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The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Nineteen

Spook Sees Kelsier in the Burning Building and Burns Pewter

How, exactly, does one write from the perspective of a deranged, exhausted, dying man in the middle of a burning building? This is my attempt. Reading through it now, I particularly like how the imagery and Spook's disorientation come across. It works as a nice component to the previous Spook chapter.

Yes, Kelsier appears to him. Yes, Spook can burn pewter. One of the reasons I decided to soften Spook's craziness in his first two chapters is that I wanted this chapter to stand out in more stark contrast. A sizable number of my alpha readers, after finishing this chapter and the next one, couldn't decide if Spook was in fact burning pewter, or if he had gone insane.

My hope is that since I made Spook easier to relate to in the first two chapters, he'll be considered more trustworthy by readers. The fact that he can burn pewter is very important to the plot's development from this point on.

My other worry with this chapter is that people will read it and think that I'm pulling a "Swiss Army magic" trick on them—inventing new powers and abilities just to get my characters out of trouble. I can assure you that not only is what's happening to Spook here logical and built into the magic system, but you've seen these things happen before in the series as far back as early portions of book one.

If you want confirmation, realize that Marsh was given new Allomantic powers back in the first book via Hemalurgy, something very similar to what just happened to Spook. Also, very early in the series you got to see Ruin influencing people and speaking to them. Note Vin in book one and Zane in book two.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixty-Two - Part Two

Betrayal and Trust

Sazed's discussion on betrayal and trust here is very important. It harks back to Vin's conflicts in the first book, as well as one of the major interactions between her and Kelsier.

Kelsier believed that it was better to trust people and be betrayed than to never trust at all. He loved his wife, but worried that she'd betrayed him. It was a major source of pain and conflict for him. Yet, in the end, he decided that even if she had betrayed him, he preferred having loved her and trusted her. He treated his crew the same, not letting a worry about traitors ruin the companionship of his team.

I wanted to work this into Sazed's scenes here because, to me, this entire series uses trust as a theme. Whom do we trust and why? Do they deserve it?

It's about being betrayed, but taking the time to understand why we were betrayed. Kelsier forgives Mare, Vin forgives TenSoon. Sazed has to forgive God.

General Reddit 2015 ()
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I'm only maybe 1/4 of the way through WOA (the second book of the first series) and something has kind of been nagging at me for a while. I figured out what it is, finally, and it's that there are no women in this story. I mean, obviously there's Vin as the main character, but she has a lot of overtly masculine qualities and quite frankly a suppressed fondness for dresses and perfume just isn't enough for me. All of the feminine characters are bad, jealous, stupid, flippant and/or unimportant. The only other positive female characters I've met so far are either dead (Mare) or "other"/foreign (Tindwyl).

And the series, so far, clearly fails the Bechdel test. The only conversations Vin has had with other women have been about men (particularly Elend).

Does it get any better than this? I mean, it's honestly really starting to bother me. This series is almost like a reverse-harem trope with all the males surrounding the main character.

Don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying the world and the story otherwise (except for Elend's chapters that drone on and on about his ideal political structure which don't have any place in a society like this one IMO), but the complete lack of any female interaction is starting to bother me, TBH.

Brandon Sanderson

I've always considered this a legitimate criticism of Mistborn. In my plotting and planning, I was so focused on doing a good job with a dynamic female lead that I fell into a trap that is common for newer writers--to be less intentional about other characters, and default to male.

I think I once counted, and was able to find interactions in each book between Vin and women that were not related to men, and so the series does strictly pass the test--but the test has always been intended as a bare minimum. You can pass the test and still lack any real and meaningful representations of people different from yourself, and you can actually fail the test while not having this be a problem at all.

In the case of Mistborn, I consider it a legitimate weakness of the stories. I'm sorry it is distracting to you.


It is only a minor distraction, Brandon. And I think perhaps I am spoiled, because I read Stormlight 1 and 2 first and am only now just starting Mistborn, and your female characters in Stormlight are outstanding. The relationship between Shallan and Jasnah is amazing so I know that you are perfectly capable of writing complex and varied female characters. I think that's why I found it so striking that it seems to be missing in Mistborn.

Regardless... I am still enthralled with the books. I am enjoying the plot and I do love the characters. I can't wait to find out what the Deepness is or if Vin truly is the Hero of Ages (knowing the title of the third book probably spoils that one for me though, haha).

Thanks for taking the time to respond to me, Brandon! You are so good to your fans I really appreciate it! Can't wait to finish reading this series!

Brandon Sanderson

My pleasure.

It wasn't long after finishing the series that I started to think about this aspect. I really wish I'd made Ham a woman, for example. I think the character would have gone interesting places--and would have done good things for the lore of the world if women Thugs were heavily recruited to be soldiers.

Reflecting on Mistborn has been very useful to me as a writer, however, as it's part of what helped me personally understand that you can do something like have a strong, and interesting, female lead but still have a series that overall displays a weakness in regards to female characters. This has greater implications for writing, not just in regards to female characters, and is something I don't think I could have learned without this series. (Where I worked so very hard on Vin that I thought I had this aspect down.)

Stormlight Three Update #2 ()
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Can I ask what defines a "trilogy's worth of arcs"? I always thought that roughly corresponded to wordcount, but your wordcount-per-trilogy has halved from ~650k (Elantris, Mistborn 1, Warbreaker) to ~325k (Mistborn 1.5, Stormlight-without-interludes, Reckoners) so I must have that wrong... but I'm not sure why that's wrong.

Brandon Sanderson

I plot these like a trilogy each. The entire [Reckoners] trilogy, for example, is shorter than the way of kings. I plot a book of Stormlight using similar (though not exactly the same) methods as I use in building a series of other books.


What does "like a trilogy" mean? Or is there somewhere you'd recommend I go to learn more? From my uneducated perspective, "like a trilogy" means "long, lots of stuff happens, three books".

