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Warbreaker Annotations ()
#51 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Returns to a Ransacked Home

I'm a little annoyed at myself that it took so long to introduce Jewels. Here we are in chapter seventeen and she still hasn't shown up. She barely gets a mention here. Unfortunately, I knew that her arrival would present problems for Vivenna, so I felt the need to put it off until Viv was attached enough to the mercenaries that she'd be able to overlook a certain "pet" that Tonk Fah talked about earlier.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#53 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 ()
#54 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Denth the Traitor

Denth was always going to betray Vivenna. In fact, this is one of the very early concepts for the book—the idea that I wanted a bad guy who was not only likable, but funny. Too often, villains are portrayed as simply despicable people. If they laugh, it's evil laughter.

But people just aren't like that, not most of them. They're real, they have goals and motivations, but they also laugh, cry, and feel. Denth is a mercenary. More than that, he's a man who has caused a lot of pain and death in his long lifetime, and he copes with it by letting himself be hired to do important tasks. So that he doesn't have to feel as responsible.

In a lot of ways, I imagined Denth as the anti-Kelsier. Glib, smart, and hired to do impossible tasks. Only in this book he works for the wrong team. In this scene in particular, he was doing his best to nudge Vivenna to give him the Breaths. His job was only to hold her, to keep her captive and in reserve just in case the plots with Siri failed. That way, there would be a second princess to use in the plots. He was assigned to work for Lemex originally just to give him an in with the Idrians in the city, so that he could rile them up to incite the war further. But when he found that Vivenna was coming, he realized that she would be a much better pawn, and so he poisoned Lemex and took her instead. His employers were very happy to have a backup princess.

So, anyway, Lemex's Breaths were secondary. Denth wanted them, but he knew that the most important thing to do here was get Vivenna to trust him. So he tried to subtly manipulate her into giving them to him. (He intentionally acted reluctant to take them in order to goad her.)

In some ways, even though he doesn't have a viewpoint, a big theme of this book is the tragedy of the man Denth. He could have been more. At one time, he was a much better man than most who have lived.

Tonk Fah is a waste of flesh, though. Even if he is funny sometimes.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#55 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-One

Vasher Awakens His Clothing, Then Leaps off the Palace

One of the subtle, yet drastic, changes to Awakening that happened in this story came during the middle drafts. Originally, the Command was part of the process of Awakening—but wasn't as important as I eventually made it. I had intended for very difficult things to be accomplished through the use of very long and intricate Commands. However, as I wrote the first draft, I felt this was bulky. What it meant that was if you wanted to use a powerful Awakening in battle, you'd have to stop and spout several paragraphs of instructions. It really cut down on the tension of the battle sequences. (And Awakening was already slower than I preferred, with the need for all of the steps—Breathing, finding color, then Commanding.)

So during revisions, I changed this. Instead of requiring a lengthy Command to create a powerful Awakening, the strength and skill of the Awakener is instead determined by their ability to visualize what they want the Command to do. The Command is a focus, the spoken words an important part of the process, but the real trick is getting the right mental picture.

This way, someone can practice a lot, and still use simple Commands—like "grab things"—yet have them do very powerful things. It also allows me to have Commands be easier to learn and use, yet still require skill to master.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#56 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eight

Siri Wakes Up Untouched, Then Explores the Palace

These Siri chapters presented a little bit of a problem to me in that I generally focus my writing around conversations. A given chapter will have some action and description, but usually the series of scenes revolves around important discussions between characters.

But in the palace during the Jubilation, Siri has almost nobody to talk to. She just doesn't have anything to do. A note to aspiring writers: A character not having anything to do is bad. You want action, motion, and conflict in your stories. That's what keeps them moving and interesting.

But in this case, Siri's lack of direction was necessary to make the plot work. In these chapters, Siri is just reacting—trying to stay afloat in a world very different from her own. So I had to focus on other ways to make the scenes interesting.

