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Boskone 54 ()
#52 Copy

yulerule

Are any of the interlude characters that we’ve met in other interludes?

Brandon Sanderson

You’ve met Axies the collector, and he appears in another interlude. Rysn is in an interlude in the first two books. You met Ash in one of the interludes and she’s going to be an important character, she’s very relevant. So I would say that a lot of the interludes have characters that show up again or are likely to show up again.

DragonCon 2016 ()
#53 Copy

Questioner

I wanted to ask-- So you--I think more than almost any other fantasy author--you create universes and then you leave them behind. Entire uni-- I almost feel like you could sit down-- you could have like pages of a physics lecture in each of your universes and you would have equations for how it works. Do you have-- Have you always had these ideas for these various universes with gods and magic systems and things like that, or are you always creating them, sort of as you go? 

Brandon Sanderson

It's yes and no. A lot of the ones you're seeing in the cosmere are things I created at the beginning to be kind of what the cosmere was. But I left some holes intentionally cause I knew I would come up with cool things that I wanted to add, and so I built in that wiggle room, and I'm always coming up with new ones. And there are way more that I want to do than I can write, like the one I keep wanting to find a chance for is--

Do you guys know how Nikola Tesla tried to create wireless energy? I think I've talked about this one. Like, he tried to create wireless energy, and I'm like "What if there were a world where that happened naturally?" Where you had a natural current going, and you could like set your lantern on the ground and it would create a current from the sky to the ground and your light bulb would just turn on. You don't need electricity. And how would-- What if we have giant toads that could shoot out their tongues that would create a current,  and they're like taser tongues? *makes zapping noises* Stuff like this. And so, I started jumping in to looking at electricity and things like this, and current and whatnot, and that's just all back there and I'm like "Aww, someday I need to be able to write this." But there are so many things that I want to write that I just don't have the time for, so it's a yes and no.

Questioner

So do you have, like, "what if" questions and then you build a universe from there?

Brandon Sanderson

Usually they're "what if" questions, but Sanderson's Zeroth Law--I've got these laws on magic you can look up,  they're named humbly after myself--so Sanderson's Zeroth Law is "Always err on the side of what's awesome". And usually it's less even a "what if?" and it's a "That's so cool, taser toads!" Like if you really want to know the truth of where The Stormlight Archive started, there's all this cool stuff, like part of it was like "What if there was a storm like the storm on Jupiter". And then I eventually changed it to a storm that goes around the planet, something like that, but the real truth was "Magical power armor. YEAH! Magical power armor is cool! Plate mail power armor! Why would you need plate mail power armor?" Y'know, and it starts with the really cool idea. Mistborn started by me drifting in a fog bank at eighty miles per hour in my car and loving how it looked as it drove past and saying "Is there a world where I can imitate this feel, where you look out and it streams by." It's those early visuals or concepts that make me say "Oh yeah, I wanna do that!". That is where my books really come from, and then I layer on top of them the "what ifs?" and trying to build a realistic ecology based around these ideas.

DragonCon 2016 ()
#54 Copy

Questioner

Stormlight feels very different to me on so many levels. You've got the interludes where we get to get a lot of worldbuilding, we get to see more of the planet than just one place. But there is also this sense that a lot of your books we're experiencing the aftermath of something. And in Stormlight that something is coming. How is this affecting the way that you are building your world for us?

Brandon Sanderson

So, this one's going get you a story, okay? So here's the story... So, alright, darkest time in my writing career, okay? Was when I was writing books 11 and 12 unpublished. I was getting rejection letters, and they were rejection letters for things like Elantris and Dragonsteel, which I was really confident in. Elantris, Dragonsteel, and White Sand were the good books during the era of unpublished Brandon.

White Sand by the way, is out as a graphic novel now. You can also read the prose version by emailing me through my website form, we just send it out for free, so you can compare it to the graphic novel. And by the way, Dragonsteel, you're like "Oh, Hoid's origin story", we'll do that eventually. The Shattered Plains started in Dragonsteel, and I pulled them out, and I pulled Dalinar out, and a bunch of stuff, when I built Stormlight. And so it's really a schizophrenic book now-- Schizeophrenic is the wrong term, but half of it was what became Stormlight, and half of it is Hoid's origin story. So, the half that is Hoid's origin story will eventually get a book.

Anyway, darkest point-- I'm not selling anything, everybody is telling me like "Your books are too long". This is the number one thing I'm getting from rejections, "Your books are too long, and your books are not market friendly, in that the worlds are too weird". I'm getting this-- You gotta remember this is-- I love George but  this is right after George got huge, and George introduced gritty, low magic, earth-like fantasy as kind of "the thing" that was big. And his books were large too, I don't know why people kept telling me mine were too big, but they wanted gritty and they wanted low magic and they wanted earth-like. So I was getting rejection after rejection on these things. What people were buying were things like Joe Abercrombie's stuff, which is great, Joe's a great writer. But you know, short things that gave people a similar feel to George RR Martin, but you know, but were low magic, kind of earth-like medieval societies. Basically shorter versions of George is basically what they wanted. So I actually would go to cons and they would be like "Have you read the beginning of Game of Thrones? Write something like that" and so finally against better advice, I sat down and said "alright I'll try something like that". And you guys do not want to read Brandon Sanderson trying to be George RR Martin. *laughter* It was embarrassing, and so I wrote these books, each something different.

