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The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#3 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Yomen's History

Yomen was a fun character to write. Named for Aaron Yeoman, who won a charity auction that I did for character naming rights, I wanted him to present a type of villain different from Zane in book two. Somewhat sympathetic, but a thinker rather than a fighter.

He felt from a very young age that he was destined to be an obligator. The son of a minor nobleman back in Luthadel, he entered the priesthood early and distinguished himself through scholarship and theology. This isn't an aspect of the Steel Ministry that we often get to see in the books, as our focus lies elsewhere. However, there are a lot of philosophers and thinkers in the Ministry—and most of them ended up in the Canton of Resource, the best place for men with an analytical mind.

When a position opened in Fadrex, Yomen jumped at it, as he knew it was a place where most obligators didn't like to serve. It was too out of the way, too removed from important events. Of all the obligators in Luthadel, he was the only one of any distinguished record who wanted to go. (He did beat out more qualified obligators from other cities, as he had connections with the Ministry elite in Luthadel.)

Within five years at Fadrex, he'd risen to being the prelan (i.e. the high priest) of the local Ministry building, despite his youth. Many were saying they saw him heading back to Luthadel to enter the ministry's upper ranks, though it's debatable if this would have happened or not. By going to Fadrex, he put himself in a position to rise quickly as there was little local competition among the obligators. (Many of whom had been stationed there because they lacked the influence to get put elsewhere.) However, it also removed him from the political scene back in Luthadel—and from the minds of many of the more important people there.

It's possible he would have been able to maintain connections and pull enough strings to get himself back into an influential position in the capital. However, it's also possible that by seizing the opportunity in Fadrex, he gave himself a quick path to prelan—but locked himself out of any higher ranks.

Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing ()
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Questioner 1

So the Sleepless kind of have me wondering about what sentience is in the cosmere. Like how would a Sleepless manifest on the Cognitive Realm--

Brandon Sanderson

That's a good question, you'll-- that I'll RAFO. But they are a single consciousness, but they would argue that all your cells are independent of you. So they are cells that can move around. They're really fun... they started in a non-cosmere book when I was 22. Obviously a bit inspired by Fire Upon the Deep, one of my favorite science fiction books. And I read that book and I'm like, "Group consciousnesses are cool!" what if you had a species that was made up of-- Not like one of these Ender's Game y'know, one, but each swarm was an individual and they could breed and evolve their own things to do different stuff. So each of these little bits, these hordelings is what I call them-- Imight change because we've got cremling now. But each of these little bits is bred for a specific purpose, "Feed the swarm" and stuff like that. So they've got all kinds of cool stuff going on.

Questioner 1

Are they Slivers?

Brandon Sanderson

...Oh Silvers. Not quite like Slivers but yeah. Slivers are a little more that whole Ender's Game thing, right? A little more-- And this is actually an individual that's not a hivemind. These are-- This is an individual, single consciouness, and the cells are-- they've got a step between cell and body. We kind of do too, like mitochondria are kind of "What are these? Are these things we ingested somehow and got working for us?" It's all very cool.

Questioner 2

So is it like Malazan Book of the Fallen, like the D'ivers?

Brandon Sanderson

Ehhh, there's little--

Questioner 2

Okay, a little?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah.

Footnote: In MBOTF, D'ivers are shapeshifters that transform into multiple creatures, for example, a human that transforms into seven jackals.
Boskone 54 ()
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Questioner

Why’d you pick Nebraska?

Brandon Sanderson

I’m from Nebraska. I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska and I thought, if I’m going to put in a place that’s a weird, crazy dangerous place, why not make it Nebraska? A lot of the defenses are named for people I knew in Nebraska. There’s an Osbourne defense. Anyone from Nebraska will be able to pick out where I got that. A lot of my friends, my parent’s friends growing up, I just named defenses after them. That’s where that came from, it’s got all this Nebraska stuff.

Footnote: Here referring to "Nebrask" in the Rithmatist series
Oathbringer release party ()
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Questioner

Is Re-Shephir related at all to the Midnight Essence in Aether of Night?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. It's me, like-- Related in that Aether of Night isn't canon, and I really liked how that worked in the cosmere, and I ported it to this instead. So that's like--

Questioner

So you're not gonna write Aether of Night?

