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Firefight Chicago signing ()
#51 Copy

Questioner

Why do you do interludes? What possessed you to go that direction instead of just including it as another chapter?

Brandon Sanderson

I felt that one of the foibles of the large series epic fantasy genre is the tendency of authors to go afield down paths of side characters. It happened to Robert Jordan, it happened to George R.R. Martin. And so reading theirs I hoped to learn from them and say "I'm going to do this thing that gives me a pressure valve to tell these stories that are outside the main line but I'm not going to give myself enough room that I can just turn this into a full character, yet." That allows me to do goofy stuff around the world but have a form for it built into the book.

BookCon 2018 ()
#52 Copy

Questioner

*Inaudible*

Brandon Sanderson

I loved writing Steris. Part of the fun was, I wrote her in Alloy of Law knowing that a lot of people were going to have an opinion of Steris they would have to change over time, and I liked watching fans come to that realization.

Holiday signing ()
#53 Copy

Questioner

How hard is it to write about the death of a character? Like when you wrote about Kelsier, and Vin had to go through the aftermath--

Brandon Sanderson

It's, to me, pretty hard. The thing is, it's harder for me in the planning because by the time I reach it in the books I'm usually well-prepped for it because I'm an outliner so I know before I start. It's not like in the moment. Once in awhile, I'll have to go and rebuild the outline, y'know, this person has to not make it but usually I know it very early on. But it can be hard, for sure. But it helps like, that I know their whole life, you know what I mean? I don't just get the glimpse of the story, I know everything about them. And you do know that there are hints of Kelsier in Book 3 Mistborn, he was around doing some stuff.

Goodreads WoK Fantasy Book Club Q&A ()
#54 Copy

SeekingPlumb

Question. When writing TWoK, did you write the story lines individually & then weave them together (e.g. Place the chapters as desired.), after the fact? Or did you write the book generally in the order that we see the end result?

Brandon Sanderson

I wrote the parts by viewpoint. Meaning that for Part One, I wrote Kaladin straight through and then Shallan straight through. And then I switched for Part Two and wrote Dalinar and Kaladin, and then I switched back. So I did write the storylines individually by viewpoint, but in sections by part.

Goodreads February 2016 YA Newsletter Interview ()
#55 Copy

Howard

How often (if ever) do you reread your own books to make sure the content stays fresh in your mind? Or do you just rely on your notes and timelines you have for your books?

Brandon Sanderson

Depends. If it's been a long time, I'll reread. (Or at least look up specific chapters.) It depends on how much the story is "present" in my mind as well. The Stormlight Archive and The Reckoners have been solidly in my mind these last five years, and I have enough a grasp on the story that I'm in control of it and can work with it the way I need. When I get back to The Rithmatist, however, I'll need to reread the whole thing.

Starsight Release Party ()
#56 Copy

Questioner

Any advice for integrating realistic battle tactics with a magic system when writing a book?

Brandon Sanderson

Boy, it's tough. It depends on how much the magic going to get used and if you can find a real-world analogue or not. If you can find a real-world analogue, it can be handy to be like, "this magic is basically like adding an air force, let's see how that happens." If you can't find a real-world analogue, and it's very common, enough that it'll shape-change battle, then you need to make the sure the battlefield, you're controlling it and make it about the magic, so that no one can say "oh, you got the tactics wrong" because you're controlling it and you're controlling the narrative. 

Questioner

Basically make the magic the more important part?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. There's lots of ways to do this but that's a good way to do that. That would be my recommendation.

Starsight Release Party ()
#57 Copy

Questioner

I know you served a mission in Korea. So, how much of a Korean influence...

Brandon Sanderson

There's a bunch.

Questioner

I noticed in Mistborn, I think of some Korean influence. 

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. In Elantris, the idea of the language is based on the relationship between Korean and Chinese. So, it's not the sounds or anything, it's the idea of there being the Chinese characters that have Korean back... you know you can write them in Korean or in Chinese. All of that stuff. The Chinese characters, the Korean grammar around them, and stuff like that, it was a big influence on me designing that writing system.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#58 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eighteen

Sazed Visits the Pits of Hathsin

Sazed's visit to the Pits is foreshadowing, as we're going to make use of them as a setting later in the book and I wanted to establish what they looked like and what was going on there. It also, however, gave me a chance to frame Sazed's conflicts a little bit more by showing what the other Terris people think of him. (There will be more of that in the next Sazed chapter.)

Manchester signing ()
#59 Copy

Questioner

Your magic systems, they're genius.

Brandon Sanderson

Oh thank you very much.

Questioner

There's a certain subtlety to them that doesn't overtake the story which in some books could easily happen. How early on in your process do the magic systems have to be looked at an really put into place?

