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Warbreaker Annotations ()
#51 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Suits Up and Leaves

Vivenna is in a similar position to Siri here in these last chapters. Things are getting so dangerous that both women (well, and Lightsong too) are rather out of their elements. However, I knew that I had to have them both involved. It would be incredibly frustrating to read an entire book focused on two characters, then have them get pushed around for the entire climax.

So during my outlining, I made certain to build the story in such a way that they could be useful, even if they're very much out of their elements. I feel this makes the story more tense in a lot of ways, since they're forced to deal with things for which they're completely unprepared.

Here, we have Vivenna sorting through her own emotions and finding enough determination left to go out and do something. This is an important moment for her, even though she doesn't realize it. This is the moment where she takes her first real step toward becoming her new self.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#52 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.

ICon 2019 ()
#53 Copy


In Warbreaker, the royal family's hair can change colors based on their emotions. Why is it only natural colors? Is there a reason for that?

Brandon Sanderson

It's only natural colors, they could go further than natural colors. Basically, their perception is what's influencing that. They can actually change more than just the color of their hair, but as in a lot of things in the cosmere, the way you view how your abilities work shapes the actual abilities.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#54 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Three

Vivenna Awakens in Vasher's Care

Vivenna, as a character, was divided into two parts in my head. There was the Vivenna of the first half of the book, who was haughty and misled, though determined and self-confident. Then there was the break in the middle, where everything was taken away from her. Now we're into Vivenna's second half, the confused and uncertain Vivenna who has to essentially start all over.

Her plot is a contrast to Siri's plot. Siri's growth is more gradual; she doesn't have an event like Vivenna's time on the streets to make a focus for her plotline. The depth of growth the changes afford Vivenna made her a very interesting character to write; I'm sorry that she's generally people's least favorite character. But that wasn't all that unanticipated. When presented with a large group of characters, many of whom were amusing or mysterious, then dropping one major character in who had a serious growth arc but started out less likable . . . well, you expect readers to latch on to other characters. By this point in the story, they're not used to caring about Vivenna as much as the others, so I think that her drama isn't as powerful for them—which means she doesn't have time to earn their affection, even when she starts changing and growing.

Of course, part of me still sees the Vivenna of the sequel, where she can continue her growth and learning. I think she'll be a great character for that book, if I ever write it. Though I worry about doing so and making people disappointed that I'm writing about her rather than Siri.

Skyward Houston signing ()
#56 Copy


You said thirteen failures, right, with The Way of Kings being the thirteenth?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. My thirteenth.


Are there any other [unpublished books] that you had-- that turned into published books?

Brandon Sanderson

Any others that ended up being published? Yes. White Sand, which was my first book, I rewrote as book number seven or eight and I eventually  turned it into a graphic novel. Big chunks of book nine turned into Warbreaker, and books eleven and twelve - one was called The Final Empire and one was called Mistborn. Remember how I told you about two ideas mashing together and what made the story finally work? The best parts of those books turned into a new book, the magic system of one merging with the lore of the other is how it worked out. So, um, I did not publish any of those books as they were written except for Elantris. The Way of Kings I started from scratch when I rewrote it, and Mistborn I started from scratch when I rewrote it. But certainly ideas that were part of that ended up in those books.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#57 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-One

Vivenna, Sick and Disoriented, Gets Turned Away by the Restaurant Keeper

One of the ways I decided to make Vivenna's sections here work better was by enhancing the fuzziness of her mind. By giving her this sense of numbness, I hope to indicate that something is not right with her.

It's common for someone who suddenly becomes a Drab to get sick almost immediately. For a time, her immune system was magically enhanced and warded, in a way, to keep her from becoming ill. With that removed suddenly, sickness can strike. She hasn't built up immunities to the sicknesses going around, and by becoming a Drab, her immune system suddenly works far worse than that of other people.

These things combined made her come down with something pretty nasty the very day she put away her Breath. This would have killed her, eventually, if she hadn't done something about it. She would have grown so dizzy and confused that she wouldn't have even been able to walk.

By sending men to find her, Denth saved her life.

