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General Signed Books 2018 ()
#2 Copy

Hoiditthroughthegrapevine

If a person held enough breath to attain the 5th heightening, lived for a thousand years, and then sold all but their initial breath, would their spiritual age force them to rapidly age as we saw with Rashek, or would they resume natural aging from the point at which they ceased?

Brandon Sanderson (written)

I think they would rapidly age.

But I'm not ready to say 100%.

Arcanum Unbounded Seattle signing ()
#3 Copy

Lhyonnaes (paraphrased)

Alright, thanks. Last question for me tonight - so, when a Hemalurgic spike steals something, then it's storing Investiture in it, yeah? So could you - could you do something with that Investiture? Like... say I'm on Nalthis, and just theoretically, I use a Hemalurgic spike to steal a lot of Breath - can I use that Investiture to Awaken something? Could I Awaken the spike?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

That... you'd need a lot of Investiture to Awaken a spike.

Lhyonnaes (paraphrased)

Because it's already charged up with something else?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yeah.

Arcanum Unbounded Seattle signing ()
#4 Copy

Question (paraphrased)

A bonus piece of information - my poor friend that I dragged along with me (who had only read Warbreaker) asked about the specific naming of Bio-Chromatic Breath.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Sanderson confirmed as part of his response that at least some the Five Scholars had visited worlds who had gone through the Industrial Revolution (and therefore would have more of a sense of scientific theory, that the Scholars would have picked up on).

Tor.com Q&A with Brandon Sanderson ()
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Ghero6

How unique are individual Breaths? Would collecting 100 Breaths from criminals and scumbags affect your personality in any way? Or collecting 100 Breaths from generous, charitable people?

Brandon Sanderson

I intended them to not be terribly individual. Breaths do bring some things along with them, but for the most part I wanted them to be a step removed from that

Tor.com Q&A with Brandon Sanderson ()
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Ghero6

In Vahr's case, did collecting Breath from other rebel-minded people strengthen his determination and resolve?

Brandon Sanderson

It would have had an influence on him, but you would need the numbers of Breaths that he had for any effect to manifest. It's basically a non-issue in the current book, but it could be an issue in some of the things that will happen in the next book.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

I wanted a good, strong scene where we could see that Siri made the decision to keep her hair in check. Again, I'm moving her and Vivenna into different roles, but I want it to be natural, an evolution of their characters brought on by who they are and how their surroundings affect them.

In this case, living in the Court of Gods, there is a very good reason to learn to control your hair. If many are like Treledees, who is of the Third Heightening, then even the most minute changes in your hair color will tip them off.

This is one of the interactions of the magic system that was nice to connect, an interaction I didn't expect or anticipate. With a lot of Breath, you can perceive very slight changes in color. With the Royal Locks, your hair responds to even your slightest emotions. Put the two together, and you get this scene. It was, in a way, inevitable from the beginning of the book.

Siri has come a long way. She's still stumbling about and making a lot of mistakes. But she's also winning some victories. There's nothing hidden to learn about this chapter; she really did just one-up Treledees and get what she wanted.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#9 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher and Denth's Climax

I wanted to offer Denth the chance for redemption here, though there was no way he was going to let himself take it. His response is honest. He doesn't feel he deserves it. He has done terrible things; to wipe away the memory of them would be cheating. Better to just get it over with.

There's a very good chance that after killing Vasher, Denth would have walked over, picked up Nightblood, and let the sword drain his life away. He wouldn't have been able to live with the guilt.

But that doesn't happen. When I first designed this magic system, I added to it the idea that taking a lot of Breath shocks you and sends you into a small seizure of pleasure. This is lifted from the magic system in Mythwalker, the story from which I drew Siri and Vivenna. I added the component to Awakening not only because it fit, but because I liked giving one more little nod to Mythwalker.

However, the moment I began writing it, I knew that this twist of giving someone Breath, then killing them, would be an awesome way to pull a reversal with the magic. So I built into the story the entire arc of Vasher beating Arsteel mysteriously, and Denth wanting to duel him to prove that he couldn't win a duel.

