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Elantris Annotations ()
#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

One of the major post-sale revisions I did to Elantris came at the suggestion of my agent, Joshua Bilmes. He noted that I had several chapters where Hrathen just walked about, thinking to himself. He worried that these sections made the middle of the book drag a bit, and also feared that they would weaken Hrathen's character. So, instead, he suggested that I add Telrii to the book some more, and therefore give Hrathen opportunities to be clever in the way he achieved his goals.

This is the first chapter that shows any major revision in this direction. In the original, Hrathen simply walked along, thinking to himself. I added Telrii to the second half of the chapter, putting some of Hrathen's internal musings into their discussion. I cut some of the more repetitive sections, and then left the others interspersed between lines of dialogue.

The result is, I think, a very strong new section.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#2 Copy


You are releasing a graphic novel version of White Sand, which one is going to be canon to the Cosmere, the graphic novel or the novel you originally wrote?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh definitely the graphic novel. The book I originally wrote has its problems, and I never released it. The books don't become canon until I release them. This will be the canon release of White Sand. I don't think-- If the graphic novel does well we are not going to write novels, I'm going to do the second one as a graphic novel original. That's just how we are going to do it-- is my plan right now. There are things when we went back to it that we tweaked, for instance Hoid's appearance in the original novel was only a reference. He was mentioned by, what did I end up calling him, Eis? Ais, I had both names for a while, it was only a reference to one of his old cases, that's his only appearance. And we're like "Ehh people are going to expect more now". So we are writing in a better appearance for him. Stuff like that, I feel Khriss' character needs better development than the novel had, so we are working on that. Stuff, you know. Things you would do in a major revision.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#3 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Error in the Hardcover edition

I forgot to mention it in the appropriate chapter (I think it was way back in twenty-six) so I'll mention it here. Maybe I'll move this eventually.

Anyway, the hardcover edition of the book had of the more embarrassing typos in the series. (I think we got it fixed for the softcover.) It relates to Clubs and his Allomantic abilities, which is why this scene made me think of it. Way back in chapter twenty-four, I mistakenly (during one of the very last drafts of the book) mention Clubs as being a Seeker, not a Smoker, and burning the wrong metal.

I knew I'd do this some place in the series. The thing is, Clubs was originally going to be the team's Seeker, with Marsh being the Smoker. I swapped this before I started writing, but there is still some latent belief on my part that Clubs is a Seeker. And, because of that, when writing quickly and smoothing over rifts made by re-arranging chapters, I wrote the wrong metal down. (And it isn't just a single word typo; I think I even talked about him being a Seeker, and being able to sense what metals people are burning. Something like that.)

All I can say is. . .whoops!

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#4 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Zane and Straff meet with Penrod in the night

We haven't had a Straff Viewpoint in a while, though from here out they get a little more frequent. Mostly, I had to include this to let you know why the merchants switched sides, and to give you a little hint of what was going on behind the scenes in places the heroes couldn't see.

I also wanted to remind you of Zane's penchant for poisoning his father, and Straff's own use of that mistress to heal him. This entire plot cycle (with the poisoning) was a late addition to the book in the revision process, added to give more dynamic between Zane and his father.

The really funny thing about all of this posturing, searching, and threatening in order to get the atium is this: atium is worthless. Or, rather, it only has worth as long as people give it worth.

In the minds of all of the characters, this cache is a fabulous treasure. Don't judge them too harshly–think how hard it would for you to pass up gold or diamonds, even if you were in the middle of a catastrophe. That's what's going on here. They still see atium as being incredibly valuable, even though the truth is that it was only valuable because the Lord Ruler made it so much a foundation of his economy.

True, atium can be used by Mistborn to do some pretty amazing things. However, you don't need a whole cache for that. Zane has proven that he has enough atium to kill Vin if he wants, and so more really isn't necessary for the Ventures.

Another worry, however, is that there enemies will get it–and that will let the enemies use their Mistborn to assassinate without as much fear of repercussion.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#5 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Clubs and Dockson die

And, speaking of Breeze, here we have Clubs's death scene, as seen by Breeze. So, in truth, Spook was prophetic when he said that Clubs had said good bye to him for good.

The simple truth is that felt I had too many characters in the books. I couldn't flesh them all out, and I really needed to get rid of a few. Clubs was, unfortunately, one of the casualties.

