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Emerald City Comic Con 2018 ()
#101 Copy

Questioner

What was your inspiration for Kaladin? What made you want to make him?

Brandon Sanderson

Kaladin's origin was in me reading about the interesting lives of surgeons in pre-industrial eras. Surgeons who were at times treated no different from a butcher, and at other times straddled this line between superstition and science in a really interesting way. And I wanted to write a surgeon who straddled that line. Where the superstition was against them, but in some ways the science that they knew also worked against them because the people didn't trust it. That's a really fascinating character. He started more as his dad, and as I worked the books he became Kaladin the son of a surgeon instead of the surgeon himself.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#102 Copy

Questioner

Why would you choose Chicago as a setting?

Brandon Sanderson

I grew up in Nebraska, Lincoln, and Chicago was the big city we would travel to. I liked that it was-- This is kind of going to sound weird but it was a big city full of mid-westerners. Like when I went to LA everyone talked and acted different, when I went to New York everyone talked and acted different, but in Chicago it-- they were kind of like a bunch of hokey mid-westerners had somehow built a big city? *laughter* If that makes any sense. So I have always had a fondness for Chicago. It's like the big city of farmers or whatnot. I don't know there's just something about it, the being on the lake and the profile of it and things like that. And I'm a Batman fan and Gotham is Chicago. Chicago was my go-to when I was going to destroy a city in our world; I picked Chicago.

Skyward Houston signing ()
#103 Copy

Questioner

Was there a person in real life that you based the character Kelsier off of ?

Brandon Sanderson

There is not. Kelsier grew out of the idea, primarily, of the thief who is really good at his job, like the gentleman thief, who then picked up a larger purpose. And I kind of built him out of that. I built him first as kind of the con artist that I wanted to have gone through something that changed him. And I explored that and that's just who he became. But there's not really a specific person.

Firefight Seattle Public Library signing ()
#104 Copy

Questioner

And my last one, Obliteration, the Epic, is based on an author.

Brandon Sanderson

He is based on an author.

Questioner

It's Jim Butcher, right?

Brandon Sanderson

I couldn't say if it were, with these handsome locks and wearing a trenchcoat, and the goatee.

Questioner

It's totally Jim Butcher.

Brandon Sanderson

Well Jim Butcher doesn't have hair like this anymore. He cut his hair.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#105 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Five

Fadrex

Fadrex was originally named Fadex. However, nobody—not my editor, my agent, or my writing group—liked that name. I added one letter, and suddenly it was okay. Go figure.

This city, as I mentioned earlier, was very tough for me to figure out how to describe. I can picture it quite distinctly in my head. Of course, I've spent a lot of time in southern Utah, where rock formations like this are plentiful. If you Google "Cathedral Valley" you can get an idea of what this area might look like—except that the formations in Cathedral Valley are a little bit higher and more spread out than what I imagine for Fadrex.

Sometimes I wish I could crawl inside the heads of my readers while they experience these stories and see what they imagine the places to look like. I've said before that I like how fiction is participatory—that each person who reads my books imagines slightly different things; each person gets different images for places and characters. I'd like to know what they see, just for curiosity's sake. There's no wrong way to imagine these people, just like there isn't a right or a wrong way to pronounce the names. It's all up to you.

Firefight release party ()
#106 Copy

Questioner

On one of your older Writing Excuses you guys talked about doing retellings or reimagining stories. I was curious if any of your--even your short stories-- are either in full or in part retellings?

Brandon Sanderson

I use the bits-- You ever read the Alcatraz books?

Questioner

Actually those are the only ones of yours I haven't.

Brandon Sanderson

Okay, so those I actually--don't get weirded out-- but I used the Oedipus myth.  A little bit. Not the weirdest parts. But the y'know--

Questioner

Fate...

Brandon Sanderson

Fate, and being blind but not blind, and prophecy, and things like like that because the character tells you the end of the last book in the first paragraph of the first book and then it's all like it's almost fated to be. And so there is metaphorical blindness, and there's-- things like that. So that's the only one I used any-- and even that's really loosely structured. I wouldn't say I used any specifics, yet, for any of my books.

Unless you count archetypes. Like I like taking certain archetypes and mixing them in. Like Bridge Four is an underdogs sports story. So I use the archetype of something like losers but I made it being killed on a field of battle instead, and things like that. But those are more general, it's a more different sort of thing.

EuroCon 2016 ()
#107 Copy

Questioner

So you've mentioned, and you've said this many times before, that you don't have to feel overwhelmed by the Cosmere if you are just a casual reader that wants to read a trilogy and that's it, you don't have to get too much into it, but do you fear this might taint a bit for readers as you keep developing the Cosmere and making it more prominent and relevant to the story itself?

Brandon Sanderson

Maybe I should be more scared than I am, but currently I am not very frightened of this idea, for a couple of reasons. When I do stories that are very deeply involved in the Cosmere and the connections, I will be very upfront with it, and give warnings, so the readers will probably not end up in those books unless they are wanting to. The readers I'm most worried about are the ones who haven't started any of my books yet feeling overwhelmed, or feeling they have to read them in a specific order. As long as they don't start with books like Secret History, that says at the beginning, "Don't start with this book," they'll be fine.