Denth was right. Vasher cheated.

Barnes & Noble B-Fest 2016 ()
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Questioner

Can you tell me how many souls Hoid has?

Brandon Sanderson

How many Breaths? No, but I can tell you you could look up the minimum he has based on the heightenings and things that he says.

Questioner

Right, and all that i know is that he has perfect pitch.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. There is room to rise from that, so I'm not going to confirm anything else, just keep an eye on him.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Siri Is Rescued

And here we have a big scene that a lot of readers have been waiting for. I apologize for making Siri need to be rescued like this, but I felt it was appropriate to the story. It's because of her teaching the God King and helping him become the man he is that he's able to do this.

Remember that the Seventh Heightening (I think that's the one) grants a person Instinctive Awakening, meaning that once you reach that Heightening, you don't need any practice to learn to Awaken. Your Commands are obeyed instinctively. This doesn't mean that everything you try will work, but that you can make most basic Commands (grab things, that sort) work without having to try. In fact, figuring out most of the more complicated, previously unknown Commands requires a person to be of the Seventh Heightening.

This power grew out of me wanting the upper Heightenings to do some very dramatic things. I do worry that this scene is a little deus ex machina. That keeps me from liking it quite as much as the Lightsong climax or the Denth/Vasher climax. But I feel that a story needs a great variety of climactic moments—some internal character moments, some external skill moments, some great twists, some expected payoffs, some big reveals, and some dramatic rescues. This chapter and the next take a shot at trying to cover a lot of those different types.

Orem Signing ()
#14 Copy

JoyBlu

In order to have a Breath, do you have to be native to Nalthis?

Brandon Sanderson

Not to be given Breaths, but people who are not native to Nalthis are not born with that Investiture.

JoyBlu

So, you have to be born on that planet?

Brandon Sanderson

There are exceptions. Most of the time.

JoyBlu

If both your parents were Nalthians, and they moved off planet, and they had a child that was born on a different planet—

Brandon Sanderson

It is possible for that child to have a Breath, but it would not continue too long. But yes, that child would probably have a Breath, depending...

Joyblu

If both of his parents had Breaths.

Brandon Sanderson

Mmmhmm.

Words of Radiance Dayton signing ()
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Pechvarry (paraphrased)

What happens when non-Nalthians come to Nalthis.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

They cannot use their own soul to Awaken but could do so with obtained Breath.

Pechvarry (paraphrased)

So anyone could start Awakening once they received Breaths?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

You would probably have to jump through some hoops to Awaken (talks about systems needing rigged up to work on different planets), but anyone can benefit from a Breath. Essentially said "it's not that easy!"

Firefight Chicago signing ()
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Argent

Awakening and Surgebinding, Stormlight and Breath seem really similar in some aspects--

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Argent

--except Breaths seem to stick to things better--

Brandon Sanderson

They do.

Argent

--than Stormlight. So when you are holding the Breath it doesn't expire when you put it in something it doesn't go away. Can you tell me something about why that's happening?

Brandon Sanderson

Part of this is kind of inherent to the Shard and the power it's coming from. I mean the power of Endowment is just going to stick, that's part of the nature of its magic. Does that make sense? But it also kind of has to do with how the ecosystems are working. For instance the Stormlight is essential to the ecosystem of Roshar, it needs to be expended, it needs to get out and-- It's like evaporation, does that make sense?

Argent

Recycling? Not the recycling but the cycle of--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, yeah like the cycle of water. And so just part of the way the nature of it works, it has to get out, it has to leak out, it has to run out. I mean it leaks even from spheres, right?

Argent

And when you lash things it's temporary--

Brandon Sanderson

Yep. And even though Szeth says that he thought Voidbringers could hold it they can't. Like it is just not the way that it works.

Argent

Can they just hold it better?

Brandon Sanderson

They can hold it better. It's not permanent. Now there are things that can do it permanently but--

Argent

Like the black sphere for example?