Of course, I didn't just kill him because I had too many characters cluttering the story. That was one of many reasons. I knew that I couldn't go through a siege without losing a few characters. It just wasn't realistic. The characters had dreaded this conflict too much, and they knew it was going to be dangerous–probably deadly–when the invasion came. I often say that I feel I can't protect my characters from the decisions they make. I did write in a little more power to some of Clubs' scenes in the book once it was certain that he would die here. The interactions between him and Sazed and him and Breeze in this novel were there partially because I knew he was going to die, and I wanted to give him some chances to participate in the story before going.

Dockson was the other one I decided to kill. In the initial draft, the scene with him dying ended with a koloss killing him from behind, without him looking at it.

My alpha readers complained profusely about this. So, at the request mainly of my friend Skar, I let Dockson grab a sword and charge before dying. Another send-off for Dockson is the comment he makes, noting that if the crew done things differently, turning on the nobility as he had wanted to in book one, he and the others would have been no better than beasts. It's his way of acknowledging that they'd done the right thing, and is a little bit of a redemption for him. He'd tried very hard to work with the noblemen, to make up for the atrocities he committed during younger years.

The final reason that I knew Dockson and Clubs had to die was because I wanted to REALLY make you think that Sazed was going to die too. If everything is working right in these chapters, you'll be sitting there, knowing that Vin is going to arrive in time. Yet, you'll question, you'll worry, and you'll begin to fret. You'll see Clubs drop, then Dockson die, in rapid succession. Then we come to Sazed, and he falls, out of metals, out of hope.

That's when I bring Vin in.

Elantris Annotations ()
#6 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty

Originally, I had the steps leading up to Elantris from the outside be a construction put there by the people of Kae. I knew I wanted a large number of scenes on the wall–it is such a dominant visual feature of the book that I thought it would make a good stage for scenes. However, I quickly realized that it would be the people of Kae–not the Elantrians–who controlled the wall. The Elantris City Guard grew from this idea, as did the set of steps constructed on the outside, leading up.

As I worked more and more on the book, however, I came to realize that the pre-Reod Elantrians wouldn't have needed a city wall for protection.

Obviously, to those who've read more, there is a good Aon-based reason for the wall. However, there is more to it than that, as well.

The wall of the city is a symbol–it's part of the city's majesty. As such, it made more and more sense that there would be plenty of ways to get up on top of it.

When we got the cover art back from Stephen, we were amazed by its beauty. A few things, however, didn't quite mesh with the text. One of these was the set of steps–they were so ornate, so beautiful, that it didn't fit that they would have been designed by the people of Kae. At that point, things kind of fell together, and I realized that there was no reason why the Elantrians themselves wouldn't have put a large staircase outside the city leading up to the wall.

And so, in the final rewrite of the book (the ninth draft) I changed the staircase, and the general feel of the wall, to give the proper sense to the reader. The staircase was placed by the Elantrians as a means of getting up on top the wall. The wall itself became less a fortification, and more a wonder–like the Eiffel Tower. It is there to be climbed and experienced.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#7 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Six

Spook Starts to Believe in Kelsier

In this chapter, Spook begins to turn into the person he was during the first draft of the book. In that draft, he immediately listened to Kelsier's voice and didn't question its existence at all. The revision changed things so that he was surprised when he heard it, looking around several times, uncomfortable. This works better in many ways, though the starkness of how unhinged his constant burning of tin had made him before was kind of sad to lose.

General Reddit 2017 ()
#8 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I don't even put spren in on the first draft, that's just too much to keep in my brain. Afterward, I do a draft where I just go in and add all that stuff. It's like adding the special effects to a movie.

Peter Ahlstrom

So, Brandon actually does put a number of spren in the first draft. But part of Karen's job as continuity editor is to find more places to add the spren and mark those in the document. Then on the next draft Brandon puts spren there if he judges them to be good places for spren.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#9 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eighteen - Part Two

Shan was a later addition to the book. In the original draft of the novel, I did mention her in this chapter, but we didn't see her–and Lord Liese didn't mention her. As I wrote the first draft, however, I began to realize that I needed more tension and political wrangling in the Vin ball scenes. So, I expanded Shan and made her a larger character. Then, during the first rewrite, I added her in to this scene, along with some others.

