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Warbreaker Annotations ()
#51 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixteen

Lightsong Listens to the Priests Discuss War

Is this an antiwar novel? I'm not sure, honestly. I didn't sit down to write one, certainly. I rarely try to interject messages into my books, though sometimes they worm their way in. (The Alcatraz books are particularly bad about this.)

A war here would be a bad thing. Idris and Hallandren shouldn't be involved in trying to kill one another. But am I, myself, antiwar? Again, I don't know how to answer that.

Is anyone prowar? War is a terrible, terrible thing. Sometimes it's necessary, but that doesn't make it any less terrible. I'm no great political thinker. In fact, being a novelist has made me very bad at talking about political topics. Because I spend so much time in the heads of so many different characters, I often find myself sympathizing with wildly different philosophies. I like to be able to see how a person thinks and why they believe as they do.

I didn't mean this to be a book about the Iraq war—not at all. But war is what a lot of people are talking about, and I think it's wise to be cautionary. War should never be entered into lightly. If you ask me if the Iraq war was a good idea, you'll probably find me on both sides of the argument. (Though I certainly don't like a lot of aspects about it, particularly how we entered it.)

Regardless, this isn't a book about anything specific. It's a story, a story told about characters. It's about what they feel, what they think, and how their world changes who they are.

As a very, very wise man once said, "I don't mind if my books raise questions. In fact, I like it. But I never want to give you the answers. Those are yours to decide." —Robert Jordan. (FYI, that's not quoted exactly. I can't even quote myself exactly, let alone other people.)

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
#52 Copy

Arkm21ebr

Are there any MtG planes that have had an influence on you and share some characteristics with any of the planets in the cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

It's hard to say how much influence MTG has had on me, since I started playing in high school--right around the time when I started writing. I don't ever remember seeing the connected shared worlds thing, and connecting it to the cosmere. (I see that as more directly influenced by Asimov and Stephen King connecting their books together) but it's totally possible that MTG was an unconscious influence.

Shadows of Self Newcastle UK signing ()
#53 Copy

Questioner

In terms of books that you wish you could have written yourself?

Brandon Sanderson

I read a lot of things for pleasure. I think I need to stay up on what everyone else is doing. As a teen, my favorite writers were Anne McCaffrey, Melanie Rawn, Barbara Hambly, Robert Jordan, Tad Williams, it would probably be. David Eddings too. I grew out of David Eddings, happens when you get into your twenties, but during my teens he was the bomb. Do kids still say that, the bomb? I'll have to figure out what they're saying now. Nowadays I read Pat Rothfuss, I really like Pat, I really really like Naomi Novik's Uprooted, if you guys didn't read that this summer it's a fantastic novel. I like Brent Weeks' work a lot, Brian McClellan's, Nora Jemisin, you guys read NK Jemisin? She writes very literary fantasy; if you're an English major and you like that kind of stuff, which I do, it's amazing. Her most recent one has a character who writes in the second person, and it works. It's the first time I ever read a book where the second person, which is you do this, you do that, it actually works, it works really well. The second person past tense, so you did this, you did-- it's a person telling themselves a story so it actually, it really works. The Fifth Season. So, yeah, I read a lot of stuff.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#54 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The Origins of Siri and Vivenna

Back around the year 2000 or 2001 I started writing a book called Mythwalker. It was an epic fantasy novel, an attempt to go back to basics in the genre. I'd tried several genre-busting epics (one of which was Elantris) that focused on heroes who weren't quite the standards of the genre. I avoided peasant boys, questing knights, or mysterious wizards. Instead I wrote books about a man thrown into a leper colony, or an evil missionary, or things like that.

I didn't sell any of those books. (At least, not at first.) I was feeling discouraged, so I decided to write a book about a more standard fantasy character. A peasant boy who couldn't do anything right, and who got caught up in something larger than himself and inherited an extremely powerful magic.

It was boring.

I just couldn't write it. I ended up stopping about halfway through—it's the only book of mine that I never finished writing. It sits on my hard drive, not even spellchecked, I think, half finished like a skyscraper whose builder ran out of funds.

One of the great things about Mythwalker, however, was one of the subplots—about a pair of cousins named Siri and Vivenna. They switched places because of a mix-up, and the wrong one ended up marrying the emperor.

My alpha readers really connected with this storyline. After I abandoned the project, I thought about what was successful about that aspect of the novel. In the end, I decided it was just the characters. They worked. This is odd because, in a way, they were archetypes themselves.

The story of the two princesses, along with the peasant/royalty swap, is an age-old fairy tale archetype. This is where I'd drawn the inspiration from for these two cousins. One wasn't trained in the way of the nobility; she was a distant cousin and poor by comparison. The other was heir to her house and very important. I guess the idea of forcing them to switch places struck some very distinct chords in my readers.

Eventually, I decided that I wanted to tell their story, and they became the focus of a budding book in my mind. I made them sisters and got rid of the "accidental switch" plotline. (Originally, one had been sent by mistake, but they looked enough alike that nobody noticed. Siri kept quiet about it for reasons I can't quite remember.) I took a few steps away from the fairy tale origins, but tried to preserve the aspects of their characters and identities that had worked so well with readers.

I'm not sure why using one archetype worked and the other didn't. Maybe it was because the peasant boy story is so overtold in fantasy, and I just didn't feel I could bring anything new to it. (At least not in that novel.) The two princesses concept isn't used nearly as often. Or maybe it was just that with Siri and Vivenna I did what you're supposed to—no matter what your inspiration, if you make the characters live and breathe, they will come alive on the page for the reader. Harry Potter is a very basic fantasy archetype—even a cliché—but those books are wonderful.

