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Warbreaker Annotations ()
#101 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Shows Her Some Commands with the Rope

I'm sorry it took so long in the book to get to a point where we could start exploring the magic system. I wanted to do it differently from the previous two books I'd written. In Elantris, we didn't get to learn about the magic system until the end. In Mistborn, we got it straight out. Here, I wanted to try putting it into the middle—to have us experience it and see it work before we got a lot of the rules. Plus, there just wasn't a good character to show learning about it until now.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#102 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Explains the Different Kinds of BioChromatic Entities

This is a scene I'd been waiting to write for almost the entire book. Not just because I wanted to get into the scientific rules for Awakening, but because I wanted to pull a good reversal for Vasher. When he begins talking like this, I hope that the reader responds like Vivenna: Who is this guy?

A lot of readers, my editor included, resisted the term BioChroma. They wanted me to simply use Breath, as they thought BioChroma was just too scientific sounding. I like this concept, however. I want people to read the book and think it sounds scientific. My novels, my magic systems, have a kind of "hard magic" sense to them. I want there to be an edge of science to them, a feeling that people are studying them and trying to learn about them using the scientific method.

Vasher's explanations here are dead on. He's got a lot of good information, and he has a handle on what he doesn't understand. That alone should be a big clue about who he is. The fact that he never has to trim his beard is another one.

State of the Sanderson 2018 ()
#104 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Updates on Main Projects

Stormlight

As you just read about above, I am on track for starting this book on January first. I'll begin with a reread of the first three books, as I find I need a periodic refresher, even on my own novels. This will also be important for helping me really nail down the outlines for books four and five.

As I've worked on the Stormlight series, I've shifted a lot of things around in the outlines. Famously, I swapped Dalinar's book and Szeth's book (making Book Three have Dalinar's flashbacks instead of Szeth's). But along the same lines, I moved a chunk of Book Three into Book Two, and then moved around smaller arcs for Three, Four, and Five.

The Stormlight series has a very odd structure. Each novel is outlined as a trilogy plus a short story collection (the interludes) and is the length of four regular books. This lets me play with narrative in some interesting ways—but it also makes each volume a beast to write. The other superstructure to the series is the spotlight on the ten orders of Radiants, with each book highlighting one of them while also having a flashback sequences for a character tied to one of those orders. If that weren't complicated enough, the series is organized in two major five-book arcs.

What this means is that I need to do some extra work on books four and five, as they together tie off an arc. There are some small plot lines I've been pushing back from book to book as I nail down what each volume will include—but I can't do that with Book Five, as it will be the capstone of this sequence. So I need the outlines to be tight to make certain I get everything into them that needs to be there.

Anyway, that's a long way to say, essentially, I'll start posting updates to the Stormlight subreddit in January, and you can follow along there or on the progress bar we'll post here on my website on January first. I've commissioned a special piece of artwork to be used in Stormlight Four blog posts, which we should be able to reveal next year. (I'm pretty excited about it.) So you have that to look forward to as well!

Note that while I'm optimistic about this being my fall 2020 release, delays could happen if the book doesn't come out smoothly on the first draft. I'll keep you updated with regular posts. A lot will depend on how long the revisions take.

Status: Book Four is my main project for 2019, for an anticipated 2020/2021 release.

Shadows of Self Houston signing ()
#105 Copy

Questioner

Do you find yourself impatient having to wait to reveal some of these things?

Brandon Sanderson

Do I find myself impatient having to wait to reveal some of these things? Yeah, yeah yeah, it's--

Questioner

Start changing your mind and working on that idea more--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah I do. There are ideas that I'm like "this book is gonna be so cool, I'm going to work on that", and then I have to be like "alright, you can work on that while you're excited about it, but do you realize it's like ten years away?" So these outlines, I'm very excited-- But you know what, I'm used to it. I started writing Dalinar's story when I was fifteen and people didn't get to read Dalinar's story til I was like 35-- 37-- something like that. It was 35 I think. So I waited 20 years for Dalinar. So I can wait a little bit longer on some of these other things.

Shadows of Self London UK signing ()
#106 Copy

Questioner

How come you don't have any gay, lesbian, or transgender characters in your books?

Brandon Sanderson

I do! This one [Shadows of Self] actually has one. Ranette is lesbian. Let's see, transgender is awkward because I have the kandra who are kind of no-gender and both, that doesn't really count, but it's kind of me testing the waters and seeing whether I can write someone who has fluid gender and not be offensive with it, does that make sense? So keep an eye on what I do with the kandra through the books. The other gay person is Drehy from Bridge 4, he's based on my good friend Ryan Dreher who is gay, and so you will see his husband appear in the series eventually as well, but we really haven't talked about that one yet, there really hasn't been an opportunity, but Ranette we've talked about and it becomes more and more obvious as we talk about it in the books.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#107 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The Number Sixteen

I worry that having Vin make this connection is one of the more forced events in the book. She'd just finished telling everyone that she wasn't a scholar, and now she discovers a pattern of numbers hidden in the statistics of how people fall sick? My original intention for this was to have her be in a mind-set where she was looking for natural rules—because of her earlier discussion of Ruin and his rules—which then allowed her to see this pattern.

Rereading it, I'm not 100% pleased with it, but it's too late to make a change. I'd probably rewrite it so that Noorden or Elend make the connection, then let Vin connect that to what she's been thinking about. That would have been a much more natural progression.

Note that here, Vin misunderstands what these numbers mean. She's looking for rules that bind Ruin. What she finds is not that, but instead a clue left by Preservation. Numbers are understandable to people regardless of language, and so Preservation decided to leave some clues for people to discover that would hopefully lead them to follow the plans he'd set in motion. In my prewriting, I'd intended there to be more hard facts to be discovered in the workings of the universe—numbers hidden in mathematical statistics that said rational things, like the boiling point of water or the like. All as a means of Preservation hinting to humankind that there was a plan for them.