I think one of the strengths of science fiction and fantasy is that the genre does not coddle its readers. Even books in this genre for younger readers are very challenging with their worldbuilding and a lot of the events that happen in them, and I think that the fans are ready and willing to accept this. And the reason our genres tend to have books that become long-term classics is because of this depth. If you go back to the era when Dune was written, you will find Dune and many other science fiction and fantasy books of that era, like Anne McCaffrey's work and Ursula LeGuin's work, that is still being read, and is still considered very important, but if you read in some genres that did not try that depth and complexity, those authors did not last as long, and so I feel that I would be remiss if I didn't add this depth where I can.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#109 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Demoux's History from Book One

This might be a good place to give you a little bit of Demoux's history, by way of reminder. He was one of the first recruits to Kelsier's army, and Ham promoted him to captain almost as soon as he (Ham) took control of the troops who were hiding in the caves back in book one. When Kelsier came to inspect those caves, Demoux led him around a bit. Then, Kelsier used Demoux in a display where he humiliated a dissenter.

Eventually, Yeden took the army and decided to attack a fortified position. Some of the troops thought this was against what Kelsier had told them to do, and these stayed back in the caves. Demoux was their leader.

He's also named after my good friend and former roommate, Micah DeMoux, who also did the jacket photo of me in the backs of all of my books. Captain Demoux actually looks just like Micah, in my mind, though with the fitness of a soldier.

YouTube Livestream 1 ()
#110 Copy

Sarah Palmer

How did you come up with the idea for a bead ocean?

Brandon Sanderson

The bead ocean? I honestly have no idea where the bead ocean came from. It's one of those images that grew out of building the world for Stormlight. I hit upon it and I just went with it and it works. It wasn't directly inspired by anything specific that I can think of. Maybe you'll find some journal entry from me as a kid being like "I went to the ball pit and it was awesome! What if they were made of glass?"

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#111 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Nine - Part Two

The Canal Genius

Lord Fedre, the infamous nobleman mentioned here for his research in canals, is none other than my editor, Moshe. He got several cameos in relation to canals, as he was the one who suggested the use of them way back in book one as a way to enhance the feel of the series and give it the right technological level.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#113 Copy

Questioner

Where did the idea for the light bands come from? I think they are pretty neat!

Brandon Sanderson

I started with my desire to have starfighters changing directions quickly by using energy ropes to spear asteroids - and worked backward to have something that could foreshadow this.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#114 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna and Vasher Meet with the Idrian Workers

Now we get to see the other part of what Vasher has been doing all this time—the part that I couldn't show you earlier, since it would have made it too obvious that he had good intentions. (And that, in turn, might have spoiled the surprise that Denth was manipulating Vivenna.) He's been trying very hard to convince the Idrians not to get themselves into trouble. He's been only mildly successful.

Vivenna listening here has some things to work through. Some alpha readers had difficulty with how easily she started helping Vasher, so I've reworked that in the final draft. Hopefully you now see her struggle and her reasoning.

What she sees here is something real. She notices that most of Hallandren doesn't care about Idris or the Idrians. When I lived in Korea, I sensed a lot of resentment from the Koreans toward the Japanese. The Japanese had done some pretty terrible things to the Koreans during the various wars throughout the history of the two countries, and the anger the Koreans felt was quite well justified. The thing is, most Japanese I meet are surprised to hear how much resentment there is. It's kind of like Americans are sometimes surprised to hear how much dislike there is for them in Mexico.

When you're the bigger country, the one who historically won conflicts and wars, you often don't much notice the people you've stepped on along the way. While the smaller country may create a rivalry with you, you may not even realize that you have a rival. This is what happened with Hallandren and Idris. While some people push for war, the general populace doesn't even think about Idris—except as that poor group of people up in the highlands who sell them wool and do jobs they, the Hallandren, don't want to do.

This can be very frustrating for someone from the smaller country, like Vivenna, when confronted not with anger, but with indifference, about your feelings.

YouTube Livestream 14 ()
#115 Copy

Questioner

Did Navi from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time have any influence on your coming up with Syl?

Brandon Sanderson

I get this a lot. Here's my dirty secret: I never played Ocarina of Time. I really am embarrassed by that, because I have played a lot of Zelda games, and they're all great. A lot of people are shocked by that, because they list that as their favorite, and I never played that.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#116 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Seven

I've taken some visual art classes. I'm terrible at drawing—as you would expect from someone without a lot of experience—but I felt it would be important to know how visual art works and how artists think. Listening to the professors talk was in many ways more useful than the practice itself, though I did enjoy the drawing as well.

(As a side note, my final project for an art class in 2002—a basic drawing class—was a landscape of Roshar with rockbuds and the like. I took a stab at doing my own concept art, and bad though it was, it did help me start to visualize the world.)

