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The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Tindwyl's training

I chose to only show a few sections of Tindwyl training Elend–I figured that these could get laborious if I did too many of them. This isn't "My Fair Lady," after all.

We never get to see Elend learning to duel, for instance. As a writer, I tend to react strongly against things I've seen done too often. That doesn't always make me not include them in books, but sometimes it does. Training a man with the sword, for instance, seems to have been done enough that you can just assume that it happened–and imagine it happening–without me going into detail about Elend’s practice sessions.

This scene that is included, however, is rather important. Elend's new look, and his decision to let his hair get cut, represent the first change we pull off for him: The visual one.

Bands of Mourning release party ()
#2 Copy

Questioner

*audio obscured*

Brandon Sanderson

So Elend's name came from the Germanic word for misery and Straff's name means punishment. The question is did I do this intentionally. I didn't do either one intentionally. I don't speak German, what I did was I went to Germanic morphemes, I didn't even know what they meant, and just got a feel for "Okay this is Germanic, this is Germanic" and then put those aside and said "Alright can I come up with a bunch of names that sound Germanic" once that mood is in my head. Because English has a lot of Germanic influences I guess I did it too well and I named a whole bunch of people things that are actual words in German. *laughter* But you know I'm actually fairly pleased with that, it means I was doing my job. But you know I didn't intentionally make them mean anything in German, at least this time I didn't accidentally pick a swear or something, which I’ve done before. *laughter*

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#3 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Two - Part Two

Elend's Verbal Sparring with Yomen

Something to notice about the conversation between Elend and Yomen is that Yomen's arguments are quite good. Better than Elend gives them credit for being, I think—though I might revise as I go through the copyedit to have Elend notice this more.

Either way, I hope one can see why Yomen would resist making a treaty with Elend. This is a sticky situation, and in this conversation I think Elend comes off poorly. Partially because his old ball-going self is resurfacing, but partially because his role has been reversed. In book two, he was under siege and was trying frantically to keep his city from being conquered. Now he's forced to sit on the other side of the table and be the one who has come to conquer.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#4 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Vin waits for Elend to reveal his plan before the Assembly

I had to do a couple of drafts of Elend's "It doesn't change things" section with Vin. I didn't want to reveal his plan–I wanted Vin to work through it–but I also didn't want it to seem TOO forced that he didn't tell her.

I settled on this, which I think has a nice balance. However, you're in dangerous territory as a writer any time you have characters conveniently forget to tell each other things–or when you keep viewpoints characters plans and schemes back from the reader.

I have a history of fudging these things a tad in this series. I don't give myself that much leeway in all of my books–but I figured with the Kelsier "Real Plan" surprise I had in the last book, I have established that the characters don't always tell the reader every single thing they're plotting.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#5 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Elend and Vin discuss his loss of the throne

Elend is going to be tested. That's one of the things I wanted to do with this book. In my previous two novels–Elantris and Mistborn–I gave the heroes relatively easy times. Or, well. . .maybe not easy. However, the fact remains that when they stayed true to their ideals, the things they tried tended to be successful.

I want to show that ideals can be a hindrance. That isn't a reason not to have them, but it is an aspect of trying to do the things Elend is. There are a lot of people out there who will take advantage of a person who tries to do the right thing, and that can make doing the right thing the more difficult choice a lot of the time.

I also like how Elend is progressing as a leader, but I made certain to give a throwback to the old Elend in this chapter so that you'd know he was still there. Vin's observations about this point are quite accurate.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#6 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-One - Part Two

Being a Leader

Elend has always been a man prone to self-examination. I think it's one of the marks of a true scholar. In book one, he constantly compared himself to Kelsier. In this book, he no longer worries about trying to fill Kelsier's shoes. Instead, he worries that he is filling the Lord Ruler's shoes.

The themes of what it means to lead, and what is required of a leader, are fascinating to me. In fantasy books, we can deal with these themes on a macroscopic scale. But that's the epic format. These books let us deal with issues in exaggerated ways, which makes them easier to talk about and reference. Just like a doctor might look at microbes under a microscope to see them in a larger way, we expand and blow up our issues—giving them epic scope—to make them easier to handle and explain.

So, in a way, Elend's conflict here is an application of real-world issues. The fear of failure, the difficulty of living up to expectations, and what it means to lead and be followed.

He has a lot to work through, and one of the earliest problems I had in writing this book was dealing with how I wanted to show Elend's progression as a character. I eventually did a rewrite where I focused primarily on him and his motivations, though many of those edits don't come to light until later in the novel.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Cett Suddenly reveals himself at the Assembly Meeting

Elend does need to learn a few things still. To be truthful, I think he's too honest to be a king. There are times when, as a king, I think you need to lie in order to comfort your people. You don't tell the dying man that he has no hope for survival. You don't let a man like Cett bully you into admitting that your Allomancer has been manipulating the audience.

But, well, Elend is Elend. He does things the way that he feels he must, even if it gets him into trouble. Actually, in that way, he and Cett are very similar. They do what they feel they must.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Elend and Vin Visit Sazed in Turn to Ask about Relationships

I didn't want this scene to feel too much like a sitcom, and I tried hard to make it realistic. But having both Vin, then Elend come to Sazed with their problems has some inherent issues. It feels a little comedic, and perhaps too coincidental.

