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Elantris Annotations ()
#51 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Loose Threads

You'll notice, therefore, that I pile on the lose threads here. The most important one, of course, is the concept that Fjorden has gained access to the Dor (presumably recently.) The Dakhor are a newer development–Wyrn was just getting ready to use them against Elantris when the city fell on its own. (Dilaf wasn't the only Dakhor plant inside Arelon. But, those are stories for another time.) Anyway, I think I gave myself plenty of sequel room here. There are the questions about the Dor, about Fjorden, and about the seons.

That said, I can't honestly promise that I'll do an Elantris sequel. When I was writing during this period of my life (some seven years ago now), I was trying to create as many first books as possible. I was sending them all off to publishers, trying to get someone to bite on one of them so I could start a series. However, since I was a nobody, I had to write each book as a stand-alone as well. Publishers, I was told, like to get books from new authors that could stand alone or launch into a series. That way, they’re not committing to anything drastic, but can monopolize on popularity if it comes.

Elantris turned out to be one of the best stand-alones I did. I kind of like how it doesn't really need anything more to make it feel complete. And, I've got so many stories that I want to tell, I don't know that I'll be able to get back to this one. I guess it will depend upon how well Elantris sells, and whether or not Tor pushes me toward writing more books in this world.

Anyway, I've got plenty of things I could talk about if I do come back.

Elantris Annotations ()
#52 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

If you were wondering, most of the explanations we get in this chapter are true. The reason that Raoden was subject to the Dor attacks was because he spent so much time practicing with the Aons. He began to make a bridge between this world and the Dor, and because of that, he gave the Dor a slight opening into his soul. I imagine that he isn't the first one to suffer something like this during the ten years that Elantris has been fallen. Other Elantrians probably practiced with the Aons, and the Dor eventually destroyed them. When it was done, they simply became Hoed.

By finally using the Dor effectively, Raoden relieved a little bit of the pressure, letting the nearby buildup of the Dor (the one that he himself had created by practicing so much) rip through him and fuel that single Aon.

Originally, I had Raoden's conflict with the Dor continue on after this scene–I had it continue attacking him. In a later draft, however, I realized that I'd made a mistake. Raoden has other things to worry about in the upcoming chapters–he doesn't need the Dor attacks to create conflict and tension. So, after this chapter, the Dor attacks actually became distractions. I also realized that the way I'd set up the magic system, this chapter was probably the place where the Dor should stop attacking, since Raoden had fulfilled what he wanted it to do.

Elantris Annotations ()
#53 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Seven

One of the shortest, but most powerful, chapters in the book.

I added the "head arteth" conflict (the idea of everyone rejecting the appointment) later in the revision process so that I could have one more thing to push Hrathen over the edge. My only worry about this scene is one of pacing–if I've done the novel right, then this will seem like a climax that has slowly been building for some time. If I'm off, then this chapter will seem out-of-nowhere, and lack power to the reader.

This is really where Hrathen's chapters have been pushing. The questioning and self-doubt, the problems with Dilaf and conversion. . . . He's pretty much been defeated at every turn. It was time for him to either crack, give up, or do something spectacular. In a way, he kind of does all three.

Elantris Annotations ()
#54 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter One

There are a couple of interesting things about this chapter. First off, it didn't originally start with Raoden waking up. When I first wrote the book, I threw Raoden directly into the city, line one. That original line was: "It wasn't until Raoden heard the gate swing closed behind him, booming with a shocking sound of finality, that he realized he had been damned."

While this line worked pretty well, I found I had to do an extended flashback showing him waking up and frightening the maid, etc. In the end, I realized that this was a bulky construction that didn't really speed the novel up–but rather slowed it down. So, I rewrote the first scene to have Raoden waking up, seeing Elantris, and then realizing he'd been taken by the Shaod.

My books tend to have what are called "steep learning curves." In other words, they take a little getting used to. Fantasy in general has a steep learning curve, and I don't tend to write very standard fantasies–I like to push the genre a little bit, introducing strange settings and irregular magic systems. Because of this, I have to be very careful at the beginnings of my books not to overwhelm the reader. This book was a good example–taking it a little easier, giving the reader a more cautious ease into Elantris, proved the better route.

Happily, I eventually managed to preserve the original line with its catchy feel. I don't usually do things like this–I don't believe in the standard "hook" idea. However, when I was thinking about this book, the first lines of the first three chapters were some of the first things that occurred to me. These three lines became the foundation for how I characterized the separate viewpoints, and they were part of what drew me to writing the book in the first place. If you go through and read them, I think they each have a little bit of zip, and hopefully invoke a sense of curiosity. These three lines introduce each character and one of their primary conflicts, and do it in a simple, clear way.

Maintaining this feel with the new first scene was important to me, even though it could be argued that the first line of chapter one is a bit of POV error. I'm revealing information that the viewpoint character doesn't yet know. I avoid these, but in this case, I felt that cohesion was more important than strict POV, right here.

I also did a second massive cut just after Raoden was thrown into the city. If you read the earlier draft, you'll see that he struggles with what has happened to him a bit more. There's even a brief section where he thinks about Ien and some of the seon's words of wisdom. I cut these sections because they just slowed the book too much. I figured Raoden's shorter soul-searching at the beginning, where he quickly comes to the decision to "look damnation in the face," helped the story move along. Again, I worry about my beginnings–perhaps too much–because they have a history of dragging just a bit. By pushing Raoden into walking through the city, I kept the pacing up.

Elantris Annotations ()
#55 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-One

This is a different kind of Hrathen chapter. With it, I wanted to set the tone for the final section of the book. Only about 15% of the novel remains, and things are going to change for the last bit. You may have noticed a slight tone shift in this chapter–I made it a little darker, filling it with death imagery. (Incense, ash, darkness, Svrakiss.) I wanted to subtly get across that things are growing more dim for Hrathen and Arelon.

Originally, this scene happened outside, at the Mad Prince's pyre. I liked the death imagery there a little better–Dilaf sifting through the ashes of a funeral pyre made for a very interesting image. However, the visuals in this newer version have their own advantages. I was able to use the lantern to half-light Dilaf's, and the smells from the tent make a nice sensual addition to the section.

Elantris Annotations ()
#57 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Interestingly, one of the noblemen most important to the plot didn't appear very often in the original draft. Telrii was a much more minor character in the first versions of the book. As you'll see later, however, he has an important role to play.

Some of you who read the very early drafts of the book might remember the Mad Prince. This is a character my agent successfully convinced me to cut–I'll talk about it more later on. However, the need for beefing up Telrii's character came from the loss of the Mad Prince. Telrii now does most of what Eton used to do.

So, this addition of Telrii in the party scene was one of the more later revisions to the book. He showed up in draft eight or nine, and I'm glad to have him. He finally has a character–in the first drafts of the book, he was a non-entity. Spoken of occasionally, but really only in the book to show how much money Hrathen was willing to spend on overthrowing Arelon.

Elantris Annotations ()
#58 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

This chapter, which Raoden and Galladon crouching atop the rooftop and watching for newcomers, reminds me of the early days of conceiving this novel. The seed for Elantris actually came several years before I got around to writing the book. I knew that I wanted to tell the story of a brutal city filled with people who has some sickness that kept them from dying.

One of the initial scenes that came to my mind was that of the main character crouching atop a low building, watching the gates to the city. The gates open, and a newcomer is thrown in. At the same time, one of the wretches inside the city snaps–finally giving into his pain, and going mad. This man madly rushes toward the gates, trying to escape. The city guards–who don't have the disease–throw massive spears at the man rushing the gates. One of the spears hits him, piercing him all the way through.

However, it's quickly explained that the spear wasn't meant to kill, for the man continues to struggle weakly, despite being impaled. However, the spear is so big and bulky that the poor creature can't move any more–obviously, the weapons are intended to slow and immobilize, not kill. After all, the inhabitants of this city can't be killed. The man gives up struggling, and lays there limply, whimpering with the massive spear stuck through his chest.

At the same time, another sick one approaches the main character. "–Insert name– went mad last night," he whispers to the main character. "You are now the eldest." Meaning, of course, that the main character is now the person who's been in the city the longest without having gone mad.

You should be able to see the evolution of this scene in the story that I eventually told. Many of the concepts are the same, though I changed the viewpoint character from a person who had been in the city for a long time to a newcomer who still had his optimism. I also shifted much of the focus of the novel to what was happening outside the city, adding the two other viewpoint characters. However, this scene still remains in my mind–it's actually the only real scene I can remember from the very early days of planning Elantris. As an homage to it, I left in the large, bulky spears carried by the Elantris City Guards. Hrathen mentions them in the previous chapter. Though the guards no longer carry them for the same purpose–indeed, the guard probably wouldn't even know what to do with them in case of an attack–I thought this little inside reference to be an interesting one.