Anyway, I feel that these scenes work much better now. We can look at Vivenna's time on the streets in the same surreal sense that she does. They happened in the past, in a strange dream state. In that way, they can seem much longer than just two chapters and a couple of weeks.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#58 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Bluefingers Avoids Siri, So She Goes to Find Lightsong

I considered having the men performing the athletics competitions in the court be naked. After all, there's been so much female nudity in the book so far that it would only be fair to balance it out. . . .

I decided it would be gratuitous. Just because the Greeks competed in the nude doesn't mean that it would naturally happen everywhere else. Still, thinking of how much it would embarrass Siri almost made me put it in.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#60 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.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#62 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifteen - Part Two

Vivenna Sees Vasher

I'm sorry that we don't get to see Vasher as much as you all want. I considered adding more chapters in. I considered it several times during several rewrites. In the end, I just decided that his viewpoints had to remain as they were in the early part of the book. If you see too much of what he's doing, it will give away things I don't want to give away.

I don't like having viewpoints that fail to reveal things about the characters and their emotions and plans. It feels like I'm lying to the reader when I hide things the viewpoint character knows. I avoid it when I can (though I can't always—reference Kelsier in Mistborn).

Either way, I just decided to keep Vasher as he was, with only occasional appearances.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#64 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Siri and Susebron Eat a Midnight Meal

This is a scene lifted almost from my own life. While on my honeymoon, Emily and I thought we were being so indulgent by ordering room service at three a.m. It was on a cruise ship, and you can do that kind of thing without having to pay extra for it. It kind of felt like the entire ship's kitchens were there for our whims. And so, a variation on the event popped up in this book.

That doesn't happen to me very often in books. Usually, it's hard to point toward one event in my life that inspired a scene. But those sorts of things are peppered throughout this book. Another one is the scene where Siri tries to look seductively at Susebron, then bursts into laughter. My wife is absolutely terrible at looking seductive—not because she isn't pretty, but because whenever she tries, she ends up having a fit of laughter at how ridiculous she thinks she looks.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#66 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Seventeen

Siri and Lightsong Interact

This chapter has our first real melding of several viewpoints. In a way, it's a focus chapter for that reason. All four viewpoint characters, who have been off doing other things, congregate here, meeting and mixing. Lightsong and Siri, whose plotlines influence one another a fair amount, sit and talk for the first time. Vivenna and Vasher, who are far more intertwined through the story, meet eyes for the first time.

Vasher shouldn't have brought Nightblood. But he's always a little afraid to leave the sword alone for too long. That can have . . . consequences.

Anyway, it was good to be able to show an interaction between two of the viewpoint characters in the form of Siri and Lightsong. This lets us see how Siri acts through the eyes of another, and I think this scene here is one of the first where we really get to see into Lightsong's soul.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#67 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Susebron's Priests

Susebron is right to trust his priests. At least, he's somewhat right. They aren't evil men, and they do want what is best for him—as long as that doesn't include going against their traditions and rules. They believe they have the charge to protect Peacegiver's Treasure, and the God King holds that treasure. They do feel bad for what they are required to do to him.

Their interpretation is extreme, but what would you do, if your god (Peacegiver) commanded you that the Breaths be held and protected, but never used? Cutting out a man's tongue to keep him from using that terrible power is the way they decided to deal with it. Harsh, but effective.

Either way, they aren't planning to kill him. One of the big reversals I planned for this book from the concept stage was a world where the priests were good and the thieving crew was evil—a complete turnabout from Mistborn. Denth and his team were developed in my mind as an "anti-Kelsier's Crew." The priesthood, then, was to turn out to be maligned by the characters and actually working for their best interests.

In the end, I went with the evil crew idea, but the priests aren't 100% without their flaws.

YouTube Spoiler Stream 2 ()
#68 Copy

Avery Hinks

Is there a canonical reason why Vasher and Vivenna changed their names to Zahel and Azure on Roshar?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, it kind of comes into the fact that Vasher has gone through a bunch of name changes and there are a couple of answers to this. One is, in the Cosmere, like in a lot of like fantasy worlds, names and identity are just a pretty big deal, part of how the magic works is how you view yourself, and I like, in that instance, indicating that time has passed and the character has adopted a new name and things like this, it's just that's a thing.

