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ICon 2019 ()
#51 Copy

Nimrod Rappaport

In Arcanum Unbounded you mentioned that Sel is one of the biggest planets. You also mentioned that there are three empires on that planet. In Elantris 2 two will we get... You also mentioned that they are largely ignorant of each other, will we get a book in which those empires interact? Maybe in Elantris 2

Also, can you please specify on their nature and maybe some inspirations you got when writing and thinking about them?

Brandon Sanderson

So, sure. Sel wears its inspirations quite blatantly on its sleeve, right? It's not that obvious for instance in Stormlight that the Alethi are based off of Mongolians, because there's so much more in the mix there, that it's not quite as obvious. But in Sel, it's a little more obvious. You know, basically the idea came to me that what if the vikings had united behind a very hierarchical religion like Catholicism, and we had Catholic vikings, conquering the world. What would the world look like and that is where the entire religion came from.

Actually the truth is it's like, there was this priest, right, and one group became Buddhist and the other became Catholic vikings and, you know, Buddhist Renaissance... Italians is kind of where we got there and of course, the Rose Empire the inspirations are a little bit more Eastern and Middle Eastern. For instance, the Grands are based on Babylonian influences and I'm kind of looking at a lot of Babylonian, a little bit of Syrian. But of course Shai is very very clearly based on East Asian cultures and specifically China.

So, the empires and things like that... for there you might have noticed that we've got a Europe centered one, and an Asia/Eastern centered one, so you might be able to theorize where the third empire's inspirations might be or at least a list of possible candidates.

The Alloy of Law Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Ironspine

In the summer of 2010, my wife and I visited New York. My editor, Moshe, is a life-long New Yorker and a repository of details and facts. (I've found this is a common thing in a lot of editors; they tend to be the type to pay attention to details.) The result of this was him towing us all over the city, telling us little tidbits about this building or that one.

Well, one of the stories he told us was about the early days of skyscrapers, and how people would race to build the highest building. He talked about some of the famous rivalries; I think that's the first time I began to envision a cool Allomantic fight taking place in the heights of an unfinished skyscraper. Five months or so later, I wrote this scene.

RoW Release Party ()
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Questioner

What culture inspired the Horneaters?

Brandon Sanderson

I don't usually use a single culture for any of my inspirations. I like to mix a bunch of things together, and some will be real-world cultures and others will not. You can probably pick out the Polynesian influences, as well as the Russian influences; so they're kind of like Siberian Polynesians. But really, the thing that inspired...

The Polynesian part came from the language. I'm fascinated with languages, and one of the cool things about the Hawaiian language in particular (which was the inspiration here) is that because there are so many fewer sounds, the words get extra long. And that's why a lot of the words in Hawaiian are so long compared to some other languages, because they repeat sounds more often, and just by simple math you end up needing longer words. And I like how poetic the Hawaiian language sounds, and things like that. So that's obviously one inspiration.

But a big inspiration for them was the original idea of their myths, the ones that Rock shares and talks about, and their interaction with the spren. I wanted a race, a culture, on Roshar that had both its roots in human culture and in listener culture. Horneaters are human and listener hybrids, like the Herdazians are. And whose cultural roots went back to both cultures and had built something new out of them. So that's the primary inspiration.

YouTube Livestream 8 ()
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Tony Irene

Can you talk a little bit about the inspiration of Wayne, and if that was perhaps based off someone you know?

Brandon Sanderson

The fun story about Wayne, the beginnings of Alloy of Law were a short story that I wrote where Wayne was the protagonist, and MeLaan was his trusty steed in a horse's body. It was a guy who put on different hats to change personalities, riding into a small town in the Roughs, talking to his horse. Who, then, at the end of the first scene, talked back to him. It was a fun scene. It was way too weird. After I finished that scene, I'm like, "This guy is great. But this guy needs someone else to play off of. And it can't be his talking horse, because this story is just too out there."