Brandon Sanderson

Well we are not going to... The black sphere is something different. You guys have guessed what the black sphere is, right?

Argent

Well we have some ideas. I support that it holds an Unmade. Am I wrong?

Brandon Sanderson

I'm not going to answer that.

Argent

But you said--

Brandon Sanderson

I'm just curious what the theories are. Book 3 the black sphere is-- Everyone who reads the books will know what the black sphere is by the end of Book 3.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twelve

Lightsong Hears Petitions

The concept of petitions—and the gods being able to heal someone one time—grew out of my desire to have something about them that was miraculous. Something obvious, something more than just an ability to make vague prophecies. Their Breath auras are amazing, true, but an Awakener with a lot of Breath can replicate that.

I took the idea of being able to die in order to heal from an idea discarded from Elantris. If you look at the deleted scenes (Caution: Spoilers for the ending of Elantris), you can read about how there was originally a subplot to the story where the Seons (the floating balls of light) could expend the Aon at their center and create a miraculous event one time. However, doing so would kill them. I eventually ended up not using this plot structure in the final draft, and so I cut all references to this ability from the book. I felt that it was too contrived in that novel.

I've always thought it was interesting conceptually, however, so I developed it into this book as an aspect of Returned that makes them different. They can create one miracle—and in this world, that one miracle has to be a healing. They can expend their divine Breath to heal someone.

This created another problem for readers, however. It became very difficult in the book to explain to them that a Returned could still Awaken things—but not by using the Breath granted to them by their Return. In other words, if a Returned gained a hundred extra Breaths, they could use them just like anyone else's. But if they give away the Breath they start with, it kills them.

Every person starts with a Breath. Well, Returned start with one too—a divine Breath that can be given away to heal someone else's Breath that is weakening and dying. That's what these petitioners are asking for.

But regular Breaths, they can give those away. They just have to be tricky about it.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
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little_wilson

Mi'chelle is wanting to know for a fanfic she's wanting to write if when you cut/break an object that has been Awakened if the object then "dies", or if the pieces will try to carry out the command. Also, either way, can the breaths be recovered from it?

Brandon Sanderson

The object does not die, and will try to continue its purpose. The level of damage will determine just how well it can continue. The Breaths are recoverable. (Though there could be some loss of Breaths, depending on how the item is destroyed.) There's a scene near the end where Vasher Awakens some clothing, then it gets cut down and he recovers the Breath.

Idaho Falls signing 2014 ()
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PrncRny (paraphrased)

Why is Breath not consumed in Awakening, unlike most all other uses of Investiture?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Not all Investitures are "used up." Much like energy, it isn't typically created or destroyed, just changes for. With Breath, in what it's used for, it is just more easily and readily recovered than in other forms.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
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Questioner

Question for you, regarding Nalthis.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

Do priests use-- to extract the divine Breath and hoard.. Do they use a sharp object to get the divine Breath and hoard from the God King?

Brandon Sanderson

The divine Breath what?

Questioner

Divine Breath and hoard. Can you get it away from him by using a sharp pointy object?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, the-- like you're asking like--

Questioner

Hemalurgy as an option.

Brandon Sanderson

It is not, but that's a good question. That is a really good question. I'm surprised no one's asked me that before.

Oathbringer release party ()
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Questioner

Could there be a colorblind Awakener and-- would they be able to do anything or--

Brandon Sanderson

It would be a harder life for them. It would be a more serious disability there than it is here but it is not completely ending their opportunity.

Questioner

...Once they get to the certain amount of Breaths or whatever, would that reverse the colorblindness? 

Brandon Sanderson

Not necessarily. But it might have some interesting effects.

General Reddit 2020 ()
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Doc_John (paraphrased)

Hey! If you had the correct Intent in mind, could you Command a Lifeless to follow a Knight's Radiant Ideal? Like could you command it to "Protect those who cannot protect themselves"

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes, this would be possible, though it would depend on the Lifeless and circumstances on how good a job they do at it. The command is a little abstract, and could end up not working as well as you want it to.