Brandon Sanderson

Aether of Night, I might eventually write, but the Mid--

Questioner

It may be different?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah.

General Reddit 2017 ()
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Arithered

Don't think I didn't notice the Jewish couple that Wit insulted in Way of Kings.  Yonatan and Meirav, huh?

I loved it.

Brandon Sanderson

They're relatives of my editor, Moshe. He requested a tuckerizeation as a wedding gift to them, and I was happy to oblige, considering some of the Hebrew roots of various Alethi cultural features.

Goodreads February 2016 YA Newsletter Interview ()
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Cassidy

What was your premise behind the main character David [in The Reckoners]? Why did you create him as he is, scared yet fearless at the same time, smart about specific things yet totally ignorant about others, etc.?

Brandon Sanderson

I built David around two pillars of personality. One is his interest in the Epics, which balances between hatred and fascination. The other one is his fierce determination, which leads him to be impulsive and bull-headed at times, but also pretty inspiring at others.

I feel that as people, sometimes our greatest strengths are also our greatest liabilities. In this respect, every human being is a conundrum in at least one or two ways. With David, his fixation on the Epics is a huge strength but he's been so narrowly focused in his interests that he neglected many other areas of study. So he's both smart and stupid. At the same time, he's impulsive and determined, which leads to acts of great bravery, but he lives in a society that beats people down so if he stops and thinks too long, he can often psych himself out.

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
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Questioner

Do you ever take inspiration for your characters from people you know in real life?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, I do. Usually, it's one small thing about a person that I know. Sarene from Elantris is based on a friend of mine named Annie. And many of my characters have some little attribute... I was just talking online with <?>, who is a guy that I know from Mongolia. I'm LDS, and I served a mission, and he was one of the other missionaries. And he threw shoes at people. This was his deal. Like, when he got mad at you, off came the big old Doc Marten and he threw it at you! So, in Dragonsteel, one of my books that's unpublished but we'll publish someday, there is an entire race that that's what they do when they're offended. The shoes come off. And Hoid once described it as, "When a bunch of them when they get angry, it's like a tornado hitting a cobbler shop." And shoes go everywhere.

So, definitely, they do.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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NotOJebus

Okay so Brandon, I've gotta ask, Rig's last name is McCaffrey. I thought, oh haha, nice McCaffrey reference.

Then I got thinking.

So Skyward is a story about a girl and her starship (dragon) who join a group to help defend their planet, which is made up of separate caverns (Holds) after humanity crashed (colonized) their world, and who has to defend said peoples from an enemy that periodically comes from the sky called the Krell (Thread).

Let's just assume the world takes place in the DE universe and that Spensa and Co will eventually work out how to psychically teleport and... Brandon... Is Skyward just a sci fi retelling of the Dragonriders of Pern...

Brandon Sanderson

The White Dragon (along with Dragon's Blood by Jane Yolen) are direct inspirations for Skyward. And Rodge's last name is a nod to Anne McCaffrey.

I wouldn't say it's only a sci-fi retelling of these stories. But the plot archetype that inspired me is the "boy and his dragon" story. (Including Eragon and How to train your Dragon as well.) I've always wanted to do a story like this, but wanted to find a way to put my own spin (heh heh) on the story.

You'll see how they diverge as the story progresses. But much as Mistborn was inspired by heist stories, this one was inspired by dragon egg stories.

Arcanum Unbounded Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

So there's a line in Secret History that references, like, a mythical string that shows the way home in the maze of Ishathon. Is that an intentional reference to--

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, yes, so here's one thing I do in the cosmere, because my senior course was in folklore, I had a really good folklore teacher-- So you should all thank Dr. Thursby for this. One of the things I learned in folklore-- I don't know if you guys have studied this, but it's really interesting-- Societies come up with the same myths. Right? They do! You'll find-- The biggest one is the Cinderella myth. There's a version of Cinderella in almost every culture, and it's shocking how they hit the same beats. And so my folkloristic inclinations lead me to say that certain stories that I know are common, whether it's the string that leads you out, or breadcrumbs-- different people use different things-- But these stories exist. Mythical mazes, you will find stories about. And so that's not meant to be anything more than for the folklorists to say "Ah! I recognize this, Roshar has some of the same myths, and the same versions, that we have."

