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The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#51 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Elend discovers that a well has been poisoned

This poisoned well scene is another one that was added to the book during the final draft. Much like Straff's test attack on the walls, this scene is here to remind you that the armies are out there, that Luthadel is besieged, and that things are not going well for the heroes. I don't want you to forget about the armies just because our focus is on politics for the moment.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#52 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vin Tries to get to Luthadel in Time

These scenes involving Vin running toward Luthadel formed one of the pivotal sequences for me during the plotting of the story. Unlike most focal scenes like this I write, however, I'm not completely satisfied with these. Not because I don't like the sequence; I think the writing in the scenes turned out very well. However, I do wonder if the tension behind them works.

You see, with the finished product in hand, the plot sequence I worked out feels just a tad contrived to me. It's hard to avoid this in novels; if you plot out as much ahead of time as I do, then often you end up with contrived sequences because they ARE contrived. You designed them to work a certain way. In these areas, however, the "smoke and mirrors" I often mention comes into play. How good is the author at hiding his hand on the work? How easy is it for the reader to feel what the characters feel, rather than being drawn into playing the game of the metastory.

If the smoke and mirrors work, then you'll feel anxiety here. Is Vin going to arrive on time? Will she get there and find her friends dead? Will she even be able to do anything if she arrives on time?

However, if the smoke and mirrors fail, the reader will feel manipulated by the fact that I sent Vin away, only to have her turn around and come back a few chapters later. The reader will think "Of course she's going to make it. That's what this sequence is all about."

Often, I'm pleased with how the plotting keeps my readers feeling that anxiety. But in this sequence, I think the author's hand shows a little more than usual. Could just be my critical eye inspecting my own work, but I see it. Hopefully, you can read and appreciate the sequence for the emotions the characters feel, rather than the slight awkwardness of the plotting.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#53 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Elend and Vin discuss his loss of the throne

Elend is going to be tested. That's one of the things I wanted to do with this book. In my previous two novels–Elantris and Mistborn–I gave the heroes relatively easy times. Or, well. . .maybe not easy. However, the fact remains that when they stayed true to their ideals, the things they tried tended to be successful.

I want to show that ideals can be a hindrance. That isn't a reason not to have them, but it is an aspect of trying to do the things Elend is. There are a lot of people out there who will take advantage of a person who tries to do the right thing, and that can make doing the right thing the more difficult choice a lot of the time.

I also like how Elend is progressing as a leader, but I made certain to give a throwback to the old Elend in this chapter so that you'd know he was still there. Vin's observations about this point are quite accurate.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#54 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Six

Vin and Elend discuss going into Straff's Camp

In the original version of this particular chapter, I had Vin think that Elend's idea to go into Straff's camp was terrible. She thought it was too dangerous, even foolhardy. And, since Vin is generally a very competent and trustworthy character, the readers agreed with her. They all thought that Elend was doing something incredibly stupid in this chapter.

Now, what I had been TRYING to do was have her offer strong objections, then get brought around by the end of the sequence to admitting that Elend was right. Unfortunately, that just didn't work for this scene. The plan was crazy enough that readers were already inclined to thinking it was crazy. When I instead switched the narrative so that Vin had a grudging, yet favorable, opinion of the visit to Straff's camp. With her weight of trust behind the endeavor, suddenly readers had no problem with what Elend is doing.

Readers trust Vin more than Elend, which makes sense. If she tells them that something is a good idea, they're more likely to go along with it. It was an important lesson for me as a writer. I realized that Elend needed Vin's support in these early chapters otherwise he wouldn't have the readers' support. He is untrained and is stumbling as he tries to learn. In order for us to trust him, Vin needs to.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#55 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

OreSeur as the Spy

Keeping OreSeur from acting suspicious in this book was really tough. I still don't know how well I pulled it off, though most alpha readers didn't see his plot twist coming.

The biggest trick was making the reader not suspect him from the get-go. I had to use some very subtle misdirection there. Remember, OreSeur was the one who told Vin how long those bones had been in the room. I think Vin points this out later in the book.

Other than that, I had to keep Vin from ever suspecting him, and have her point out other people she thought were far more suspicious. Sometimes, being a writer feels like being a magician. We have to leave things in full view, yet disguise their meaning, so that the end is dramatic.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#56 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty

Sazed Transcribes the Text from the Plate

This isn't the full text of the plate, of course. We'll get to more of it later. I knew I had to work the text into the actual narrative, rather than relying on the epigraphs, since people tend to skip those. (If you do, however, be warned that you will be missing some of the great clues in this book.)

