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FanX 2021 ()
#2 Copy

Questioner 1

Why the number four, for Bridge Four? Is there a reason for...?

Brandon Sanderson

Nope, it just is what appealed to me. There is no greater significance, other than I wanted to do it, and it just felt right.

Questioner 2

We always wondered if it was because it's like bad luck in Asia.

Brandon Sanderson

It is bad luck, but I didn't pick it for that reason specifically.

MisCon 2018 ()
#3 Copy


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

Brandon Sanderson

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

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

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

Manchester signing ()
#4 Copy


Basically Bridge Four, the starting sequence was one of the most intense things I have ever read in my life. I was in tears, I couldn't stop it, to the point I kept flipping through to the next Bridge Four part. I was just wondering where you got the inspiration to go so dark with Kaladin and what he went through.

Brandon Sanderson

That's an excellent question. Bridge Four in the original Dragonsteel was a happy accident, back then I wasn't as good at outlining as I am now. I kind of got to this place and went "Huh, I want to do something interesting here" and I kind of discovery wrote myself into it. It didn't work nearly as well as it did in Way of Kings, but that's because I was still figuring it out. I think the original inspiration was-- Something that I like to do with Fantasy is take the geography and see how the unique geography of the area influences the culture of the people who are living there, in this case the warfare, a subset of the culture interaction. This happens with the weather on Roshar as well. I think this is something Fantasy allows us to do, to explore what is fantastical, yet keep it very grounded in the human experience because I find books interesting when I'm interested in the characters. Having this cool place, the Shattered Plains, is not nearly as awesome as having this cool place and "oh no the people I like are dying here". This idea was one of the ideas, I think the inspiration was medieval siege warfare and just how awful that sounds to me. Having to be one of these people running a ladder to climb up the wall. Just "Okay, here's your ladder, good luck". This idea of just having to run into the face of something terrible, to know you are probably going to lose your own life or your friends are going to lose theirs was just so awful to consider. And when that happens, as a writer you are like "Oh I got something. That sounds awful, I'm going to write about it" That's just what we do. Anything that inspires powerful and profound emotion in myself is something I look to use in my books because I figure if it inspires profound emotion in myself it will work on the page to do the same thing with my characters.

General Reddit 2017 ()
#5 Copy


I think he is a bit hesitant to incorporate these stuff openly because he thinks that it might be perceived as tokenism. Do I have it right u/mistborn ?

Edit: If Mr. Sanderson decides to show up; the deleted comment was about you mentioning one of your characters was gay but he didn't get a chance to date anyone yet therefore it is not really out there.

Brandon Sanderson

It's partially that, certainly. But in the case of Bridge Four, it's more about the fact that the guys just haven't had time to start many relationships. It's only been a few months, in-world time, between thinking they were doomed to having respectable jobs. Give the fellows some time. Most of the guys, gay or straight, are looking. (Excluding the married ones and the asexual one.)


I hope I didn't offend, it was exaggeration for effect, nor do I think the lack of sexual depiction or even mention is done ham-fistedly, there's always a well formed, even subtle, reason WHY your characters don't tend to be particularly sexual, at least not the major POV characters, be it culture or circumstance, I've just noted that it's something of a theme, which I ascribed, perhaps erroneously, to "delicate mormon sensibilities".

Brandon Sanderson

I wasn't offended. I do tend to respond quickly to threads, however, so I know I can come across as terse sometimes. No worries.

By way of conversation, you might enjoy a story from when I was writing the second Mistborn novel. My editor called me one day, and said, "All right. I can't figure it out. Are Vin and Elend having sex or not?" I said, "Of course they are. They've been together for over a year at this point." His response was, "Well, why not say so?"

It was the first chance I had to vocalize something that I hadn't even really figured out myself--something that just felt like the right way to tell my stories. I explained that there were many readers, like my sister, who wanted to be able to pretend that the male lead and female lead in the story were going to do things the way she wanted them to, with a level of chastity that made no sense in the culture. There were other readers who would want to imagine wild Allomancer sex happening every night.

In this case (though it may not be every case in my books) I felt it was best not to intrude as the author, as what was going on in the bedroom wasn't plot relevant. In addition, there was a certain...privacy I wanted to afford them, because of Vin's difficulty with intimacy in the first place. I don't know if that makes any sense or not, but while Wayne's sexual exploits can be front-and-center, it felt specifically wrong to go into Vin and Elend.