Why did I start writing that story? The initial idea is a person who changes personalities based on hats. You put on a hat, and it lets you kind of have a focus for your acting, to get into a role and become someone. That was really fun to me. In fact, in the original story, he was a hatmaker. He was a haberdasher. And he understood people by the headgear that they like.

Which, if gonna be honest and trace it back, probably goes back to Thrawn. I love Thrawn, from the original Star Wars books by Timothy Zahn. And Thrawn was somebody who would look at the art that a culture produces and use that to come to understand them in ways that he could then use to conquer them. Which was just always so cool to me. Like, that's one of the coolest villain concepts, is this art appreciation villain who really gets to know a culture by studying their art, and then crushes them and dominates them. Just wonderful.  I'm always kind of looking for characters who see the world in an interesting way. That's probably it. I don't think I was thinking that when I came up with Wayne.

But then, Wayne needed someone to bounce off against. Wayne needed a straight man, so to speak. And he just wasn't working. So that's when I started plotting Alloy of Law, the actual novel. The short story did not become the novel. The short story taught me that there was enough there that I was interested in that I really wanted to tell a story in this era. And it told me that there's something about this character that's gonna work if I can find the right vehicle to include them in a story.

That's our origins of Wayne. I think I can probably also look at the Sherlock Holmes dynamic, Sherlock and Watson. Any time I'm building a mystery duo or team, there's a bit of Sherlock and Watson going around in the back of my head.

Calamity Seattle signing ()
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Questioner

How often do your dreams ever influence your books?

Brandon Sanderson

Once in awhile.

Questioner

Once in awhile.

Brandon Sanderson

Yup. […] writer you have a cool dream […] something there […] Usually there’s not but once in awhile there really is something and it turns around in your head and eventually ends up in the books.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
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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.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-One

Vivenna Visits the Idrian Slums

Vivenna probably should have expected what she would find here. She knows that the slumlords, who are Idrians, run whorehouses and illegal fighting leagues. However, she deluded herself into assuming that they employ Hallandren whores or that the fights aren't all that bad.

I think this would be a hard thing to come to grips with. It's happened repeatedly throughout history—a poorer segment travels to a new country and becomes part of the lower, working class. In Korea, they were always complaining about people from Burma coming in and stealing their jobs. I remember hearing the Japanese saying the same thing about Koreans. I've heard Americans complain about all three. Things like this have far less to do with culture or race and far more to do with relative economic standing and fluency with the language/culture.

Knowing it happens, however, wouldn't make it any easier to find your own people in such a state, I think.

Notice that the Idrians here often wear dark clothing. This is partially to hold to their old ways of avoiding colors, but they tend to wear clothes that are black and dark instead of light. (Though there are some who follow the more traditional way.) However, by wearing these dark colors, they completely defeat the original stated purpose of dull clothing—that of removing color to keep Awakeners from using their art.

ICon 2019 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

The linguistics there, with the... for the Aonic... so, I had a couple of inspirations there. By the time I was writing this book, I was looking to do a little bit more interesting linguistics, I was looking to explore linguistics, and I like that one of the ideas I had is... I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Letter-day Saints - Mormon - and I served a two year mission in Korea. While I was in Korea, I fell in love with the relationship between the Korean language and the Chinese language.

If you're not familiar with how that is, in a lot of Asia, Chinese was the writing system for years. For centuries, people wrote in Chinese, even if they didn't speak Chinese, because Chinese is a logographic language, it's not phonetic. When you write the character, the <Hànzì>, you can pronounce it in any language. It can be written... read in any language - we can read them in English, you can read them in Hebrew. They just mean a concept, it's like hieroglyphics, right?

But what this means is, it's really hard to learn to write, because you just have to memorize every symbol and they're very complex, very intricate. So, around... I think it's 1400, someone will have to look that up to make sure, but... the king Sejong of the Korean people, who is remembered as their favorite king, he came in and said "My people are illiterate because Chinese is just too hard to learn. We aren't Chinese, we don't speak Chinese, we're trying to use their writing system for our language. Let's develop an alphabet."