In the end, this didn't work out. I decided it would be overly complicated and that it would just be too technical to work in this particular novel. The only remnant of that plot arc became the number sixteen that Preservation embedded into the way the mistsickness works, intending it to give a clue about what the mists are doing to people. "You now are Allomancers!" is what this was supposed to scream. Unfortunately, the Lord Ruler's obfuscation of Allomancy—and the number of metals in it—left this clue to fall flat.

Skyward San Diego signing ()
#108 Copy

Questioner

Lopen, from the end of The Wheel of Time; and Lopen, from Stormlight Archive. Do they have anything in common?

Brandon Sanderson

Lopen, is there a character in Wheel of Time called Lopen? ...Must just be a coincidence, then. *laughter* I didn't write any intentional Wheel of Time references to my books, or anything like that. The only cameo sort of thing there is in there for me is, the sword that Robert Jordan's cousin gave to me out of Robert Jordan's collection, I wrote into the book. Kind of in the same way Robert Jordan wrote himself into the books as a ter'angreal that had lots of stories in it, that they discovered was his cameo for himself. I wrote in my sword. So my sword, that they gave me, which has painted dragons on the scabbard that look a lot (in my mind) like the ones on Rand's arms. And I don't know if he got that from that katana that he was given, but it was the one they gave my out of the collection, so I wrote it in. But any other connections you think you run into are going to be just coincidences. I do have a fondness for certain types of names.

Skyward Houston signing ()
#109 Copy

Questioner

Did you know Hurl's fate before you started writing it all?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, I built that all out in the outline... I needed somebody who was the image of Spensa who went the wrong way, as kind of like a model for what she would see herself in. And part of the inspiration for Skyward is Top Gun, which has that as a major theme. So it was a very natural sort of thing to weave into the story as I was going.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#110 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna and Vasher Watch the Vote

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

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

#NookTalks Twitter Q&A with Barnes & Noble ()
#111 Copy

NOOK

Did you have the ending planned out for the Reckoners series when you started writing?

Brandon Sanderson

Then I build a series around the ideas and themes that worked in the first book.

I had the ending of the first book well in mind. Once I finished it, I sat down and plotted the next two books.

This is very common for me in a series. Writing the first book, making sure I have the characters and ideas down first.

Orem signing ()
#112 Copy

Questioner

So far there hasn't been a lot of the Stonewards in the books. Are they going to come forward in the next few?

Brandon Sanderson

...Yes. One of the reasons I built the structure of The Stormlight Archive the way that I did is because I knew it would be easy to overwhelm with the number of magical abilities, and to let myself get distracted by some of them and not do them justice. So I've been very careful, perhaps more careful than I need to be, and when I show like a Fused using a power, I focus more on the ones you know about and things like this, intentionally to keep the reader's attention on what they know as I expand. 

Questioner

Can they shape stone? In one of the flashbacks they kind of melt it and it becomes sand.

Brandon Sanderson

Basically, my original pitch to myself on Stonewards, one of their main powers--I mean, everybody has two--but this power you're talking about was the ability to grab matter and just kind of-- like what if the whole world were clay to you. Not just stone, not just rock, but if you could just pick something up and stretch it, whatever it was, that was my original pitch for that order.

Questioner

So architects or combat engineers fill that order?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, stuff like that, but also, just kind of like you need to get out of a room? Well, let's mash ourselves a doorway here and step through, or just all kinds of stuff. 

Questioner 2

Can they do that to living flesh?

Brandon Sanderson

No. That's the general, the more Invested something is the more it resists, and Stoneward powers are highly resisted by things... Even a small amount of extra Investiture is gonna prevent them. Like if you stuck Stormlight in [an object], say a Windrunner did, a Stoneward wouldn't be able to change that.

The Great American Read: Other Worlds with Brandon Sanderson ()
#113 Copy

Questioner

Did you know from the beginning how you were planning to end [Alcatraz]? Because the whole time, I was going, "He'd better fulfill all of these promises."

Brandon Sanderson

I was. I'll tell you this, when I pitched that to the editor, they did not like it at all. They didn't like the idea of me ending on such a downer note. But I knew that the right way to do it was to have him give up on the series after that dark moment. A lot of the Alcatraz stuff I discovery wrote, but that ending I had from the beginning.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#114 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Siri Is Locked Up, and Her Guards Change

Just a quick reminder here of what's going on with Siri. I worry about her next few sequences looking too "damsel in distress." I tried to counteract this in several places, which I'll mention. Still, I had a problem here. Once things turn to combat and fighting, there is very little that Siri can do. She's not Vin—she can't approach things the same way.

However, since Elend got to play damsel in distress fairly often in the Mistborn books, I think I've earned the right to put a female protagonist into that role here. It's appropriate to the plot, and I don't think it could have worked any other way.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#115 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Lightsong Sneaks into Mercystar's Palace

Here's the other big place where I cheated just a tad and added Lightsong's dreams of the tunnels and the moon as a reason to get him into the right place at the right time. I added this in a later draft; originally, this was one of my big personal problems with the book: the fact that Lightsong got into just the right place at just the right time. It was just too coincidental, and it always bugged me.

I wasn't paying attention to the tools I'd given myself (as I think I mentioned earlier). If I'm going to go to all this trouble to build a magic system that uses prophecy as a major component of its religion, then I might as well use a few of those prophecies as small plot points. I didn't want them to solve any major problems, but letting Lightsong dream of where he has to be brings nice closure to the entire "What's in those tunnels?" plot while at the same time playing into his quest to determine if he really is a god or not.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#116 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Lightsong Attacks

And we discover that Lightsong is no good with the sword. I toyed with making him able to use it, but I felt it was too much of a cut corner. Knowing who he was before he died, he'd not have needed to know the sword. Beyond that, I felt it would have been too expected. Lightsong himself built it up so much that I feel it would have been a boring plot twist to have him able to use the sword. Beyond that, it would have been just too convenient.