You have to do new things. I think that fantasy needs a lot more originality. However, not every aspect of the story needs to be completely new. Blend the familiar and the strange—the new and the archetypal. Sometimes it's best to rely on the work that has come before. Sometimes you need to cast it aside.

I guess one of the big tricks to becoming a published author is learning when to do which.

Goodreads Fantasy Book Discussion Warbreaker Q&A ()
#55 Copy

JHWOLFSTAR

I was wondering if you had any certain inspiration for Adonalsium, Hoid, and the Cosmere other than the concept of a Creation story itself. To clarify, I guess I'm asking if you had any other author you read as an aspiring author that did anything similar.

Brandon Sanderson

There are certainly authors who have done this sort of thing before. I generally tend to react against what inspires me instead of toward it. I've talked about this before—if I think someone does a very good job with something, I'll try to approach it from a different direction because I figure they've covered that concept. At other times, if an author does something that I thought could have been way cooler, then I will react I guess in that direction...I don't know if that's a reaction for or against.

Asimov eventually had an overarching plot/universe. Stephen King did it. Other authors have done it, but they have not planned it from the beginning. As well as Asimov did with some of the concepts, I was always disappointed in his attempts to bring all of his stories together into one world because it just wasn't meant to be that way, and it felt like that. It felt clunky—I've always preferred the early robot stories and the early Foundation books to the later ones.

So I felt that if I was going to have a supermyth, so to speak—an overarching paradigm for these books—it would have to have a number of things. One, it would have to be limited in scope, meaning I wasn't going to try to cram everything into it. That's why ALCATRAZ is not involved in any of this. Number two, I would have to plan it from the beginning, and number three, I would want it to be subtle. In other words, I don't want it to come to dominate any of the stories because I want the books, the series, to stand on their own. I want this to be something that you can find if you're searching, but that will never pull the characters of a given book away from the focus on what is important to them.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#57 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Pretends to Be Crazy, Approaches the Guards

This line about gods attracting the unhinged comes a little bit from personal experience. Many of you may know that in the LDS church, we often serve missions during the early part of our twenties or our late teens. I did this, moving to Korea for two years and doing service, teaching about the church, and generally having a blast living among and learning from another culture.

One thing I learned, however, is that when you're associated with anything religious in a formal way like that, you tend to attract people of . . . interesting inclinations. I got to listen to a surprising number of people who weren't all there tell me about things they'd seen or decided upon. (And note, this isn't me trying to make fun of other religions or other beliefs—I, of course, got to speak with a lot of people who believed differently from myself. No, in this case, I'm referring to the mentally challenged people who—for whatever reason—liked to search out missionaries and talk to them.)

It was a lot of fun, don't get me wrong. But it was also weird.

Anyway, I would assume these guards are accustomed to dealing with the unbalanced. Though entry into the Court of Gods is restricted, it's hardly impossible to get in. With the lottery, and with the numbers of performers and artists coming into the place every day, you can sneak in without too much difficulty. At least up until what happens this night, after which things become a lot more strict.

I imagine that Mercystar, somewhat vain though she is, intentionally hired men to be her guards who were of a kindly disposition. She's a good woman, if a bit of a drama queen. In my mind, most of the people working in the Court of Gods are generally good people. But perhaps that's my personal bias that religion—when it's not being manipulated and used for terrible purposes—does wonderful things for people.

Elantris Annotations ()
#58 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The scene where the children talk about art is one I nearly cut from the book on a couple of different occasions. I worry that this is one of the scenes that contributes overly-much to the "Kiin's family is out of place" feeling that people occasionally get. In addition, I worry that I made Kaise too intelligent here. Three things make me retain the scene. First, I think it's kind of amusing. The second is a spoiler, so I won't say much on it—just let it suffice that I wanted to give Kaise and Daorn some good characterization.

For you spoiler readers, those two would be the main characters of any sequel I wrote to Elantris. I'd set the book about ten years after the ending of this one.

The third reason for retaining the scene is because I put it in, in the first place, quite intentionally. Kaise, and to a lesser extent Daorn, are a small reaction against Ender's Game. When I read that book, and some of Scott's other works (which, by the way, I think are all brilliant) I got to wondering if children who were as smart as his really would act the way they do in his books. Not to disagree with one of the greatest sf minds of our time, but I wanted to take a different spin on the "clever child" idea. So, I presented these children as being extremely intelligent, but also extremely immature with that intelligence. I'm not convinced that IQ brings maturity with it, and think there's only so much "adult" you can have in a kid. So, I put in Kaise and Daorn to let me play with this idea a little bit in Elantris.

JordanCon 2018 ()
#59 Copy

Questioner

I know you've been asked several times about other authors that have influenced your work, but are there people in other lines of work, other medias, that you deliberately learn from? And if so, who?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. So, I do really like film. I love films that, like-- one of my favorite films of all time is Gattaca. And I really like films that do interesting things with narrative, like parallel narrative between characters and stuff like that. I like films are trying, even if they fail, to do really interesting things. Like, Interstellar; I really liked Interstellar. Interstellar is a hugely flawed movie, but it's, like, so ambitious and interesting. And I like it when movies do that. So, I do study a lot of films. I like movies that have good structure. I love the original Star Wars trilogy for its structure. It teaches you so much about structure that Lucas apparently didn't learn. He learned other things; Lucas had really big dreams and great ideas and I really liked that he-- Even in the prequels, I liked that he told us a consistent narrative across three. I like doing that.