Brandon Sanderson

Well, what makes a book for me is usually an arc for a character mixed with a plot arc. Often multiple plot arcs and character arcs. It is less "stuff happens" and more "stuff happens for a reason, building to pivotal moments or discoveries." My YouTube writing lectures might help explain better. Look for the ones on plotting.


I think I understand...maybe...

  • "Arc" is point-to-point, be it for a character or a plot. Length-in-wordcount isn't relevant, difference between points is.
  • The difference in wordcount isn't a matter of "arcs" being shorter, it's a matter of there being fewer not-tightly-arc-related words, similar to how stand-up comics tighten up routines.

Do I have that right?

Brandon Sanderson

Yup. You've got it. Though often, the difference in a longer book is the number of arcs. For example, in Mistborn, Vin has multiple arcs. (Learning to be part of a crew, training to use the magic, practicing to join high society, falling in love, and learning to trust again.) Those are mixed with a large number of plot arcs. A shorter book might have a character with a more straightforward, single or double arc.


My first encounter with the term "story arc" was from J Michael Straczynski talking about Babylon 5 in explaining how it was plotted.

The term to me invokes a visual of tracing an arc across the sky from left to right, symbolizing the journey of an overarching plot or narrative to its conclusion.

Brandon was using trilogy with respect to the Mistborn series until Shadows of Self got away from him and became two books bumping the total to four :-).

Brandon Sanderson

That's almost right. I wrote Alloy of Law as a stand alone test of the new era. I liked it, so I plotted a trilogy to go alongside it. I ended up writing Bands of Mourning before Shadows of Self for various reasons, but it isn't that Shadows of Self got turned into two books. Those were always two very different books in the outline.

The point where things expanded was after I tried out Alloy of Law, liked it, and decided to do more books with the characters.

Stormlight Three Update #2 ()
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In general, you steer clear of offensive language in your books. All well and good, but then in Words of Radiance Adolin uses the verb "shat". What exactly is it that makes the past tense less offensive?

Brandon Sanderson

Nothing in particular. I don't find the word offensive myself, but I avoid it because it just often doesn't feel right for more stories. But in context, sometimes, the right word is just the right word. It felt right to use it there, as the term Adolin would use.

Tel Aviv Signing ()
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Why is there only one... I mean is there either one Allomantic power or all of them?

Brandon Sanderson

What do you mean? Oh, why is that? That was mostly for narrative reasons and for making it easy for the reader to track. And, so, why in world? Just ended up being the way the Investiture split but mostly it was for narrative reasons, it was for author reasons.


I was thinking if it was related to Identity?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, no. It's mostly for my convenience as a writer.

Stormlight Three Update #2 ()
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Why are so many of your primary female characters named with "s" and "v"? Sarene, Siri, Shai, Shallan, Vin, Vivenna? Is there a reason?

(I ask because you're obviously able to find cool female-names with other letters too, Jasnah, Danlan, Navani and so on.)

Brandon Sanderson

No reason. I've noticed that trend myself; probably something to do with innate "this sounds right" things on my part. I think Vin/Vivenna is a coincidence. (Vin did start in a rough first draft as male, after all.) But there are also some other V names, a disproportionate number. So...just the way my ears work, and something I need to be aware of, I guess. Thanks for the question!

Tel Aviv Signing ()
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Is there going to be another Wax and Wayne book?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, there will be one more.


Yes? And when's it coming out?

Brandon Sanderson

I have it scheduled to be one of the things right after Stormlight 4 but before Stormlight 5. So i have to get Stormlight 4 done, that will take another couple months writing and about six months of editing. So you watch sometime around July on my website we should start seeing the Wax and Wayne progress bar pop up or the Skyward 3 progress bar. Those are the two things I need to write.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Spook's Message

Here is the connection between the groups, and the reason I wrote the Spook sections.

Well, that's not completely true. I wrote the Spook sections because I found him a compelling character, with a new way to use the magic and an interesting story to tell. I liked how his story played against Sazed's conflicts, and what the work in Urteau said about the overall message of the book.

However, the piece that connects the storylines and brings them together is very important too. Spook knows about things that Vin does not, and so we begin to thread these different viewpoints together. We've already had Marsh and Vin's scenes ram together, as well as Sazed's and TenSoon's. Now we'll weave Spook in too.

General Twitter 2016 ()
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Why does Marasi's memory of the voice of "Death" or Marsh, change? From Alloy of Law to Bands of Mourning chapter 15?

Brandon Sanderson (Part 1/Part 2/Part 3)

This is a thing that drives Peter crazy. My research tells me that people change memories based on expectations and environment.

On occasion, you'll see me having characters miss-quote themselves, or remember events clearly wrong. I do this for realism.

(Though on occasion, it's just a mistake or lapse on my part. Those we fix. The rest drive my editors crazy.)

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Drawing upon the Mists

Vin draws upon the mists here for the second time. I kind of wish I'd been able to make her do it in the second book somewhere, but I decided to back off on that plot in book two. The thing is, Vin drawing upon the mists is kind of deus ex machina, and I didn't want to make the entire series about that. It's a mystery to be explained, true, and was worked into the magic system from the beginning. But I can't deny that it feels like it comes out of nowhere.

So, having her use her ability to draw upon the mists here was an attempt to have that happen sometime other than a major climax moment, reminding the reader of what happened back in book one so we can begin to delve into what was happening and why.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

"Let's have a chase."

At the end here we have Vin think, "Let's have a chase now, you and I." This is a direct quote from book one near the beginning, where Kelsier thinks the same thing to himself. He's intending to lead an Inquisitor away to keep it from finding and killing Vin, even before Kelsier meets her. I put the same quote here as a throwback, but also because I liked the parallelism. Vin is leading Ruin on a false chase the same way that Kelsier led that Inquisitor back in book one.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Two

The Battle Begins

You'll notice something about these next chapters. Instead of focusing on the trained warriors during the siege of Luthadel, I spend my time inside the heads of Breeze and Sazed–the two least experienced with war and killing in the entire crew.

