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Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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drostandfound

It is mentioned that the Entity is the compressed power of a destroyed plane. How does this happen? Why is it sentient? Why is one in a puddle on Innistrad? Are they related to the planar souls from M15?

Brandon Sanderson

Most of this will have to be revealed at a later date, but what I can say is that yes, M15 was the inspiration--and the creation of these entities happened through some very special circumstances.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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Gadmond

Since you knew you were writing for Magic the Gathering, did you ever think about what kind of abilities a hypothetical Davriel planeswalker card (Spoilers: or Tacenda planeswalker card) would have?

Brandon Sanderson

Davriel would, I hope, have the ability to exile a card from a player's hand, then at some point in the future play that card using black mana.

Tacenda would be tougher. Emotional manipulation is hard to capture in MTG, other than as threaten effects. But I'd want something that could mimic this.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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drostandfound

As far as I know, the Entities are new to the Magic lore. Were they your idea? What was the process like of working with creative to develop a new type of being within a very defined lore?

Brandon Sanderson

These were something I wanted to do and create, and a pitch I brought to the lore team. They were on-board from the beginning, though they did a lot of work to help me bring my idea into line with something that would work with MTG lore.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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drostandfound

Is the similarity between an entity and a Shard intentional? They both are objects of great power that allow their holders to move between planes and try to twist the holders personality.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, this is intentional. When Notch designed a card, I liked that he had a nod to his own creation in it. I wanted to bring something that would have a "Brandon Sanderson Lore" feeling to MTG, kind of in the same way.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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drostandfound

Are these characters yours, as in you have claims to them for future writing, or do you hope to see other authors take them and move them through the multiverse?

Brandon Sanderson

I absolutely want to see other authors do things with these characters. Part of the fun for me in doing an MTG story was the chance to do something like create a character for the Marvel universe--I wanted to add to the story, and throw some of my creativity into the mix, and hope to see them get used in the future.

I'd hope that if there's ever a main-line story involving Davriel or Tacenda that I get a chance to write it, or at least consult. But I don't consider them "mine." They were a chance for me to add to the lore of something I love.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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cantoXV1

Brandon, how was character creation different for Children of the Nameless compared to the rest of your other works?

Brandon Sanderson

Character creation wasn't that different--I start usually with a conflict or a theme. For Davriel, it was "Economist gets magical powers" mixed with "Person who uses contracts with demons not for crazy power, but to get good staff members."

For Tacenda, I was looking at her curse and the way she uses music. (Mixed with the conflict of being able to hear your entire village get killed--but not being able to stop it.)

From there, I did apply some MTG philosophy to the refinement of the characters.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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cantoXV1

Did you struggle with the limits of the Magic world and magic system since you're so used to creating your own?

Brandon Sanderson

I worried about this a lot when going into the Wheel of Time--but I found that I really like taking an established magic system and pushing it this direction or that direction. It's a lot of fun to me to dig into how something works, and see if I can "break" it in interesting ways.

I suspected I'd have a similar experience with MTG, and I did--though I did need something I could play with to be unique. I settled on the kind of "Gonti/Nightveil Specter" ability to steal spells from someone else, then use them yourself. This was a really fun space for me to play with, and I found it thoroughly engaging.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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mbue

Did Tacenda and Willia start out as a pair of twins who visited the Nightwatcher in your head? Their background sounds a lot like a boon/curse pair. :)

Brandon Sanderson

More, I was looking for a curse to be involved in the story (because I liked the flavor of the curse mechanic in Innistrad) and curses/boons tend to be connected in my brain--probably from playing too many D&D games where I got a ring of wishes, and the DM was feeling grumpy.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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mbue

Did you get to choose Innistrad as the setting, or was that something that was already part of the planeswalker WotC had in mind that your character got merged into?

 

Brandon Sanderson

I got to choose. I had built Davriel most of the way when they said, "Hey, we've got this blank slate planeswalker in our files. Do you want to make this your character?" It worked perfectly, as it let me fill out the lore for this person and have them work as part of the larger narrative.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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marquisdc

Did you go into creating Davriel with the color pie in mind? What colors would you say he is?

Brandon Sanderson

I went into the story knowing I wanted to write a black-alinged hero. Someone who showed off the pragmatic side of black, and someone whose ambition was different from traditional black-aligned ambition.

