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YouTube Livestream 12 ()
#51 Copy

Peter Ahlstrom

In Sadeas's warcamp [in Way of Kings], we had this character named Laresh, who came and delivered some recruits for the bridge. And we decided that he was really kind of a prototype for a different character who does the same thing, whose name also starts with "LA" [Lamaril], so we essentially said, "Eh, these are really the same guy. We'll just make them the same guy [in revision]."

Mistborn: Secret History Continuity Notes ()
#52 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Hey, all. Brandon here. With the release of this book, there have been some minor updates to continuity that I think some of you will find relevant.The big one has to do with Hoid's visit to Terris in The Well of Ascension. For those unfamiliar with the backstory, this little behind-the-scenes action has been a source of some consistent problems. The outline, and original draft, of Well had Vin and Elend traveling up to Terris, then into the mountains, to find the Well itself.

This was a huge momentum killer in the story. Having your cityscape-focused book suddenly turn into a traveling quest fantasy for a few chapters felt very out of place, and required too much strange time-jumping to make it work. In revisions, I set about finding a way to repair this, and to overlap the Well of Ascension discovery with Vin's return to Luthadel.

The end result worked much better, but I was forced to cut Hoid's cameo. (In the form of footsteps in the snow and frost leading to the Well, hinting that someone had been there just before her.) I knew where Hoid was, and added in the cameo of him with the Terris people—with the plan still being that he visited the Well sometime during the days after Vin's return to the city.

Well, in working on Secret History, I found that this had a problem with it. Hoid had to already know where the Well is, because after the destruction of the Pits, he'd need to use the Well to return to Scadrial after leaving in the middle of book one to attend to certain other events.

If you've read the story, you know this is how I proceeded. Official continuity is that Hoid went up to Terris after visiting the Well, as he had things to do there. He did not go looking for the Well. This doesn't change continuity for any of the books, though it does render one of the annotations for Well obsolete.

Otherwise, I'm quite pleased about this novella. I wasn't certain how it would go, writing something using threads I'd left dangling ten years ago. (You should thank the beta readers, who are all Sharders I believe, for their continuity help. They made me aware of several things I needed to make much more clear from the original draft, so that canon would be more crisp.)

I know there has been a lot of discussion regarding which times when someone appears to hear Kelsier's voice were actually Kelsier. The story offers the official canon for this as well.

It's nice to finally be able to give the answers to some longtime fan questions, such as what spooked Vin during her inspection of Hoid and what was up with Preservation and the Mist Spirit. It's entirely possible that, despite our efforts, we slipped up and made some continuity error here or there. If so, I'm terribly sorry! This one has been particularly challenging to do.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#53 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Another big change was renaming the Lord Ruler's priests. Originally, they were called just that–priests. And, the Steel Ministry was the Steel Priesthood. I made the change to Steel Ministry and obligators because I didn't want the religion and government in the Final Empire to feel so stereotypical. This was a world where the priests were more spies and bureaucrats than they were true priests–and I wanted the names to reflect that. So, I took out "Priesthood" and "priests." I really like the change–it gives things a more appropriate feel, making the reader uncertain where the line between priests and government ministers is.

By the way, my friend Nate Hatfield is the one who actually came up with the word "obligator." Thanks, Nate!

Anyway, I when I changed the priests to obligators, I realized I wanted them to have a more controlling function in the Final Empire. So, I gave them the power of witnessing, and added in the aspect of the world where only they can make things legal or factual. This idea expanded in the culture until it became part of society that a statement wasn't considered absolutely true until an obligator was called in to witness it. That's why, in this chapter, we see someone paying an obligator to witness something rather trivial.

This was one of the main chapters where obligators were added in, to show them witnessing–and keeping an eye on the nobility. Moshe wanted me to emphasize this, and I think he made a good call. It also gave me the opportunity to point out Vin's father, something I didn't manage to do until chapter forty or so in the original draft.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#54 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Lightsong's Climactic Scene, with His Vision of the Boat

Lightsong's vision and eventual death in this chapter are another of the big focus scenes. In fact, I'd say that this little scene here is my absolute favorite in the book. It's hard to explain why, but I get a chill whenever I read it. It's the chill of something you planned that turned out even better than you expected. (As opposed to the planning for the Siri/altar image, which turned out poorly and so had to be cut.)

I worked hard to bring this scene in my head to fruition. No other section of the book has been tweaked more in drafting—everything from changing it so Lightsong grabs the God King's hand as opposed to his foot, to reworking the imagery of the ocean. (That imagery, by the way, came from my honeymoon while standing on the cruise ship at night and staring into the churning white froth above deep black water.)

Many people on my forums called this event ahead of time—Lightsong healing the God King. I'm fine with that. It did seem like a very obvious setup. One character with powers he cannot use until healed, another with the power to heal someone one time. Sometimes it's okay to give people what they expect—particularly when the result is this scene. I hope they didn't expect it to be as powerful as it is (assuming readers like the scene as much as I do). I want this one to be very moving.

It's the final fulfillment of Lightsong's character. Note that even in the end, his sarcasm and irony come through. He told Siri not to depend on him because he would let her down. Well, Lightsong, you're a better man than you wanted us to believe. There's a reason why so many are willing to rely upon you.