Brandon's Blog 2008 ()
#59 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

MY HISTORY AS A WRITER

I’ve been thinking that I should give a little bit of an explanation of my history as a writer for those of you who don’t know. I think it might give you some context for some of the posts I’ve made, and things people are saying in the forums about my unpublished novels. Read on if you want a little context.

This all started in earnest when I was 21, about eleven years ago, back in 1997. That was the year when I decided for certain that I wanted to write novels for a living.

My first goal was to learn to write on a professional level. I had heard that a person’s first few books are usually pretty bad, and so I decided to just spend a few years writing and practicing. I wanted time to work on my prose without having to worry about publishing.

You might call this my “apprentice era.” Between 97 and 99 I wrote five novels, none of them very good. But being good wasn’t the point. I experimented a lot, writing a variety of genres. (All sf/f of course—but I did some epic, some humor, some sf.) As you can probably guess by me writing five books in two and a half years, none were very well edited and while I had a lot of fun writing them, they were done very quickly, and had a lot less planning than my later books. Not many people read any of these novels, and I only ever sent one out to publishers (the second one, STARS’ END.)

Around 1999 (I can’t remember the exact date) I started attending the science fiction magazine THE LEADING EDGE at BYU; I also took an important writing class, less because of what I learned about writing (though I did learn a lot) and more because of people I met. Through TLE and the class, I ended up as part of a community of writers, editors, and science fiction/fantasy readers who were serious about what they were doing. During this time, I founded a writing group with Dan Wells and Peter Ahlstrom (Fellfrosh and Ookla over on the TWG forums.) Other members included our friend Nate, who doesn’t hang out here any more, and Ben/Tage, who used to be one of the board’s mods and who is still often one of my alpha readers. Eric (St. Ehlers) was another of our good friends, as was Kristy (Brenna), among numerous others, many of whom don’t hang out here very much any more.

You might call this the “Golden Era” of my unpublished career. I was getting to one of the most creative points in my life, and was very energized and excited about the writing I’d learned to do. After practicing for five novels, I felt that I was finally in a position to do justice to an epic fantasy story. In 1999, I started a book I called THE SPIRIT OF ELANTRIS, which eventually just became ELANTRIS.

As I said, this was the golden era of my unpublished career—though I think the ‘unpublished’ part of that statement is important. I hope that I’ll grow and progress, and think that the books I’m writing now are better than the ones I wrote then—just as I hope that the books I’ll do in ten years will be better than the ones I do now.

However, the three novels from this era—ELANTRIS, DRAGONSTEEL, and WHITE SAND—represent some of the best worldbuilding I’ve ever done. Of the three, ELANTRIS turned out the best by far. WHITE SAND was good, though it will feel dated now if you read it, since my writing skill has improved quite a bit since then and it never got the level of editing and revision that ELANTRIS did. DRAGONSTEEL has moments of brilliance surrounded by some really boring sections; it had trouble because of the scope of what I was attempting. I think any of the three could have become publishable if they’d gotten the right editing and revisions.

Anyway, I wrote these books in 1999–2000. By 2001, however, this era was lapsing. I finished at BYU, and since TLE was for students, a younger crowd was taking over and I no longer quite fit in there. I continued my writing groups in various forms, and we started the Timewaster’s Guide as a project and forum for those who had worked together during that era of the magazine.

I was collecting rejection letters for ELANTRIS, WHITE SAND, and DRAGONSTEEL. I felt these books were good—very good. But nobody was giving them much attention. At the conventions, editors kept saying that fantasy novel submissions were too long, and that new writers shouldn’t be trying such beastly first books. I sat down to write MYTHWALKER, by ninth book, and halfway through just couldn’t continue. (It remains the only book I’ve ever given up on.) I was trying another epic fantasy, but I was increasingly disappointed in how poorly the first three had been received. MYTHWALKER felt like an inferior knock-off of my own DRAGONSTEEL, and needed to be rethought. So I stopped working on it. (Though one side story in the book about two cousins named Siri and Vivenna really interested me; they would later get their own book as WARBREAKER.)

The next little time is kind of the “Dark Era” of my unpublished writing career. After giving up on MYTHWALKER, I decided that New York wasn’t looking for my brand of epic fantasy, and that I’d try to see if I could write something else. I wrote three books during this era. MISTBORN PRIME (I added the prime later to differentiate it), THE AETHER OF NIGHT, and FINAL EMPIRE PRIME.

In MISTBORN PRIME, I tried to write a dark anti-hero involved in a story that was NOT epic. I tried to write something much shorter than I’d done before, forcing myself to stay away from grand stories or epic style plotting. The result was a 100k work (which is half the length of my other fantasy novels) which just . . . well, wasn’t very good. The magic (a preliminary form of Allomancy) was awesome, and the setting had great points to it. But the plot was unexciting, the character uninteresting, the story uninvolving.

Depressed by this failure, I didn’t send the book to a single editor. (Though I did show it to Joshua, who is now my agent, as he was curious and following my career at that point. He agreed that this book wasn’t publishable. He never saw ELANTRIS, he’d given up halfway through DRAGONSTEEL—which means he never got past the boring part—and had really liked WHITE SAND, but had wanted to see more from me before picking me up. He felt I still had room to grow, and he was right.

After MISTBORN PRIME, I wrote a book called AETHER OF NIGHT, which was far more successful. I think it’s the best of the four “Brandon tries to write more toward the market” books. At 150k, it was only 50k shorter than what I’d been doing during the ELANTRIS era, and I let myself play with slightly more epic stories and scope. At this point, I was trying for something with a little more humor in it, something with lighthearted, fun characters in a situation that was at times ridiculous and at times adventuresome. (A more David Eddings like approach, if you will.) It’s not a bad book. I probably won’t ever rewrite it, but it’s not a bad book. Joshua liked it just fine, and thought it was a step forward from Mistborn Prime.

At this point, my epic fantasy books got another round of rejections, including ELANTRIS rejected by DAW and DRAGONSTEEL rejected by ACE. I’d just sent ELANTRIS to Tor, but figured I’d never hear back. (They’d had WHITE SAND for several years at that point and never gotten back to me.)

Feeling uncertain about my writing and my career again, particularly since I felt that AETHER hadn’t come together just as I’d wanted, I turned my attention to trying the most basic of fantasy stories. Prophesied hero, orphaned, goes on a travel-log across the world to fight a dark lord. This was THE FINAL EMPIRE PRIME. Of course I was putting my own spin on it. But my heart wasn’t in it—I just couldn’t convince myself that I was adding anything new to the genre, and I was again trying for a ‘half-length’ story. Though there were no dragons, elves, or mythical objects to rescue, I felt that I was just plain writing a bad book. (Note that I was probably too down on this book, as it had some very inventive concepts in it, including a precursor to Feruchemy.)

I got done with FINAL EMPIRE PRIME and was just plain disappointed. This was the worst book I’d ever written. (And it is, I think, the worst—though MISTBORN PRIME is close.) Here I was, having written twelve novels, and I seemed to be getting WORSE with each one. I wasn’t selling, I was out of school working a wage job graveyard shift, and my social life consisted pretty much of my friends taking pity on me and coming to hang out at the hotel once in a while.

I think this was one of the big focus points of my career. That year, 2002, I made three decisions. The first was that I was NOT going to give up on writing. I loved it too much, even when I was writing books that didn’t turn out right. (I think this is important for every author to decide.) The second was that I was NEVER AGAIN going to write toward the market. It was killing my books. If I never got published, so be it. At least I would stop writing terrible stories mangled by my attempts to write what I thought people wanted. The final decision was that I’d go to graduate school in creative writing to get myself into that groove of being around writers again, and to also ‘delay’ for a few more years having to get a real job.

Enter THE WAY OF KINGS era. The last book I wrote before I got published was actually pretty darn good. I tossed out everything I was being told about how to get published, and just wrote from the heart. Over 18 months between 2002 and 2003 I wrote a 300k word book with a 180k outline/backstory/worldbuilding document. (Yes, the setting guide itself was LONGER than the previous three books I’d written.) Beyond that, I plotted the book as the first of TEN in a series.

KINGS was good. It had problems, but they were fixable problems, and I was extremely proud of the novel. I felt I’d found my place in writing again. I honestly think it’s the best of my unpublished books; almost as some of the published ones.

In 2003, I got the call from an editor wanting to buy ELANTRIS.

I suppose the story of my unpublished career ends there, though there’s one more side note. Why did I not published THE WAY OF KINGS? Well, a couple of reasons. First, my agent (Joshua) felt it needed a lot of work. (It did.) Secondly, it was so long that I think it scared Tor to consider it. They have published books longer before, but the market has changed since then, and approaching a book that length as an author’s second book made my editor apprehensive. He’d have done it, but he was already talking about how we’d need to slice it into two novels. (And I really didn’t want to do that.)