Reversals. I wanted to reverse what you assume about him, and to reverse how this scene would have probably played out in a lot of fantasy stories. Once again, I'm not reversing just to reverse. I'm reversing because it's appropriate for the characters, setting, and plot—and then finally because it's more interesting this way.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#118 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Old Chaps

I love having random little viewpoints like these in books. I don't do them often, usually just once or twice a book. But I was excited to write this one, as Chaps has a very interesting way of thinking. Dance, dance, dance. I didn't plan him into the book specifically; I simply wrote this scene as it arrived and I knew someone had to fetch Nightblood. I'm always pleased when a little glimpse like this gives us such a distinctive feel and flavor for a character, though.

Nightblood is better at communicating with people who are mentally unhinged. He can influence them more easily. Really, Denth, you should have known to toss Nightblood someplace far deeper than the shallow bay.

JordanCon 2016 ()
#119 Copy

Questioner

I wanted to know what your stance on gods were, if you were trying-- If you had a meta-message about God.

Brandon Sanderson

If I what?

Questioner

If you had a meta-message about God.

Brandon Sanderson

I do not really. What I'm fascinated by ends up in the books and I'm fascinated by religion. But even in something like The Stormlight Archive, I don't want there necessarily even be a definitive answer? There are god... lowercase "g" gods. Whether there is a capital "G" God is still, in my opinion, left to the interpretation of various people. I'm not necessarily trying to say anything specific, I'm trying to say what the different characters say. Does that make sense? Jasnah doesn't speak my belief, but neither does Dalinar. But they speak their belief, and I try to respect their belief the best I can. So it's more like trying to be true to the different characters.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#120 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Suits Up and Leaves

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

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

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

Orem signing ()
#121 Copy

Questioner

How frustrating is it that you have to wait so long and do so many things first before you can tell the Hoid story.

Brandon Sanderson

How frustrating is it that I have to wait so long to do things before I do the Hoid story, which is one of the big ones that I want to tell. It's not as frustrating as you think. Because, if you sat me down and said "You can only write one of these, Hoid story or Stormlight." I would pick Stormlight every time. Stormlight is a-- in my opinion, Stormlight is a stronger story over all. And Hoid's really interesting, and it's going to be a really cool thing for me to write. But I'm more excited for Stormlight 8, 9 and 10 than I am-- Though I'll be very excited when I get to write the Hoid ones because they're going to be cool things.

Like Stormlight is the thing that I plotted out to be the big opus. It's more frustrated that there's only one of me, despite what the internet says.  I don't got any clones, or any Sanderbots to do all this.  So I have more ideas than I can write books about. That's kind of the-- The biggest frustrating in my life is that I can only do so much. But that's been a frustration since I was unpublished. I always had more stories I wanted to write than I could.  So it's all about story triage for me.

One thing I've learned to do is to write novellas or work on graphic novels. Because the actual word count that I need for a novella like Emperor's Soul or for a graphic novel like White Sand, is a fraction of what a big novel takes. And so I get this cool thing with a graphic novel where I can write something out..like I just finished an outline and script for a new graphic novel, that we're not going to release until after White Sand's done. But now that White Sand 3 is moving along and the writing portion of that is done, and we're just working on the art, I came up with something else. And instead of taking 18 months like a Stormlight book takes, it took me, like, a month. And so that's a way I can get a story ready and can release it to people without having to spend 18 months on something.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#122 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Blushweaver's Death

My editor was uncomfortable with the way this happened—he felt that the motivations for the killers weren't solid enough. I tried to put a little more in, which placated Moshe, but I always felt that they were solid.

Bad guys in books often do stupid things, and it annoys me. They're often not allowed to do the smartest things they could because it would ruin the plot. I wanted them to do the smart thing here, and I felt that the smartest thing was to kill Blushweaver. Just threatening her wouldn't have worked with Lightsong; he refused to take things seriously. A simple threat would have earned them mockery and frustration. So, not knowing that he loved her, they killed Blushweaver to show how serious they were. Then they grabbed Llarimar, not intending to actually kill him, as they knew he was the best bargaining chip against Lightsong they had. (If he hadn't talked, they'd have started cutting off Llarimar's fingers.)

The brutality of that moment of Blushweaver's throat being slit is supposed to be a major reversal in tone for Lightsong's sections. I hope that it worked for you; I think I laid the proper groundwork that this story could have things like that happen in it. I think I justified the motivations of the killers enough.

The games are over.

Orem signing ()
#123 Copy

Questioner

I notice that Stormlight seems to be a bit volatile in how well it heals or who it heals. Because it seems like Renarin's eyesight would have been a long term problem, kinda like Rysn's legs maybe and Lopen's arm. But Lopen's arm got healed, Rysn's legs didn't and Kaladin's scars didn't. So I didn't know if there was a reason for those things.

Brandon Sanderson

So Stormlight healing, there's a couple things that have to be considered. But in reference to what you're saying, the person's perception of themselves is a huge part of it.  The way healing works in the cosmere is, you've got the three versions of yourself. You've got your Physical version, your Cognitive version, and your Spiritual version, And a lot of Stormlight is taking your Physical version and matching it to the Spiritual version which is your ideal self.  But it has to be filtered through the lens of your mind, and things like this.

I almost always--probably should say always--am using it to reinforce some sort of character attribute. The fact that Lopen never saw himself, even though he only had one arm, as being disabled, as a big influence, versus whether Kaladin feels deserves his brands or not. Does that makes sense?  And those are two very different things that influence how the healing works. And you will see that as a metaphor and theme, if you watch what heals and what doesn't.