Watchmen was really influential on me, as like basically everyone who's read it. Watchmen was influential. And some other graphic novels. I loved Kingdom Come when I first read it back in the 90s or whenever it was. The roommate gave me that, and I'm like, "Wow, these do different things with the medium that I--" Yeah

I read a lot of webcomics, also. I don't know how much influence they have over me. But Dr. McNinja, until it ended, was my jam. But I would list those. Films, and the occasional really powerful graphic novel that have influenced me a lot.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#60 Copy

Questioner

As an English teacher, what inspired you to be a fantasy writer?

Brandon Sanderson

I was inspired by the book Dragonsbane which was given to me by an eighth-grade English teacher at Lincoln East High School, who was convinced I was reading below my level and felt I needed to be stepping up my game a little bit. And she took me to the back of the room and had me browse on her little shelf of books that she'd read, that she'd recommend to me. And that book worked for me.  It probably shouldn't have - it's about a middle-aged woman having a midlife crisis - but I loved it.

DragonCon 2016 ()
#62 Copy

Questioner

I don't really read much, but-- *laughter* I listen to all of the audio books of all your books... And one thing I really respect that you do is you're very punk rock about how you approach things. Like "Three [prologues], yeah why not?" It actually reminds me a lot of Final Fantasy, like when that came onto the scene it was just "Dang, these guys are doing everything. The best, the newest, the freshest thing." And I was actually curious, have you ever actually played Final Fantasy, where you inspired by it? Especially because the swords are HUGE like in Final Fantasy.

Brandon Sanderson

I will admit, there's a bit of me saying "Man, what would it take to make giant swords realistic?" *laughter*  Like I actually-- No, this is real. Like fantasy art, and particularly Japanese fantasy art, has these oversized weapons that's completely unrealistic. But that's a challenge to me.

I actually played-- Like I have Final Fantasy cred. *laughter* I played One, on the original Nintendo, right? When it was released. And I have actually played them all. Ten is my favorite. As an aside, what I loved about Ten was-- The voice acting really helped, but I loved that-- Like Ten is what taught me that you don't have to have an angsty, depressed character. Angsty, depressed characters are awesome but sometimes you can have a hero who's not angsty and depressed and it works out alright. But I would call myself deeply influenced by that, certaintly.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#64 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I'll be reading to you from one of the interludes, which are interesting things to write.

So if you haven't read Stormlight-- Epic fantasy has this sort of problem, right? I love epic fantasy. I grew up reading epic fantasy. It's my first love of genres. And I have an advantage over some of the people writing epic fantasy in that, like you know, [George R. R. Martin and Robert Jordan], in that I've read [George Martin and Robert Jordan], and they don't have that advantage... Robert Jordan couldn't read Robert Jordan and necessarily had to write the stories, and I feel like at-- when I sat down to approach Stormlight Archive, which I kind of want to be my big epic, right? Hopefully I don't do anything bigger than this... *laughter* 520,000 words long. The writers in the crowd-- Yeah, 520 is pretty long. It's a quarter longer than Words of Radiance was. I am trimming it in my fifth revision. That's where I normally trim. So maybe we'll get it down to like 470 or 450 or something. But at 540... *inaudible* wants to go up. So I looked at these epic fantasy books that had come out before it-- series-- and I said, "What can I learn from them? How can I prevent myself from following in some of the same problems?" And I noticed that a lot of these big epic fantasies have this issue, kind of mid-series, where the side characters kind of take over the story, and the story deviates from its focus on to a side character focus for a while. It seems to happen very commonly. And as a writer my instincts said what's happening is the writer is wanting to show the expansiveness of the world, which is one of the big things we try to do in epic fantasy, right? They're trying to show the breadth of it, and they do this by adding characters from lots of different walks of life and different parts of the world. Which is a good instinct, right? It's gonna give you that sense of size and scale to the epic fantasy. But what happens is you kind of promise them these side stories will have their resolutions, and as you're pushing kind of towards the ending of your series you realize, "I need to tie in all these side characters." And so you end up with these books that are really focused on side characters, wrapping up their stories, and it feels like it creates a speed bump in the series. And so I said, "Well what can I do with like the format of my books that will mitigate this? Is there something I can do?" So I was kind of-- I'm a big fan of...

My thought was, I would write the books and I would find natural breakpoints inside of each book where it wouldn't feel like as much of a speed bump to kind of go off to somewhere else. Like, one of the problems with like some of these side stories would be like you're really into one of the main characters' stories and then it's like, "And then here's viewpoint from random person that you don't care about," right? Which you do care about! Some of the side characters in Wheel of Time were some of my favorite. But it's just that momentum you've got on the main characters, and then it feels like it's a break, we don't see them forever. So I try to find natural break points, that I would then insert completely random things from around the world, but I would only give myself, like, two of those per break and then I have to be done. And you know-- this forcing myself in this format with the interludes I felt like allowed-- would allow the reader to be able to know what's coming, so that, you know, if you can anticipate-- if you're like, "Alright, we have our break now. We can go to the side characters. Really enjoy them. Get to see the breadth of the world," And then we can come back to the main story and know that it's coming back very quickly. And also know that these side characters aren't going to take over the story. That there's only going to be this space for them. And you also kind of know-- for those -- I do know some people who read an entire Stormlight Archive book and then go back and read the interludes, as if they-- They're basically a short story collection in the world of Roshar. Now, skipping them is dangerous because I usually use the interludes for one important character. And each interlude has one really relevant character for each book. So in the first one, Szeth has interludes, right? And he's a very relevant character. And in this one-- well you'll see who it is in this one.

But I also like doing readings from the interludes because reading the interludes don't spoil the book nearly as much for those who haven't read the first ones, or things like that.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
#65 Copy

Jared_A

Brandon, how do you feel your identity and upbringing as a Mormon has affected your work?

Elantris, for instance, centers around a magic system that has essentially been broken because something in the world has changed—a "new revelation" if you will. And then Mistborn has at its core a set of holy writings that have been altered by an evil force.