My hope is that by reading these things together, you will see the writings from the epigraphs in a slightly different way. Collected like this, they turn into a narrative.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#57 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Reasons for the Plot Sequence

Even still, I realize that what happens in these two chapters represents a very bold–even crazy–move on the part of the heroes. Part of the reason I devised this plot sequence because I wanted to make book two feel a little more like book one. The first book was all about Kelsier's crazy plans, and pulling them off. If you remember, it seemed like every other chapter someone found reason to ask him "are you insane?"

I wanted to give this book a little bit of that "impossible heist" feel, if just for cohesion's sake. In this book, it is represented by Elend visiting Straff's army, and by the characters doing a few other crazy things.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#58 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-One

Philen watches Elend enter the Assembly Hall

We get a random viewpoint here. No, Philen isn't going to be a major viewpoint in the book. He just fills a role that you'll often see in my books–that of the section given to a random person because I wanted to show a different perspective on things.

In this case, I wanted to show Elend entering the assembly hall, as he would be seen by someone sitting on the inside. This was one of the dramatic scenes that I planned from early on for the book, and it was nice to find a way to fulfill it.

Of course, there's more to Philen's viewpoint than that one image. I also wanted to make him a little more memorable so that the next few Assembly meetings would work better. I've reinforced Penrod a bit, but I worried that Philen would be forgettable unless I gave him a viewpoint. And, since he is a modestly big player in the next little bit of political wrangling, it felt right to let him take the stage for a few moments.

Finally, it was simply fun to write from a brief–but new–viewpoint. Philen thinks very differently from the other viewpoint characters. His sentences are quick and eager, and his internal narrative has a shallowness to it in both sentence structure and content. He's not very smart, but he is rather clever, and those things mixing together–along with his native eagerness–made for an interesting viewpoint to write.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#59 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Three

Sazed's Arrival

I debated how to have the crew react to the koloss threat. It seemed that having them get worked up about it would be out of character. They all know there's little they can do at the moment–the koloss are too far away to be a pertinent threat, and the other armies have them boxed in.

I eventually realized that the crew might see the koloss as an advantage. They are an opportunistic group, and have been feeling overwhelmed by events. Any change in the status could end up being an advantage to them.

So it is that twenty-thousand monsters marching on their city gets dismissed almost as easily as Sazed's warnings about the mists. The crew members aren't fools, but they are pragmatists. They have enough to worry about at the moment. More nebulous threats will wait.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#60 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Title Page

This title was fairly easy to choose. Actually, the titles of all three books were easy to choose. I originally toyed with calling The Hero of Ages the Final Hero. So, because of that, I was tempted to come up with a "final" title to use for book two.

However, I quickly decided that I liked Hero of Ages instead of Final Hero (you'll see why in Book Three.) So, way back as far as the first chapters of book one, I was planning book two to be named The Well of Ascension.

I think it's a great title. I've been wanting to release some books with titles that have more classical fantasy feels to them. Well of Ascension really works well. In fact, as I write this annotation, it's December of 2006, and I'm on Book Tour with David Farland. He just got done complimenting me on the title! So, I guess maybe I'm not the only one who likes it.

The title, obviously, comes from the place the Lord Ruler visited to gain his godhood. Hopefully, this indicates to the reader a little bit of what the book will be about. Though, I do worry about this for reasons I'll explain in a bit.

The only other fun thing to note is that I have a devil of a time spelling Ascension. I always want to spell it "Ascention" instead. Curse my lack of spelling ability! I feel like an idiot every time I write it the wrong way. What kind of writer can't spell the title of his own book? I feel like a punch line waiting to happen.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#61 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The koloss army was another thing that got shuffled about in this book. Originally, the Luthadel folks discovered its advance pretty early on. All of their discussions, then, talked about the fact that they had three armies bearing down on them.

I pushed back knowledge of the koloss for a couple of reasons. First off, koloss are scary–and I think they deserve to be treated differently from the other two armies. Their appearance can throw a real wrench into things later on, once Elend and company hear about them. It allows for the reader to know something that most of the characters do not, and leads to anticipation and tension.

In addition, it gives Sazed another good reason to exist in the plot. Now he knows about the koloss and nobody else inside the city does. His mission, therefore, is even more vital. He has to bring information back to his friends.