General Reddit 2018 ()
#124 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

All right. So...things do get confusing whenever I'm trying to circumlocute spoilers. I could have smacked myself for forgetting to mention "no spoilers" before the Q&A. I keep forgetting that there are many readers who are not as sensitive to these things as I am. (Though one woman did gasp in the row behind that guy asking the question--as his original one mentioned Sadeas's death, I believe.)

I will say that there are multiple people I'd consider well on the path to being Radiants by the end of Book Three, and several of these would--shall we say--dispute KR traditions from the past, specifically on this subject matter. (What makes someone eligible to become a KR.) So this discussion is relevant for multiple reasons.

I wasn't trying to drop any bombs about Adolin, however, as I remain very solidly in RAFO territory about his future.

Enasor

Thank you for taking the time to clarify this one Mr Sanderson.

This WoB created a massive shock-wave all across the fandom and many readers were taking you had officially confirmed Adolin was "well on his way towards Knighthood" which I was personally convinced was very deeply into the RAFO territory, as it should be.

Perhaps in order to also settle some additional debates, would you say Adolin would challenge what has traditionally made someone eligible to become a KR or is this within RAFO territory too? Readers can never seem to agree on how perfect Adolin actually is. We seem to find rationals for both.

Brandon Sanderson

I hate to use terms like "perfect" or the like. It's even difficult to (when not speaking in world) use some of the terminology the KR have used in the past--as we have to reconcile several things.

How do you decide what is a mental illness and what is simply a person's unique brain chemistry? Usually this comes down to two factors--the person's own feelings on it and the advice of medical professionals. Even language like "Well-adjusted," as I used before, is dangerous territory because it's so subjective. One need look only to the deaf community to find examples of people who challenge an outsider's perspective of what is a disease and what isn't.

So I generally prefer to talk about this through the character's viewpoint, the lens of historical commentary (which is in world, and may not therefore be accurate--but at least offers a perspective,) and the context of the book.

And in that context, I like Adolin being a RAFO. I believe that using the text, there are multiple directions one could go in discussing him.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#125 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Siri Is Taken to the God King, Then Discovers Who Is Really Behind the Attacks

I'm hoping that by this point, readers will be very confused about the nature of this third force that is attacking. I hope it's the good kind of confusion, though.

Let me explain. When I write, I sometimes want to inspire confusion. It helps keep the mysteries of the book shadowed and vague. It helps the reader connect with the characters, who—presumably—are also confused. But there's a danger here in being too confusing. If the readers think that they've missed something, or if they can't follow what is going on at all, then they will just put down the book.

The trick is to make certain to telegraph that the characters are confused as well, as I mentioned above. If the reader knows that they are supposed to be searching for answers, then it will be all right. (As long as it doesn't get prolonged artificially.) If, instead, they get the impression that the author has simply made a mistake and isn't explaining things clearly, they'll react very differently.

Anyway, I hope that you have the first reaction and not the second. The twist of who is really behind everything should come as a shock, but I hope that it's also well foreshadowed. The big clincher is the question that, perhaps, you've been asking this entire book. If the war is going to be so bad for everyone involved, then who could possibly be pushing for it to occur?

I've seeded quite a number of hints about the Pahn Kahl in the book. The first is Vahr and his rebellion, but there are a number of others. The first time that Siri assumes Bluefingers worships the Returned, he purses his lips in annoyance. We've got a lot of little hints like that that the Pahn Kahl are frustrated by their place in the empire. They controlled this land long ago; we discovered that from Hoid's storytelling.

It's well foreshadowed, but I still worry that it will be too surprising to people. This is primarily because I think that readers will just pass over the Pahn Kahl while reading. They're forgettable by design. Easy to ignore, and most of the other characters have trouble remembering that they aren't just Hallandren. They aren't an angry and vocal minority, like the Idrians. They're just there, or at least that's how everyone sees them.

One of my big goals for this book, however, was to have a good reversal for who is the bad guy pulling the strings. It's not the high priest. It's not the crafty god. It's not even the brutal mercenary. It's the simple, quiet scribe. It's one of the biggest conceptual reversals in the book. Hopefully it works for you.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#126 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-One

Philen watches Elend enter the Assembly Hall

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

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

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

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

EuroCon 2016 ()
#127 Copy

Questioner

As it happens with any great character I think background is really important, so briefly, because I know you've talked about this a million times, how did you first become interested in fantasy and when did you realized, okay I want to do this for a living?

Brandon Sanderson

So, unlike a lot of writers, I didn't enjoy books when I was young. I had a teacher, eighth grade, her name was Ms. Reader, this is true, and she knew that I was goofing off a little too much in my literature class. So, she took me to the back of her room, where there were a whole bunch of old books, paperbacks, that a hundred students had read, and she said, "You need to read one of these and report back to me, because I know you're not doing your readings for class." So I browsed through these reluctantly, and I eventually settled on one that looked pretty cool. It was Dragonsbane, by Barbara Hambly, with this gorgeous Michael Whelan cover. It had a dragon. It had a cool looking guy. It had a pretty girl; that was more important. I thought I'd give it a try. I was fourteen, so... I loved this book.

This book changed everything. I fell in love with the fantasy genre. From this, I discovered Anne McCaffrey, who was the other fantasy author my school library had, and over that summer after my eighth grade year, I read everything I could get my hands on--Terry Brooks, David Eddings, a lot of Melanie Rawn--and just absolutely fell in love. And these books meant something to me, there was a powerful emotion to them, and I thought, "I have to learn how to do this."

Questioner

And about when you sort of decided you wanted to do this, it was around that age as well?

Brandon Sanderson

I would say it was maybe a year later that I started writing my own book, my first one. It was terribly, absolutely terrible. It was a bad combination of Dragonlance and Tad Williams, but I loved the process of writing it. And I was a teenager, so I didn't know it was bad, I just loved doing it.