How Shallan thinks here is really a blend of how I think as a writer and how I've heard visual artists think of their process. I'm drawing heavily on my own experience, and because of that blend, I suspect that to many artists her process will sound odd.

Skyward Houston signing ()
#118 Copy

Questioner

Why did [Alcatraz] set the kitchen on fire?

Brandon Sanderson

He didn't intend to. It just kind of happened. That sort of thing just kind of happens sometimes. It's based off of my cousin, who accidentally set the kitchen on fire making a burrito. He started his kitchen on fire because of a flaming burrito. Be careful about-- when you're cooking your burritos.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#119 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Origin of Awakening as a Magic System

I never did write out in annotation form an explanation of where Awakening came from. I believe I talked about the origin of the term Awakening, but never the actual powers of the magic.

As I've said, I wanted to do something that had a very "vulgar magic" feel to it. Something gritty, dealing with the forms of people, like voodoo or hedge magics. I wanted to have something that reached back into our cultural unconscious, and something that dealt with necromancy in a new way.

Those are all pieces of the puzzle. Another piece, however, was the desire to do an animation magic—a magic focused around bringing inanimate objects to life on order to serve you. As I've said, it's very tough to come up with completely new powers nobody has written about or used (though I think I've got a few in store for The Way of Kings). However, a good magic system can be crafted from the interpretation of old powers used in new ways with interesting limitations and cultural connections.

I've seen people bring objects to life in books or movies, but I've never seen a formal magic system designed completely around it.

One of the other things I'm always looking for is new ways for people to gain their magical powers. As much as I like Mistborn, the "It's genetic and you're born with it" method of gaining magical abilities is just about the oldest and most commonly used way. It's used so much because it makes sense, and because it's easy to explain. Breath, and its transference, came from my desire to come up with something different—something that had an economic component, something that allowed anyone to become a magic user, but which still had limited resources so that not everyone could be one.

I'm still trying to innovate in this area, but I think my favorite part about Awakening is the concept of Breath and how it's transferred. It turns people into resources for the magic, but in a way I hadn't seen done before.

Starsight Release Party ()
#120 Copy

Questioner

This is a line in Way of Kings where it kind of sounds like my homeboy Nephi. Was that on purpose?

Brandon Sanderson

I'm not sure if that one's on purpose. You'd have to tell me which quote it is.

Questioner

Taravangian who's like "better for one man to sin than a whole nation perish?"

Brandon Sanderson

That is probably unintentional. I don't know if that was intentional or not.

Questioner

Are there intentional ones in there?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. The Nohadon Way of Kings is directly influenced by king Benjamin's speech and Mosiah. That one is intentional. Most others will probably be unintentional though, of course, what I read a lot and what is important to me ends up in the books one way or another.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#122 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.

Orem signing ()
#123 Copy

Questioner

Why did you choose the political system in Elantris, just based on an economic system, I thought that was fascinating.

Brandon Sanderson

I wanted to explore, this was just an idea for a story I had: what if an MLM were in charge of a monarchy? And it obviously didn't go straight that direction, but that was my pitch to myself. I feel like sometimes fantasy books just take everything as assumed. And you end up with these-- And sometimes it's okay, right? But in every book I write, I'm like, let's look and see if there's something different, not taking all of our assumptions for granted. And with Elantris it was that--MLM runs a monarchy, go. And that's where my worldbuilding went. You can probably blame Dune a bit for this, because Dune's worldbuilding and economy are so wrapped up together that ever since I read that,almost everything I've built has had an economic component to the worldbuilding.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#124 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Awakens the Straw Figure

I love how intricate and delicate Vasher is in creating the straw figure. The little eyebrow is a nice touch, and forming the creature into the shape of a person has a nice resonance with our own world's superstitions.

Voodoo dolls, for instance. This is very common in tribal magics and shamanistic rituals—something in the figure of a person, or the figure of the thing it's supposed to affect, is often seen as being more powerful or more desirable. The same is said for having a drop of blood or a tiny piece of skin, even a piece of hair.

Those two things—making the doll in the shape of a man and using a bit of his own body as a focus—are supposed to create instant resonance in the magic for those reading it. I think it works, too. Unfortunately, there's a problem with this, much like with the colors above. In later chapters, the characters are generally powerful enough with the magic that they don't have to make things in human shape or use pieces of their own body as a focus.

If I were to write a sequel to the book (and I just might—more on this later) I'd want to get back to these two aspects of the magic. Talk about them more, maybe have characters who have smaller quantities of Breath, and so need to use these tricks to make their Awakening more powerful.

Anyway, this little scene threw all kinds of problems into the book. Later on, I had to decide if I wanted to force the characters to always make things into the shape of a person before Awakening them. That proved impossible, it was too limiting on the magic and interfered with action sequences. The same was true for using bits of their own flesh as focuses. It just didn't work.