And I like trying to do something different, I'm not sad I tried to do something different, but at the end I was like "I can't do this, these books are crap". The worst books I wrote were the two that were like books 11 and 12. Like I shouldn't be getting worse as a writer, the more books I write. And so I was in a funk and I finally just said, "You know what? Screw it, I'm gonna write the biggest, baddest, most awesome book that I can!" They say they're too [long], this is gonna be twice as long! They say that worlds are too weird, I'm gonna do the weirdest world that I've always wanted to do. I'm gonna write the type of fantasy book that nobody's writing that I wish they would write. And I'm gonna break all these rules that say 'Oh don't do flashbacks'. Screw you, I'm gonna put flashbacks in every book! They say 'Don't do prologues', screw you, I'm doing three prologues!" *laughter* It really does, because Way of Kings starts with the Heralds. Prologue. Then it goes to Szeth. Prologue. And then it goes to the viewpoint of the guy in Kaladin's squad. Also a prologue. And then it jumps like eight months and then we start the story. I did all the stuff they told me not to do because I just wanted to make the biggest, most coolest and baddest epic I could-- bad in a good term.

And I finished this book, which was basically flipping the bird to the entire publishing industry, right? And that-- Within a month of finishing that is when Moshe, who I told you is bipolar, got manic and read through his backlist of books that people had sent him, including one I'd sent him two years earlier, which was Elantris. He'd never looked at it, he read it in a night, he called me manic, and said "I wanna buy your book!". And actually what happened is, he called me and I'd moved since then, and gotten a new phone number. We used to have landlines back then, I know. I had a cellphone by the time he called me but before I had my landline number on it, and I'd actually--this is gonna date me--my first email address was AOL. I was like "Free email." And then I realized AOL-- I wont speak ill of-- Yes I will. AOL sucked. *laughter* And so I'm like "Well I need to get my own email address", so I went and got one, but that meant the email had changed. And I sent to anyone who actively had one of my books on submission like "This is my new contact info", but he'd had it for two years. I figured I was never seeing it-- If you were on the last panel, I mentioned that I sent things into Tor and they vanished, and I never got rejections-- I never got rejected from Tor, I sent them four books, they're still just sitting there somewhere I'm sure. But, so I finished this big beast of a book, right, and then I sell Elantris, and I'm like "Great, now I don't know what to do". So my editor is like "Oh what are you working on now, I want to see that too", so I sent him Way of Kings, and I still remember when he called me, he was like "Uhh... Well this isn't the sort of thing that new authors usually publish. Can we split it?" and I said "No, you split the book and it's a really bad book, 'cause you have all the buildup but none of the payoff". And he's like "Ughhh", and I said "That's alright, I've got this idea for Mistborn", I pitched him Mistborn. "I'll do Way of Kings later", there were some things I wanted to fix about it, it actually needed something, and I didn't know what that something was yet, and I didn't learn it until working on The Wheel of Time, but that's a different story.

But you're asking why is Stormlight so different. Well Stormlight is a series like of my heart. This is the book that I wrote when nothing else mattered, and I thought I might never get published and I just wanted to do what I felt that the genre needed that nobody was doing, right? And so I felt like fantasy needed to be pushed a little further in its worldbuilding, and so I did that. I felt like-- There just a lot going on. The interludes were kind of my solution to the problem Robert Jordan and George RR Martin were having, which, they're fantastic writers, I was able to learn from them. And Robert Jordan, I think one of the problems he had was that he fell in love with the side characters, and then these side characters took over the story to an extent that then it was hard to manage. I'm not bashing on Robert Jordan, he talked about this, he talked about book 10 and how being a parallel novel was a mistake. I could learn from his mistakes, it doesn't make me a better writer, what it means is I can learn from what they did. And I said "Okay, I'm going to put pressure valves in my book, I'm gonna put a short story collection in each novel where I get to write about side characters, and those who wan to skip them can skip them, and those who don't can read them", and I'll just make sure that I contain them in these short stories, these interludes, and that lets me do what I want but also lets the book keep its focus. So I'm doing a lot of things with these books that were like my love letter to the epic fantasy genre, and so I'm enthusiastic that you actually all like it and are willing to read them. *applause*

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#55 Copy

Himenss

How do you choose flashback character for each Stormlight book? Do you rather build present day narrative around someone's flashback sequence or just choose whose flashbacks better fit with already existing main narrative? As an example, when you moved Dalinar's flashbacks from book 5 to book 3, did you re-outlined book 3 narrative to make it a better match, or you already had both Dalinar's narratives for books 3 and 5 present day and merely decided where flashbacks play the best counterpoint to what Dalinar is doing in the main timeline?

Brandon Sanderson

Moving Dalinar's flashbacks was based on the instinct I had from where book three's narrative was going to go. (After finishing the first two.) Though I have outlines for all of the books, a lot of my outlining process involves starting with a big event, then working backward from it. Sometimes, the steps toward a big event are themselves pretty big events.

People imagine, I think, an outline that is like the traditional "Heading A" "Subheading a" format. But it's not that, it's a big list of things I am pointing toward--and the most interesting steps to get there. So the process of building a novel is more about looking at that timeline, figuring out what steps make their own powerful moments, and constructing a narrative around them that makes sense. I will often be doing this with a dozen or more different sub-plots at once.

So when I "move things" from one book to another, it's often a matter of me building a book (say book two) and realizing that the break point for Kaladin's story makes way more sense if it stretches all the way to include the falling into the chasms sequence. From there, I realize I might not move as far along on Dalinar's plot as i might have thought, and I turn book three to focus more on that plot. Etc.

The flashbacks are the most flexible of these, in some ways, as they are compliments to a story--but don't need to come at any specific chronological point in the series itself. So I look for the places where they will simply fit the best and match the tone of the story the best, either by contrast or compliment

Daily Dragon interview ()
#57 Copy

Daily Dragon

Shallan's sketches in The Way of Kings are terrific additions that enhance the epic feel of the novel. What inspired you to push for these illustrations?