However, despite those problems, I really like the scenes. They show off the difference in the two characters, and particularly show how Elend has changed over the course of the book. He comes in, confident, ordering people about even as he asks for advice. Vin is more hesitant. Her confidence is in other matters, and here she has trouble expressing herself. It's a nice reversal.

However, the fact that both of them think first of Sazed, and that both of them just really need to speak their minds—without him doing much more than confirm things they already felt—shows again how similar they are.

And I really do think the key and lock speech is one of the most wise things Sazed has ever said.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#9 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Epilogue

And so, the circle is complete. Sazed returns to the south and visits the Conventical again, Elend returns to the city wall.

Hopefully, I revealed this well enough for you to understand what you need to in order to make this book work. There are a lot of holes, I know. I've already apologized for that–we'll answer all of them in book three.

For now, understand that something was imprisoned, and it hijacked the Terris religion–the prophesies–and used the Well of Ascension to get free.

Book three is about the real theme of these books. Survival. It's going to be a tough road.

As a wrap up, I guess I'll say that for me, this book was about Vin and Elend testing and proving their standards. In the beginning, they both made certain determinations about themselves and what they wanted to accomplish. Elend intended to make a good government and not be an exception to his own rules.

Vin intended to love the good, kind man of Elend rather than the man of the street–the hard, strict man that was Kelsier. (See Chapter Ten, where Vin snuggles in the chair with Elend, for an in-dialogue outline of her belief system for this book. This is the offering of the challenge. The trial comes later.) They are both tested, then, in these assertions–Elend by losing his throne, Vin by being forced to take a long hard look at her own heart and what she really wanted. To her, Zane represented the past. Did she return to that, or did she look forward to the hope–and the future–that Elend represented?

They both hold strong. That's the true victory of this book. The release of Ruin disregarded, this book marks great success for the characters. They were tested in their absolute most vital of personal convictions, and they passed. This prepared them for the final book. Now that they'd proven their ideals, they could bear the weights and griefs of the empire.

Of course, there is also Sazed. One of my goals in writing this book was to fix Elend and Vin. But another big one was to break Sazed. While they held firm to who they were, he has been forced to reassess his convictions, and he finds them wanting. Chapter fifty-four was one of the saddest chapters for me, personally, to write. In many ways, Elend and Vin have nearly completed their arcs as characters. But Sazed and Spook have just begun. And that is what leads us into Book Three.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#10 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Part Three Wrap-up

I named this section of the book "King." However, that's supposed to be a slightly ironic title, since Elend gets deposed at the end of part two, spends this entire section working to get his throne back, then eventually loses it anyway.

The irony is that during this section, in my mind, Elend really learned to be a king. Yet it's the place where he has it most brutally pounded into him that his rule is not wanted.

Idealism has a cost. Or, at least, I think it SHOULD have a cost. If you are holding up your ideals as true, then you should have to be willing to sacrifice for them, otherwise it just doesn't feel right. I don't think this is me forcing the story to prove a point—I think it's me trying to represent, as accurately as I can, the way the world works.

The measure of Elend Venture is not going to be what kind of king he would make. It's going to be the kind of man he makes once he's been rejected.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#12 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Elend Decides to Attack

Elend makes a decision here—an important one. The waiting is over, and the siege has ended. He's under the same stress as Janarle, but he's not going to run. He's going to fight.

It's probably the wrong decision. But I've often heard that being a military leader isn't always about making the right decision. It's about being able to make a decision when a decision is needed.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#13 Copy

Questioner

Are there differences in pronunciation between the different worlds in the cosmere?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

Do you have any record of that?

Brandon Sanderson

So, it depends on the culture and things like that, what it's going to be like. You can kind of bet in Mistborn it's going to be French, if it's from the Central Dominance. So they'll say "Kelsi-ay" and "De-MOH" but where Elend's from is a lot more Germanic so "EE-lend" "STRAHFF" and stuff like that. The other worlds are all going to have their different things. In Roshar you are going to get some of the "YAS-nah kHo-LIN" it's going to be a little more Semitic in its language family.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#14 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

And, Elend. He's one of my other favorite characters in the series. You'll see more of him–don't worry. I really wanted him to walk the line between being clever and just plain dense (in the way that men can sometimes be.) Some people accuse me of writing Elend too much like myself. In truth, I could see myself sitting at a party reading a book, rather than paying attention to the pretty girl trying to talk to me. Or, at least, that's the way I would have been when I was growing up.

I'll talk more about Elend later. Though, I do want to note something important. It's a law of storytelling that the girl is going to end up talking to the one boy at the party that she's not supposed to. So, don't pretend you didn’t see it coming.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#15 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I just really like Elend and Vin's relationship. It's one that really shouldn't work, but for some reason, they just get along so well in my head. I doubt that they could explain it either–but the two fit together in a very strange, "opposites meet" kind of way. They actually have a lot more chemistry, for me, than Sarene and Raoden–though those two are far better matched for each other. Maybe that's because the frustration and confusion Elend feels seems very realistic to me. He never really does know what Vin is feeling, even though her emotions are so blunt and simple when we're in her viewpoint.