I toyed with cutting these things from the prologue. (Again, they are artifacts from the short story I wrote, back when Awakening wasn't fully developed yet.) However, I like the resonance they give, and think they add a lot of depth to the magic system.

So I made them optional. They're things that you can do to make your Awakenings require fewer Breaths. That lets me have them for resonance, but not talk about them when I don't need them. I still worry that they set up false expectations for the magic, however.

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

Nadine

You have created some fantastic, original and well thought out magical systems. Where did you get the inspiration for the metal-based system of the Mistborn series and the breath-based system of Warbreaker?

Brandon Sanderson

Thank you! During the early days of my career—before I got published—I found myself naturally creating a new magic system for each book I wrote. I'm not sure why I did this. I just found the process too involving, too interesting, to stop.

For Mistborn, I came to the book wanting several things. I wanted a great magic system that would enhance the graceful, martial-arts style fights. This was going to be a series of sneaking thieves, assassins, and night-time exploration. And so I developed the powers with a focus on that idea. What would make the thieving crew better at what they did? I based each power around an archetype of a thieving crew. The Thug, the Sneak, the Fast-talker, etc.

At the same time, I wanted to enhance the 'industrial revolution' feel of the novels through the magic system. I wanted something that felt like an industrial-age science, something that was a good hybrid of science and magic. I found myself drawn to Alchemy and its use of metals, then extrapolated from that to a way to release power locked inside of metal. Metabolism grew out of that. It felt natural. We metabolize food for energy; letting Allomancers metabolize metal had just the right blend of science and magic.

For Warbreaker, I was looking back a little further, shooting for a more Renaissance-era feel. And so, I extrapolated from the early beliefs that similarities created bonds. In other words, you could affect an object (in this case, bring an object to life) by creating a bond between it and yourself, letting it take on a semblance of your own life.

Moving beyond that was the idea of color as life. When a person dies, their color drains from them. The same happens when plants die. Vibrant color is a sign of life itself, and so I worked with this metaphor and the concept of Breath as life to develop the magic. In this case, I wanted magical powers that would work better 'in' society, meaning things that would enhance regular daily lives. Magical servants and soldiers, animated through arcane powers, worked better for this world than something more strictly fighting-based, like in Mistborn.

Goodreads Fantasy Book Discussion Warbreaker Q&A ()
#126 Copy

Jeanne

You write such wonderful, believable female heroines, who are your role models and influences?

Brandon Sanderson

Writing believable female heroines—I should probably back up and point out that I wasn't always good at this. In fact, in the first few books I wrote before ELANTRIS I was terrible at it. That disconcerted me because it was something I wanted to make a strength in my writing. This is partially due to the fact that so many of my favorite fantasy novels growing up, when I first discovered fantasy, were from female writers with really strong female protagonists. So there was a piece of my mind that said having strong female protagonists is a big part of fantasy. I don't know how common that viewpoint is, but because those were the people whose books I read—writers like Anne McCaffrey, Melanie Rawn, and Barbara Hambly—I wanted to be able to do that in my own fiction. Even beyond that you want every character you write to be believable, and it's been a habitual problem of men writing women and women writing men that we just can't quite get it right, so I knew it was going to be something I'd have to work hard at.

I took inspiration from women I know, starting with my mother, who graduated top of her class in accounting in an era where she was the only woman in her accounting program. She has always been a strong influence on me. I also have two younger sisters who were a lot of help, but there were several friends in particular who gave me direct assistance. Annie Gorringe (who was a good friend when I was an undergraduate—and still is) and Janci Patterson were people I sat down to interview and talk to in my quest to be able to write female characters who didn't suck. I would say specifically that Sarene from ELANTRIS has a lot of Annie in her, and Vin from MISTBORN has a lot of Janci in her. In WARBREAKER, Siri and Vivenna don't really have specific influences but are the result of so much time working at writing female characters that it's something I'm now comfortable with. (Their personalities arose out of what I wanted to do with their story, which was my take on the classic tale of sisters whose roles get reversed.) It's very gratifying to hear that readers like my female characters and that the time I spent learning to write them has paid off.

Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing ()
#127 Copy

Questioner 1

So the Sleepless kind of have me wondering about what sentience is in the cosmere. Like how would a Sleepless manifest on the Cognitive Realm--

Brandon Sanderson

That's a good question, you'll-- that I'll RAFO. But they are a single consciousness, but they would argue that all your cells are independent of you. So they are cells that can move around. They're really fun... they started in a non-cosmere book when I was 22. Obviously a bit inspired by Fire Upon the Deep, one of my favorite science fiction books. And I read that book and I'm like, "Group consciousnesses are cool!" what if you had a species that was made up of-- Not like one of these Ender's Game y'know, one, but each swarm was an individual and they could breed and evolve their own things to do different stuff. So each of these little bits, these hordelings is what I call them-- I might change because we've got cremling now. But each of these little bits is bred for a specific purpose, "Feed the swarm" and stuff like that. So they've got all kinds of cool stuff going on.