I'd say that Davriel is black primary, with a strong secondary blue aspect. There is a slight white tertiary side to him, mostly in his belief in organized systems and society that makes sense. (Though he prefers these boundaries for others more than for himself.)

General Reddit 2019 ()
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Esc777

From what I understand, Sanderson (a long-time MtG fan) wrote the novel entirely of his own volition, using only the pieces of MtG lore he deemed necessary, with entirely new characters he created, and then approached WotC and said "Hey, I wrote this, do you want to publish it?"

That sounds unbelievable. Very few people just do work like that for free. I think something about that story is exaggerated.

Brandon Sanderson

It...well, it actually did happen. Kind of like /u/StrictlyFilthyCasual said (though not quite) and it is a kind of weird thing that I did that was terrible in a business sense. I wanted to do it anyway.

Basically, for years I've thought, "If I were going to write a MTG story, what would it be?" The answer was what became Children of the Nameless. I basically had it, and the characters, plotted in my head. When Wizards came to me, they wanted to hire me to write one of their stories.

I knew, right out, they wouldn't be able to afford what it would actually cost me to write a story for them. In fact, I suspected it would be orders of magnitude different. So, I counter offered and said, "Look, I have this cool story I want to write. It's in one of your worlds. I'll do it for free, as a gift to MTG and the community, but you have to let me do my own thing."

They were on board. I realize, doing something for free for a huge corporation is...well, kind of dumb. But I didn't decide to become a writer because I have good business sense... I just wanted to do my thing, and have it be a real part of MTG lore and get to have a card designed based on my character.

Leman12345

I knew, right out, they wouldn't be able to afford what it would actually cost me to write a story for them. In fact, I suspected it would be orders of magnitude different.

Does this mean its unlikely we'll see you write full length magic novels? :( Children was so good.

Brandon Sanderson

It's unlikely, I'm afraid. There's a chance I'll do another story about Dav, but it wouldn't be longer than what I've done already--and it wouldn't be anytime soon. One difficult reality is that I have promised a lot of things to those following my cosmere novels, and anything I write that isn't on one of those projects needs to be looked at skeptically on my part, if only for the purpose of keeping my promises. So it's less a matter of money, and more a matter of time.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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EndlessKng

I know you were instructed to not be as concerned with replicating game mechanics, but were there any particular cards or concepts that inspired you as you worked?

Brandon Sanderson

Rage Thrower shows up in a quite obvious moment, and I imagine the dismissal spell that Davriel uses to be Silent Departure. (My interpretation of a blue unsummon effect, as opposed to an actual creature destroying spell.) There are a few other things, like the "summon equipment" spell he learns.

General Reddit 2018 ()
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KaladinarLighteyes

Are you able to comment on when [Children of the Namesless] takes place on Innistrad?

Brandon Sanderson

It is about a year or so after Eldritch Moon, though I section off my own little part of Innistrad that is off in the woods, without a lot of influence from places like Thraben. Though the story does touch on the social ramifications of some of the events in recent sets, it's mostly concerned with its own lore and history.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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tharmsthegreat

Davriel is UB just like Brandon's favorite colors.

Tacenda is probs WG before the entity but I guess we could see her Abzan.

I hope both of the demons get cards too.

Brandon Sanderson

As for color identities here, I'd mostly agree with you. I see Davriel as mostly black, but with a blue element to him. I could see him printed under mono black, UB, or even--under just the right circumstances--esper. (He believes in the structure of laws and society, though admittedly mostly as a thing for "other people.")

Tacenda has a strong red streak to her--in fact, my initial concept for her was a mono-red character, but one who expressed the red aspect through music, song, and passion. The entity inside of her is green, however, and the white/green nature of her society has had a big influence on her beliefs in fate, the needs of the many, and that sort of thing. So I'd make her RWG.

sskeeto620

I was considering the same colors for both of them as well. Definitely black and blue for Davriel. I was personally leaning towards Esper, however. Like you said, he does believe in structure of law and society. Also, his ability to summon weapons seems like a white effect to me.

Brandon Sanderson

Well, he stole the weapon-summoning spell. I was told I could have Davriel steal and use spells of any color, so long as it was painful for him, and it was clear he was using them as part of a theft mechanic--meaning he only had access to them for a limited time.

BreezyIsBeafy

I personally thought he was grixis. I know I am wrong but, he is a demonologist, and I know demons are mostly black, but secondarily red. As well, most devils are also red. As for stealing powers is also very dimir, so I understand that. I would like to know what is the white mana coming from?