But more than that, I felt that it wasn’t time for KINGS yet. I can’t explain why; just gut instinct, I guess. I wanted to follow ELANTRIS up with a fast-paced trilogy. Something that could prove to people that I could finish a series, and that I really could write. I felt that launching from ELANTRIS into KINGS would be asking too much of my readers. I wanted to give them time to grow accustomed to me and my writing, and I wanted to practice writing a series before getting myself into something enormous.

And so—perhaps brashly—I looked at the two greatest disappointments of my career and said “Let’s do these the way they SHOULD have been done in the first place.” I took the best ideas from both, I added in a greater majority of other new good ideas, and I planned out a 600 thousand word epic told in three parts. My goal: A kind of calling card to fantasy readers. A trilogy they could read through and get a feel for who I was and what my writing was like.

Of course, then the WHEEL OF TIME came along and changed everything. I’m even more glad I did what I did, as I didn’t have to stop a series in the middle to work on AMoL. Plus, working on the WHEEL OF TIME has given me an unparalleled insight into the mind of the greatest master of the long-form fantasy series of our time.

Anyway, that’s a bit of history for those who are curious. Thanks for reading.

Elantris Annotations ()
#60 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Title Page

You'd be surprised how much can be said about the title of this book. Naming books is one of the most frustrating, and most fulfilling, elements of writing. I'm more fortunate than some authors I know–for most of my books, the names came easily. Sometimes, I even came up with the title before I wrote the book. (This has actually only happened once, when thought up the phrase "The Way of Kings," and thought "Man! That would be a great title for a book!")

Elantris has had several titles. During the rough draft phase, I simply called it "SPIRIT." I knew that the main character's name would be based on the character for Spirit, and that would also be the name he took for himself when he was in exile. I never intended this to be the final title for the manuscript, but it was what I named all the files when I was typing the work.

Those of you who've read the book realize the special significance of "Spirit" (or Aon Rao as it eventually became known) to the climax of the story. I'll talk more about this in a bit.

Well, as I was writing the story, I realized I needed a better title. The most obvious choice was to somehow work in the name of the fallen magical city that was the focus of the book. Now, I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but the city "Elantris" was actually originally named "Adonis." I'm not sure what I was thinking. Sometimes, when you're coming up with a lot of fantastical names, you create words that have a certain, unforeseen connotations or connections. In this case, I wasn't even thinking of the Greek myth. "Ado" was simply the Aon I chose to base the city’s name around, and "Adonis" (Pronounced with a long "A" and a long "O") was the word that came out of that Aon.

So, I named the book The Spirit of Adonis, hoping to play off of Raoden's name.

It was, however, actually a three-fold pun. I included this line–"The Spirit of Adonis" at the climax, when Raoden realizes that the city itself formed an enormous Aon Rao.

I didn't realize what I'd done until my writing group met for the first time, and they said "I like the beginning of the book. I'm having trouble figuring out what this has to do with the Greeks. Is it because the god-like people were so arrogant?"

Then it hit me. Adonis, from Greek mythology, was a beautiful man loved by Aphrodite. The word has become a kind of paradigm for a beautiful–almost perfect–specimen of the male species. And I had unwittingly named my book after him.

Let's just say I changed that pretty quickly. However, I needed a new name for the city. I played with a number of different combinations of Ado, but somehow ended up trying up different sounds and combinations. Thankfully, I came up with the word "Elantris." As soon as I wrote it down, I knew this was my city. It sounded grand without being overbearing, and it had a mythological feel to it (hearkening slightly to "Atlantis".) I renamed the book "The Spirit of Elantris," and proceeded.</p>

Then came time to send out the manuscript. I had had some comments on the book–people liked "Elantris," but the "spirit of" was less popular. I tried several iterations, and even sent out some query letters calling the book "THE LORDS OF ELANTRIS." That just felt too cliché fantasy for me, however, and I eventually returned to "The Spirit of Elantris."

Finally, the book got sold. At this point, my editor (Moshe Feder) suggested that we shorten the title to simply Elantris. Remembering how other people had been unimpressed with the "spirit of," I agreed. Now that I've seen the cover lettering and worked with it as "Elantris" for some time, I'm very pleased with the change. The new title has more zip, and makes the book sound more majestic. I still get to have a reference to my old title, as Part Three of the book is called "The Spirit of Elantris."

Of course, even this title isn't without its problems. People have trouble spelling it when I say the title, and some think of the car named the "Elantra." At one panel, I even had one person miss-hear me, thinking the name of the book was "The Laundress." That would certainly be a different book...

TWG Posts ()
#61 Copy

Peter Ahlstrom

Dark One. What is it?

Brandon Sanderson

YA novel I'm working on. I have a few sample chapters, if you want them. I may have to change the title, though, since a very dissimilar book just came out with a close title.

I'd rather not talk about the book too much, since I won't be able to get to it for a while, and I'd like to keep the ideas off the internet for a bit.

Brandon Sanderson

Well, anyone here can have the sample chapters if they want. In fact, anyone can have sample chapters of any of my books. I send those out pretty freely. I'm just not sure I want to go posting the ideas for this one about yet.

Also, if anyone wants any of my old books--anything pre-WAY OF KINGS--you need but ask. Most of them won't ever get published in their current form. So, if you're ever board, you can read an old, unpublished Brandon novel.

The complete Brandon Library is:

1) White Sand Prime (My first Fantasy Novel)

2) Star's End (Short, alien-relations sf novel.)

3) Lord Mastrell (Sequel to White Sand Prime)

4) Knight Life (Fantasy comedy.)

5) The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora (Far future sf involving immortal warriors)

6) Elantris (You have to buy this one!)

7) Dragonsteel (My most standard epic fantasy)

8) White Sand (Complete rewrite of the first attempt)

9) Mythwalker (Unfinished at about 600 pages. Another more standard epic fantasy.)

10) Aether of Night (Stand-Alone fantasy. A little like Elantris.)

11) Mistborn Prime (Eventually stole this world.)

12) Final Empire Prime (Cannibalized for book 14 as well.)

13) The Way of Kings (Fantasy War epic. Coming in 2008 or 2009)

14) Mistborn: The Final Empire (Coming June 2006)

15) Mistborn: The Well of Ascension (Early 2007)

16) Alcatraz Initiated (YA Fantasy. Being shopped to publishers)

17) Mistborn: Hero of Ages (Unfinished. Â Coming late 2007)

18) Dark One (Unfinished. YA fantasy)

19) Untitled Aether Project (Two sample chapters only.)

Elantris Annotations ()
#62 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Three

Another short, but powerful, Hrathen chapter. This is the head of Hrathen's character climax for the first half of the book. He has been questioning his own faith ever since he first met Dilaf. It isn't that he questions the truthfulness of the Derethi religion–he just has become uncertain of his own place within it. I wanted this moment, when he's semi-consciously watching the eclipse, to be the moment where he finally decides upon an answer within himself.

This is a major turning-point for Hrathen. His part in the book pivots on this chapter, and the things he does later are greatly influenced by the decisions he makes here. I think the important realization he realizes here is that not every person's faith manifests in the same way. He's different from other people, and he worships differently. That doesn't make his faith inferior.

In fact, I think his faith is actually superior to Dilaf's. Hrathen has considered, weighed, and decided. That gives him more validity as a teacher, I think. In fact, he fits into the Derethi religion quite well–the entire Derethi idea was conceived as a logical movement.

Elantris Annotations ()
#63 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Ah, and Hrathen's three month timebomb. It's always nice when you can have a timebomb go off early. Hrathen thinks in this very chapter about how he's got a month left on his deadline. However, I suspect that readers will look at the book and realize that there's less than a hundred pages left. Hopefully, with these chapters–Raoden crowned king, Hrathen apparently beaten–I invoke a sense of confusion in the reader. They'll be expecting something big, something they weren't looking for.

The arrival of the Dakhor monks is it. You'll get some more explanation of this later, of course. Anyway, now you know why I kept mentioning the Arelene market and how unprofitable it seemed. The merchants there weren't even really merchants.

In the first draft, I had the monks hiding on the merchants' ships. In a later rewrite, however, I realized that this wasn't as powerful as if I had them actually playing the part of the merchants. If I had them on the ships, I had to have Hrathen follow Dilaf all the way to the docks. In addition, those monks would have had to spend weeks cooped up in the holds of a bunch of merchant ships. So, I changed it so that the monks were impersonating the merchants themselves–a better plan, I think, on their part. This lets them infiltrate the city, move around and scout the area, and essentially hide in plain sight.