These things seem decidely Mormon to me, or at least informed from a Mormon perspective. Do you feel that is the case?

Brandon Sanderson

I don't set out to put anything specifically Mormon into my books, but who I am definitely influences what I write and how I write it. I'm always curious at the things people dig out of my writing—neither of the two points you mention above are things that I was conscious of, though they certainly do make interesting points now that you look at them.

My goal in storytelling is first and foremost to be true to the characters—their passions, beliefs, and goals. No matter what those are. I'm not trying to make a point consciously ever in my writing—though I do think that good stories should raise questions and make readers think.

Who I am as a person heavily influences what I write, and I draw from everything I can find—whether it be LDS, Buddhist, Islamic, or Atheist. It's all jumbled up there in that head of mine, and comes out in different characters who are seeking different things.

In other words, I'm not setting out to be like C.S. Lewis and write parables of belief. I'm trying more what Tolkien did (not, of course, meaning to compare myself favorably with the master) in that I tell story and setting first, and let theme and meaning take care of itself.

Fiction doesn't really exist—certainly doesn't have power—until it is read. You create the story in your head when you read it, and so your interpretations (and your pronunciations on the names) are completely valid in your telling of the story. The things you come up with may be things I noticed and did intentionally, they may be subconscious additions on my part, or they may simply be a result of your interaction with the text. But all three are valid.

Jared_A

On a different but related note, I really love that you honestly look at religious convictions in your books and that you don't portray such convictions in a shallow way.

Brandon Sanderson

Regardless of a person's beliefs, I think they would have to admit that religion and spirituality has played a large part in our development as a people. It's a very important thing to so many of us—and I also think that for most of us, our beliefs are nowhere near as simple as they seem when viewed from the outside. I appreciate your praise here, though I think I still have a lot to learn. There's a real line to walk in expressing a character's religious views without letting them sound preachy—the goal is to make the character real, but not bore the reader.

Shadows of Self Chicago signing ()
#66 Copy

Questioner

For this story, with Dalinar hiring the guy who shot at him with an arrow, was that at all based on Genghis Khan?

Brandon Sanderson

It was, that's where I got it. [...] I used to, when I first published <The Way of Kings?>, "You guys recognize this" and no one did, so I stopped talking about it. He was famous for not only that *incomprehensible*, but for recruiting people from every battlefield he went to. The better soldier you were, the more he wanted you in his army.

Stuttgart signing ()
#67 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

The map of Kholinar looks like a lion's head. Is that an allusion to Caemlyn?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

It was not a conscious decision to make it look like Caemlyn. The city shapes are based on cymatic patterns that have deep-rooted origins in the history of Roshar. I may make a lot of unconscious allusions, but something like the Misted Mountains are a conscious reference.

Idaho Falls signing ()
#68 Copy

Questioner

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

Questioner

What kind of metal influences were you going for?

Brandon Sanderson

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

Questioner

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

Questioner

What's the character's name?

Brandon Sanderson

The main character's name is Jack Solomon.

Elantris Annotations ()
#69 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

You should notice the comments about unity popping up in religious scenes throughout the book. Omin spoke of it before, and Hrathen often thinks–or mentions–the concept. When designing the religions of this book, I really wanted them to feel authentic. If you look at our own world, one thing is obvious (I think) about the way major religions work. They always fragmented–different sects of the same teachings often rise up and squabble with each other. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity share obvious links. In a similar way, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other eastern religions share some common roots.

So, in designing the Korathi and Derethi churches, I decided to give them a common ancestor–Shu-Keseg. All three religions came from the teachings of a single Jindoeese man. (You might note that the word "Shu," as used in connection with Shu-Korath and Shu-Dereth, doesn't seem to fit the linguistic styles of Aonic or Fjordell. This is an intentional reference to the Jindoeese commonality of their origin.)

The central tenet of Keseg's teachings was unity, and his followers began to squabble about what he meant by "Unity." Hence we have the loving, inclusive Korathi; the aggressive, expansionist Derethi; and the contemplative, didactic Jindoeese.

Of course, Jesker and the Mysteries are a completely different religious line. We'll get more into them later. . . .

A Memory of Light Raleigh Signing ()
#70 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

Do you see Robert Jordan’s characters coming out in your writing?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

No. That may happen unconsciously, but my goal is not to have that happen, because I want to tell different stories. It would be like if Kelsier started coming out in Dalinar. It's just not something we want to have happen as a writer. We want everyone to be their own individual.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#71 Copy

6th_account_so_far

How much of an impact did interviewing professional fighter pilots have on the story? Did anything learned from them actually change parts of the book in significant ways? Did you learn anything weird or unusual that you found fascinating?

Brandon Sanderson

The pilots were a HUGE help. The biggest issue I had, which was really hard to get through my skull, was the different ways that G-forces interacted with the human body.

I knew the basics, and had flight suits operating correctly and was watching for people pulling too many Gs. But the fighter pilots kept explaining things like "eyes out" and how it wasn't just number of Gs, it was the direction they were pulling. It wasn't until I called one of them and had a lengthy conversation that it started to click with me.

From there, some of the direct feelings of pulling Gs--feeling like your skin is sliding off your body, or that you've aged a hundred years--I got from them.

As always with a sf/f book, one of my goals is to walk the line between realism and fiction. I tried to make the battles feel real enough to not kick an actual pilot out of the story, but at the same time, I specifically gave the fighters technology that we don't have, in order to spice up how the combat would work.

General Reddit 2017 ()
#72 Copy

kakarotoks

I've searched this subreddit for someone mentioning Jane Elliot before, but nobody has, so I decided to share this.

