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The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#51 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Six

Talking Scenes

I realize that my books contain an awful lot of scenes where people stand around talking to each other. I try to keep them moving as much as possible, changing scenery, making the dialogue dramatic, allowing the characters to make conclusions and decisions. But, at the core, my stories consist of a lot of people discussing and weighing options in their heads.

I worry that sometimes I need to make things a little faster paced. I wanted to avoid too much of Elend brooding. In fact, one of the earliest rewrites of the book I did (one I did before I finished the novel, which is rare—I usually don't rewrite until I finish the rough draft) was done specifically to make Elend a more active character. In that same rewrite, I tried very hard to work out his character arc. (It just hadn't been working in the first draft.)

This was what I came up with. The emperor who knows he will end up having to make a very difficult decision, and fearing that he'll do what's right for his people—even if it seems morally wrong at the time. I didn't want to have many chapters of him brooding, but that sort of decision can't be off-the-cuff. For his character to work, I needed him to wrestle with the question—even go back and forth on it, as we as people often do.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#52 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The Storage Caches

One of the major revisions I made to the book during drafting was to reduce the number of storage caches. Originally I'd planned for eleven or twelve. The one here in Vetitan was still going to be the penultimate, with Fadrex being the last—the team just would have discovered more of them between books.

I changed this in order to make the cache in Fadrex seem more important. I wanted to get across the idea that taking that city was vital to the plans and goals of the team, and making it have one of five caches instead of one of twelve seemed to help with that.

In the first draft, the major draw of the final cache was the hope that it contained atium. But I realized that atium just wasn't that useful anymore—or, at least, many of the reasons it might have been useful are no longer important to the characters. Vin's instinct is right—the atium is more important than it might seem at first, but the original draft made it look like they were chasing a hope for something that wasn't even very useful. So, during revisions, I inserted Elend's acknowledgment that they don't really need atium, and I also added Vin's instinct that it's vital. We'll see how this plays out.

Of course, the reason Vin has an instinct that atium is vital is because of Ruin's touch on her emotions, driving her to seek out the final cache, where Ruin himself hopes to find that atium. To him, Vin and Elend are just another pair of pawns—in some ways more useful than Inquisitors because they don't even know they're following his goals. Ruin isn't sure if these caches will have the atium—he's in fact rather suspicious that this is a ruse of the Lord Ruler—but he's willing to dedicate some resources to the possibility, hence what he did to send Elend and Vin searching out the caches. He worries that there will be some kind of guard set at the final cache or the atium that has been told to watch for Inquisitors and keep them away, and he feels that using Vin and Elend is both more clever and potentially more effective than just sending an Inquisitor.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#53 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Nine

Nothing is worse than trying so hard to do the right thing, then discovering that it was the worst thing you could have done.

I wrote this final chapter to be a slight upswing in the plot so that we wouldn't end on such a sour note. No, I didn't kill Elend. I sure wanted you to think that I would, but I never planned to. I had always intended them to discover where the first Mistborn had come from when they reached the Well of Ascension, and this bead of metal is very important to the cosmology of Scadrial and, indeed, the entire overarching story of my books as a whole .

Elend was intended to become Mistborn from the very early stages of this book's development. So, I figured I ought to do something to him that would make him NEED to be Mistborn. Why did I want to make Elend Mistborn? I know it bothered some readers. I felt I'd explored his character as well I could in this book, and I needed something to upset the balance–tenuous as it is–that he'd arrived at here. He's not going to replace Vin–you'll see in the next book that Elend as a Mistborn doesn't change as much as you might think. But it does put him in new situations, and those situations allow him to progress as a character in the way I felt he needed to.

Anyway, this will make for a very interesting book three. Also, the mist spirit–now, maybe, you can see a little of what it was trying to do. It was struggling to find a way to get Vin to NOT go to the Well of Ascension. Giving hints to Sazed, scaring her, threatening Elend, pointing in the opposite direction. However, it is rather hampered in what it can do, as we'll find in the next book.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#54 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Epilogue

And so, the circle is complete. Sazed returns to the south and visits the Conventical again, Elend returns to the city wall.