You've also probably noticed that behind the scenes in the Cosmere there are lots of different groups vying for control and power and things like this, and so going under a pseudonym's actually a pretty good idea. I guess an alias, they're not writing books, it's not pseudonyms, you know what I mean, going under an alias's generally a pretty good idea for just if you don't want attention from the wrong people.

That said, I do have to balance this because, for instance, in Azure's case, you know, I picked something that Vivenna had, you know, blue had been associated with her in the previous book, so it's not a completely, that's partially for the reader's benefit, so it's easier for you to track who is who, just a little bit, and just a little bit easier to figure out who is who.

But if run into someone like Felt, right? Felt doesn't care. He's not hiding from anybody. Felt is, you know, he's more like "I moved from Nebraska to Texas," right? "And now I'm living in Texas." That's more how he views it a little bit. He's not a secret agent (ooh, big spoilers). Felt just, you know, he moved, so he goes by the same name. And that's, you'll see some of that as well. If someone's going by an alias, I'm doing it to indicate one of those two things, usually.

Daily Dragon interview ()
#69 Copy

Daily Dragon

With all the focus on social media these days, what impact do you think fans might have on story development in the future?

Brandon Sanderson

Boy, I think that they will have some impact. What, I'm not sure. With Warbreaker I was able to read perspectives on the book online as I was working on it, and that certainly did inform how I did my revisions. Maybe you'll see more crowdsourcing on editing and that sort of thing. I do think that the ability to directly connect with fans helps me understand the way a reader's mind works. Usually that doesn't translate one-to-one to changes in a novel, because there are a few steps in between in deciding what the reader really actually wants and what they say they want—working on The Wheel of Time as both a fan and a writer has helped me figure that out, because there are things that as a fan I would have said I wanted, but looking at it as a writer I can say, "Oh, if I gave that to the fans, it would actually in the long run make the story less satisfying." So there is some work to be done there, but I think social media is a great resource.

Oathbringer San Francisco signing ()
#70 Copy


Had you planned to write... the whole Cosmere when you initially started?

Brandon Sanderson

So, I wrote Elantris, had a bunch of the ideas. I started planning right then, and it has evolved a lot since. A lot of Elantris kind of got retrofitted into the things I came up with over the next four or five years... By the time I did Mistborn, I had most of this in mind, but it changes so much, even while I'm writing it. 


So, like, when you had Warbreaker, it was--

Brandon Sanderson

Warbreaker, I wrote as a prequel to Stormlight. I had already written Stormlight One by that point, but I didn't like it, so I wrote about Kaladin's swordmaster, who was in the first book in that version.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#71 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

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.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#72 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixteen

Lightsong Listens to the Priests Discuss War

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#74 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Siri and the God King Have Sex

You probably knew this was coming. At the very least, I hope that you were hoping for it. They are, after all, married. I thought it very appropriate that this happen, as the two of them have been falling in love for some time now. And beyond that, of course, it ramps up the tension in the book dramatically. That's always a good thing.

Manchester signing ()
#75 Copy


I wanted to ask, at the beginning you mentioned that you had twelve books written before your first book was published, can you tell us, or are you allowed to tell us how many have actually been published?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, I can actually go down the list for you. It is somewhat interesting, I think, for people. My very first book was a book called White Sand, and it was basically kind of a Dune rip-off. Your first book is always  a rip-off, right, of somebody, as a new writer? And that doesn't count the one in high school, which was a SUPER rip-off, like a major rip-off, it was basically a Tad Williams meets Dragonlance. Full blown with elves and things-- Yeah it was totally--

White Sand is the first one I finished, and I actually then went and wrote a science fiction book called Star's End.  And then I wrote the second half of White Sand, because I just stopped and said "This is long enough to be a novel" and then I wrote the rest of it and called that book two, that's actually the only sequel in there I wrote. And then I wrote a comedy, where a lot of the thesis of that comedy came out in Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians ten years later, so that one's kind of half been published. White Sand and Star's End are not any good, they have not been published. And then I wrote something called The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora, which was really weird and sci-fi-y and stuff, and that one hasn't been published because it's really bad too. And then book number six was Elantris which was pretty good. Book number 7 was Dragonsteel, which became my honor's thesis as an undergraduate and half of that book ended up in the contemporary Way of Kings, the Bridge Four sequence was all from Dragonsteel and I ripped that out when I re-did Way of Kings.