Elantris Annotations ()
#64 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I suppose the most important scene in this chapter was the exchange between Sarene and Daora. It's hard, in writing, to avoid being heavy-handed with exposition and emotion. Show don't tell, as the proverb goes. Sometimes you get it right–like this particular scene. Sarene, obviously, is falling for Spirit–and Daora mistakes the emotion as being applied to Shuden. (Yes, I know, I shouldn't have to explain this. However, that's part of what these annotations are for–to explain things. I never can tell what people will get and what they'll miss. I've thrown in twists I thought were obvious, only to have everyone miss them–but instead they pick up on the foreshadowing that I never meant to be strong enough to give the ending away. )

Anyway, one of my challenges in this book was to make the romance between Sarene and Raoden realistic, considering the relatively small amount of time they had to spend together. I hoped to avoid any silly "love at first sight" type plottings, while at the same time making their relationship feel genuine and touching in as short a time as possible.

Elantris Annotations ()
#65 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The Spirit of Elantris

So, this moment–where Raoden is nearly dead, looking down on the cities, and finally makes the connection–was one of the scenes that made me want to write this book. In each novel I write, I have some important scenes in my mind. They're like. . .focuses for the novel. They're the places I know I need to get, and they're usually very dynamic in my mind. In a way, I tell the rest of the story just so I can make my way to these moments.

This book had two main Moments for me. We haven't gotten to the second yet, but this is the first. I hope that you, the reader, arrived at the realization just as Raoden did. I've had a lot of trouble getting this balance right. Some readers figured out the secret early, while others (the larger group) didn't even understand what's going on in this chapter.

If it requires explanation, Raoden is thinking about Aon Rao. Then he notices that Elantris and the cities around it form a pattern–the exact pattern of Aon Rao. The cities form an Aon on the ground. At this moment, Raoden realizes why Elantris fell, and why the Elantrians went with it. If you haven't figured it out yet, I won't spoil it for you.

Elantris Annotations ()
#67 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Epilogue

This is the dénouement to the denouement, I guess. We get to end with my favorite character, tying up some of the small loose ends that were related to her storyline. There is some good material here–she points out that Raoden is doing well as king, how Ahan is fairing, and gives a nice prognosis for the future of Arelon.

However, the important part of the epilogue comes at the end. I love the last line of the book, despite the fact that Joshua disagrees with it. (He wanted something else there–I can't quite remember now what his quibble was.)

Anyway, I always intended to end this book talking about Hrathen. He was their savior, after a manner–and he certainly was a dominant force in the book. I wanted to give him one final send-off–to honor him for what he did, both for Arelon, and for the story in general.

Elantris Annotations ()
#68 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixty-One - Part One

Hrathen's Decision

As I've mentioned, Hrathen has the most progression of any of the characters in this book. It's fitting, therefore, that he should get the best character climax.

Essentially, Elantris–at least Hrathen's third of it–is a redemption story. It is the story of Hrathen trying to make up for the massacre he caused in Duladel. Beyond that, it's the story of a man struggling to understand what faith is, and what that faith requires of him. In the end, his decision to save Sarene comes as a rejection of the sins of his past. And, in a slight way, it is a rejection of the heartless, logical man he assumed himself to be.

Elantris Annotations ()
#69 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Two

So, this chapter gets the grand prize for most edited and revised chapter in the book. There are other chapters that have more new material–but only because they were added in completely after the original draft. This chapter, good old chapter two, was the one that underwent the most tweaks, face-lifts, additions, and edits during the ten drafts I did of Elantris.

And, I think poor little Sarene is the cause of it.

You could say that she played havoc with the book in much the same way she did with Hrathen, Iadon, and Raoden in the story.

As I worked on the novel, Sarene as a character took on a much more dominant role in the plot than I had intended. Perhaps it's because she's the intermediary between the other two characters, or maybe it's because I liked her best of the three characters. Either way, in my mind, this book is about Sarene. She's the catalyst, the force of change.

In the end, she's the one that provides the solutions to both Raoden and Hrathen's problems. She gives Raoden the hint he needs to fix Elantris, and she gives Hrathen the moment of courage he needs in order to turn against Dilaf.

However, I've found that Sarene is many people's least-favorite of the three characters. I had a lot of trouble in the original drafts of this book, since many alpha readers didn't like her in this chapter. They thought she came off as too brusque and manipulative. It was always my intention to show a more sensitive side to her later in the novel, but I didn't intend to lead with it quite as quickly as I ended up doing.

The first edit to the chapter came with the addition of the Sarene-and-Ashe-travel-to-the-palace scene. This is the section were Sarene sits in the carriage, thinking about her anger at Raoden and her insecurity. This counteracts a bit of the strength we see from her in the first scene at the docks, rounding her out as a character.

The second big addition came in the form of the funeral tent scene. This was added as a tangent to one of Moshe's suggestions–he wanted us to have an opportunity to see Sarene investigating Raoden's death. In the original drafts of the book, we felt the narrative made it too obvious to outsiders that Raoden must have been thrown into Elantris. Moshe and I felt that it seemed silly that people wouldn't consider the possibility that Raoden wasn't dead. This wasn't what I wanted–I wanted most people to accept the event. Only someone as overly-curious as Sarene would have been suspicious.

So, I revised the story to downplay the suspicion around Raoden's death. Instead of having Iadon rush through the funeral (an element of the original draft) I added the funeral tent and had Sarene (off-stage) attend the funeral itself. These changes made it more reasonable that very few people would have suspicions regarding the prince's death, and therefore made it more plausible that people wouldn't think that he had been thrown into Elantris.

Other small tweaks to this chapter included the removal of a line that almost everyone seemed to hate but me. After Sarene meets Iadon for the first time, she is pulled away by Eshen to leave the throne room. At this time, I had Sarene mutter "Oh dear. This will never do." Everyone thought that was too forceful, and made her sound to callous, so I changed it to "Merciful Domi! What have I gotten myself into?" A piece of me, however, still misses Sarene's little quip there.

ICon 2019 ()
#70 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I didn't know the whole cosmere when I wrote Elantris. In fact, a lot of the things I put into Elantris, like the shardpool, I put in feeling like I would connect them later on, but I had no idea how they were going to connect. By Mistborn, I did have all the cosmere. I have an advantage in that, because I took so long to publish, I was able to do a lot of practice books, and it let me really settle in on what I wanted to do, and I was able to build the cosmere... For instance, Dragonsteel (which I wrote after Elantris) is Hoid's backstory and his origin story and things like that. (And also has Bridge Four in it. Back then, they were on a different planet.) I was able to really experiment in Aether of Night with what shardpools meant, and the gods and the Shards of Adonalsium. You can read that one, that one's on the internet just for free. I think the easiest way to do it is to go to my forums and ask them for a copy. I told them they could give it away. It's not very good. It's not terrible, but it does have a lot of shardpool stuff in it, so if you're interested in that.

So by the time I wrote Mistborn, I knew what I was doing with all of this. And I think kind of retrofit to make sure Elantris still fit it all. Hoid still had an appearance, the Shardpools worked the way I wanted to, the magic systems were based off the cosmere magic, the realmatics were all consistent, and things like that.

People ask me a lot, "Where did you get the cosmere?" It was a gradual evolution during the unpublished novels, and then was done by the time I wrote Mistborn.

Elantris Annotations ()
#71 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Seven

It's interesting that this book would be the first one I publish. Many of you know that when I finally sold Elantris, I was working on my thirteenth novel. By the time Elantris was released, I'd written fifteen separate novels. Very few of these are sequels, and of the fifteen, Elantris is actually number six.

One of the things I pride myself on as a writer are my magic systems. I spend a lot of effort and prewriting on them, and I strive very hard to make them feel like nothing a reader has ever experienced before. Mistborn, the book that will come out a year after Elantris, is a very good example of this.

Elantris, however, is very interesting in that I don't actually get to spend much time with the magic. Or, at least, I don't get to spend much time showing it–the magic of this book is broken, and so while we find out a lot about it (and I think it's distinctive in its arrangement) we don't get to see it.

In the end, when the magic finally gets restored, I think it actually loses just a bit of charm. I developed this magic system to be an interesting and original puzzle–and so, when you finally see it working, I think there's a fulfilling payoff. However, in its actual form, it isn't generally as distinctive as some of my other magic systems.

Another interesting thing about this book, however, is that the setting includes a mixture of magical wonder itself–kind of as a balancing factor to the fact that we don't get to see the Aons doing anything. I think the problems associated with being an Elantrian, mixed with the interesting setting inside of the city, create an interesting magical ambiance for the book, one that seons serve to heighten.

ICon 2019 ()
#72 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

My editor in America made me cut out half of the kolo's – what did you translate "kolo" as?

