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Oathbringer Houston signing ()
#151 Copy


I was actually going to ask where you came up with the idea of Hoid?

Brandon Sanderson

Hoid is inspired by my desire to tell a story that spans other stories. I would say the origins of that are probably Asimov, when he made the Robots books and the Foundation books tie together. Something like that. Maybe Michael Moorcock, he had a similar sort of cross-world thing. I was reading both of them a lot right when I started coming up with that. So I would say, that's the origin of it. Stephen King has done it, but I didn't know he'd done it. I hadn't been reading him as much.

Firefight release party ()
#152 Copy


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?


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--



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.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#153 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Three


I chose to use Shallan as my other main character in Part One, rather than Dalinar, because I felt her sequence better offset Kaladin's. He was going to some very dark places, and her sequence is a little lighter.

She is the only "new" main character in this book. Kaladin (under a different name) was in Way of Kings Prime, and Dalinar was there virtually unchanged from how he is now. The character in Shallan's place, however, never panned out. That left me with work to do in order to replace Jasnah's ward.

Shallan grew out of my desire to have an artist character to do the sketches in the book. Those were things I'd wanted to do forever, but hadn't had the means to accomplish when writing the first version of the book. I now had the contacts and resources to do these drawings, like from the sketchbook of a natural historian such as Darwin.

One of the things that interests me about scientists in earlier eras is how broad their knowledge base was. You really could just be a "scientist" and that would mean that you had studied everything. Now, we need to specialize more, and our foundations seem to be less and less generalized. A physicist may not pay attention to sociology at all.

Classical scholars were different. You were expected to know languages, natural science, physical science, and theology all as if they were really one study. Shallan is my stab at writing someone like this.

Arcanum Unbounded San Francisco signing ()
#154 Copy


The fact that Vorinism was partially inspired by Judaism and [???] means a lot to me, as a Jew, especially because there's not that much [???] other than dwarves. So thanks for that. I wanted to know if you could elaborate a little on some of the specific Judaism had on Vorinism.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, sure. Specific influences of Judaism on Vorinism. There are a couple of things. And I can go on this one for a while. I will pick Numerology which-- Jewish Numerology is really cool, particularly if you go back-- Like we always focus on alchemy and astrology as kind of the pseudosciences that were really interesting to scientists back in the day. If you don't know, Newton thought that alchemy was real and he could figure out how to make it work. I love these things that people approach scientifically but have supernat-- superstitious roots. And Jewish Numerology is really cool because the letters and numbers are basically the same thing, so a name can actually mean numbers, and vice-versa, and stuff like that. Which leads to some really cool and interesting attempts to understand the world by taking things from the Torah and transferring them back and forth between numbers and things. That sort of thing is very prevalent in the Vorin religion. To the point that it was really important to them, and then got forbidden. Because they were spending too much time on it. And you will find out roots about that. But that was an inspiration for Vorinism. Of course the Sephir, from the Tree of Life, were an inspiration for the Double Eye of the Almighty, and the idea behind all the different connections and philosophy going in that. The language. Kholin is actually pronounced /χolɪn/, and things like this--


Was that-- Sorry... Was Kholin supposed to be kind of close to kohen? Because--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, mmhmm.


Okay, cool.

Brandon Sanderson

So yeah, you're going to find all kinds of things like that in linguistic roots. And there is of course more but I will move on from that because I can talk too long on that. But yeah, there's some very fun stuff.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#155 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixteen - Part One

The epigrams in this section of the book should look familiar. Not because you've read them before, but because–assuming you have any familiarity with fantasy–you've read this kind of story before. The young peasant hero who rises up to fight the dark evil. I suspect that the jacket flap, if you've read it, gives away much of this storyline. This is one of the foundational concepts for the book, however. I've read too many stories about young peasant boys who save the world. I wanted to tell one about a world where the prophesied here came, then failed!

This concept, of course, evolved. The original idea was for the Dark Lord to defeat the peasant boy. Instead, however, I found the concept of the peasant boy becoming the dark lord more interesting.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#156 Copy


In Stormlight Archive, all three main characters, Dalinar, Shallan and Kaladin, suffer from various mental health issues. Is that a normal psychological condition for all Radiants or the lead three is an extreme example of how people break?