This is intentional. I want to give the sense that Luthadel is a place unprepared for war. Even its soldiers aren't really fighters. There hasn't been much war in the Final Empire, and those veterans who do exist are in Cett or Straff's employ. I would rather show the battle against the koloss, then, through the eyes of men who will be horrified and confused at what to do, as I think that will be the norm for this conflict.

It heightens the tension, and the tragedy, of this all when you get to see Breeze and Sazed trying to cope with the horrors of a battlefield. Plus, the opposite has been done quite well a lot–whether it be in a David Gemmel book or in Lord of the Rings. You've seen brave warriors defend a city. Now watch a politician and a scholar try to do it.

Idaho Falls signing ()
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I have a question about the epilogue in The Way of Kings. You have Wit give this interesting, kind of philosophical-- sermon-thing on novelty. I wonder, what do you think about what he's saying, do you--

Brandon Sanderson

Usually those little things that Wit will do, he does one at the end of each book, are things I've thought about. I don't always one hundred percent agree with Wit. He tends to hyperbolize in order to make a point, but I do think it's really interesting that novelty is so important to us. Even if you did something independently, but come up with it after someone else, then it's not considered as great an art, right? Which is really, really, really interesting if you think about it. And I love that idea, and I like talking about that sort of thing, so these-- All of Wit's little monologues--there's one, like I've said, at the end of each book--is something I think about, but he goes off in his own direction sometimes.


I've used that little monologue in some philosophy class that I've in, such as philosophy of art.  

Brandon Sanderson

I did take a-- I took a lot of philosophy classes, if you can't tell, during my undergraduate years. I was quite fond of philosophy. Though the philosophers were all really needed to learn how to write. Man, those guys just, I mean, paragraphs like this that don't really even say anything. I love the ideas, but man, they could use editors. But, yeah, I enjoyed my philosophy classes, and I really liked philosophy of art in particular, it's very interesting to me. The whole Oscar Wilde's intro to Dorian Gray is my favorite speech on art, that all art is, by necessity, useless. Stuff like that really, really gets me going.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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How did you find the experience of writing in an established universe that wasn't your own? Did the setting having a much softer magic system than you usually write present a challenge you, and what do you feel it taught that you can take back to your other writing?

Did you get any access or information about Magic lore that wouldn't have been available to fans yet?

Lastly, I feel like this story had less of your trademark "Sanderlanche" in it. Do you agree? Do you think that is a function of it being a short story, or other elements? Was it intentional, or did a more gradual set of revelations just work better for this story?

Brandon Sanderson

  1. I found the experience to be a lot of fun. The system was soft, but I created my own very hard corner of it to play in, so that worked just fine for me. Most of what this taught me was how to better collaborate--I am glad for the experience in that regard, and hope it will help me better at similar writing tasks in the future.

  2. I did!

  3. Most of my short fiction has a smaller Sanderlanche. Basically, I need lots of threads intermixing so that I can start pulling them together rapid-fire for a good Sanderlanche, and short fiction will need smaller ones in turn. Most of the stories in Arcanum Unbounded had climaxes similar to this one.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Seventy-Two - Part One

Vin's Climax Begins

I set a high bar for myself with the previous books in this series. I knew I would need a climax to this one which would match the fight between Kelsier and the Lord Ruler in book one, which is undoubtedly the best action sequence I've ever written.

So, these next eight chapters are an attempt to match all of that. I'm not sure if I pull it off, to be honest, but I'm much more pleased with these than I am with the ending of book two. It was good, but it was just faintly lacking. Vin's arrival at the walls was too expected, and the fighting too chaotic and brutal to be poetic.

This chapter and the next are filled with references tying the entire series together. We're back in Luthadel, back to the Lord Ruler's palace itself. In each of the previous books, the final climactic scenes happened in this building. It feels good to get us back there again.

And, of course, this fight between Vin and the Inquisitors is analogous to the first book, where she nearly died doing the same thing at Kredik Shaw. The line "She fell with the rain" is a direct quote from book one where Vin loses her strength after fleeing the Inquisitors and falls down to the ground. Sazed saved her that night. He's not around this time, as she points out.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
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Additionally, how much time would you say that you spend researching on any given work, and what are some of the things that you research?

Brandon Sanderson

That one's really too hard to judge.

Research for me is on-going for any given work, and I don't track how much time I spend on it. Generally, I dig into specific topics when the need arises, then do more 'cast out the net' general reading for ideas the rest of the time. Generally, I'll only dig in deeply if a topic is important to a specific story. (Such as—for Mistborn—researching canals or the effects of being made a eunuch at various ages.)

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Seventy-Three

Cinematic Writing

I sometimes wonder just how much writers from my era have been influenced by the visual media of entertainment we've experienced. How do I imagine things differently because of my childhood watching television and movies? What have the improvements in special affects done for my ability to visualize things I have not seen? How does my pacing, plotting, and description reflect my background and my exposure to media?

I look at a chapter like this one, and it feels extremely cinematic to me. Not that I'm some great master of the cinematic form, but rather that I'm so familiar with that media—as are many of us—that I am drawn to it instinctively.

The quick flashes from viewpoint to viewpoint—TenSoon, Breeze, Elend—showing what was going on, followed by a quick cut of Vin mid-action . . . it just feels right to me to do it this way.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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In the Mistborn series, when you were writing the prophecies, did you start with the "non-corrupted" versions and then corrupt them, or vice versa (or something else)?

Brandon Sanderson

I started (as is my usual process) with the end in mind, and outlined backward. In this case, that meant constructing the final version of the prophesies first.

ICon 2019 ()
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Is there a certain book that you've read and you said "my God I wanted to write this book!"

Brandon Sanderson

So, I usually answer Jurassic Park to this one. I really love how Jurassic Park came together and how its use of science and things work kind of as a quote end quote magic system. That's one of my favorites that I kind of wish I had come up with that. Otherwise, the thing that I envy most usually aren't other books. Though I love other books, most of the time the books I love are so distinctively of that author that I don't wish I'd written it because then it would be... it would have to change, right. Like it wouldn't be mine. Like I love Name of the Wind and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms because those are distinct products of those author's visions for what fantasy should be and I can't write their vision. Though one thing I do envy a little bit is—and I answered this in the QA last night—I really envy sometimes the way that video game writers can tell stories. The one I often mention is Undertale. <applause>. A few people are Undertale fans. If you haven't played Undertale, it's great.