Brandon Sanderson

Every book is different. For some books the idea is a plot idea that starts me and for some books it is a setting idea--and magic systems are setting ideas in my head--and some its a character idea. With a character idea its usually a conflict, "that's an interesting conflict, what can I do with that" With magic systems it's usually "this will allow me, as a writer-- it will force me to stretch. It will have interesting limitations, it will do interesting things visually on the page, it will change the world in a very subtle yet important way that then I can explore" If we change one little piece of physics what does it do to the world, this sort of thing. I'm usually getting a lot of my ideas from reading science articles and things like this. Stormlight Archive is based off the fundamental forces, Mistborn is based off of vector physics and metabolism and things like this. These ideas-- I like having one foot in science and one foot in superstition for these magic systems. I usually don't start a book until I've fleshed out the magic system pretty well. That said when I was doing Stormlight Archive, the version that you have read I didn't have the terminology and how it was going to feel for the lashings until I wrote Szeth's opening scene, and that was where I really nailed down how this would look on the page and how it would feel. Sometimes you just need to write, you can't just plan endlessly and not write anything. But most of the time I have that nailed down. If people are interested in this you can look up my essays on writing magic systems, I think they are fun, but I humbly titled them Sanderson's first law, second law, and third law. So I think highly of them. You might find them interesting. They talk about my philosophy on writing and on magic systems.

Shadows of Self Newcastle UK signing ()
#60 Copy

Questioner

In the second Stormlight Archive book... Wit... the Shattered Plains party, where he's introducing all the guests, and just the sheer list of insults. Was that an easy thing to do, and you've got books and books of--

Brandon Sanderson

Man it is so hard to come up with good insults because it's so hard to use one that Winston Churchill hasn't used already. *laughter* But I try to channel the best insult comics and people like that. Being witty in writing is actually the hardest part, but the fortunate thing is that I can take two hours to come up with a line that he's supposed to snap off in a few minutes or a few seconds, and that's how we can imitate being smarter than we are. I totally have to do that in my books.

It's interesting, I got an insight into really smart people. I was roommates with a person who won a ton of money on Jeopardy. Ken Jennings for any of you guys that watch Jeopardy. He won like 80 times in a row, right? I'm serious. He won 80 times in a row, or something like 78-- and before he did that, he was my roommate, and I knew him, and he-- the big difference between him and other people is that speed, that speed of making the connection and snapping it off. You say something and he comes with a comeback, just like that, and then you think  about it and you're like "oh, that was really clever". That's what a lot of these people are, it's not the only type of intelligence by far, but it's one of the ones that this sort of discussion with Wit-- it's what we look for. So it's kind of a marker for somebody that's a little bit too smart for their own good.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#61 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.

Shadows of Self Newcastle UK signing ()
#62 Copy

Questioner

How much of your own personality do you put into your characters?

Brandon Sanderson

Good question. I put a piece of me in every character. There's some aspect of me in every one of them and there is something very different from me in every one of them, because that's kind of how I explore the world, I write about characters that have something familiar but something very different for me, and every character I write I try to the bulk of those things into. 

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#63 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.

General Reddit 2018 ()
#64 Copy

shinarit?

There is that scene where Kaladin takes a sharp turn at high speeds and he almost blacks out. That is normal for jet pilots, since they experience high G forces when their airplane tries to accelerate them by their backs and bottoms.

But Lashing doesn't work that way, it generates fake gravity. Accelerating your whole body shouldn't cause you anything, you can't even feel it.

Is this something that is an admitted physics hiccup or I misunderstood this kind of Investiture usage?

Brandon Sanderson

This one is actually in the process of flux, as I do more research on the effects of acceleration (including interviews with fighter pilots, which has been fun.) Basically, I realized I needed to beef up my understanding of all this, and then make some decisions on exactly how this all works, because I've been relying on instinct too much in some of these sequences.

So...that's a RAFO, I'm afraid. More because I'm still tweaking some of the little details of how I want this all to work. (In ways that become increasingly relevant as I look forward toward things like Windrunners in space.)

There are a ton of details to consider, even if I eventually hand-wave some of it with the magic. (For example, the heart pumping blood in a high-g environment. How does that interact, if at all, with stormlight? And the direct oxygenation of the brain implied by not needing to breathe while holding stormlight...)

We have several very large math-ish projects going on behind the scenes.

Phoenixdown

I think it depends on if lashing independently impacts each atom within your body simultaneously, or if it is only a subset.

Brandon Sanderson

There's one important fact you're not considering, but which is vital: reader expectation.

One of the questions I have to ask myself is this: What will the reader expect to happen? How will they expect to feel? Granted, none of us have ever flown like this before--but we generally imagine similar things, similar feelings.

As a writer, one thing I need to balance is when I go against reader expectations and when I don't. Going against the expectations can be interesting, but often takes a large burden of words and explanation to keep reminding them something is not how they'd imagine it to be.

For example, it took a relatively large amount of reader attention (and explanation) to keep reminding people in Mistborn that plants weren't green and the sky wasn't blue. In many ways, making something new (like a chull) is easier on readers than making something familiar into something strange (like the horses in Dragonsteel, which were smaller than Earth horses--and kept causing confusion problems in my alpha readers.)

As annoying as this example can me, this is why Lucas had sound, fire, gravity, etc in space. Starships banking in formation felt real to the viewers, even if it didn't make sense in context. I hope to not go that far, but these questions are something in my mind.