Brandon Sanderson

I am very interested in mental health, and the way that we--as human beings--react to and interpret the world around us in different ways. This is a theme of the Stormlight books, but it's going to take a lot of work to do it justice--and I want to approach it from different directions. So yes, it's a theme, and these sorts of issues were common for Knights Radiant.

But I'd point out that they are also common themes for being human. And one of the correlations between orders of Knights Radiant is people who overcome, persist, and push through very difficult trials.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#157 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter 10

Kal helps his father work on a young girl's hand

For years I had been wanting to do a full-blown flashback-sequence book. Flashbacks (or non-linear storytelling) can be a powerful narrative device, but they're also dangerous. They can make a book harder to get into (nothing new for this book) and can create frustration in readers who want to be progressing the story and not dwelling in the past.

The payoff, in my estimation, is a stronger piece of art. For example, as Kaladin is slowly being destroyed in the bridges we can show a flashback for contrast. The juxtaposition between the naive Kal wanting to go to war and the harsh realities of the Kaladin from years later suffering in war might be a little heavy-handed, but I feel that if the reader is on board with the character, this will be powerful instead of boring.

I often talk about how books grow out of separate ideas that buzz around in my head. One of those ideas was to create a character who was a surgeon in a fantasy world. A person who believed in science during an era where it was slowly seeping through the educated, but who had to fight against the ignorance around him.

Back when Kaladin was called Merin, he didn't work well as a character. He was too much the standard "farmboy who becomes a nobleman" from fantasy genre cliché. I struggled for years with different concepts for him, and it was when I combined him with the idea for this surgeon that things really started rolling. It's interesting, then, that he didn't actually become that surgeon character. In the final draft of the book, that character became his father—not a main character as I'd always intended—and Kaladin became the son of the character I'd developed in my head to take a lead role.

ICon 2019 ()
#158 Copy


When I read Wax and Wayne, I have in my head, "That's how Batman would look like if Brandon wrote it." When I read The Rithmatist, I think "That's how Harry Potter would look like if you wrote it." My question is: Do you have this in mind when you write such stories and is it intentional?

Brandon Sanderson

It wasn't intentional for Wax and Wayne, but my pitch for Rithmatist to my publisher was, "The Muggle at Hogwarts." The Rithmatist is the person with no magic, who's a superfan of the magic, who gets to go to the magic school. So for The Rithmatist, it was actually part of my original pitch and concept, so yeah.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#159 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.

Publishers Weekly Q & A ()
#160 Copy

Michael M. Jones

What kind of research did you do?

Brandon Sanderson

Mainly, it was about fighter pilots and what they go through, what g-force feels like, stuff like that. I'm indebted to a couple of real-life fighter pilots for helping me to get it right. Also, I had to research what it's like to live in societies where the machine of war grinds people up out of necessity to keep the country alive, what it does to them. I took inspiration from real-world regimes to create an amalgamation, which still doesn't go as far as it could have. I just included subtle markers to the reader to suggest the sort of stress they live under. interview ()
#161 Copy


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”.


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.

Calamity Austin signing ()
#162 Copy


What were your inspiration when you wrote the [Mistborn] series, or for particular characters--

Brandon Sanderson

Well, Mistborn-- I passed, honestly, through a fog bank at 70 mph driving from my mom's house, and I'm like, "This looks cool, I've got to use this." That's the first thought I can think of. Feruchemy goes back to being in high school and being an insomniac, being really tired and wishing I could store up my sleep, so I'd be sleepy when I wanted to be sleepy. Kelsier's inspiration was a guy who had been only out for himself, who realized the greater import of doing something.

Oathbringer Newcastle signing ()
#163 Copy


So, I was wondering, as a dyslexic, when you were designing Thaylen names, was that intentionally a massive practical joke on your part?

Brandon Sanderson

No. Though I will admit, when I was designing Thaylen names, I had a little bit of Welsh going on, and things like that. Now, one of my good friends, actually, the person this book is dedicated to, Alan Layton, is dyslexic. He was one of the people I brainstormed Stormlight with, but he listens to them all on audio. It's more a practical joke on the people who read the audiobooks, because I don't know how they read those names sometimes. But they also have to do Rock's name, right? Numuhukumakiaki'aialunamor. I make them do stuff like that.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#164 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Ten - Part Two

We've now seen Sazed preach a couple of religions to members of the crew. You may be interested in my process of coming up with his character.