Brandon Sanderson

I wanted to use the form of this novel to try and enhance what epic fantasy can do, and downplay the things that are tough about it. One of the tough things about epic fantasy is the learning curve—how much you have to learn and pay attention to, how many things there are to just know. I felt that occasional illustrations could really help with that. For instance, how Shallan's sketchbook, or uses of multiple maps, could give us a visual component to the book. Pictures really are worth a thousand words. You can have on that page something that shows a creature much better than I can describe it. And so I felt that that would help deemphasize the problem of the learning curve, while at the same time helping to make this world real. Epic fantasy is about immersion, and I wanted to make this world real since that's one of the great things we can do with epic fantasy. We've got the space and the room to just build a completely real world, and I felt that the art would allow me to do that, which is why I decided to do "in world" art.

I didn't want to take this toward a graphic novel. I like graphic novels, but it wasn't appropriate here to do illustrations of the scenes and characters from the books because I don't want to tell you what they look like. I want that to be up to your own imagination. And so we wanted that in-world ephemera feel to it, as though it were some piece of art that you found in the world and included.

I think it goes back to Tolkien. There's a map in The Hobbit, and that map isn't just a random map, which has become almost a cliché of fantasy books and of epic fantasy. "Oh, of course there's a random map in the front!" Well, Tolkien wanted you to think this map was the actual map the characters carried around, and that's why he included it. He wrote his books as if he were the archivist putting them together and translating them and bringing them to you, this wonderful story from another world, and he included the map because the map was there with the notes. That's what I wanted the feel for this ephemera to be. As though whoever has put this book together—done the translation and included pieces of art and maps and things that they found in the world that had been collected during these events—that's what you're getting.

Idaho Falls Signing ()
#60 Copy

Shawn M. Halversen (paraphrased)

I asked him about the time between each of the original 99 desolations.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

It turns out that the number 99 in the stories was made up, and that there were much fewer of them. He also then stated that the cosmere runs along a 10,000 year gap and that Roshar falls right into the middle of the timeline. He ended with "That should give you a perspective of the timeline and events of the desolations".

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
#62 Copy

yahasgaruna

The plan to have each book focused on one order is still on, right? Does that mean Book 3 will focus on the Bondsmiths or the Skybreakers depending on whether Dalinar or Szeth are the flashback focus? And what about the book focused on Ash, since she was the Herald of Shallan's order? Am I right in assuming that book will focus on the Dustbringers?

Brandon Sanderson

RAFO. :)

Stormlight Three Update #4 ()
#63 Copy

PyroSkink

Is each book in this series a focus on a particular character? Did I read that somewhere?

Brandon Sanderson

Each one has a flashback sequence dedicated to a certain character, and a plot that has something to do with the flashback sequence. I do this to help differentiate them, and we sometimes call it "their" book--but that's a little of a misnomer, as the main plot may not revolve around the flashback sequence. It will simply relate to it.

PyroSkink

Ah right. It was Kaladin then Shallan, next is Dalinar? Or is it Szeth?

Brandon Sanderson

This one is Dalinar most likely. Then (probably) Eshonai, then Szeth. Unless I swap those two.

Back five are Lift, Renarin, Ash, Taln, Jasnah. Not necessarily in that order. (Though that is the planned order right now.)

I do have to give my standard disclaimer. Someone getting a flashback sequence does not indicate they survive until that book. I'm fully willing to flashback to a character who died in an earlier volume. So that isn't as much of a spoiler as it seems.

And Taln is defined as "The man who thinks of himself as the Herald Taln, and whose viewpoint we got briefly in Words of Radiance."

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#64 Copy

Questioner

How many books are there going to be and how long is it going to take?  I only have so long to wait.  

Brandon Sanderson

It's two five book series: a five book arc which will come to an end, and then there will be a break, and then another five book arc.  

Questioner

In what time span?

Brandon Sanderson

I'm going to try to do them fast.  It won't be as long between the first and second.  Probably every eighteen months.  

General Reddit 2017 ()
#65 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I don't even put spren in on the first draft, that's just too much to keep in my brain. Afterward, I do a draft where I just go in and add all that stuff. It's like adding the special effects to a movie.

Peter Ahlstrom

So, Brandon actually does put a number of spren in the first draft. But part of Karen's job as continuity editor is to find more places to add the spren and mark those in the document. Then on the next draft Brandon puts spren there if he judges them to be good places for spren.

General Reddit 2017 ()
#66 Copy

Lurcher

Here are the lists of things that I've noticed could be reasons why certain Herald images get chosen. I also picked up on alot of this stuff because the folks over at Tor have done a WoR re-read and have a dedicated "Heraldic Symbolism" subsection they devote for each chapter. They speculate as to why the specific herald(s) were chosen. Specifically Alice Arneson (one of the re-readers) has seemingly done some good research into this, so I'll give her credit for a lot of this.

I mostly listed these out for my own reference as I've been meaning to do so (since I usually keep them in my head when figuring this out when reading).