I actually went to college my first year as a chemist, which you can see maybe coming out in my books a little bit if you've read some of them and seen the magic, but I did not like the busy work of chemistry, right? While I loved the thoughts and ideas, the actual sitting down and figuring how many atoms are in a table or whatever, I hated, and I always contrasted that with the writing where I loved the busy work. I could sit down and work on a story, and forget that four or five hours had passed. That was a really good sign to me for writing, and a really bad sign for chemistry.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#128 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Two

Regarding the line to the effect of: "There are a hundred different courts with a hundred different smaller Lord Rulers" in the Final Empire.

One of the problems created by my writing style is that it's hard to give a real feeling of scope to a kingdom or landscape. When you read something by Robert Jordan, for instance, you get to see a whole world full of peoples and places, since the characters travel all about. I prefer to set my stories in one or two locations, usually a large city, since this lets me focus on the political wrangling, and it also lets me give a strong sense of place to that area.

It was impossible in these books–particularly the first book–to give a sense of how large and varied the Final Empire was. I threw in Spook's street slang and Sazed's cultural references to try to hint at the different ethnicity, but these were only that–hints.

I don't regret the way that I write. However, I am aware of the issues involved in the choices I make. I think that's what you have to do in a book–you make trade offs, choosing to focus on some things and not others.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#130 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Cursing in the Mistborn Series

I've taken a little bit of criticism from certain readers for the swearing I put into these books. I know that most of you consider things like 'damn' and 'hell' to be very weak curses, if even swear words at all. However, to some people, they can be offensive. Since I didn't use them in Elantris, some readers were surprised to find them in this series.

A writer must choose how to convey his ideas, and it's hard to make a choice that will please everyone. In the Final Empire, using curses like these–rather than just making up ones for their world–was necessary. I feel that a few (if relatively weak) 'our world' curses were needed for this setting, as made up ones just didn't work. The tone they set wasn't right.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

When it comes to major, pivotal plot twists. Moments where the reader goes "WOAH" or "Oh my god". Are those something you write as starting point or ending point?

Brandon Sanderson

What I do is I plot my outline backward, starting with those scenes. And then I write the book forward to those scenes. The reason I can do it that way is because in the plot I don't need to know the characters' emotional state, I can just come up with "This is going to be a great scene". But I have to have been with the characters through the journey to write their reaction to the scene. So I can't actually write it early.

Manchester signing ()
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Questioner

Hi, I was wondering, in your books you have a lot of mentions of gods, and spirits and I was just wondering what your opinion on religion is?

Brandon Sanderson

Excellent question, excellent question. And oh sure the microphone works for you. So I'm religious, I'm Mormon. Yes, I am.  And I've grown up religious, I'm a religious person and I'm fascinated by religion in all its different aspects. One of the things I love about being a writer is the ability that you have to jump into the heads of various different people who are very different from yourself and explore. Like that character coming alive thing, it's really a fun aspect. I feel that, since I am a fascinated by religion, my passion-- and if you are writers you will know this yourself-- whatever you are passionate about translates usually to good fiction, as long as you are willing to approach it from all directions. Where fiction goes wrong is when you allow your perspective to color everything too much and you end up with a story where everybody thinks the same. However if you can allow something you are really interested in to have five or six different characters on different sides of an argument. Because there aren't two sides, there are as many sides as there are people in the world on these sorts of issues. You can show a lot of those different sides and show the way they kind of-- the rough edges bump into one another, then what you are going to be doing is you are going to start exploring what it means to be human and what it means to have faith, or whatever it is you are fascinated by. I find that this is where I find your fiction can get really good.

I love reading fiction, I love science fiction and fantasy I think sometimes-- I do love the escapist aspect of it, getting out of the world and going someplace imaginative, but I think sometimes because we have this escapism-- which is a lot of fun and there are a lot of fun aspects to this-- we miss out on the importance of what fiction does. I think fiction allows you to see through the eyes of someone very different from yourself and experience their life and their role. And when you get done with fiction-- A good piece of fiction I feel it's harder to hate the people because you've lived in someone else's shoes for a while. Maybe that's a very lofty opinion that I have of what my job is where really it is telling stories about magic and knights hitting each other with swords. But that's the soul of what I think is very noble about fiction and I think it was very Tolkien. You get done reading Tolkien and you're like "I can see how these different races in this world, the hobbits and the kings, and dwarves and the elves and I can see how they all view the world differently." I think that does something for us, something wonderful.

One of my favorite books of all time is Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly this is the book that got me into reading. I was a 14-year-old boy, who was not a reader and my teacher handed me this book. This book should not have worked, this book is about a middle-aged woman who is trying to choose between her career and her family, that's basically what the book is because she's been told she could be the greatest magic-user ever by her teacher if she would just focus but she the reason she can't focus because she's got these two crazy little boys who distract her and a husband and things like this. And I read this book and its about the last living dragonslayer who has to go and kill a dragon, except he goes and does it with crossbows ballista instead of a noble ride up with a sword because who does that its stupid. It's great, its from her perspective. I get done with this and I'm like "this was amazing.  I loved this book, why did I love it so much?" At the same time my mother had graduated first in her class in accounting in a year where she was the only woman in the accounting program and had been offered a really prestigious scholarship to go along with her education, instead she had me. She felt it was important to stay home with me while I was young. She took care of me and as a teenage boy knowing this I was like "Of course she did, I'm awesome of course that's the right thing to do". And I was reading this book about dragons and I understand my mother better. That's what we can do with this, and I'm kind of going off in weird directions. That's what I love about fiction, that's what I love about science fiction and fantasy.

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
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Questioner

How do you choose ages for your characters and how often does that change throughout the writing process?