A lot of times, in writing, needs like this end up defining aspects of the books. I hadn't intended the palace to work as it did—with each room being modular, any of them able to transform into any type of room. I intended to give Siri her own set of chambers, as might be expected in a situation like this.

But when I reached this point in the book, the chapter was looking dull, and I knew I needed some little twist to the palace to make it original enough to hold Siri's—and the reader's—attention here. It's a very small thing, but I think that one change added a lot to the chapter, and therefore the book.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#57 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.

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


One other question, what is the name of the planet that Elantris is on?

Brandon Sanderson

Elantris: Sel

Warbreaker: Nalthis

Mistborn: Scadrial

Way of Kings: Roshar

White Sand: Taldain

Dragonsteel: Yolen

There are others, but I haven't talked much about those yet, so I'll leave them off for now.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#59 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifteen - Part One

Siri Sees the God King

I think this is my favorite plotline of the book. The Siri/God King one, I mean. It's hard to choose, but this is the one that I felt most interested in. (Though Lightsong's ending chapters are powerful too.)

I wanted the God King to be an enigma, much like Vasher is, at the beginning of the book. Well . . . that's not quite true. Right at the beginning, I wanted him to be scary and dangerous. I wanted the reader to perceive him as Siri did.

By now, however, you should be wondering more. Who is he? What are his motives? Is he angry with her or not?

The driving force behind this, actually, is the Lord Ruler. In Mistborn, a part of me always felt that he was just a little too stereotypical an evil emperor. True, I worked hard to round him out, particularly through the later books. But writing him made me want to take an evil emperor archetype in a very different direction.

I've spoken on the reversals in this book. Well, one thing I realized after the fact is that the novel is—in a lot of ways—about reversals of my own writing. Things I've done before, but taken the opposite direction. Almost like I need to react against myself and explore things in new ways, particularly in cases where (like the Lord Ruler) I did things that were more conventional to the genre.

I think that's why this book has so much resonance with my previous books. Or maybe it doesn't really, and I'm just seeing something that doesn't exist. A lot of my ideas in writing, however, come from seeing something done in a movie or a book (or even in one of my own books) and wondering if I could take it a new and different direction. I hope that doesn't make me feel like I'm repeating myself.

FanX Spring 2019 ()
#61 Copy


You've stated before that Denth's ability to change is hair color is independent of him being Returned? So meaning he has the Royal Locks. Are Siri and Vivenna descended from him, or just a separate line of the same family tree?

Brandon Sanderson

I will RAFO that. But he does have the Royal Locks, so you can at least assume that they're related, at the very least.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#62 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Watches the City

One of the reasons I knew that I had to make Vivenna a viewpoint character was that there was such a wonderful contrast between her and Siri. The way they look at the world is so different that it provides excellent opportunities for the story. The way they each respond to their first visit to T'Telir is an example of this.

Beyond that, with Siri and Lightsong locked in the court, and with Vasher doing whatever the heck Vasher is doing, we didn't have any characters who could experience the city itself consistently with a sympathetic viewpoint.

As I've stated, this book began as one about the two sisters who are forced into each other's roles, and how they deal with those changes in their lives. Vivenna is an integral part of this process.

FanX Spring 2019 ()
#63 Copy


So I was wondering, can Siri and Vivienna, does their hair change to unnatural colours, like pink and green--

Brandon Sanderson

It can. Yes.


What would elicit that?

Brandon Sanderson

Well, I would have to go back to look at my notes, honestly. I would expect you could get green by eating something that made you sick, right? They're gonna associate these colors partially with associations that people are putting on them, the same way that spren are acting like the associations that people give them, but I would have to look at the culture, because in their culture, they may not associate green with disgusting the same way we do, right, if that makes sense. So that's why I'd have to look at the notes. These things are partially based on their own interpretation.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#64 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 ()
#65 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Five

Vivenna Awakes, Bound by Vasher

This chapter—with what happens in the latter part of it—is the most dangerous in the book. Dangerous to me as an author, I mean. I love good plot twists, but I worry about leaving them without proper foreshadowing. I've never done something as drastic as I have in this book, having a group of sympathetic characters turn out to be working for the wrong side. I hope it succeeds, but I know that if it doesn't, readers will be very mad. Nothing is sloppier than a book with unearned changes in character motivation.