They got a bunch of scholars together and they built an alphabet by which you can write Chinese in Korean, in an alphabet that's a Korean alphabet. It's really fascinating linguistically, because they create Chinese characters that are phonetic to take the place of Chinese characters in their language and then surround them with grammar only in Korean. So, you have like "Chinese character, Chinese character, Korean grammar... Chinese character, Chinese character, Korean grammar..." and you could replace those characters with Korean ones if you want, or you could just leave the Chinese - really cool.

I wanted to develop a language that had these symbols that would also have... that were from an old language... that would then have grammar around them in another language. It was really interesting to me and that's where the Aons came from, this kind of language that predates their culture, predates their linguistics in Arelon. And that they have developed alongside and that they use in their writing system... and if you were to read Aonic, you would see these big Aons and then little Aonic text between them that is bridging all these ideas together with actual linguistics.

So, the Aons I wanted to stand out, I wanted to... when you read them in English to be able to say... and I experimented with making them all caps and it just looked really weird, but that that would be the way that... then you would have to have "RAO" and "den", "RAO" would always be in caps and "den" and readers had real troubles with that. It just read... it looks like you're screaming, right? So, people would read the name *loud* RAO- *speaking normally again* den, *laughter from audience* which is not what I wanted to say.

So I went back, but I still wanted these... So, I used the two long vowels sounds. Whenever you hit a name, they're all gonna have two long vowel sounds in them that are stressed and then an unstressed Aonic portion pushed onto it. So it's /ˈɹeɪ.ˈʊ.dɛn/ [Raoden], where you've got a-o, and you've got /iːniː/ [Ene], /sɑː.ˈɹiː.ˌniː/ [Sarene], and things like that. And even Elantris... I say /e.ˈlɑːn.tɹɪs/ [Elantris], they would say /ˈiː.leɪn.tɹɪs/ [Elantris], and things like that.

I built this just, like, have... I love it, when in fantasy, the form and the function meld together, so that what you're putting on the page actually enhances in all ways the culture and the magic together, but it did make for a difficult reading experience. My first review I ever got for Elantris [...] My first review that ever came in was "This book is great, but the names are terrible. Brandon Sanderson can't name anything. Keep him away from naming things, because the first book he published might be the most linguistically challenging, let's just say."

Oathbringer Houston signing ()
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Questioner

I was actually going to ask where you came up with the idea of Hoid?

Brandon Sanderson

Hoid is inspired by my desire to tell a story that spans other stories. I would say the origins of that are probably Asimov, when he made the Robots books and the Foundation books tie together. Something like that. Maybe Michael Moorcock, he had a similar sort of cross-world thing. I was reading both of them a lot right when I started coming up with that. So I would say, that's the origin of it. Stephen King has done it, but I didn't know he'd done it. I hadn't been reading him as much.

YouTube Livestream 8 ()
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Questioner

Did you do any research into the Knights Templar when you were preparing to write about the Radiants?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes and no. I find the Knights Templar fascinating, and I've often read about them and been interested in them. When I was coming up with the Knights Radiant, the origins of them didn't have... I didn't even call them the Knights Radiant in the first draft, the first version of Way of Kings. So some of these connections that now seem pretty clear with the ancient order that has fallen away and is being restored, and even the titling, didn't really exist in the early ones. I would say they're there in the back of my brain, certainly, and would be an unconscious influence. But a lot of the things that you might say, "Hey, these came from the Knights Templar," didn't. But were more of a parallel evolution sort of thing as I figured out what I wanted the Knights Radiant to be.