Questioner

"Kolo." 'Cause you know, it's foreign language, so I just preserve it as it is.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. He made me cut half of those. He was so annoyed by my kolo's. You don't to understand, languages use these little verbal tics, that are very common – I don't know if Hebrew has one, but, like, they're very common, like - Korean has one - <Kuritzu?> - which people put at the end of a lot of sentences, and they just mean "Isn't that so?" or "Am I right?" or... it basically gives you a moment to think while you're talking, and a lot of languages have them. So, this is one of the examples of: fiction happened to be less realistic than real life, because in a lot of real-life texts you would have one of those every other sentence. And I use them like, you know, once a page, and my editor is like, "This is way too much."

Elantris Annotations ()
#73 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixteen

Raoden's memory of Ien at the beginning of this chapter pretty much sums up what the seons are. A lot of readers have asked me for more on them, and I'll give it eventually. However, in this book, you simply need to know that they are what they appear. Servants bound out of love, rather than duty, force, or pay.

The original inspiration for seons came, actually, when I was in high school. Visually, I was inspired by the Passage series–a collection of paintings by Michael Whelan. Every painting in the series contained little floating bubbles with what appeared to be a candle flames at their center. At the same time, I was getting the idea for a story. When I wrote it, I included a group of sentient balls of light.

Well, that story didn't go anywhere. Six years later, however, I started Elantris. I wanted a sidekick for Sarene, and I knew I needed someone wise and cautious to off-set her sometimes reckless personality. I had already decided to use the Aon characters, and I considered transforming my old idea of balls of light into glowing Aons. As Ashe's character began to develop, I realized I had something quite strong, and I began to build the mythology and magic behind the seons. 

The latest addition to the story regarding seons is the idea of "Passing." I only speak of it a few times, but in earlier drafts, I didn't have any definite indications that a person and their seon were bound. The only hint was what happened to seons whose masters were taken by the Shaod. When Moshe asked about this, I decide I'd include a little more information, and added a couple references to "Passing" seons in the book.

Elantris Annotations ()
#74 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

As I've mentioned before, the Hrathen chapters tend to be shorter than the other two. As Raoden and Sarene's chapters pick up, I was left struggling just a bit to find things to do in the complimentary Hrathen chapters. I probably could have sped up his plot through these middle chapters just a bit. However, the triad system means that I had to give him a viewpoint every third chapter. That is probably why he got so many contemplative sections–and, possibly, is what in turn made him into such an interesting character personality wise. It's kind of hard to dissect these kinds of things now that the book has been done for five years.

Anyway, I did need this chapter to give Hrathen a chance to do some more foreshadowing on Dilaf. The emergence of Dilaf in these chapters is, I think, one of the more interesting and surprising elements from the middle Hrathen chapters. When Dilaf is originally presented in the book, I expected people to see him as a simple sidekick to Hrathen, much in the same way that I established Galladon and Ashe to be counterparts to Raoden and Sarene. With this parallelism in servant characters, I hoped to pull of a subtle surprise with Dilaf when he started to make trouble for Hrathen, as he is doing in these chapters.

Bands of Mourning release party ()
#75 Copy

zas678

It seems to me that members of the [LDS] church generally like Elantris a lot more than people who aren't in the church and why do you think that is?

Brandon Sanderson

I haven't noticed that but if that were the case… boy. I don't know that whole Raoden just pushed through it has some sort of tying your spirit to it and that's definitely-- I could see that being relevant.

zas678

I've been told it's Hrathen's struggle with faith.

Brandon Sanderson

I think they like the whole-- the whole evil missionary thing would be something thing that members of the church would be like "Ahh evil missionary?! That's cool!" *laughter* So I think that's totally possible but I hadn't noticed that specifically. I think that it is also a book that is less focused on the action and fighting. Like Mistborn is more focused on that, and so I would expect that there's that relevant issue, perhaps, as well.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#76 Copy

luke_c

Will you be posting what you change in the Elantris 10th year anniversary re-release like with how you changed the Words of Radiance ending? Also thanks for writing amazing books!

Brandon Sanderson

We'll try. The changes are, on one hand, way more pervasive--but on the other hand, far less substantial. There is a lot of cleaning up language, and a little of moving about the locations of buildings and the like for the sake of continuity.

JordanCon 2018 ()
#79 Copy

Questioner

At what point did you go, "Elantris was good, Mistborn was good, now let's do 40 more books"?

Brandon Sanderson

So, a brief, brief history (writer's side, not the in-world side) of the Cosmere is this. So, Elantris was written without the cosmere in mind. This was-- Elantris was the first, kind of, book in my--

So, the way my history works, I was told early on that your first five books are generally terrible. And this was actually really relieving to me, because I'm like "Oh, I don't have to be good until book six." So I wrote five books as, just, lots of experimenting. Lots of different types of stories. And I didn't really even try, I sent one or two of them out, but I didn't really aggressively try to publish them. They were White Sand--not White Sand that you can get from my newsletter signup, an earlier version--which is my first book. And then Star's End, which was a little science fiction book, and then a sequel to White Sand, and something called Knight Life, which was a comedy. Yes. But bits of that got repurposed into Alcatraz. And then The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora, which was a weird cyberpunk, far-future thing. And I got done with all of those, and I'm like, "All right. I kind of know what I want to do. I thought it was epic fantasy. I now know it's epic fantasy." And then I wrote Elantris. My next books were Elantris, a rewrite of White Sand, and Dragonsteel. And this was kind of me exploring "What do I want to do? How do I want to-- What is my-- What do I want to add to this genre?"

But the idea of the interconnected universe grew out of doing these things, writing these books. I started planning The Way of Kings then, I started planning the book that became Warbreaker then. It was called Mythwalker at the time. And I wrote a book called The Final Empire and a another one called Mistborn, which are neither of the ones that you guys actually have read. What eventually happened, is when I sold Elantris, this whole thing of the cosmere had really come together, this is what I wanted to do, I was really excited by it.

And so, the first book that I wrote knowing about the cosmere was Mistborn. And Elantris got retrofitted into this as I was writing the Mistborn trilogy. And it was while I was working on the Mistborn trilogy that I made the nine book arc that is kind of the core, though-line of the Cosmere, the past/present/future Mistborn. I called my editor in... 2005 with a really big, exciting, sort of huge outline for 40 books (it was 32 back then), I'm like, "It's gonna be this, it's gonna be this, it connects here, and all this stuff--" That's when it all kind of happened, and I built that all out. It was the process of working on the Mistborn original trilogy and building out the nine book arc for those that really solidified a lot of these ideas. By then, I had written Dragonsteel, so I knew--- Dragonsteel was book number seven, so I knew about Adonalsium and all of this stuff, but it was really kind of in Mistborn where I decided how I was gonna incorporate all of that. And even then, even in Mistborn, there are still things that I was still putting together.

So, yeah. There's a brief history of it. By the time I had those three books done, 'cause I wrote them in a row, I was pretty solid on how all of this was gonna come together.

Elantris Annotations ()
#80 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

One of the major post-sale revisions I did to Elantris came at the suggestion of my agent, Joshua Bilmes. He noted that I had several chapters where Hrathen just walked about, thinking to himself. He worried that these sections made the middle of the book drag a bit, and also feared that they would weaken Hrathen's character. So, instead, he suggested that I add Telrii to the book some more, and therefore give Hrathen opportunities to be clever in the way he achieved his goals.

This is the first chapter that shows any major revision in this direction. In the original, Hrathen simply walked along, thinking to himself. I added Telrii to the second half of the chapter, putting some of Hrathen's internal musings into their discussion. I cut some of the more repetitive sections, and then left the others interspersed between lines of dialogue.

The result is, I think, a very strong new section.

Skyward San Diego signing ()
#81 Copy

Daz925

Where were you in your writing process for Elantris-- I know it was your sixth book and you were on your nineteenth when you got it published or--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, good question.So, where was I in my process when I wrote Elantris and when I got published, which was my sixth novel. So what happened with my career, it's kind of a very weird thing. You find that everybody has a different path to success as a writer. I heard early on that your first five books are generally terrible and this was really relieving to me, because I--a part of my brain-- this would not-- someone else, this might've been the worst thing to tell them. But for me it was the best thing because my brain said, "Okay, good, you don't have to be any good at this for your first five books".

And so my first five books I experimented quite a bit in story and tone. I did a gritty cyberpunkish thing. I did a comedy. I did an epic fantasy. I tried a lot of-- I did a space opera. I did a lot of different things. And once I had done all that, I came back and said, "You know, my first love is epic fantasy, and it's what I really want to do." So I sat down to write book number 6, which was Elantris.

And at that point, I had gotten a few books underneath me. I kind of knew what I was doing, though I was not-- I hadn't figured out my process quite as well as I would have liked. Elantris and a lot of the books during that era I did a lot more discovery writing, and I naturally am better when I have a stronger outline. But that's where I was.