Brandon Sanderson

How do I choose ages for my characters and how often does that change the writing process. I choose my characters... It's really hard to talk about. Because I can really drill down into how I come up with settings, so magic systems and things, and I can talk a lot about how I plot and why I plot. Character is the one that I discovery write. Writers tend to fall somewhere on this spectrum generally between what we call discovery writers and we call outliners, and I'm mostly an outliner. I like a nice tight outline, I like to know where I'm going and what's going on in my world before I start writing. But I found that I have to free write my characters, I have to figure out who they are as I write. Otherwise this outline is going to be too restrictive and I'm going to end up with characters who feel wooden. And I think that's the real risk of outlining too much, is writing the life out of your characters. And so the ages do change, and the personalities change. The famous one is Mistborn, which stars a sixteen year old girl named Vin, she was a boy in the first chapter I tried to write of that. And then that didn't work so I tried a girl with a different personality and that didn't work either. So it was the third try where it's like I'm having people walk in and and try casting calls and seeing who works. And that's generally how I go about it.

With Steelheart the character didn't click for me, and I was really worried about that. Like the prologue worked wonderfully and I wrote the prologue separately, I wrote it years before I went back to the book. Because I just had that prologue pop into my head and I wrote it out. So if you read Steelheart the prologue is like 5,000 words, it's huge, it's like twenty pages or something like that. It may not be that long, but it's a big chunk. It was the first thing that I did, and then I put the book aside. And I was really worried when I started writing that I didn't have a voice for the character, because the prologue takes place ten years before when the main character is a child. So I started writing and it didn't work, and I started writing again and it didn't work, and the thing that ended up working, this is the silliest thing, but it was when I wrote a metaphor that was really bad, a simile, right? And I'm like "Oh that's stupid" because that's what normally happens. That's what you do when you are writing, you come up with something and go "Why did I write that, it's dumb?" and you delete it. And this time I started to delete it and thought "What if I ran with that?" So I started running with it and this character grew out of the fact that he makes bad metaphors. And that's just a simple trope, a simple thing, but it grew into an entire personality. This is a person who is really earnest, trying really, really hard. They are smart, they are putting things together, but they just don't think the same way that everyone else does and they are a little bit befuddled by things. It's like they are trying a little too hard. Ironically-- Or I guess coincidentally, not ironically, the metaphor of writing bad metaphors became what grew into the personality for David. His entire personality grew out of this idea of someone who is trying so hard, and you just love him because he is trying so hard but sometimes he just faceplants. And my children do this. Like I remember my child when he was five years old and he was running toward me so excited, telling me about something and this thing that he had in his hand and there was a pole in front of him but the thing was so important. And he smacked right into and fell right back over just stunned. Like "Who put this pole in front of me?" *laughter* It was at our house, it's not like he didn't know there was a pole there, right? He was just so excited by this thing Dad, this thing! And that was where David came from.

Fantasy Faction Q&A ()
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Hoosay

So while writing two massive books in Memory of Light and Stormlight 2 you found time to write (at least) four novellas? I'm not going to ask how you manage it, I just want to know how you stop your fingers falling off?

Brandon Sanderson

Well, two of these are older. (The ones that are free on my website.) The other two I wrote while traveling, when it's difficult to manage something as in-depth as the WoT/SA.

But the real answer is that if I spend too long editing, and not enough time actually writing, I find myself burrowing down for a week and wanting to write something new. This is where a lot of these side projects come from.

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
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Questioner

Do you have any advice for a married couple who both hope to be professional novelists?

Brandon Sanderson

If you hope to be professional wri-- novelists and married couple, you're very lucky because you'll be able to understand each other. You are also "you poor souls" because you're going to ignore each other a lot. *laughter* I would say, the number one piece of advice I give to writers is this: Treat becoming a writer, doing your writing, like someone would treat being a pianist. Meaning your job is not to write a great book, your job is to train yourself to be a person who can write great books. And that is a very big distinction. You don't find pianists who only play one song. Maybe you do, they're at parties and they're trying to pick up girls. But otherwise a pianist is someone who enjoys the process of playing these different songs and learning this music. Same with writing. The job is you are the end result, not the book. A person who can write great books. And you do that by practicing a lot. At your own scale, whatever you can manage, but you do it by practicing. And you do it by thinking in your head "This is all practice" even the books that might get published is practice. It's about the process of creating something.

Otherwise I would say listen to my podcast Writing Excuses we started a brand new thing on Writing Excuses, if you've never listened before, this year we're doing a master's class, is how we call it, where every month we are going to drill down into a topic and guide you through writing a story. Pre-writing the first month, and then plotting the second month and things like this. So writingexcuses.com. The other resource I have is my class. Now I teach that in Provo so you probably can't get to it, but I do post the lectures online and the ones from last year just went up. So if you want those I have little cards that show you the url, they're just free. My writing lectures, okay? But as a couple, set goals with each other, this is your big advantage. And, you know, don't set goals of "I wrote more than you" set goals of, like "this is what I want to accomplish. This is my writing time. This is your writing time" and help each other out. Plus you've got a great start to a writing group.

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
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Questioner

How do you like to do internal monologues or thinking between different characters who are very similar to each other.

Brandon Sanderson

How do I like to do internal monologues and thinking between different characters who are distinct from each other. I just try to make it be in their voice. I am a person who likes to put thoughts directly in someone's head, so you'll see them in italics. And I try to keep to their voice as much as possible, so if they have linguistic quirks I put them into the thoughts.

Arcanum Unbounded San Francisco signing ()
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Questioner

I have a question about process. When you start writing on a series how much of it do you have mapped out in advance and at what point does something that you're writing make you change direction completely?

Brandon Sanderson

What an awesome question. So how much do we have mapped out and how much-- before we start a series in specific-- and how often to we do something that makes us change, to do something else, or whatnot...