General Reddit 2016 ()
#16 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

When I was working on Mistborn 2 with my editor, he asked me, "Are Vin and Elend sleeping together?" I said, "Absolutely." He requested some confirmation of it on the page, and I explained something that has always been my policy, and one that has served me well.

I consider what I'm writing to be a very detailed script, which you the reader direct in your mind. Each person's version of the books will be slightly different, but in sometimes telling ways. The subtext of conversations will change, the visualizations of the characters, even larger implications are changed, distorted, and played with by the reader as they build the story in their imagination.

This is an area in which I prefer to leave the answers to the reader. For those who wish to imagine that the characters are having sex, then the implications are often there. (Though I've gotten better at that balance, I feel.) For those who don't want to imagine it, and wish to pretend the characters are living different standards, I will often leave the opportunity for that--unless it is a plot point I consider relevant.

Certainly, my upbringing and beliefs are an influence on this. I'm obviously more circumspect in these areas than I am in others.

But yes, for those who don't want to pretend otherwise, Vin and Elend were sleeping together. And Wax and Lessie never had a real ceremony. My editor tried to remove the word "wife" from one of the later books, and I insisted, as the shift in Wax's thinking was a deliberate point on my part--related to his changing psychology in the books. But even to him, it's more a 'common law wife' thing.

As a side note you'll likely find amusing, I do get a surprising number of emails from people who complain to me (even take me to task) for the amount of objectionable material I include in my books, and ask me why I have to wallow in filth as much as I do. I'm always bemused by this, as I doubt they have any idea how the books are perceived in this area by the general fantasy reading world...

legobmw99

Does this mean that Wayne and MeLaan's fling is "a plot point [you] consider relevant"?

Calling it right now, Wayne's... intimate... knowledge of Kandra biology will be a point on which the fate of the entire cosmere hinges. Because why wouldn't it.

Brandon Sanderson

The plot point isn't exactly what you think it is, but yes.

One of Wayne's roles is that of a character who points out absurdity, either through word or action. There is a certain level of absurdity in what I described up above, and I realize that. Some things I talk about explicitly in books, some things I don't.

On a certain level, Wayne showing that people do--yes indeed--actually have (and talk about) sex in Sanderson books is there for the same reason that a court jester could mock the king. When as a writer you notice you're doing something consistently, even if you decide you like the thing that you're doing, I feel it's a good idea to add a contrast somewhere in the stories.

It's one of the reasons that Hoid, though a very different kind of character from Wayne, has more leeway in what he says in Stormlight.

dragontales3

I know this was a few months ago, but I have a follow up question (huge fan of your work btw!): Do you purposely mention characters having sex to show that they are maybe not "good guys"/"bad guys" are mentioned having sex as a continuation of their lowered morals? Like OP mentioned with rape, of course that would be a sign that someone is a terrible person, but I can think of several other instances in your books were someone engages in consensual sex who later turns out to be more morally loose.

ETA: I mean premarital sex

Brandon Sanderson

I don't personally consider this to be a sign of who is good or bad, but I can't speak for how the morals that shape my own society might affect my unconscious application of morals in my books. That's certainly something for critics to analyze, not for me to speak on.

If it's relevant, though, I don't perceive it this way. More, the people I mention engaging in premarital sex are ones more likely to reject societal mores. (Such as MeLaan.) I also am more likely to do it for characters who are not primary viewpoint characters, for reasons I've mentioned--the ability to allow plausible deniability for readers who wish to view the characters in a certain way. I can see myself unconsciously letting myself say more about villains for a similar reason, though I don't intend it to be causal.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#17 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Elend Goes into the Koloss Camp

Elend does go overboard in this chapter. He realizes it, when fighting the koloss. He's let his adrenaline, and his desire to do something, make him a bit reckless. However, this first thing–going in to see Jastes–actually makes a lot of sense. First off, it gives us nice closure on the "Visit the enemy kings" plot sequence. (Elend Visited Straff, then Cett, in their strongholds. Now he does so for the final army.)

And, of the three army leaders, Jastes should have been the one most kind to Elend. The two are old friends. If you don't remember him, he was pretty much Elend's best friend in book one. He was the one who first discovered that Vin was not who she said (he had her followed) and was the main person Elend hung around with at the parties.

I wanted to show that good doesn't always win, particularly in the short term. The things Jastes tried to do are what Elend did. In both cases, they failed. The world wasn't ready for their brand of freedom yet.

Elend speaks the truth, however. A man's losses are what define his faith.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#18 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-One

Elend Fights the Koloss in the Village

This chapter gets my next award for favorite chapters in this book. (I think this is number four.)

The next few Elend chapters run him through the ringer—and yet at the same time let him shine. He's alone, forced to work through his problems without Vin, Tindwyl, or the others to support him. It's time for him to decide who he really is and what he really wants.