The purpose of Shan, therefore, is to show that some of the nobility ARE the way Kelsier says. The thing is, most of what we get about the nobility come from him, and he has a very skewed perspective. Our only real opportunity to interact with them is at the balls, and so I knew I needed to cram a variety of personalities into this scene, so that people could have a chance to experience the range of the nobility.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#10 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Four

Sazed's Depression and Search for Truth

And we finally get to do the first Sazed chapter.

It seems that each book presents different challenges. In book two, Sazed's scenes flowed easily and perfectly, much as TenSoon's chapters did in this book. However, in book three, I couldn't get Sazed's chapters to work right. I had to do several revisions.

The main problem was that in the first draft of the book, Sazed just sat around moping all the time. I wanted to show him in the clutch of depression, having given up on all of his religions. In that draft, he'd already decided that all of his religions were false and that there was no hope.

But his chapters were a major drag. They were rather boring to read, and even when exciting things were happening, Sazed himself was just too depressing. That came from two problems. First off, his depression just didn't feel right—it felt like I was telling people he was depressed, rather than showing someone who really had depression. Secondly, he wasn't doing anything. That's an accurate portrayal of someone with depression, but it sure is a drag to read.

So, I revised heavily and came up with the idea of Sazed looking through his portfolios searching for truth. I like how this turned out. Not only is he being active now, but it feels to me that he's more depressed—despite being active—because of the way he thinks and the edge of despair you can feel each time he eliminates one of the religions in his portfolio.

At the same time, I took out a lot of his thoughts about how depressed he was, and instead just let his outlook on things show that depression. I'm still not sure if I got the balance perfect or not, but this is such an improvement on the previous drafts that I am very pleased with it.

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
#11 Copy


Was there an Allomantic power that didn't make it into the book?

Brandon Sanderson

Was there an Allomantic power that didn't make it into the book. Oh... Yes, but I'm trying to remember. I had like two dozen of them? Oh boy I can't even remember the ones that I discarded. I was going to do a lot more stuff externally, stuff that like wasn't inside of you and it didn't end up working out. The big thing that I talk about with Allomancy that changed is originally I was using...silver as one of the metals, this is-- this is because... Dumb story time, so when I was a kid I painted these little miniatures that you do in D&D so your little guys can actually fight each other, right? And my brother still does this, they're awesome, I was terrible at it, but I painted these little guys. And at one point I went-- and they used to be lead, and then they realized that lead kills you *laughter* and so--or maybe it just makes you strange, I can't remember--I went and all of the prices had gone up, like by a double, because they had made them out of pewter instead. And I said to the guy "What is up with this, you are totally ripping us off. My figures now cost us 50 cents instead of--" I don't remember what it was and he went "Uh yeah it's because pewter has silver in it man. You're buying little silver figures now" and I went "Oh. That's cool." And I bought them. And so for years I thought pewter was an alloy of silver and I wrote an entire book. An Entire Book. The whole first Mistborn book with silvereyes and pewterarms until it went to my beta readers and like "There's almost no silver in pewter Brandon, you don't even really need it. Everything in this magic system works except that." and I went "Well maybe we can just pretend in this world pewter--" "No that's stupid" *laughter* So I had to change it to tin which is actually what you find in pewter. To this day my assistant Peter, who is my continuity editor, came to me and said "You realize you wrote silvereye instead of tineye in the newest Mistborn book that you just finished? It's been ten years Brandon get over it." *laughter* Still happens.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#12 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The God King Approaches Siri in Bed

Siri wonders why the God King wears black, rather than white—which his BioChroma would distort. The answer is simple. To Awakeners, black is a symbol of power. It's a fuel, a color that can be used for Awakening. White, however, is useless. So to wear white would be foolish, except in certain cases where the priests want to prove how powerful the God King is by letting him dynamically bend the light. So while he occasionally appears in white, his everyday attire is black.

His ability to bend light into the prismatic colors, by the way, was added about halfway through the first draft. I wanted a stronger visual indication of someone who had reached the top Heightenings, and I like the imagery associated with it.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#13 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixty-Six

Talking Horses that Talk about Their Feelings

A fun story about this chapters beings by me admitting that I didn't come up with the "TenSoon digests a horse" trick at first. I tried writing this scene with Sazed clinging to TenSoon's wolfhound back as they ran to the south. It was awkward to describe, even more awkward to imagine, and it never worked that well.