Oathbringer London signing ()
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Questioner

What do you base the codes on, from The Stormlight books? Do you have anything specific--

Brandon Sanderson

I don't have anything specific. It's kind like a general-- lot's of different things, looking at bushido and knightly code and things like this and just kind of building my own out of it. The words "Life before death" were like one of the first things I thought of for the book and I'm like "I gotta use that. It's going in there." And eventually it grew out of that.

JordanCon 2014 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Hoid waxes poetic on the idea that the more people expect, the more difficult it becomes for the artist. This is more the critic in me having noticed that my own expectations for a piece play dramatically into how much I enjoy it. Some of my best experiences at the cinema have been films where I had no idea what to expect. The Sixth Sense was like this for me. I had never heard of the film, my friends dragged me to it, they said it's a horror and I said "I'm not sure if I want to watch a slasher pic, but I think it's going to be terrible but whatever." And I watched it and it was a great movie and I came out of it saying, "Wow, I did not expect that." And yet something like The Dark Knight Returns, which is a fantastic film, well done. Yet the second film was so good that I went into the third film and it wasn't quite as good as the second film and I came out and said, "Eh." Where it is a great film and yet my expectations-- It's unfair to the artist but it is the way I think a lot of us work. That our expectations do play a lot into how our experience is for the story. A lot of things when I go into things like that, I'm not trying to let the author speak so much as I'm trying to say what would someone who analyzes art like a critic in my analyzes art what would be an observation they would make. Hoid is not me and he does not voice necessarily my personal opinions, but he is an artist and a critic and so he notices some of the things I notice.  

Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

So there's a line in Secret History that references, like, a mythical string that shows the way home in the maze of Ishathon. Is that an intentional reference to--

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, yes, so here's one thing I do in the cosmere, because my senior course was in folklore, I had a really good folklore teacher-- So you should all thank Dr. Thursby for this. One of the things I learned in folklore-- I don't know if you guys have studied this, but it's really interesting-- Societies come up with the same myths. Right? They do! You'll find-- The biggest one is the Cinderella myth. There's a version of Cinderella in almost every culture, and it's shocking how they hit the same beats. And so my folkloristic inclinations lead me to say that certain stories that I know are common, whether it's the string that leads you out, or breadcrumbs-- different people use different things-- But these stories exist. Mythical mazes, you will find stories about. And so that's not meant to be anything more than for the folklorists to say "Ah! I recognize this, Roshar has some of the same myths, and the same versions, that we have."

Oathbringer San Francisco signing ()
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Questioner

One of your characters wishes for and is given capacity... That is one of my favorite concepts of all the books that I read of yours. Can you talk about the inspiration for that gift of limited and maximum capacity?

Brandon Sanderson

To not give spoilers, there is a character in The Stormlight Archive who has asked the Old Magic, which is a force that kind of has references in things like The Monkey's Paw and what-not, a force that doesn't always give you things exactly the way you want them. And I built, by the way, the Old Magic into The Stormlight Archive because I felt that at a certain point, while I love to do these rule-based magic systems, I wanted there to be a contrast to it... It's kinda like this idea that, yes, modern science and things have explained a lot of stuff, but there's something primal, perhaps, in the past, I don't actually know. But that idea that there's a primal magic that doesn't really adhere to the rules, we can't anticipate it, was really, I felt, vital for me to include so that I didn't overexplain everything in the books.

So, there's a person who asked for capacity. It wanted to be, let's say, strong enough to lift (it's not actually strength, but it's more of an emotional thing) what was coming. That, I feel like, is a very real thing to wish for, right? I have frequently, like... people say "What would you wish for," and I say "The ability to fly," because I would love to be able to fly. But really, if I sit and think about it, capacity, ability, the capacity to hold all of this stuff in my head, would probably be the sort of thing that I would wish for. So this character, in some ways, is giving wish fulfillment for me, because that's what I would maybe ask for if given the opportunity, but even that kind of turns on its head because the Old Magic just doesn't get people in the way that people think they should be gotten.