Brandon Sanderson

He doesn't use white mana--he can use black mana to cast white spells, if they are stolen. However, there's not a lot of red in Davriel, despite his fondness for devils. He's not emotional, or artistic, and is more about planning and forethought than intuition.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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Argent

I enjoyed the story a lot. Davriel was a lot of fun to read about, as was Miss Highwater. I wish I had interesting things to ask about them, but I just don't know enough MTG lore to come up with anything - which leads to my first question:

  • How can a guy learn more about the lore of MTG?

And, a related question:

  • Had I been more versed in MTG lore, would I be able to recognize specific spells or creatures in this story? Davriel's eyes changed color a few times when he was casting, I figured the color might match either the color of existing spells or what you felt his spells would've been, had they been actual cards.

Brandon Sanderson

MTG lore is pretty deep (and at times, a little confusing.) I'd suggest the Dominaria stories written by Martha Wells for sheer writing quality reasons--even though they might be a little more confusing than some others. You could also go back and read the stories set on Innistrad (this plane) during the Shadows over Innistrad story sequence.

If you'd known the lore, you'd have picked out little things here and there. But they would have been easter eggs, mostly.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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KaladinarLighteyes

Is there a specific plane that [Davriel] is from?

You mentioned in the article on your site that Wizards integrates him into the larger story, does that mean there’s a chance that he will show up again and things that happened here are related into the future Magic story?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, though I've been asked not to confirm this for right now. He is from a known place in the multiverse.

Yes, he should show up again in the future, before I have a chance to write another story. So keep an eye out for him.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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Gruuler

So did the essence of the plane give [Tacenda] the ability to planeswalk, or did she have a spark already?

Brandon Sanderson

This was left vague on purpose, because I didn't want to put the lore team in the position of being saddled with a second planeswalker I'd created--or with the lore implications of the entities granting planeswalking ability. So yes, I intended her to become a planewalker, and the entity to be the source of that ability--but I don't consider that official canon. Only that Tacenda vanished at the end of the story, and nobody is certain exactly what happened to her.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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Gruuler

And where did the essence [Entities] come from? There's like a million questions in that one question, everything from the specific plane, how did it gain sentience, etc, but is it possible to give us at least a brief overview of how it came to be?

Brandon Sanderson

I can't say too much on the second, though I can tell you that the Entities both came from ancient planes that were destroyed, their power condensed into these "entities." (The Soul cards from M15 were an inspiration here.) If I do another story in coming years, I would want to dig into this more specifically.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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Wifrin

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.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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Nallebjurn

Is it a possibility that we in the future get to see the characters from Children of the Nameless represented on magic cards?

Brandon Sanderson

It is a possibility, but as the other responder mentioned, I don't have any control over this--I think it's likely, but I certainly couldn't say when. I think the fact that Dack got a card--after being created by the comic book team--bodes well for Davriel, at the very least.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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tharmsthegreat

You did tell us to keep an eye open for future sets. Well then, in your head, what are the colors of each main character (Tacenda, Highwater, Crunch, Willia)

Brandon Sanderson

Tacenda is GRW. The demons would be mono black, though Miss Highwater has some red and blue to her, while Crunchgnar has some red and green to him. Willia is White Green Black.

yahasgaruna

Is [Tacenda] still GRW at the end of novella, after picking up the entity?

Brandon Sanderson

I imagine that entity actually being green. A darker side of green, but still green. It evoked a feeling of destiny, and of putting it back together (which would be natural) and a kind of survival of the fittest attitude. You didn't get to see much of it, but this is my intention for it.

Think of the Entities as enormous mana reservoirs--the collected mana of a plane--that can be tapped to power spells, but with dangerous results. Davriel's Entity is pure black mana, while the entity of the bog is pure green. (Though in its shattered form, a lot of its instincts were about self-preservation, which comes across black in the story.)

Brandon's Blog 2019 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

All right, the question that arises here is pretty obvious: How in the multiverse did Davriel let himself get caught up in the mess happening on Ravnica. Well, the events of the story I wrote kind of blew his cover—and, just as feared—soon after, he got several visits from extra-planar entities looking for planeswalkers to recruit for their cause. He also got a very cryptic message that I’ll, perhaps, get into some time in the future.