Questioner 1

Are they slivers?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh slivers. Not quite like slivers. Slivers are a little more that whole Ender's Game thing, right? And this is actually an individual that's not a hivemind. This is an individual, single consciousness, and they've got a step between cell and body. We kind of do too, like mitochondria are kind of "What are these? Are these things we ingested somehow and got working for us?" It's all very cool.

Questioner 2

So is it like Malazan Book of the Fallen, like the D'ivers?

Brandon Sanderson

Ehhh, there's little--

Questioner 2

Okay, a little?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah.

YouTube Livestream 17 ()
#128 Copy

Questioner

Are there any mythologies that you have hoped to incorporate into the cosmere in some form, like Celtic, Norse, Egyptian, or Chinese?

Brandon Sanderson

No, that's not really how I look at it. I don't generally say "I'm going to be inspired by this mythology." I know a lot of writers do, and that's fine. I tend to look and say, "This part of this mythology is really interesting. It says something about this culture." The Norse mythology that they are going to lose; Ragnarok is going to happen. That is fascinating. The idea that Greek and Roman mythologies had these different names for what were essentially the same gods that, over time, became more and more like one another is a really cool idea. I like that aspect of it.

But even when I wrote the spren, which have some roots in Shinto and some Asian mythologies, it's not like I'm sitting down and saying, "I'm gonna use this." What I'm saying is, "What fascinates me." The idea that everything has a soul fascinates me. The idea from Plato that there are multiple realms of existence. These things mix together. And certainly there are other seeds like that that I will incorporate. But I don't sit down and say, "This is the time to do this."

Once in a while, I'll use a culture like that and say, "I'm gonna use the linguistics of this culture and kind of base some things on this culture because it is interesting to me." You've seen me do that with the Horneaters. But mythologies, not as much.

EuroCon 2016 ()
#129 Copy

Questioner

You sort of have to be productive to write the Cosmere, because it's really complex. Did you have it planned in advance when you first started, did you really have a very, very clear idea of what you wanted, or was it just the structure?

Brandon Sanderson

So, for those who don't know, it has been referenced, my epic fantasies are connected behind the scenes with a lot of secret characters who are moving between the different stories. If you haven't read my books, don't get intimidated by that. It is mostly to be found if you dig for it, but not intended to be distracting from the main story of each book.

And it did start from the beginning, at least from the beginning of Elantris, which was actually the sixth book that I wrote. It wasn't there in the first few books, but by the time I wrote Elantris it was there. I can trace the idea to a couple of places. From a very young age, when I would read books, I can remember doing this for Anne McCaffrey, it was always very fun to me to imagine a character that was hiding behind the scenes in the story that she wrote that I had inserted, that the other characters didn't know this character's secret motive, and they would appear in the various books that I read. I would say, "Oh, that's him. Ooh, that's him in this other book," written by different authors. That is the origin of the character Hoid, most likely.

I can also point toward Isaac Asimov as an inspiration. In the late 80's, early 90's, when I was first becoming a big fan of fantasy and science fiction, I read Foundation, and then read the robot books, and then read his connecting the two of them together, which was one of those moments that broke my brain, and as I've read other people's works, I've found other authors who did similar things. Michael Moorcock is one, even the Marvel and DC comics did a lot of this. Famously, Stephen King did it with the Dark Tower books.

One theme I've noticed is that many of them feel like they decided to add this as a feature after having finished several books, and thought, "What a cool idea, I will connect them," and having seen them do this, and like it, I ask the question, "What if someone started from the get-go, from the first book, setting up a hidden epic behind the scenes?" Like most writers, I owe a great deal to those who came before and provided inspiration for the things that I do.

DragonCon 2016 ()
#130 Copy

Questioner

So, when you were starting to write your books, did you have the idea for-- Like [???] magics tied together or did you have that from the beginning?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, excellent question. So, he's asking about the Cosmere, where all my epic fantasies are tied together. Where did that come from. I can trace a few paths back in my brain where that came from. What I can say is that it was built in from the beginning of the books you have been reading. But you remember, those weren't my first written books. I wrote thirteen novels before I sold one. Elantris was number six. Way of Kings was number thirteen. And so-- I love this idea of a big, connected universe. The first person I can remember doing it, that blew my mind, was when Asimov connected the Robots and the Foundation books, which I thought was so cool when I was a teenager.

Another path that I trace this [concept?] also, though-- I don't know how many of you guys did this, but when I'd read a book--I still do this, actually--I would insert behind the scenes a kind of character that was my own, who was doing stuff behind the scenes. Like I would insert my own story into the story, just kind of take ownership of it in a strange sort of way. I remember doing this with the Pern books. I'm like "Oh, no, they think that person is who they think they are, but nooo! This is this other person!" And so I had this kind of proto-Hoid in my head jumping between other people's books.