It actually began when I was watching the movie The Mummy. Yes, I know. Sometimes it's embarrassing where we come up with ideas. However, my inspiration for Sazed was the moment when the oily little thief character gets confronted by the mummy, and pulls out a whole pile of holy symbols. He goes through each one, praying to each god, looking for one that would help him.

I began to wonder what it would be like to have a kind of missionary who preached a hundred different religions. A man who, instead of advancing his own beliefs, tried to match a set of beliefs to the person–kind of like a tailor looking to fit a man with the prefect and most comfortable hat.

That's where the inspiration for the entire sect of Keepers began. Soon, I had the idea that the Lord Ruler would have squished all the religions in the Final Empire, and I thought of a sect of mystics who tried to collect and preserve all of these religions. I put the two ideas together, and suddenly I had Sazed's power. (I then stole a magic system from Final Empire Prime, which I'll talk about later, and made it work in this world. Feruchemy was born.)

ICon 2019 ()
#165 Copy

Nimrod Rappaport

In Arcanum Unbounded you mentioned that Sel is one of the biggest planets. You also mentioned that there are three empires on that planet. In Elantris 2 two will we get... You also mentioned that they are largely ignorant of each other, will we get a book in which those empires interact? Maybe in Elantris 2

Also, can you please specify on their nature and maybe some inspirations you got when writing and thinking about them?

Brandon Sanderson

So, sure. Sel wears its inspirations quite blatantly on its sleeve, right? It's not that obvious for instance in Stormlight that the Alethi are based off of Mongolians, because there's so much more in the mix there, that it's not quite as obvious. But in Sel, it's a little more obvious. You know, basically the idea came to me that what if the vikings had united behind a very hierarchical religion like Catholicism, and we had Catholic vikings, conquering the world. What would the world look like and that is where the entire religion came from.

Actually the truth is it's like, there was this priest, right, and one group became Buddhist and the other became Catholic vikings and, you know, Buddhist Renaissance... Italians is kind of where we got there and of course, the Rose Empire the inspirations are a little bit more Eastern and Middle Eastern. For instance, the Grands are based on Babylonian influences and I'm kind of looking at a lot of Babylonian, a little bit of Syrian. But of course Shai is very very clearly based on East Asian cultures and specifically China.

So, the empires and things like that... for there you might have noticed that we've got a Europe centered one, and an Asia/Eastern centered one, so you might be able to theorize where the third empire's inspirations might be or at least a list of possible candidates.

Bands of Mourning release party ()
#167 Copy


I was wondering, how often are [???] life imitating art or intentionally put into place?

Brandon Sanderson

It's rare that it's intentional. Once in a while it is, for instance Nohadon is based off of King Benjamin.



Brandon Sanderson

The author of The Way of Kings, the original author. But more often it's just unintended

Orem signing ()
#170 Copy


Is Kaladin's name influenced by Dune?

Brandon Sanderson

I've read Dune many times, so maybe? It's more looking at-- A lot of Dune names are Arabic inspired, and I went to that region for a lot of the names. But I think the word "Paladin" was probably more in the back of my head. I didn't even think of it until I started writing it, and I'm like, "Oh I bet that's where I got it." But it's often kind of based off of like, Khalid, or things like that? Like a lot of the Arabic names go Khalid.


I was actually just thinking that the other day how the Knights are a lot like paladins.

Brandon Sanderson

It wasn't like, "I'll come up with the word." But after I started writing I'm like, "Oh I bet that's why the name felt right to me". But you can't separate an author from their influences, and I've read Dune like 5 times.