That said, I'm totally a prude. The Daenerys chapters from A Game of Thrones, for example, were too much for me, and are a large part of why I didn't continue with the series despite thinking the first book was very well written.

You should go listen to the Writing Excuses episode we did where we interviewed an erotica writer on how to write sex scenes. Mary spent basically the entire episode poking fun at me. (Though I'd like the record to stand that I was NOT blushing as much as she implies on the recording.)

MisCon 2018 ()
#6 Copy


How do you do the Bridge Four Salute?

Brandon Sanderson

It's very similar to the Wakanda salute. When they did that movie I'm like, "Oh no!" If we ever do get a live action thing, they'll probably have to do it differently. But I've always done it out in front. *Does the salute*

Like that.

Salt Lake City signing ()
#9 Copy


Rock is taller than the other bridgemen. When he gets under the bridge, will that make it more difficult for him? Wouldn't he have more load on his shoulders than the guys next to him?

Brandon Sanderson

Um, yes, though you will notice that I equalized for height with the pads on the shoulders. And a bridge that will run-- yeah, they will use pads and things like this. And you can customize your bridge over time. The fact that most bridgemen die before that's necessary... um, yes. But it would mean he would end up having to stoop for part of it unless you wanted to carry a lot more of the weight. Being next to Rock would probably be a fun thing. But then there are the pads, and things like that, so. *brief pause* And once they really got it going, they could re-- they could really customize that bridge. Like, you know, take off pieces underneath and things like that so that it fit everyone really well. But in Sadeas's army you don't really get to that point.

General Twitter 2018 ()
#10 Copy

Miranda Orpin

Excuse me [Mr. Sanderson], I’m just reading Words of Radiance & something struck me. Is Bridge Four’s salute anything like the Wakandan salute from Black Panther?

Brandon Sanderson

Very close. It isn't done across the chest though, but with the hands held out.

Shadows of Self San Jose signing ()
#11 Copy


How did the name Bridge Four [come about]?

Brandon Sanderson

So, I stole Bridge Four (there's an interesting story to it)... Dragonsteel was my seventh novel, and it's Hoid's origin story, and it takes place... the series is Hoid's origin story, though that book doesn't really get into it. We have a few viewpoints from him, but it's not really about him. And the idea was, I was gonna kind of lead into this epic fantasy, and then start talking about this mysterious character who was a big part of it. And the main character I decided to lead in with that was this person who got stuck in a bridge crew. It's not Kaladin, it's a very different character, but the idea of the bridge crews. Well, eventually, I took Dalinar out of... even before I was writing Dragonsteel, I pulled him out, set him for a different book. And eventually it became clear to me that I needed to pull the bridge crews out and move them to Roshar because they just worked better. I had this great idea for these bridge crews, but the world they're in just didn't match. And the chasms and things matched very well. So I moved them out and made them a part of Kaladin's story. What I'm getting at is, I came up with the bridge crews, like, twenty years ago, and I have no idea why I picked four, other than... I have no idea. Bridge Four has been Bridge Four to me for years. In fact, if you read Dragonsteel, you can still find Rock in Bridge Four from twenty years ago, acting kind of the same. And a few of the other characters are still there, as well.

YouTube Spoiler Stream 4 ()
#13 Copy


The makeup of Bridge Four is nearly perfect: a cook, a surgeon, a sergeant, a scholar, two Hoid-touched individuals, etc. How much effect on the composition of Bridge Four did Cultivation have?

Brandon Sanderson

Not a ton. They got lucky. Granted, understand a few things that are gonna explain some of this. The Hoid-touched is, there's certainly something going on there with Sigzil. But having a cook and a sergeant, if you actually run the numbers, a lot of military people are going to be trained in a variety of jobs. The chances that you end up with someone experienced as an armorer, some experience with cooking-- granted, Rock wasn't in the military before, but you know. That you have a person that has done leadership on an NCO level, and things like this. These are things that would have existed on other bridge crews as well. The coincidence is not as big a one, Sigzil's the big coincidence.

Adam Horne

People were asking who's the other after Sig, is that something you want to...?

Brandon Sanderson

Kaladin. If you want to count Kaladin, as someone who has drawn Hoid's attention and he is watching. The real first interaction is the Wandersail one, but Hoid had his eye on Kaladin. You pay attention when people start to form Nahel bonds around you and you're trying to figure out how they work.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#14 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Six

Bridge Four

I've spoken before on my creative process. I build books out of good ideas, often developed in isolation until I find the right place for them. (Allomancy and Feruchemy were originally developed separately, for separate books.) When a book doesn't work, the ideas get broken apart and bounce around in my head some more until I find another place to try them out.