  1. Herald themselves (mentioned, talked about, or actually has an appearance)
  2. Some object associated with a herald (example: A specific herald's honorblade)
  3. Member of Order (ex: Kaladin=Windrunners=Jezrien)
  4. Characters portraying divine attribute behavior (example: Loving and Healing)
  5. Characters portraying the inverse of divine attribute behavior (example: Hating and Destroying)
  6. Herald of <concept> - things associated with that concept. Known examples: 1) Shalash: Herald of Beauty 2) Nalan: Herald of Justice 3) Jezrien: Herald of Kings 4) Taln: Herald of War 5) Ishar: Herald of Luck

  7. Roles associated with a herald Known Examples: 1)Chana: Guards 2)Taln: Soldiers/war 3)Ishar: Ardents/religion 4)Vedel: Physicians

  8. Essences (https://coppermind.net/wiki/Ten_Essences ): Essence, body focus, Soulcasting properties...(this one is a stretch as I've never really could pinpoint this well enough)

  9. Jester/Masked face (as mentioned in other posts on this thread). This can be tied to chapters with Wit them or tied to concepts related to him, the biggest one (I think) being storytelling.

How'd I do? :)

Note: I loved the "Four Lifetimes" chapter's heraldic symbolism in Oathbringer (I'm a little over halfway through the book), but I thought that was great showing the different roles/lives Kaladin has filled: Surgeon (Vedel), Soldier (Taln), Guard (Chana), and Leader/Windrunner (Jezrien). Bravo.

Peter Ahlstrom

How did you do? Pretty much a home run. There's only one thing you're missing, which you may have implied, and that's the gemstones. Also, there's a little bit more to #5 that will be explored further later in the series.

Your "Four Lifetimes" analysis is spot-on. Congratulations.

State of the Sanderson 2018 ()
#67 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Updates on Main Projects

Stormlight

As you just read about above, I am on track for starting this book on January first. I'll begin with a reread of the first three books, as I find I need a periodic refresher, even on my own novels. This will also be important for helping me really nail down the outlines for books four and five.

As I've worked on the Stormlight series, I've shifted a lot of things around in the outlines. Famously, I swapped Dalinar's book and Szeth's book (making Book Three have Dalinar's flashbacks instead of Szeth's). But along the same lines, I moved a chunk of Book Three into Book Two, and then moved around smaller arcs for Three, Four, and Five.

The Stormlight series has a very odd structure. Each novel is outlined as a trilogy plus a short story collection (the interludes) and is the length of four regular books. This lets me play with narrative in some interesting ways—but it also makes each volume a beast to write. The other superstructure to the series is the spotlight on the ten orders of Radiants, with each book highlighting one of them while also having a flashback sequences for a character tied to one of those orders. If that weren't complicated enough, the series is organized in two major five-book arcs.

What this means is that I need to do some extra work on books four and five, as they together tie off an arc. There are some small plot lines I've been pushing back from book to book as I nail down what each volume will include—but I can't do that with Book Five, as it will be the capstone of this sequence. So I need the outlines to be tight to make certain I get everything into them that needs to be there.

Anyway, that's a long way to say, essentially, I'll start posting updates to the Stormlight subreddit in January, and you can follow along there or on the progress bar we'll post here on my website on January first. I've commissioned a special piece of artwork to be used in Stormlight Four blog posts, which we should be able to reveal next year. (I'm pretty excited about it.) So you have that to look forward to as well!

Note that while I'm optimistic about this being my fall 2020 release, delays could happen if the book doesn't come out smoothly on the first draft. I'll keep you updated with regular posts. A lot will depend on how long the revisions take.

Status: Book Four is my main project for 2019, for an anticipated 2020/2021 release.

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

MarlonRand

Is there any information about Way of Kings that you can give us at this time?

Brandon Sanderson

I've wanted to do a long epic for a while. I guess that's what comes from reading Jordan and the others while growing up. And so, way back in the late 90's—when I was experimenting with my style—I started working on ideas for a longer form series. I knew the real trick for me would be to do it in a way that it didn't feel stale after just a few books; there needed to be enough to the world, the magic, and the plot arcs that I (and hopefully readers) would keep interested in the series for such a long time.

What it gives me (the thing that I want in doing a longer epic) is the chance to grow characters across a larger number of books. Dig into their pasts, explore what makes them think the way they do, in ways that even a trilogy cannot. In Kings, I don't want to do a longer 'saga' style series, with each book having a new set of characters. I want this to be one overarching story.

One of the things that has itched at me for long time in my fantasy reading is the sense of loss that so many fantasy series have. I'm not complaining, mind you—I love these books. But it seems like a theme in a large number of fantasy books is the disappearance of magic and wonder from the world. In Tolkien, the Elves are leaving. In Jordan, technology is growing and perhaps beginning an age where it will overshadow magic. It's very present in Brooks, where the fantasy world is becoming our world. Even Eddings seemed to have it, with a sense that sorcerers are less common, and with things like the only Dragons dying, the gods leaving.

I've wanted to do a series, then, where the magic isn't going away—it's coming back. Where the world is becoming a more wondrous place. Where new races aren't vanishing, they're being discovered.

Obviously, I'm not the first to approach a fantasy this way. Maybe I'm reading too much into the other books, seeing something that isn't there. But the return of magic is one of the main concepts that is driving me.

Well, that and enormous swords and magical power armor.

/r/Fantasy_Bookclub Alloy of Law Q&A ()
#70 Copy

zas678

How long before [The Way of Kings] is Alloy of Law? I heard somewhere that it's a hundred years, but I don't think that's right.

Brandon Sanderson

I intended them to be happening roughly close to one another, with [The Way of Kings] slightly before.

Manchester signing ()
#71 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

This Jasnah sequence I might release in-between books as just a short little thing, like we did with Mitosis and Emperor's Soul, just to tide people over. It is something that I felt I needed to write so that I knew what Jasnah was doing, because these kinds of events are important to character development and things like this. It didn't belong in Book Two, for obvious reasons. There had to be that question. So I have this, and it's not 100% complete, in fact it's a pretty rough draft. But I feel I can't write Book Three until I know exactly what Jasnah went through.