But we're not there quite yet. Before that we have the first real interaction between Vivenna and Vasher. He gives her what he likes to think of as the Nightblood test. One nice thing about having a sword that "cannot tempt the hearts of those who are pure" is that when someone like Vivenna touches it, she gets sick. I didn't want Nightblood to come across as a "one ring" knockoff. He doesn't turn people's hearts or corrupt them. However, in order to be able to do his job and fulfill his Command, he needs the ability to determine who is good and who is evil.

This, of course, isn't an easy thing to determine. In fact, I don't think it's a black or white issue for most people. When Nightblood was created, the Breaths infused in him did their best to interpret their Command. What they decided was evil was someone who would try to take the sword and use it for evil purposes, selling it, manipulating and extorting others, that sort of thing. Someone who wouldn't want the sword for those reasons was determined to be good. If they touch the weapon, they feel sick. If others touch the weapon, their desire to kill and destroy with it is enhanced greatly.

Nightblood himself, unfortunately, doesn't quite understand what good and evil are. (This is mentioned later in the text.) However, he knows that his master can determine who is good and who is evil—using the sword's power to make people sick, or through other means. So, he pretty much just lets whoever is holding him decide what is evil. And if the one holding the sword determines—deep within their heart—that they are evil themselves, then they will end up killing themselves with the sword.

Vivenna passes the test, which surprises Vasher. He thought that she'd be the type who would use Nightblood to kill and destroy. (He doesn't have a high opinion of her, obviously. Of course, that's partially because he's let his temper dictate what he thinks.)

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#66 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 ()
#67 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Escapes

One of my big worries about the Vivenna sections is that she'll come off as too weak as a character. That's a particular danger once we reach these late middle sections, where it's revealed how much she's been manipulated. Remember that when you're reading the Vivenna sections, if she comes off weak compared to Siri, consider their relative circumstances.

Vivenna is put through a lot more in this book than Siri is. Why? Well, I felt that as a character, she had a lot more room to grow. In order to do that, however, she needed to have everything knocked out from underneath her. That happens primarily in this chapter and the next few.

But she is not helpless. Even while she's numbed by the capture and betrayals, she manages to effect not one, but two escapes. She handles herself very well, finally overcoming her problems with Awakening and managing to get her Breath to work for her. (And remember that the more Breath one has, the easier it is to learn to get Commands to work right. That will be important later in the book. . . .)

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#68 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 ()
#69 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Realizes That the Mercenaries Are Traitors

And finally, here we are. The biggest gamble in the book. I went into the novel knowing I was going to do this, and I wrote all along with the intention that Denth and his crew were working against Vivenna's interests.

As I mentioned in a spoiler section earlier, Tonk Fah is a sociopath, and much of the time when he makes his jokes about hurting people, he's serious. (The vanishing pets are a subtle clue to this.) He finds the concept of hurting people funny. We laugh because of Denth, who's running interference and making it seem like they're just exaggerating to get a laugh.

The death of Lemex is another clue—he was, indeed, immune to disease. (Though not poison, if enough was used.) Anyone with that many Breaths is immune. Another clue is what the mercenaries are doing, riling up the Hallandren to war rather than working to prevent it. Not that Vivenna wanted them to, but through Denth's manipulations, Siri has all but been forgotten in the face of the work against Hallandren. Of course, Vivenna herself was willing to forget Siri. Not by intent, but because she has always been more focused on Hallandren, and Siri was partially just an excuse.