My biggest weakness as a writer at that point was revision. I had spent those five early books just trying different things, and that permission for me to not be good yet also kind of gave me the psychological ability to be like, "Well, I don't have to revise this one, because I don't have to be good yet." But what that meant is I didn't practice revision. So once I finished Elantris, I was not good enough yet to know how to take a good book and make it great. So it went the rounds in New York and got rejected; rightly so, because it was very flabby and had not been focused. And I know, from a guy who writes thousand-page books, focus is a weird thing to say. *laughter*

And so, when I actually sold Elantris to Tor, it was after it had gone through four or five drafts and I had finally sat down and kind of buckled down and said "I need to learn revision and learn how to make my books better". So I sold it right after-- right while I was working on Way of Kings in 2002, 2003, somewhere around there.

Elantris Annotations ()
#82 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-One

Raoden failed in finding ways to defeat Shaor's gang on two separate occasions. First, there was the original infiltration with Galladon (in which Raoden hoped to convince Shaor to stop attacking.) This excursion was informative, but not successful. The second failure was in dealing with the wild men who were trying to get to the carts. Raoden's decision to simply cut them off from the courtyard was eventually a failure. I'm not sure what else he could have done, but he still failed. Saolin's death, among other things, was the cost.

I knew that Raoden had to have more difficulty dealing with Shaor's band than he did with the other two. "Defeating" Karata and Taan happened quickly, and with relative ease. If Shaor's band hadn't presented a problem, then I felt that the entire "three gangs" plot would have been unfulfilling.

So, in these chapters, I stepped up the danger from Shaor and the crew. In the early drafts of the book, this danger wasn't present enough. (In fact, this was one of the main comments that Tom Doherty, CEO of Tor, gave me when he read Elantris.) So, I increased Shaor's numbers–by giving them a larger percentage of Taan's men, not to mention a larger number of men to begin with–and made them more dangerous in the way they attacked.

Elantris Annotations ()
#83 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

This chapter is one of the prime "show Hrathen's competence" chapters. Most of what goes on here is in the way of character development for Hrathen. The plot of him swaying some of the noblemen is important, but not specifically so. However, I've always said that the stronger–and more clever–the villain is, the better the story is. By showing how Hrathen deals with the noblemen, I re-enforce his abilities, and justify him as a threat to the city.

There were a few small edits to this chapter. The biggest one was a change where I slightly-weakened Hrathen's treasonous talk. In the original, he told the noblemen that he was the gyorn assigned to Duladel before it collapsed. Moshe pointed out that this was a little too subversive of him to imply in the middle of a group of men who may or may not end up supporting him, so I made the change.

Hero of Ages Q&A - Time Waster's Guide ()
#84 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Folks,

This essay I just posted:

http://www.brandonsanderson.com/article/55/EUOLogy-My-History-as-a-Writer

Started as a blog post for this thread, talking about the old books I wrote to give context to my previous post. It outgrew the length of a proper forum post, so I put it on the site instead. But this might help you understand some of my history as a writer, not to mention explain the origin of all these old books Ookla that references all the time.

Lightning Eater

I remembered a thread from ages ago in which Brandon posted a list of the books he'd written, I looked it up when I realised it wasn't in the article, and I figured you guys might be interested too, so here it is.

1) White Sand Prime (My first Fantasy Novel)

2) Star's End (Short, alien-relations sf novel.)

3) Lord Mastrell (Sequel to White Sand Prime)

4) Knight Life (Fantasy comedy.)

5) The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora (Far future sf involving immortal warriors)

6) Elantris (You have to buy this one!)

7) Dragonsteel (My most standard epic fantasy)

8) White Sand (Complete rewrite of the first attempt)

9) Mythwalker (Unfinished at about 600 pages. Another more standard epic fantasy.)

10) Aether of Night (Stand-Alone fantasy. A little like Elantris.)

11) Mistborn Prime (Eventually stole this world.)

12) Final Empire Prime (Cannibalized for book 14 as well.)

13) The Way of Kings(Fantasy War epic. Coming in 2008 or 2009)

14) Mistborn: The Final Empire (Coming June 2006)

15) Mistborn: The Well of Ascension (Early 2007)

16) Alcatraz Initiated (YA Fantasy. Being shopped to publishers)

17) Mistborn: Hero of Ages(Unfinished. Coming late 2007)

18) Dark One (Unfinished. YA fantasy)

19) Untitled Aether Project (Two sample chapters only.)

Brandon Sanderson

Thanks for posting that. Note that I can never quite remember which was first, Aether or Mistborn Prime. I always feel that Aethershould be first, since it wasn't as bad as the two primes, but thinking back I think that the essay is more accurate and I wrote it between them.

This would be the new list:

1) White Sand Prime (My first Fantasy Novel)

2) Star's End (Short, alien-relations sf novel.)

3) Lord Mastrell (Sequel to White Sand Prime)

4) Knight Life (Fantasy comedy.)

5) The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora (Far future sf involving immortal warriors)

6) Elantris (First Published)

7) Dragonsteel (My most standard epic, other than the not-very-good Final Empireprime.)

8 ) White Sand (Complete rewrite of the first attempt, turned out much better.)

9) Mythwalker (Unfinished at about 600 pages. Another more standard epic fantasy.)

10) Aether of Night (Stand-Alone fantasy. A little like Elantris.)

11) Mistborn Prime (Shorter fantasy, didn't turn out so well.)

12) Final Empire Prime (Shorter fantasy, didn't turn out so well.)

13) The Way of Kings Prime (Fantasy War epic.)

14) Mistborn: The Final Empire (Came out 2006)

15) Mistborn: The Well of Ascension (Came out 2007)

16) Alcatraz Verus the Evil Librarians (Came out 2007)

17) Mistborn: Hero of Ages(Came out 2008)

18) Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones (Came out 2008)

19) Warbreaker (Comes out June 2009)

20) Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia(November 2009ish)

21) A Memory of Light(November 2009ish. Working on it now. Might be split into two.)

22) The Way of Kings Book One (2010ish. Not started yet.)

23) Alcatraz Four (2010. Not started yet)

Peter Ahlstrom

Will elements of your untitled Aether project be worked into the Dragonsteel series?

The Silence Divine(Working title. Stand alone Epic Fantasy. Unwritten.), Steelheart (YA Science Fiction. Unwritten), I Hate Dragons (Middle Grade fantasy. Maybe an Alcatraz follow up. Unwritten.), Zek Harbringer, Destroyer of Worlds (Middle Grade Sf. Maybe an Alcatraz follow up. Unwritten.)

These titles are news to me. You described two potential YA or middle-grade books to me and Karen when you came out to Book Expo, plus Dark One, but now I can't remember the plots except they were cool (and that one of them involved superheroes). Are they among this list? Also, is that really Harbringer or is it supposed to be Harbinger?

Brandon Sanderson

Bah! That's what I get for typing so quickly. Yes, Harbinger. It should be "Zeek" too. Short for Ezekiel.

Steelheart would be the superhero one, though that's a working title, since I'm not sure if it's trademarked or not. Haven't had much time for thinking about any of these books lately.

Peter Ahlstrom

Brandon, here you said Alcatraz 4 is called Alcatraz vs. The Dark Talent; is that still the working title? Also, you mentioned Dragonsteel: The Lightweaver of Rens, but now you say The Liar of Partinel is a standalone. Change of plans? (I know you can't get back to Dragonsteel for a while.)

Brandon Sanderson

The Alcatraz titles are in flux because I need to know if Scholastic wants the fifth one or not. (They only bought four.) Dark Talent will be one of them for certain.

The Liar of Partinel was part of a two-part story told hundreds of years before the Dragonsteel epic. However, since I've dropped plans to go with Liar anytime soon—A Memory of Light has priority, followed by Way of Kings—I don't know what I'll end up doing with the second book, or if I'll ever even write it. I was planning on not calling either of these "Dragonsteel" in print, actually, and just letting people connect the two series on their own. It wouldn't be hard to do, but I didn't want the first actual book in the main storyline to be launched by Tor as "Book Three" since there would be such a large gap of time.

Elantris Annotations ()
#85 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Okay, now, I know you're going to laugh at me here. However, I suppose you deserve to know the whole story of this book. After all, I told you about the whole "Adonis" thing.

Well, the thing is, the first version of the book included about two pages of poetry from Wyrn the King. I think every prose writer goes through a stage where we think, for some reason, that we have a talent for poetry. It's doubly bad in fantasy, where we've all read Tolkien, and felt like adding poems, songs, and the like to our stories.