Chris King interview ()
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Chris King

We've seen some hints of the over-arching cosmere story arc, what was the inspiration behind that story originally?

Brandon Sanderson

I had an idea for a book when I was fifteen and just getting into fantasy novels—just getting into meaning, reading everything I could get my hands on and diving in face first—and I developed that idea over the next few years. I started writing and realized I was just no good as a writer yet. Which was okay, it wasn't a big deal to me. I realized this story was beyond my ability to approach, it was a vast, enormous story. And so, years later when I was writing Elantris I thought "Well let's just pretend I wrote that book and it was awesome and it's the prelude to what's going on here." That expanded into something much larger and much greater.

I've mentioned before, part of my inspiration for this was the fact that one of my favorite writers, Asimov, later decided to connect two of his main story universes, the Robot books and the Foundation books. It was really cool when he did it and I felt what would happen if I started doing something like this from the get go. I've known several authors who do it at the end of their careers—well I guess Stephen King's not even at the end of his career, in the middle of his career—saying let me tie a bunch of these things together. What if I seeded all of this from the get go and use this story, this awesome story, that I wasn't able to write when I was younger as a foundation for it.

Skyward Houston signing ()
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Questioner

Was there a person in real life that you based the character Kelsier off of ?

Brandon Sanderson

There is not. Kelsier grew out of the idea, primarily, of the thief who is really good at his job, like the gentleman thief, who then picked up a larger purpose. And I kind of built him out of that. I built him first as kind of the con artist that I wanted to have gone through something that changed him. And I explored that and that's just who he became. But there's not really a specific person.

Firefight Atlanta signing ()
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Questioner

If you were going to make Horneater stew here on Earth, how would you go about it?

Brandon Sanderson

If I were going to make Horneater stew, on Earth, how would I go about it. It's going to be a spicy seafood stew. When I think of Horneater stew I'm actually thinking of Yukgaejang which is a Korean dish. Or Haemultang is what I mean. Haemultang is a spicy-- spicy seafood-- it's basically whatever thing from the ocean-- I don't eat things from the ocean personally-- but everything from the ocean they want to throw in there with some spices. They stir it up and give it to you and if you like fish in there and there are like crab claws and full clams in the shells. You're like "Really guys?" But Rock would just be munching those down and being happy.

Firefight release party ()
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Questioner

Where did you get the idea of gloryspren and fearspren showing up when people feel certain emotions?

Brandon Sanderson

So spren in The Way of Kings where did I come up with these ideas for things that physically manifest people's emotions. So I honestly think the earliest seed of this, years and years ago, was reading Perrin in The Wheel of Time where he can smell people's emotion and I thought that having an actual different sense to recognize emotion was so cool I think that is what planted the seed in the back of my brain. The other thing that that is mashing-up with though is kind of Shinto ideas, because I was relying a lot on some Eastern philosophy when I was building Roshar and The Way of Kings. And the Shinto believe that everything has a soul and a spirit, a kami as they call it, and things like this and wanting to expand that into not just the rock but your emotions have a soul and they manifest and things like that. And then I was working in the cosmere and all this stuff but in the end I think it is a mash-up of those two concepts. Wanting a cool way, a different way, a way that changes society that emotions play out mixed with this idea of the kami and the Shinto beliefs.

WorldCon 76 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

One of the things I read when I was researching for Stormlight that was really interesting, I kind of dug into, was this idea that practical medicine, particularly through the Middle Ages up approaching the Renaissance, was actually the one that was regarded with fear, superstition, and dislike. Which is why it fell to the barbers. And what we would call the "superstitious physician" was a well-respected position, depending on where you were looking. And it was this weird area where people who were approaching things practically and actually doing what you needed to do, were being ostracized and vilified. It wasn't as bad as being an executioner; that was the worst deal. But there was this sort of thing, that those people stayed-- You did not want your son or daughter marrying into that family, and these sorts of things. It was really interesting.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

How do you come up with the ideas for the powers and the names of the Epics?

Brandon Sanderson

The names are actually really hard because comic book heroes, there are so many names they've already used. And so I have to a lot of searching and thinking and it's usually my fifth choice. Lots of looking in the thesaurus for "Alright was a word that is like this one that has been used way too often". The powers I'm look for usually something cool that somebody has done in a movie or a book or a comic book that I don't think they extrapolated far enough. I'm like "No that's not how it would really work. This is how I think it would really work." and kind of taking my own spin on it.

