerful emotion. Stories exist, in part, to explore emotion. If the Story is built well, and handled expertly, the reader will be SATISFIED with the ending even if it's tragic. You will feel, "This is where the story was supposed to go. Even if I don't like what happened, it's beautiful in its tragic nature."

Many long form stories also tend to have a balance bittersweet ending. Some things are accomplished, some things are lost. As one might say on Roshar, it's not about the last page--it's about whether the journey there was worthwhile.

In response to your question, then, my instinct says that the sadness of the ending doesn't have a direct correlation with sales, goodreads rating, etc. Quality and deft ahndling of the material will certainly affect these things--but not specifically if the ending is happy or not. Publishers would certainly publish one with a sad ending. Note that if you take the bodies of work by some creators (Including both Shakespeare and Star Wars) the most popular and most successful installments WERE the ones with the sad endings.

(Note that I DO think certain readers are going to dislike an ending that is sad, while others are going to dislike an ending that is too neat and happy. Individual certainly will have opinions. I just think the balance, at the end, will probably be around the same.)

That said, you do focus on a "Bad" ending, equating it with sad. So in the interest of discussion, I'll call this a sad ending to an otherwise upbeat book--a twist of tone that happens right at the end, unexpectedly, leaving the reader frustrated. This would be an ending that completely defies genre conventions. The heroic adventure story where the hero unexpectedly dies at the end, or the Jane Austen style romance that ends with the love interest running off with some other woman.

There would be a subset of people who would just love this, but I think if the book doesn't give the proper tone promises at the start, it would create a less commercially viable work. I don't think this is a reason not to try something like that as a writer, but I do think you might have more trouble finding an audience.

FAQFriday 2017 ()
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Questioner

When all of the contest judges, beta readers, and writer's groups say that your work is ready, but all of the agents say it's just not right for them, how do you find out what would make it right for them?

Brandon Sanderson

Sometimes, you can't.

One thing you have to be ready for is that even the best piece of writing will have people who don't like it. this is the nature of art--because human beings are different, we simply like different things. It doesn't have to have a value judgement attached to it. There is no "fixing" a painting so that everyone loves it. By fixing it, you would sometimes just make it so that different people love it.

That isn't to say that skill level is flat, and art can't be improved. I'm just saying that sometimes, you just can't change a piece in a way that will make a specific person like it--at least, not without changing it into a completely different piece of art.

If your honest feedback from contest judges and early readers is all great, and if you feel that the stories you've been submitting are ready, then you should keep going and keep submitting. And keep writing. Elantris was rejected several times, as were many famous books. Sometimes, what the agents need to see is that you can be consistent.

But beyond that, if you keep writing and submitting, one of several things will happen.

1) You'll eventually find an agent or editor who loves your fiction as much as all these other people.

2) You'll grow as a writer and realize that the book you've been submitting, though enjoyable to many people, were still flawed in big ways and can be revised (with your new skill) to make them work better for an audience who doesn't know you.

3) You'll realize that your stories have an audience, and the agents are just not getting it. (All too often, they miss excellent writers.) You'll self-publish to great success.

I can't say which of these is the future of any individual story, and I can't say if it's a legitimate flaw that professionals are seeing in your writing or not.

I can say: keep writing, be patient. If you want to traditional publish, keep submitting. Agents can be timid. If they don't pick hits, they don't eat.

But do write for you, first, and don't let yourself be pushed into trying to be someone else, writing-wise.

Skyward Houston signing ()
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Questioner

What was the thought process behind Shinovar being so similar?

Brandon Sanderson

A couple of reasons. One is, by having some sort of Earth analogue on-world, I could give some contrast, and I could have a kind of an explanation for why they might use words like chickens and things until I can get to the big reveal. Like, if there weren't Shinovar there to act as a red herring, I think it would give away the twist very early.

Beyond that, I like the idea of the people that are like us being the alien ones to the society. Kind of helps separate it and make it this is a different world, this is a different culture. So, it gave me a lot of advantages. Plus it also gave an explanation for how they could-- humankind create a foothold on this planet after coming across. So, lots of different thought processes behind that.

General Reddit 2018 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

So, a couple of things here. First off, I'll take any knocks I get--and try to do better. I'm not an expert on mental health, and though I do my best, I'm going to get things wrong. I'm going to risk defending myself here--and hopefully not dig myself deeper--as I at least explain my thought process, and why I built Shallan the way I did.

However, one of the rules of thumb I go by is this: individual experience can defy the standard, if I understand that is what I'm doing. Like how Stephen Leeds is not trying to accurately portray schizophrenia, Shallan is not trying to accurately portray dissociative identity disorder (if a scholarly consensus on such a thing even exists. I haven't glanced through the DSM5 to see what it says.)