General Reddit 2019 ()
#55 Copy


Have I gone crazy or did he misspell Kal's mom's name twice [in the Stormlight Four preview chapter]? It's Hesina, is it not? But its listed as Hessica twice.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, I always write her name the way it was in 1.0 of the first book, not the place one I changed it (to be more in line with Alethi naming conventions.) So Karen or Peter always have to go through and change it several times for me.

At least I've stopped writing tin as silver these days. Whatever I do in the first draft tends to get embedded into my muscle memory as far as names.


Ha! I figured it was something like that, but started getting paranoid that I completely misremembered anyway. Besides, I imagine that, especially writing at the speed you do, it's easy to overlook the smaller details.

Brandon Sanderson

It's also something about the way my brain works. I still have trouble writing Galladon instead of Galarion, which was his original name. Often, near the end of a book, I'm making tweaks to get the languages and naming more consistent--and some names just don't fit any longer. But my brain rarely wants to accept the changes. (Notably, though, I took easily to Kaladin--who was originally named something else, but a name I never really liked.)


Huh! Sorry if you’ve answered this before, but what was Kaladin’s original name?

Brandon Sanderson

Merin. I know. In my defense, it fit the linguistics at the time.

Elantris Annotations ()
#56 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter One

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elantris Annotations ()
#57 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-One

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

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

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

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

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#58 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Five - Part One

If you couldn't tell, this is one of the climactic scenes I was writing toward.

I'll admit, I didn't have this exact twist down when I started the book. As I worked through the novel, I quickly began to realize that Kelsier had to have some master plan–something greater than he was letting on. That's just the way his personality is. Plus, I needed something that lent more weight to the book. Made it more than just the simple heist story that I'd originally conceived. (After all, a heist story could be told in far less than 200,000 words.)

Kelsier's real plan wasn’t firm for me until I wrote the scenes with him in the caves, influencing the soldiers. By then, of course, over half the book was written. So, I had to begin building Kelsier's true plan from there–and then do a rewrite to put it in from the beginning.

I had known from the beginning that Kelsier was going to die, and that he was going to gain such renown with the skaa (before his death) that the crew began to worry that he would turn into another Lord Ruler. Putting these two things together so that his growing reputation was part of his plan all along was the realization I needed to connect. Then, I could have the bang I wanted in the ending chapters, when the crew realized what Kelsier had been planning all along.

As surprises go, I think this is one of my better–but definitely not one of my best. It required keeping too much back from the reader when in Kelsier's viewpoint, and it required to much explanation after-the-fact to make it work. There's a much better surprise later on. Still, I'm pleased with the bang on this one–especially since I got to have such a beautiful scene with the crew standing atop the building, the mists coming alight around them, as if representing their own growing understanding of the job they'd always been part of.

Elantris Annotations ()
#59 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

In the original drafts of the book, I had Sarene feeling a sense of foreboding here at the beginning of her section. My thought was that we'd just seen the Dakhor attack Raoden–the reader is going to be feeling some tension, so I thought I'd like to keep it up in the Sarene scene.

There's still a little bit of it there, but I cut most at Moshe's recommendation. He felt that having Sarene feel an unnatural eeriness about this particular night was too melodramatic, and implied a kind of psychic link. Personally, I think there's nothing psychic about it–it's just a general storytelling convention that characters can sense when something is wrong.

Either way, I do think the more subdued tone of this first part has its own advantages. By having Sarene completely ignorant, even unconsciously, of what is coming, I think I build a sense of tension. The reader knows danger is approaching.

Skyward San Diego signing ()
#60 Copy


I'm a new teacher; my students are really quick to jump on me when I make mistakes. I was wondering if there's any inconsistencies or characters or any of the aspects of the magic systems you made that you could go back--

Brandon Sanderson

Absolutely. Every book. Every book, there are things that I would want to change. And it ranges-- there's a huge gamut of different things.

For instance, in the White Sand books, my first book that I wrote, that we eventually turned into graphic novels. I had a really cool magic system that was about manipulating sand with your mind, and things like this. And then I added in a weird thing where you could transform sand into water for no good reason whatsoever. It doesn't match the rest of the magic system. Because I wanted to write myself out of a hole. And as a newer writer, I did that a lot more. It ended up kind of getting canonized, and when we went back, I didn't fix it that fast, and so it ended up in the first graphic novel, and I'm like, "We need to fix this." So, the third graphic novel-- we've given ourselves enough wiggle room, fortunately, that I can be like, "And that's not what people thought it was." Because I want it to be more consistent. So you get that third graphic novel, and you're like, "Wow, they can't do this anymore?" No one ever did it onscreen, so they were just wrong. 'Cause that totally just does not belong in that magic system.

The Mistborn books, the original trilogy, I worked very hard to make sure I had an interesting, tough, but also compelling female protagonist. But then I defaulted to guys for the rest of the crew. And this is-- If you want to write a story about that, doing it intentionally, that's a different conversation entirely. But when you just kind of do it accidentally, like, I did, I look back and I'm like, "Mmm, I didn't really want to do that". But I did anyway, because of just the way that every story I'd seen I was defaulting to (like Ocean's Eleven, and things like this), where my models were, and I didn't take enough time to think about it, where I think it would have actually been a better story if I would have thought a little bit more about that. Like, there are things like that all across the board.