Firefight Atlanta signing ()
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Questioner

Do you have a special way of coming up with your bad analogies?

Brandon Sanderson

Do I special way of coming up with bad analogies. Which are actually similes. So here's the thing-- So Steelheart, I wrote Steelheart in like 2008 or 2009, it was pretty early on, I had the idea-- I was touring for some book, I think-- I feel like it was Warbreaker or Mistborn 3, any way I was touring for one of these books and I get cut off in traffic, I get really mad at the person, and I imagine blowing up their car. I get horrified, like "If I had superpowers is this what I would do? Would I blow up cars of people who cut me off in traffic?" and I was like "OOh that's a story". So I went and wrote the prologue, like almost immediately, I think on that tour I wrote the prologue. I remember reading it at DragonCon that year, whenever year that was.

Then I put the whole book aside and had to wait for like 5 years because I'm like "I'm working on The Wheel of Time I have no time to write this other side project." I was much better at that and not going crazy on side projects when I was doing that. When I finally got back to it I had this prologue-- The prologue was ten years before in-world time, like the character grew ten years between the prologue and chapter 1, so I was "Alright I need a voice for this character" and I started writing, doing my standard thing. I was having so much trouble coming up with a distinctive voice for David, the main character, and I accidentally wrote a bad metaphor. That happens a lot when you're writing-- you just come across something and it's a terrible analogy and you delete it, but here I said "Well what if I ran with that?" The fun thing is by coincidence that became a metaphor for his entire personality. He tries so hard, is very earnest, but sometimes he tries a little too hard, and looks beyond the mark, and stumbles a bit. And that is who he became as a character, and the bad metaphors are a great metaphor for that.

Coming up with them now is really hard. Doing it on purpose is way harder than coming up with good metaphors. They are rough. Sometimes I'll sit-- Like the most time I spend staring at the screen when working on these books is coming up with one of David's metaphors.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
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Questioner

Do you get any of yours [inspiration from mythology]?  Like I know you mentioned sciences and physics. 

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah a lot of science and physics is where it's coming from.  A lot of, I mean, having lived in Korea for two years, and speaking Korean, a lot of my linguistics come from Korean, and the idea of Spren comes from Asian mythology: the idea that everything has a soul.  So that's an inspiration.  

Questioner

I want to look into ancient Asian culture, and it sound like something to do.  

Brandon Sanderson

There's that.  I would bet that the three kingdoms stuff has some influence on me, and Sun Tzu's Art of War has been an influence on me, and things like that.

Read.Sleep.Repeat interview ()
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Octavia

Newcago was a HUGE surprise for me. I expected to see Chicago, but roughed up in a dystopian way. Instead you took a major city we all know, and made it completely new and interactive. The catacombs, in particular were really interesting to me. Did you base Newcago's catacombs off of a "real" place?

Brandon Sanderson

Newcago's catacombs were actually based more off of mid-eighties cyberpunk stories where you've often got this sort of techie underground, and I love that visual. I intentionally didn't want to take Steelheart in a dystopian direction, even though it technically is a dystopia. I just feel that the whole "wasted world" dystopia has been done so well by so many writers that I wanted to have something that felt new and different.

When I gave Steelheart this sort of Midas power to turn Chicago into metal, I thought it would be cool to have these catacombs dug underneath it because the visual was so different and cool. The catacombs I've visited in various cities are, of course, awesome, but really I'm looking back at those cyberpunk books.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

I noticed in a lot of your cosmere books, like for example Elantris or Mistborn, they have something to do with some sort of subject matter or school or something. For example the Steelpush and Ironpulling in Mistborn is based on physics.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Questioner

If you push too hard it's based on...

Brandon Sanderson

Vector physics, yes.

Questioner

And then like Warbreaker is just like math, adding Breaths together. Did you intend that?

Brandon Sanderson

Not necessarily. I read a lot and I like science and I like philosophy and I like and things like this. And those spark most of my ideas. So yes in a term but I'm not like "Let's do this subject".