The fact that Vivenna's father's agents are never seen looking for her, the fact that the mercenaries don't seem to care about money, the way Jewels was frequently gone at the beginning (partially so she could tail Vivenna), and much of what they said and did were supposed to be reinforcement of this moment of betrayal.

All that said, however, I don't think it's at all obvious what they are really up to. And that's why this is a gamble. This twist isn't an "Ah, I should have seen it!" revelation like the one about the Lord Ruler at the end of Mistborn. Instead, it's a twist that—hopefully—has just enough groundwork underneath it not to seem out of nowhere. I fully expect it to blindside most readers.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#70 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Parlin Is Dead

Parlin was always meant to die here. That's one of the main reasons I left Vivenna with someone from Idris to be in her team, in fact. (The other reason is that I found it unrealistic that she wouldn't have somebody with her.)

Maybe this is why Parlin never worked as a character, to be honest. I wonder if he was always in my mind as the character who was going to get killed by Tonk Fah, which kept me from giving him enough depth. I'm not sure; I do know that in the book as it stands, he's probably the biggest component I wish I had time to change. I'm not certain what I could put in his place that wouldn't distract too much from the plot—and wouldn't take away from the humor of Denth and the mercenaries—but would still be sympathetic enough that when he dies here, it would be more powerful. But I would have liked to have found something.

Tonk Fah tortured him to death. He wasn't supposed to, but he got carried away. It was an accident, as Denth claims. (Denth shouldn't have left Tonks alone with the prisoner to continue the torturing.) Denth came back and found Parlin dead, and was annoyed and frustrated. He left Tonks behind, storming out in anger, and eventually found Jewels and Clod, who were talking to slum contacts and trying to find Vivenna. They came back to regroup.

Meanwhile, Tonks heard Vivenna enter, and knew it wasn't Denth. He put his Breath into his clothing, then ducked back under the stairs, his lantern extinguished, wondering who had come. He wasn't terribly surprised to find Vivenna. That was when Denth and Jewels got back and the rest of the situation went down.

I added the corpses of Vivenna's father's agents in the last draft, by the way, since I figured I wanted it to be more obvious what had happened to them.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#71 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Six

Siri Grows Her Hair for Susebron and Talks about Seduction

I think these two chapters best show off the tone reversals I was trying for in this book—and explain partially why I was all right with those early chapters being so different from the prologue. Following Vivenna's biggest chapter for shocks, surprises, and failings, we come here—to what is one of the most flirtatious and calm of the Siri chapters.

You should have been able to notice some changes about Siri, one of the most subtle being her ability to control her hair. The hair is, in a way, an extension of the metaphor. In the beginning chapters, Siri wasn't able to control it at all, and it always changed back right after she tried to make it go to a specific color. It did what it wanted, reflecting her attitudes, and kind of represented her ability (or lack of ability, in her case) to control the world around her.

Now, she's able to manipulate things around her slightly to her liking. In contrast, Vivenna's life is completely out of control. And her hair will respond.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#72 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.

FanX Spring 2019 ()
#73 Copy


Does BioChromatic Breath cure color-blindness?

Brandon Sanderson

So... having enough Breath will interact very strangely with color-blindness. It won't heal it, necessarily, but it will have an interesting effect.


Ah. I was hoping--

Brandon Sanderson

Are you color-blind?


I am. So the entire time I read the book I was hoping it could cure color-blindness.

Brandon Sanderson

You will have an interesting time. I think you would be pleased with how it affects it.


Will we ever see a color-blind person in the books?

Brandon Sanderson

I want to do one. I'm not sure if I'll be able to get it in there... but you will be pleased with how it happens.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#74 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 ()
#75 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.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#76 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Prologue - Part One

The Origins of the Prologue

This began as a first chapter; I only later turned it into the prologue. My worry when I made the change (and it's still a bit of a worry) was that it was kind of a sneaky way to begin the book. Let me explain.