I try to be careful not to remove the sensations of magic, in order to keep the movements of characters grounded. Windrunning has left me having to decide how far I want to go with things like this, in order to preserve the visceral feelings for the reader.

Shadows of Self Newcastle UK signing ()
#65 Copy

Questioner

You're also famous for your magic systems, do you start with the effect you want to achieve or the mechanic you want to use?

Brandon Sanderson

It depends on each magic system, they're all different. Sometimes there's just a really interesting-- Mistborn's a good example of this. I built Mistborn because I wanted a different power for each thieving crew member and I had in the back of my mind a few cool powers to use, but others I just developed. I'd be like, alright, we need something for the fast-talker. So therefore you get the thieving-crew and the classic thieving-crew elements, and I wanted something to improve every one of them. So while I had the Pushing and Pulling already, because that was really interesting and I'd been working it out in my head, I didn't have all these powers set out for the team, so I developed those.

In other cases it's just, you know The Stormlight Archive started with the fundamental forces in physics and extrapolating outwards from them until I had ten fundamental forces because I wanted to do fantastical fundamental forces. So that one started in physics.

The magic for Warbreaker started because my editor called me, true story, and said "ah, after Mistborn and Elantris you've done some very dreary settings, very nice but very dreary, let's do something with more color in it". More color it is!

Shadows of Self Newcastle UK signing ()
#66 Copy

Questioner

When you finished writing A Memory of Light you posted on Facebook a beautiful piece of music *inaudible* and I was wondering, do you listen to music often when you write, and how does music influence--

Brandon Sanderson

I do listen to music. I almost always am listening to music when I write, and I really like things like Pandora or the discover weekly playlist on Spotify, or things like this. Any time I can get something seeded with some unusual different disparate elements and discover some new music, that'll be good for me. A lot of soundtracks, Pink Floyd, a lot of Pink Floyd, <Tangerine Dream?>, stuff like electronica, like that works really well for me. What else, Daft Punk would be in that group as well. So, it's a mix between piano music, electronica and soundtracks, what you're going to see me writing to most of the time.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#67 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Six

Talking Scenes

I realize that my books contain an awful lot of scenes where people stand around talking to each other. I try to keep them moving as much as possible, changing scenery, making the dialogue dramatic, allowing the characters to make conclusions and decisions. But, at the core, my stories consist of a lot of people discussing and weighing options in their heads.

I worry that sometimes I need to make things a little faster paced. I wanted to avoid too much of Elend brooding. In fact, one of the earliest rewrites of the book I did (one I did before I finished the novel, which is rare—I usually don't rewrite until I finish the rough draft) was done specifically to make Elend a more active character. In that same rewrite, I tried very hard to work out his character arc. (It just hadn't been working in the first draft.)

This was what I came up with. The emperor who knows he will end up having to make a very difficult decision, and fearing that he'll do what's right for his people—even if it seems morally wrong at the time. I didn't want to have many chapters of him brooding, but that sort of decision can't be off-the-cuff. For his character to work, I needed him to wrestle with the question—even go back and forth on it, as we as people often do.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#68 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Vivenna Wanders, Then Is Confronted by a Thief Who Takes Her Dress

The next few Vivenna chapters are short. I wanted to convey that she's on the streets for a time, but didn't want us to have to wallow in her problems. I've seen books do that quite well, and I don't want this novel to focus on it. (If you're interested in one that does it well, Paula Volsky's Illusion has a nice section about what it's like to be a noblewoman who is forced to live on the streets.)

Instead, these chapters are the transition chapters for Vivenna's character. The representation of her going as low as she can go, so that later she can begin to rebuild. The dress was a problem—it was way too distinctive, and it could sell for enough that she wouldn't have to live on the streets. She could buy something cheap and modest, then put herself up in an inn. So, naturally, it had to get stolen.

I didn't want to strip her all the way, though. We've been through enough of that with Siri, and I really didn't want to go there in this situation. Vivenna can be brought down to the lows she needs to reach without having to be raped by a random man in an alley. (Personally, I think that rape is overused in a lot of fiction.)

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#69 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty

What TenSoon Doesn't Know

Remember that TenSoon doesn't know what happened at the end of the second book. This was kind of hard for me to keep in mind, as I kept wanting him to mention the day mists and the troubles up above. However, he left before the Siege of Luthadel ended—he doesn't even know that Vin survived the assault on the city, let alone that she found her way to the Well of Ascension.

I considered having TenSoon overhear some kandra guards discussing these events so that he could use the information in his speeches, but I decided that would seem too contrived. He had to get along with what he knew, not what I wanted him to know.

Goodreads February 2016 YA Newsletter Interview ()
#70 Copy

Hoa

How do you prioritize the various series you are writing? Are you influenced by your creative interest, schedule, fans, family, etc.? You have so many wonderful, intricate storylines and series such as The Rithmitist, The Stormlight Archive, The Wheel of Time and others that are all being released simultaneously.

Brandon Sanderson

Deciding what to work on is a balancing act. On one hand, the artist in me always wants to be doing something new, and it pushes me that direction. On the other hand, the completionist in me knows that there is great, great satisfaction and power in finishing a piece of art. It pushes me to work on the established series, and keeps me from going too many directions at once.