The thing is, most of us aren't very good at it. Wyrn the King was a narrative alliterative poem patterned after Beowulf, and it was TERRIBLE. I might be masochistic enough to post it in the "deleted scenes" section of the website. I'm honestly not sure yet. (Actually, I wrote the poem as a college assignment. I wiggled out of doing something research-oriented by somehow convincing my teacher that I deserved to do a creative project instead. When I finished, I felt a little bit obliged to stick it in my current book, as I'd told my teacher I would. Sorry, Dr. Thursby, but. . .uh. . .it didn't make the final cut.)

Anyway, there was a point behind sticking the poem in the text, even if I completely overshadowed it by including so many lines of poetry. This section is really all we get in the book itself about Fjorden's past. As I've explained in the annotations, Fjorden switched to Shu-Dereth to do its conquering, relying on religion rather than armies. When they did so, they went back and rewrote many of their great classics. (Orwell would be proud of them.)

This is actually based on some events in our world. Some scholars think that Beowulf underwent similar revision, the monks who copied and translated it adding Christian symbolism to the text. After all, no great artist could possibly have been a true pagan. Everyone knows that Aristotle was a Christian–and he died before Christ was even born!

Elantris Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Also, "The Call of Elantris"—the name of Part Two—is probably the weakest of my three sub-titles. I liked "Shadow" and "Spirit" a lot, and I knew that I had to use something parallel. I named this one "Call" because of the way Hrathen and Sarene both end up getting tossed into the city, then end up using that event to their advantage. Raoden also deals with the "call" of the Dor inside himself during this section, overcoming that particular conflict

DragonCon 2019 ()
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DoritoJH

We know that there are spren that are partially of Honor, partially of Cultivation, and Odium. Can there be spren made of any combination of Shards?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. Well, you would have to call them... Under that definition if you call a seon a spren, then yes. If you don't call a seon a spren, if you define a spren as, "On Roshar, related to the natural world of Roshar," then no. Theoretically yes, but it wouldn't really work. But it depends on how you define spren. If a Shard were to come and reside on Roshar like the other ones have, then you could theoretically see other new spren appearing out of them.

DoritoJH

Could there be a spren of all 16 Shards combined all at once?

Brandon Sanderson

*hands out RAFO card*

General Reddit 2018 ()
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Jamester86

So something I've noticed in the fantasy genre that I love is that my 2 favorite authors (Sanderson and Rothfuss) don't use the traditional fantasy medieval setting (that I love) of castles, knights, feudalism etc. Now there are plenty of great authors that do (GRRMartin comes to mind as one that does it right), BUT the truth is, a good story eclipses all minor details like setting. An example I always give is that Patrick Rothfuss could write about brushing your teeth and it would make a fascinating read, and Sanderson would make an intriguing plot with amazing characterization throughout the dental hygiene experience. But I digress.

My question (If Brandon would be so kind as to show up, and if not, if anyone has any insight) is why; why doesn't the cosmere have any traditional medieval fantasy settings? Mistborn has keeps, but the society is not the traditional technology and setting of the medieval time period, nor do any of the other worlds given us.

Brandon Sanderson

There are both in-world reasons and writing reasons.

The writing reasons are obvious. I grew up on a steady diet of fantasy in a faux-medieval setting. I felt that some of these stories were really good, and enjoyed them--but at the same time, I felt the genre had been there and done that. In some ways, GRRM doing fantasy with the eye of a true medievalist provided a capstone to this era of fantasy.

When I sat down to write, didn't want to write what I was tired of reading. Dragonsteel (which never got published) was bronze age, White Sand was industrial, and Elantris was (kind of) Renaissance. (As you noticed, Mistborn is somewhere around 1820's. I modeled a lot of the society around the fascinating culture/industry of canals as shipping lanes that happened in England right before railroads took over.)

The other big reason, writing wise, is that I feel some of the magics that I enjoy dealing with in my settings need a certain near-industrial mindset to be interesting. The stories I want to tell are about people applying scientific principles to magic--and about the commodification and the economics of magic. Those are early-modern era stories.

The in-world reasoning I have is that on some of these planets, those eras existed--but the books are taking place when the stories of the worlds start smashing into one another. In addition, however, the Shards have an influence on this, because of things they saw happen on their own home planet.

Elantris Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Nine

This third "chapter triad" is the first one where I do a real intersection of the three viewpoints. Raoden sees Hrathen on the wall, Sarene and Hrathen spar, then Hrathen thinks about his run-in with Sarene on his way to the meeting with the noblemen.

I'm not sure if I'd ever want to use the chapter triad system again. It made all kinds of problems for writing the book. Almost everything else I've written has been strictly chronological–if you jump from one viewpoint, or one chapter, to the next, you're always progressing forward in time. By jumping backward in two chapters out of three, I gave myself some challenging pacing and coordination issues. For instance, the important events in each of the three storylines had to happen on generally the same days. Also, I had to rotate the chapters strictly, and so I couldn't just skip a character during a given time-frame. That meant I had to have important events happening in all three viewpoints all the time.

However, the benefits of this situation are moments like you see in this triad, where I could flow from one chapter to the next, having the timeframes play off of each other. You might have noticed from this triad that I had to fudge just a bit. Not all of the viewpoints happen at exactly the same time. The rule I set up for myself is that they had to all happen on the same day–preferably as close to overlapping each other as possible.

Elantris Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Prologue

I'm a very sequential writer. When I write a book, I usually start with the prologue and write straight through until I hit the epilogue. Though I can't remember for certain, I'm pretty sure that this prologue was the first thing I ever wrote for Elantris.

Back in those days, I didn't outline as much as I do now. When I first put fingers to keyboard, I really didn't know where this book was going to go. I had some vague idea of what I wanted it to be, but I didn't know how I was going to get there. However, this prologue really helped solidify things for me.

I love how it works in the story. It's quick, descriptive, and gives a marvelous outline of the magical setting of the book. It's also one of the most heavily-edited sections of the book. Moshe didn't like my original draft of it because he thought it was over-written. The original first line of the book was "Whispered are the days when Elantris was beautiful." I kind of still like this line better, but it may just be nostalgia. The line kind of has a faint. . .flowing quality to it. An etherealness.

Regardless, "Elantris was beautiful, once" made for a nice compromise. I'll probably post the entire, first-draft version of the prologue in the "deleted scenes" section of the website, if you want to compare.

Despite my preference for the old first line, I like the other changes we made to the prologue. Over all, it became more descriptive and easier to understand. It's a nice springboard to the story, and we've used it several places as a kind of quick teaser to get people to read the book.

(Including putting it on the back cover of the hardback.)

Elantris Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

This chapter introduces a couple of minor characters for Raoden's gang. One thing you'll notice here is the good-natured humor I include in the chapter. (Or, at least, I hope you found it humorous.) I had a real worry that Elantris would be too dark a book, considering the things that Raoden has to go through. That's why Galladon's character is so important. In my mind, Galladon fits the most basic definition of a humorous character–he is a juxtaposition. He is a pessimist from a culture of optimists. He is a foil to Raoden, yet at the same time his comedic pessimism lifts the story and points out just how ridiculous their situations are.

Galladon isn't simply comic relief–I have never used, and never intend to use, a comic-relief character. However, he allows for some farce and some fun-poking, which in turn lightens the air of what could otherwise be a very gloomy book. His relationship with Raoden proves that even in the hellpit of Elantris, things like friendship and trust can exist.

Because I have three separate storylines in this book, I have to move quickly. (Or, at least, quickly for me.) This allowed me to keep up the pacing, and to have a good amount of tension in every chapter. Of the three viewpoints, however, I think Raoden's chapters seem to move the quickest, though Hrathen has the smallest number of pages.

Elantris Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Sarene used to tap her cheek a lot more than she does in this draft. It was a quirk I designed for her at the beginning–a nervous habit I thought indicative of her personality. However, a lot of people found it distracting. They seemed to think that tapping the cheek was an odd behavior. (Just as a note, when she taps her cheek, I'm thinking of her folding her arms, with one hand raised contemplative, index finger resting on her cheek. I've been known to sit that way some times.)

Anyway, I took out many of the references. As Moshe said, "There's just too much tapping going on!"

Elantris Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

I worked for a while on the last line of Part Two. Originally, Hrathen thought to himself "Well, this isn't good." However, Moshe disagreed with that line. First, he thought it was too quippish. He wanted something more serious here. Second, he didn't think that these events were actually bad for Hrathen. Telrii, a man who had been giving Hrathen serious troubles, and Eondel, one of his main enemies, had just killed each other. On top of that, Roial—the main rival for the throne—is dead. All in all, a lot of annoying people are dead.

Moshe had a point, though I did disagree a bit. I think Hrathen would see Telrii's death as a wasted investment. He was still hoping to control the man, and having Telrii on the throne and amiable to Hrathen would have been a much better outcome, since it would leave Hrathen looking less powerless before Wyrn.