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
#171 Copy


Szeth-son-son-Vallano is one of my favorite characters and I was wondering how-- He's so complex, right, which is why I love him. What was your inspiration for him, and how did you get all those amazing layers of--

Brandon Sanderson

What was my inspiration for Szeth? Boy. Talking about my inspiration for characters is one of the hardest things that I do because, while I plan my settings a lot and I plan my outlines a lot, I do not plan my characters in the same way. I actually discovery-write my characters and this is something I do very intentionally because I feel like if I plan the character too much, I plan the life out of them basically. So when I have a plot I basically cast a bunch of people in it. I'll write a chapter with someone in it and I'll throw it away, and I'll a chapter with a different personality, and I'll do that until somebody clicks with that plot. Once I know who they are I'll usually rebuild the outline to fit them, kind of the character has veto power over the plot that I've designed for them. But I just keep casting people in the roles, and with Szeth I think it was the whole idea of when I was building Roshar and I'm like, alright, I know there's going to be a place where there aren't any rocks, the rest of the world is all about this kind of stone sensibility to it so what if it's reversed, what if these people worship stone. What if stone were holy. And so I kind of built out of that, it was his religious ideals that came first. 

Subterranean Press Interview ()
#172 Copy

Gwenda Bond

Before we jump in on the third installment [of Legion], can you tell me a little about where this idea came from and how it developed into this novella series?

Brandon Sanderson

I was talking with my friend Dan Wells, who was writing a story about a schizophrenic. I started brainstorming this idea about a person whose hallucinations helped them, kind of turning it into a super power. Dan laughed and said, "That’s much more a Brandon story than a Dan story," and he was right—so eventually, I decided to write it myself.

Legion Release Party ()
#174 Copy


Is the concept of the King's Wit inspired by Shakespear's Twelfth Night?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, a lot of Shakespear's fools. But the fool in Twelfth Night, and the fool (for a different reason) in King Lear, both are inspirations. And I think you would find that as a blanket truth for a lot of us writers. I haven't asked Robin Hobb this, but I'm willing to bet that there's some Shakespear's fool characters in that. Twelfth Night is my favorite of his fools. In fact, in the very first versions that I wrote of him, he was way more jester-like than he ended up being in the published version of the Cosmere. But if anyone reads Dragonsteel, the one at BYU, he'll feel even more like a jester.

WorldCon 76 ()
#175 Copy


I know Allomancy is, like, "alloy" and "mancy." Were you inspired by "alomancy", which is the divination of salt?

Brandon Sanderson

I wanted to use "mancy" because in part I was working in a seeing-the-future with atium. And I thought: number one, it's resonant; and number two, it works because we are looking at the future. So that's where the name came from.


No future salt-based magic system, though?

Brandon Sanderson

No. I've toyed with it for a while, but I just have never come up with anything that I'm satisfied with.

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
#176 Copy


What was your inspiration for Sixth of the Dusk? It feels so, Polynesian or Hawaiian...

Brandon Sanderson

I love Hawaiian and Polynesian culture, and it was basically me reading some stories about Kamehameha, and his unification of the islands, and all this stuff, and I'm like, "Ah, I've got to use this someday." It was years later before I got to use it, but I did find a time to use it. And then we got Kekai [Kotaki] to do the illustration, and he's Polynesian, so...

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#177 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Lightsong's Climactic Scene, with His Vision of the Boat

Lightsong's vision and eventual death in this chapter are another of the big focus scenes. In fact, I'd say that this little scene here is my absolute favorite in the book. It's hard to explain why, but I get a chill whenever I read it. It's the chill of something you planned that turned out even better than you expected. (As opposed to the planning for the Siri/altar image, which turned out poorly and so had to be cut.)

I worked hard to bring this scene in my head to fruition. No other section of the book has been tweaked more in drafting—everything from changing it so Lightsong grabs the God King's hand as opposed to his foot, to reworking the imagery of the ocean. (That imagery, by the way, came from my honeymoon while standing on the cruise ship at night and staring into the churning white froth above deep black water.)

Many people on my forums called this event ahead of time—Lightsong healing the God King. I'm fine with that. It did seem like a very obvious setup. One character with powers he cannot use until healed, another with the power to heal someone one time. Sometimes it's okay to give people what they expect—particularly when the result is this scene. I hope they didn't expect it to be as powerful as it is (assuming readers like the scene as much as I do). I want this one to be very moving.

It's the final fulfillment of Lightsong's character. Note that even in the end, his sarcasm and irony come through. He told Siri not to depend on him because he would let her down. Well, Lightsong, you're a better man than you wanted us to believe. There's a reason why so many are willing to rely upon you.

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


She noticed that the race in Skyward that the people are fighting are Krell, and that there are krell in Sixth of the Dusk.