I was explaining The Stormlight Archive to a friend yesterday when he told me that BS must have been influenced by Jane Elliot, so I researched her and found the wikipedia article about her.

This woman was a school teacher who decided to teach her class about racism the day after Martin Luther King's death by segregating the class between light eyed and dark eyed children. It's a very interesting exercise and I love how the darkeyed vs. lighteyed issue was actually experienced for real on this earth, not just in the SA books. You can read more about the experiment on the wikipedia page or in this article.

The coolest part of this is that the 3rd time Jane Elliot did that experiment, she filmed it and it was made into a documentary in 1970 with the title : The Eye of the Storm

I think it's a pretty cool coincidence (probably influence rather than coincidence) and I thought I'd share!

Brandon Sanderson

The study sounds familiar to me, so I'm sure I've read it before--but I can't remember if it was like this (in reference to the SA, which I'd already started working on) or if I read about it before, and it lodged in my brain as something to try some day.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#73 Copy

Questioner

Did serving your mission in Korea help you in, like, worldbuilding? Kind of give you-- get you out of your own mindset?

Brandon Sanderson

Getting out of an-- into another culture is the number one thing for helping me world build. And I still-- the linguistics of things I create are often influenced by Korea.

Elantris Annotations ()
#75 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Two

Raoden is an expert at manipulating his surroundings. This doesn't make him "manipulative," in my mind. (You can read about a real manipulator in my next book.) Raoden simply knows how to take what he is given and make the best from them. In a way, this is the soul of creativity. Raoden is like a master composer or an artist–except, where they take images or sounds and combine them to suit their needs, he takes the situation and adapts it to create something useful. Outside of Elantris, he took his father's edicts and turn them against the man. However, thrown into a terrible situation like the pit of Elantris, Raoden really has an opportunity to shine.

He's kind of like a magic unto himself. I've known people a little like him in this world–people who can defy convention and reality, and just make things work. Somehow, Raoden can make three out of two. He can take the pieces and combine them in new ways, creating something greater than most people thought possible.

In short, he's the perfect hero for this kind of book. When I was writing Elantris in the winter of 1999 and spring of 2000, I was finishing up my undergraduate degree at BYU. The book I'd written before it was called The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora–undoubtedly the strangest, most-un-Brandon-like book I've ever constructed. Pandora was a SFstory about a man made immortal though careful–and expensive–application of nanotechnology. The process slowly drove him mad.

Pandora was a dark, grisly book. The man character could withstand alarming injuries without dying. One prime theme of the novel was dealing with the psyche of a man who could slaughter thousands of people while being shot to pieces, then find himself reconstructed a short time later. It was a rather violent book–probably the most disturbing I've ever written.

When I got done with that book, I reacted against it by wanting to devise a plot that didn't depend at all on violence. Elantris was the result. I wanted to tell a story about a hero who could succeed without having to beat up on the people who opposed him. I took away his physical abilities and his royal resources, leaving him with only his wits and his determination.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#76 Copy

Questioner

Do you read non-fiction at all?  I'm history grad student.  I'm reading some of your stuff.  I was kind of wonder if you ever did get inspiration from history or things like that?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes I do like them.  I really like pop history books.  *inaudible* suggestion.  Just like you know, history of war, history of. . .  Honestly, I end up at the Barnes and Noble browsing their discount things for pop history and pop science books, and you find really interesting ones there a lot of the time.  

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Priests as Scapegoats

I do think that someone being a different religion from yourself makes them a good scapegoat. We tend to be put off by anyone who is too devout toward religion, even if their passion for it mimics our own passion for something we are dedicated to. It's easy to divide ourselves along religious lines.

Once again, I think I need to mention that I didn't write this comment (or the ones about not judging) into the book as an intentional message. It just seemed appropriate for the characters to say or consider, and I happen to agree with them. What I think is important influences the book. How can it help but do otherwise?

Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

A lot of the magical methods you create in your novels carry with it the birth of nobility.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

And that reminds me a lot of the magic martial arts *audio unclear* Aside from the big influence of Dragonsbane and other novels on your fantasy novels have you drawn any other inspirations--

Brandon Sanderson

Oh yeah.

Questioner

--spiritually from Asian, Korean or Chinese *audio obscured*

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. The question is, have I drawn any inspirations from Eastern literature. Specifically he asked for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. *speaks Korean* I lived in Korea for two years and I speak Korean. Mormon missionary, right? So I speak Korean, I actually do have a Korean minor. And even before that, Hong Kong kung-fu movies. OH YEAH. *laughter* I love Hong Kong movies particularly-- You know the modern stuff is really beautiful, like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Hero or House of Flying Daggers and stuff like that, but even the old stuff, it's a little bit silly. Yeah, I just ate that stuff up. Jackie Chan. You can't go wrong with Jackie Chan, right? But even the stuff that's just a little ridiculous I love. It's just-- It's cool. There's something about it. So there's that. You're also going to find echoes of RPGs I've played, obviously. I mean I've worked hard because I don't want my books to feel like a video game. But I grew up playing video games, right? That's one of my major influences. Steelheart's going to feel like a comic book, right? And some of my books are going to feel like that. It's a part of who I am, it's part of my geek upbringing, right? So yeah, definitely. There's a lot of-- now that I have become a writer through my twenties there's a lot of different influences. The Alethi are based slightly on the Mongolians specifically-- But there's no horses, which let's me divorce it a little bit. People always expect Mongolians to be a nomadic horse people but you just don't have enough horses. If you guys have studied Subutai, if you know him, a Mongolian general, I based Dalinar a little bit on Subutai. But then you are mixing in Hebrew influences and Arab influences. That's kind of my mash-up that's creating the Alethi. And so yeah,you are going to find all kinds of weird things. Art of War is of course a big influence on how I approach warfare and things. So yes, yes, it's there.