After that was a re-write of White Sand, with better writing nowadays, and that one we're turning into a graphic novel, that one's good enough to read-- The biggest problem it has is its a little too bloated.  The story-- It's like 300,000 words with 150,000 words of story. And so we are going to condense it-- into a graphic novel, so you will eventually see that one. The next one was called Aether of Night, that one didn't get published, it's really two decent books that don't work well together, like one half is a Shakespearean farce about a guy who takes his brother's place on the throne, they're twins, it's mistaken identify, yadda yadda; the other half is this dark brutal war book with an invasion going on, and the two halves never really translate well. People read this and they're like, that chapter is hilarious and fun, and OH MY GOODNESS, and yeah, so-- Maybe someday I'll do something with that.

After that I wrote a book named Mythwalker which became Warbreaker. I ripped out the good parts of that and wrote Warbreaker later on. Then I wrote a book called Final Empire, which is not Mistborn: The Final Empire, because then I wrote a book called Mistborn, and neither of those books were working very well. And then I wrote a book called Way of Kings and then I sold Elantris and I said "I want to take these two books that weren't working very well, and I think if I combine them--" because Mistborn had a cool magic system and the Final Empire had this whole thing about the Hero who failed and the Dark Lord took over and mixing these too ideas turned into a great book and that became Mistborn: The Final Empire.

And basically everything from then I've published, Warbreaker came next which was a re-write of Mythwalker. The Way of Kings, the one you hold, is a complete rebuild, I started from scratch, and added the Bridge Four sequence from Dragonsteel and some of these things... The only good one in there, that wasn't published, is White Sand I think, and I think it is going to make a really nice graphic novel because the story is really solid, the characters are really solid. I just wasn't a good enough writer to know how to condense where I needed to.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#76 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Anyway, in this chapter, he's trying to give Siri a seed of worry and doubt. He's hoping that if she feels she's in danger, she'll trust him more and that will let him do what he needs to. At this point, he's not sure that he will kill her. It's more that he's hoping he'll be able to manipulate her to in turn manipulate the Idrians in the city. So he wants to make sure Siri sees the Hallandren as her enemies. He can tell that she's beginning to think her life in the city isn't all that bad, and he's worried about that. Idris and Hallandren won't go to war, in his opinion, if Siri is too content.

However, Denth's success with Vivenna out in the city (and yes, Bluefingers is the one employing Denth) will eventually convince Bluefingers that he doesn't need Siri for that role. Unfortunately for her—and for him, in a way—he realizes that if she were seen as having been killed by the Hallandren priests, it would certainly spark a war.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#77 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Pretends to Be Crazy, Approaches the Guards

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

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

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

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

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

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#79 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The God King's Priests

Treledees explains, finally, why it is that the God King's tongue was removed. I hope this makes sense. Or, more accurately, I hope that Treledees's explanation and rationalizations make sense. I don't want the priesthood to come off as too evil in these books. In fact, because we're seeing through the eyes of so many Idrians, I work very hard to show the Idrians (and the reader) their prejudices.

This isn't because I wanted to write a book about prejudice. It's because I wanted to tell a good story, and I believe that a good story works to show all sides of a conflict. Since we don't have any viewpoints from the priests, I felt I needed several reminders (like the confrontation between Vivenna and Jewels) to explain the Hallandren viewpoint.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#80 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna and Vasher Watch the Vote

With this chapter, I wanted to bring together another focus chapter, a bookend—so to speak—with the one earlier in the book where everyone came to the court when Siri was first shown off. If you recall, that was the first time Vivenna saw Vasher, and also the first time we had all of the viewpoint characters together in one location.