I would say Warbreaker, the big part of Warbreaker is the idea of sympathetic magic. Which is the idea that like affects like, which is a very common type of magic throughout all cultures on the planet, on our planet. When people believe in magic they believe in sympathetic magic. A voodoo doll is sympathetic magic. And that's where the idea came from.

Questioner

So in Elantris, which is different and then--

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah that's basically fantasy programming, is where that one came from.

Questioner

And then there is The Stormlight Archive, which basically violates all the laws of physics by just saying everything comes from spren.

Brandon Sanderson

Well no they still have arguments on that, are spren attracted to these things or do they cause them.

Questioner

Yeah that's kind of weird...

Brandon Sanderson

Stormlight Archive was based on the fundamental forces, if you want go read on physics google fundamental forces.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Four - Part Two

Hawaii

Why, yes, I did visit Hawaii in the middle of writing this book. Did you notice?

Following Mistborn, I wanted to do a book set in a place that looked very different from the Final Empire. What's different from a burned-out wasteland? Why, a tropical paradise of course! One of the great things about being an author is the ability to justify going to Hawaii just so I could do research on how to properly describe the plants, landscape, and atmosphere in a place like that. It's really a tough job, but I'm willing to sacrifice for you all. No need to thank me.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Undead

I'd been toying for a long time with doing a book with "technological" undead in a fantasy world. A place where a body could be recycled, restored to a semblance of life, then set to work. I'm always looking for ways to explore new ground in fantasy, and I've seen people sticking to the same old tropes with undead. (Mindless, rotting zombies or dynamic, goth-dressed vampires.)

I wanted to play with a middle ground. If you've got a magic that can make a stick figure come to life, what could it do with a dead body? How could a society make use of these walking corpses, treating them as a realistic resource?

The Lifeless grew out of this desire. I developed something like them for use earlier in a completely different novel, but I abandoned that plan years ago. They returned to the scrap pile of my mind, from which I draw forth and recombine ideas to create novels.

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.

Tor.com Q&A with Brandon Sanderson ()
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Eric Lake

Here's a quote. "Why, the Astalsi were rather advanced—they mixed religion with science quite profoundly. They thought that different colors were indications of different kinds of fortune, and they were quite detailed in their descriptions of light and color. Why, it's from them that we get some of our best ideas as to what things might have looked like before the Ascension. They had a scale of colors, and use it to describe the sky of the deepest blue and various plants in their shades of green." Do the pre-Ascension religions correspond to religions from other Shardworlds, as this one seems somewhat like Nalthis?

Brandon Sanderson

I mention this in one of the Well of Ascension annotations.

After I came up with the idea and had Sazed mention it, my desire to explore it more was one of the initial motivations for Warbreaker's setting.

The answer to your question is yes and no. There are shadows.

Skyward Houston signing ()
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Questioner

Why did [Alcatraz] set the kitchen on fire?

Brandon Sanderson

He didn't intend to. It just kind of happened. That sort of thing just kind of happens sometimes. It's based off of my cousin, who accidentally set the kitchen on fire making a burrito. He started his kitchen on fire because of a flaming burrito. Be careful about-- when you're cooking your burritos.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Nightblood Origins

I've been wanting to do a book with a talking sword for some time. Sentient objects are a favorite theme of mine from fantasy books I've read, and I think you'll probably see more of them in future books from me.

The magic sword is its own archetype in fantasy, even if there haven't been any good magic sword books among the big fantasy novels of recent years. Perhaps that's because Saberhagen and Moorcock did such a good job with their books in the past. I'm not sure. (I don't count appearances of magic swords like Callandor in the Wheel of Time. I mean books with major parts played by swords.)

Anyway, that's a tangent, and I'm certain that half the people reading this can think of examples and exceptions to what I just said. Either way, this is a theme I wanted to tackle, and the magic system of this world lent me the opportunity.

Nightblood is another favorite character of the readers. I think his personality works the best out of any non-viewpoint character I've ever written. He doesn't get that much dialogue in the book, but it is so distinctive that it just works.

Skyward San Diego signing ()
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Questioner

When Jasnah takes Shallan on as a ward, she teaches her a strategy for research. Is that strategy you use when you are doing research?

Brandon Sanderson

No. It's a strategy like the one they tried to teach me in college, and I was never good at.