Stormlight Three Update #5 ()
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belerax

Brotherhood (or siblinghood) seems to be an important relationship theme in Stormlight (Kaladin and Tien, Dalinar and Gavilar, Adolin and Renarin, Shallan and her many brothers, Jasnah and Elhokar - although we haven't seen much of these two together) and perhaps in other Cosmere books too (Vin and Reen, Marsh and Kelsier, Eventeo and Kiin). I was wondering where this theme came from - do you have siblings yourself? Are there other relationships in your life you've used to inspire relationships in your books?

Brandon Sanderson

I have three siblings, and my relationship with them is important to me. I also think that books sometimes ignore family, in the name of making a character feel more isolated. While I have used that on occasion, I don't want it to be the norm. I find family too interesting, and important to most real people, to do otherwise.

Firefight Atlanta signing ()
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Questioner

One of my favorite aspects of your books is you always have this character that kind of has a submissive personality starting out and they evolve into a more dominant personality. Do you have an author for a series that kind of inspired this?

Brandon Sanderson

Inspires me? He says frequently I have a character who's in a submissive position that becomes dominant through the course of the series. Do I have an author that I'm relying on specifically. No more than the "Hero's Journey", the general idea of the person growing and becoming master of their domain where once they were not. I don't think I have a specific person I'm looking at for that. But it is a fun type of story to tell, just because of the way you can show progression with a character.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
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Questioner

So is this [interludes] your way of kind of introducing more world details, worldbuilding--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. This is a way of me introducing more worldbuilding. Because-- See, one of the differences between myself and the previous generation of epic fantasy writers is I tend to be very-- I tend to stick with one location, alright? The generation before me-- and I love these books, but the generation before me-- the Tad Williams, the Robert Jordan, and things like this-- tended to be quest epic fantasy. You'd go one place-- It's kind of following the grand Tolkien tradition. "We gotta get over there. We're either chasing somebody or being chased by somebody." Right? And you then travel across a varied landscape, meet lots of interesting people on your way to the place. Well I don't like to do that. I think it's partially because I grew up reading those. I'm like-- Those authors covered that really well. Or maybe it's just my natural inclinations. I write a little more Anne McCaffrey style, right? She would pick a really interesting location and spend a lot of time on it. And that's what I like to do as well. So you don't get to travel as much in my books. A lot of times in my books it's like, "We're traveling!" Chapter 1: "We're going to go on this trip!" Chapter 2: "Hey, we're there!" We cut out the, you know, the boring stuff in the middle, and we go to an interesting location. And I really like to dig into this interesting location. It let's me as an author really explore various parts of the setting. But what that does is it means you don't get as much of the breadth. Like when you have to traipse with Frodo and Sam all the way across Middle-earth, you feel how big Middle-earth is. And you don't get that in Mistborn, where it's like, "We're going to stay in the city!" and things like this. And so, in Roshar, being able to say, "Here's what's happening across the world in a different culture," is really valuable to me in the interludes. But I also know that some people just don't want to read that, and I wanted to give them a clue that this is the scene that you can skip and read later if you just want to get back to the main character.

Firefight release party ()
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Questioner

I know you went on mission in Korea, as did I, did anything come from that?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, quite a number of things have been influenced by it. I'd say the biggest influence is Elantris, the writing system is based on the idea of Korean and Chinese mixed together. But Asian philosophy, like the kami and things like that are also common in Korea, that belief that everything has a soul. So yeah it's had a huge influence on me, just the way I worldbuild-- I mean just the fact, I don't know if you've read The Way of Kings… I don't know if you know but everyone's Asian, right? Like Szeth, the white dude, is the one that looks weird them. And that's just because-- It was partially influenced by that.

Ben McSweeney AMA ()
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tritlo

What is your favourite drawing so far? What is your next project?

Ben McSweeney

I think Shardplate is my favorite page. My favorite drawing... I think I'll have to think on that.

My next Brandon project is, unless something breaks, Stormlight III. Of course, Shadows of Self just came out, and Bands of Mourning will hit the shelves early next year, so those are the next things to see print.

tritlo

Nice! Are there any other artists that inspire you in particular?

Ben McSweeney

Oh gosh, lots and far too many to list!

If I was hoping to emulate anyone in my Stormlight work, it'd be artists like Alan Lee and John Howe for Peter Jackson, or Ralph McQuarrie and Johnston for George Lucas, or Ron Cobb and Chris Foss or Syd Meade for Ridley Scott.

I think Brandon's got the legs. But we've got a long way to go. :)

Ben McSweeney AMA ()
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fastlindyrick

I've seen you comment on other Cosmere-based conceptual discussions and fan art around reddit. How much does fandom influence your ideas of how things should look?

Ben McSweeney

When a fan really nails it, I think it can most certainly have an influence.

That being said, I firmly believe that the text comes first and foremost... I can't illustrate something that conflicts with Brandon's descriptions and expect it to be taken as canon, and a fan can render the most beautiful art imaginable but it won't stick in my head if they contradict the text.

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
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Argent

Keeping it on Scadrial, the ranks within the Set are obviously inspired by either mathematics, or programming, or logic, or a related field. Can you talk about this motivation (either yours or the Set's) for this?

Brandon Sanderson

My motivation ties directly to the same reasons that we see mathematics playing out in behind-the-scenes ways on Roshar. This plays into the themes of the cosmere, the rule-based magic, and the fascination I have of the ties between art and mathematics. (See the Rithmatist, which was originally a cosmere novel.)

The Set's in-world reasonings are similar to this, though less self-aware.