In general, I only write new fiction on one story at once. But when I finish one, I have to make sure I do something very different from it to keep me from being burned out. I am absolutely influenced by my schedule, my fans, and my family—all of these things give me ideas, and also require some very careful juggling of priorities to make sure everything gets the time it deserves.

Starsight Release Party ()
#71 Copy

Questioner

What's the longest you've spent revising a single sentence?

Brandon Sanderson

Usually, the longest I spend revising single sentences would be the keteks in Stormlight, which are the poems I write that go along with it. I'm not so good at poetry so it takes a lot longer for me to get poetry right. Followed by humor scenes. Witty lines, and things like that, take a long time for me to actually write.

Shadows of Self Newcastle UK signing ()
#72 Copy

Questioner

I know that Mistborn, Stormlight Archive, Elantris are set in the same universe, and they've all kind of got certain Shards and I was reading that, like, you might do a book about that? 

Brandon Sanderson

I will eventually, there's no 'might' about it, but I always try to talk somewhat timidly about it because I don't want the focus to be on that, I want the focus to be on each story that's happening. For instance, The Stormlight Archive will only be about The Stormlight Archive. I will be upfront when I do a crossover, but it is many years in the future. For now, I like it being a behind the scenes thing for fans who really want to get into it. I don't want to scare a reader who'll be like "I can't read Mistborn because I haven't finished all of these other books". You can read Mistborn on its own, and there will be cameos that you will notice as you do more, and the more I write, the more to the forefront some of these things will come, but I will lead you gently into it. But yeah, I will be doing crossovers eventually.

Questioner

And when did you kind of-- was that something you wanted to do from the very beginning, or were you halfway through--

Brandon Sanderson

No, that was something I wanted to do from the beginning. I was inspired by Isaac Asimov combining his Robots books and his Foundation books, and he did it late in his career. It kind of felt a bit hacked together a bit, but it blew my mind when he did it and, as a writer, I always thought, what if somebody did this from the get-go.

The actual origins of the kind of worldhoppers for me was reading books as a teenager and inserting Hoid into them. I really did this.... Do you read books and you like change what is happening in the book, or maybe it's just a me thing? I would have my character interacting with the characters in the books, in my head, as I played the movie of that book in my head, while I was reading it, and there was this character hopping between worlds, with this knowing smirk on his face.

And so, when I was working on Elantris I said, "OK", I knew I had something in that book that was good, that was important, that was relevant, I was very confident in that book. It was my sixth novel, by the way, so I kind of had a handle on these things, and so that's when I decided I'm going to start doing some of this, I'm going to insert Hoid into this and I'm going to start planning this larger epic. It was particularly important to me because I knew I was not going to write a sequel to Elantris immediately, but I wanted to be writing epic stories, and the reason I didn't want to write a sequel to Elantris is because, if an editor rejected Elantris I wanted to be able to send them another book, because when you're getting close to publishing you'll start getting rejections that are like "This is actually a really good book, it doesn't fit our line, you just wrote a great mystical llama book but we just bought one of those, do you have anything else?". I wanted to be able to send them "here's my next thing" rather than "oh, I've got a sequel to the one you just rejected". And so I sat down and wrote the sequel, which was not a sequel, it was called Dragonsteel, which was Hoid's origin story. And then I jumped forward and I wrote White Sand which is another book connected to all these things and it went on, you know, it went crazy from there. And then when I actually sold Elantris it was already going and already in there, and I was able to sit down and write Mistborn, well in hand, knowing what was going to happen. That's why you find Hoid in Elantris and Mistborn and the sneaky, the scary-- well, it's not sneaky and it's not scary-- the moment in the third book when Vin gets creeped out by Hoid is a very important moment, Cosmerologically, but I'm not going to tell you why!

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
#73 Copy

cantoXV1

Brandon, how was character creation different for Children of the Nameless compared to the rest of your other works?

Brandon Sanderson

Character creation wasn't that different--I start usually with a conflict or a theme. For Davriel, it was "Economist gets magical powers" mixed with "Person who uses contracts with demons not for crazy power, but to get good staff members."

For Tacenda, I was looking at her curse and the way she uses music. (Mixed with the conflict of being able to hear your entire village get killed--but not being able to stop it.)

From there, I did apply some MTG philosophy to the refinement of the characters.

Starsight Release Party ()
#74 Copy

Questioner

What character have you written that you felt is most inspired by your own personality?

Brandon Sanderson

My mom says it's Alcatraz, my middle grade series, is most like me so I trust her. Other than that, it's hard for me to say. You have to go to my friends and things. I feel like ever character's part of me and every character's not. Stephen Leeds, from the Legion series, has a lot of writer-ish stuff in it. Particularly the last of the three if you've ever read that one. That was kind of a very personal book and it was getting into kind of the way... So maybe Stephen Leeds as a middle manager. I feel like a person who's controlling all of these characters. Rather than this person having the adventures, I'm keeping them organized.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#76 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.

Starsight Release Party ()
#78 Copy

Questioner

What was the thing you that you researched for your books that you were most interested in?