This novel focuses primarily on Siri, Vivenna, and Lightsong. Vasher, as the fourth viewpoint, is only in there fairly sparsely. True, he drives a lot of what is happening from behind the scenes, but he's a mysterious figure, and we don't know a lot about him. This prologue is pretty much the most extensive, lengthy, and in-depth scene we get of him.

Therefore, it's kind of sneaky to begin the book with him. I did it for a couple of reasons. First off—and this is the most important one—this scene is just a great hook. It shows off the magic system and the setting of the novel (most of the action takes place in T'Telir, even though the first few chapters are over in Idris). It's full of conflict and tension, with a mysterious character doing interesting things. In short, it's exactly how you want to begin a book.

My worries aren't about this prologue so much as they are about the following three chapters, where things slow down a lot. I was tempted to cut this scene and put it in later, but I eventually decided that giving it the mantle of a prologue was enough. A lot of times, particularly in fantasy, we writers use a prologue to highlight a character or conflict that might not show up again for a while.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#78 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Kalad's Phantoms

Kalad used to be Khlad, by the way. I didn't want his name to sound so Pahn Kahlish, which I signify with the extra h sounds to give them an airy feel to their words. I added the mythology of Kalad's Phantoms to the book late in the process, wishing to give some more depth to the superstitions of the world. And perhaps do some other things too. . . .

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#80 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Lightsong Awakes from More Bad Dreams

This is the scene in the book where I originally started to turn Lightsong's dreams a tad darker. As you can see from the final version, I've now been doing that from the beginning. All to keep tension up.

Anyway, these dreams he saw—a prison, Scoot, Blushweaver—were there in the original draft. As I've said, I'm a planner, and so I had my ending well in mind by this point in the original version of the book. That ending changed in many ways during revision, but it's kind of surprising how much stayed the same. Sometimes, things just work and you do get them right on the first try.

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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.)

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The High Priest Tells Siri She Needs to Produce an Heir

Note that in a previous section where I said that I couldn't delve as deeply into Siri's plot in this book as I could have in one where there was only one viewpoint character, I didn't mean that I didn't intend to give her a lot of political intrigue and plot twisting. I only meant that I decided it was best to keep things a little more focused for her, rather than adding a lot of subplots.

I've been wanting to do a story like this one, with a woman sent to marriage in a politically hostile country, since I wrote Elantris—where Sarene arrived and found out her wedding couldn't happen. Again, this is an attempt to turn in a new direction for me, but the inspiration is the same. Sarene arrived and found that her fiancé had died and the court didn't care about her. Siri arrives and does get married, then has far too many people paying attention to her.

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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.

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Chapter Thirty-Nine

Vivenna Begs

This chapter and the next one were originally a single chapter. In the drafting process, I realized that my original chapter just wouldn't do. I'd been in a hurry to get on with Vivenna's viewpoint, and I had been worried about spending a lot of time on the streets with her, since I didn't want to retread ground I've seen in a lot of other books.

In this case, I was letting my bias against doing the expected thing make the book worse. Now, my drive to find new twists on fantasy tropes and plots usually serves me well. I think it makes my books stand out. You know that when you pick up a Brandon Sanderson fantasy novel, you're going to get a complex, epic story with an original take on magic and a different spin on the fantasy archetypes.

However, this same sense can be problematic if I let it drive me too far. It's nearly impossible to write a book that doesn't echo anything someone else has done. It's tough enough to come up with one original idea, let alone make every single idea in a book original. I think that trying to do so would be a path to folly—a path to rarely, if ever, completing anything.

In this case, we needed to have a longer time with Vivenna on the streets. We needed it to feel like she'd earned the sections of time she spent there. I knew I didn't want to go overboard on it, but I also couldn't skimp. So I sliced the chapter into two and added some material to each one, particularly the second chapter.

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Vivenna Finds an Alley to Sleep In

One of the big stories I'm worried about channeling here is Les Misérables. It's one of my favorite stories of all time, so sometimes it's difficult not to find myself drawing upon Hugo's story and characters. That constant fight to keep myself from leaning too much on what has come before went into overdrive in these chapters.