In Legion, I have an easy out. I say, point blank, "He doesn't fit the diagnosis--he's not a schizophrenic, or if he is, he's a very weird one." I don't have the benefit of a modern psychology voice in the Stormlight books to hang a lantern on this, but my intention is the same. What Shallan has is related to her individual interaction with the world, her past, and the magic.

Is this Hollywood MPD? I'm not convinced. Hollywood MPD (with DSM4 backing it up, I believe) tends to involve things like a person feeling like they're possessed, and completely out of control. The different identities don't remember what others did. It's a very werewolf type thing. You wake up, and learn that another version of you took over your body and went out and committed crimes or whatever.

Shallan is coping with her pain in (best I've been able to do) a very realistic way, by boxing off and retreating and putting on a mask of humor and false "everything is okay" attitudes. But she has magical abilities that nobody in this world has, including the ability to put on masks that change the way everyone perceives her. She's playing roles as she puts them on, but I make it very clear (with deliberate slip-ups of self-reference in the prose) that it's always Shallan in there, and she's specifically playing this role because it lets her ignore the things she doesn't want to face.

She's losing control of what is real and what isn't--partially because she can't decide who she wants to be, who she should be, and what the world wants her to be. But it's not like other personalities are creeping in from a fractured psyche. She's hiding behind masks, and creates each role for herself to act in an attempt to solve a perceived shortcoming in herself. She literally sketched out Veil and thought, "Yup, I'm going to become that person now." Because Veil would have never been tricked into caring about her father; she would have been too wise for that.

I feel it's as close as I can get to realism, while the same time acknowledging that as a fantasy author, one of my primary goals is to explore the human interaction with the supernatural. The "What ifs" of magic. What if a person who had suffered a great deal of abuse as a child COULD create a mask for themselves, changing themselves into someone stronger (or more street-smart who wouldn't have been betrayed that way. Would they do it, and hide behind that mask? What would that do to them and the world around them?

DID is indeed controversial, but I really like this portrayal. Not of a disease, but of who this character is. And I've had had enough positive responses from people who feel their own psychology is similar that I'm confident a non-insignificant number of people out there identify with what she's doing in the same way people with depression identify with Kaladin.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

Do you have any sort of set pattern for when you are getting ready to do a rewrite on a novel?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, I grit my teeth, bang my head against the wall, and try to do anything else except the rewrite.

Questioner

Yeah it's...

Brandon Sanderson

You must be like me then, I hate revising but deadlines are what make me do it. Setting them on my own, you just have to learn to do it. The number one thing I think held me back as a writer is my dislike of revision. And it wasn't until I learned to do it...

Questioner

And just get it done...

Brandon Sanderson

...and just get it done that I started writing books that would be publishable.

Stormlight Three Update #2 ()
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Questioner

This is incredible. If you don't mind me asking a more technical question, how long did it take to develop your method of laying all this out?

Brandon Sanderson

This right here isn't actually how my outline looks. It's far more in-depth, and a lot more crazy. This is a quick visualization I imagined when trying to explain it all to people.

My method, in more detail, has to do with character motivations, sub-plots, and promises. I talk about it in depth in my youtube writing lecture videos.

Idaho Falls signing ()
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Questioner

You always come up with new ideas for books, when you have so many to write as is, that you've recently started to go from saying things like, "Whenever I get to this book," like the Threnody novel, to, "If I ever get to it." Would you ever let another author write for Cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

That is possible. Isaac [Stewart], my art director and long friend for, you know, fifteen years, who's been collaborating on the visual style of Mistborn, really wants to write a Mistborn novel set on one of the Southern Continent places off by itself and I'm intrigued by this idea, 'cause he's somebody I've worked with for so long. So we might see how that happens. So far I haven't been willing to collaborate on any Cosmere stuff, but it's p-- I could see it happening.

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
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Questioner

I want to know what process you follow through building your vocabulary. Also, do you use a thesaurus?

Brandon Sanderson

What process do I use for developing my vocabulary, and do I use a thesaurus. My vocabulary development comes through reading other people's books and seeing the cool words they use and writing them down. And I can often pinpoint who I learned which word from. Like miasma I learned from Anne McCaffrey. Things like this-- Just seeing the words they use and looking them up when I don't know them. That's my favorite way. Do I use a thesaurus? I do use a thesaurus but only to come up with a word I know I should be using. There's two times I use it. One, when I come to a word I know there's a word there but I don't know what it is yet. The other time I use a thesaurus, which is really useful, is when I'm naming something. Like when I was naming the Reckoners, I need a cool word for this team. One that Marvel or DC hasn't used yet *laughter* They used everything. So I may use a thesaurus, but using a thesaurus is dangerous. It's a good tool but it's a dangerous tool for a writer. Because you don't want to use a word because it sounds cool, usually you want to use the right word. That can be difficult to balance.