Skyward San Diego signing ()
#72 Copy

Questioner

Are we going to see any other viewpoints from the Heralds?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, you will see-- I mean, Taln and Ash are both main characters, right? But you should see other viewpoints of other Heralds as we progress. The ones that survive long enough to get viewpoints.

Questioner

Are they gonna be viewpoints in this current timeline?

Brandon Sanderson

You will see more in this current timeline. I know specifically several that are going to be interludish sort of things coming up.

Orem signing ()
#73 Copy

Questioner

So far there hasn't been a lot of the Stonewards in the books. Are they going to come forward in the next few?

Brandon Sanderson

...Yes. One of the reasons I built the structure of The Stormlight Archive the way that I did is because I knew it would be easy to overwhelm with the number of magical abilities, and to let myself get distracted by some of them and not do them justice. So I've been very careful, perhaps more careful than I need to be, and when I show like a Fused using a power, I focus more on the ones you know about and things like this, intentionally to keep the reader's attention on what they know as I expand. 

Questioner

Can they shape stone? In one of the flashbacks they kind of melt it and it becomes sand.

Brandon Sanderson

Basically, my original pitch to myself on Stonewards, one of their main powers--I mean, everybody has two--but this power you're talking about was the ability to grab matter and just kind of-- like what if the whole world were clay to you. Not just stone, not just rock, but if you could just pick something up and stretch it, whatever it was, that was my original pitch for that order.

Questioner

So architects or combat engineers fill that order?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, stuff like that, but also, just kind of like you need to get out of a room? Well, let's mash ourselves a doorway here and step through, or just all kinds of stuff. 

Questioner 2

Can they do that to living flesh?

Brandon Sanderson

No. That's the general, the more Invested something is the more it resists, and Stoneward powers are highly resisted by things... Even a small amount of extra Investiture is gonna prevent them. Like if you stuck Stormlight in [an object], say a Windrunner did, a Stoneward wouldn't be able to change that.

General Reddit 2018 ()
#74 Copy

flyingnomad

I just finished a reread of WOR (actually my first audiobook listen of the series, which was great), and when I reached your last three, I definitely noticed you really had a skill with shaping chapters to speed things up or slow things down. Initially it felt like you introduced more frequent shifts in main character POV instead of some of the lengthy sections with one POV that we'd seen in RJ's last few books. This made it feel like the story was coming together and things were starting to really happen at the same time. Then later it felt almost like a kind of dilation effect where a massive amount was happening at the same time - but with the added complication of the actual timeline manipulations, which was extremely well done in this regard... I was so caught up in the story I wasn't able to keep my attention on it at the time but later, after finishing AMOL, I was pondering that it felt like a Christopher Nolan movie, where the structure itself was part of the narration.

Brandon Sanderson

I've always preferred a frequent POV jump style to the large chunk style Mr. Jordan used later in his books--but there are merits to both. In the Stormlight Archive, I've been pleased with a kind of hybrid of the long chunk from the later WoT books with a quick jump method. (I pick a group of characters and quickly alternate POVs.) But I have the WoT to thank for helping me, as a younger writer, study and learn the different ways POV jumps can influence the storytelling.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#75 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

So my method of plotting-- I've been asked about, "Do I use seven-point story structure? Do I use three act format?" I actually don't use any of these things. So they're tools that I think are good to study. For me I use just a very simple: Promise, Progress, Payoff. This is what I focus on for plot,and I subdivide my stories into subplots and things and say, "What's the promise? How do I early on promise what type of plot this is. What's the progress? What's the payoff?" And you're asking how do you make sure that the hype lives up to the promise, and that is dangerous. The longer you go between books, the more that hype almost like-- I feel part of the-- If you're looking at The Wheel of Time, there were books when we fans were waiting for them to come out, that we were super frustrated by when they came out, that when I reread them in the whole series I didn't-- were less bothered by. It felt like, when I waited three years for something, the hype of what that needed to deliver was way different than when it was book ten bridging between book nine and eleven. And so that is a consideration.

My job-- I think that if your progress is right, if you can kind of-- like if you say, "We're moving towards something here," this is the sort of emotional reaction you're going to get from it by showing-- for instance, an easy way to talk about this is a mystery, right? If you want the mystery to be really cool, then it's your progress toward the mystery that's going to indicate what kind of reveal and surprise that's going to be. If, you know, the characters discovering clues and getting more and more horrified, then the payoff at the end has to be something horrific, right? But if they're like, "Ooo! This connection and this connection together are making something really interesting. If I can just figure this out then it'll click together." Then the payoff is, instead of discovering horror, the payoff is then, "Oh, this comes together and I understand now." So you need the reader to understand that's their kind of payoff, is it clicks for them like it does for the character. And it's really-- that progress is the most important of those three in a lot of ways. If you can indicate to the reader, "This is just going to be satisfying. This character is finally going to let down this burden. That's the progress we're working toward. It's not going to be a surprise, it's just going to be satisfying. That's how you do that.

There are certain things that there's just no avoiding the hype on. In fact, the further the series gets the more I'm worried about that, because-- in part because I'm such a believer in this kind of progress and things like this-- there are very few things, like in the Stormlight for example, that you'll get to that you will be super surprised by if you've been reading the fan forums, because the clues are all there in previous books. And so you just, I think, as a writer have to be okay with, if you're going to lay the foreshadowing, people will figure it out. And I can talk more about like, the third book has some big reveals about the world that I think the casual reader's going to be like, "Woah, mind blown!" where the people who have been on forums are like, "That's it? We've know that for years Sanderson!" But, you know, if you don't-- the only way to really surprise people is to do something completely unexpected. Which is, sometimes can be really nice, but a lot of times it just makes for a twist just to twist for twist's sake, so. I don't know that I've figured this one out a hundred percent across a series, but within a given book, yeah.