Questioner

So you used it as a-- You used it intentionally because of?

Brandon Sanderson

Not that I don't like it. My brain doesn't work the way that note-taking methodology worked. I know it worked for some people, and probably if I had spent more time on it, then I would have. But I work in a different way.

Boskone 54 ()
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Questioner

I just finished Rithmatist, so just a general question, where did the idea come from?

Brandon Sanderson

The Rithmatist began as the magic system as you probably could guess. I wanted to do an interesting magic system that people played a game with. Because I have used most of my magic… You’ll read in these, that they’re kind of martial arts based, warfare based, things like that. I’m like, people play games with everything. Why do I have no games-- magic systems with games. So it kind of just spun out of that.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

Where did you come up with the idea for Allomancy?

Brandon Sanderson

It's a combination of several things. One is I started with wanting a group of powers that would complement a gang of thieves. So I designed the powers to work within the roles of a thieving crew. The burning metals came from reading about biology and metabolism and it felt very natural to me because that's how we get our energy as human beings. The whole connection of the metals and the visualization stuff came from mixing the periodic table of the elements with alchemy. All of those things kind of spun together to make it.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
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Questioner

*inaudible*

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, they can't help but be.  I remember sitting out on my porch as a kid, the storms blowing the other direction so it didn't get me, and just swinging on the porch swing watching the storm.  Those are the storms I know, so I would say when I'm describing them I'm thinking that.  But the original inspiration was the storm of Jupiter, the constant storm, and granted as a gas giant it is very different.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

How did you sort of develop and write the character of Vin? 'Cause her upbringing is so different from anything we-- that I have experienced and I'm guessing you had a similar experience. So did you have a model or somebody you could talk to?

Brandon Sanderson

I-- Not really. Now I did have two sisters, which helped, but my sisters were not raised in such a manner. It is more just trying out personalities, like I talked about in my speech until I got one that worked. Lots of practice if you want to be a good writer, lots and lots of practice. Try writing people very different from yourself and try to get them right. Give it to people and have them see if anything "Yes this feels right" and things like that. Just do lots of practice.

Firefight release party ()
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Questioner

Where did you get your inspiration for Kaladin?

Brandon Sanderson

Kaladin came because I was reading about the life of a surgeon in the Medieval age and how it-- how strange it was to be like this person who had one foot in science and one foot not, and that was really interesting to me. And he evolved a lot over time becoming more the hybrid warrior and things like that. But that's where it started, what it was like to live and be a surgeon in a Medieval world.

Firefight release party ()
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Questioner

Where did the idea to use chalk come from?

Brandon Sanderson

Y'know, I have trouble pinpointing that one. I remember the idea of chalk circles, and things like that, and just seeing those in the lore of our world's sort of magical mythology and thinking about chalk circles. I remember thinking about how I want to do a book some day about people who play a game with magic, and things like that. At the end it is just one of things that I'm like "Hey, magical Starcraft with chalk. Go!" and I just started working on it, and it happened.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Ten

Vivenna Meets the Mercenaries in the Restaurant

Denth was planned as an important figure in this book from the early going. I was looking for a type of character I'd never written, someone who could be interesting, but not steal the show too much from Vivenna. But I also wanted someone who would provide some good verbal sparring (a theme of this book) without simply replicating the way that Lightsong makes word plays.

Denth's and Tonk Fah's personalities grew out of this. I wanted them to offer a more lowbrow sort of humor, conversations that dealt with more base types of joking. They aren't supposed to be laugh-out-loud funny, but hopefully they're amusing and colorful as characters.

The Great American Read: Other Worlds with Brandon Sanderson ()
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Questioner

You have a good amount of accountants in your books.

Brandon Sanderson

My mother is an accountant. So accounting is one of my go-to references to my Mom. She's an accountant for the city of Idaho Falls. So that is why so many accountants pop up in my books.

Questioner

Is that where [Lightsong], is that a direct, for her?

Brandon Sanderson

Yep. [Lightsong] is also based on a friend of mine who is a computer programmer, and you don't have computer programmers in fantasy worlds. So I'm like, "Well, what's the closest thing to that?"