General Reddit 2017 ()
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Chapmello22

Brandon Sanderson's city of Kharbranth from "The Way of Kings" looks jus tlike Positano, Italy.

Brandon Sanderson

I actually wrote the book without a specific place in mind--just trying to build off of the setting, and create cities that would work with the highstorms. Once I gave the book to Isaac (my mapmaker) he went and looked for real-world inspirations for drawing out cities. I'm pretty sure this is one of them, though I'd have to grab him and get the photo references to know for certain.

It was actually one of those gratifying moments, when something I've imagined and described turns out to not only be plausible--it turns out to have been done in our world.

Standard disclaimer, though: It's totally possible I saw a picture like this at some point in my life, and drew inspiration without remembering.

The Book Smugglers Rithmatist Interview ()
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The Book Smugglers

First and foremost, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us!

You are an established (and highly respected and loved) author of adult fantasy (we are huge fans of your Mistborn books, The Way of Kings, and Warbreaker—excuse us while we fangirl a little bit). The Rithmatist, however, is a young adult title—what made you want to get into the YA space? Do you read YA fantasy novels?

Brandon Sanderson

First off, thank you very much! I really appreciate the fangirling. I do read quite a bit of YA fiction. In fact, during the era when I was trying to break into publishing—the late 90s and early 2000s—a lot of the really exciting things in sci-fi and fantasy were happening in YA and middle grade. Garth Nix, J.K. Rowling, Dianna Wynne Jones and others created some wonderfully imaginative writing during this time.

I dipped my toes into middle grade with my Alcatraz series soon after I got published. I hadn't written a YA before, but I wanted to—for the same reason I write epic fantasy: there are awesome things I can do in in epic fantasy that I can't do in other genres. And there are awesome things I can do in teen fiction that I don't feel I can get away with in the same way in adult fiction.

Science fiction and fantasy have a very fascinating connection with YA fiction. If you look at some of the series I loved as a youth—the Wheel of Time, Shannara, and the Eddings books, for example—these have enormous teen crossover. In fact, when you get to something like the Eddings books, you've got to wonder if they would've been shelved in the teen section in a later era.

Back up even further to the juveniles that were written by Heinlein and others, and we see that teen fiction has been an integral part of science fiction and fantasy. Some of the early fantasy writings—things like Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass and C.S. Lewis's works—were foundational in how the fantasy genre came to be.

So YA feels like a very natural thing for me to be writing because I enjoy it and I respect what it has done for the genres.

Idaho Falls signing ()
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Questioner

I have a question about the epilogue in The Way of Kings. You have Wit give this interesting, kind of philosophical-- sermon-thing on novelty. I wonder, what do you think about what he's saying, do you--

Brandon Sanderson

Usually those little things that Wit will do, he does one at the end of each book, are things I've thought about. I don't always one hundred percent agree with Wit. He tends to hyperbolize in order to make a point, but I do think it's really interesting that novelty is so important to us. Even if you did something independently, but come up with it after someone else, then it's not considered as great an art, right? Which is really, really, really interesting if you think about it. And I love that idea, and I like talking about that sort of thing, so these-- All of Wit's little monologues--there's one, like I've said, at the end of each book--is something I think about, but he goes off in his own direction sometimes.

Questioner

I've used that little monologue in some philosophy class that I've in, such as philosophy of art.  

Brandon Sanderson

I did take a-- I took a lot of philosophy classes, if you can't tell, during my undergraduate years. I was quite fond of philosophy. Though the philosophers were all really needed to learn how to write. Man, those guys just, I mean, paragraphs like this that don't really even say anything. I love the ideas, but man, they could use editors. But, yeah, I enjoyed my philosophy classes, and I really liked philosophy of art in particular, it's very interesting to me. The whole Oscar Wilde's intro to Dorian Gray is my favorite speech on art, that all art is, by necessity, useless. Stuff like that really, really gets me going.

Firefight release party ()
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Questioner

So what give books do you think helped you understand leadership the best?

Brandon Sanderson

Well Art of War is definitely part of that. I would say that The Prince is important for understanding leadership, even though I don't agree with every point he's making. By the way he is not as-- Even though it is Machiavelli writing it, he is not as machiavellian as we think he is in that book… So The Prince--  Hmmm, a lot of Plato surprisingly, is where I pull some of my ideas. King Benjamin's speech from the Book of Mormon, in Mosiah, if you haven't read that, is definitely part of it. Ummm... What else--

Questioner

Like where do you get your-- because you obviously have experience because that's how leadership works.

Brandon Sanderson

It is interviews, it is personal experience, it is talking to my friends who are in the military and asking them "Does this sound right? Does this feel right? Tell me what it feels like to obey. Tell me what it feels like to be in command." And things like that. Just lots of practice and interviews and things is where most of it is coming from.

Questioner

So it’s less like personal experience and more you're really good at researching it.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, a writer has to be able to do that because for a book like this the amount of psychology and medicine, battlefield tactics, leadership, and all these other things you need to know, you can't know them all. You can't do them all personally. You've got to be able to experience it, you've got to be able to write it as best as you can, and then go to experts. Like the medicine in this I went to a field surgeon and I said "Will you read over my Kaladin scenes and tell me where I'm going wrong." Like I was able to get myself 80% of the way there with research and then the 20% is me going to an expert and saying "Tell me what I'm doing wrong."

Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017 ()
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Questioner

What inspired you to start writing?

Brandon Sanderson

It was the books I was reading. I wanted to learn to do what they had done. Anne McCaffrey was a big part of it. But I was reading it, I was like, these books have had such a profound effect on me, I want to learn to do that for other people.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
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Questioner

I was wondering what made you so interested in the super rules-based magic system. Because you're probably one of the best at that, and in every different universe you manage to create a complete unique set of rules-based magic and they're all completely unique.