I did get into a little-- trouble's the wrong term. But in Words of Radiance, I reverted it-- from the paperback, when it came out, I reverted to a previous version that I had written for part of the ending. And that caused all kinds of confusion among the fans, what is canon? And so I'm like, "Oh, I can't do that anymore." But I had gone back and forth on how a part of the ending was to play out. A pretty small element, but a part of the ending. And I had settled on one. And then immediately, as soon as we pushed print, felt that it was the wrong one. But you just gotta go with it.

I don't know. I don't think there's a strict answer on how much you can change, and how much you can't. Grandpa Tolkien went back and changed The Hobbit so it would match Lord of the Rings. And I think I'm glad he did. Even if I would have been annoyed if I'd had the first version that doesn't have the connection. When I read it, it had the connection, and it was so much cooler. I don't know if I have answers on that. But every book, there is something I would want to change.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#61 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The Blessing of Stability

It's mentioned in this chapter, and in the preceding chapter's epigraph, where the epigraph author notes that it is "rarely used." There's a simple, rational reason why you never see this one getting used in the book.

I added the Blessing of Stability after the fact.

You see, I realized that I needed at least one more Blessing to fit with what I'd built for Hemalurgy. I needed another mental power to complete the set of four. Two are the basic physical powers from Allomancy and Feruchemy: strength and fortitude from one, increased power of the senses in another. However, for Allomancy and Feruchemy, the mental powers deviate from one another. So I wanted the same thing to happen here. Hence the Blessing of Presence—which makes the mind more stable.

But after writing the book, I realized I needed a forth. The Blessing of Stability was born, and I wrote it in in a few places just to make token note of it. I like the concept for the power—that of making one emotionally stable—and am kind of glad I don't show anyone using it. I can show it off better in a later book.

Elantris Annotations ()
#62 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

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

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

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#63 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Parlin as a Character

Any of you who followed the development of Warbreaker as a novel through the early stages know that Parlin, as a character, changed dramatically across revisions. He began with a different name (Peprin) and was much more bumbling and innocent. He provided some comic relief and often said dumb things.

This just didn't work. For one thing, we already have the mercenaries in Vivenna's viewpoint to give us some fun lines. (More on them later.) For another, Peprin was just too dense. I didn't like how stupid he came off. He seemed ridiculous rather than funny. So, I chopped him out and replaced him with a similar character who was more competent.

For instance, in the original draft, Peprin bought a hat because he thought it was cool—but it just made him look stupid. Parlin buys the same hat, but his reasoning is that if you're going to go about in the woods, you dress in woodland colors. If you're going to go about in the city, you want to start dressing in city colors. It's good reasoning, and you'll see him follow it more in the future. The two men do the same thing, but in my head the rationale was completely different, and that changed how I wrote them. (I hope.)

Reading through the book again, I still feel that Parlin just isn't enough of a character. With the mercenaries there to dominate the scene, Parlin gets lost. I feel that if I had the time, I'd probably chop him out again and replace him with yet another character, one who talks more, so that he can be more a part of things. Ah well.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#64 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Three

Sazed Defends the Gate

The Sazed fights scenes interest me because of how much of a contrast they are to the Vin fights. Sazed's scenes are so brutal–strength against strength, blunt fighter against blunt fighter. Vin fights with grace. Sazed is just trying to stay alive.

I worked a lot on the plotting here of making Sazed's gate hold so long. When I planned the siege of Luthadel, I knew that I would need a very deep, character driven set of scenes with Sazed. It was the only way I felt I could add something new to this plotting sequence. The heroes defending their city during a siege has been done before. (One notable example being in The Lord of the Rings.) I was worried that I would be bored of writing these scenes, and so I decided to head that off by focusing in on Sazed here, who I thought would approach a battle like this in a new way.

I don't know what readers thought, but I found myself drawn very much into writing the scenes, which is a good sign. They up going longer than I'd anticipated, which is another good sign. Something about the contrast of the quiet religious scholar in the middle of such a terrible war was fascinating to me.

So fascinating, actually, that I forgot to write Ham into any of the scenes in these chapters. I didn't remember him until about chapter fifty-five. It was then that I remembered that the best warrior in the group had disappeared for the entire fight. So, I wrote him in, and added him to this chapter where Sazed gets to Breeze.

You'd be surprised at how often writers do things like this, forgetting a character. It's a tough call sometimes to keep track of everyone who is involved in various parts of a complex plot. Don't even get me started on the challenge of keeping track of everyone while writing in the Wheel of Time world.

Emerald City Comic Con 2018 ()
#65 Copy


Do you ever find that you are producing content so quickly that your mind comes up with a better idea after percolating for a while, and the book is already published? And if that does ever happen, how do you handle it?

Brandon Sanderson

This is dangerous, right? I think every author wants to go back and tweak things. And there is a fine line between pulling a Tolkien, where you go back to The Hobbit and you revise the ring conversation so it matches The Lord of the Rings, which has now become a classic conversation, we're all glad he did that, right? It ties The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings together better, it was a good revision. There is a fine line between that and Lucas-ing your work, right? Where instead of taking something and tweaking something to make it better, you tweak it just to make it different. I think there is a fine line there. There is a quote often ascribed to da Vinci, that a lot of people say it isn't his, but it's the idea that, he (maybe) said "Art is never finished, it is only abandoned."