This chapter begins that. Elend's frustration at not being able to protect his people finally bursts from him, and his passion drives him to do as Vin did in book two. Yet there is far less beauty to his attack than there was to hers. Elend is powerful, but with Allomancy he also has to be blunt.

I love the imagery of this scene in the village, Elend fighting by the firelight of burning buildings, ash and mist in the air, koloss dying by the dozens. It's his first real chance to be a Mistborn, in my opinion, and he is kind of surprised by what it does to him.

He's not finished working through his need to protect the people of his empire. In a way, he's just beginning down the path of what he needs to work out. However, this is a pivotal moment, where he finally acknowledges what it is that has been bothering him so much. He doesn't just fear that he's becoming like the Lord Ruler—he fears that he's becoming like the Lord Ruler but doing a much poorer job than his predecessor ever did.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

It was extremely important that Elend reject Vin in this chapter. I worry that I got a little bit into convenient motivations in this chapter–I always hate it when men and women have relationship problems in book simply because it's the place in the story for things to go wrong. Weak conflict–something a friend of mine calls "Deus Ex Wrench" is a problem with most romantic comedies.

Better to have realistic, rather than feigned, tension. I hope that I was able to manage that in this chapter. Elend is being almost completely honest with his emotions here–he has just discovered that Vin was lying to him all along. Rather than feeling bitter, however, he feels like a fool. He's realized that the game was playing him all along, and he's disappointed to find that Vin is part of it. That, in turn, persuades him that he should just give in and do his duty to his house.

And so, he turns her away. The vital part of this all, of course, is that it gives Vin the chance to love him–and protect him–even though he's rejected her. This is perhaps the most important step for Vin in the entire book. She's learning the things that Kelsier talked about, the truth that she needed. With this in hand, she can trust people, even knowing that they might betray her.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#20 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vin and Elend Traveling North

Next, we have the happy couple scene. I figured that after all of the problems, confusion, indecision, and the like, these two deserved a couple of days to relax. This is, then, their version of a honeymoon. Not much to say, other than to note that Spook is going to start coming a little more to the forefront in the next few chapters. I want to introduce some of his conflicts and character issues to provide a lead-in to the next book, where he's one of the major viewpoint characters.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#21 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The Storage Caches

One of the major revisions I made to the book during drafting was to reduce the number of storage caches. Originally I'd planned for eleven or twelve. The one here in Vetitan was still going to be the penultimate, with Fadrex being the last—the team just would have discovered more of them between books.

I changed this in order to make the cache in Fadrex seem more important. I wanted to get across the idea that taking that city was vital to the plans and goals of the team, and making it have one of five caches instead of one of twelve seemed to help with that.

In the first draft, the major draw of the final cache was the hope that it contained atium. But I realized that atium just wasn't that useful anymore—or, at least, many of the reasons it might have been useful are no longer important to the characters. Vin's instinct is right—the atium is more important than it might seem at first, but the original draft made it look like they were chasing a hope for something that wasn't even very useful. So, during revisions, I inserted Elend's acknowledgment that they don't really need atium, and I also added Vin's instinct that it's vital. We'll see how this plays out.

Of course, the reason Vin has an instinct that atium is vital is because of Ruin's touch on her emotions, driving her to seek out the final cache, where Ruin himself hopes to find that atium. To him, Vin and Elend are just another pair of pawns—in some ways more useful than Inquisitors because they don't even know they're following his goals. Ruin isn't sure if these caches will have the atium—he's in fact rather suspicious that this is a ruse of the Lord Ruler—but he's willing to dedicate some resources to the possibility, hence what he did to send Elend and Vin searching out the caches. He worries that there will be some kind of guard set at the final cache or the atium that has been told to watch for Inquisitors and keep them away, and he feels that using Vin and Elend is both more clever and potentially more effective than just sending an Inquisitor.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#23 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

OreSeur and Vin discuss their interview with Dockson

This series, in total, is about trust. About what it costs to trust people, and what you earn by trusting. In book one, Vin learned to trust–and she learned one of Kelsier's prime beliefs. That it's better to trust, and be betrayed, than to always worry about everyone around you.

The theme, then, for this book is service and friendship, and trusting those you serve. Elend has to earn the trust of his people. Vin has to earn the trust of the kandra who serves her.

OreSeur's explanations about the Contract are mixed with Zane's worries and problems with being Straff's tool. This story is, in part, about what it's like to serve–what it's like to be a tool–and the difference between a good leader and a bad one.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#24 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vin comes to tell Elend what she's discovered.

The way Elend treats Vin in this chapter puts a few people on edge. If you're in that group, realize that I want you to feel this. And, not just for plotting purposes. I just think it's more realistic.

People get tired. People have trouble focusing. And people treat even those they love with indifference sometimes. This is particularly bad of people like myself–men who are quick to get focused on one project or another. I've done things just like this to my wife, unintentionally ignoring her because I am so tied up in my current project.

It's not a good thing, but it IS natural and normal. Unfortunately, it prompts something very important: the return of Reen's whispering voice in the back of Vin's mind. She's been free of him for a long time now, but I thought it appropriate to bring him back. After all, that voice–partially a representation of her subconscious–was a large part of her character in the first novel.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#25 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

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.

