Going hand-in-hand with the maps is the character Nazh, who annotates many of the in-universe maps. How much of Nazh was your idea? What about him appeals to you?
The story behind Nazh is, I was in Brandon’s writing group when we were workshopping The Rithmatist. And there’s a character named Nalizar in that book. I could never remember his name, so I kept calling him Nazrilof. So it became this running gag with Brandon, like… “Nalizar and Nazh are different people. Nazh is your alter ego, Isaac, and Nalizar is a character in The Rithmatist.”
When we got to The Alloy of Law, Brandon and I were firmly in the camp of including maps that are artifacts from the world. And we thought, where are they getting these? And who’s labeling them? Diana Wynne Jones wrote a book called The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, and there’s a map in the front that basically says that if a location is labeled on the map, then by golly you’re gonna go to the place during the course of the story. Fantasy maps have gotten this reputation of being kind of spoilery.
So when we got to the map of Elendel, we were looking at it, thinking if we only labeled the places that were necessary for the story, then we’re falling into this trope of fantasy. So how can we subvert this a bit? So, if the novel is compiled by Khriss, presumably, then maybe she has somebody who goes and gets the maps and labels them for her with pertinent information. It might still feel a little like “these labeled things are the important parts” but at least there’s an in-world reason why that is. That allowed us to develop a character around that. Brandon said, “Why don’t we have Nazh do this?” to which I agreed, and Brandon said, “Isaac, welcome to the Cosmere.”
Since then, Nazh’s role has grown into basically a sidekick for Khriss. Now, when working with Nazh, we think of him as a grumpy James Bond.