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The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#52 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Elend Returns and Gets the Letter Deposing Him

And, finally Elend gets deposed. I worry about this plot twist coming out of nowhere, though it is quite well foreshadowed. Elend mentions at one point that the Assembly can choose new kings. He's missed several of their meetings, and–because of his earlier proposition–they can't do anything about the armies until he decides to let them.

That put a lot of pressure on the Assembly, and they were made to feel irrelevant. There are, of course, other forces pushing and pulling at the Assembly–and you'll find out about those later.

Elend made a big mistake here. He was so busy being king that he forgot he himself had set up a constitutional monarchy. His enemies DIDN'T forget about this fact. In Elend's defense, both Straff and Cett have a lot more experience with leadership than he does.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#53 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Fatren's Viewpoint

I knew early on that I'd need to start with a viewpoint from someone we haven't seen before. I thought that someone fresh would allow us to get a distinct sense of what has happened to the world in the months since the end of book two. The viewpoints of the main characters would be clouded by events—I wanted someone who could show us what was really happening.

That meant using a skaa peasant in one of the outlying cities. I wanted to show a different slice of life and indicate how hard things were. In addition, I felt I wanted to hit right away on the fact that this book would be about the world ending.

Hence we have Fatren. I toyed with making him a main character, but I eventually discarded that idea. I think this is the only chapter from his viewpoint. I hate to use a throwaway viewpoint so early in the book, but the alternative—making him a main character just to avoid having a throwaway viewpoint—was a bad idea. We already have too much to focus on with Elend, Vin, Spook, TenSoon, Sazed, and Marsh all being major viewpoint characters in the novel.

Adding TenSoon, Marsh, and Spook gave us enough that was new in the way of viewpoints. We didn't need Fatren—except for this first scene. Here, we get to see Elend from an outside perspective, and I think this does an excellent job of providing contrast—both against the hopelessness of the world and against the Elend that readers have in their head.

He's changed, obviously. The beard and rugged looks are meant to indicate a year spent fighting koloss and leading humankind as it struggles against extinction. Using Fatren's viewpoint gave me a powerful way to update the world and explain what's changed. I'm pleased with how he turned out.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#54 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.

/r/fantasy AMA 2011 ()
#55 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 ()
#56 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Eight

Vin and Elend's Marriage

A very simple wedding, all things considered. I found that appropriate, as I though that Sazed would approach such things in the most elegant–but simple–way possible.

This is also kind of a strange scene, when you think about it. I write myself into some interesting situations in this series. I don't know that I before this moment, I'd ever thought I would be writing a wedding involving a half-naked eighteen year old girl who is bleeding from three wounds, one in one of her breasts.

Some people have complained that this is just too quick a marriage. One thing to remember is what Sazed explains. For a thousand years, the only way to get married was to get the witness of an Obligator. Even for skaa, an obligator was required to authorize a wedding. And that's ALL it took. If an obligator said you were married, then you were. Sometimes, the nobility or the skaa had their own ceremonies surrounding a wedding, but they were more civil than religious. In fact, it's a tiny bit of a stretch to even have Elend associate a wedding with religion.

Of all the people in the book–heck, in this entire world–Sazed is probably the closest thing to a real spiritual leader one could find. In that way, Vin and Elend were quite fortunate to have his blessing. Breeze and Allrianne, for instance, didn't bother with a wedding. Now that the Lord Ruler is gone, those sorts of things have lost a lot of meaning–if, indeed, there ever was any meaning to them in this society.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#58 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 ()
#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 Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#60 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Elend Discovers that the Koloss have been left to Destroy, then Elend Executes Jastes

And here we have the scene where Elend Kills Jastes. This, more than anything, is a sign to Elend of the way the real world works. This chapter is a sign of innocence lost, and a measure of the price of idealism. Elend will never be the same man after this.

Some of my alpha readers rebelled against this scene, but–unlike the scene where Kelsier used Demoux to kill a man in book one–I decided not to cut it. This event says too much about what has happened to Elend, and it means too much to his character. However, I did arrange things a little differently. In the original draft, Elend struck and killed Jastes, then explained why he did it. In this version, he outlines Jastes' sins first, then takes his head off.

Now, finally, Elend and Vin have discovered Sazed's lies. Did you wonder about him sending the two of them off to climb the mountain in the winter? Spook was around to stop that, in case you were wondering.