...See I had an advantage over Jason in that, when I was writing Mistborn I had just gotten married and my wife had a very lucrative job as a middle school English teacher *laughter* and so I quit my job, which was working at the front desk at a hotel and was able to write full time almost from the get-go. You can thank Emily for that. That she believed in the fiction, she took care of me while I did this work. And so I was able to write all of Mistborn before I had to turn in the first book. Just so that I could make sure that I could make these connections.

These days what I do-- Because I can't do that anymore-- I usually write the first book of a series just-- I write an outline for it and I write the first book without any sort of feeling for the rest of the series. This isn't quite what happened with Stormlight, that's the outlier, but for most things. Like The Reckoners, or the Wax and Wayne books, and stuff like that. Write one book and then with the book in hand and knowing the characters very well I can more accurately feel out what their arcs can be and things like this. Like the problem with being a planner-- I'm very much a planner-- is that if you over-plan your books, your characters feel stale, right? They feel wooden. And so, write that first book, let the characters have a lot of freedom to become who they need to be. And then I outline the rest of the series in great detail, so I can put into the first book any references that I'm going to need for future books in the series. Just so that I can know where things are going. I'll re-write the characters a little bit, so their arcs now match the over-arching arc they will have for the series, and things like this. So most books, it's "Finish the book, then write five pages about each book in the series, and then revise the first book and write the rest of the series."

With Stormlight I spent a lot of time planning the series. It's the one where I have the most time on. It's a different beast entirely. I went into Stormlight knowing what Dalinar's arc was, knowing what Kaladin's arc was, for the whole series and things like this. But I still did a lot...

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
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Questioner

How do you come up with the languages? Just because it sounds cool, or...

Brandon Sanderson

Languages. So languages in my books, I have a couple of tools that I use and it depends on the book. For some books I just use kind of shortcuts. Mistborn is an example of this, there's only one language that everyone is speaking and there is a little bit of Terris, so for that I just made every region-- I based off of an Earth language and used that. Like for instance the Central Dominance is French, so Vin and Demoux--and they would say Kelsi-ay--and things like this is where the names came from. For something more intricate like Stormlight Archive, I did take linguistics classes, I only snuck into a few of those. And so I'm able to drill down and do some real linguistics. And so I know what I want things to sound like, I know how I want them to feel. And I have all sorts of goofy things that you would even need to know, like for instance they would say "Kholin" instead of Kholin and stuff like this because there's a little bit of Semitic, the language family I'm using as a basis. And then there's stuff like the symmetrical names and stuff like that. Anyway, I can talk about that forever but the answer is yes I find what's cool but sometimes it's really academically cool and sometimes it really puts people of. Like one of the first reviews I got from Elantris was like "These names are really hard to pronounce and kind of dumb" and this was like one of the major review magazines "I can't get into these names" because I had used lots of linguistic things from my time living in Korea to create the languages, and they were kind of hard to say. It's part of why in Mistborn everyone has a nickname that's easy to remember.

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
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Questioner

I was curious what the-- or if you had an inspiration for the scene with Vin and Elend going to his father's camp and the talk about acceptance?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah a lot of these con-- these stories-- If you didn't hear it, there's a scene where Vin and Elend in Words of Radiance go to visit-- *crowd murmurs* not Words of Radiance *laughter* Well of Ascension! They both start with a "W" I'm running out of letters to start books with. Yeah it's a good problem. So they go to talk to Straff and there's a lot of discussion about acceptance and just kind of things I was thinking about at the time and think about a lot. One of the things is "I hope people enjoy this, if not you're just going to have to deal with it." I work out what I'm thinking about life through the voices of my characters. And it's something I really look for in books as well, I do want a little philosophy with my fantasy. And, y'know, it's not that I'm trying to answer those questions, but I'm working on them. And the characters, because they have a different perspective from myself--because the characters don't voice what I think, they voice what they think about something I'm thinking about--and that really kind of helps me think about it and talk through it. And it's one of the reasons I write books, besides doing awesome stuff.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Elend talks about Arrogance as a kingly attribute

Arrogance. Elend is just voicing some of my own philosophies here–though in my life, they were applied to writing, not kingship.

You have to be arrogant to be an author. It's tough, sometimes, to continue to believe that people should be willing to pay you for your work. You have to keep working, ignoring rejections, soldiering forward. There's an arrogance to that. Call it self-confidence if you wish, but it's the same thing.

I believe you can be arrogant about some things, yet humble about others. In fact, I think you need to be.

Bands of Mourning release party ()
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Questioner

Of all the characters you've written which one has the most of you in them?

Brandon Sanderson

Of all the characters I've written which has the most of me in them. Boy, y'know every character is a bit of me and every character's got something that's very unlike me. Um, I really have trouble answering that. People have asked it of me before. Some days I think it's Jasnah, some days I think I'm arrogant to assume it's Jasnah. Any character I would mention it would feel like the things I like about them are the things I wish I would have, if that makes sense? I don't know if there's any one that is really just me. My mother reads the Alcatraz books and says that's me. *laughter* She really does. Like she loves those books because she says "No that's you". When I have no inhibitions and I'm not trying to be self important I just do stupid things like in the Alcatraz books so maybe Alcatraz?

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Questioner

One of my favorite aspects of your books is you always have this character that kind of has a submissive personality starting out and they evolve into a more dominant personality. Do you have an author for a series that kind of inspired this?

Brandon Sanderson

Inspires me? He says frequently I have a character who's in a submissive position that becomes dominant through the course of the series. Do I have an author that I'm relying on specifically. No more than the "Hero's Journey", the general idea of the person growing and becoming master of their domain where once they were not. I don't think I have a specific person I'm looking at for that. But it is a fun type of story to tell, just because of the way you can show progression with a character.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Elend talks to Tindwyl, then returns to his room and puts his uniform on.

