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Warsaw signing ()
#52 Copy

Questioner

What would happen if an Allomancer burned Awakened metal?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh boy, we start right with the really hard ones. So, it would be very difficult to do, and other than that it's going to depend on who the Breaths are keyed to with Identity.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Awakens the Straw Figure

I love how intricate and delicate Vasher is in creating the straw figure. The little eyebrow is a nice touch, and forming the creature into the shape of a person has a nice resonance with our own world's superstitions.

Voodoo dolls, for instance. This is very common in tribal magics and shamanistic rituals—something in the figure of a person, or the figure of the thing it's supposed to affect, is often seen as being more powerful or more desirable. The same is said for having a drop of blood or a tiny piece of skin, even a piece of hair.

Those two things—making the doll in the shape of a man and using a bit of his own body as a focus—are supposed to create instant resonance in the magic for those reading it. I think it works, too. Unfortunately, there's a problem with this, much like with the colors above. In later chapters, the characters are generally powerful enough with the magic that they don't have to make things in human shape or use pieces of their own body as a focus.

If I were to write a sequel to the book (and I just might—more on this later) I'd want to get back to these two aspects of the magic. Talk about them more, maybe have characters who have smaller quantities of Breath, and so need to use these tricks to make their Awakening more powerful.

Anyway, this little scene threw all kinds of problems into the book. Later on, I had to decide if I wanted to force the characters to always make things into the shape of a person before Awakening them. That proved impossible, it was too limiting on the magic and interfered with action sequences. The same was true for using bits of their own flesh as focuses. It just didn't work.

I toyed with cutting these things from the prologue. (Again, they are artifacts from the short story I wrote, back when Awakening wasn't fully developed yet.) However, I like the resonance they give, and think they add a lot of depth to the magic system.

So I made them optional. They're things that you can do to make your Awakenings require fewer Breaths. That lets me have them for resonance, but not talk about them when I don't need them. I still worry that they set up false expectations for the magic, however.

Figment chat ()
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Jason

Can one give the Command, “divide and do thing X”, for Awakening? How many Breaths would it take to do something like a straw mannequin, how small could you get the pieces, how would you retrieve the Breath?

Brandon Sanderson

I’m afraid I would have to pull out my notes. I mean I wrote that book a few- 2006, and so we’re nine years away from me writing that magic system. I, I have it all in the notes, but I can’t off the top of my head rattle it off for you. People use Awakening so infrequently now in the cosmere, it’s just on the one planet with the occasional worldhopper, that I just go to my notes and get it out when I need it.

San Diego [email protected] 2020 ()
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Questioner

Shardblades cut organic and inorganic matter differently. How would they interact with an animated construct like an Awakened straw man? What about a Lifeless?

Brandon Sanderson

So I walk kind of a fine line here. Something that's animated as a construct, like an Awakened straw man, is likely going to block the Shardblade to some extent, as powerful Investiture would. A Lifeless is probably just gonna act like it was a living being.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

I noticed in a lot of your cosmere books, like for example Elantris or Mistborn, they have something to do with some sort of subject matter or school or something. For example the Steelpush and Ironpulling in Mistborn is based on physics.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

If you push too hard it's based on...

Brandon Sanderson

Vector physics, yes.

Questioner

And then like Warbreaker is just like math, adding Breaths together. Did you intend that?

Brandon Sanderson

Not necessarily. I read a lot and I like science and I like philosophy and I like and things like this. And those spark most of my ideas. So yes in a term but I'm not like "Let's do this subject".

I would say Warbreaker, the big part of Warbreaker is the idea of sympathetic magic. Which is the idea that like affects like, which is a very common type of magic throughout all cultures on the planet, on our planet. When people believe in magic they believe in sympathetic magic. A voodoo doll is sympathetic magic. And that's where the idea came from.

Questioner

So in Elantris, which is different and then--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah that's basically fantasy programming, is where that one came from.

Questioner

And then there is The Stormlight Archive, which basically violates all the laws of physics by just saying everything comes from spren.

Brandon Sanderson

Well no they still have arguments on that, are spren attracted to these things or do they cause them.

Questioner

Yeah that's kind of weird...

Brandon Sanderson

Stormlight Archive was based on the fundamental forces, if you want go read on physics google fundamental forces.

Oathbringer release party ()
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Shadow Guardian

So, if a Type 4 BioChromatic entity like Nightblood was created with a different Command, would it still draw in or feed off of somebody's Breath when they drew it?

Brandon Sanderson

It is possible to create one that wouldn't. But it is a dangerous thing to do.

Shadows of Self Newcastle UK signing ()
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Questioner

You're also famous for your magic systems, do you start with the effect you want to achieve or the mechanic you want to use?