Shadows of Self San Jose signing ()
#76 Copy

Questioner

Thing about Stormlight, are you kinda writing a series about the nature of abstraction?

Brandon Sanderson

Kinda yeah see…*recording paused* journey before destination.

Questioner

Yeah, that is my favorite, so far. I mean I don’t know all the orders yet. Because that is...I’m looking forward to the rest of it.

Brandon Sanderson

It is, the nature of abstraction and that sort of stuff is a very big part of it.

JordanCon 2016 ()
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Questioner

As the Cosmere gets a lot bigger, what is your biggest worry going forward writing the books?

Brandon Sanderson

Going forward, my biggest worry is making sure that I do things like get The Stormlight Archive done as a solid, complete whole, rather than letting it become... like, too distracted about the Cosmere. Like, I'm not worried about that for Mistborn, but I'm worried about that for Stormlight. Stormlight needs to be a self-contained whole, it needs to be a self-contained epic, and I have to be really careful not to-- in the later books in particular-- let it turn into the Avengers, something like that. So that's my biggest worry right now, is that I will let too much of that seep in. I'm being very careful about it.

Stormlight Three Update #7 ()
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jmcgit

You don't have to worry about him becoming unproductive, but I do worry a little about Stormlight taking more out of him and needing more and more "hamburger and fries" to recharge. I also am suddenly worried about the series growing beyond 10 books, especially with Peter Ahlstrom suggesting that story could be moved from 4 to 5, but story can't be moved from 5 to 6 without delaying the planned time jump.

GRRM started with ASOIAF planned as a trilogy, and even if he were fully healthy and productive, it's hard to see how he would wrap this up in the currently planned seven. Wheel of Time was pitched as a trilogy, and the publisher knew better, and Jordan was signed to six books, we wound up with 14. Stormlight Archive originated as a 10 book series, and now I'm slightly worried as to whether this is going to grow like many fantasy series do.

I don't think it would be by much, Sanderson appears to have a much more detailed plan than some of these other authors, but even growth from 10 books to 12 books would make a huge difference considering the interesting concepts I'd like to read that are bottlenecked behind the end of Stormlight.

Peter Ahlstrom

I think that if he ends up with too much content, more novellas like Edgedancer are much more likely than expanding the number of books.

Also, Brandon has already moved plot elements forward in the name of awesome. Moash's plot for book 2 was originally planned to be in book 3.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
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Questioner

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

Brandon Sanderson

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

Orem signing ()
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Questioner

How frustrating is it that you have to wait so long and do so many things first before you can tell the Hoid story.

Brandon Sanderson

How frustrating is it that I have to wait so long to do things before I do the Hoid story, which is one of the big ones that I want to tell. It's not as frustrating as you think. Because, if you sat me down and said "You can only write one of these, Hoid story or Stormlight." I would pick Stormlight every time. Stormlight is a-- in my opinion, Stormlight is a stronger story over all. And Hoid's really interesting, and it's going to be a really cool thing for me to write. But I'm more excited for Stormlight 8, 9 and 10 than I am-- Though I'll be very excited when I get to write the Hoid ones because they're going to be cool things.

Like Stormlight is the thing that I plotted out to be the big opus. It's more frustrated that there's only one of me, despite what the internet says.  I don't got any clones, or any Sanderbots to do all this.  So I have more ideas than I can write books about. That's kind of the-- The biggest frustrating in my life is that I can only do so much. But that's been a frustration since I was unpublished. I always had more stories I wanted to write than I could.  So it's all about story triage for me.

One thing I've learned to do is to write novellas or work on graphic novels. Because the actual word count that I need for a novella like Emperor's Soul or for a graphic novel like White Sand, is a fraction of what a big novel takes. And so I get this cool thing with a graphic novel where I can write something out..like I just finished an outline and script for a new graphic novel, that we're not going to release until after White Sand's done. But now that White Sand 3 is moving along and the writing portion of that is done, and we're just working on the art, I came up with something else. And instead of taking 18 months like a Stormlight book takes, it took me, like, a month. And so that's a way I can get a story ready and can release it to people without having to spend 18 months on something.

Skyward Chicago signing ()
#83 Copy

Questioner

At this point, so far out from Oathbringer, what are the best and hardest things about having spent a lot of time writing about mental illnesses?

Brandon Sanderson

One of the reasons why I approached Stormlight the way I did is, during the intervening years, during those seven years, I got to know very deeply some people who we would call non-psychonormative, I think is a good way to say it. And I began to see that the various different ways we perceive ourselves and the various different ways we perceive our own mental processes influence a lot of how we act and who we are. And I also noticed, speaking to them, that a lot of my friends were a little--and there's no problem if you like these--but they're a little tired of every book that represented their mental illness in a story was all about the mental illness. That the book was only just how to cope with mental illness, which are great stories. But they're like, if you look at the statistics, psychonormative is not the norm. In fact, it seems to be this mythical person that doesn't exist, in that the way that all of us think is different, and in some of us it can be really impairing for our lives. And in some of us, the same thing that's impairing to our lives defines who we are. You guys want a really good book about this, Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon is a fantastic look at this.