Brandon Sanderson

That is not a direct connection. It's just, the Krell are a race of aliens from Forbidden Planet, one of my favorite classic science fiction movies, and I'm just doing it in Skyward as an homage to that. Krell in Sixth of the Dusk is just me looking for a thing that sounds like the right name for the thing.


So they're completely unrelated?

Brandon Sanderson

Completely unrelated. Other than the fact that I've watched Forbidden Planet, like, six times.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#182 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Sazed and Clubs, then Tindwyl in the Keep

Finally we get the Sazed scene. This is my favorite in the chapter, and it's a chapter filled with a lot of scenes I really like. Allrianne may make me chuckle, but Sazed MEANS something. Showing off the cost of Feruchemy like this made for some interesting worldbuilding, and having Sazed interact with Tindwyl and Clubs gave us some character.

Sazed is beginning to feel troubled by what he's done and what is happening around him, but he's not the type to show it yet–even in his thoughts. However, the fact that he preaches a religion to Clubs (the first time he's done that to anyone in a while) shows that he's stretching, trying to figure out who he is and find his place in this mess. He figures that with the fall of Luthadel, he'll probably end up dead–and so he wants to know who he is before that happens.

Which is also why he finally seeks out Tindwyl to confront her. The scene where he brings back his senses while holding her is one of the great moments that you can have as a fantasy novelists that those realistic writers just can't have.

Two little behind the scenes thoughts on this section. First, Clubs mentions that the latest messenger to visit Straff was executed. If you guessed that this was because Straff himself is now awake, you guessed right!

Also, the religion Sazed preaches here is one I decided to spin off into its own book, focusing Warbreaker around it. They aren't the same planet, but I wanted to do more about a religion that worships art, and that was one of the initial motivations for Warbreaker's setting.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#184 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-One

Vivenna Visits the Idrian Slums

Vivenna probably should have expected what she would find here. She knows that the slumlords, who are Idrians, run whorehouses and illegal fighting leagues. However, she deluded herself into assuming that they employ Hallandren whores or that the fights aren't all that bad.

I think this would be a hard thing to come to grips with. It's happened repeatedly throughout history—a poorer segment travels to a new country and becomes part of the lower, working class. In Korea, they were always complaining about people from Burma coming in and stealing their jobs. I remember hearing the Japanese saying the same thing about Koreans. I've heard Americans complain about all three. Things like this have far less to do with culture or race and far more to do with relative economic standing and fluency with the language/culture.

Knowing it happens, however, wouldn't make it any easier to find your own people in such a state, I think.

Notice that the Idrians here often wear dark clothing. This is partially to hold to their old ways of avoiding colors, but they tend to wear clothes that are black and dark instead of light. (Though there are some who follow the more traditional way.) However, by wearing these dark colors, they completely defeat the original stated purpose of dull clothing—that of removing color to keep Awakeners from using their art.

SF Book Review interview ()
#185 Copy


Where did you get the idea of a world ravaged by fierce storms?

Brandon Sanderson

The original seed of an idea was the storm of Jupiter, this massive persistent storm. Of course, that's a gas giant. The physics are very different. But I remember one day staring at a picture of Jupiter and thinking about a storm that circled the world that was massively powerful. That was one of those seeds that stuck in my brain. This sort of thing happened over months and years until that seed grew and developed and mixed with other things I was thinking of, and the result was Roshar.

JordanCon 2014 ()
#187 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Hoid waxes poetic on the idea that the more people expect, the more difficult it becomes for the artist. This is more the critic in me having noticed that my own expectations for a piece play dramatically into how much I enjoy it. Some of my best experiences at the cinema have been films where I had no idea what to expect. The Sixth Sense was like this for me. I had never heard of the film, my friends dragged me to it, they said it's a horror and I said "I'm not sure if I want to watch a slasher pic, but I think it's going to be terrible but whatever." And I watched it and it was a great movie and I came out of it saying, "Wow, I did not expect that." And yet something like The Dark Knight Returns, which is a fantastic film, well done. Yet the second film was so good that I went into the third film and it wasn't quite as good as the second film and I came out and said, "Eh." Where it is a great film and yet my expectations-- It's unfair to the artist but it is the way I think a lot of us work. That our expectations do play a lot into how our experience is for the story. A lot of things when I go into things like that, I'm not trying to let the author speak so much as I'm trying to say what would someone who analyzes art like a critic in my analyzes art what would be an observation they would make. Hoid is not me and he does not voice necessarily my personal opinions, but he is an artist and a critic and so he notices some of the things I notice.  