Tel Aviv Signing ()
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Questioner

I love the concept of the hair changing colors, how did you think of that? How did you get the idea?

Brandon Sanderson

So with Warbreaker I knew I wanted color to be a big theme, and so I wanted a way it manifests in some of the characters, if that makes sense. So that's where it began. I eventually settled on the color, because I knew that I was going [to be having some of the characters change shapes,] because the Returned change and transform, and so I used that kind of hair as a metaphor for that.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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cantoXV1

Did you struggle with the limits of the Magic world and magic system since you're so used to creating your own?

Brandon Sanderson

I worried about this a lot when going into the Wheel of Time--but I found that I really like taking an established magic system and pushing it this direction or that direction. It's a lot of fun to me to dig into how something works, and see if I can "break" it in interesting ways.

I suspected I'd have a similar experience with MTG, and I did--though I did need something I could play with to be unique. I settled on the kind of "Gonti/Nightveil Specter" ability to steal spells from someone else, then use them yourself. This was a really fun space for me to play with, and I found it thoroughly engaging.

Boskone 54 ()
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Questioner

I just finished Rithmatist, so just a general question, where did the idea come from?

Brandon Sanderson

The Rithmatist began as the magic system as you probably could guess. I wanted to do an interesting magic system that people played a game with. Because I have used most of my magic… You’ll read in these, that they’re kind of martial arts based, warfare based, things like that. I’m like, people play games with everything. Why do I have no games-- magic systems with games. So it kind of just spun out of that.

The Alloy of Law Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Three

Wax investigates

If you've read the book, then you probably won't be surprised to find that a partial inspiration for it was the Sherlock Holmes stories. Of course, you'd have to search pretty far to find any kind of detective story that isn't somehow influenced by good Mister Holmes. This story, however, is more consciously inspired along those lines. I purposely developed a mysterious (almost even magical) series of robberies along the lines of what you see in the Holmes stories. The technological era is similar as well.

Of course, the characters are much different—even down to the character roles and dynamics. I wanted Wax to be a thinker, but more of a lawman than an eccentric. Wayne has enough eccentricity for three characters. I wanted the way that Wax approached solving a problem like this to be more methodical, more like a lawman who has grown accustomed to doing things on his own—but who has procedures he follows.

Beyond that, I wanted Wax to be solid. Many people are going to prefer Wayne for obvious reasons, but I prefer this story to be about Wax. (I'll talk more about Wayne's origins later.) Wax's solidity helps anchor the story, I feel. Perhaps I find him more interesting than others will, but the different parts of him that are warring inside create for a stronger dynamic than some of the other characters, who are more static.

Read.Sleep.Repeat interview ()
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Octavia

Newcago was a HUGE surprise for me. I expected to see Chicago, but roughed up in a dystopian way. Instead you took a major city we all know, and made it completely new and interactive. The catacombs, in particular were really interesting to me. Did you base Newcago's catacombs off of a "real" place?

Brandon Sanderson

Newcago's catacombs were actually based more off of mid-eighties cyberpunk stories where you've often got this sort of techie underground, and I love that visual. I intentionally didn't want to take Steelheart in a dystopian direction, even though it technically is a dystopia. I just feel that the whole "wasted world" dystopia has been done so well by so many writers that I wanted to have something that felt new and different.

When I gave Steelheart this sort of Midas power to turn Chicago into metal, I thought it would be cool to have these catacombs dug underneath it because the visual was so different and cool. The catacombs I've visited in various cities are, of course, awesome, but really I'm looking back at those cyberpunk books.

Oathbringer San Francisco signing ()
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Weltall

MaiPon and JinDo are based on Korea and China you've said, I thought that Dominion and Devotion have some resonance with Confucianism-

Brandon Sanderson

They do, the yin and the yang and things like that, absolutely.

Weltall

So that was intentional?