But this all became really interesting to me. When I was looking at my characters, one of the things I noticed, for instance, I kind of used the pop science version of autism in Elantris. The more I actually got to know people with autism, the more I saw that the Rain Man version was a very extreme representation of something that is something a lot of people deal with, the way they see the world, and I started thinking, "You know, if I'm gonna create real characters in my books, this is something I need to be looking at." And it wasn't that I set out to say, "I'm going to write a book about lots of people with mental illnesses. I said, "I'm going to write a book about a lot of people who are like the people I know. And some of them think in different ways than others." And again, in some of them, that's a thing that they don't want to think that way. And it can be really impairing. But it's not that the story-- The Stormlight Archive is not about mental illness. The Stormlight Archive is about a lot of people that I wanted to try to make as real as I could, and that I also wanted to approach some things that haven't been approached, I thought, in fantasy fiction.

What are some of the advantages? Well, I think the story has been very eye-opening to me. It's hard to talk about advantages and disadvantages in light of this. What are the "disadvantages"? I am walking through a minefield, and I have blown my foot off multiple times. And I think this is part of that whole failure thing as a writer. If I hadn't perhaps done it poorly in some of my books, I wouldn't have had the chance to talk to people who are like, "I really appreciate the book and what you're trying. Here's how, if you ever did this again, you might approach making it feel more realistic." And that made me a better person, not just a better writer, and so in some ways that disadvantage is the advantage. But that is the thing. I have blown my foot off on several landmines. And I will probably continue to do so.

Ben McSweeney AMA ()
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Lafona

I assume there are decisions you have to make on the fly while doing the art, so I was wondering: are there any of those that have made it into the lore, and maybe actually made changes to some of the plot elements? If so, what is your favorite thing you added to the story through the illustrations?

Ben McSweeney

Actually, most everything that makes it into the book has been reviewed and discussed and approved, so even the decisions I make on the fly are subject to change.

There's a series of character illustrations that were done early on, for the initial book pitch before the first novel was fully written. When Brandon eventually wrote descriptions for those characters in the text, the illustrations I'd provided played a part in what he wrote, which was wildly gratifying.

Fantasy Faction Q&A ()
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Windrunner

When is Emperor's Soul set chronologically in relation to Elantris? Because if its around the same time Teod and Arelon might not have to stand alone against the Fjordell Empire.

My other question is also a timeline one. (There are a lot of those tonight haha) I heard you had to move The Way of Kings a little bit due to some plot constraints. So does Warbreaker still fall around the same time as The Alloy of Law or has that shifted as well?

Brandon Sanderson

Thanks for the kind words! Emperor's Soul is after Elantris, but not too long after. It is before Mistborn.

Second question is that I've moved things so that The Way of Kings is around the same time as The Alloy of Law, forced by some behind-the-scenes events. Warbreaker now happens before The Alloy of Law.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
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Questioner

I just noticed stylistically the cover for Oathbringer is a little bit different. Is that still Michael Whelan?

Brandon Sanderson

That's still Michael Whelan. Yeah, Michael is really-- Michael is my favorite illustrator. I don't know if you guys know-- have read what I've written-- but I got into fantasy and science fiction because of Dragonsbane-- the cover of that. They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but it was Dragonsbane and then I went to the card catalog and found the next book closest to it that looked-- that was a dragon book. So I didn't know dragon books, and I found Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey, which also had a Whelan cover at that point. And I just kind of-- Whelan became my go to. He's gone through various art stages, you can go look. For a while he was doing these really sweeping landscapes, as you see some of the Dark Tower covers have that, and Way of Kings-- the original-- has that. And he's occasionally done figure studies, through his career. And then with this one we're getting like a color study really, it feels like to me, which is another thing that he's done. So I kind of feel like I've gotten three different styles of covers from Michael, which I really like. I actually think his Shallan painting from the inside cover of Words of Radiance is my favorite. But that one came about because he's like, "I felt like painting Shallan," and he just did. *laughter* "Do you guys want this? I just painted it." It's really funny because Michael Whelan, like, it's really hard to get him for a cover. I mean, you know his prices are way higher. And then when he just accidentally does another cover for you. It was very cool but kind of weird. I own The Way of Kings, like the actual original. I'm so happy, like I-- after all these years of admiring Michael Whelan I had to buy that one. So it hangs in my office above the fireplace.

Calamity Houston signing ()
#88 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

Something carefully worded about how he isn't opposed to having a major character of Stormlight 6-10 arc be dead before the books started and would he do that in a style like in Mistborn: Secret History.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Kudos from Brandon on carefully wording it to avoid MB:SH spoilers and the very consistent answer that if Brandon did so, the character would be the focus of the flashback sequences in those books, and then once the flashback is over they'd be dead, so no one is safe for the book until the flashback sequences are over.
Tor.com The Way of Kings Re-Read Interview ()
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Michael Pye

One thing I've noticed around the release of Words of Radiance was you pointing out that The Stormlight Archive is really two series of 5 books each. Was that something you wanted to make clear so as not to be daunting to perspective readers or just more about how the story has developed since you began?

Brandon Sanderson

It's a mixture of both, honestly. I do want to be wary of not being too daunting to readers who are jumping into this thing and have been reading The Wheel of Time. They might think, "The Wheel of Time was 'promised' to be six books and it ended up at fourteen. If you promise six, how long is this one going to be?"

But it's also because I want to start preparing readers for the break that's going to happen at book five. I'm going to stop writing the series for a few years, and then the "back five" (as I'm calling it) will focus on some different characters than the front five. So I have a lot of good reasons to be preparing people for what's going to happen there. Our expectations are a very big part of our enjoyment of all different kinds of entertainment mediums.