Great graphics by the way.

Brandon Sanderson

It's able to do narrative in a way that my form can't do. Which is really cool! And I play a game like Undertale and I'm like "wow you tell stories!" I played Dark Souls. I love those games and the way they can do story is not the way I do story. The way they approach lore and story is so cool and so different from my form that I kind of envy their ability to tell stories in different ways.

FanX Spring 2019 ()
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What was your motivation behind-- for killing Elhokar and simultaneously ripping my heart out?

Brandon Sanderson

So, it was-- I never feel like I'm killing characters, I'm letting characters take risks and I'm letting other characters have agency to do the things they're doing in the books. That whole plot cycle was more-- less me killing someone off and more me letting Moash go down the dark path that he have been demanding that he go down.


Okay, but you realize half the fandom-- or the whole fandom practically wants him dead now.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, yes. Well, they should! He made a very, very bad decision, and he deserves everything that the fandom is throwing at him.

Firefight Houston signing ()
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Have you ever tried to write, not a novel, but for a comic or try a script to pitch yourself for an original story?

Brandon Sanderson

Have I ever tried doing some writing that is not novels? So, screenwriting or comic strip or things like that? Yeah, I've done a little bit of everything. Not with the intent that I'm going to pitch myself, but just so I can be familiar with it. And so I have written a screenplay, never gonna let anyone see it. It was so that I would know what it takes to write a screenplay so I can advise better on mine, because I don't intend to do it. I mean, the difference between writing novels and writing screenplays is probably as different as playing basketball and playing baseball. And we know how that worked out for Michael Jordan. He was decent at the second one, but it takes a lot of work to get good at something like this, and I would rather have really great screenwriters be writing my things. But I did want to know enough about the process to be able to talk intelligently.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Fantasy Stereotypes

Sazed makes an interesting note. "There is a kandra who fits in with his people as poorly as I do with my own," he thinks. Why is it that I tend to create a culture, then build characters who are in direct opposition to the way that the rest of their people act? I think there are a couple of reasons.

First off, as I've said, I feel that characters are driven by conflict. The person who is a perfect example of what his people revere just doesn't have as much conflict as the person who is in opposition to his own social mores. A Terrisman rebel, a kandra with wanderlust, a Dula who is depressed—these types of people just seem more interesting to me.

In addition, fantasy has a reputation for defining an entire culture based on a single individual. If you meet a dwarf, then you know how all dwarves act because each and every dwarf is just like this dwarf. It's common in fantasy books to let race or nationality be the same as personality. I react against this, and so intentionally create characters who don't fit in with their own people as a means of showing that any culture can create a multitude of different types of people.

I have to be careful not to let this be a crutch, of course.

ConQuest 46 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

So the question is: I use a lot of religion in my books how do I balance that with my own personal beliefs?

So, I'm a religious person and what this has done to me in specific is make me really interested in how religion affects people or how the lack of religion affects people. I find that the real fun of reading and writing, raising interesting questions, and approaching a topic from lots of different directions, is a thing that is really fascinating to me. I ascribe to a school of thought that I kind of-- this is a little unfair to these gentlemen but I kind of divide it among the Tolkien and C.S. Lewis line of those two were famously in a writing group together, and if you don't know Tolkien actually converted C.S. Lewis to Christianity, which is very interesting, and they were both deeply religious people, and they approached it very differently in their fiction. C.S. Lewis felt that fiction should be didactic and teach you a lesson and Tolkien repeatedly refused to tell people what he thought the themes in his books were. When they would come up to him and say "It's a metaphor for World War II, isn't it?" he would say "No, it's a story." And I am more a Tolkien than a C.S. Lewis.  I like with fiction-- I consider myself a storyteller primarily, and I hope that a good story is going to raise interesting questions but that has to be focused around what the characters are passionate about and what they are thinking about. And so I try to populate my books with people who are asking interesting questions from a variety of different perspectives.

I said on a panel I was on yesterday "Nothing bothers me more than when reading a book where someone has my perspective, there's only one person, and they're the idiot. Whatever it is that they are an idiot about that I agree with."  And I'm like ahh can't you at least present my side-- I want everyone who reads my books, regardless of their religious affiliation, if they see something like their own belief system in there I want them to say "Yes, he's presenting it correctly." And part of that means that I have to approach my fiction in certain ways, for instance, I like fiction that is ambiguous to the nature of deity, if there is one. I want-- If you can create a book with really cool atheist characters and then go "By the way here's this all powerful, all knowing benevolent god that he's just refusing to acknowledge" that undermines that character completely. And so I create my fiction so that the different people on the sides of the argument, just like in our world, have good arguments on both sides. And I think that if you present characters with interesting choices, making interesting decisions you will-- truth will rise to the top. That's kind of one of the purposes of fiction, is to discuss these issues. So that's kind of a roundabout answer to your question, that as a person of faith how I approach writing my books. I'm not sure if it's the right answer, but it's the answer I've been giving lately.