However, I went ahead and changed the line. It now reads "So much for avoiding a bloody revolution." It gets across the same ruefulness as before, without being as flippant.

Elantris Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-One

Some of the most fulfilling experiences in writing this book came from the Hrathen chapters. Though Joshua still occasionally complains that he finds Hrathen's internal monologues to be slow and ponderous, I find them essential to the plot. Chapters like this—chapters where we really get to see how Hrathen thinks—are what makes this book more than just a nice adventure story.

The section where Hrathen tries to appoint a new Head Arteth is a more recent addition to the book. I wanted to show the power Dilaf was beginning to have over Hrathen's work in the city, and thought that this made another nice little sub-conflict for Hrathen to deal with.

The chapter used to begin with Hrathen trying to send Dilaf away. Though I added some new information at the beginning, that particular scene is pretty much intact from the first draft. I do worry that some of Hrathen and Dilaf's posturings don't come across as well as they could. This exchange is a wonderful example—I haven't had time in the book to do as much explaining about the Derethi religion as I would like. Because of this, I have to explain Dilaf's move as he tries to perform it. This is always a weaker narrative structure than if the move itself is an obvious outflow from the dynamics of the world. If readers had understood just what an Odiv and a Krondet were, then all Dilaf would have to do is mention that he'd sworn a bunch of Odivs, and the reader would know what he was doing.

Even still, I like what happens here. For the first time, the book expressly shows that Dilaf is planning and working against Hrathen. Before, he's always been able to fall behind his excuse of, I was caught up in the moment. This, however, is an obviously planned maneuver intended to give him power over Hrathen.

Skyward Houston signing ()
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Questioner

Is the cosmere, the thread connecting several of your series, something that came from the beginning, or something that kind of grew?

Brandon Sanderson

What a great question! So the cosmere, which is the thread connects a lot of my books together. All of my epic fantasies are connected in this world called the cosmere. Was that from the beginning, or was it something that grew?

So I had, I often point to the fact that I had those years not getting published as a big advantage, because while I was working on those books, I didn't write the first ones as a connected shared universe. It was after I had done a number of them, that I'm like, "Hey, there's something here! There's a thread that I can weave together." But by the time I got published, I knew all of that right?

And so, like when I wrote Mistborn, which was my, the first book I wrote knowing it would get published. Elantris was my first published, it was number 6 in those years. I sat down specifically with Mistborn and built the cosmere, using some of these unpublished books as the history of what had happened. So from the get-go of reading it, it was all interconnected. Elantris got retrofitted a little bit, to fit in with this. From Mistborn is where it all kind of starts working together and things like that.

I was inspired to do this by authors I had read who did this really well, that I liked. Stephen King did it. Michael Moorcock did it. It really kind of blew my mind when Asimov connected the Robots and the Foundation books. Of course, you know, comics have been doing it forever. But when I saw authors doing it is what made me really excited. I would count those as inspiration.

Elantris Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixty-Two - Part Two

Raoden's Teleportation

I had to work very hard to make this one work. I think it turned out, but it is a little bit of a stretch. Hopefully, readers will go with me on this one because of the climactic feeling of the near-ending.

Regardless, I do think I gave Raoden all the pieces he needed here. Adien always existed in the book for this one moment–to give Raoden the length measurement he needed to go try to save Sarene. I've established that seons have perfect senses of direction, and I've talked about how to use Aon Tia. More importantly, I think I've established that this is something that Raoden would do. He gets just a shade foolhardy when Sarene is concerned. (It's all her fault.)

There is another important element to this teleportation. I thought it important to involve deity in the climax of what has been such an overtly religious book. You may not believe in God, and it is never my intention to belittle your choices. However, the format of this book has been one that dealt with religion and the way that people interact with their faith. And so, I took this last moment of the book, and gave Raoden an opportunity to call upon the aid of providence.

Raoden arrives safely, despite the odds against his having gotten the distance, direction, and other factors right. You are free to simply think of this as luck, if you wish.

Elantris Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

In these chapters, I had to be very careful during the Sarene viewpoints. As I was writing, I had a habit of accidentally referring to Raoden by his real name, rather than calling him Spirit. Sarene, of course, doesn't know who he really is. I found one place where I called him "Raoden" that somehow lasted all the way to the final edit–hopefully, that was the last one.

Elantris Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Part One Wrap-up

"The Shadow of Elantris." These section headings were added in the last real draft I did, while I was visiting my father in Massachusetts during the summer of '04. By then, the book's title had firmly been changed from The Spirit of Elantris to just Elantris. I knew I needed to divide the book into sections, and decided that I'd use "The Spirit of Elantris" as the final heading, as kind of a nod to the original title of the book.This presented me with several problems, however. First, I needed two more good sub-headings to go along with "The Spirit of Elantris." Second, I needed to find good places to divide the chapters. Because of the chapter triad system, I'd probably need to base my dramatic section cuts on Hrathen's chapters, since he came third in the rotation.

The Shadow of Elantris came easily as a title. It, of course, has reference to the first chapter, where Raoden looks out the window and feels like Elantris is looming over him. However, it's also a nice summary of the first section. Elantris looms over everything, dark and dirty, during the first section of the book. While we see the beginnings of light from Raoden's efforts in the city, they don't really come to much fruition.

If we throw out the nostalgia factor "Spirit" has going for itself, "Shadow" is my favorite of the three section titles.

Elantris Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixty-Two - Part Three

The Dakhor Monks

In the original write of the book, the Dakhor broke and ran before the Elantiran attack. My thought was that the Dakhor always been so much more powerful than their opponents that they didn't know what to do when faced with someone more powerful than they were. In a rewrite, however, I changed this. I'd spent too much time establishing that he Dakhor were fiercely loyal. I see them as fanatics–people who were either originally like Dilaf, or who became like him through their conditioning. They wouldn't break before a superior force–they'd attack it, even if it meant getting slaughtered.

This revision works far better for me–especially since I can have the scene where Dilaf wishes he could join them. Death is not something that scares a group like this.

Elantris Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Eight

Now we're getting into the most heavily-edited chapters of the book. From here, if you're curious about the Mad Prince version of the book, look in the "Deleted scenes" section. For the rest of the annotations, just realize that what the Mad Prince once did, Telrii now does. There is, of course, a lot of cut material–however, all of the essential elements of the plot still occur.

Basically, the Mad Prince gave aggravation and problems to Hrathen in these late chapters. He'd had so much success with his Elantris-poison plots that I knew I had to give him a few more wrinkles during these chapters. In the original draft, he instigated the arrival of the Mad Prince, then realized that he couldn't control what he'd unleashed.

These were all difficult edits. I still think the Mad Prince worked better in the role than Telrii does–however, the book as a whole works better without the Mad Prince in it. Sometimes you have to cut something good in order to achieve a better over-all effect.

General Reddit 2020 ()
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LewsTherinTelescope

How long after Warbreaker does Way of Kings take place? I know you usually don't finalize timeline details until they actually are stated in-book, but are you willing to say how far apart the books are, in the current plans?

Brandon Sanderson

I have Warbreaker happening a few generations before, right now.  However, I'm very likely to move Elantris up in time, so it's a little in the air at the moment.

LewsTherinTelescope

Thanks! I assume asking why Elantris being moved affects how far apart Warbreaker and Way of Kings are is a behind-the-scenes thing and/or RAFO?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, it does.  The big linchpin is going to be when I need Sel and Scadrial to align when big crossovers start happening.  We'll know in a few years; there are things I intend to write that I could imagine needing to change, after they're finished, that will influence the timeline structure.

The Hope of Elantris Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Holes in the Story

In any novel, there are decisions you make regarding what to put in and what to leave out. A lot of authors talk about the "iceberg" theory—that for any good book, there's a lot of story and worldbuilding beneath the surface that the author knows, but the reader never discovers. These things give weight and a foundation for the story you do see, allowing it to feel more real and more engaging because the author has thought through so much of what isn't stated.

In Elantris, there are a couple of these holes. Places where I knew what was happening offscreen, but decided that I couldn't talk about it in the book. In this novel, there were generally two reasons for these holes. One was if I couldn't get a viewpoint character into the right location at the right time; the chapter triad format earned me a lot of things, but also constrained me sometimes. At the end of the book, however, the triad system fell apart on purpose, and so I could show random other viewpoints. In the case of what was happening with the children in Elantris, however, I decided that there was already too much happening during the climax, and these sections were the ones that had to be cut.

So I knew what was going on inside Elantris when the attack by the Dakhor came. In the back of my mind, I also knew that the children were saved and protected by Dashe and Ashe the seon, kept from being slaughtered in the attack. I didn't want them to fall like the others; Karata had worked so hard to protect them, and letting the children not have to suffer through the slaughter at New Elantris was my gift to her. A kind of compensation for her own sacrifice at the end of the novel.