Brandon Sanderson

It depends on each magic system, they're all different. Sometimes there's just a really interesting-- Mistborn's a good example of this. I built Mistborn because I wanted a different power for each thieving crew member and I had in the back of my mind a few cool powers to use, but others I just developed. I'd be like, alright, we need something for the fast-talker. So therefore you get the thieving-crew and the classic thieving-crew elements, and I wanted something to improve every one of them. So while I had the Pushing and Pulling already, because that was really interesting and I'd been working it out in my head, I didn't have all these powers set out for the team, so I developed those.

In other cases it's just, you know The Stormlight Archive started with the fundamental forces in physics and extrapolating outwards from them until I had ten fundamental forces because I wanted to do fantastical fundamental forces. So that one started in physics.

The magic for Warbreaker started because my editor called me, true story, and said "ah, after Mistborn and Elantris you've done some very dreary settings, very nice but very dreary, let's do something with more color in it". More color it is!

Bands of Mourning release party ()
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Shadow Guardian

If an Awakener were to go to Roshar and were to bleed the color from a gem would that gem still be able to store Stormlight?

Brandon Sanderson

Bleed the color from a gem… Um ye-ye-ye-yeah. This would interfere with its function on Roshar. It would probably still be able to hold Stormlight…

Shadow Guardian

Might not be able to be used for Soulcasting?

Brandon Sanderson

Yea-- It's going to… You know what no it would just change it. It would just bleed the color from it and turn it into a dusty quartz or something like that. That's probably what it would end up with, a dusty quartz. Because the molecular structure doesn't matter as much as the color for Roshar. So yeah you would probably still be able to hold Stormlight because a diamond can but I don't know, quartz might cut it. You'd probably end up with something that's not going to work so well.

Questioner 2

What about a fabrial that needs a specific--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah a specific-- A ruby wouldn't work any more, and it would let go whatever is captured inside.

YouTube Livestream 32 ()
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Jack Milson

How many Awakening Commands are there? Is there a finite number, a finite but large number or infinite? Can you Awaken with sign language?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, you can Awaken with sign language. I would say that there are an infinite number, would be my guess. It's either finite but very, very large or infinite. But they're gonna fall into groups as things tend to do in the Cosmere, I would say.

General Reddit 2018 ()
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Steenan

Awakeners are useless in space. Awakened objects can't propel themselves where there is no air and can't produce air or food from nothing. Elantrians have another problem. Their power is very flexible, but tied to a location; they can't take it with themselves when they travel. Or, at least, they can't do it in a way explained well enough to extrapolate.

Oudeis16

Actually I wonder about this. There is one scene where Vivenna Awakens Tonk Fah's cloak to attack Denth, and it drags Tonk Fah across the room. How? I mean, in theory, sure, we can speculate that it might have moved in a series of sweeps and jerks like swimming to force his momentum, perhaps it grabbed his legs, maybe it pushed off against the wall, maybe it even made a big scoop and sailed there on wind resistance... but the paragraph makes it seem possible that the cloak was somehow able to simply will itself along, strongly enough to drag Tonk Fah behind.

It does seem out of keeping with what Awakening is and can do, so I tend to think that at most it's just a typo (should I page u/PeterAhlstrom? I think they're working on a re-release and looking for continuity errors) but, if this is how it works, then once you're in space, Commanding a handkerchief to "go to Scadrial" might be enough to generate propulsion.

Peter Ahlstrom

There's no error in that scene, and it also doesn't directly contradict Steenan's statement.

Bands of Mourning release party ()
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Questioner

What would happen if somebody used the color from a Stormlight-infused gem to create a BioChromatic entity?

Brandon Sanderson

So I just had this question actually and what we came up with was that would leave behind something that is like a cloudy quartz and is going to make it work not as well for holding Stormlight. That's our answer right now, I'm going to talk to my scientists and see what they think because draining the color from something doesn't just leave it white, or clear, it kind of ruins it, it's gray-ish, it's dun. It clouds. So I think it would ruin things for Stormlight.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

The Straw Figure Returns with the Keys

Vasher couldn't have used a thread to unlock the door here, by the way. I know a certain person manages to pull it off later in the book, but that doesn't happen in the God King's dungeons.

One thing to remember about designing magic systems—particularly those as important to their societies as mine—is that the people in the world live with this magic. They use it and see it being used regularly. They think of it and consider it.

It's not hard to design a lock that an Awakened thread can't unlock easily. It is more expensive to buy a lock like that, and so not all locks have such precautions. These ones do, however.