Skyward Chicago signing ()
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Kurkistan

How much wealth, approximately, does it take to buy enough Breaths for the Fifth Heightening? Like buying a house, buying a ma-

Brandon Sanderson

Ooh, okay. This is going to wait for official--

Argent

Oh for that project.

Brandon Sanderson

Well I put some people on it, let's just say, so wait until we have the official project telling your conversion rates and then you'll be able to answer that theoretically once we get that all down.

Kurkistan

Just in terms of wealth on Nalthis? Like money?

Brandon Sanderson

It would take a large amount of wealth.

FanX Spring 2019 ()
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Questioner

Does BioChromatic Breath cure color-blindness?

Brandon Sanderson

So... having enough Breath will interact very strangely with color-blindness. It won't heal it, necessarily, but it will have an interesting effect.

Questioner

Ah. I was hoping--

Brandon Sanderson

Are you color-blind?

Questioner

I am. So the entire time I read the book I was hoping it could cure color-blindness.

Brandon Sanderson

You will have an interesting time. I think you would be pleased with how it affects it.

Questioner

Will we ever see a color-blind person in the books?

Brandon Sanderson

I want to do one. I'm not sure if I'll be able to get it in there... but you will be pleased with how it happens.

DragonCon 2019 ()
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Questioner

Would a Seeker know if something's endowed with Breath or if someone was holding it?

Brandon Sanderson

Seekers have a lot of trouble with just detecting investiture that isn't being used in some way. They could catch Stormlight that you've breathed in, because it's starting to do stuff. If just something has Stormlight, like a gemstone or something like that...

Questioner

I meant from Warbreaker. If you'd endowed like, a large thing with that, could you see that?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, something with Breath, could they find that with a Seeker. That's right. There are theoretical applications of this, but I would say your average Seeker, no. There is a way to get there but if you just took a Seeker from - and said do you - they would not be able to do that.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fourteen - Part Two

Vivenna Enters the Court

Color harmonics are one of the things in this book that, I think, have some very interesting philosophical implications. I've always been fascinated by the concept of perfect pitch. Pitches and tones are an absolute; music isn't just something we humans devise and construct out of nothing. It's not arbitrary. Like mathematics, music is based on principles greater than human intervention in the world. Someone with perfect pitch can recognize pure tones, and they exist outside of our perception and division of them. (Unlike something like our appreciation of other kinds of art, which is dealing with things that are far more subjective.)

However, I wondered if—perhaps—there are perfect steps of colors just like there are perfect tones, with color fifths, sevenths, and chords and the like. In our world, nobody has the ability to distinguish these things—but what if there were someone who could? Someone who could tell something innate about color that isn't at all subjective?

I'm not sure if I explained that right, but it intrigued me enough to become part of this book.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Life Sense as Part of the Magic

The ability of the Heightenings and Breath to give people an added dose of life sense was part of my attempts to make Awakening, as a magic system, feel more visceral and real. Allomancy is a great magic system, but I wanted a different feel here. In Allomancy, the powers granted are more like superpowers; with Awakening, I wanted something that felt . . . well, closer to what people already do.

Perfect pitch and perfect color recognition are two things that I think resonate this way; the ability to bring inanimate objects to life may seem wildly superpowerish, but I think it's a part of our own superstition and mythology—or at least the superstition and mythology of our past. Life from things inanimate, like spontaneous generation, was long assumed as something real. Witches were often thought to be able to bring sticks or bundles of cloth to life.

I think that there's still a lot of superstition in our modern world regarding how it feels to have someone watching you. We are more aware of our surroundings, sometimes, than we realize. I think we attribute a supernatural connection to some of these things. Who knows? Maybe there is one. I don't know, perhaps I've got a bit of it myself.

Enhancing this and making it part of the magic was a way to get the visceral feel I was looking for. It also plays off the idea that by giving up your Breath, you give up part of your life. The fact that Drabs can't be noticed by life sense allows me to show that they have taken one more step toward being objects themselves.