Shadows of Self Houston signing ()
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I've got a question about Hoid. Now that he is a [worldhopper], he's been in quite a few books, do you have any plans or is it possible that he may windup jumping realities into a universe that, as you write more books that are outside the cosmere, or do you just kind of plan of having him--

Brandon Sanderson

Good question. So the question is am I going to have Hoid, who has appeared in many of my books, jump between universes as I write more outside the cosmere. The answer is actually no. I have a distinct story that I'm telling in the cosmere and it's less about the fun of connecting all my works, which is fun, but it's less about that and more about the actual story. Part of the reason I'm actually doing this thing with Hoid is I like the idea-- playing with the idea, of what is an epic. An epic that spans many many years is really cool to me, so I have hidden that amongst my books, and it'll eventually come out in a much more direct way. I actually had to make this choice pretty early in my career, when I was writing The Rithmatist was the first one. You know, the Alcatraz books are just goofy and zany, so I didn't have to think about it as much with those, but with The Rithmatist I was like "what am I going to do with this?". Because it had originally been planned as a cosmere book, and then I decided I wanted to set it on Earth and I didn't want to do a lot of these sort of political things on Earth in the cosmere, I wanted it to be a far-off and distant place. And that's when I made the break, I said "no I'm not going to put him in this". And that made it easy when people were like "hey, you going to sneak him into The Wheel of Time?". Nah nah let's move along there. A lot of people were expecting me to sneak him in. interview ()
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This might be a really weird question, but how do you feel about killing your characters in books? Are getting sad, or angry, or you are just like you feel it just has to be done and "sorry, not sorry"--

Brandon Sanderson

It's kind of the last one, it has to be done. It's more along the lines of, this is what the character has been pushing toward and kinda demanding all along, and I will let them do what they feel they need to. I rarely feel like I actually kill off characters, I more feel like, characters take risks all the time and I can’t always pull the punches, once in a while I've just gotta let them pay the consequences.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eighty-One - Part One


I wasn't certain how I wanted to treat prophecy in this book. On one hand, it's a staple of fantasy books—and my goal in this series was to take the fantasy staples and turn them upon their heads in a way that hadn't been done before. That meant I needed to include and use them, and so I did. In book two, the prophecies turned out to be false, and Ruin used them to trick Vin into releasing him.

However, the fact that he twisted the prophecies left me with the implication that they had once been true. What does that mean, though? If you look at prophecies in our own religions, very few of them are used like fantasy prophecies. In fantasy novels, it seems like prophecies are intentionally obscure, abstract things intended to confuse people and act as some kind of twisted guidebook for the hero to live his life. Yet, in modern religion—specifically Judaism and Christianity—prophecy is more general. Prophecy in these religions means things like "in the end, the faithful will win." They're general or symbolic. Of more use to the population as a whole, rather than applying to one distinct individual.

Sazed and Tindwyl have a great discussion about this in book two. Regardless, I make use of the prophecies here in the final book. As far as I'm concerned, they were given to the original Terris people by Preservation as a means of maintaining hope. They were a promise—a hero will come; that hero will protect you. Have faith.

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Brandon Sanderson

One of the things I also wanted to do before the series was done was show someone burning atium without regard for it running out. I wanted to show the awesome power of the metal. And then I wanted to have them lose.

Why? Many reasons. Because violence may work to solve some problems, but it isn't always the answer. In fact, it's often a poor answer, even if it's the only answer. (As it was for Elend.) Killing koloss doesn't solve anything in the long run.

Yes, atium is amazing. Yes, showing it off like this was inevitable in the book. However, I figured that most fantasy novels would get to a point where the character drew on the ultimate hidden weapon, and then would save the day. I didn't want to do that. Not just because I like to do the unexpected, but because it didn't fit what I wanted to say with this book. It didn't fit what felt right.

A twist is no good if it's just there to be a twist.

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Prologue - Part One

The Origins of the Prologue

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

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

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

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

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Chapter Eighty-One - Part Three

Elend's Death

I rewrote Elend's death scene a number of times. In the first draft, it happened much more quickly. He and Marsh met, Elend's atium ran out, and Marsh cut him down. Elend always got his "we've won" line, but Human wasn't getting viewpoints, so we didn't cut there. Nor did we have Vin fuel Elend's metals or have him burn duralumin and atium at the same time.

I just felt he needed more. Part of this was due to the reactions of alpha readers, and part of it was due to my own desire to make his last scene more dramatic. I wanted there to be a closeness between him and Vin at the end, and I also had too many people asking what would happen if you burned duralumin and atium at the same time to ignore that possibility.

So, I rewrote several times, eventually landing at this version. As for why I killed him . . . well, for the same reason that I kill any character in one of my books. It just felt like the right thing to do. It's hard to explain when we get down to specifics like this. On one hand, the rational side of me can explain that there need to be casualties to make victory worth something, and Vin needed to lose Elend so that she'd be willing to do what she had to in order to kill Ruin. Logic says that this book was about Vin and Elend defeating Ruin no matter what the cost to themselves, and allowing them to give their lives for the victory was noble and completed their character arcs.

Emotion, however, is what drove me—not logic. It just felt like the right thing to do. It was the right ending for the book. Now, I could have chosen a different ending. I know that I could have. It would have felt contrived to me, and would have lacked bite. Yet perhaps readers would have liked it better. I honestly don't know what doing this (killing both of my main characters) will do to my readership and if people will still want to buy my books after this. The founder and president of Tor Books, I know, would have preferred that I didn't kill my two main characters.

But in the end, I went with what I knew was the better ending. By doing this, at the very least I've earned something. From now on, readers will know that nobody is safe in my books—and that will create tension, will make the novels feel more real. (Note that I didn't do this because I wanted to make readers feel that way. It's just a side effect.)

Either way, this is where this book was pushing from the beginning. Vin and Elend followed in Kelsier's footsteps. They were both ready to give their lives, and in doing so, saved those they love. In my opinion, that's not a tragic or sad ending. It's just an honest one.

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It is my pleasure, it has been an honor. For those who couldn't hear it was a thank you for releasing books somewhat faster and a thank you for finishing The Wheel of Time.

You know, I've been there. I picked up The Wheel of Time in 1990, my 8th grade year was '89, [...] yeah it's funny, I talk about The Wheel of Time. Everything I picked up while I was coming to love fantasy was all completed series or series in the middle of being written, and so as a kid I'm like "These are all famous series, I want to find one that isn't, what's going to be mine?" You want to be discovering, so I'd go to the bookstore every week to look at the new books coming out and try to find them and I remember grabbing Eye of the World, the first Robert Jordan book, and being like "Oh, this is a big book". I was a kid with not much money, so if you bought a big book it wasn't that much more expensive than a little book but you got a lot more reading in it. It was a good bang for your buck so to speak. So I bought that book and I loved it, and I thought "Oh this is going to be it, this is--" And I remember when the second book came out and they had trade paperbacks and my little bookstore didn't get a lot of those and I went "Oh, OH, something's happening" and then the third book was there in hardcover and I said "Ah-HA! I was right!" So I had this sort of pseudo-paternal instinct for Wheel of Time even when I was 17.