In the end, however, I think that Vivenna's scenes belong here and accent the story. So yes, if you noticed them, there are some echoes of Fantine in these sections—Vivenna selling her hair and noticing the prostitutes most prominent among them. These two items, most of all, I considered cutting. But in the end, I decided that if there was anyone I was proud to have influencing my writing, it was Hugo, and I left the references. Partially as an homage, I guess—though that's always the excuse of someone who ends up echoing a great story of the past.

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I wanted a good, strong scene where we could see that Siri made the decision to keep her hair in check. Again, I'm moving her and Vivenna into different roles, but I want it to be natural, an evolution of their characters brought on by who they are and how their surroundings affect them.

In this case, living in the Court of Gods, there is a very good reason to learn to control your hair. If many are like Treledees, who is of the Third Heightening, then even the most minute changes in your hair color will tip them off.

This is one of the interactions of the magic system that was nice to connect, an interaction I didn't expect or anticipate. With a lot of Breath, you can perceive very slight changes in color. With the Royal Locks, your hair responds to even your slightest emotions. Put the two together, and you get this scene. It was, in a way, inevitable from the beginning of the book.

Siri has come a long way. She's still stumbling about and making a lot of mistakes. But she's also winning some victories. There's nothing hidden to learn about this chapter; she really did just one-up Treledees and get what she wanted.

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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.

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Chapter Nineteen

Clod Arrives with Jewels

Early on in the development process, I knew that I wanted to have a Lifeless as a side character. They're such an interesting part of the world—in fact, they're a big part of the foundation of the setting, or at least what made me want to write it.

That meant having a Lifeless on Denth's team, and Clod as a character fit into place quite easily. I had worried about how to make Jewels distinctive in the team, after having Denth and Tonk Fah establish themselves for some twenty chapters before Jewels even makes an appearance. Working with that, I realized that by making her the Lifeless handler, I could add something unique to her—and to the team.

Denth knew that Vivenna wouldn't react well to there being a Lifeless on the team. That's part of why he kept Jewels away for so long. (In fact, when Jewels says, "Who's that woman?" in regards to Vivenna, it should have been slightly suspicious to you. She knew they had a new employer, and she should have made the connection. Indeed, she did. Denth had specifically ordered her to stay away until this moment, as he didn't want to scare Vivenna off.)

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Denth's Plans

When I was posting chapters online as I wrote them, I remember one person in my forums noting (upon reading this chapter) that Denth's plans were a terrible way to help Idris. By attacking supply caravans and creating a crisis in the city, chances are very good that the war factions would be more likely to get the others to strike. Desperate times generally give more power to those who are willing to act, even if those actions might lead to even more problems.

This person on the forums is, of course, exactly right. I'm impressed that they caught it, since most everyone else seemed completely taken in by Denth. However, what Denth is doing here is using Vivenna to help continue plots he has long had in motion. He's lying when he says that he doesn't know what Lemex was involved in and has only seen pieces. In truth, Lemex was doing what Denth wanted him to—they were Denth's plans all along.

However, Lemex was beginning to grow more reticent, and Denth was having more trouble manipulating him. Another good reason for the poisoning. (And it took a lot of poison to off someone with that much Breath.)

If you're reading it through again, I hope that Tonk Fah's line about being able to stow a lot of bodies in the storage space is a creepy line. It's supposed to be.

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Chapter Two - Part One

Siri Rides South, Stunned

Already, you should be able to see another tone shift in the book. We've gone from lazy highland romping to frustration and terror. My goal with this book was to keep that up—to always have things moving and the characters being pulled out of their comfortable lives into situations that force them to stretch.

One fun thing you can research yourself by looking at the first draft chapters of Warbreaker I posted. In them, I toyed with having Mab the cook be sent with Siri to be a lady's maid.