Suffice it to say that in the end, he decided to show up and do his best to encourage everyone that he was useless. He figured that way, next time everyone decided to go murder one another, they’d neglect to invite him. Unfortunately, he arrived, and everything has basically gone to hell. (And, having been there before, he’s not a fan.)

We can therefore summarize Davriel’s opinion on events with the following list:

  1. OH BOTHER.
  2. Zombies. Why is it always zombies? Aren’t there any evil, power-hungry overlords out there with good taste in minions?
  3. He wonders what the Ravnican insurance policies look like. It would be curious to have a look at the fine print, and see how likely the local actuaries rated “Extra-planar invasion by megalomaniacal dragons.”
  4. Said megalomaniacal dragon really needs to be more careful with his rampaging, as he quite nearly destroyed Davriel’s favorite local noodle shop with his latest destructive tirade.
  5. Did anyone get the name of that Demon in the loin cloth? You know, the fellow with the glowing face and a mouth that looks like it can toast its own bread while consuming it? Because Davriel currently has a hole in his staff and is offering very competitive rates on his soul.

Now, if you’ll excuse him, he’s going to go see if Cruel Celebrant’s party has any snacks not infused with the blood of the innocent. (It really tastes far worse than everyone claims, and he’s convinced they just like to look trendy by consuming it.)

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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beingcobra

What has been the hardest book for you to write? And the easiest? Was this particular book difficult to write?

Brandon Sanderson

Hardest was by far A Memory of Light. Easiest was probably Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, which I discovery wrote and did half as a writing exercise to keep me from burning out while working on the Mistborn trilogy.

This one was middle of the road. Most of it was easy, but the ending in the first draft didn't work and required a lot of beating my head against the wall until I was able to get things to click together.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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EndlessKng

As someone who has studied Asian cultures and history and mythology, would you consider writing a story in the Kamigawa plane? It's one of my favorites but it seems to be a bit underloved, and I'd love to see some more development of it in a story.

Brandon Sanderson

I'm a big fan of Kamigawa, and would call Toshiro Umezawa an inspiration for doing a black-aligned hero in this story. So it is something I'd consider.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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Gadmond

Were the Whisperers inspired by the card Permeating Mass? Their green color and the way they turn everyone they touch into more of themselves seems too similar to be coincidental.

Brandon Sanderson

The Whisperers were actually more inspired by the card Strangleroot Geist. (Though I can't discount the fact that other cards, like Permeating Mass, might have been unconscious influences.)

I knew going into the story that I want green-aligned villains, and so was trying to ask myself what would inspire a group of green geists--and what would motivate them. We've seen green villains in MTG before (the Kami and the Phyrexians both did a good job of this.) I wanted to see if I could approach the color from another direction, and was trying to think of what green would want. It seemed to me that completion, the pieces being gathered to the whole, could be very green--as could the idea of survival of the fittest. (In the form of the Entity putting itself into two souls, and figuring the stronger of the two would eventually consume the other and become its host.)

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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Jay13x

Are Vex and Cabralin meant to be the names of planes?

Brandon Sanderson

I didn't get specific permission to name any planes--so while I intend them to be planes, for actual MTG canon I believe they have to be taken as regions inside of planes (that haven't been named yet.) You'll be safer assuming that unless Wizards decides otherwise. I don't think we should go around adding them to lists of planes on MTG wikis, for example.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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huriel19

It's clear that Davriel is a Dimir aligned character but I find Tacenda a little bit harder to read (my closest assumption it's Boros). If she would be printed in a future which color combinations would she have?

Brandon Sanderson

I'd make Tacenda G-W-R. Green for her belief in fate, and for the power of the Entity. Red for her passion and music. White for her belief in, and protection of, her community.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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Mithre

If the characters were cards, what abilities would you like them to have?

Brandon Sanderson

I'd like Davriel to steal cards out of people's hands and then play them. I don't know about Tacenda, though. I've been drawing a blank so far.

Aaronator17

What of Davriel had a unique mechanic that read something like; When an opponent casts an instant or sorcery spell, -X loyalty where X is the spell's CMC and exile it with a theft counter (activate any time you could cast an instant), and another that was +2 and return a card exiled with a theft counter to its owner's [hand/graveyard], you may cast a copy of that spell using any coloured mana?

Brandon Sanderson

That would be cool, and I would like to see planeswalker cards with odd mechanics. But I think it would be a lot of complicated wording to do something that would, in essence, be very similar to:

Minus loyalty: Look at target player's hand an exile a non-land card from it.