You really have to take that perspective as an artist, you have to eventually just let things go. Not to sing an Elsa song, but you just gotta be willing to say "I'm done." And you are always going to have better ideas later on or ways you could tweak it. And more, it's not that you have better ideas. What happens is you change as an artist, and your goals change over time and the way you would approach something changes over time. While I've played in this realm, I've settled on that I should just avoid this most of the time. You could always tweak it to be better, and you've got to release something sometime.

I do find it very useful to finish something, write something else, then come back to the thing I've finished, because that gives me the right amount of balance between giving it time to rest so that I can approach it with fresh eyes, and also being regular with the releases. I haven't ever felt like I'm going too fast. I have had things that don't turn out too well, but those I just don't release. That happened with Apocalypse Guard last year where I wrote the book, I gave it some time, I came back and looked at it and it just wan't-- it didn't work. It was broken, it was not good, and I'm just like, "I've got to set this aside and think about it."

It's weird. Writing has a little bit more performance art to it than as a non-writer you might think. Meaning who you are in the moment, when you are creating this thing, the connections you make while you're making it are deeply influential to how the piece of art turns out. It's like you're freezing a moment in time for that author. Rather than trying to create the perfect work you are creating a reflection of who they are when they made it, and you have to kind of be okay with that as a writer.

General Reddit 2022 ()
#66 Copy


In Rhythm of War, Notum tells Adolin that:

“Deadeyes can’t make choices,” Notum said. “They don’t have the presence of mind for it. I know this personally. My own father is a deadeye, cared for in the fortress now.”

Is this a mistake, conflating Captain Notum with Captain Ico? Notum's father would've been born centuries or millennia after the Recreance, going off what Notum says in Oathbringer:

“The Stormfather created only a handful of children. All of these, save Sylphrena, were destroyed in the Recreance, becoming deadeyes. This loss stung the Stormfather, who didn’t create again for centuries. When he was finally moved to remake the honorspren, he created only ten more. My great-grandmother was among them; she created my grandfather, who created my father, who eventually created me.”

So if he's become a deadeye relatively recently, it's surprising they didn't use him as an example instead of Testament.

On the other hand, Ico's father is definitely a deadeye:

Ico locked the door and hung the keys on his belt. “My father.”

“Your father?” Adolin said. “You keep your father locked up?”

“Can’t stand the thought of him wandering around somewhere,” Ico said, eyes forward. “Have to keep him locked away though. He’ll go searching for the human carrying his corpse, otherwise. Walk right off the deck.”

Peter Ahlstrom

Notum did not get conflated with Ico. Ico's father is not cared for in Lasting Integrity.

But the quote from Oathbringer apparently was forgotten. We'll have to address this sometime in the future.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#67 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Killing off the army like this was planned from the beginning. I knew I needed some kind of big wrench in the plans of the crew, and figured this would make a pretty good one. Plus, it felt natural, since it was a problem with Kelsier's own growing reputation. The very thing he's been working so hard to foster eventually turned against him.

When alpha readers read this chapter, they didn't see the loss of the army as much of a setback. That was one of the first things that made me realize the big flaw in the early drafts. I'd talked a lot in the crew about stealing the atium, but I'd spent all the time with them actually doing things on recruiting the army. So, the readers were still focused on the job being the atium heist, rather than the capture of the city. In that context, losing the army isn't all that bad.

So, I like how the rewrite focuses much more on the army. It makes the events of this chapter all the more poignant. Yeden, the one that was employing the crew, is dead. That should mean the end of everything.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#68 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Five - Part Two

I was forced to cut one of my favorite lines from the book, and it was in this chapter. I'll write it now. Near the beginning, the narrative says regarding Vin:

"She was, as if, nowhere."

Moshe convinced me that this sentence just didn't make enough sense. Yet, to me, it somehow expressed how Vin felt. She had been cut free by Kelsier's death. Yet, she was still there. She wished she could just meld with the mists–she felt as if her soul were already cast away. Yet, she couldn't vanish, as she wished.

Ah, cursed grammar, ruining a perfectly good sentence!

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#70 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Five

One of my writing groups had an intense reaction against Vin killing the dog in this scene. I'm not sure, still, WHY they got so upset–but they really didn't like it that she killed a dog "in cold blood" as they put it.

So, her little "I'm sorry about this" in her head is there for them. At least now they know she kind of wishes she didn't have to do it.

That dog had it coming, though.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#71 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Seventeen

So, now the Watcher is named. I didn't originally intend him to remain mysterious for so long. In fact, in the original draft, I had a viewpoint from him fairly early on. That's been moved back in this version, to make things flow more quickly at the beginning, but also so that you could form your opinion of him externally first. He has a. . .particular way of seeing the world, and I felt it better to introduce that later, so that it wouldn't overshadow the other aspects of his personality quite as much.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#72 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

This initial section, with Tresting and the Obligator, was added during one of the last drafts of the book. I had some troubles starting this novel. I really liked the Kelsier section of the prologue (which was originally the first chapter.) However, before I got to Kelsier, I wanted to have a kind of scene-setting omniscient description of the skaa working.