I didn't intend this while planning the book, but after writing Mab—and having so much fun with her character—I wanted to keep hold of her and let her add some color to Siri's sections. However, I cut this idea out pretty quickly. (Though a draft of this chapter exists with Mab accompanying Siri—I think in that draft, Mab is the one Siri is complaining to, rather than the poor guard outside the window.)

Why cut Mab? Well, a couple of reasons. First off, Siri's plotline was much more dramatic and emotional if she was forced to leave behind everything she'd known. Giving her a support character like Mab undermined Siri's plot and growth as a character. Beyond that, Siri's plots didn't need more color. We've got plenty of interesting characters and experiences coming for her, so the addition of another character wasn't needed.

I tried the chapter, but then realized that my original instincts had been right. I was forced to cut Mab out.

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Vasher Takes Vivenna Captive

Now things are finally starting to move! My books, I know, can be kind of slow sometimes. That comes from the fact that I, myself, like to read books that are kind of slow. These two chapters were very important ones. Vivenna admitted something very important about herself, then in a way took the wrong sort of responsibility for her life. Siri realized something about herself, then took the right sort of responsibility for her life. A little bit of reversal going on, as the two sisters live their parallel—yet so different—lives in T'Telir.

But it was certainly time for a shake-up. The next Vivenna chapters turn a lot of things on their heads.

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The God King Has No Tongue

Okay, so here we have the first major reversal in the book. There are several reasons I wanted to write this story. The first was that I loved the concept of the woman being sent to the terrible emperor, only to discover that he was a puppet of someone else. This was a big part of the original Mythwalker plot for Siri, and was a big part of what intrigued me about that story. (As a side note, Mythwalker was also the first place where I tried out the words koloss and skaa for races. They were completely different then, however.)

After writing Mistborn, I became increasingly intrigued with the idea of a complete reversal book—a book that did things very differently from the way I'd done them before. I'd dealt with an all-powerful emperor, and so people would (unconsciously) expect the God King here to be like the Lord Ruler. That gave me more opportunity to use their expectations against them and pull off a reversal of roles like the one in this chapter.

I hope it worked. By now, you were probably suspecting that something odd was up with the God King. However, I hope you weren't expecting something as redefining as the lack of a tongue. In this society, with this magic system, that is an even greater symbol of powerlessness than it would be in our society.

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In Warbreaker, you dealt delicately with sex and sexuality, especially in the first half. How did you find that line of what was appropriate and what wasn't, especially given the culture of sex in the region in which you live?

Brandon Sanderson

With Warbreaker, with all of my books, basically I'm thinking less about the culture in which I live and more with my own personal lines on these sorts of things. And I've constantly said, and I still believe, that one can write mature fiction without graphic content. That is what I like to try to do. And Warbreaker is, in part, an attempt to explore where I would want to go with these themes and ideas, and a book where I was expressly not being explicit, but also going further across lines than I normally went, to see... "across lines" is probably the wrong term. Going further along a path. Because I don't think, really, that I have lines. I have paths I go on, and at some point, I'm like "This is as far as I want to go on this path." And it's not like I draw some line in the sand, it's just my own gut instinct. With Warbreaker, I just wrote what I was comfortable writing, and maybe even pushed myself a little further and said, "Am I comfortable with this or not?" as I was writing and I thought, "No, this is dealing with the topic in a mature way that I like" and it worked for me. It was an experiment and kind of a give-and-take, but every book that I write is that to one extent or another. This is just one of the areas that I was focusing on when I wrote Warbreaker.

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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.

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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.

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Chapter Twenty-Two - Part One

Lightsong Plays Tarachin With Three Other Gods

This is the newest scene in the book, added in the last revision before the novel went to copyedit. I added it for two reasons. My editor wanted to see another chapter between the previous Lightsong chapter and the next one. He felt that the god made up his mind to help Blushweaver too easily, and wanted to spend more time with Lightsong mulling over the decision.