And yes, Spook knew. Considering how long it took Vin to get over the fact that OreSeur knew about Kelsier's plan to die, you can imagine that she's not soon going to forgive Spook for this one. In his defense, he was pulled about between some very strong emotions and motivations, not the least of which being his uncle explaining that if he DIDN'T go, nobody would be there to explain the truth to Vin and Elend and keep them from trekking all the way to Terris. Besides, Spook didn't want to die, and this path offered him an escape. Can you blame him?

He'll blame himself. Book Three.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#61 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Sazed Watches Vin Defeat Straff's Army

Sazed's scene here was one that I rewrote a couple of times. He watches the battle and doesn't participate. He was particularly hard to write here. He's got so much going on inside of him–he just lost Tindwyl, and with her went his faith. But, at the same time, he is expected to be a part of things–and his natural curiosity still makes him wonder if Vin is the Hero of Ages.

The thing is, Sazed doesn't really believe in the Hero of Ages any more. So, the trick I had was how to make him perceive the scene here? Lacking faith, yet still curious? It was a difficult line to walk.

Elend becomes emperor despite all of his attempts to set up a democracy. He has the throne given to him by force. In a way, this isn't exactly betraying his wishes to let the people do what they want. Elend deserves this throne. Cett came looking for someone to follow, Elend is actually the rightful Venture heir to Straff's army, and Penrod. . .well, he was made a subject king beneath Elend, so he didn't really lose his throne.

It's a stretch, I know, and the Elend at the beginning of this book never would have accepted it. The Elend at the end, however, will take it and do his best for the people as emperor. Even if it hurts him to do so.

17th Shard Forum Q&A ()
#63 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

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#64 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Elend reveals that he's joined the Church of the Survivor

Unfortunately, this entire chapter is a big mallet driving the wedge down between Vin and Elend. The next chapters are why I had to make sure I established their relationship earlier in the book, so that readers would hope for them to stay together as the novel progressed. However, I suspect that at least a few readers are pulling for the Vin/Zane thing to work out.

Either way, it's better–narratively, and character-wise–to have Vin figure out Elend's plan on her own. It gives her the chance to show how she's grown. She sees things like a politician. Though she's hard on herself, she knows a lot more about these things–and is a better match for Elend–than she gives herself credit.

I actually think this is a clever, clever move. Elend has done a lot of work for the skaa, but he's never really worked to make himself seem like one of them. This establishes him as on their side, solidly–but also gives him a kinship with them. He doesn't worship the Lord Ruler. He worships their god. That gives him a lot of credibility with them.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#65 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Why would Elend bring a dangerous book like this one to the ball? We'll talk a little bit about that in the next chapter. However, I can offer some further insight.

The thing is, Elend goes and meets with his friends after balls, and they discuss political theory and the like. Elend is the leader of those meetings, and guides the discussions, and so he feels that he needs to be ready to present interesting ideas and arguments to keep the conversation going. That's why he's always reading at balls and taking notes–he's getting ready for the night's meeting. He's the type who is always preparing, right up to the last minute (I'm the same way.)

So, it makes sense for him to bring the books he wants to talk about with him to the ball. He's been sheltered, and doesn't really believe that he'll ever get in trouble for what he reads, and so he has a habit of being careless with his reading material. Hence, we end up with him in a room full of obligators and nobility, reading a banned book.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#66 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Seven

Vin Wonders If She's Mad

I love Vin's paragraph on deciding if she's mad or not. Zane spent his entire adult life debating this issue, trying to determine whether he was really insane or not and trying to figure out how much of the world around him was a fabrication of his broken mind. Vin? She gives herself a couple of seconds to consider, realizes that if she's mad, there's no way to know, and decides the line of reasoning is useless.

On occasion Vin complains that she's a creature of instinct and not logic—but that's not the right way to put it. She's very logical—far more so than most scholars, I'd say. She just doesn't like to dwell on things and debate them. Present facts to her, and she'll accept them.

In a way, she's literal and concrete—which are the most basic of logical philosophies, I'd say. Elend is abstract. He likes to consider and rationalize. Think around problems, rather than face them head on. But he's logical too.

Perhaps their love of hard facts is part of what draws them together.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#67 Copy

Questioner

So I'm in the middle of Hero of Ages, and I'm noticing there are constant parallels between Vin and the Hero of Ages and Elend and the Lord Ruler?

Brandon Sanderson

That's done intentionally.

Questioner

Is it going to hurt?