/r/fantasy AMA WorldCon 2013 ()
#26 Copy

Ansalem

A lot of your works that are stand alone novels or seemingly completed stories, you have announced or started working on sequels for. Are there any stories that you feel complete and don't need to work on the same world or characters again? Or do feel there is always some new tale to tell about every world you make?

Brandon Sanderson

It's hard, because the way I plot I always have to know what happened before the book and what will happen after the book. Knowing that doesn't mean that I have to continue. It's also hard, though, to say no to fans who are so passionate about a specific project.

The Vin/Elend story is most certainly done. As is the Raoden/Sarene story, as is Siri's story from Warbreaker. So there are completed threads. There might be other stories to tell in those worlds, though, so I'll avoid closing the door on them for now. (That said, it did feel very good to finish The Wheel of Time for good, and look forward to putting some of my own works to rest in a similar way.)

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#27 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Elend Thinks about Losing his Kingship on his Balcony.

I love this Elend scene, with him up on the balcony, thinking. It is poetic in the way that I like to be poetic–a person, alone with their thoughts, wrestling with their own ideas and motivations. I think there's some very beautiful language here, but not in a traditional poetry sense. In the way that it accents Elend's character.

He does, however, completely misunderstand Vin. I know it's a bit of an overused plot device–the man misunderstanding the woman, and the woman in turn misunderstanding the man. But the truth is, we write about it so much because it's so true. When my wife and I were dating, we each had the toughest time deciding if the other was interested. We were both terrible at interpreting each other, even though we both wanted the same thing.

We managed to get through it and get married.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#28 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Eight

The Lord Ruler's Final Message

This plaque from the Lord Ruler was very difficult to write. Originally it was much shorter, but I expanded it during the last draft because I felt it was just too useless. Even still, it doesn't say much. And that's the problem.

I was always intending the Lord Ruler's final plate to contain no answers. It works into my themes for this series—this was the "quest" book playing off the epic fantasy ideal of the powerful object that must be discovered and used to fight the evil. Except that this time, I wanted them to get to the place they'd been questing toward and find it empty, with no answers from the Lord Ruler. I felt this would only heighten the sense of hopelessness the characters are feeling in trying to fight Ruin.

The problem is, rereading this plate I realize that I've done exactly what I wanted—but that it's also a really, really big letdown. I hate letting down readers. It feels like breaking promises. After consideration I think this is still the best thing to do, but I wish I'd found another way to deal with this.

Note that the circle with a dot here is completely lost on Vin. The size of the circle in relation to the text around it, and some numerical clues scribbled around the perimeter of the circle, are indications of the size of a scale map it should be placed upon. If placed the right way, the dot will point directly at the Pits of Hathsin.

Vin's awesome, but she's barely got a basic education. A complex mathematical puzzle like that one is completely lost on her. If Elend had had the time to study the plate, he might have figured out where it was pointing. There wasn't time, however.

The Lord Ruler did leave a very important clue on this plate. However, I feel that obscure clues like this are deciphered far too often in books like this one. I think realistically if you're going to leave a clue like that, chances are good that it will end up getting missed or misunderstood. Which is exactly what happened here.

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Brandon Sanderson

If you didn't see the Zane/Kelsier comparison later, I bring it up here. In a way, Zane's purpose in this book is to represent things that Vin never really had an opportunity to choose.

She ended up with Elend. However, there is another option, and that was the option that Kelsier represented. The option that Zane represents. Despite her assurances to Elend that she didn't love Kelsier, there WAS something there. Kelsier had a magnetism about him, and since he died, Vin didn't ever have to choose between him and Elend.

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Questioner

Elend and Kelsier's relationship, what would it be like? I was thinking it would be, like, playful annoyed exasperation?

Brandon Sanderson

Kelsier would have really come around on Elend, is my instinct. Partially because Elend came around on Kelsier. If you read the later books, he really understands a little more. He's much more of a realist than he used to be. Which Kelsier would appreciate. I would imagine that Elend would be a little frustrated with Kelsier. But Kelsier would just start treating him like a minion, rather than someone to... And that's a sign of affection. If he orders you around, that's a sign of affection.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Nine

Nothing is worse than trying so hard to do the right thing, then discovering that it was the worst thing you could have done.

I wrote this final chapter to be a slight upswing in the plot so that we wouldn't end on such a sour note. No, I didn't kill Elend. I sure wanted you to think that I would, but I never planned to. I had always intended them to discover where the first Mistborn had come from when they reached the Well of Ascension, and this bead of metal is very important to the cosmology of Scadrial and, indeed, the entire overarching story of my books as a whole .

Elend was intended to become Mistborn from the very early stages of this book's development. So, I figured I ought to do something to him that would make him NEED to be Mistborn. Why did I want to make Elend Mistborn? I know it bothered some readers. I felt I'd explored his character as well I could in this book, and I needed something to upset the balance–tenuous as it is–that he'd arrived at here. He's not going to replace Vin–you'll see in the next book that Elend as a Mistborn doesn't change as much as you might think. But it does put him in new situations, and those situations allow him to progress as a character in the way I felt he needed to.