Hopefully, I revealed this well enough for you to understand what you need to in order to make this book work. There are a lot of holes, I know. I've already apologized for that–we'll answer all of them in book three.

For now, understand that something was imprisoned, and it hijacked the Terris religion–the prophesies–and used the Well of Ascension to get free.

Book three is about the real theme of these books. Survival. It's going to be a tough road.

As a wrap up, I guess I'll say that for me, this book was about Vin and Elend testing and proving their standards. In the beginning, they both made certain determinations about themselves and what they wanted to accomplish. Elend intended to make a good government and not be an exception to his own rules.

Vin intended to love the good, kind man of Elend rather than the man of the street–the hard, strict man that was Kelsier. (See Chapter Ten, where Vin snuggles in the chair with Elend, for an in-dialogue outline of her belief system for this book. This is the offering of the challenge. The trial comes later.) They are both tested, then, in these assertions–Elend by losing his throne, Vin by being forced to take a long hard look at her own heart and what she really wanted. To her, Zane represented the past. Did she return to that, or did she look forward to the hope–and the future–that Elend represented?

They both hold strong. That's the true victory of this book. The release of Ruin disregarded, this book marks great success for the characters. They were tested in their absolute most vital of personal convictions, and they passed. This prepared them for the final book. Now that they'd proven their ideals, they could bear the weights and griefs of the empire.

Of course, there is also Sazed. One of my goals in writing this book was to fix Elend and Vin. But another big one was to break Sazed. While they held firm to who they were, he has been forced to reassess his convictions, and he finds them wanting. Chapter fifty-four was one of the saddest chapters for me, personally, to write. In many ways, Elend and Vin have nearly completed their arcs as characters. But Sazed and Spook have just begun. And that is what leads us into Book Three.

17th Shard Forum Q&A ()
#55 Copy

Arcanist

According to [Sanderson's Second Law of Magic] your characters have flaws, weaknesses. What is the reason, that in a lot of them (Vin, Elend, Kaladin, Dalinar, Spook, etc) the most significant weakness is the lack of self-confidence?

Brandon Sanderson

It's because of mode-shifting. The people you noted have been doing one thing for a long time, and are now forced into something else. The self confidence is a side effect of that. However, I wouldn't say it's the primary character attribute for any of them, however. I think you're blanketing self confidence as a larger issue, when it's the smaller part of something larger for each character.

Vin: Trusting Others

Elend: Idealism

Dalinar: Conflict between the killer he was and the man he wishes to be.

Spook: Self Worth

BookCon 2018 ()
#56 Copy

Questioner

How do you think Elend would deal being on Roshar with the fact that men can't read?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh man, he would have so much trouble with that. He'd have huge problems... Though he wouldn't look Alethi to them,  they'd be like, "Oh the Shin do weird things."

Skype Q&A ()
#57 Copy

RenegadeShroom

Can you tell us anything about Elend's mother; her name, the house she was born into, that kind of thing?

Brandon Sanderson

I could, but I don't have the notes handy and it's been a long time. So that one's a "if you can catch me when I have the notes open", then yes, but it is very important to him, not relevant to the overarching story terribly much.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#58 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn Tropes, Kelsier and Elend's Leadership Styles

As I mentioned previously with giving Vin a "sidekick" in each book, there are other cycles that I've tried to use in each of the three novels in order to give them a sense of cohesion. I felt this was important because of how different the themes of each book are, and I wanted to give a sense and reminder that they were all in the same series together.

In this case, we have the "discuss the plan" scene. The first of these is the most obvious, back in book one. Kelsier leads this one with the chalkboard and talks everyone through the plan to overthrow the Lord Ruler.

In book two, we had the scene where Elend presented his plan to play Cett and Straff against each other. Now, in book three, we have the discussion of the mists closing in and the team's goals of capturing the two remaining powerhouse cities.