Eventually, while working on a solution to the problem of getting Sazed south to the Homeland, I realized that TenSoon could just digest another body and use that. Easy fix, and one that fit marvelously with the magic and setting.

This intersects another story relating to my friend Nate Hatfield, one of the guys in my writing group. He's a big fan of Dinosaur Comics, a webcomic that often deals with philosophy or literary criticism. Years ago, he brought a comic to the group where one of the characters in the comic strip complains that fantasy books are all about talking horses that talk about their feelings.

All through the writing of book two of Mistborn, Nate took delight in the Vin/TenSoon scenes as they were about a talking dog who talks about his feelings. He never let me live that connection down.

And then, almost just for him, I had TenSoon take on the body of a horse for a few chapters. I doubt I'll ever hear that end of that one. At least he didn't end up saying much about his feelings. ;)

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#14 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The koloss army was another thing that got shuffled about in this book. Originally, the Luthadel folks discovered its advance pretty early on. All of their discussions, then, talked about the fact that they had three armies bearing down on them.

I pushed back knowledge of the koloss for a couple of reasons. First off, koloss are scary–and I think they deserve to be treated differently from the other two armies. Their appearance can throw a real wrench into things later on, once Elend and company hear about them. It allows for the reader to know something that most of the characters do not, and leads to anticipation and tension.

In addition, it gives Sazed another good reason to exist in the plot. Now he knows about the koloss and nobody else inside the city does. His mission, therefore, is even more vital. He has to bring information back to his friends.

Elantris Annotations ()
#15 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Two

So, this chapter gets the grand prize for most edited and revised chapter in the book. There are other chapters that have more new material–but only because they were added in completely after the original draft. This chapter, good old chapter two, was the one that underwent the most tweaks, face-lifts, additions, and edits during the ten drafts I did of Elantris.

And, I think poor little Sarene is the cause of it.

You could say that she played havoc with the book in much the same way she did with Hrathen, Iadon, and Raoden in the story.

As I worked on the novel, Sarene as a character took on a much more dominant role in the plot than I had intended. Perhaps it's because she's the intermediary between the other two characters, or maybe it's because I liked her best of the three characters. Either way, in my mind, this book is about Sarene. She's the catalyst, the force of change.

In the end, she's the one that provides the solutions to both Raoden and Hrathen's problems. She gives Raoden the hint he needs to fix Elantris, and she gives Hrathen the moment of courage he needs in order to turn against Dilaf.

However, I've found that Sarene is many people's least-favorite of the three characters. I had a lot of trouble in the original drafts of this book, since many alpha readers didn't like her in this chapter. They thought she came off as too brusque and manipulative. It was always my intention to show a more sensitive side to her later in the novel, but I didn't intend to lead with it quite as quickly as I ended up doing.

The first edit to the chapter came with the addition of the Sarene-and-Ashe-travel-to-the-palace scene. This is the section were Sarene sits in the carriage, thinking about her anger at Raoden and her insecurity. This counteracts a bit of the strength we see from her in the first scene at the docks, rounding her out as a character.

The second big addition came in the form of the funeral tent scene. This was added as a tangent to one of Moshe's suggestions–he wanted us to have an opportunity to see Sarene investigating Raoden's death. In the original drafts of the book, we felt the narrative made it too obvious to outsiders that Raoden must have been thrown into Elantris. Moshe and I felt that it seemed silly that people wouldn't consider the possibility that Raoden wasn't dead. This wasn't what I wanted–I wanted most people to accept the event. Only someone as overly-curious as Sarene would have been suspicious.

So, I revised the story to downplay the suspicion around Raoden's death. Instead of having Iadon rush through the funeral (an element of the original draft) I added the funeral tent and had Sarene (off-stage) attend the funeral itself. These changes made it more reasonable that very few people would have suspicions regarding the prince's death, and therefore made it more plausible that people wouldn't think that he had been thrown into Elantris.

Other small tweaks to this chapter included the removal of a line that almost everyone seemed to hate but me. After Sarene meets Iadon for the first time, she is pulled away by Eshen to leave the throne room. At this time, I had Sarene mutter "Oh dear. This will never do." Everyone thought that was too forceful, and made her sound to callous, so I changed it to "Merciful Domi! What have I gotten myself into?" A piece of me, however, still misses Sarene's little quip there.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#16 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vin Goes to Kredik Shaw

Originally, the Well of Ascension WAS in the mountains. That's the big reason for the rewrite of the ending. This section of the book felt TOO disjointed with the rest of the novel, and I felt that I needed to move the Well to Luthadel. That way, the fight for the city meant something–and I didn't have to send Vin out, have her come back, then send her north yet again.