The important part of this zoom out would have been to show them all with heads bowed, then show Kelsier look up and smile. I tried several drafts of this, and eventually settled on something that was okay. Later on, however, I decided that it was just too much of a viewpoint error to have an omniscient section in one of my books, especially since it was the first section of the novel. So, I decided to set the scene from Tresting's viewpoint.

Once I changed that, I like how this scene turned out. However, it does mean that the very first viewpoint that you see in the book is that of a passing villain who doesn't really matter very much. I guess that's all right, but it's part of the reason I moved this back to being the prologue–I think that gives more of an indication that the characters introduced aren't necessarily the main characters of the book.

Other than that, I liked how this scene let me introduce some of the world elements–obligators, Inquisitors, the ash, the nobility, and the Lord Ruler–in a quick, easy way. Plus, I got to have the scene with Kelsier looking up and smiling, which always gives me a bit of a chill when I read it.

Elantris Annotations ()
#73 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixteen

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

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

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

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

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-One

This is another of my favorite chapters. (How many of those am I allowed to have, by the way?)

Anyway, it was about time for someone to say the things that Vin did in this chapter. Kelsier and his group really ARE a bit disconnected from regular skaa. In a way, they're like Elend and his little band of philosophers–they feel bad for those beneath them, and talk about helping, but it's really hard for them to really understand the skaa.

I love Vin's entrance. Perhaps I have a flare for melodrama, but I think it worked very well here to have her burst in, bloodied, carrying her dress. (Which, of course, she went back and fetched so that it wouldn't give her away.)

I did change the last line of this scene. Up until the copy edit, the last line from Kelsier's viewpoint (before we switch to Vin atop the roof) was him thinking "Well, she certainly has changed!"

This seemed like too much of a quip, and it undermined the tension and emotions of the last chapter. Sometimes, a good one-liner is good to release tension. However, in this case, I found that it really did feel out of place. This just wasn't the time for some half-snarky comment from Kelsier.

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Vivenna Visits Lemex

In the very early planning of this book, I intended Lemex to live. He was going to become a mentor figure for Vivenna, and have the very personality that she described him as having in her imagination. Spry, quick-witted, intelligent.

So I decided to kill him off.

Why? Well, it's complicated. On one hand, I felt that he was too much of a standard character from one of my books. The witty mentor is not only a stereotype of fantasy, but something I rely upon a lot in my writing. (Though, granted, many of those haven't been published—however, Grandpa Smedry from the Alcatraz books is a great example of this kind of character.)

I also felt that Lemex could too easily be a crutch for Vivenna in the same way that Mab could have been for Siri. The idea was to keep these sisters consistently out of their elements, to force them to stretch and grow.

Instead, I upped the competence of the mercenaries and decided to have them play a bigger part.

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

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

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

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Chapter Sixty-Two - Part Three

The Dakhor Monks

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

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

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Chapter Eighteen

This chapter went through some heavy edits. First off, I originally had Hrathen interrogate the Elantrian off-stage. At a suggestion from my editor, I put this in-scene, showing Hrathen talk to the Elantrian. The intention here was to give a little characterization to Hrathen by showing his logical approach to studying and interrogating his prisoner.

The other big change to this chapter came in the middle. As I was working on the later revisions, I realized–at Joshua's suggestion–that I really wanted something here in the early middle of the book that showed Hrathen sparring against Dilaf and winning. In certain sections of the book, Hrathen's character came off too weakly–and this was one of the chapters. Originally, I had Dilaf extinguish the torches of his own accord, then burn the Elantrian later, despite Hrathen's protests.

In the new version, I get to have Hrathen prove his competence by having him wrestle control of the crowd. He is the one who burns the Elantrian, which enhances the scene by letting Hrathen feel guilt for it. He comes off much stronger in this chapter than he did before.

Those of you who have read on realize how important this is to the plot, because from here out, Dilaf starts to get the better of Hrathen. I needed to reinforce Hrathen's strength at the beginning of the story, otherwise I feared that the scenes of Dilaf winning would make Hrathen seem too weak. Hopefully, things now feel like they are balanced–one gaining dominance for a time, then the other wrestling it away, and so on and so forth.

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Chapter Six

Marsh Is Still Around

Short little Marsh chapter here. This is partially just to remind you that he's still around, since he has a part to play in this book.

I learned a little from book two, where I had wanted to use Marsh more but wasn't able to squeeze him in. There were a lot of complaints about this from alpha readers and fans talking about how Marsh was one of their favorite characters, and how they didn't like it that he disappeared throughout most of the book.

The problem I run into is that I can't show too much of what he's doing, as that would reveal Ruin's plans prematurely. I do go into some of what Marsh is up to in subsequent chapters, but I felt that at this point it was too early. So, fairly late in the revision process, I added this chapter in as a reminder of his mindset and what he's up to.

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Still not sure what the multiple mist spirits were that warded off Marsh in the deleted version of the ending - I've heard speculation they were somehow kandra (justifying the mistwraith name). Do you remember what was going on there?

By the way, the knife leras is carrying around. Would people call that a shard blade ;)?