I like the comparison between these three scenes and what they say about Elend and Kelsier. In book one, Kelsier's plan is pretty much already in his head—he says that he wants to discuss things with his team and get ideas from them, but if you pay attention it's clear that he manipulates the conversation into going with the plan he wants. He offers one form of leadership.

In book two, Elend's meeting is a near disaster. He arrives late and tells them about his plan—only to find out that the crew already has their own plan. He then has to talk, wiggle, and persuade to get them to go with the plan he's come up with.

In book three, you have Elend the emperor. Gone is the guessing and insecurity. This is the plan presented by a man at war to his troops and advisors. He asks for ideas, then takes them and puts people to work on them. He presents his goals clearly and expects them to be accepted.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#59 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Two

Elend Organizes Off Duty Troops to Salvage

Hopefully, this sort of thing is what you've been waiting the entire book to see from Elend. He's finally acting like a king; making decisions, being in control, doing something. It comes too late to save his throne, but it will do a world of good for his people.

In this, I think I was successful in the book. Elend didn't win the struggle for the throne. He's not king. However, he won the struggle with himself. There was a cost to his idealism, but he gained much more than he lost.

You might want to note the Goradel cameo here. He's a character I use a lot more in book three, so I wanted him to at least show up in this book.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#60 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eighty-One - Part Three

Elend's Death

I rewrote Elend's death scene a number of times. In the first draft, it happened much more quickly. He and Marsh met, Elend's atium ran out, and Marsh cut him down. Elend always got his "we've won" line, but Human wasn't getting viewpoints, so we didn't cut there. Nor did we have Vin fuel Elend's metals or have him burn duralumin and atium at the same time.

I just felt he needed more. Part of this was due to the reactions of alpha readers, and part of it was due to my own desire to make his last scene more dramatic. I wanted there to be a closeness between him and Vin at the end, and I also had too many people asking what would happen if you burned duralumin and atium at the same time to ignore that possibility.

So, I rewrote several times, eventually landing at this version. As for why I killed him . . . well, for the same reason that I kill any character in one of my books. It just felt like the right thing to do. It's hard to explain when we get down to specifics like this. On one hand, the rational side of me can explain that there need to be casualties to make victory worth something, and Vin needed to lose Elend so that she'd be willing to do what she had to in order to kill Ruin. Logic says that this book was about Vin and Elend defeating Ruin no matter what the cost to themselves, and allowing them to give their lives for the victory was noble and completed their character arcs.

Emotion, however, is what drove me—not logic. It just felt like the right thing to do. It was the right ending for the book. Now, I could have chosen a different ending. I know that I could have. It would have felt contrived to me, and would have lacked bite. Yet perhaps readers would have liked it better. I honestly don't know what doing this (killing both of my main characters) will do to my readership and if people will still want to buy my books after this. The founder and president of Tor Books, I know, would have preferred that I didn't kill my two main characters.

But in the end, I went with what I knew was the better ending. By doing this, at the very least I've earned something. From now on, readers will know that nobody is safe in my books—and that will create tension, will make the novels feel more real. (Note that I didn't do this because I wanted to make readers feel that way. It's just a side effect.)

Either way, this is where this book was pushing from the beginning. Vin and Elend followed in Kelsier's footsteps. They were both ready to give their lives, and in doing so, saved those they love. In my opinion, that's not a tragic or sad ending. It's just an honest one.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#61 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Cett Suddenly reveals himself at the Assembly Meeting

Elend does need to learn a few things still. To be truthful, I think he's too honest to be a king. There are times when, as a king, I think you need to lie in order to comfort your people. You don't tell the dying man that he has no hope for survival. You don't let a man like Cett bully you into admitting that your Allomancer has been manipulating the audience.

But, well, Elend is Elend. He does things the way that he feels he must, even if it gets him into trouble. Actually, in that way, he and Cett are very similar. They do what they feel they must.