Now we're back, kind of. Siri is here in this chapter, but she's pulled away before she can make it all the way to the arena. It's the best I could do, under the circumstances, as I knew I needed to launch us into the "Brandon Avalanche" after this chapter. That meant Siri getting taken captive.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#82 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The contact Vasher mentions in this scene is Bluefingers. The little scribe is working very hard to push the court toward war, and he thinks that if Vasher sneaks into the hidden tunnels, he might do something dangerous like kill a few guards. More than that, Bluefingers is hoping that by giving away that tidbit of information, he might be able to get Vasher to trust him, and therefore get the chance to manipulate him toward fomenting the war.

At this point, Vasher has contacted Bluefingers pretending that he's interested in the politics of the court and the war. Bluefingers inaccurately assumes—from intelligence he's gathered, from what Denth has said, and from some faint awareness of who Vasher might be—that Vasher wants to drive Hallandren back to war with Idris. At the very least, Bluefingers assumes that Vasher will want to kill and destroy, since death and destruction have often been his wake.

And so, Bluefingers sells to Vasher a little tidbit that he assumes is innocent (the presence of the tunnels). This gives Vasher an unexpected edge. He now knows that it's possible to get to the Lifeless garrison, and into the court itself, through ways nobody knows about. That makes him suspect that something greater might be going on, perhaps a coup of some sort.

I apologize for only showing little pieces of this in the book. But, to be honest, I don't think it's that interesting—mostly because everybody is so wrong about what they're assuming. And the assumptions are rational enough that I think it would be confusing in the book. Vasher is wrong about the coup, and Bluefingers is wrong about Vasher's motives. Denth only cares about getting a chance to punish Vasher for the death of his sister.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#83 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Three - Part One

Similarities Between Warbreaker and Elantris

And finally, we arrive at my personal favorite character in the book. Lightsong the Bold, the god who doesn't believe in his own religion.

I had the idea for Lightsong a number of years ago. My first book, Elantris, dealt with the concept of men who were made gods. However, in that book, we never actually get to see men living as gods. The gods have lost their powers and have been locked away.

This time I wanted to tell a different story, a story about what it is like to live as a member of a pantheon of deities. Yet I didn't want them to be too powerful. Or even powerful at all.

I realize that there is some resonance here with Elantris. I hope that the concepts don't seem too much alike. What I wanted to do with this story was look at some of the same ideas in Elantris, but turn them about completely. Instead of dealing with gods who had fallen, I wanted to look at gods at the height of their political power. Instead of dealing with people who were ridiculously powerful, I wanted gods who were more about prophecy and wisdom.

I made it so that the Returned couldn't remember their old lives as a way to distinguish them from the Elantrians. However, I can't help the fact that the ideas had the same (yet opposite) seed. But I'm confident that there's plenty of room in the idea to explore it in a different direction, and I think this book comes out feeling very much its own novel.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#84 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Fights the Soldiers and Finally Pulls Nightblood

In my annotations, I've often talked about focus scenes. These are the scenes of a book that I imagine cinematically before I sit down and write the novel. They're part of what drives me to want to work on that book in particular, and I need a few really good ones before I'll write a book.

This was one of the primary focus scenes for this book. I had this in mind before I developed a lot of the rest of the story. I'm glad that I was able to write to a point where I was able to use it. Vasher, Awakening a rope to save himself, then fighting alongside Awakened sets of clothing. Then finally, at long last, drawing Nightblood. You probably knew that had to happen in this book. I certainly built up to it long enough.

I originally imagined the pulling of Nightblood from a body a little like a dark "sword in the stone" moment. I don't think that quite made the transition to the final book, but hopefully the image of a black sword leaking smoke is visually potent for you. I ended the scene in my head with Vasher standing amid those puffs of black smoke that used to be bodies, Nightblood at his side, feeding off of him with pulsing black veins.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#85 Copy

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.

Leipzig Book Fair ()
#87 Copy


In Warbreaker: the magic system is really visual, and when heightened people are around, the colours get really saturated and I was wondering about blind people or colour blind people. How can they percieve the effects of Investiture?