So when I sat down to write Elantris, I said "Well, I want to do something like this". All the people I've seen doing this before-- and they've done it very well. Michael Moorcock did it, and Stephen King did it, and things like this, I'm not the first one to connect their books together, not by a long shot. I felt like a lot of them, they kinda fell into it, and as a writer, having seen what they did, I could then do it intentionally, if that makes sense. And so I started out with this idea that I was just gonna have this character in-between who is furthering his own goals, and built out a story for him, and then I went-- After I did Elantris, I wrote a book called Dragonsteel, which isn't published, and it was his origin story, for this character. And then I wrote some more books, and so, of course-- and things like this. Eventually Elantris got published and the other ones didn't, and they weren't as good as Elantris was. And so I took them all as kind of "backstory canon", and moved forward as if they had all-- they were all there and they had happened, but nobody else knew but me. Which allowed this cool foundation for you like "wow, that stuff has happened", because I had books and books of material that I could treat as canon in this way, to let me know where thing were going. So it wasn't planned-- It was planned from the beginning, but not the beginning of my writing care. From about book six was where it started.

Firefight Atlanta signing ()
#132 Copy

Questioner

Are going to do anything else in that world [of Dreamer]

Brandon Sanderson

Probably not. She [Charlaine Harris] wanted me to write a horror story, and I'd never written one before so I said, "All right, what is the most frightening thing I can think of?" The most frightening thing I could think of was the kids who play Xbox having power over real people’s lives, and that’s where that story came from.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#133 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Origin of Bluefingers as a Character

Bluefingers originated, like most ideas for my books, as a character unconnected to any story or world. I wanted to tell a story about a scribe in a palace who was looked down on by the nobility for his simple birth, but who became the hero of the story. I felt that a scribe would make a nice, different kind of viewpoint character.

And maybe I someday will tell a story like that, but the character evolved to be the one who entered this story. He's much changed from those origins, as you can see, but he's largely the same person in my mind. And I love the name Bluefingers for a scribe character.

Yes, Bluefingers was also planned as a traitor from the beginning. The whole reversals idea required me to build my shadowy villains quite carefully and deliberately.

Just above, I spoke of the original Bluefingers as a hero. Well, the thing is, that's how he still sees himself. The heroic Pahn Kahl figure with his fingers in events, ignored by the nobility (or, in this case, the priests) because of his race and position, he was able to manipulate quite a bit of what was going on in the kingdom.

He was the hero trying to free his people. He just took it too far.

Legion Release Party ()
#135 Copy

Questioner

What inspired the idea of the lenses from Alcatraz?

Brandon Sanderson

The Alcatraz books really did come from me wanting stupid things that I do to be superpowers--and I've always worn glasses, and even when my friends got Lasik or contacts or something, I was like, "Bah, I like glasses, I like how they look; I want to wear my glasses!"

So I wanted glasses to be cool. And so I made a whole bunch of magical pairs of glasses. There is really...If you're questioning anything in Alcatraz, and saying, "Why did you do this," the answer is almost always, "Because I wanted something dumb I do to be cool."

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
#136 Copy

Questioner

I was wondering if you had an inspiration for Cody.

Brandon Sanderson

For Cody, yes I did actually. I was at a convention in the South and I had someone, a guy, use y’all for "me", and I'm like, "Y'all for one person?" and he's like "Yeah, that's how you use it" for one person. *laughter* Really? And he just tried to convince me that this is true. So I went to wikipedia and they said there are some delusional people who use it that way. So I'm like, I'm totally building a character around this person who, you know, I couldn't tell the whole time if he was pulling my leg because I was not from the South, or if indeed that was his little regional dialect, that y'all is one person and all y'all was two, which is what he tried to convince me-- it is true? You say it's true?

Bystander

It's from Kentucky.

Brandon Sanderson

See I have gotten-- I have gotten more emails about from Southerners who say "You've committed the great sin for a non-Southerner by using it that way, and it's an abomination, and it's not true". And I'm like, wow I must have done something right. 'Cause they hate that. I'm getting it from the people from Atlanta, they're like "this is not-- this is not correct". You know, Charleston, where they're all like the hoity-toity Southerners. So anyway, yeah that's where Cody came from. That idea.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#137 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Undead

I'd been toying for a long time with doing a book with "technological" undead in a fantasy world. A place where a body could be recycled, restored to a semblance of life, then set to work. I'm always looking for ways to explore new ground in fantasy, and I've seen people sticking to the same old tropes with undead. (Mindless, rotting zombies or dynamic, goth-dressed vampires.)

I wanted to play with a middle ground. If you've got a magic that can make a stick figure come to life, what could it do with a dead body? How could a society make use of these walking corpses, treating them as a realistic resource?

The Lifeless grew out of this desire. I developed something like them for use earlier in a completely different novel, but I abandoned that plan years ago. They returned to the scrap pile of my mind, from which I draw forth and recombine ideas to create novels.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#138 Copy

Questioner

I noticed in a lot of your cosmere books, like for example Elantris or Mistborn, they have something to do with some sort of subject matter or school or something. For example the Steelpush and Ironpulling in Mistborn is based on physics.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

If you push too hard it's based on...