/r/fantasy AMA 2011 ()
#62 Copy

Remagoen

When plotting a series of books, how do you account for plot changes you didn't foresee you had to do? For instance, I read that Elend was originally going to be a minor character, but the end of Mistborn wouldn't have been the same without him. How did you work him into the plot later on without breaking the story?

Brandon Sanderson

After I wrote the first book, and Elend grew more important in my mind, I reworked the three-book-outline. Usually, when I build a series, I spend a lot of time on the first book and then have a few paragraphs on the rest. Then, after finishing the first book and seeing how it worked (and how the tone was) I go and do much more in-depth outlines for the rest of the series.

When the first book is happening, things are much more 'anything goes' as I don't have any established canon yet. I allow myself to toss the rest of the outlines out the window, and just try to make the first book the best it can be. From there, I have continuity, and I feel it is important to maintain that for the integrity of the series.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#63 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Elend and Vin discuss his loss of the throne

Elend is going to be tested. That's one of the things I wanted to do with this book. In my previous two novels–Elantris and Mistborn–I gave the heroes relatively easy times. Or, well. . .maybe not easy. However, the fact remains that when they stayed true to their ideals, the things they tried tended to be successful.

I want to show that ideals can be a hindrance. That isn't a reason not to have them, but it is an aspect of trying to do the things Elend is. There are a lot of people out there who will take advantage of a person who tries to do the right thing, and that can make doing the right thing the more difficult choice a lot of the time.

I also like how Elend is progressing as a leader, but I made certain to give a throwback to the old Elend in this chapter so that you'd know he was still there. Vin's observations about this point are quite accurate.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#64 Copy

Questioner

Are there differences in pronunciation between the different worlds in the cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

Do you have any record of that?

Brandon Sanderson

So, it depends on the culture and things like that, what it's going to be like. You can kind of bet in Mistborn it's going to be French, if it's from the Central Dominance. So they'll say "Kelsi-ay" and "De-MOH" but where Elend's from is a lot more Germanic so "EE-lend" "STRAHFF" and stuff like that. The other worlds are all going to have their different things. In Roshar you are going to get some of the "YAS-nah kHo-LIN" it's going to be a little more Semitic in its language family.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#65 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty

Elend is already progressing nicely as a king. There's a lot more time passing in here than I'm showing–lots of training and lessons. One of my worries is that Elend will develop too quickly. However, considering the situation he's in, I suspect that he knows he has to either adapt quickly or be destroyed. A few tense months can really change a person a lot.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#66 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vin comes to tell Elend what she's discovered.

The way Elend treats Vin in this chapter puts a few people on edge. If you're in that group, realize that I want you to feel this. And, not just for plotting purposes. I just think it's more realistic.

People get tired. People have trouble focusing. And people treat even those they love with indifference sometimes. This is particularly bad of people like myself–men who are quick to get focused on one project or another. I've done things just like this to my wife, unintentionally ignoring her because I am so tied up in my current project.

It's not a good thing, but it IS natural and normal. Unfortunately, it prompts something very important: the return of Reen's whispering voice in the back of Vin's mind. She's been free of him for a long time now, but I thought it appropriate to bring him back. After all, that voice–partially a representation of her subconscious–was a large part of her character in the first novel.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#67 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Eight

The Lord Ruler's Final Message

This plaque from the Lord Ruler was very difficult to write. Originally it was much shorter, but I expanded it during the last draft because I felt it was just too useless. Even still, it doesn't say much. And that's the problem.

I was always intending the Lord Ruler's final plate to contain no answers. It works into my themes for this series—this was the "quest" book playing off the epic fantasy ideal of the powerful object that must be discovered and used to fight the evil. Except that this time, I wanted them to get to the place they'd been questing toward and find it empty, with no answers from the Lord Ruler. I felt this would only heighten the sense of hopelessness the characters are feeling in trying to fight Ruin.

The problem is, rereading this plate I realize that I've done exactly what I wanted—but that it's also a really, really big letdown. I hate letting down readers. It feels like breaking promises. After consideration I think this is still the best thing to do, but I wish I'd found another way to deal with this.