Brandon Sanderson

Ooh. That's a great question. Probably alchemy, because I find that fascinating that they believed like almost science but not. I loved that sort of stuff. 

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#79 Copy

Questioner

I was wondering how you schedule all the books that you write. Do you have adhere to a solid schedule or is it more like you finish a book and go into one you are more excited to write?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, at this point in my career I have the ability to have a little more influence over that. I do try to keep to kind of a regular schedule. My publishers have learned I'll turn in what I'll turn in, and then they'll publish it. Because I am more productive if I can jump between things.

Emerald City Comic Con 2018 ()
#80 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I appreciate the comment on Steris. I kind of feel that when I did Elantris, I was really interested in this, and i maybe didn't-- I kind of approached things in, like, a pop culture sort of way without really understanding it. And then I came to know some people with autism, and I'm like, "I need to do this better. I need to do this realistically and kind of help with the presentation rather than contributing to one narrow definition that is the pop culture definition." So I'm glad that that has worked for you.

17th Shard Forum Q&A ()
#81 Copy

McCullough

In what ways do you feel that finishing The Wheel of Time helped to prepare you for The Stormlight Archive and how did it change your writing in general, if at all?

Brandon Sanderson

I gained three things, I feel, by working over the years on [The Wheel of Time]. (And, in particular, by studying [Robert Jordan]'s work in depth.) I learned how to better balance lots of different viewpoints, I got a better grip for foreshadowing and subtlety over many books, and I gained a deeper understanding of how to write a really sold third person viewpoint.

Emerald City Comic Con 2018 ()
#82 Copy

Questioner

Where are the rest of Roshar's named gems? Like, we have the Hope diamond, we've got dozens of--

Brandon Sanderson

A lot of them are in the [Thaylen Gemstone Reserve] ...There's a lot of them around and there are places like that. One of the tricks, and I actually kind of was aware of this, particularly in book three, I was like "Yeah, I maybe should have named some of these things earlier." One of the tricks with a book like Way of Kings, there are already so many new names and terms that oftentimes I find myself finding ways to not include a new name or term because the overwhelming nature of the learning curve is so big. And I will admit, writing book three I'm like, "Ah, I should have named some of these earlier," this is what they would do.

But it's kind of this Occam's razor, well, that's the wrong term. It's this idea of "Let's try to keep it as simple as possible for that fact that it's really complex." and that's why I naturally just didn't do it. 

I would say in-world a lot of them are named. But you've also got to remember that gems are not as eternal on Roshar as they are. They are a little more ephemeral, you will often end up using them for something and they are wearing out, so to speak. So the idea that a diamond is forever is more of an Earth concept than a Roshar concept.

DragonCon 2016 ()
#83 Copy

Questioner

One of the things that I really like about your writing is that, unlike a lot of fantasy writers, you know when to stop. There are a lot of writers who just keep going and going and going and don't seem to know when to stop. How much of pre-planning do you do for your writing, and when do you know when to kind of put the breaks on it? Like "You know I've got to finish this up, 'cause I don't want this to drag out", like so many authors have done in the past.

Brandon Sanderson

Um, so one advantage that I have-- And I've found that I'm more rare in this, I though I would be the normal but-- I am a heavy outliner, and usually what you find with outliners, as writers, is that they write good endings, but they have trouble with character. Usually what we call a discovery writers who just kinda find their way through the book as they go  have these really lively characters and then their endings just kind of whatever. And there are great discovery writers who have great endings, and there are plenty of outline writers who have great characters, you just have to learn to shore up what-- your weakness, learn your writing style.

And for me that is-- My early books, the ones that weren't published, where the weakness was those characters. And I was really worried about it, and so I spent five years being like "How do I make the characters work", and I can only do this kind of hybrid method where I took my friends that I knew write really great characters and I tried the methods they used, and so I kind of discovery-write characters and outline my plot and then if the characters grow into someone the plot wouldn't work for, I either take that character out and put a new one in and grow someone else in that place or I re-build the plot to match them. So right now I have this floating outline that changes as I'm going.

But I like good endings. And I feel like good endings are something that a lot of-- Hollywood skimps on them, and a lot of books just don't quite bring it together. And so it's something very important to me, that I don't start my book until I know what the ending I'm pointing toward is. And that also gives when I'm done, when I've got that ending and I'm pointed at it, when I finish it, I can then be done. I always feel that a piece of art that's continuous, like writing your getting a serialized work, it needs to finish at some point to actually be a piece of art. And that's why, you know, Mistborn trilogy, the publisher hates that I ended the Mistborn trilogy and said "I'm done". He said "Yes, but you've just hit the bestseller list, like hop on the bestsellers", and like "Yep. I'm done, though. That is a piece of art. It's finished." *applause* And it's not, you know--