Brandon Sanderson

Vector physics, yes.

Questioner

And then like Warbreaker is just like math, adding Breaths together. Did you intend that?

Brandon Sanderson

Not necessarily. I read a lot and I like science and I like philosophy and I like and things like this. And those spark most of my ideas. So yes in a term but I'm not like "Let's do this subject".

I would say Warbreaker, the big part of Warbreaker is the idea of sympathetic magic. Which is the idea that like affects like, which is a very common type of magic throughout all cultures on the planet, on our planet. When people believe in magic they believe in sympathetic magic. A voodoo doll is sympathetic magic. And that's where the idea came from.

Questioner

So in Elantris, which is different and then--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah that's basically fantasy programming, is where that one came from.

Questioner

And then there is The Stormlight Archive, which basically violates all the laws of physics by just saying everything comes from spren.

Brandon Sanderson

Well no they still have arguments on that, are spren attracted to these things or do they cause them.

Questioner

Yeah that's kind of weird...

Brandon Sanderson

Stormlight Archive was based on the fundamental forces, if you want go read on physics google fundamental forces.

BookCon 2018 ()
#139 Copy

Questioner

What was your inspiration for kandra?

Brandon Sanderson

So, I knew that I wanted to do a shapeshifter, but I worried about the whole-- The first idea was that you take the bones of the person you killed, sort of thing. I worried that that would be too-- I wanted a limitation on that. So I'm like, "Well, what if they can't kill people? Why can't they kill?" and I kind of extrapolated from there. But the first idea was that idea of you can become someone if you can get their bones first.

DrogaKrolow.pl interview ()
#140 Copy

DrogaKrolow

When was the concept of cosmere, one big Universe that connects all your stories was born? Do you remember the very beginning, the first thought of it?

Brandon Sanderson

I can start to talk about this because there's a couple of things. I remember being a teenager and reading books, and I would always insert my own characters into other writers' books. This is the beginnings of Brandon the Writer. So I would read, like, a-- an Anne McCaffrey book and I would insert my own characters and eventually Hoid started jumping between all the books I was reading. And so when I started writing my own books, I started inserting him myself. I blame that. I also blame how Asimov connected Foundation and the Robots series. When I read that it kinda blew my mind, and I wanted to do something like that.

I knew when I started writing Elantris I was going to do something like this, I wanted to start connecting everything together. I put Hoid into it and stuff like that, but as I've gone back through my notes, it was really during the years following that I really designed the cosmere. Like when I first wrote Elantris, I had no idea how I was going connect it all, I just knew I was going to. But like-- You know Shardpools. I put the pool in and then I'm like "I don't know what it is". By the time I got to Mistborn I knew all this stuff and fortunately Mistborn was the first one-- Mistborn I was working on when Elantris sold, right? And so I was able to go back and revise Elantris to make sure it matched everything that was coming for the future.

Though I do have to admit, when I first wrote Elantris, a lot of things I'm like "Ah this'll connect somehow. I'll put this in. Sure”.

DrogaKrolow

And by now, can you say that you already know how Cosmere will end?

Brandon Sanderson

I do know how The Cosmere will end, yes. I'm an outliner. It could always change. But I have-- So you know the core series, Stormlight and Mistborn, and the last book of The Cosmere is the last Mistborn book, which I have an outline for. So, we shall see. At least chronologically it's the last. I don’t know, I write a lot and so who knows. Yeah, you know, keeping track of it all, I’m sorry.

Skyward Atlanta signing ()
#141 Copy

Questioner

Is there any connection or coincidence to the Krell in Skyward, versus the Krell from Forbidden Planet?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes... Forbidden Planet is one of my favorite movies. Perhaps my favorite classic science fiction movie. I really dig any sort of Shakespearean interpretation in another medium. So I named the Krell after the Krell from Forbidden Planet.

Shadows of Self Newcastle UK signing ()
#142 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!

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
#143 Copy

Aila

Would food from Hallandren be considered men or women's food in Alethkar?

Brandon Sanderson

Food from Hallandren I think is mostly going to be considered masculine food. Let me see-- I'd have to go and look and see at my notes what they're eating because there's a lot of Pacific islander influence on the area, not the culture, but where they are. So there's going to be a lot of fruit in their diet, but I think I mention that-- yeah I think it's gonna be mostly man-food. Actually no, I'm going to retract that, it's going to be both. They're going to be weirded out by it, because they're not-- you know, like our food, if they came here and ate, they would be weirded out by it. Number one a lot of it would be too bland. So they'd be like ehh, we're not sure.

Oathbringer London signing ()
#144 Copy

Questioner

It was actually really interesting, because I started reading Oathrbinger-- I'm a teacher, I teach philosophy, and I was actually using that with my students, which is interesting because it came out particularly randomly. Is there inspiration for some of the philosophy that goes in?