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#188 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.

General Reddit 2018 ()
#189 Copy


I do have a question, while listening to New Spring today, I realized that a channeler using the One Power sees and hears much more vividly, similar to people invested with breaths from Nalthis. Was the magic of Nalthis partially inspired by the One Power?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, that was an inspiration from the WoT. I always wanted to take that concept RJ had used and see if I could make it a fundamental and quantifiable part of a magic system.

JordanCon 2014 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

With Lift part of the inspiration was-- Boy, what was the inspiration for Lift? When I was building The Stormlight Archive I said, "I want the Knights Radiant to run the gamut of different character styles, ages, and types of story." And when you say "knight"--when I say knight you imagine one thing. What you don't imagine is a thirteen-year-old Hispanic girl, right? And I said "I want to have the people that are in the Knights Radiant to not be the standard what you think of." They are the entire world's cultures having different people. And so I said "Well, what is somebody who does not fit that mold?" That you would say is not a knight. Lift was partially developed out of me wanting to build a character who was awesome but was so different from what everyone would think of. 'Cause you say knight and they think of white dude in armor, and I wanted something very different from that. And that's where she came from. It also came partially from my wife reading a lot of fantasy and complaining that she's like, "you know the Asians show up in fantasy a lot, Asian culture inspires a lot. European culture of course does. You see a lot of these things but where are the Hispanics?"

*audience laughs*

...Yeah there's one. So she challenged me to put a Hispanic culture in my books because I had never done it before, and so Lift is an outgrowth of that, so are the Herdazians. They are meant to be sort of in the same way that the Alethi are inspired by Korean culture, mashed up with this sort of concept of medieval knights. The same way Shallan is based a little off of Western American/Europe culture. The Herdazians are launching off some of the original Hispanic concepts. So the thing is, you want every culture to be new and original but you are working from somewhere. And the problem is we all work from the same stories for so long that is part of the reason why fantasy is starting to feel so stale.

Starsight Release Party ()
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You've talked a little bit about scripture readings contributing to your writing earlier today. How do you keep that separate from the worlds you're creating?

Brandon Sanderson

I've really never had a problem with that. It's easier than keeping myself separate from other fantasy writers' things and that I've had to learn to put a line in place where I'm like "Ooh, this is a cool idea. Remember that this was someone else's cool idea." Because I consider the scriptures history, I don't mind if they influence me. Like, history does a lot. In Roshar you'll find the Mongolian invasion being a big basis for where the characters for the Alethi come from and in the same way, King Benjamin's speech is a bit of an inspiration for Nohadon's Way of Kings. I don't mind getting inspired by history.

Words of Radiance Washington, DC signing ()
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Rybal (paraphrased)

How did you come up with the geography on Roshar?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

The geography on Roshar was developed as a natural outgrowth of the highstorm, which was the first concept for Roshar, which was inspired by the storm of Jupiter, which was me wanting to tell a story about a world with a continual magical storm. And then I built the ecology and all of these things up from that. Roshar had to grow up--I had to find a mechanism by which stone was deposited by rain, because I felt that the constant weathering over that long of a time would leave no continents. So the crem was my kind of scientific-with-one-foot-in-magic hack on keeping the continent. So the continent does drift. They don't have plate tectonics. The continent actually moves as it gets weathered on the east and gets pushed that direction over millennia of time.

JordanCon 2014 ()
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Where did you get the idea of the Elantris magic system?