Anyway, this will make for a very interesting book three. Also, the mist spirit–now, maybe, you can see a little of what it was trying to do. It was struggling to find a way to get Vin to NOT go to the Well of Ascension. Giving hints to Sazed, scaring her, threatening Elend, pointing in the opposite direction. However, it is rather hampered in what it can do, as we'll find in the next book.

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Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn Tropes, Kelsier and Elend's Leadership Styles

As I mentioned previously with giving Vin a "sidekick" in each book, there are other cycles that I've tried to use in each of the three novels in order to give them a sense of cohesion. I felt this was important because of how different the themes of each book are, and I wanted to give a sense and reminder that they were all in the same series together.

In this case, we have the "discuss the plan" scene. The first of these is the most obvious, back in book one. Kelsier leads this one with the chalkboard and talks everyone through the plan to overthrow the Lord Ruler.

In book two, we had the scene where Elend presented his plan to play Cett and Straff against each other. Now, in book three, we have the discussion of the mists closing in and the team's goals of capturing the two remaining powerhouse cities.

I like the comparison between these three scenes and what they say about Elend and Kelsier. In book one, Kelsier's plan is pretty much already in his head—he says that he wants to discuss things with his team and get ideas from them, but if you pay attention it's clear that he manipulates the conversation into going with the plan he wants. He offers one form of leadership.

In book two, Elend's meeting is a near disaster. He arrives late and tells them about his plan—only to find out that the crew already has their own plan. He then has to talk, wiggle, and persuade to get them to go with the plan he's come up with.

In book three, you have Elend the emperor. Gone is the guessing and insecurity. This is the plan presented by a man at war to his troops and advisors. He asks for ideas, then takes them and puts people to work on them. He presents his goals clearly and expects them to be accepted.

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Brandon Sanderson

Homicidal Hat Trick

My editor tried very hard to get me to cut the "homicidal hat trick" line. Not because it wasn't clever, but because he felt it was anachronistic, as the phrase is commonly a metaphor for some quite modern sports. However, I was able to prove via Wikipedia (which is infallible) that the term was used as early as the nineteenth century and didn't always refer to sports, but to three wins in a row in even simple games of chance. So, grudgingly, he let me keep it.

I love the line because of the way that little section harks back to the old Elend. He's still in there, hidden behind the emperor-at-war exterior. The old Elend could be clever and awkward at the same time, just like he is here when he tries to make a point to Vin but comes dangerously close to an insult instead. That's the same guy as the one who would, while standing on the balcony at a party, compliment a lady and then immediately turn back to his book and ignore her.

And, on that note, I believe that I warned you about the coming ball scenes. We're going to have another nostalgia chapter fairly soon, and it's one of my favorite chapters in the entire series.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Six

Vin and Elend discuss going into Straff's Camp

In the original version of this particular chapter, I had Vin think that Elend's idea to go into Straff's camp was terrible. She thought it was too dangerous, even foolhardy. And, since Vin is generally a very competent and trustworthy character, the readers agreed with her. They all thought that Elend was doing something incredibly stupid in this chapter.

Now, what I had been TRYING to do was have her offer strong objections, then get brought around by the end of the sequence to admitting that Elend was right. Unfortunately, that just didn't work for this scene. The plan was crazy enough that readers were already inclined to thinking it was crazy. When I instead switched the narrative so that Vin had a grudging, yet favorable, opinion of the visit to Straff's camp. With her weight of trust behind the endeavor, suddenly readers had no problem with what Elend is doing.

Readers trust Vin more than Elend, which makes sense. If she tells them that something is a good idea, they're more likely to go along with it. It was an important lesson for me as a writer. I realized that Elend needed Vin's support in these early chapters otherwise he wouldn't have the readers' support. He is untrained and is stumbling as he tries to learn. In order for us to trust him, Vin needs to.

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Brandon Sanderson

I wasn't planning on Elend getting as big a part in this book as he ended up having. However, the more I wrote scenes with him, the more interested I became in him as a character. He doesn't exist just to provide a romantic interest for Vin–he exists to show the human side of the nobility. I knew that I needed at least one nobleman who was presented favorably, otherwise Kelsier's harshness wouldn't have the contrast it needed. So, I designed a young man that Vin could meet at the balls.

Yet, when I started writing the scenes with Elend, I found them flowing very easily. I really liked his voice and his relaxed affability. Mistborn, being about such a harsh world an society, threatened to become too dark. I needed another character like Elend to provide moments that were more lighthearted. He also gives us scenes that are interesting in a more thoughtful way, rather than a dark way. He turned out much better than I'd hoped, and is probably the biggest and most pleasant surprise of the novel.

Part of humanizing the nobility was to show Elend being interested in the skaa. I had to walk a line with him. I didn't want him to be TOO interested, or sympathetic, toward the skaa. He's a nobleman, not some crusader for the rights of the oppressed. Yet, I wanted to show through his simple interest that he wasn't cruel. I also wanted to show how little some of the noblemen know about skaa. The things Vin wonders–if the nobility even know about much of the suffering in their world–are valid. Someone like Elend, who spends most of his time at balls or being waited upon in his keep, wouldn't really understand the life of a skaa.