Brandon Sanderson

Is the ending going to hurt? The ending is the right ending. It's going to be satisfying, but it also might hurt.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#68 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The Inscription on the Cache's Steel Plate

The Lord Ruler's words here are probably the most altruistic things he wrote in his entire life. Elend worries sometimes that he's becoming like the Lord Ruler, and the truth is that—in part—he is. The difference is that the Lord Ruler started out as a spiteful, petty man and learned through the power he held to be more responsible with it. Elend was a good-hearted, idealistic man—and leadership tempered him into someone a little more realistic.

I guess I'm saying that power doesn't always have to corrupt. In many ways, I think it can change a man for the better.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#69 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirteen - Part Two

This Elend scene here is almost a direct parallel of the scene in book one where Kelsier first introduces the plan to his people. Elend has a much harder time of it. In fact, this scene–in conjunction with the scene with the Assembly–is supposed to establish Elend as what he is: a man with great ideas, but poor leadership techniques. He's brilliant and scholarly, but he doesn't know how to get people to do what he wants.

This is reflected in his speech patterns, and has been since book one. He likes to use the phrase "Now, see," followed by an observation. He doesn't command, and when he argues, he uses very passive sentences. All of this is–hopefully–makes your subconscious see him in a certain way.

The only reason he convinces the crew to go along with them is 1) he's right, they like to gamble, and this is the type of plan they like and 2) they already know him, and his ideas have earned a measure of trust from them.

When necessary, Elend CAN give a brilliant speech. He can make people dream and hope. He just isn't good at arguing, and is rather poor at being a dictator.

This scene, by the way, is another substantially rewritten one. I focused a lot more on the idea that the crew was going to have to deal with a long siege in the rewrites.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#71 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

This is a short scene, but one of the more important ones to show off a little character development in Elend. He is beginning to see some of the truth in Tindwyl's words.

Pulling off a transformation like his was one of the great challenges of this book. Actually, the plot was pretty easy–but getting Elend and Vin's relationship down, along with the development of both of their characters, was much more difficult. It takes a subtle hand to make Elend learn to be a king without having him progress too quickly, and I'm not sure how well I did it.

Vin's development–showing off her inner distrust without making her seem paranoid or making their relationship seem shallow–was even tougher.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#73 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Four

Breeze and Clubs watch the Army go

This is supposed to feel like everything is falling apart. I like that Elend doesn't see how much danger he's in now that one of the armies is retreating–as clever as Elend is, Clubs is the expert on warfare. Elend is an optimist; he finds it hard to look at the bad side of things. To him, an army leaving is good.

Still, even he knows that they're losing control. A battle is coming, and where it does, Luthadel–and those within it–will be in serious trouble.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#74 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

On a more serious note, this section contains some of the more lengthy additions to the rewrite. Elend's speech, and the arguments against it, were all added in the very last draft. As I said before, the first draft had Elend giving a much different proposal, as the army hadn't arrived yet.

This works TONS better. I worry that Elend comes off a little too strong–or, well, not weak enough–in this scene. I originally included it to show some of his faults as a leader. However, other readers have indicated that they thought he came off as too weak. Even if this is a book about Elend becoming a leader (or, at least, that’s a big chunk of the novel) he doesn't have to quite as hopeless as I originally painted him.

So, perhaps we've got a good balance going on here.

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.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#76 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 ()
#77 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Elend talks to Tindwyl, then returns to his room and puts his uniform on.

Elend's relationship with Tindwyl cracks me up. That is all.

During this conversation between the two Terrismen and Elend, I think Sazed speaks my philosophy on characters and writing. They have to do what is important to them. I don't like to advocate situational ethics, but in some cases, that philosophy is appropriate. If you're a Jew who follows Kosher, then you don't eat pork. (Among a lot of other things.) For that person, I think it is morally wrong to break Kosher–because you've made a promise to yourself and God that you won't. However, is it wrong for someone like me to eat pork? No. I haven't made that same promise.

The same goes for my LDS belief in not drinking alcohol. I've promised not to–but that doesn't make another person bad or evil for drinking. They haven't made the same promises I have. It's about remaining true to yourself. There's nothing inherently wrong with alcohol (Christ himself drank it, after all.) But there's something wrong with making a promise, then breaking it.

In this case, it was right for Elend to do what he did. Another king could be a good man and make the opposite decision without rebelling against his own personal morals. There are a lot of absolute rights and a lot of absolute wrongs in life, but there are far MORE rights and wrongs that depend on who you are as a person, I think.

Sazed, however, IS setting himself up for some difficulty later on with some of the things he says here. You'll see what I mean at the end of the book.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#78 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.