Zero Loyalty: You may play cards exiled with Davriel, and may use black mana as mana of any color to cast those cards.

Mithre

Maybe Tacenda would have a tap target creatures effect?

Brandon Sanderson

That's a pretty good idea.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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Jovh

What challenges are there in writing for an already established IP vs something of your own creation?

Brandon Sanderson

The biggest challenge is always the push and pull between what the larger story needs vs. the little story I want to tell. For example, MTG has established rules about what the planeswalkers can do--and it's important to stay in canon for the greater good of the story. (Planeswalkers, for example, can't take people with them when they hop between worlds.) That limits me, for example, if I wanted to do Davriel on another plane--he couldn't take any supporting cast with him.

That's a rule you probably wouldn't set up if this were just stories about Davriel, as the supporting cast is what makes him shine as a character. But the structure of it is important for not breaking the larger stories the team is telling.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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AutonomousJoy

As somebody who has little to no knowledge about Magic: The Gathering beyond the fact that it is a card game, could somebody explain how novellas like this fit into everything?

Question for Branderson: How does writing for an already established IP feel compared to writing in your own universes? Do you feel limited?

Brandon Sanderson

It's a good kind of limitation--it helps me think with restrictions, and is good for me in making certain my own pieces remain consistent and rigid in their magical approach. So yes, it's limiting--but so far, with all three tie-ins I've done, I've been given enough freedom that it's been a good kind of limitation.

As for your first question, since nobody else is answering, Magic story these days is told via novellas like this. The creative team works closely with the game team to design the setting and story for a given set, then the creative team commissions or writes stories to post on the website for the fans who want to follow the story as they play the game. (The cards themselves evoke story nicely, but their focus isn't on the narrative, but on the mechanics of the game.)

My novella is a little odd in that I designed it working from worldbuilding materials sent to me, but without requiring it to follow a specific storyline for a set.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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Ankylosaurian

I'm not sure how familiar you are with superhero comics, but if Marvel/DC offered you a similar opportunity, are there any characters that you would want to write for?

Brandon Sanderson

Marvel did actually offer me this chance, and at the end of the day, I decided I didn't have the time at that point. I'm not closing the door entirely on doing something with them, but this project was different for several reasons.

First, I could create my own characters and situation--but know they were going to be important and relevant in the future of the narrative done by others.

Second, I could write it as a novella, to fit better into the time I had to give it.

Third, I could have it released for free, as a present to the fans.

I'm quite a big fan of what Marvel has been doing with its stories, but I didn't feel like it was the right time for me to become involved.

Brandon's Blog 2018 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

I have the last quarter of this year earmarked to write the final Mistborn (Wax and Wayne) novel, which leaves me around six or seven months to play with, and I'm hoping to finish another book in the Skyward series. However, before I dive into that, there's a certain novella I need to write. We're listing that as "Secret Project" and it's not anything you're probably guessing. I'll reveal it when the time is right, but for now, it's not cosmere, and is not something I've talked about before.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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Shpjokk

Are there any easter eggs that you either got to add or wished to add to the story that reference something Magic-related that's close to you?

Brandon Sanderson

Hmm. I toyed with writing in cameos for some people I know, but decided against it, as I know Wizards isn't fond of that sort of thing in their card art, and figured it would be a bad idea in fiction.

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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wiresegal

Tacenda seemed to Planeswalk at the end. Did she, or did she just "ascend" within Innistrad? Was she an unsparked planeswalker before she accepted the Entity? If she wasn't, did the Entity give her a Spark, similar to how Slobad was grafted one? And if that's not it, the third possibility... is the Entity native to the Blind Eternities, like the Eldrazi?

Brandon Sanderson

I will give you both the canon and Brandon head canon.

Canon is: ambiguous on all counts. It's not confirmed that Tacenda planeswalked at the end, or whether she (or Davriel) had sparks of their own--or if their planewalking powers are granted by the Entities. I can say, in canon, that the Entities are not native to the Blind Eternities--they are the souls of ancient, powerful planes that were destroyed, and their power harvested.

The Soul of planes sequence from m15 were their inspiration, though something special happened with these specific planes. I can't confirm or deny how many of them there were, but at least two.

Now, the Brandon Head Canon. (See my post at the top of this thread for an explanation.)