But then I do know what it's like to wait, and you know George [R.R. Martin] is a guest here [at ConQuest 46], I want to speak toward the fact that he has had a long career and given people a lot of books, he may be slowing down a little bit as he's getting older, we all do. And he just wants to make sure his books are all right. I get tired hearing people-- Because I heard people do the same thing to Robert Jordan, y'know cut George some slack. He spent years and years toiling in obscurity until he finally made it big. I'm glad he's enjoying his life a little bit and not stressing about making sure-- You know getting a book that size out every year is really hard on writers. Robert Jordan couldn't keep it up, nobody can keep it up. Stormlight Archive's every two years. Even I, being one of the more fast writers out there, I'm not going to be able to do one of these things every year, there's just too much going on in one. So thank you, I will try to get them to you very consistently but it's going to be about every other year.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Another thing to know about George is George cannot write outside his particular environment-- All writers have their craft and I'll ask [Brandon] about it in a second, but George with HBO sending him out to promote, and cons, he's not writing. Whereas Brandon wrote in his hotel room I heard.

Brandon Sanderson

On both nights.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt

And I often do that too. George can't do that, so that's a difficulty too. There are other factors involved. And people love to meet him but when you meet an author sometimes they're not even writing 'cause they can't keep focus. So let's talk about-- How fast do you write a novel...

Brandon Sanderson

My writing approach and how fast I write. I'm actually not a particularly fast writer, for those of you who are writers out there I'll go at about 500 words per hour. What I am is a consistent writer. I enjoy doing this and my average day at home will be I get up at noon, because I'm a writer not a-- I'm not working a desk job, I don't have a desk, I don't go to a desk, I go and sit in an easy chair with my laptop, and I work from about 1 until 5. And then 5 until 9 is family time, I'll go take a shower, play with my kids, eat dinner, spend time with my wife, maybe go see a movie, whatever we end up doing. By about 9 or 10 she goes to bed and I go back to work and then I work from about 10 until 2-4 depending on how busy I am. If I'm ahead on schedules and things at 2 I'll stop and play a videogame or something, that's goof off time, go to bed about 4. And it really just depends on what's going on. If I'm traveling a lot, that puts a lot of stress on the deadline, and I've been traveling a lot lately, so in those cases I try to get some work done while I'm on the road, and it usually is not nearly as effective. I'll get a thousand words out of 4 hours I can sneak out of the day to get writing done. When you're breaking that rhythm, artists are creatures of habit and that rhythm-- Sometimes shaking things up is really good for you, but if that shake up is also kind of tiring, tiring in a good way I like interacting with people and going to cons, but you get back up there I feel like I worked all day and now I have to work all day. It can be rough, and at the same time with the schedule I want to have which is my goal is to release one small book and one big book a year. That’s my goal. One adult book and one teen book, and sometimes those schedules get off so you get one one year and three the next year. Or sometimes I do things like write two books instead of one, I did that this year, or last year. I wrote two Alloy of Law era Mistborn books, the second era of Mistborn books, and together they are half the length of a Stormlight book. So sometimes you'll see three. But I want to be releasing consistently, I want to have a book for teens and a book for larger people who are teens at heart? I dunno. It's hard because you don't want to put a definition on them, I don't want people to go "Oh The Reckoners is for teenagers therefore I don't want to read that" and I don't want to discourage, I've had 7-year-olds come up with their copy of The Way of Kings--

Bryan Thomas Schmidt

They're strong.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah they're strong. My 7-year-old can barely read the Pokemon video game, so-- we played that-- and so I don't want to discourage anybody from picking up a book they think they are going to love, but I do want to be releasing one quote-unquote teen book and one quote-unquote adult book. By the way, since I've started writing teen, I started distinguishing them and it's really hard to say "I write teenage novels and adult fantasy." *laughter* That term does not always evoke the right image I want… I've been introduced sometimes at conventions that are outside my circuit, writing conferences, as the fantasy guy. They say "Here's our fantasy man" *Brandon makes a shocked/confused face prompting laughter* Okay I can take that.

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Chapter Eighty-Two

Sazed Ascendant

The answer is yes, I planned it from the beginning. And I didn't.

It's difficult for me, even as the author, to trace back when and where the various threads of a story began. I wrote all three of these books in a row, and to me, they're one long story. Yes, I chose three distinct segments of time over the five-year span, and separated out those chunks. But it's all part of a whole, which is why it was so important for me to be able to write this series as one singular book.

So, if I go back to my very first notes, will it include a discussion of Sazed becoming God and using the stories in his metalminds as guidelines for remaking the world? No, I don't think it's there. Just like Kelsier wasn't originally planning to create a rebellion through his sacrifice, just like Vin wasn't even originally female.

Things change and grow with a book as you write it. However, let me say that I knew early in the series that I wanted Sazed to end up as the Hero of Ages and ascend with the power. I felt it was the only way to deal with the world ending and have it start anew. Plus, he's the only one who really deserved it, as he was the only one of the characters who ever cared much about religion.

I kept this in mind while revising the first book, as I'd finished the rough draft of book three by that time. I planned how to use his religions and feature them in the novels in a way that would show off their finer qualities.

In a way, this is my compromise. As I've said, I don't believe in the "spokes on the wheel" theory. Not every religion can be true, if only because they—logically—disagree on so many points. But every one of them can teach things that are true. This is something I actually believe. And, like many of my beliefs, it ended up influencing how I wrote this book.

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Have you ever done a non-fiction?

Brandon Sanderson

Have I ever done a non-fiction? I have written essays on writing, which is the closest I've gotten to non-fiction. I don't know that I will ever get-- Those might be considered fiction. I don't know if I'll ever do a true non-fiction book or not, they just-- I'm really impressed by them. Anyone read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks? I just finished that, it's amazing. The stuff that non-fiction writers-- They take ten years of their life, do all this research, and then write this one book, that's just way too slow for me. I can't see myself doing that, because it just takes to long, but maybe someday.