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Brandon Sanderson

Elend talks about Arrogance as a kingly attribute

Arrogance. Elend is just voicing some of my own philosophies here–though in my life, they were applied to writing, not kingship.

You have to be arrogant to be an author. It's tough, sometimes, to continue to believe that people should be willing to pay you for your work. You have to keep working, ignoring rejections, soldiering forward. There's an arrogance to that. Call it self-confidence if you wish, but it's the same thing.

I believe you can be arrogant about some things, yet humble about others. In fact, I think you need to be.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty

Vin Tries to Defeat the Sedative

That's our dear, impulsive Vin. Drinking the drugged wine before five minutes had passed. Elend would have stewed in the cavern for days before making that same decision.

I went back and forth on how difficult it might be to open those cans. I figured it wouldn't be too difficult for an Allomancer with pewter. However, what about a regular person—which is what Vin would become once her pewter ran out? I wouldn't want to try opening a sealed can without some kind of tool. Maybe slamming one against the ground enough would crack it and let her suck the juices out.

Either way, I think she made the right decision here. She knows that Yomen is, at least, a reasonable man. Besides, hanging out in that cave listening to Ruin laugh at her wasn't particularly good for her sanity.

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Questioner

I love *inaudible* this series. How did you come up with Elend?

Brandon Sanderson

So, I wanted an idealist *inaudible* revolutionary stuck in a world that wasn't ready for one yet, and that was my pitch to myself, right? Like if you took, you know, someone like... one of the great *inaudible* like Hamilton or somebody and just stuck them in a world that just was not ready for their ideas. How would that go?

Questioner

That sounds like the *inaudible*. Don't you have that in mind, like...

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, but he-- he that was-- yeah, yeah. His plan was-- be an idealist. The second book is where he realizes he can't make the same path he wants to, and third book is kind of reconciliation of how he can create this step that will eventually lead to Democracy and things like this, which you eventually then get to see in later books.

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Brandon Sanderson

You might be curious to know that I based Elend, in part, on my editor Moshe. I don't know that it was conscious–in fact, I just noticed the connection while writing right now. However, the speech patterns and the way he thinks are very similar to Moshe, and I kind of see him in my mind as looking like a younger version of my editor. I guess I see Moshe as a sort of heroic guy.

He wouldn't make a very good dictator either. But, then, I think that's a good thing, since I have to work with him. 

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Elend and Straff Spar in Straff's Tent

As Elend suspects, Straff is lying through his teeth about the treaty with Cett. Straff would be too frustrated by making an alliance with someone he feels that he should be able to conquer, particularly after such a short time at siege. He's not fond of Eastern noblemen, a trait common in those from Luthadel, and he's annoyed that Cett forced him into the siege in the first place.

He has contacted Cett to feel out the other man's position, of course–which is how he knows that Cett isn't interested in the city, only in the atium. Or, at least, that's what Cett claims. Either way, Straff isn't about to split the atium cache–if he were to find it–with someone else. Particularly not a man who could prove to be such a strong rival.

Elend threatening Straff here is what I see as Elend's first big character turning point. It's brash, but it's also kingly. He stares down a much stronger foe through sheer force of will, though he does add in a very powerful threat.

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Brandon Sanderson

Elend comparing himself to Kelsier is a kind of theme for him in this book. I wanted Kelsier to leave a long, long shadow over these next two books.

A lot of people couldn't believe that I killed Kelsier, since he was such a ball of charisma, and the driving force for the first book. (A lot of others CAN believe it, but are rather annoyed at me for doing it.) However, I happen to like this book specifically because of Kelsier's absence.

He overshadowed everything when he was alive. Elend could never have developed as a character–and even Sazed and Vin would have had trouble–as long as Kelsier was there dominating everything. He was a character at the end of his arc–while the others are still only just beginning. It's so much more interesting if they have to do things without him.

Just part of Kelsier's arrogance, I guess. Both as a character in the book, and externally to it. He dominated so much that he had to go.

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Brandon Sanderson

We get a quick Elend Scene here. This is the best I could do for a climax for him, since he really doesn't have much of a part in the book. (I think he only gets three viewpoints or so.) Considering the limited time, I think this is a fairly good character climax for him. He gets to stand up to his father and try to put some of his beliefs into action. One of my favorite lines is when he's sitting and thinking about the realities of a skaa rebellion, only to realize that he's on the wrong side.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Five

Vin and Elend's Plans and Progress

This is my personal favorite of the opening chapters. I love how it establishes what Vin and Elend are trying to accomplish, but at the same time shows how stretched thin they are. Both bounce around from one emotion to another, and the argument near the end of the chapter is a good example of just how exhausted they both are.

Elend is more forceful now. He's become a wartime leader, a much different man than he was in book one, when he went to parties and read books. He's fighting to find a balance between being the man he thinks he should be and the man he knows he has to be. It all works very soundly for me.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Seven

Sazed In Charge of the City

Sazed's in charge here. There's one small problem with that. Sazed's not very good at leadership.