In my discussions with Wizards, they gave me leave to create one planeswalker--but in the course of the story, I decided to have Tacenda spark as well. This wasn't done with canon permission from Wizards, and I promised them that I'd leave it ambiguous in case they didn't want to have to deal with me playing loose and free with creating planeswalkers.

I personally imagine that the entities are providing the sparks for both Davriel and Tacenda. Davriel THINKS it's his own spark, and it ignited when he saw the true nature of the multiverse--and this is, right now, the canon answer. But I personally like the idea that one of the reasons these Entities are important is because they provide planeswalking ability to whoever holds them.

That has too much lore implication for me to canonize, however--and I didn't push Wizards to do so. (I also didn't ask them to make Tacenda a planeswalker; I simply wrote the story, and left them the option of using her in the future.) So take this part all with a grain of salt.

Brandon's Blog 2018 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Introduction: The Longer Version

Back in January this year, Wizards of the Coast approached me. Knowing of my love for their game, Magic: The Gathering, they were wondering if I would be willing to write a tie-in story for them. They mentioned since it was the 25th birthday of Magic, they wanted to do something special—and might be able to splurge on a Brandon Sanderson story.

I was, of course, interested—but went back to Wizards with a proposal that I think surprised them. You see, I knew they'd been doing some very interesting things with their stories in recent months. (The multi-part Dominaria sequence by Martha Wells is a good example, if you are interested.) I liked how they were using free stories on their website to both enhance the lore and give some work to talented writers.

Way back in the beginning of my career, one of the things I liked to do was periodically release free stories. Defending Elysium, Firstborn, and even Warbreaker are examples. Over the years, though, I've gotten busy enough that I haven't found a good opportunity to do this again. I liked the idea of doing a story for Wizards in part for this reason.

So I went back to them with a proposal: I didn't actually want payment for this story. I just wanted them to put it up for free on their website, and then if (later down the road) it generated any money by being in a collection or in print on its own, I wanted my portion of that donated to charity. In exchange for doing it for free, I wanted to be allowed to write the story my way. That meant me picking one of their settings, then developing my own characters and plot to happen there. (As opposed to writing the story for one of their official releases, as most of the other writers they hired were doing.)

It wasn't that I had anything against writing one of the main-line-setting stories. I just felt that in this case, I wanted greater flexibility. Beyond that, for several years now, I've had a story brewing in my head that I felt was a perfect match for one of their settings—a story I couldn't make work in the Cosmere, but which I really wanted to write.

Wizards was on board immediately—and so, "Secret Project" was born.

Regarding the Story

Wizards has a lot of great settings for the card game, so I had plenty of options. The story I'd been brewing was specifically inspired by their Innistrad set—a gothic horror setting with some magepunk elements underpinning it. It has had a very interesting evolution over the years, and was the setting for one of the best Magic sets of all time. Ever since writing Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell, I've wanted to do another horror/fantasy hybrid, and so I dove into what became Children of the Nameless.

I don't know exactly what Wizards was expecting of me, but I suspect a 250-page behemoth of a story wasn't it. (At 50k words, the story is roughly half the size of something like Skyward.) I have to say, though, working with them was an absolute pleasure. They jumped on board with the main character pitch I made, integrating him right away into the larger Magic story. They even went so far as to loop me in on conference calls, where I could explain my character concepts so they could develop art. I'd thought they might be worried about letting me go off on my own like this, but they were instead enthusiastic and supportive.

So, it is with great pleasure I present Children of the Nameless. Consider it a Christmas present from me and from Wizards of the Coast to you. I hope you enjoy it!

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
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DataLoreHD

I'm confused of the book title. Isn't "Children of the Bog" more accurate?

Brandon Sanderson

It depends. Some of the characters were children of the angel, some were children of the bog (which also has no name), and some might be considered children of something else which has no name. Notably, Davriel doesn't speak of his actual name in the story, but only the various aliases he has made up.

State of the Sanderson 2018 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

My Year

January-March: Skyward and Legion Revisions

I kicked off the year quickly doing a second draft of Skyward. Pulling The Apocalypse Guard from the publisher, then promising them Skyward to publish in the fall of 2018, meant that I had to scramble. It wouldn't do to pull a book I judged to be of inferior quality, only to replace it with a book that I didn't have time to revise up to my standards. So you'll see a number of months dedicated to Skyward. (Which, if you somehow missed it, did come out—and is still sitting quite happily on the New York Times bestseller list many weeks later, so thank you all very much!)