One of the things I knew I was going to do this in my life and I think the publishers were okay with it because one of the things I did very early on in my career was, you know, start with convincing--Hopefully I've convinced you all--readers that what they're following is kind of Brandon Sanderson Book Brand rather than latching on to a series. A lot of authors have this trouble with people kind of latching on to the series and not the author, and then they feel tied to the series. And I never wanted to do that, cause like you said, I think there are plenty of series that have gone for a very long time and their authors always loved it. But I've also read series where it feels like the author feels chained to the series, and he only writes one of these when they actually need a paycheck or something like that, and I never wanted to be there. And so very early I'm like "I'm not writing the sequel to Elantris immediately, I may never--" I probably will, but I told people that it's a standalone book, it's just there, and if I write a sequel, it will be about different characters, cause that story's done. Mistborn trilogy, yes, I might come back to the world, but the story of these characters is done. And training people to, like, "Alright, I like what Brandon does, I'll trust him that the next thing will be good too" And hopefully that works, but even if it doesn't, I'm still gonna do what I do. I would rather be the person who writes a lot of different things even if that means I have a smaller audience, because I really like jumping projects, it keeps me fresh.

DragonCon 2016 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

People ask me how am I so productive. It's really a mix of two things. And I'm going on tangent, like I said. But people ask this all the time, and I'm like, "I don't know how to answer that, I just do my job, right?" I write every day, consistently. I don't write very quickly, I'm not a fast writer, but I write very consistently. I think I am lucky in that I didn't get published early and so I had to have a job and all of this stuff and go through school all while finding time to write two thousand words a day and I did that for ten years before I got published, and so I had momentum. I knew I could just do these two thousand words a day and I would always have a book that I was working on that was getting ready, and I also learned to jump projects a lot to keep myself fresh.

And so when I finished something, I immediately looked for something very different to do, which will refresh my mind, let me hit the ground running. A lot of writers have downtime between books, and that downtime is because-- I don't know if you guys get this kind of, this, like, funk after you finish a great book you've read. When you're like "Oh man." It's almost like coming down from a high. Writers get that too, when you finish a book and you're like *groans*. But if I can get excited about the next thing very quickly, and start on that immediately, then I just keep my momentum and keep going.

So it's kind of a mixture of those two things, good habits and switching projects, so that means you shouldn't be frustrated when I do a book that's not your favorite series, whatever it is, because your favorite series would not be coming any faster, most likely. In fact, what you can look at-- If you look at the time the Stormlight books have taken, and compare them to time that other big epic fantasy series have taken, I do a Stormlight book at about the same rate actually, I'm not that much faster than Pat or George or something like that, it's just that I know to fill that time between those big books with something else to keep my momentum going-- Or at least my psychology lets me do this. And I don't think the books would be any faster without that.

Skyward Houston signing ()
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Questioner

To get into the mind of Bleeder, was that hard?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, to get into the mind of Bleeder, who is an antagonist in Shadows of Self, is probably the darkest I've gone in one of my books, and yeah. It was, but it was also somewhere I hadn't explored before, and so it was really interesting to me.

Questioner

It's my favorite character so far.

Brandon Sanderson

You will like, if I ever write the Threnody novel, you will like that one. Which is the Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell, that book. I do have a book in the Cosmere sequence planned in that world, but it doesn't have that character.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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Shpjokk

Are there any easter eggs that you either got to add or wished to add to the story that reference something Magic-related that's close to you?

Brandon Sanderson

Hmm. I toyed with writing in cameos for some people I know, but decided against it, as I know Wizards isn't fond of that sort of thing in their card art, and figured it would be a bad idea in fiction.

JordanCon 2016 ()
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Questioner

I get it that sometimes writers have organic process when they're writing sometime, they start on one thing and end on something else. Is there a particular character, situation where you started that as you were writing it, it kind of evolved on its own, and really kind of surprised you. If you don't mind, could you tell us about it?

Brandon Sanderson

So… there are always things when you're writing that evolve beyond what you expect them to be, and it happens even to the most strict of outliners. And I do, even as I usually call myself an outliner, say that you shouldn't be too strict on outlining. Just because the more--

What happens with the writers, the more you steep yourself in your story, the more your subconscious will start to make connections and the more your skill as a writer will start to-- Um-- Start to take over? It's hard to explain in a lot of ways, but it's similar in-- Honestly, like hitting a baseball, right? Where you, when you're practicing, you can be very conscious about it. "Alright, here's how my stance should be, here's what I'm doing wrong, let's work on that consciously". But in the moment when you're, like, swinging at the ball in the game, most of that's out of your head and you're just letting instinct go. The planning is all of that sort of stuff beforehand that you do, like a baseball player, and then the writing often involves a lot more of the "just swinging", and then the revision goes back to a lot more conscious, if that makes sense as an explanation. And so as you're going, a lot of times the instincts start going somewhere, and you'll get this chapter and say "Ehhh, something's wrong with this", or "Oh, this is a better path, let's go look at my outline and see what needs to be rebuilt."

Um, some examples of this, if I can give them… uh, well, I mean, I write the Alcatraz books completely just as free-written books, but in books you've read, for instance, Spook's story in Hero of Ages was not in the original outline. Um, you know, what happened to him and things like that in Well of Ascension was, and then I was like, um, I want to take this character further and I feel like I need more to this story, I'm missing something and Spook's story is where I started taking that. So that was a more natural, uh, sort of outgrowth of the storytelling. But that happens in every book, there are certain things that'll-- that go off target a little bit and turn out to be better. Yeah, there's a target that you're at that your subconscious is shooting for that your conscious doesn't know about yet. Yeah, it happens every book.