Brandon Sanderson

I have a philosophy minor. There's a bunch of random philosophical-- yeah. It's all over the place.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#146 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Syl's inspiration came from a lot of different places. I'm not sure if I can point to one thing.  The spren are inspired by Japanese mythology, that everything has a soul. That is the original inspiration for it.  But Syl as a character, I'd been toying with forever, and I think she came about as a counterpoint to Kaladin's darkness; a figure of light that I knew that the story would need.

General Reddit 2018 ()
#147 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I've had to hide this news for a long time. It was almost one year ago that the Dark One outline finally snapped together for me at long last. We had interest almost immediately from Fremantle, and I've done multiple flights to LA to chat with them about it. I think this one might finally be the real deal when it comes to a Sanderson adaptation--which is amusing, considering we don't have any books for Dark One yet. But if this goes forward, I'll be sure to write some.

Aurimus_

I'm a big fan of this multimedia approach, but I'm wondering what inspired it. Was it your idea or Fremantle's? Is this an experiment for other properties in the future at all? A lot of us on the 17th Shard discord have discussed the sheer size of Stormlight, for example, and worry about DMG either going the Hobbit route (hours upon hours of content for a single book, which'll really rack up even by the time we reach OB), or missing out on a ton of content. If Dark One pans out well, would you use this multimedia approach for Stormlight? (I'm a big fan of the idea of a Black Mirror style show for the interludes, but straight up separating them from the rest of the books would take a lot away, especially with characters such as Szeth and Venli)

Brandon Sanderson

With Dark One, I've pounded myself against the idea for years. Finally, I sat down with it and said, "What if I were going to design this for a television show or graphic novel first?" Using Stranger Things and the recent Westworld reboot as guides, I dug into a parallel narrative--half in our world, half in another world. A kind of dark "portal fantasy" story.

It came out as an eight episode outline that I really liked, with a solid outline for two prequel novels about the previous generation. (Characters still important in the episode outline.) With this in hand, I took it to Hollywood and said, "If you guys are interested in doing the episodes, I'm interested in writing these books--and we can intertwine them in a (hopefully) very cool way."

Fremantle was on board immediately. (They'd been intrigued by Dark One from a one-page outline they'd seen, back before I did this new treatment.)

Warning: I can't say how much of my original outline will end up in the show; I've never written for a television show before, and the showrunner will know better than I will what will or won't work. But (theoretically) the graphic novels will follow the outline pretty closely.

If this works, will I apply it to the Cosmere? That's the goal. I do like the idea of getting some experience with TV/Film through non-cosmere projects, particularly as we see how things shake out these next few years in regards to TV/film distribution.

cusoman

Brandon, I'm curious how you see the same scenario playing out with Cosmere material considering the material already exists and the opportunity for the same intertwining wouldn't be quite the same. Unless of course you go back and interweave new stories with the already completed books?

Very excited to see what comes of this venture! I've loved the concept from the moment you first mentioned it and I can't think of a better way to see it come alive than how you're doing it here.

Brandon Sanderson

I can't really say at this point. There are just too many variables. There are a lot of ways these things could be approached, however.

Miscellaneous 2016 ()
#148 Copy

Questioner

How do you make up names and words for your fantasy settings?

Brandon Sanderson

Mostly, I choose an earth culture (or two) to base my linguistic influences on. For instance, in the Mistborn books, I used French. It's obvious in words like Fellise, Renoux, Blanches, Delouse and Demoux. Less obvious is Kelsier, whose name would be pronounced in-world without the last R sound.

Questioner

Do you think you'll ever develop a language like Tolkien did?

Brandon Sanderson

Maybe. I did a lot of that in White Sand, which didn’t get published. I’ll do more for other books.

Questioner

Do you use Hebrew words?

Brandon Sanderson

The name Adonalsium is derived from a Hebrew name for God, Adonai and Aharietiam was derived from the Hebrew/Jewish term for the end of days acharit hayamim or אחרית הימים

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#150 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

This was the first novel I wrote knowing for certain that it would be published. That was an odd experience for me, after having written some thirteen novels without ever knowing if I'd make it as a novelist or not.

So, in a way, this is my celebration novel. And, as part of that celebration, I wanted to include cameo nods to some of the people who helped me over the years. We get to see characters named after my friends and alpha readers, the people who encouraged me to keep trying to get published–my first fans, in a sense.

So, a lot of the names of side characters come from friends. Stace Blanches, mentioned in the last chapter, is Stacy Whitman, an editor at Wizards of the Coast. House Tekiel was named after Krista Olson, a friend and former writing group member. (Her brother Ben is my former roommate.) Ahlstrom square was named after my friend Peter Ahlstrom, who is an editor over at Tokyopop. There are over a dozen of these in the book–I can't mention them all.

I do, however, want to point out Charlie–or, as he's called in the book, Lord Entrone. I've never actually met Charlie, but he's hung out on the timewastersguide message board for the last three or four years. He was my first British reader. I figured I'd commemorate that by having his dead body get dumped over a wall by Kelsier.

Spook is actually based directly on someone I know, but I'll get to that later.