Elend's relationship with Tindwyl cracks me up. That is all.

During this conversation between the two Terrismen and Elend, I think Sazed speaks my philosophy on characters and writing. They have to do what is important to them. I don't like to advocate situational ethics, but in some cases, that philosophy is appropriate. If you're a Jew who follows Kosher, then you don't eat pork. (Among a lot of other things.) For that person, I think it is morally wrong to break Kosher–because you've made a promise to yourself and God that you won't. However, is it wrong for someone like me to eat pork? No. I haven't made that same promise.

The same goes for my LDS belief in not drinking alcohol. I've promised not to–but that doesn't make another person bad or evil for drinking. They haven't made the same promises I have. It's about remaining true to yourself. There's nothing inherently wrong with alcohol (Christ himself drank it, after all.) But there's something wrong with making a promise, then breaking it.

In this case, it was right for Elend to do what he did. Another king could be a good man and make the opposite decision without rebelling against his own personal morals. There are a lot of absolute rights and a lot of absolute wrongs in life, but there are far MORE rights and wrongs that depend on who you are as a person, I think.

Sazed, however, IS setting himself up for some difficulty later on with some of the things he says here. You'll see what I mean at the end of the book.

Goodreads: Ask the Author Q&A ()
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Brian Seavey

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers who are educated in a field other than literature and in a profession already that is not centered around writing?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes! I'll tell you that you're in luck. Take what you've learned in your field of education, and in your profession, and apply it to your writing. RJ used his experience as a solider; Grisham made a career out of writing books related to his work. You have special experience and knowledge that will make your books distinctive. Make use of it!

The Great American Read: Other Worlds with Brandon Sanderson ()
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Questioner 1

[Warbreaker] ends on, you could totally write a second one. Is that in the works?

Brandon Sanderson

It is, but it's kind of a distant plan. It's kind of just more for fun. I wrote this-- I had already written Way of Kings, and I wrote this as a prequel to Way of Kings on a different world, and then it got published before Way of Kings got published. But the characters from this were already continuity in Way of Kings, so I just kept using them, because I figured it works out. Really, Warbreaker, I see it as Vasher's (and Nightblood, the sequel), the prequel, to where he came from, who was Kaladin's swordmaster in the first version of Way of Kings back when Kaladin was training to be a Shardbearer in the first book. Vasher was a major part of that, and Warbreaker was a flashback to where he'd come from.

Questioner 2

Vasher is Zahel, right?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, Vasher is Zahel from The Stormlight Archive. Who is still kind of the swordmaster, but he's no longer Kaladin's, it didn't work out that way. But he ends up as Renarin's instead.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

They Discuss Religion

In my books, one of the things I prefer to do is have characters who voice opinions opposite to my own. I figure that my own feelings and beliefs will work themselves naturally into the text, and so there are probably a disproportionate number of characters in my books who see the world as I do. So, any time that I can add a strong character with beliefs that oppose mine, I feel that it gives the novel more credibility.

In this case, I think Tindwyl has a very strong argument against religion, particularly considering the world in which she lives. Prophecies—the staple of fantasy literature—are silly, if you really look at them. What's the point? I like that she offers some strong arguments against religion in this section because it not only fits her character, but gives context to what she and Sazed are doing.

Both Tindwyl and Sazed, by the way, use the same speech patterns. Kwaan does too, as did the Lord Ruler and Alendi. It's very subtle, but it's there—in my mind, at least. In this series, you can tell who is Terris by looking at the way they construct their sentences.

Subterranean Press Interview ()
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Gwenda Bond

Lies of the Beholder finds Stephen Leeds in a more precarious place—psychologically and otherwise—than we've ever seen him. What are the challenges of writing a character like this with so many aspects? Was this a difficult story to write?

Brandon Sanderson

This was a very difficult story to write, but not because of all the aspects. They've always made the story easier, not harder. Being able to take an individual's personality and split it into various themes and ideas...well, that was fun, and helped me understand him a great deal.

The challenge of this story was finding myself wanting to explore the more philosophical and conceptual side of what it means to be Stephen Leeds—and why I related to him specifically as a character. I had to decide if I wanted this ending to be like the other two novellas—pretty straightforward detective mysteries—or if I'd let myself go off into something more conceptual.

In the end, I went more conceptual, which I felt was appropriate to ending this series. However, it does mean this story was a challenge in that I was dealing with some heady themes while trying to do justice to the actual mystery. I'm not 100% sure if those two ever ended up balancing right, but I do think this was the correct way to go with the ending.

Bands of Mourning release party ()
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Questioner

So I was actually wondering, I keep finding myself thinking of new and exciting ways to break science with magic. How do you keep yourself from doing that constantly as you're writing?

Brandon Sanderson

You write the book the best way the book can be. You give it to a scientist. You say "What does this break?" and then you either take it into account, if you think it is going to work for the book. If not you come up with an explanation in-world and you move forward. We're writing fantasy, we don't want the science to ruin our book, we want the science to be something we considered. Does that make sense? Like when I made speed bubbles and Peter's like "Red shift! You're going to irradiate people." I'm like "Alright we're just going to have to say 'Speed bubbles are not irradiating people' ". And just be aware of it and write the best book you can.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Fights the Soldiers and Finally Pulls Nightblood

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

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

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

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
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Questioner

Do you ever have trouble keeping your characters straight? How long does it take to get back into them?

Brandon Sanderson

If I stop writing and go back, it is hard. It takes about a month to get back into a story after I stop. I don't get the characters mixed up.

Questioner

*audio obscured*

Brandon Sanderson

I try to, but I don't always manage it, because of deadlines and things. It's always going to cost me, and I know it will, sometimes you can't avoid that. In the old days, I never did it, when I didn't have a publisher, but now it's my job. When they say, "We need this revision done," I stop and do the revision, but it costs me.