Words of Radiance San Francisco signing ()
#90 Copy

Questioner

Are you going to write any chapter from the point of view of a spren?

Brandon Sanderson

Will I ever write any chapters from the viewpoint of a spren.

It's likely that I eventually will but it will probably be an interlude. The Stormlight Archive is about ten characters at its essence, and none of them are a spren. You've met all of them I believe and each of them will have a book with a flashback sequence in it, which is another thing I'm doing to make sure each book has an identity.

Epic fantasy I also feel part of the problem is when later books stop having an identity because the story kind of blurs together for the writer. My goal is if I have a good solid flashback sequence for each of these characters to give an arc it'll help me keep each book distinct, which I feel is very important.

If you ask me later I'll tell you who some of those are. In three of the first five I've been very upfront with who they are. I don't talk about the back five very often because I don't want the focus to be on those yet.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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Phantine

Stormlight has a lot of parallelism with Mistborn, but with protagonists who are now on the other side of the slave revolt. In particular, there's a very strong through line going from Kelsier to Miles to Moash, with characters attempting to overthrown a corrupt system being treated differently by the narrative in each case.

How much of this inversion is intentional? I know Warbreaker had a lot of deliberate parallels to Mistborn.

Brandon Sanderson

This is pretty intentional. I like to approach things from different sides, and I knew Stormlight was about the establishment, while Mistborn about the revolutionary. I like to try to show both sides of things like this, when I can.

17th Shard Forum Q&A ()
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XFER

And I saw on facebook about the discussion about the name of the second book. This is more like a request, please, keep the name of it being The Book Of Endless Pages. That title is awesome! Oh and another suggestion, please, keep making huge books! Now, after reading your books, I expect books to be at least 600 pages, so you can see I get disappointed quite often lol

Brandon Sanderson

I will keep the books, in this series at least, long. It's what the story demands. As for title...it does have a certain charm, but I worry that it just feels wrong to too many people. Three out of four laugh when I mention it. That doesn't bode well...

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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ASIC_SP

Was it intentional to introduce Musicspren as the first spren in TWoK?

Brandon Sanderson

It was intentional in that I knew I needed some spren very early in the book, to establish the world--and that was the scene I was working with to do that. It isn't supposed to be hugely meaningful that those spren are first, though they are more relevant to later parts of the story than some of the earlier ones.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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XavierRDE

How much work, time, care and difficulty goes into constructing each book's ketek in the Stormlight Archive and sticking every phrase into the different parts of the book?

Brandon Sanderson

More than I expected, that's for sure. Not being a poet, it takes a lot of work for me to get something that I feel isn't embarrassing for the keteks.

General Reddit 2017 ()
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Peter Ahlstrom

The first three [Stormlight] books are a continuous narrative, but it's now looking like there will be an in-world gap between books 3 and 4, similar to the year that was skipped between each book in the Mistborn trilogy.

Drathus

Even with that, isn't the plan for SA for it to be two related five-book arcs with more of a major gap in between?

Peter Ahlstrom

Yep. Previously I thought that would be the only timeline gap, but Brandon has leaned more toward this new gap while writing Oathbringer.

Stormlight Three Update #5 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

In book one, a main character was absent from several parts. (Dalinar and Shallan alternated.) Same with Words of Radiance, where Dalinar skipped two parts, I believe.

Note that this is an absence of viewpoints from the character, not necessarily an absence of the character entirely.

The main characters of the first part of the Stormlight are Shallan, Kaladin, and Dalinar. Two more flashback character (Eshonai and Szeth) can be considered important characters without as many viewpoints, though in the above outline, I'd have listed them as tertiary characters in terms of number of viewpoints.

The actual tertiary characters are Jasnah, Adolin, Navani, and a few that I can't mention as it will be spoilers. These get significant screen time, but only have viewpoints here and there in the first five books. Jasnah, as I've said, grows more important in the back five. Others do as well.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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BusinessCress

In Stormlight Archive, all three main characters, Dalinar, Shallan and Kaladin, suffer from various mental health issues. Is that a normal psychological condition for all Radiants or the lead three is an extreme example of how people break?

Brandon Sanderson

I am very interested in mental health, and the way that we--as human beings--react to and interpret the world around us in different ways. This is a theme of the Stormlight books, but it's going to take a lot of work to do it justice--and I want to approach it from different directions. So yes, it's a theme, and these sorts of issues were common for Knights Radiant.

But I'd point out that they are also common themes for being human. And one of the correlations between orders of Knights Radiant is people who overcome, persist, and push through very difficult trials.

Hal-Con 2012 ()
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Lance Alvein (paraphrased)

How about the general number of years Warbreaker is from [The Hero of Ages] and [The Alloy of Law/The Way of Kings]?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

RAFO - the reason that timeline questions are being RAFOed right now is because the final times are still not 100% solid, and Brandon said that he doesn't want to give us a time and then have it change around again (like what happened to [The Alloy of Law] being moved to the same time as [The Way of Kings] instead of being a bit earlier), so he won't answer any timeline questions until after he has the final timeline correct in his own system.

Stormlight Three Update #5 ()
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zuriel45

Jasnah, as I've said, grows more important in the back five.

I'd say spoilers, but I doubt you'd kill her off..

Pitchwife

This is entirely from memory so please forgive me if I get this wrong, but I believe [Brandon] has hedged on this topic in the past, e.g. who says she has to be alive (in the usual sense) to be a POV character?

Brandon Sanderson

I've said that flashback characters (which are the ones I've announced as having "books" dedicated to them) can die before their book arrives.