BioChroma. It turns objects into living things, but turns living things into objects as well.

Skype Q&A ()
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Alyssum

You said previously that someone with synesthesia wouldn't be affected by Heightenings differently, unless they had a lot of Breath. What would those effects be?

Brandon Sanderson

It's going to depend on the type of synesthesia, because there are so many different types.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Denth Tells Vivenna to Use Her Breaths

Don't forget that Vivenna has a huge wealth of Breath. To most people, anything over one or two Breaths is a huge wealth—and Vivenna has enough to reach the Third Heightening. She's fully capable of Awakening objects, and while she's not as powerful as Vasher in Breath right now, she could learn quite quickly. (The more Breath you hold, the easier it is for you to learn how to use it.)

Calamity Chicago signing ()
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Argent

About the Returned, they don’t quite fit the other Splinters, their Breath rather, because it’s the divine Breath that’s a Splinter, right?

Brandon Sanderson

Ehhhhhhh…. Ehhhhhhh....

Argent

Okay, that was vague.

Brandon Sanderson

Not a 100% correlation there.

Argent

So in that case it’s not entirely fair to say that the Returned are like vessels for--

Brandon Sanderson

No… Well, more vessels than the people that are in [T’Telir…]

So, Endowment is in control of what’s happening, right?

Argent

The giving of Breaths.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. So what you’ve got to remember-- and this is something that people keep mistaking is-- something like a spren is still part of the god, right?  And it’s not that different from the fact that the rock has a part of the body in it, and that everything is kind of made—Like in Mistborn world in particular, everything is made out of their essence. And so, the Breath are similar, but it’s less that-- they’re not autonomous in most cases and it’s more like-- it’s like a hybrid of what’s happening in Mistborn where everybody’s got a bit of Preservation in them. Everyone’s got a bit of Endowment in them.

Argent

Innate Investiture.

Brandon Sanderson

Innate Investiture that they are born with.

Argent

I was looking to divine Breath, more specifically.

Brandon Sanderson

Oh divine Breath! … Divine Breath is its own special thing, and it’s more like what happened with the Honorblades, in that the god is pouring a bit of its Investiture, infusing the magic.

Holiday signing ()
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Questioner

The nature of humans on different worlds, like people from Warbreaker have a Breath, people from Scadrial, do they have a Breath as well?

Brandon Sanderson

They do not.

Questioner

That's specific to the Endowment Shard?

Brandon Sanderson

Yup.

Questioner

I've read that Hoid does have a Breath. Was he born with a Breath or--

Brandon Sanderson

Hoid was not born on Taldain-- err Nalthis, on Nalthis. So no, he did not start with one. But the magic was much different when he started. He was before the Shattering of Adonalsium so things are weird regarding him.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

The God King Approaches Siri in Bed

Siri wonders why the God King wears black, rather than white—which his BioChroma would distort. The answer is simple. To Awakeners, black is a symbol of power. It's a fuel, a color that can be used for Awakening. White, however, is useless. So to wear white would be foolish, except in certain cases where the priests want to prove how powerful the God King is by letting him dynamically bend the light. So while he occasionally appears in white, his everyday attire is black.

His ability to bend light into the prismatic colors, by the way, was added about halfway through the first draft. I wanted a stronger visual indication of someone who had reached the top Heightenings, and I like the imagery associated with it.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Lightsong Feeds on the Child

Why a child? It doesn't much matter, truthfully. An adult, or even someone elderly, could provide a Breath that would keep a god alive.

But the Breaths of those who are aged aren't as vigorous as those of those who are young. If Lightsong were given one of those to feed on, he'd survive for another week—but he wouldn't feel as vibrant or alive as he does after feeding on the child's Breath.

The people of Hallandren are faithful. Even if Lightsong himself doesn't believe, they do, and they want to provide the best for him. Hence they use children. Old enough to know what they are doing, yet young enough to give a powerful, vibrant Breath to their god.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna at the Safe House

Vivenna is right about what happens to a person when they lose their Breath. It is a part of your soul, and without one, you are more prone to depression, you get sick much more easily, and you're generally more irritable.