If you've read the book through, then you know that Vasher's simple-sounding Command of "Fetch Keys" given to the straw man is incredibly complex. In fact, it's probably one of the most complicated Commands given to any Awakened object in the entire book. It's kind of cool to me that Vasher uses it here, showing off incredible mastery of the magic, before anyone reading will even realize how much skill saying those two words correctly really takes.

Oathbringer Portland signing ()
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Hoiditthroughthegrapevine

Could an Awakened toupee be commanded to act like real hair?

Brandon Sanderson

...Totally! Absolutely, yes!

Questioner

Would it be convincing?

Brandon Sanderson

Would it be convincing? Yeah, I think that it would be. It depends.

Questioner

It depends on the number of Breaths?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, it depends on factors, but I totally think that could be very convincing. Yes, yes, yes.

Questioner

Could it also be given enough Breath to Command "Protect me?"

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, it could. That would be really weird. But yes.

Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

So we know that you can't just have someone-- If someone were to do something similar to Hoid, he can't just pop and go "Oh look, I can now do Allomancy or I can now do Surgebinding". What about Breath? If someone could somebody get Breath-- Maybe not *audio obscured* Could they still get the benefits of--

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, good question... Yes you can, actually. Breath is-- Once it is given to you, it is being keyed to you. Your Identity. So that transfer makes it yours to use however you want.

Questioner

So you could Awaken?

Brandon Sanderson

You could Awaken. If you-- If you were to somehow make it there, you would be able to Awaken. It's the easiest of magic systems to get the magic from, and then to manipulate. Because it has keyed into it Identity.

Questioner

*audio obscured*

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, you can take Breath onto another world. In fact, you've seen characters do this.

Questioner

*audio obscured*

Brandon Sanderson

It would work, yes.

Questioner

*audio obscured*

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, it would work the same way.

The only magic that is location-dependent--  The ones who aren't interested in this, just hum to yourself, okay? *laughter* You don't need to know any of this stuff to enjoy the books, okay? I write them so that you could just-- each series can be read independently, and enjoyed. There is behind the scenes stuff, and if you want to dig, it goes pretty deep.

So on Sel, we have AonDor. AonDor is based on the fact that the Dor, which is an amalgamation of Dominion and Devotion, has been pressed together and stuffed into the Cognitive Realm by Odium who didn't want it to gain sentience, as Investiture will do if it is left alone. It will either seek someone to be its Vessel or it will gain sentience. He pressed it in there; he pressed it together, which creates the violent reaction, because those two intents are opposed. And that is the foundation of the magic. Because it's stuck in the Cognitive Realm rather than the Spiritual Realm (the Spiritual Realm is location-independent; Cognitive Realm is location-dependent), it makes the magic on Sel only work in close proximity to what is keyed through there to the location they're keyed to. This has to do with Identity and Connection. Mostly Connection. So that means you can't do AonDor on another planet, but you can do other magics works anywhere, because they're drawing the magics specifically through either the place, or they're end-neutral, like Breath is, and you don't need any extra power.

Skyward San Francisco signing ()
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xnkvbo

If an Awakener with Perfect Invocation turns something white, can they or another Awakener then use the white thing back to gray, back to white.

Brandon Sanderson

I actually thought about this. My answer ended up being a no.

xnkvbo

Can you give a little explanation why?

Brandon Sanderson

I will delve into it more as I delve into the nature of color and why it's relevant to multiple magics in the cosmere. So it's a RAFO.

Boskone 54 ()
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ccstat

Nalthis has 5-centric numerology.

Brandon Sanderson

Okay.

ccstat

Do regular humans count as the 5th type of biochromatic entity?

Brandon Sanderson

[laughs] Um, I will RAFO that, not for any real good reason, but for a mini-good reason.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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vernontwinkie

Can two different people invest an item with Breath (either to use the sum of the investiture or just theirs, or as a way to tell that something contains Breath if it doesn't work)?

Brandon Sanderson

The question is tricky to answer, because it's partially a yes, and partially a no. So I'll RAFO for now.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Siri Is Rescued

And here we have a big scene that a lot of readers have been waiting for. I apologize for making Siri need to be rescued like this, but I felt it was appropriate to the story. It's because of her teaching the God King and helping him become the man he is that he's able to do this.

Remember that the Seventh Heightening (I think that's the one) grants a person Instinctive Awakening, meaning that once you reach that Heightening, you don't need any practice to learn to Awaken. Your Commands are obeyed instinctively. This doesn't mean that everything you try will work, but that you can make most basic Commands (grab things, that sort) work without having to try. In fact, figuring out most of the more complicated, previously unknown Commands requires a person to be of the Seventh Heightening.