Brandon Sanderson

What a nice, heaping pile of RAFOs you have there, Phantine.

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Another big nod of thanks goes out to my thesis committee for their suggestion regarding this chapter. I'm not sure how I missed it, but in the original drafts, Raoden and company never acknowledge the fact that Hrathen had been healed. They never even mentioned it, and they certainly didn't give their thoughts on why it happened.

The fix was an easy one–you can read it in a few paragraphs in this chapter. However, the fact that it hadn't been there before was indeed a problem. Moshe was dumbfounded when I mentioned the oversight to him.

So, thanks Sally, Dennis, and John. You saved me from some embarrassment.

I like the explanation that Raoden gives here for Hrathen's healing. It seems like it would make sense to the Elantrians, and it saves me from having them suspect what was really going on.

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Would Lord Mastrell be a good name to disambiguate it [the original draft of White Sand] from the Graphic Novel and the Prime version?

Peter Ahlstrom

No, Lord Mastrell (actually spelled Lord Mastrel at the time) was the third book Brandon wrote, but it's essentially the second half of White Sand Prime. That book didn't finish, he just got to where he had written 243k words and said "guess that's the end of the book." Then Lord Mastrel was another 204k.

Both together cover the same amount of story as the later version of White Sand. Glancing quickly at the end of Lord Mastrel, a big difference was that Kenton got 6 months to prove himself instead of two weeks. (Also, for some reason Lord Mastrel has all manual page breaks. The horror!) There are also some...interesting differences in how the final vote went.

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Brandon Sanderson

Koloss are something I've been trying to work in for a time. Originally, in the very first draft of Mistborn one, I had them make an appearance in the prologue:

The skaa worked the fields with the lethargy of the hopeless, their motions methodical and listless. Though the sun's light was darkened and ruddied by the ever-present smoke, the day was still oppressively hot. Yet, no skaa man paused to wipe his soot-stained brow–being seen resting by a koloss fieldmaster would invite a whipping.

So, the skaa worked. Eyes down, watching the dirt by their feet, they dug at the weeds–daring not to speak, barely even daring to think. Koloss stalked amidst them, blood-drop eyes alert for signs of skaa laziness.

Obviously, I changed their place in the world drastically. During the drafting of book one, I was still working out what I wanted the koloss to be. I knew they were going to be something monstrous, and as the first draft of Mistborn One progressed, I slowly cut them from the book and decided to save them for book two. As the characters talked about them, the koloss reputation became more and more nasty–and I went so far as to explain that the Lord Ruler himself feared to keep them near human settlements.

So, when it came to plan book two, I put a lot of effort into developing the koloss. I wanted them to be cool visually, live up to their reputations, and work within the worldbuilding and magic of the setting. You'll find out a lot more about them as the series progresses.

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Chapter Forty-Six

Sazed Agrees to Put On the Metalminds

Sazed was getting close to putting on those metalminds again even without Spook's interference and demands. You can tell by the way he fixated on them recently, and how—despite his determination not to wear them—he ended up getting them out and polishing them. He's been waiting for an excuse to use them.

That said, I like the depth of Sazed's conflict presented in this chapter. He's come a long way from the first draft of the book, where he simply sat around as a depressed lump. (I'm probably exaggerating his weakness in that draft, but I'm pleased enough with this draft that it feels like it's leaps and bounds ahead of the old one.)

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Oh, and no. I don't know what Camon's throat-rope is tied to. You did have a foreshadowing of this kind of execution earlier in the book. (Though, to be honest, I added that in during a rewrite. I didn't come up with particular method of killing someone until I got to this point in the book. It seemed to me that the Inquisitors wouldn't just kill Camon. They'd do something more drastic.)

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When you're thinking about parallel stories and writing them, how do you keep them disparate so that you don't have characters from one story overlapping with another story...

Brandon Sanderson

This is a balancing act I perform when writing big, long books, because a lot of times for narrative reasons, it is better to write them "this set of characters, then the next set, then this set, then that", and go back and forth, but a lot of times, for continuity of theme and character building, it is better to write them straight through, right, that one character's throughline, so you make sure it has an emotional arc to it. And the longer the book gets, the more delicate that balancing act gets, right?

So on a Stormlight book, I usually split the book in my head into three parts, like I write a trilogy of books, and then bind them together as one, with a short story collection making up the interludes and things. And I usually would go, alright, part one, Kaladin from beginning to end of part one. Part one, Shallan from beginning to end of part one. Now I will weave these chapters together and I will read through for theme and make sure that the pacing is working, because the pacing and tone can really get messed up when you're doing that.

Fun story about that: A Memory of Light, I did this with some of the things, and I was weaving them together for the prologue, and two of the things I was weaving together, was characters getting engaged, it was the ladies making a bridal wreath to give to Rand, and the other was the fall of Caemlyn and the people who were trying to live as things were happening there. Not to go into too many spoilers, but it was a really dynamic action sequence, with a lot of terrible things happening, and when I wove those two together, the tone whiplash was terrible. And it was like, one of the worst parts of the book was "here's a happy thing where we're gonna get engaged, now this person dies, then we go back to this happy thing". *crowd laughs* So I had to yank the engagement sequence from the book, because there was no tonal place in that novel where it could go that it wouldn't do that.