Brandon Sanderson

That was very intentional. Yeah, I've always been fascinated with, like, the blue and the red, right? The things that are opposite but to some cultures and not to others. Like, that was really, that was the Ruin and Preservation thing, right?

Emerald City Comic Con 2018 ()
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Questioner

What was your inspiration for Steelheart's weakness...

Brandon Sanderson

Without spoiling Steelheart, the inspiration for the weakness was a direct outgrowth of who I saw him as a character before he gained powers. Kind of the bully sort of person given a little bit of power, exercises all kinds of terrible, just really mean to people with just a small amount of power. That character was really fascinating to me, the person who really doesn't have any authority, but still what little bit you give them they misuse. And I grew out of that, that idea. So, I kind of wanted to connect--slight spoilers for the series--but I kind of wanted the weaknesses to connect to the personalities of the characters in interesting ways, so it was a natural outgrowth there.

Oathbringer London signing ()
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Questioner

I think Kelsier is one of the best-crafted fantasy characters I've seen in the world. He resonates with me on new levels. What exactly were your influences in the character when you were constructing him?

Brandon Sanderson

Two big influences for Kelsier. The first is, I wanted to do kind of the classic rogue archetype guy, but someone who had had something so fundamentally life-shaking in his life that he had to look deep within and become somebody else. But it's mixed with the other big inspiration, which is, there's kind of some psychopathic tendencies to him, and he would be a villain in many other books. But in this one, he's what the world needed. And those two combinations created for me a really nice tension inside a character.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
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Questioner

*inaudible*

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, they can't help but be.  I remember sitting out on my porch as a kid, the storms blowing the other direction so it didn't get me, and just swinging on the porch swing watching the storm.  Those are the storms I know, so I would say when I'm describing them I'm thinking that.  But the original inspiration was the storm of Jupiter, the constant storm, and granted as a gas giant it is very different.

Legion Release Party ()
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Questioner

Where did the idea for Girl Who Stood Up come from?

Brandon Sanderson

Girl Who Looked Up grew out of my love of folklore and fairytale. And the various incarnations of Pandora myths all around the world, in different societies, presented differently, would be my guess at the inspiration there.

Salt Lake City Comic-Con 2014 ()
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Questioner

In Warbreaker how did you come up with the idea of using colors for magic?

Brandon Sanderson

You know it's the goofiest story. A lot of them have really awesome stories and this one is just goofy. In this one I had written Elantris and written Mistborn and they are both kind of dark and my editor said to me, I kid you not, "Your next book needs some color to it" and I said "Oh I'll do a color-based magic system then". And that's where it came from.

Bands of Mourning release party ()
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Questioner

I was wondering, how often are [???] life imitating art or intentionally put into place?

Brandon Sanderson

It's rare that it's intentional. Once in a while it is, for instance Nohadon is based off of King Benjamin.

Questioner

Nohadon?

Brandon Sanderson

The author of The Way of Kings, the original author. But more often it's just unintended

Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017 ()
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Questioner

What inspired the sword stances in The Way of Kings? Windstance and stonestance--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, it was old-school, what they call-- the old books that you would see-- sword training guides. Where you would see a guy in a stance, and then go like this, and things. I just thought they were really interesting, and I developed the stances around that.

Interview with Isaac Stewart ()
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Trevor Green

I know some of us have heard the story of how you came up with the symbols for Mistborn, but tell those of us who haven't how they came about.

Isaac Stewart

I'd drawn about a half dozen pages of symbols inspired by my first reading of the book. Pages with dozens and dozens of tiny, intricate symbols—maybe someday I'll write a post about the process: Failed Allomantic Symbol Designs. But nothing was really working for me or Brandon.

I'd collected a lot of reference material for the steel inquisitors—nails, railroad spikes, those sorts of things—and one day when I was looking at a picture of a rusty pile of bent up nails, I saw the symbol for iron. It was a Beautiful Mind experience. The symbol just jumped out at me. Glowing and everything.