I reacted quickly to the suggestion, as I'd been wanting to show Lightsong interacting with some of the other gods. It's sometimes too easy for me to build my books around a small core cast and rarely involve any others, and I have to force myself to include more characters to round things out. This book had a distinct lack of scenes with "ordinary" gods. We got to see a lot of the exceptions, but never the run-of-the-mill divinities who make up the ranks.

I wanted to show how they schemed and how they acted. Putting Lightsong with three of them here helps the book quite a bit, I think. It makes the world feel more real and helps his character by providing contrast.

The game is something I developed in order to make this scene work. I wanted a divine game—one that wouldn't require too much effort, would require a lot of preparation and extravagance, but would still qualify as a sport. So, we have a game where the gods can sit on a balcony attended by a fleet of servants and scribes tallying their throws.

When my editor read the scene, he loved it instantly. He called to tell me it was one of his favorites in the book, partially because of some particularly good Lightsong quips. He says that he fully expects some Sanderson book readers to develop the rules for the game someday, then play it at a con.

[Editor's note: Also compare the game of Stones in the deleted Mad Prince Eton scenes from Elantris. Warning: Contains spoilers, so do not read this if you have not read Elantris.]

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The Origins of Siri and Vivenna

Back around the year 2000 or 2001 I started writing a book called Mythwalker. It was an epic fantasy novel, an attempt to go back to basics in the genre. I'd tried several genre-busting epics (one of which was Elantris) that focused on heroes who weren't quite the standards of the genre. I avoided peasant boys, questing knights, or mysterious wizards. Instead I wrote books about a man thrown into a leper colony, or an evil missionary, or things like that.

I didn't sell any of those books. (At least, not at first.) I was feeling discouraged, so I decided to write a book about a more standard fantasy character. A peasant boy who couldn't do anything right, and who got caught up in something larger than himself and inherited an extremely powerful magic.

It was boring.

I just couldn't write it. I ended up stopping about halfway through—it's the only book of mine that I never finished writing. It sits on my hard drive, not even spellchecked, I think, half finished like a skyscraper whose builder ran out of funds.

One of the great things about Mythwalker, however, was one of the subplots—about a pair of cousins named Siri and Vivenna. They switched places because of a mix-up, and the wrong one ended up marrying the emperor.

My alpha readers really connected with this storyline. After I abandoned the project, I thought about what was successful about that aspect of the novel. In the end, I decided it was just the characters. They worked. This is odd because, in a way, they were archetypes themselves.

The story of the two princesses, along with the peasant/royalty swap, is an age-old fairy tale archetype. This is where I'd drawn the inspiration from for these two cousins. One wasn't trained in the way of the nobility; she was a distant cousin and poor by comparison. The other was heir to her house and very important. I guess the idea of forcing them to switch places struck some very distinct chords in my readers.

Eventually, I decided that I wanted to tell their story, and they became the focus of a budding book in my mind. I made them sisters and got rid of the "accidental switch" plotline. (Originally, one had been sent by mistake, but they looked enough alike that nobody noticed. Siri kept quiet about it for reasons I can't quite remember.) I took a few steps away from the fairy tale origins, but tried to preserve the aspects of their characters and identities that had worked so well with readers.

I'm not sure why using one archetype worked and the other didn't. Maybe it was because the peasant boy story is so overtold in fantasy, and I just didn't feel I could bring anything new to it. (At least not in that novel.) The two princesses concept isn't used nearly as often. Or maybe it was just that with Siri and Vivenna I did what you're supposed to—no matter what your inspiration, if you make the characters live and breathe, they will come alive on the page for the reader. Harry Potter is a very basic fantasy archetype—even a cliché—but those books are wonderful.

You have to do new things. I think that fantasy needs a lot more originality. However, not every aspect of the story needs to be completely new. Blend the familiar and the strange—the new and the archetypal. Sometimes it's best to rely on the work that has come before. Sometimes you need to cast it aside.

I guess one of the big tricks to becoming a published author is learning when to do which.