And so you run into that trouble, but I think that with the longer books, what you're noticing, keeping the characters' throughline consistent is the more important factor. It's a lot easier, I think, to fix pacing and tone by where you move the chapters and what you cut out and what you add in in revision.

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Vin Gets Her Earring Back

Getting Vin's earring back to her proved a logistical problem here, perhaps one of the biggest puzzles in the entire book for me. If I pulled the earring, then Ruin couldn't talk to her, and I couldn't include the scenes of her and Ruin in jail. I felt they were very important—both to make good use of Vin's time while imprisoned, and to get across useful information about the nature of Ruin—his goals, his motivations.

And so, I needed to have Yomen give the earring back. But why? Why would he give a piece of metal to an Allomancer? Vin's reasoning in this chapter is the best I could come up with. Yes, Yomen has atium, ready to burn it. He is, indeed, trying to spring any traps Vin has ready. In fact, once he had her taken away, he followed a distance behind and waited by her cell for the rest of the day, expecting her to try something. When she didn't, he was rather confused.

The earring also presented a problem in that in the original drafts of book one, silver was an Allomantic metal. I later changed silver to tin and played with what the metals did. However, I didn't have the specifics of Hemalurgy down. And so, when I got this book, I worried that her earring would be the wrong metal. Hence the silver plating explanation, as I worried that I'd forgotten or missed some instances in book one where I mentioned the earring being silver. (I tried to cut all references to its actual metal, so that I would be open to build Hemalurgy as I saw fit.)

Notice that Ruin's voice doesn't come to her until after she puts the earring back in. As she points out later, his telling her to kill isn't as specific as she's interpreting it. He's just sending her a general feeling that she should kill and destroy; his attention is elsewhere at the moment, watching what Spook is doing.

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Brandon Sanderson

In the original draft, I wasn't sure what kind of person I was going to make Allmother. I hadn't planned for her and Lightsong to have any kind of history together; these are just connections I worked into it as I wrote. (Along with his relationship with Calmseer.) He needed something to intertwine him better with the court, and so as I was drafting, these things kind of just fit together. Sometimes readers ask me what I plan and what I don't. Well, the honest truth is that it's hard to look at a book and give clear guidelines on what was planned and what was developed during the process of writing. In this case, Allmother as a character was done completely on the fly.

Of course, once she was developed, I went back in the next draft and built in some references to her in the Lightsong sections so that I could hint at previous interaction.

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What were you dissatisfied with in WoR?

Brandon Sanderson

It's twofold. Spoilers follow, obviously.

In the original draft, none of the alpha readers felt that I had 'sold' Jasnah dying to them, and were all like, "Ha. Nice try. No body. She's alive.' So I kicked the assassination scene up a notch, until betas were like, "Stormfather! Jasnah just died!"

That was a mistake, I now believe. (Though this didn't get changed, and won't get changed.) Sometimes, I over-emphasize to myself the importance of surprises and twists. The book is fine if readers suspect Jasnah is still alive--actually, I think it's stronger, because it is more satisfying to be right in that situation, and doesn't detract from Szeth's miraculous survival at the end.

I knew this soon after I'd released the book, but decided it was just too extensive a change to try tweaking.

The other one I did tweak. In the battle at the end between Kaladin and Szeth, I'd toyed with letting the storm take Szeth--him essentially committing suicide--as opposed to him spreading his hands and letting Kaladin kill him. I felt that after the oath Kaladin had just sworn, stabbing a docile opponent unwilling to fight back just didn't jive. This I tweaked, changing the paperback from the hardcover, which has produced mixed results.

Most people agree the change is better, but they also say they'd rather not have the hardcover and paperback have different accounts in it, and would rather I just stick to what we put in the hardcover. It was interesting to try, to see what the response would be like, but it seems that the better option all around is to just wait until I'm certain I don't want to revert any of the revisions or tweak anything new.

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Brandon Sanderson

The only other thing to say about this chapter is that it's about where the Mad Prince subplot began in the original drafts of the book.

Though this is explained other places on the site, I should probably note it here. The Mad Prince, a character who has been cut from the book, dominated about three or four chapters in the last quarter of the manuscript. Originally, Raoden wasn't an only child–he had a brother who was something of a madman. Eton–the Mad Prince–was sent away by his father to live in seclusion. He was mentioned several places in the text, foreshadowing the time when Hrathen decided to pull him back into Arelish politics to try and use him as a pawn.

In this chapter, the Mad Prince arrives in the area–though we don't know it. Hrathen finds out that Eton has arrived, and goes to meet with him off stage. The reader doesn't know what's going on yet–you only know that Hrathen has some other little scheme he's been cooking up since Sarene's fall. (Remember, in the original draft of the book, Telrii was far less of a character. Hrathen gave up on him early in the book, after the plan to sink Iadon's ships ended up being a wash.)

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Brandon Sanderson

My editor tried to take out the shot of the final man, slumping back but remaining kneeling, staring up into the sky with Nightblood rammed through his chest and propping him up from behind. But I think it's one of the more powerful ones in the book, so I fought for it. (He didn't think it was realistic that the body would just remain there kneeling.)