Note that the circle with a dot here is completely lost on Vin. The size of the circle in relation to the text around it, and some numerical clues scribbled around the perimeter of the circle, are indications of the size of a scale map it should be placed upon. If placed the right way, the dot will point directly at the Pits of Hathsin.

Vin's awesome, but she's barely got a basic education. A complex mathematical puzzle like that one is completely lost on her. If Elend had had the time to study the plate, he might have figured out where it was pointing. There wasn't time, however.

The Lord Ruler did leave a very important clue on this plate. However, I feel that obscure clues like this are deciphered far too often in books like this one. I think realistically if you're going to leave a clue like that, chances are good that it will end up getting missed or misunderstood. Which is exactly what happened here.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#68 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Elend Nominates Penrod

I hope that this chapter feels thick with some good political wrangling. Elend pulls of some fairly good maneuvers here, especially considering how far he's come. True, he was coached in a lot of what he did here, but the fact remains that he's learning and growing.

Vin and Breeze give him a little TOO much credit for getting Penrod to nominate him, however. While Elend hoped that by nominating Penrod, he would get a nomination in return, he wasn't counting on it too much. No, in this case, Elend's basic goodness was simply being manifest. He figured that if not a single one of the Assembly was willing to nominate him to be king, he had no right to nominate himself. Better to let the matter die here than force a vote when nobody was even willing to consider him for king.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#69 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Vin waits for Elend to reveal his plan before the Assembly

I had to do a couple of drafts of Elend's "It doesn't change things" section with Vin. I didn't want to reveal his plan–I wanted Vin to work through it–but I also didn't want it to seem TOO forced that he didn't tell her.

I settled on this, which I think has a nice balance. However, you're in dangerous territory as a writer any time you have characters conveniently forget to tell each other things–or when you keep viewpoints characters plans and schemes back from the reader.

I have a history of fudging these things a tad in this series. I don't give myself that much leeway in all of my books–but I figured with the Kelsier "Real Plan" surprise I had in the last book, I have established that the characters don't always tell the reader every single thing they're plotting.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#70 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-One - Part Two

Being a Leader

Elend has always been a man prone to self-examination. I think it's one of the marks of a true scholar. In book one, he constantly compared himself to Kelsier. In this book, he no longer worries about trying to fill Kelsier's shoes. Instead, he worries that he is filling the Lord Ruler's shoes.

The themes of what it means to lead, and what is required of a leader, are fascinating to me. In fantasy books, we can deal with these themes on a macroscopic scale. But that's the epic format. These books let us deal with issues in exaggerated ways, which makes them easier to talk about and reference. Just like a doctor might look at microbes under a microscope to see them in a larger way, we expand and blow up our issues—giving them epic scope—to make them easier to handle and explain.

So, in a way, Elend's conflict here is an application of real-world issues. The fear of failure, the difficulty of living up to expectations, and what it means to lead and be followed.

He has a lot to work through, and one of the earliest problems I had in writing this book was dealing with how I wanted to show Elend's progression as a character. I eventually did a rewrite where I focused primarily on him and his motivations, though many of those edits don't come to light until later in the novel.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#71 Copy

DammyJerry

Have you ever thought (just for fun) which KR Order your characters for other books would fit the best? Like, Sazed is Bondsmith, Kelsier is probably Skybreaker.

Which Rosharian Shard, Honor, Cultivation or Odium, better fits with Dalinar's personality?

Brandon Sanderson

I'd agree with the other commenter that Kelsier isn't much of a Skybreaker. But picking orders would depend on what point in the person's life we're talking, and the situation. It's not a hard-fast rule.

For example, young Dalinar is very Odium. Modern Dalinar is very Honor.

Seifersythe

What about Magic: The Gathering color alignments?

Like, would Kelsier be Red/White or Red/Black?