Daily Dragon interview ()
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Daily Dragon

Your new epic fantasy series, The Stormlight Archive, has been in the works forquite some time. In an interview earlier this year with Fantasy-Faction.com, you said that you set the project aside in 2003 because you needed to "get better as a writer." During the interim, as you worked on other projects such as the Mistborn trilogy, Warbreaker, and your middle-grade Alcatraz series, which skills did you improve the most?

Brandon Sanderson

I would say that I learned to juggle multiple characters a lot better. That's one of the places where I needed to grow, and it's one of the aspects where the original Way of Kings that I wrote in 2002 flopped. I wasn't good at juggling all these viewpoints. Working on The Wheel of Time really forced me to learn that, and I think I've gotten much better at it. I've also learned to be more subtle with my writing; Robert Jordan was incredibly subtle in his foreshadowing. Going through his notes and rereading the books and seeing how he set up things for many books later, it impressed me quite a bit that he was able to do that. I think I've been able to learn from that.

Daily Dragon interview ()
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Daily Dragon

How did you find the time and energy to work on The Way of Kings while you were immersed in Jordan’s Wheel of Time? Are you a hidden Allomancer, a slider like Wayne in The Alloy of Law, with the ability to set up a mind-boggling speed bubble?

Brandon Sanderson

I wish I could magically create bubbles of time to give myself more space to do these things. After working on The Gathering Storm, I felt more and more that I needed to do The Way of Kings—I had done it and failed once, and I began to see all of the places where it went wrong and how I could fix it. When you get excited about a book that way, you kind of have to write it—strike while the iron is hot. It's something I never want to do again—working on that and Towers of Midnight at the same time just about killed my entire family. The hours were very long, and I'm still kind of recovering from that. How did I find the time? I didn't do much else during that year when I was getting those both ready. I think it was really good for me to do, and I don't think I'll ever do something like that again.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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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.

DragonCon 2016 ()
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Questioner

I'm a creative myself but not really so much an authorial type but a systems designer type. And that's actually what attracted me to your books first, is that their systems are so... meticulous is not the right word. They're so hard.

Brandon Sanderson

Right, hard magic.

Questioner

And I'm not going to ask you to go over Sanderson's Laws but they add up to this magical materialism almost, which I think works really well with your storytelling. Do you have any particular method for meshing together the rules that you create for a system and creating a balance that allows you to tell a compelling story with it?

Brandon Sanderson

That's an excellent question because this is a really interesting give and take. Everything needs to be done in service to the story and the danger of these systems is doing the same sort of thing that an outline does to a story. Too rigid of an outline means you just don't have a good story in a lot of cases. Too rigid of a magic system can actually make certain stories just not work. And I don't think this is the only way you have to do it. For me, this is a lot of the fun but I have to let myself bend.

A good example of this, alright? I wanted to do speed bubbles... But one of the powers is these speed bubbles, right? You can slow down or speed up time around you in a bubble, right? So what I do is I say "Okay if we can do this, science-y people--" I go to my science-y people, that's the official term, I said "What's this going to do?" And they're like "Yeah, red shift. You're going to irradiate everybody." I'm like "Oh, right." *laughter* "Right, irradiating the room. A flashlight becomes a laser beam." Like stuff like this, I have-- What I do-- The difference between me and a science fiction writer is I say "I still want speed bubbles, so we will build into the magic system why the red shift doesn't happen and I will go with that. I will make a rule for it and I'll be consistent but I can make up a rule." And that is something I will recommend to fantasists versus science fiction writers is this thing. Remember the story is king. Be consistent once you've done something but go ahead and give yourself the wiggle room to build something that's going to become-- be for great storytelling. And that balance between being consistent and telling a great story is where you want to be.

Daily Dragon interview ()
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Daily Dragon

You posted the chapters of Warbreaker on your website at BrandonSanderson.com as you wrote them. The first and some subsequent drafts of the novel are still available for download to help aspiring writers study your revision process. What are some of the positive and negative consequences of posting your work in progress?

Brandon Sanderson

For one thing it lets people see all of the pops and bells and whistles that go into a book, meandering, sometimes, toward becoming a better novel. My agent and editor's big worry is that readers would read an unfinished work and therefore have a wrong taste in their mouth for how my books are. So I'd say that's the biggest disadvantage. I don't think personally that there has been any sort of sales repercussion. I can't say for certain.

I would like to say that it has been better for my books, particularly releasing it when I did, when a lot of Wheel of Time fans were discovering that I was taking over their series and wanting to know what kind of writer I would be. They were able to download the book for free and know a little about me and my writing. I think it was helpful. I think the big advantage is that I was able to give something back to my readers. I'm always looking for something I can give back. They support me; I get to do this job because of them, so I like to add as much value as I can to the books for them.

Daily Dragon interview ()
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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.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Lightsong Meets Allmother

This was a tough scene to get right. The trick is, I knew by this point that I wanted Allmother to be one of those who disliked Lightsong. She thinks that he's a useless god, and she isn't one of those who saw hidden depth in him.