After that initial experience with the symbol for iron, it was easy to come up with the others. The bent nail part eventually became the crescent shapes used in the final book.

SF Book Review interview ()
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Ant

The use of spren are a brilliant idea, what was the inspiration for these creatures?

Brandon Sanderson

In part, they stem from the underlying cosmology and overarching rules, the dictates of the magic systems of my shared universe. I was looking for a manifestation of that in Roshar. I also was searching for something that would give Roshar a different feel from things that I'd done before. I wanted this book and this series – and everything about it – to feel different from fantasy worlds in the past. I wanted it to be fantastical, but I wanted it to be unique. I wanted something that could consistently remind the reader, "Oh, I'm in a different place. Wow. Their emotions manifest visibly when they feel them strongly. This place is bizarre." That was one of the main inspirations. Looking in our world, one inspiration is certainly the Eastern concept in Shinto mythology of everything having a soul, every rock and river and tree having something living inside of it that is a manifestation of it. Since I was working with the idea of Platonic realms and the like, I spun that off into the spren.

Prague Signing ()
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Questioner

I was interested if, the Wax character, if he was inspired a little by Sams Vimes by Terry Pratchett.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, absolutely. Vimes had a deep effect on me as a writer so any time I'm writing a copper you'll end up with some Vimes but I'd say Wax has a little extra Vimes, so does Dalinar, Dalinar's got a bit of Vimes in him to.

Warsaw signing ()
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Questioner

So my question is how'd you create the Legion *inaudible*?

Brandon Sanderson

Ooh! Good question! So, Legion is a lot of fun, and it's very weird. What happened is, I really do think, as a writer, I have all these weird voices in my head who are telling me to do different things.

One day, I was talking to a friend of mine who writes a lot of psychological horror, and I was talking about schizophrenia, and I said, "Hey, what if all those voices helped you out instead of drove you crazy?" And he said, "That doesn't sound like a horror story. That sounds like a fantasy story, you should write that." So I did.

Subterranean Press Interview ()
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Gwenda Bond

Before we jump in on the third installment [of Legion], can you tell me a little about where this idea came from and how it developed into this novella series?

Brandon Sanderson

I was talking with my friend Dan Wells, who was writing a story about a schizophrenic. I started brainstorming this idea about a person whose hallucinations helped them, kind of turning it into a super power. Dan laughed and said, "That’s much more a Brandon story than a Dan story," and he was right—so eventually, I decided to write it myself.

Skyward San Francisco signing ()
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Questioner

Why did you write Zane for the Mistborn series?

Brandon Sanderson

Zane was a character that I found fascinating. When I designed him, I felt that the setting and characters needed more nuance, and he provided it. I feel that Zane could've gone either way, and he made a bad decision at the end, but could've absolutely gone the other direction and I was really interested in the idea of someone who thought they were insane but actually weren't. So a bunch of things collected, making Zane.

Read.Sleep.Repeat interview ()
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Octavia

With Steelheart every superhero I've worshiped as a kid, was pretty much blown to bits and replaced with the scariest bunch of "supers" I've ever seen. How did you come up with the idea to take superheroes (and even today's, not even close to epic level, villains) and make them so amazingly evil?

Brandon Sanderson

I was on book tour, driving a rental car up through West Virginia when someone aggressively cut me off in traffic. I got very annoyed at this person, which is not something I normally do. I'm usually pretty easygoing, but this time I thought to myself, "Well, random person, it's a good thing I don't have super powers—because if I did, I'd totally blow your car off the road." Then I thought: "That's horrifying that I would even think of doing that to a random stranger!"

Any time that I get horrified like that makes me realize that there's a story there somewhere. So I spent the rest of the drive thinking about what would really happen if I had super powers. Would I go out and be a hero, or would I just start doing whatever I wanted to? Would it be a good thing or a bad thing?

Firefight release party ()
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Questioner

Where did you get the idea of gloryspren and fearspren showing up when people feel certain emotions?