Brandon Sanderson

Their minds would interpret it in a way that works for them. Their brain would come up with some way to interpret the sensory they're getting. And so the colour blind... The colours are still going to saturate, but saturate in a way that they can tell. Not being colour blind it is really hard for me to describe. But I read about it, and at least that's the rule I have for myself in the head. For an actual blind person this is going to be a magic system that's harder to use. Just having a disability, unfortunatly. But it also gives perfect pitch, and I think that partially their auditory senses would compensate to a degree, but it's going to be a harder magic system to use. I'm sure they could find a way to work around it.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#88 Copy

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.)

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#89 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

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.)

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#90 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

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.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#91 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Four - Part Two


Why, yes, I did visit Hawaii in the middle of writing this book. Did you notice?

Following Mistborn, I wanted to do a book set in a place that looked very different from the Final Empire. What's different from a burned-out wasteland? Why, a tropical paradise of course! One of the great things about being an author is the ability to justify going to Hawaii just so I could do research on how to properly describe the plants, landscape, and atmosphere in a place like that. It's really a tough job, but I'm willing to sacrifice for you all. No need to thank me.

Hal-Con 2012 ()
#92 Copy

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.

Arcanum Unbounded release party ()
#93 Copy


With Warbreaker and Stormlight Archive, Vasher and Zahel. How does that transition occur?

Brandon Sanderson

He went to Roshar because he knew ahead of time, that you could get Stormlight, and how easy it was. So he made his way there because he was tired of sucking people's souls to stay alive.


How did he know?

Brandon Sanderson

He, as part of a group of scholars, stumbled upon the nature of worldhopping long ago.


Could he be the same group of scholars as Jasnah?

Brandon Sanderson

No, it's a group of scholars on Nalthis who were studying magic, Investiture, and stumbled upon the means by which you transition into the Cognitive Realm. So, he actually had experience with Shardblades before, and that was part of how he built... well, he was part of it, but really...


So, is Nightblood kind of like a Shardblade? Is a Shardblade?

Brandon Sanderson

Nightblood is an attempt to make a Shardblade using a different magic. And it turned out poorly.


Speaking of Nightblood, how did that transition from Nalthis?

Brandon Sanderson

I have not answered that yet. Eventually, you will find out how they ended up on Roshar.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#94 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

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.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#95 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Five

Lightsong's Very Short, Two-Paragraph Chapter

I was tempted to make this annotation the longest in the pile, just for irony's sake. But I thought that might get boring. So you'll just have to settle for the only annotation in the batch that's longer than the chapter it annotates.

I've long wanted to do a chapter like this, one that's just a few sentences in length. (Or even one sentence.) I toyed with it in Mistborn, but never found a good place for it. When I was writing this book, it seemed very appropriate here. Something about the rising tension, the need to include a scene from Lightsong, and the poignancy of having a chapter like this right here—following the previous Siri chapter—worked perfectly in the book.

The reason I'm most sad for making Lightsong's dreams of earlier chapters more violent is that I lose some of the punch of this chapter. Originally, this was the first place he dreamed explicitly of T'Telir burning. Before, there were hints, but he never remembered the actual scene of fire. Then we got here, and it hit with a pow.

But the need to keep the tension up earlier outweighed the need to make this scene unique. I have had troubles in the past with my endings being too overwhelming, particularly when compared to earlier points in the book. So Joshua's constant pushing on this point here was very appropriate. I think the book is stronger, even if this chapter is slightly weaker.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#96 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The Pahn Kahl Religion

In the Siri section, she mentions the Pahn Kahl religion, but she doesn't know what it is. This happens numerous times in the book, people getting confused about whether the Pahn Kahl are just Hallandren or being unable to describe their religion.

If you're curious, the Pahn Kahl are nature worshippers who focus on the storms of the Inner Sea as a manifestation of their unity of five gods. They believe that all Returned are men who deny the power of the gods and are forbidden entrance into heaven, yet are otherwise just men and not sinners worthy of hell—so they're given a chance to come back to have another try at life, to try to find belief this time.

Anyway, the purpose of having people so confused about the Pahn Kahl was to try to make readers vague about them in the same way. In this case, I want the reader to feel that the Pahn Kahl are unimportant, like the characters do, which is exactly the reason why the Pahn Kahl are so annoyed in the first place. If Hallandren didn't take them for granted so much, there's a good chance they wouldn't be so inclined to rebel.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#97 Copy

Brandon Sanderson


Blushweaver was the first of the gods who I named, and her title then set the standard for the others in the Court of Gods. Lightsong was second, and I toyed with several versions of his name before settling. Blushweaver's name, however, came quickly and easily—and I never wanted to change it once I landed on it.