Another thing I'd been putting off for months was the necessary revisions of the third Legion story. Tor was quite patient with me on this one, considering the Legion collection was scheduled for publication in the fall as well. But during these three months, I did multiple revisions of both books, eventually getting Legion into a polished state. (There was one more draft of Skyward still to do.) Legion Three, Lies of the Beholder, can be found in the Legion collection that was published earlier this year.

Finally, somewhere in here, I squeezed in an outline and world guide for Death Without Pizza. (Yes, that's a name change—no it's not the final name, but just a placeholder.) More on that later.

April: Children of the Nameless

Sometime around March of last year, Wizards of the Coast sent me an exploratory email. It being the 25th anniversary of their card game, they were wondering if I'd be interested in doing a story with them. As most of you know, I'm quite the fan of Magic: The Gathering. It's my primary hobby, and I have way too many cards. (Which still aren't enough, of course.) I was enthusiastic, and you can read more about the process I used to approach the story in this blog post.

I knew that by doing so, and by writing the story as long as it ended up, it would make getting to some of my other projects later in the year more difficult. (Namely, the fourth Wax and Wayne book, which I'll talk about shortly.) But this was kind of something I had to do, so I ask your forgiveness in taking this detour to Innistrad. I'm exceptionally pleased with the story and the response it has gotten, so if you haven't read it, I present it to you here! Reading it requires no prior knowledge of the card came or the lore surrounding it.

May: Skyward Final Draft

How long it takes to write a story depends on a lot of factors, but in general, three months gets me around 100k words. Shorter stories, with fewer viewpoints, tend to be faster—while longer stories with more intricate plotlines (like Stormlight) tend to take longer. But that's just for the rough draft. Generally, doing all the other drafts takes an equivalent amount of time to the first draft. (So, if the first draft takes three months, the second through fourth drafts will together take another three months.) You can see this at play in Skyward, which took about three months to write in the end of 2017, then took three additional months of revision to polish up.

I did sneak in a little time to do an outline for a piece called The Original in here as well, which took about a week. I'll update you on that in the secondary projects section.

June–August: Starsight First Draft

And, speaking of three month first drafts, here we get me buckling down and doing the sequel to Skyward. It's finished in its first draft form, and dominated my summer. In here, I also did detailed outlines for the third and fourth books of the series. (And this is where I determined for certain that the series would need to be four books instead of three.)

September–October: Odds and Ends

In these months I had some travel to record episodes of Writing Excuses, I did a quick second draft of Starsight to send to my publisher, and I did some revisions to Children of the Nameless. I also did more work on The Original, Death Without Pizza, and Alcatraz Six (AKA Bastille vs. the Evil Librarians, or Alcatraz vs. His Own Dumb Self). Finally, I slipped in some brainstorming with Dan Wells on how to fix The Apocalypse Guard.

Basically, I knew that November would be mostly lost to touring, and I was scrambling to get some work done on small projects to clear my plate for 2019, which will be dedicated to working on Stormlight Four.

November: Skyward Tour

I spent most of November on tour for Skyward, and quickly finishing up final revisions on Children of the Nameless. I got to see a lot of you while touring for the book, and had a blast—but these tours get more and more difficult as the lines get longer and longer. The tour for Stormlight Four in 2020 might require me to do some things I've been dreading, such as limit the lines to a certain number of tickets. It makes me sad to contemplate, but I'll keep you all in the loop about what we decide to do.

December: Death Without Pizza

I needed a break from all the other things I've been doing, so in classic Brandon style, I worked on something fresh and new to give myself a breather. This was where I was going to do Wax and Wayne Four, but doing Children of the Nameless meant that instead of three months extra space at the end of the year, I only had one month. (As CotN had taken one month to write, and one month to revise.) I had the choice of pushing back the start of Stormlight Four, or doing something else for this month and trying to sneak in W&W 4 sometime next year. I chose the latter. It's important to me that I let myself do side projects to refresh myself—but I also think it's important to keep to my Stormlight schedule. It would be too easy to keep putting off the big books until they stretch to years in the making. I told myself I was going to divide my time in half between Stormlight and other projects.

The truth is, I'm getting really anxious about getting back to Stormlight. That's a very good sign, as once I finish a Stormlight book, I'm usually feeling quite burned out on the setting, and need a number of months to recover.