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Brandon Sanderson


The End

This epilogue ties up a few loose ends, then sets up a couple of others. Much like most of my endings. At least now you know how Vin Snapped. Many people have wondered this, so I thought I should include it somewhere in the book.

Here, with Vin and Elend in the flowers, is where I could have made them survive, if I'd wanted to. I could have patched everything up and given the "happy" ending a lot of people wanted. But . . . well, I just couldn't. It didn't feel right. Anyway, I agree with Sazed. They deserve to rest. I added the line about him having spoken with them to soften the blow of their deaths somewhat and give confirmation of a pleasant afterlife for them.

This chapter is a reminiscence, in a way. Since book one I've promised a return to green plants and a blue sky, and it was always my intention to make good on that promise. I think it's sometimes hard for people to remember that in the Final Empire, the plants were brown and the sky red. I don't think that matters so much, as I believe Spook and Breeze's reactions—and the descriptions—in this chapter work to provide the proper impact.

Flowers have been another thread, along with the little picture that Kelsier carried around in book one. I'm glad I was able to weave that back in, though it was an afterthought. (As was adding it into this book from the early chapters with Vin and Sazed together.)

That first line of Sazed's book was not an afterthought. It can be found as the very first epigraph of this book. I am, unfortunately, the Hero of Ages.

Yes, Sazed. You are.

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Brandon Sanderson

Parting Thoughts

What are my parting thoughts on this series? Well, honestly, they're "Damn, that turned out well."

It was my first series. I began the first book the year I sold Elantris, back before I'd met my wife. I'm writing these annotations in December of 2007, with my first child being about a month old. Mistborn has dominated my life for some four years.

I love these characters. I am thrilled with how the world turned out. And the plot . . . well, it just all worked out even better than I'd hoped. I worry about being able to top this—but then, I always worry about that.

A book is a window into the author's soul, and there was a lot of soul-searching in these books. My thoughts and fears about leadership, religion, relationships, and the nature of truth all show up in the interactions of the characters.

These books are part of me. But now they're part of you too. Thank you so much for reading.

Brandon Sanderson

The Mistborn Project

May 2003-December 2007(For now.)

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fourteen

Yes, it was probably stupid of the crew to leave Elend alone with Tindwyl. I pushed this situation a little bit farther than, perhaps, is plausible. However, you have to remember how the Terris people are regarded by those in Luthadel. Terrismen are, in general, such kind and loyal servants that it’s hard for Elend and the others to feel distrust for one.I was very pleased with this scene when I wrote it. I'd known from the beginning that I wanted to bring another strong female character into this book, as well as give Elend a mentor for kingship. Tindwyl fills both of those roles remarkably well. She also gives us another look at Terris culture–it's always difficult in a book like this to distinguish the cultures from the people. If you have only one Terrisman in a book, then he doesn't just represent himself–he represents all of his people. And so, unless you show another side of that culture, the person and where they come from become the same thing.

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How much is a stone-weight on Roshar?

Brandon Sanderson

Uh... that is actually a question for Peter. I actually, often, will just write in brackets "this much," and he comes up with the weights and measures, because I can never be consistent in my first drafts. So, yeah, you ask Peter, he can get that for you. I do the same thing with spheres, right? I'm like, "This costs roughly 100 bucks in our world," and he'll go "All right, fine" and go look up all the things. I used to keep it all in the first book, but since then I just let him do it.

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Chapter One - Part Two


Ramblemen are more than simple traveling jugglers or storytellers. They're merchants who specialize in bringing news (for a price) and stories as well as goods and services.

Readers latched onto this word, and I've had a lot of people say, "I love that term! Why don't we get to see a rambleman in the book?"

Because some things in books are just there to hint at the greater world. Sometimes a keen, cool word like that can evoke so much more when used in passing than it would if developed into a side plot or attached to a character.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixteen

Vin in her room

This first scene is a classical Brandon scene–a character studying, thinking, and exploring who they are in their own head. Some people find my narrative style–with the thoughts, the conclusions, and the debates in the head–to be a little slow. I can understand that, even if I don't agree.

I like knowing my characters. A chapter like this really works for that, in my opinion. It seems to me that in too many books, you never really know a character's thoughts, feelings, and logic enough to understand why they do what they do. So, I spend time on those things.

This scene is important for the decisions Vin makes about herself. She is not the type of person to second-guess herself. In a way, she shows some of the very things Tindwyl tries to get across to Elend later in the chapter. Vin encounters a problem, mulls over it, then comes to a firm decision to trust herself.

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The King and Yarda Discuss Sending Vivenna

I go back and forth on this scene. Sometimes I think it's too long. Other times I worry that it's not long enough.

Through the history of the book, this particular scene inched longer and longer as I tried very hard to explain why a good man like Dedelin would send Siri to die in Hallandren. (And also, I wanted to be sure to explain why he was sure she would die there.) There's a whole lot of setup going on in this sequence between the king and his general.

And I worry that there should be more. While what they do makes intrinsic sense to me, a lot of readers have been confused about the tactics here. Why is the king doing what he's doing? Is it really needed? Isn't there another way? This section is the only answer we get to a lot of those questions, since it's the one and only scene in the book from Dedelin's viewpoint.

That said, I think this scene might also be too long. The more space I dedicate to Dedelin, the more readers are going to think that he might be a main character. Some are surprised to read on and find out that the king doesn't make another appearance in the novel. (Well, okay, he makes one more—but he doesn't have a viewpoint.) I don't want to put too much here or have readers focus too much on the tactics of his decision, since really all that matters is that readers understand that Siri has been sent unexpectedly to marry the God King.