When developing the Court of Gods, I wanted to design something that felt a little like a Greek pantheon—or, rather, a constructed one. Everyone is given their portfolio by the priests after they Return. Blushweaver was given the portfolio of honesty and interpersonal relations, and over the fifteen years of her rule, she's become one of the most dynamic figures in the court. Few remember it anymore, but she was successful at having her name changed during her first year. She used to be Blushweaver the Honest, and she became Blushweaver the Beautiful through a campaign and some clever politicking.

Many think of her as the goddess of love and romance, though that technically isn't true. It's just the name and persona she's crafted for herself, as she saw that as a position of greater power. She actually toyed with going the opposite direction, becoming the chaste goddess of justice and honor. However, in the end, she decided to go the direction that felt more natural to her.

After these fifteen years, it's hard to distinguish when she is being herself and when she's playing a part. The two have become melded and interchangeable.

When designing this story, I knew I wanted to have a beautiful goddess to give Lightsong some verbal sparring. However, I realized early on that I didn't want to go the route of having a disposable, sultry bimbo goddess of love. I needed someone more complicated and capable than that, someone who was a foil to Lightsong not just in verbal sparring, but someone who could prod him to be more proactive. And from that came Blushweaver.

In the original draft of the book, this chapter had a slightly different tone. Lightsong didn't look forward to sparring with Blushweaver; he cringed and wished she wouldn't bother him. That artifact remained until the later drafts, though it didn't belong. I wrote the later chapters with them getting along quite well, so I wanted to revise this first chapter to imply that he looked forward to their conversations.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#99 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Different Viewpoints in the Same Chapter

In the Mistborn books, most of the characters were either involved in the same plotline or separated from one another by distance. I missed being able to do what I did in Elantris, where I would show an event from the perspectives of characters who were involved in very different storylines.

The characters in Warbreaker are a little more focused on the same things, and are tied together by plots, but they're also very separate. (At least at the beginning.) It's fun for me as a writer to be able to show Lightsong, Vivenna, and Siri all attending the same event, but drawing very different experiences from it.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#100 Copy

Brandon Sanderson


A lot of people helped me with this book. As you may or may not realize, I posted drafts of the novel online as I was writing it. It was a rather nerve-racking experience in many ways. My goal was to show the process of writing a novel as it happened. As such, I would finish a chapter, spellcheck it, then post it. (Though sometimes I held it for a while, as I eventually wanted to get to posting one chapter a week, and I'd often write two or three a week.)

Why did I do this? Well, for a number of reasons. First off, I'd never seen anyone do it before. I'd seen serialized novels, of course, and I'd seen people post their complete novels once the book was out in stores. I'd never seen anyone post, chapter by chapter, the rough draft of a book that they already had a contract for. This was less serializing a novel and more showing the process. As I finished a new draft, I would post that so that people could compare and see how I tweaked my manuscripts.

I also wanted a free novel on my website so that people could give my work a chance without having to pay for it. I figured that if they liked it, they'd try out my other books (and probably even buy Warbreaker when it came out). And if they didn't like it, then at least they hadn't spent any money on it.

The third reason I posted it this way was that I wanted to see what kind of community and feedback I could get for a book while it was being posted, then use that kind of like a writing group. Now, I tend to write fairly clean rough drafts. They're far from perfect, but since I like to outline a lot, I generally know where I'm going with a book when I write it. However, a great deal still changes in drafting, and many of the people who posted comments on my blog had an influence on the novel. Not really in changing the plot or the characters—it's more that their questions and concerns would inspire me to explain something better or develop an aspect of the story more.

I tried to get everyone on the list who helped out in a moderate or significant way. However, I'm sure I missed some people. If you're one of those who gave me a lot of comments during the early months when I was posting the rough draft, and I forgot you in the acknowledgments, drop me an e-mail so I can at least get you added to the electronic version.