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Brandon Sanderson

The limelights were added at Moshe's suggestion. In the original drafts of the book, I had bonfires burning outside. That was problematic, however, since they not only required a lot of fuel, but getting them close enough to the windows to provide enough light meant getting them close enough to be dangerous to the glass because of the heat. In addition, Moshe pointed out that bonfires just wouldn't be intensely focused enough in their brightness to provide the right illumination for the stained glass windows. (And, of course, I HAD to illuminate the windows. Why go to all the trouble of putting the balls in gothic cathedrals if nobody could see the windows?)

So, anyway, Moshe came up with the limelights as a fix. They actually work quite well–they fit the general level of technology I place the Final Empire as having, and the provide focused and intense light. As I understand it, they were the way that stages were illuminated to show the actors during the nineteen hundreds. Hence, being in the limelight as a phrase for someone who is being paid attention to.

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Vivenna and Vasher Talk about What to Do

One of the biggest revisions to the ending was what to do with the D'Denir. When first drafting the book, I wasn't 100% sure on what Awakening could and couldn't do. I figured that Vasher could have Commands that would Awaken statues, and I wrote the ending that way.

Unfortunately, through revising and developing the story, this ended up not being viable. I was also disappointed in how poorly telegraphed the use of the statues ultimately ended up being. So in revisions, I switched it to make them Lifeless created from bones, something special that Vasher came up with during the Manywar. I then added the concept of Kalad's Phantoms as a mystery in the book, so that readers would be expecting that army to show up by the end. I think this mitigates the surprise somewhat. (Though not completely; see below.)

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Lightsong's Wisecracks

The other major Lightsong revision happened in the form of a humor upgrade. My editor didn't complain about the same thing as my agent—instead, my editor wanted to laugh more. He wanted more witty lines from Lightsong. I resisted this at first, as I worried that making him too snappy would undermine his internal conflicts. I wanted him to be droll, but not necessarily brilliant.

Eventually, however, my editor prevailed upon me. He was always of the opinion that a few extra witty lines wouldn't undermine anything. I have to say, I like the lines, and I'm mostly glad to have them. But I do worry about overloading the humor in Lightsong's chapters, and therefore diluting his internal conflict.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fourteen

Spook Enters the Stage

And so, here we have our first Spook chapter. When I wrote these books, I'd been planning Spook's sections for quite some time and was very excited to write them. As I said earlier, I wrote them all together, like a mini-novel of their own, then interwove them with the Vin/Elend sections and the TenSoon sections.

Spook has always been a personal favorite of mine. His silly nonsense of a language from the first book was a lot of fun, and even then I began planning what I could do with him were I to make him a viewpoint character. The first thing I had to do was, unfortunately, get rid of the dialect—it annoyed too many people, and it just wasn't comprehensible enough.

The second thing I had to do was give him conflict. Clubs's death, and Spook's absence during the Siege of Luthadel, gave me a large chunk of that. But from there I needed more—and I wanted to do something different with Allomancy for him. Hence the idea of the tin savant, a person who has burned and flared tin so much that it has changed his body.

We'll get a lot more on this as the book progresses. However, my feeling has been that these novels have focused too much on the powerful and the very capable. I love Vin's and Elend's scenes, but we needed something from someone a little bit lower on the power scale. I wanted to do these Spook sections to show someone more average, someone most readers usually ignored, doing amazing things.

Originally, I wrote Spook a little bit more unhinged. He was cocky in his new powers to the point of being a little too off-putting. During the final revision—the one where I added Sazed's studies of the religions—I backed off on Spook's intensity in these first few chapters from his viewpoint, trying to make him a little more sympathetic and a little more trustworthy.

Yes, he's done serious damage to his body by ignoring the advice not to flare his metal too much. (See book one where Kelsier gives this same advice to Vin.) However, he now recognizes what he's done and explains why he's doing it.

Other than that, this is another setup chapter reintroducing us to Spook, giving us his motivations and place in the book, and showing off his magic a little. The next chapter from his viewpoint has a lot more going on.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Three

Well, there you go. That chapter (with a big chunk of two) was originally the first chapter of the book. Oddly, moving it back made the book move more quickly, for me at least. It's strange how you can sometimes speed up a novel by ADDING material.

Speed in books, however, has little to do with how long the book actually is, and everything to do with how captivated the reader is.

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Vivenna Wanders the Slums, Then Finds the Safe House

I made one small revision here in this chapter. I added the statue as a reference point. Before, Vivenna just happened to run across the safe house while wandering.

Why the change? It's just the same thing, right? She happens to wander by the statue, then manages to remember the directions. It's still a big coincidence when you think about it.

However, it doesn't read like as big a coincidence. Adding in her seeing the statue, then having to work to find her way to the safe house was a way of making it seem, to readers, that it wasn't just a coincidence. Because there was effort involved, I feel it will read more smoothly and less oddly to most readers. Part of this is because a statue in a city square is easier to notice than a given house on the side of the street, and partially because the discovery can be more gradual this way.

This is part of the smoke and mirrors that a writer uses. Sometimes I worry that explaining these things will ruin the book for readers—but I guess if you were the type it would ruin the magic for, you probably wouldn't be reading behind-the-scenes annotations in the first place.