It's not his fault. He just doesn't have the skillset for it. Unlike Elend, who had a buried desire to lead–and the skills to become a king, if he learned how to use them–Sazed just wants to be a quiet scholar. We saw this when he gathered the crew and couldn't keep them from arguing. We see it again here.

He's much more in his element when he looks through the book he wrote with Tindwyl. Though, of course, losing her is starting to hit him pretty hard. He keeps wavering back in forth emotionally, and that's intentional. He is confused, and doesn't know what to do.

Here's another Couple of things we'll find answers to in book three:

How Vin drew on the mists, and why she could do it.

Why she can feel the pulsing of the Well and nobody else can.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Two - Part One

Backsliding

As I mentioned a couple annotations ago, this chapter is one of my favorites. That, however, doesn't mean it doesn't have flaws. It has a lot of them, the most important one being the fact that it's just a tad out of place. It's almost a chapter from book one pulled and stuck into book three, where it has no business being and is likely to get clubbed on the head and dragged into a dark alleyway.

Book one was far more lighthearted than this final book is, and while I love having this chapter in the book for the nostalgia it evokes and for the opportunity it gives for banter, I will acknowledge that some people may find it out of place.

There is a strong rationale for it being like it is. Elend hit on this while dancing with Vin. The familiar setting and situations brought out the person he used to be when he attended the balls. I think we all do this. When I came back home after my first year of college, I was shocked at how quickly I fell back into being the person I was before that year, which had forced me to stretch and grow a great deal. I was home, and the high-school me resurfaced.

Well, this chapter has the high-school Elend. He goes too far and makes too many wisecracks. He should have known better. In fact, he did know better, and he almost immediately regretted treating Yomen as he did. One other thing to remember, however, is that this is Elend's first real parlay with an enemy king. His previous two conquests were made by Vin and were negotiated via the use of a lot of Allomancy and a rather large koloss sword.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Seven

Vin Stares out at the Mists, decides to go with Zane, then changes her mind

This scene with Vin at the beginning feels just a tad redundant to me. That's because it covers some of the same ground as the one with her trailing through the Lord Ruler's palace in the last chapter. The problem is, I like this scene so much more–it seems to me that the writing is better. So I didn't have the heart to cut it, even though I'd just added another scene that did many of the same things.

This is one of the scenes in the book I worked toward for a long, long time. I knew I had to get Vin's decision just right, and then do Zane's betrayal with equal power. I wanted the reader to be feeling that this was inevitable, once Vin made her decision.

Why did she decide to stay with Elend? It comes down to what she said. Zane jumping when she reached for the vial reminded her of something–that she didn't want to go back to a life where she was suspicious and jumpy. She didn't want the life that he offered. The thing she saw in Elend was the ability to live without fear–or, at least, without the fear that those around her didn't trust her.

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Brandon Sanderson

Fatren's Viewpoint

I knew early on that I'd need to start with a viewpoint from someone we haven't seen before. I thought that someone fresh would allow us to get a distinct sense of what has happened to the world in the months since the end of book two. The viewpoints of the main characters would be clouded by events—I wanted someone who could show us what was really happening.

That meant using a skaa peasant in one of the outlying cities. I wanted to show a different slice of life and indicate how hard things were. In addition, I felt I wanted to hit right away on the fact that this book would be about the world ending.

Hence we have Fatren. I toyed with making him a main character, but I eventually discarded that idea. I think this is the only chapter from his viewpoint. I hate to use a throwaway viewpoint so early in the book, but the alternative—making him a main character just to avoid having a throwaway viewpoint—was a bad idea. We already have too much to focus on with Elend, Vin, Spook, TenSoon, Sazed, and Marsh all being major viewpoint characters in the novel.

Adding TenSoon, Marsh, and Spook gave us enough that was new in the way of viewpoints. We didn't need Fatren—except for this first scene. Here, we get to see Elend from an outside perspective, and I think this does an excellent job of providing contrast—both against the hopelessness of the world and against the Elend that readers have in their head.

He's changed, obviously. The beard and rugged looks are meant to indicate a year spent fighting koloss and leading humankind as it struggles against extinction. Using Fatren's viewpoint gave me a powerful way to update the world and explain what's changed. I'm pleased with how he turned out.

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Brandon Sanderson

Elend Returns and Gets the Letter Deposing Him

And, finally Elend gets deposed. I worry about this plot twist coming out of nowhere, though it is quite well foreshadowed. Elend mentions at one point that the Assembly can choose new kings. He's missed several of their meetings, and–because of his earlier proposition–they can't do anything about the armies until he decides to let them.

That put a lot of pressure on the Assembly, and they were made to feel irrelevant. There are, of course, other forces pushing and pulling at the Assembly–and you'll find out about those later.

Elend made a big mistake here. He was so busy being king that he forgot he himself had set up a constitutional monarchy. His enemies DIDN'T forget about this fact. In Elend's defense, both Straff and Cett have a lot more experience with leadership than he does.