Footnote: The questioner and Brandon both refer to Llarimar, but it was Stennimar who was the accountant.
Firefight Atlanta signing ()
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Questioner

Are going to do anything else in that world [of Dreamer]

Brandon Sanderson

Probably not. She [Charlaine Harris] wanted me to write a horror story, and I'd never written one before so I said, "All right, what is the most frightening thing I can think of?" The most frightening thing I could think of was the kids who play Xbox having power over real people’s lives, and that’s where that story came from.

Legion Release Party ()
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Questioner

What technology that you have heard of recently in real life has inspired fantasy?

Brandon Sanderson

There's gotta be something in Skyward, right? Maybe?

Obviously, the Legion stories are, all three of them, inspired by real-world technology that I read something interesting about, and then go and write a story about. The first one, taking pictures of the past with a camera, not a real-world technology, but I was reading about photography and things like that. The second one, storing data inside of human cells, that's a real thing that lots of people are trying to do that, it's very interesting. And I didn't want to do a story about that, because I thought other people would do stories about that, so I did a story where someone storied data in a body and then lost it. And the third one is directly inspired by my kids love of their VR.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twelve

Lightsong Hears Petitions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skyward Atlanta signing ()
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Questioner

Is there any connection or coincidence to the Krell in Skyward, versus the Krell from Forbidden Planet?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes... Forbidden Planet is one of my favorite movies. Perhaps my favorite classic science fiction movie. I really dig any sort of Shakespearean interpretation in another medium. So I named the Krell after the Krell from Forbidden Planet.

Shadows of Self San Diego signing ()
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Questioner

So, there's not a lot a lot of Western books coming out these days. Is there anything in particular that made you decide to set Alloy of Law and the other books in that time period; and any challenges moving into that time period?

Brandon Sanderson

...It's hard to say, you know, to reach back into my "cultural archive," so to speak, in my head. I did watch a lot of spaghetti westerns during that era. I think they're cool. But I really think it was more wanting to deal with something in the early 1900s. Because, I love that era. That era, in our world, was, like, this era of scientific discoveries-- there was this revolution that happened, right around that time, with the coming of electric lights and the coming of motorcars where, for the first time, science is a thing for everybody. Like, before, science was a thing that somebody rich got to do, and then it became something-- like, I remember reading an essay that was written in, like, 1910, about a scientist who had gone and studied ditch-digging, and gone in there with the ditch-diggers. And he taught them, he figured out the science of what makes ditch-digging easier on their bodies and on their health and faster, and basically he 'scienced' ditch-digging for the ditch-diggers. And they loved that. It made their jobs much easier. It was a time where science was like that, it was the first time that science was like that... That time period really fascinates me, because you've got this whole-- my career is based around taking cool things and superstition, and to have, like, one foot over there and one foot in science, and kind of bringing those two things together. And that fascinates me, and that was a time period where we were transitioning from superstition toward science. That's really cool to me. So, I wanted to do something in that time period, and the Western aspect was just a fun part of it. The whole pitch of "Clint Eastwood has to move to big-city New York and take over his house politics" was really interesting to me.

Skyward Atlanta signing ()
#45 Copy

Questioner

For Jerkface... Was he supposed to stay a jerk, or did you want him to...

Brandon Sanderson

I planned out his arc. I tried very hard to evoke Malfoy, Crabbe, and... Goyle. I tried very hard to evoke that, and then try to pull the rug out from underneath that. Whether I was successful or not, depends on your interpretation, but he was always supposed to be.

And the real fun and twist to this book is, Spensa's kind of the bully, but she presents him as the bully. And hopefully, as you read, you're like, "Wait a minute..."

Elantris Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

By the way, I took the bit where Sarene judged Raoden's height from real-life experience. My friend, Annie Gorringe, always used to talk about how her near 6' height sometimes made it difficult for her to find men to date. Often, the first thing she'd do when she was interested in a man was judge his height compared to her own.

Watch out, folks. If you know an author, you have to watch your tongues. Anything you say is fair game to be used in a novel, as far as we're concerned.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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BoldFontOfYouth

On The Orville, the enemy space aliens are called the Krill - any connection there?

Brandon Sanderson

Maybe? The word Krell is one of those ones that pops up in SF now and then, as an homage to The Forbidden Planet. (Which is why I chose it.)

I can see a network being more worried about using the actual name, and making the creators go with something similar but not the same. You'd have to ask them.