Brandon Sanderson

So spren in The Way of Kings where did I come up with these ideas for things that physically manifest people's emotions. So I honestly think the earliest seed of this, years and years ago, was reading Perrin in The Wheel of Time where he can smell people's emotion and I thought that having an actual different sense to recognize emotion was so cool I think that is what planted the seed in the back of my brain. The other thing that that is mashing-up with though is kind of Shinto ideas, because I was relying a lot on some Eastern philosophy when I was building Roshar and The Way of Kings. And the Shinto believe that everything has a soul and a spirit, a kami as they call it, and things like this and wanting to expand that into not just the rock but your emotions have a soul and they manifest and things like that. And then I was working in the cosmere and all this stuff but in the end I think it is a mash-up of those two concepts. Wanting a cool way, a different way, a way that changes society that emotions play out mixed with this idea of the kami and the Shinto beliefs.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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WeiryWriter

So I just recently read the Allomancer Jak short story in the MAG Alloy of Law supplement. I have to ask was the dynamic between Jak and Handerwym at all inspired by your relationship with Peter? I can very easily picture you blazing some sort of fantastic literary trail and Peter following behind explaining why it isn't possible (Kind of like how you initially intended the time bubbles to do red/blue shift and Peter was like "No you'll microwave people")

Brandon Sanderson

Peter is not nearly as biting toward me, but always having an editor looking over my shoulder and saying, "Uh...is that actually RATIONAL Brandon?" is probably a big part of my inspiration here.

Peter Ahlstrom

I hadn't made the connection... >_>

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

This introductory scene, where Dox and Kell meet on the city wall, has just the right feel for me. I wanted this book–particularly at the beginning–to have the feel of a heist movie. Something like Ocean's Eleven, Sneakers, or Mission: Impossible. I thought a couple of senior thieves getting together on the wall and talking about the team they are gathering would fit in just perfectly.

That was, by the way, one of the major inspirations for this book. I've mentioned that I stole the concepts for Allomancy and Vin's character from other books I wrote. The plot came from a desire to write something that had the feel of a heist movie. I haven't ever seen that done in a fantasy novel–a plot where a team of specialists get together and then try to pull off a very difficult task.

YouTube Livestream 27 ()
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Benji

Are the three realms of Realmatic Theory are based or inspired by Viktor Frankl's dimensional ontology?

Brandon Sanderson

No. I was reaching more toward Platonic theory when I came up with those, and the idea of a place where everything exists in a perfect version of itself, and that was where my mind was going when I was developing this.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

Where did you come up with the idea for Allomancy?

Brandon Sanderson

It's a combination of several things. One is I started with wanting a group of powers that would complement a gang of thieves. So I designed the powers to work within the roles of a thieving crew. The burning metals came from reading about biology and metabolism and it felt very natural to me because that's how we get our energy as human beings. The whole connection of the metals and the visualization stuff came from mixing the periodic table of the elements with alchemy. All of those things kind of spun together to make it.

Salt Lake City Comic-Con 2014 ()
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Questioner

What were the Allomantic metals based on?

Brandon Sanderson

The Allomantic metals were based on two main concepts, magic that feels one step science one step superstition so I was reading things like alchemy and I wanted something that was one half chemistry, one half alchemy. The idea of eating the metals and metabolizing them was really interesting to me because it's kind of almost scientific but not really. That mixed with me wanting to have a thieving crew have different powers that would help different members of a crew and I built the powers to match people like Ham and Breeze.

Oathbringer London signing ()
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Questioner

How do you come up with your concepts on flying across all of your books? They're a little different from usual flying.

Brandon Sanderson

So, I look for something that just hasn't been done before. Almost all powers in fantasy books have been done. But can you put some interesting restriction on them that'll make it more actually interesting to write? A little different? I spend a lot of time just kinda brainstorming these sorts of things.