Brandon Sanderson

So there's a panel on magic tomorrow, so I hope I don't repeat myself too much. But the whole rule-based magic thing came about mostly because I was looking for holes in the market, right? Like, things people weren't doing that I wish they were doing. I often say to new writers, "Find the books that nobody's writing, that you want to read, and try to write those." That sounds-- I mean, that's just very vague. I don't know how useful that is, but that's kind of what I was doing.

But at the same time I like-- there are lots of soft magic systems I like. Uprooted which came out a couple years ago. It's a really great book with a very soft magic system. So it's not like I feel like magic has to be done this way. But I found something I was good at, that I didn't think people were doing enough of, that I felt like people would want to read, and so that kind of became my thing even before I published. Like when I was writing my books only for my fri-- I wrote thirteen before I sold one, if you guys know about that-- And so when I was writing those books it was, "What weird setting is Brandon going to do?" Because fantasy through the 80s and 90s-- I mean, there's lots of great writers. I love them. But I felt like they were really safe with their settings, and they didn't-- they explored other directions really well. But it-- we had a lot of these kind of faux-Medieval, elemental-base magic systems, and cultures that were very "England, but not England." And I'm like, "Well, fantasy should be the most imaginative genre. Where can we push it? Where-- what different things can we do?" And so I tried that during those years. The magic systems kind of grew out of that. Like, "What are people not doing?"

I will say there are some people who have done it even in the past. Melanie Rawn's Sunrunner books. I've really liked those. Those kind of have-- it's not scientific, but it's rule-based, which is kind of-- are two different things. Being consistent is one thing, and then trying-- like I try to play off of physics and make it feel like it's playing off of physics when it's really not, because I'm a fantasy writer, right? Like.--

Questioner

In Mistborn it's pretty physics.

Brandon Sanderson

Pretty physics-- But even in Mistborn, right like if you-- the time bubbles-- speed bubbles. Like I have to fudge some things. Like I spoke with my assistants, like, "Alright, what would happen if we build these?" And we're like, "Well first thing would happen is that it would change the wavelengths of light and irradiate people." You know, like this sort of thing. We're like-- we just have to make a rule that it doesn't irradiate people. You can't just take a flashlight and melt people. Yes, you just have to come up with some-- And so for me, a lot of the big difference, I say, between a fantasy writer and a science fiction writer is, the science fiction writer is forward-- each step trying to be plausible-- and the fantasy writer a lot of times drafts it backward. "Here's a cool effect. Can I explain this in a way that makes it feel like it's real and logical?" But I'm working backward from the fact, not forward from what's happening here.

Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017 ()
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Questioner

Do you purposefully take ideas from the Book of Mormon and turn them inside out, on their head, so no one knows where you got the ideas from? Like when you have Kelsier saying, in this moment, and he defeats the Lord Ruler, just in Ruler's capital city, and like how in the Book of Mormon when the La-āmanites, besieged Zaraellmə-ī, because no one else can see it coming?

Brandon Sanderson

So, I don't intentionally take, usually, from the Book of Mormon. There's a lot of unconscious things coming out. The only thing you can say is that I based The Way of Kings a little bit on King Benjamin's speech.

Skyward Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

You've been pretty open about Dalinar being somewhat based off of Genghis Khan.

Brandon Sanderson

Subutai more than Genghis Khan, but yeah.

Questioner

Is Kaladin based off of George Washington?

Brandon Sanderson

Not intentionally. But I can see the parallels as you bring them out. Kaladin was partially based on my reading about... People who have won the Medal of Honor share an interesting characteristic. A strangely statistically high number of them are older brothers. Eldest brothers. Eldest sons. Same with astronauts. And it is that protective instinct that, as an older sibling, you learn, but it can backfire on you as well for various reasons. Kaladin, I was reading a lot about that, so you've got this whole eldest brother superhero complex thing going on.

Firefight Atlanta signing ()
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Questioner

So Kaladin, he has a lot of Christ-like qualities being the who protects those who can't protect themselves. When you were writing the character of Kaladin did you ever make a conscious decision to make him a Christ figure or--

Brandon Sanderson

The question is... Kaladin has some Christ-figure feel to him, was that intentional when I was writing the character. Actually it wasn't, there's nothing really intentional about that allusion.  But I can definitely see it. Being Christian myself a lot of what I find heroic is related to my faith. But I very rarely do conscious things like that, mostly-- This is for English majors, "I bet he got it from here" and things like that. So it was not intentional but I can totally see where you are making that connection.

Arcanum Unbounded Seattle signing ()
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Questioner

Speaking of Dave Wolverton, did he inspire you to explore unusual avenues of magic?

Brandon Sanderson

The question is, speaking of Dave, Dave Wolverton/Farland, he uses several pen names, did he inspire me to seek out new avenues of magic, because The Runelords is one of the best magic systems in fantasy. I usually credit it as the best magic system in fantasy. The thing is, I hadn't read Dave, until I took his class. In his class I was writing Dragonsteel, so White Sand and Elantris were done. So yes, like reading his, I'm like, "Wow, I need to up my game." Garth Nix did the same thing to me. I read him during that era, I'm like, "Sabriel's great, I need to up my game." I would step back and credit Robert Jordan in part. You might say, "Oh, his magic system is a little bit soft, not as hard." But it was a lot harder than the things that were around the time. Melanie Rawn's Sunrunner books were another big inspiration for that. And partially it was me saying, "I don't think fantasy's doing this sort of thing enough. It's something I'm interested in and good at. I want to try bringing it to fantasy." But yeah, Dave's books, the Runelords, that magic system is incredible.