Bridge Four—and the plateau runs—were originally part of Dragonsteel. Dalinar was too, so that's not all that surprising, I guess. However, Bridge Four is unique here in that when I decided to move them from Dragonsteel to The Way of Kings, I had already completed both books and felt pretty good about them. They are both important sequences in the Adonalsium Saga, and lifting Bridge Four from Dragonsteel meant taking away its most dynamic, powerful plot structure.

That decision was not easy to make. The problem is, both books were fundamentally flawed. Oh, they were both good, they just weren't great—and I felt I needed to be doing great in this point of my career. (Hopefully during every point of it.) The Way of Kings had an awesome setting and some great characters, but no focal plot sequence that really punched someone in the gut. Dragonsteel had wonderful ideas, but they never really came together.

In the end, I took the best part of the book that otherwise didn't work and put it into the book that needed a little extra oomph. The moment of decision came when Ben McSweeney, who was doing concept art on the book, sent me a concept he'd done that looked shockingly like the Shattered Plains. (Which, remember, were not even on that planet at that point.) I realized that they would fit the worldbuilding of The Way of Kings better than they ever did Dragonsteel, and that I could put greatshell monsters in them.

So, I ripped apart a book I love to make a (hopefully) better book. Rock came along to Roshar for the ride (he was an original member of Bridge Four in Dragonsteel). I added Teft, who had been left languishing for a decade or so after Mythwalker became Warbreaker and he didn't make the jump. Bridge Four seemed like a great home for him.

[Assistant Peter's note: Teft is mostly the same character as Hine from Mythwalker, but also has a character aspect from Voko in that book.]

General Reddit 2020 ()
#15 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

There's no Rlain [on the Bridge Four poster] because I didn't want to spoil the fact that he gets access to Stormlight in this book. He's not the only exception--I hoped to get Drehy, who is modeled off of a real-life friend, into the group. There wasn't space, unfortunately.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#16 Copy


So, Sigzil is Hoid's apprentice.

Brandon Sanderson

Sigzil claims that Hoid is his master.


Cool, very cool.

Brandon Sanderson

Well, you didn't ask me any questions.  You just made a statement.


Is there anything you can tell us about that?

Questioner 2

Is Sigzil a worldhopper?

Brandon Sanderson

Sigzil is not a worldhopper. Sigzil spent some time with Hoid during one of Hoid's visits.

General Reddit 2017 ()
#17 Copy


Throughout TWoK, Kaladin complains that he is cursed. When others call him lucky, he thinks about all the times he has failed to protect people and considers himself unlucky. Everyone around him dies.

His Journey in that book takes him to Bridge 4, the bridge team that has the most losses, that everyone knows is a death sentence. Death being the end of every journey, this is appropriate.

But what I've never really noticed before is the importance of the bridge number. 4 is, in East Asian cultures, considered unlucky or cursed. In Chinese 4 is nearly a homophone to the word death. Buildings will skip the 4th floor, companies will skip from version 3 to version 5 of their products (Palm, OnePlus, I'm sure there are other examples but I can't think of them right now).

We already know that The Stormlight Archive finds some of its inspiration in anime/manga. We know that the Alethi are what we would consider ethnically East Asian. Dark hair, tan skin, and they don't have the large, round eyes of the Shin. It seems very fitting that the least lucky bridge, the one responsible for the most death, is Bridge 4.

Of course, Kaladin comes to believe he isn't cursed as he uses his powers to defend his bridgemen. 4 becomes the most envied bridge as they suffer the fewest deaths, have camaraderie, and eventually become squires to a radiant.

They are numbered unlucky and cursed, but turn out to be the most "lucky" of the bridge crews.

This all struck me today because at the end of Oathbringer, Dalinar casually mentions that his personal guard from Bridge 13 isn't there because that bridge crew became Teft's squires. 13 is the number in Western culture that we consider "unlucky" or "cursed," so fitting that it would be the second bridge crew to become squires of a Radiant! With that realization, everything about Bridge 4 clicked in my head.

Did anyone else catch this, or notice anything else cool with these numbers?

Brandon Sanderson

A lot of things fans find are coincidence...but neither of these are, actually. Those are both intentional, as are a few other little numbers things.

Numerology has not become a big thing in Stormlight during the development of it, but original (2002 version) The Way of Kings leaned a lot more heavily on numerology (gematria style word/number interactions) and that's still around in the world.