I also knew that I wanted to give a twist here by having Lightsong offer up his Commands and give himself a way out, so to speak. What he does here is rather honorable. He knows that Allmother is a clever woman and perhaps one of the only gods capable of going toe-to-toe with Blushweaver. By giving her his Commands, he does a good job of countering Blushweaver without having to resist her.

But he couldn't get away with it. He had to stay in the middle of it all, for the good of the story and for the good of him as a character. So the question became, "Why in the world would Allmother give him her Commands?"

The prophetic dreams came to my rescue a couple of times in this book. I know that they're cheating slightly, but since I've built them into the story, I might as well use them. Having her having dreamed of his arrival gives me the out for why she'd do something as crazy as give up her Commands. I think her visions, mixed with the knowledge that Calmseer trusted Lightsong, would be enough to push her over the edge.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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AutonomousJoy

As somebody who has little to no knowledge about Magic: The Gathering beyond the fact that it is a card game, could somebody explain how novellas like this fit into everything?

Question for Branderson: How does writing for an already established IP feel compared to writing in your own universes? Do you feel limited?

Brandon Sanderson

It's a good kind of limitation--it helps me think with restrictions, and is good for me in making certain my own pieces remain consistent and rigid in their magical approach. So yes, it's limiting--but so far, with all three tie-ins I've done, I've been given enough freedom that it's been a good kind of limitation.

As for your first question, since nobody else is answering, Magic story these days is told via novellas like this. The creative team works closely with the game team to design the setting and story for a given set, then the creative team commissions or writes stories to post on the website for the fans who want to follow the story as they play the game. (The cards themselves evoke story nicely, but their focus isn't on the narrative, but on the mechanics of the game.)

My novella is a little odd in that I designed it working from worldbuilding materials sent to me, but without requiring it to follow a specific storyline for a set.

17th Shard Forum Q&A ()
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Yamato

How did you portray Jasnah's atheism so well? As a staunch atheist myself, I think you did an absolutely brilliant job. Honestly, It made me happy that a religious person was trying to understand my mindset. Anyway, who did you ask to get such accurate ideas of atheist thought?

Brandon Sanderson

I found some really good atheist forums. Not the 'hate on religion' type atheist forums, but the kind with some serious depth. People asking one another about morality, talking about how they felt when people reacted to them being an atheist, and expressing their philosophy. I gained a great deal of respect for them during these readings.

From there, I went and chatted with some atheists I know to gauge if I had a good handle on things. It was important that I get this right, as it's different enough from my own worldview that if it went wrong, it would have gone VERY wrong and I'd have ended up with something insulting.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Rumors of a New Survivor

Oh, and uh . . . I should talk about the chapter, eh? Well, I needed Sazed and Breeze to start hearing the rumors about Spook, but I didn't want them to figure out that those rumors were actually about Spook quite yet. I liked the connection between Spook and the Survivor, so I extrapolated how the religion would deal with new leaders and new mystical forces. And the Survivor of the Flames was born. Ta-da!

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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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.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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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.

General Reddit 2018 ()
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Jamester86

So something I've noticed in the fantasy genre that I love is that my 2 favorite authors (Sanderson and Rothfuss) don't use the traditional fantasy medieval setting (that I love) of castles, knights, feudalism etc. Now there are plenty of great authors that do (GRRMartin comes to mind as one that does it right), BUT the truth is, a good story eclipses all minor details like setting. An example I always give is that Patrick Rothfuss could write about brushing your teeth and it would make a fascinating read, and Sanderson would make an intriguing plot with amazing characterization throughout the dental hygiene experience. But I digress.

My question (If Brandon would be so kind as to show up, and if not, if anyone has any insight) is why; why doesn't the cosmere have any traditional medieval fantasy settings? Mistborn has keeps, but the society is not the traditional technology and setting of the medieval time period, nor do any of the other worlds given us.

Brandon Sanderson

There are both in-world reasons and writing reasons.

The writing reasons are obvious. I grew up on a steady diet of fantasy in a faux-medieval setting. I felt that some of these stories were really good, and enjoyed them--but at the same time, I felt the genre had been there and done that. In some ways, GRRM doing fantasy with the eye of a true medievalist provided a capstone to this era of fantasy.

When I sat down to write, didn't want to write what I was tired of reading. Dragonsteel (which never got published) was bronze age, White Sand was industrial, and Elantris was (kind of) Renaissance. (As you noticed, Mistborn is somewhere around 1820's. I modeled a lot of the society around the fascinating culture/industry of canals as shipping lanes that happened in England right before railroads took over.)

The other big reason, writing wise, is that I feel some of the magics that I enjoy dealing with in my settings need a certain near-industrial mindset to be interesting. The stories I want to tell are about people applying scientific principles to magic--and about the commodification and the economics of magic. Those are early-modern era stories.

The in-world reasoning I have is that on some of these planets, those eras existed--but the books are taking place when the stories of the worlds start smashing into one another. In addition, however, the Shards have an influence on this, because of things they saw happen on their own home planet.