Brandon Sanderson

Kelsier is blue/black. Vin is Red/green. Sazed is white/green--with arguments for mono-white. Elend is red white. The LR is white/black.

mithrilnova

This actually surprises me a lot. I would have expected Sazed to be Bant-colored, and Elend seems much bluer than he does red.

Brandon Sanderson

Actually, I don't know why I said red/white for Elend. Must have been answering quickly. You're right, blue/white is a better match for him. Ham is red/white.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#72 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

It was extremely important that Elend reject Vin in this chapter. I worry that I got a little bit into convenient motivations in this chapter–I always hate it when men and women have relationship problems in book simply because it's the place in the story for things to go wrong. Weak conflict–something a friend of mine calls "Deus Ex Wrench" is a problem with most romantic comedies.

Better to have realistic, rather than feigned, tension. I hope that I was able to manage that in this chapter. Elend is being almost completely honest with his emotions here–he has just discovered that Vin was lying to him all along. Rather than feeling bitter, however, he feels like a fool. He's realized that the game was playing him all along, and he's disappointed to find that Vin is part of it. That, in turn, persuades him that he should just give in and do his duty to his house.

And so, he turns her away. The vital part of this all, of course, is that it gives Vin the chance to love him–and protect him–even though he's rejected her. This is perhaps the most important step for Vin in the entire book. She's learning the things that Kelsier talked about, the truth that she needed. With this in hand, she can trust people, even knowing that they might betray her.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#73 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Four - Part Two

Kelsier saving Elend in this chapter was indeed something of a homage to Les Miserables. It is one of my favorite classics, and Elend's own character—with his group of idealistic noble friends—was partially inspired by Marius and his cohorts. I wasn't originally going to have Elend in this scene, but I decided to throw him in and give Kelsier the opportunity to save him, partially as an inside reference to the story that inspired him, and partially to let Kelsier do something truly selfless as a final send-off before he died.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#74 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

OreSeur and Vin discuss their interview with Dockson

This series, in total, is about trust. About what it costs to trust people, and what you earn by trusting. In book one, Vin learned to trust–and she learned one of Kelsier's prime beliefs. That it's better to trust, and be betrayed, than to always worry about everyone around you.

The theme, then, for this book is service and friendship, and trusting those you serve. Elend has to earn the trust of his people. Vin has to earn the trust of the kandra who serves her.

OreSeur's explanations about the Contract are mixed with Zane's worries and problems with being Straff's tool. This story is, in part, about what it's like to serve–what it's like to be a tool–and the difference between a good leader and a bad one.

A Memory of Light Birmingham Signing ()
#75 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

Why did you have to kill Vin and Elend?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

They demanded that they be allowed to take the chance they did. And I just let them take the chance. I didn't kill them, I just let them take the chance that they demanded that I let them take. That's kind of a cop-out answer, I'm sorry, but that's what it feels like to me. And if I always make it so that there are no consequences, then the books have no heart.

Shadows of Self Portland signing ()
#76 Copy

Questioner

I was reading Shadows of Self and i think his name is Douglas Venture, how does that work out. I'm not quite sure. I know, so, Elend is not around anymore and I know his dad wasn't the nicest of people, so is he like a direct descendant?

Brandon Sanderson

He is not a direct descendant of Elend. The Ventures were an entire house, so there would have been dozens and dozens of them.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#77 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Elend Thinks about Losing his Kingship on his Balcony.

I love this Elend scene, with him up on the balcony, thinking. It is poetic in the way that I like to be poetic–a person, alone with their thoughts, wrestling with their own ideas and motivations. I think there's some very beautiful language here, but not in a traditional poetry sense. In the way that it accents Elend's character.

He does, however, completely misunderstand Vin. I know it's a bit of an overused plot device–the man misunderstanding the woman, and the woman in turn misunderstanding the man. But the truth is, we write about it so much because it's so true. When my wife and I were dating, we each had the toughest time deciding if the other was interested. We were both terrible at interpreting each other, even though we both wanted the same thing.

We managed to get through it and get married.