Brandon Sanderson

The drawing glyphs is based on Korean and Chinese writing systems. I'm Mormon, I served a mission in Korea for two years, loved the writing system and the language. It was part of what inspired me to do that. There is this really cool thing where in Korea they used Chinese characters to write for a long time and they are very difficult to learn because you just have to memorize them and there was a great king, named Sejong, who said, "My people are being mostly illiterate because this is so hard and we don't even speak Chinese, we are not Chinese. We use their characters, can we develop a language, a writing system that will allow us to do this" and his scholars got together and devised Korean which is a way to phonetically write Chinese characters kind of? It's their own thing. You write them in little groups to make little Chinese characters, it's the coolest thing ever. But you can write most Korean things, not everything, most you can write as a Chinese character or as a phonetic Korean construction of three letters that create that Chinese character sound and I liked that idea and it spun me into the idea of the Aons and the Aonic language and things like that.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
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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.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Spook is based very loosely on a person I knew from the timewastersguide forums. Zack–or Gemm, as his nick was–is very good at posting random gibberish which, if you look at it very closely, actually reads to be rather poetic. I wanted to do a character who spoke with a dialect that had an interesting rhythm, yet was difficult to make out.

Hence the character of Spook. Normally, I don't like dialects. Yet, something about this one was very intriguing to me. I like the way his sentences sound, even when they're completely unintelligible. I do realize, however, that some people really don't like reading what he has to say. Don't worry–he begins to speak more and more intelligibly from here on out.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Goradel Volunteers

Good old Goradel—or Richard Gordon, a good friend of mine and a fantasy fiction fan. Since this became the series to work in cameos (I didn't put many at all in Elantris), I wanted a place for Rich. He's very similar to how Goradel looks and acts; a solid, good-natured guy. The type you want running your important message through a dying world in an attempt to save it.

Oathbringer Portland signing ()
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Are there historical figures that were inspirations for Elhokar?

Brandon Sanderson

Dalinar is based very slightly on Subutai, the great Mongol general. Elhokar, no one specific. I thought of him when I was a kid, when I was, like, fourteen, I wanted to do a story about a weak king and his uncle who's a really strong figure, and that interplay, and that's where he came from.

MisCon 2018 ()
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Any of those people that you learned with, did you relate any of them with characters in some of your stories?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, actually. But most of the times, I take one aspect of somebody. Like, I had a good friend named Annie who was a six-foot-one woman. And I had never thought about the problems being six foot one in our society as a woman could cause. And she talked about it a lot, it's not all who she was, but it was something that was a conflict that I had never seen. So when I wrote Elantris, I'm like, "I'm gonna use this, because it feels real, it's really interesting, it's something I'd never heard about from someone else. Plus I have a reader who can read it and tell me if I get it right." So it's not like Sarene is based on Annie. But Sarene has that one aspect of Annie that I used. And that's usually how you normally see me using people in books.

Bridge Four are all my friends, though. All of the non-main Bridge Four members who keep surviving and not getting killed, those are just my friends. Skar and Drehy and Leyten, and Peet is Peter my assistant. All my friends ended up in Bridge Four, except for Ben, who's still in my writing group, who said "No, you can't put me in."

Because that actually happened during Mistborn. I said, "Hey, Micah," who was my roommate at the time, "Your last name is DeMoux, that's a cool French-sounding name. Can I use it in a book?" He's like, "Sure. But I have to get a girl. And I have to not die. It doesn't have to be the girl. I have to be successful in my romantic inclinations." And I'm like, "Alright." So Captain Demoux got put in. Meanwhile, Ben was walking by, who was my roommate at the time, and he's like, "Put me in, but kill me in a really, really terrible way." So I did. I put him in Mistborn and killed him in a terrible way. Then he read the book, and he's like, "No, you can't use me like that." It's okay, it became a guy who dumped my sister-in-law. *laughter* But there's a very gruesome death in Mistborn 2 that happens in a very-- shall we say, someone who does not do well for themselves, let's just say that. And that was Ben. But he made me take him out. And then I was putting people in Stormlight, I'm like, "You don't want to be in?" He's like, "No, don't use me." I finally got away with slipping him into the Wax and Wayne books under his online name Rick Stranger.

17th Shard Forum Q&A ()
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Straff Venture

Are any of your books' locations (barring Legion) based on real-life places? If so, where? If not, what propels your creative drive to make new worlds?

Brandon Sanderson

All of the keeps in the Mistborn series are based on real structures I've visited. The mists are based on a trip to Idaho, were I drove through a fog bank at high speeds.

Warbreaker's setting was inspired, in part, by a visit to Hawaii.

Much of Roshar is inspired by tidal pools and coral reefs.