I included this mention here because I'm betting that most people who read the book side with Denth and assume he's right when he talks about these things. But don't be too judgmental about the Idrians—yes, they're biased, but the Hallandren are too in a lot of ways. It's not as simple as one side always being right and the other wrong. In this case, the Idrian teachings are correct, and most Hallandren are looking for justifications when they say that giving up one's Breath isn't all that damaging to them.

Skype Q&A ()
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Extesian

You've said that Nalthians without Breath have something missing (are less invested) than other humans. Was this the case before Endowment invested on Nalthis? Would a non-Nalthian given Breath, who then gives up that Breath, be less invested than before they got the Breath? Would there be something missing in their spiritweb compared to their original state?

Brandon Sanderson

So, no. If someone from Sel went to Nalthis and got a Breath and then gave it up, would it give up more, the answer would be no, they would be who they were before.

JordanCon 2016 ()
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Questioner

In Nalthis, when is Breath first bestowed upon a person?

Brandon Sanderson

When is Breath first bestowed? Um, so I went-- Oh, so you're getting at this sort of-- I got it. *laughter/pauses* So, are you saying is it at birth or conception?

Questioner

Pretty much. I'm just wondering *audio obscured by laughter*

Brandon Sanderson

…What's that?

Questioner

I'm wondering if mothers have autonomy over their own bodies when it comes to Breath?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. Uh, I'm going to go ahead and RAFO that one for-- Let's just let it-- Let's let-- Let's let the fanbase discuss that one and come to their own decisions.

Shadows of Self London UK signing ()
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Questioner

With spikes, would you be able to actually transfer Breaths, when they get to the other planets?

Brandon Sanderson

So spikes rip off pieces of the soul and so Breaths are not going to be part of the soul. You could maybe get a divine Breath but I haven't really decided on regular Breaths, they're kind of stuck there in the Physical Realm which is not a thing that spikes are dealing with. Divine Breath, potentially, because that's something that's actually melding onto your soul. But, you know, when you're using the Breaths they reach through to the Spiritual Realm so, maybe if you got it while the Breaths were kinetic, right, while you're using them, then you might be able to rip them off. I'm not a hundred percent certain on that one.

Bystander

There's still things to decide upon.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah there's still things, like I have to kind of see. My instinct says no right now. But, you know, how they interact is not something that I have-- Yeah.

Chris King interview ()
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Chris King

Can you store Breath in metal without the [Ninth] Heightening? Just put it there without Awakening, just to hide the Breath.

Brandon Sanderson

Can you hide Breath in-- Yes you can hide Breath in things.

Chris King

Metal in particular, without the [Ninth] Heightening could you put it into metal. Without the purpose of Awakening it, just storing it there.

Brandon Sanderson

Oh without the [Ninth] Heightening-- I would say yes you could.

Calamity Philadelphia signing ()
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Questioner

I teach economics at Rutgers and in general I love the books but *inaudible* I like to tease him because he loves them, and say it doesn’t really make sense to have a fixed price for Breaths and it doesn’t make sense that if you give it away when you’re young, and his claim was that somewhere in the book it talks about how the Breath actually gets weaker as you get older.

Brandon Sanderson

So, dying Breaths can be much weaker, but not middle aged ones. So, you have a legitimate thing, my counter to you is, having listened to a ton of Freakonomics, economic people do not do what is logically economic, particularly in a closed system. You might find that Breaths sell for different things, or are treated differently, in other countries.

Questioner

In the Warbreaker world.

Brandon Sanderson

But I do think about these things.

Questioner

Oh no, it’s obvious you do. It’s pretty clear when you start looking at it, and that's not something...

Brandon Sanderson

Here’s the thing, there are fantasy writers who are actually economists, L.E. Modesit is the most famous one, and he-- I’ve been on panels where he’s complained about how writers, fantasy writers ignore economics, basic economics, all the time. So I try to listen at his feet a bit.