I'm still iffy on the scene. Some test readers wanted to see the scene where Dedelin says farewell to Siri. (We skip it; the next scene begins with Siri riding away.) They feel they missed a chapter. But I eventually decided that I needed to keep this beginning flowing quickly, because the longer we spend in Idris, the longer it will take us to get to the real plots in Hallandren. If it weren't so important to set up Siri and Vivenna ahead of time (so that their reversal has impact), I would have just started the book with Siri arriving in Hallandren.

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Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Takes Vivenna Captive

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

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

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Karen Ahlstrom

I just finished the timeline for Oathbringer, and thought you might like to hear about the process. (Spoiler warning: There may be tidbits of information in this article about the plot of Oathbringer, but I have specifically made up many of the examples I use, so you can't count on any of it as fact.)

I know that some of you think, "Brandon posted that he had finished writing Oathbringer months ago. Why do we have to wait until November before it's on the shelf at the bookstore?" This is a natural question. I asked it myself years ago when I heard similar news about a Harry Potter book. The timeline is one small part of the reason, but it will give you a small glimpse of what is going on at a frantic pace here at Dragonsteel trying to get the book ready to go to press.

You may know that I'm Brandon's continuity editor. I keep records of every character, place, spren, and piece of clothing to name just a few. The next time a person appears, I make sure they have the right eye color and eat the right kind of food. There's so much more to it than that, but it gives you an idea of the level of detail I try to be on top of.

Another thing I track is the timeline of each book. I have a massive spreadsheet called the Master Cosmere Timeline (I can hear some of you salivating right now, and no, I won't let you peek at certain corners of it).

In some of Brandon's books, there are a few main characters who spend most of their time together in the same place. For those books, the timeline is simple. Take The Bands of Mourning for instance. It's about four days long. Nobody goes off on a side quest. The timeline only takes up 32 lines in the spreadsheet because there are that many chapters. On the other hand, the current spreadsheet for the Stormlight books has over 1100 lines.

Here's a sample of the timeline spreadsheet. The white columns are the dates, which I have an entirely separate post about. In column F we have an event that happens in the book. Column E tells how long it has been since the last event. Then I have the quote from the book that I used to justify the timing, the chapter the quote appears in, and whether the event happened on the day of the chapter, or sometime in the past or future.

The timeline for Oathbringer starts on day 4 of the new year, and ends on day 100. (Which, for those of you who keep track of such things, makes the date 1174.2.10.5). My day count could change by a day or two here and there, but I'm pretty happy with how I got the different groups of people to all end up in the same place at the same time.

Why bother? Well, sometimes Brandon writes a flashback and someone is looking at a cute baby. It's important to tell Brandon that this particular kid wasn't born for another four years. A character might think to themselves, "It's been a month and a half since I was there," and though it has been 45 days, a month on Roshar is 50 days long, so it hasn't even been a single month. Brandon often glosses over those conversions in early drafts.

The most important purpose, though, comes when two groups of characters are apart for some length of time. Let's take Kaladin and Dalinar in The Way of Kings. Kaladin was running bridges for battles where Dalinar and Sadeas cooperated. Were there the same number of days in Kaladin's viewpoint between those battles as there were in Dalinar's viewpoint? The answer is no. I was assigned this job after that book was finished, and as much as we squashed and fudged, there is still a day or two unaccounted for. An interesting tidbit from The Way of Kings‘ timeline is that Kaladin's timeline has 50 days in it before Dalinar's starts. Chapter 40, when Kaladin recovers from being strung up in the storm, is the same day as the chasmfiend hunt in Chapter 12.

Going back to Oathbringer, sometimes I'm amazed at the power I have. As I go through the manuscript, I can take a sentence like, "He spent four days recovering," and simply replace the word four with two. Brandon gives me a general idea of how long he wants things to take, and I tell him what it needs to be to fit. It's a big responsibility, and sometimes I worry that I'll mess the whole thing up.

Oathbringer is the first book in the Stormlight series where I worked with a list of the storms from the start. Peter tried on Words of Radiance, but Brandon wrote what the story needed and expected us to fit the storms in around that (A perfectly reasonable process, even if it makes my job trickier). In Oathbringer though, the Everstorm and highstorm are each on a much stricter schedule. We need such exact timing in some scenes that Peter (with help from beta reader Ross Newberry) made me a calculator to track the hour and minute the storms would hit any given city.

Yet another thing we needed to calculate is travel time. How fast can a Windrunner fly? How many days does it take to march an army from here to there? Kaladin might be able to do a forced march for a week, but what about Shallan or Navani? How long could they manage 30 miles a day?

Hopefully now you can see why we've needed months of work to get this far, and will need months more to get it finished in time. At some point, we're just going to have to call it good and turn the book over to the printer, but even though you think you want to get your hands on it now, it will be a much better read after we have the kinks worked out.

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The natural sarcasm in Wit, is that just purely natural? Or do you have inspiration for all of those sarcastic comments?

Brandon Sanderson

I often, if I have to write a lot of the character, will look for a similar humor style, and see if I can channel it. If I'm writing Wit, for instance, I'll go to somebody more biting. Some modern comedians, or occasionally Oscar Wilde. If I'm writing Shallan, I'll try to look for something softer and more wordplay-ish, like Jane Austen. And just kind of read a bunch of it, and try to get the feel. It just depends. If I'm writing Lopen, I will try to look for the kind of uplifting humor, self-effacing style. Like, I just kind of have a different style for each type, and I try to find a person or writing in the real world that has that type of humor and try to use it.

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Do you have the endings of all of your books already pre-planned or does that kind of evolve as you go along?

Brandon Sanderson

I have the ending of Stormlight 10. I have the ending of the Mistborn series. But I don't have all the endings of all books.

The main core line of the Cosmere, I do have, but those are subject to change as I go. I don't necessarily have the ending of the Threnody book. Like, that I would have to outline and sit down.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty - Part One

Vin Arrives in Her Black Gown

This is kind of a girly moment in the text. I put these in sometimes. Too many female readers have complained to me that I don’t linger enough on what people wear, and I figure that Vin—trained by Kelsier—would know the power of a surprising entrance. Hence the drama of her appearing in that unexpected dress.