This power grew out of me wanting the upper Heightenings to do some very dramatic things. I do worry that this scene is a little deus ex machina. That keeps me from liking it quite as much as the Lightsong climax or the Denth/Vasher climax. But I feel that a story needs a great variety of climactic moments—some internal character moments, some external skill moments, some great twists, some expected payoffs, some big reveals, and some dramatic rescues. This chapter and the next take a shot at trying to cover a lot of those different types.

Skyward release party ()
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Questioner

Can a coppermind be Awakened?

Brandon Sanderson

This is possible.

Questioner

With the memories already in it?

Brandon Sanderson

This is going to be harder because those memories are going to be keyed to someone else, who, by nature, would not be the individual that it was made into. You would have to key those memories to who the metalmind was becoming. There would be an extra step in there; It wouldn't just naturally be that way. We're talking wild, wild, these are possible, but far out, stuff. Possible, but there is an extra step in there.

The Great American Read: Other Worlds with Brandon Sanderson ()
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Questioner

At the end, Wit, with the little girl and the doll and bring the doll to life, it reminded me of Warbreaker.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, he was using Breath for that. He was using Breath he had gotten from somewhere, I'll say, but it was actually the other world's magic system. Vivenna was using them, too, in Oathbringer. When you see her fighting with her cloak. That's an actual fighting style people would do; her cloak's doing some extra stuff.

JordanCon 2016 ()
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Questioner

With Awakening, given that you know the correct command word, could you potentially give anything to the other person, using Awakening?

Brandon Sanderson

Using Awakening, it has to be related to the fundamental aspects of Investiture.

Bystander

Which are…?

Questioner

How would we find what those are?

Brandon Sanderson

…How would you find what those are? Spend a lot of time researching the cosmere, have some conversations with Khriss, and come up with some theories! …There's a bunch of them written in the books and indicated, so yes.

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
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mathota123

Also what would happen if I had a LOT of Breath and tried to Awaken something that was still alive...?

Brandon Sanderson

RAFO on the second question. You could say that Investing someone with your Breath, however, IS Awakening them.

crocsandcargos

Are Commands unique to Endowment and those with Breath, or do other Shards have an equivalent or similar power / ability? The girl Vasher rescues, his statements to Denth, and your quote above seem to point that Commands can be used on living entities for some purposes... I've always wondered if there was more to Dalinar referring to "unite them" as a 'phantom command'. If other Shards use commands or something similar it could also explain the mechanism of the Nightwatcher's boon/curse related to Dalinar's memory loss.

Brandon Sanderson

Intent is one of the components of the Magic, as you'll see frequently. These things are related.

#tweettheauthor 2009 ()
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jamesgubera

where do you get your inspiration to create new worlds & characters?

Brandon Sanderson

Inspiriation comes from all over. Often things I see. Color magic in WRBRKR came from watching b/w movies.

The mist in mistborn came from driving through a foggy night at 70mph..

Sazed came from a Buddhist monk I met in Korea.

Sarene came from a friend, Annie, who complained that she was too tall and too smart for men to want to date.

If you want more, send me an email and ask for my “Ideas” essay. @PeterAhlstrom will send it to you.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Denth Tells Vivenna to Use Her Breaths

Don't forget that Vivenna has a huge wealth of Breath. To most people, anything over one or two Breaths is a huge wealth—and Vivenna has enough to reach the Third Heightening. She's fully capable of Awakening objects, and while she's not as powerful as Vasher in Breath right now, she could learn quite quickly. (The more Breath you hold, the easier it is for you to learn how to use it.)

Calamity release party ()
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Questioner

So is it possible to Awaken a Shardblade? That's the question-- that's my question for you.

Brandon Sanderson

Um... With the magic system of Awakening, you mean?

Questioner

Yeah.

Brandon Sanderson

So, all forms of Investiture strongly resist other forms of Investiture.

Questioner

Makes sense.

Brandon Sanderson

*brief interruption* Nightblood is essentially an Awakened... Trying to do that.

Questioner

'Cause he shows up in Words of Radiance, right?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. So, it-- let's just say it'd be very, very hard. Because it's like saying, "Can-- I want to turn on a lightbulb that's been turned on." Yes, you can... maybe... I don't know what that even means. It's already Invested. It's already Awakened.

Holiday signing ()
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little wilson

Can a Shardblade-killed body be turned into a Lifeless?

Brandon Sanderson

Can a Shardblade-killed body be turned into a Lifeless.  Yeees, it can be re-Invested. Yes.

little wilson

Are there any side-effects to doing so?

Brandon Sanderson

Uhhh, there would be side-effects. I won't tell you what they are. They would be minor, minor, mostly inconsequential side-effects.