It works far better this way. Of course, I had to do some major rewriting–and I had to explain why the Well isn't in the mountains. But, in this case, fixing one thing gave me motivation for fixing something else. I had worried about how easy it was to find the Well, and how difficult it would be to take Vin and Elend into the mountains to find it. All very awkward. Both the history and the current story work much better when I decided to have the Lord Ruler have moved the Well down and put his city on top of it.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#17 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

On a more serious note, this section contains some of the more lengthy additions to the rewrite. Elend's speech, and the arguments against it, were all added in the very last draft. As I said before, the first draft had Elend giving a much different proposal, as the army hadn't arrived yet.

This works TONS better. I worry that Elend comes off a little too strong–or, well, not weak enough–in this scene. I originally included it to show some of his faults as a leader. However, other readers have indicated that they thought he came off as too weak. Even if this is a book about Elend becoming a leader (or, at least, that’s a big chunk of the novel) he doesn't have to quite as hopeless as I originally painted him.

So, perhaps we've got a good balance going on here.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#18 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The scene with the skaa getting killed in the courtyard was also added later in the drafting process. Moshe was worried that the Final Empire didn't seem brutal enough–especially in these middle chapters, where it was easy to forget (as Vin almost did) how dangerous the world was. The balls and the frills were supposed to be distracting. However, I realized that I needed to bring people back on-course by throwing in a scene like this, where abject brutality could be contrasted with the night's beauty.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#19 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

One final note for this chapter. Bilg. I prefer him dead. (This is the guy Demoux fought at the end of the chapter, with Kelsier's help.)

In the original draft of the book, I had Kelsier–through Demoux–kill Bilg in the duel. I thought this was appropriate, and would be the sort of thing that Kelsier would do. In addition, I really wanted to emphasize the ruthless edge that Kelsier has. He is willing to do whatever he has to in order to see that his goals are achieved. It's that conflict–the happy, joking Kelsier mixed with the hard, ruthless rebel leader–that makes him interesting to me.

Joshua was the big complainer on this one. He felt that my books are too optimistic for something THIS harsh to be done by one of the main characters. He felt that readers wouldn't go along with it–indeed, it was one of the main points that my alpha readers brought up. Some liked it, others hated it. The scene did it's job.

Eventually, I went with Joshua's suggestion, however, and left Bilg alive. To me, this kind of castrates the scene. However, I suppose the most important elements still get across, and Kelsier gets to remain less tarnished a hero.

Still, I would have liked the death to remain, if only for the future books. I'll eventually post this scene as a deleted scene from the book.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#20 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-One

Vasher Awakens His Clothing, Then Leaps off the Palace

One of the subtle, yet drastic, changes to Awakening that happened in this story came during the middle drafts. Originally, the Command was part of the process of Awakening—but wasn't as important as I eventually made it. I had intended for very difficult things to be accomplished through the use of very long and intricate Commands. However, as I wrote the first draft, I felt this was bulky. What it meant that was if you wanted to use a powerful Awakening in battle, you'd have to stop and spout several paragraphs of instructions. It really cut down on the tension of the battle sequences. (And Awakening was already slower than I preferred, with the need for all of the steps—Breathing, finding color, then Commanding.)

So during revisions, I changed this. Instead of requiring a lengthy Command to create a powerful Awakening, the strength and skill of the Awakener is instead determined by their ability to visualize what they want the Command to do. The Command is a focus, the spoken words an important part of the process, but the real trick is getting the right mental picture.

This way, someone can practice a lot, and still use simple Commands—like "grab things"—yet have them do very powerful things. It also allows me to have Commands be easier to learn and use, yet still require skill to master.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#21 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirteen - Part Two

This Elend scene here is almost a direct parallel of the scene in book one where Kelsier first introduces the plan to his people. Elend has a much harder time of it. In fact, this scene–in conjunction with the scene with the Assembly–is supposed to establish Elend as what he is: a man with great ideas, but poor leadership techniques. He's brilliant and scholarly, but he doesn't know how to get people to do what he wants.

This is reflected in his speech patterns, and has been since book one. He likes to use the phrase "Now, see," followed by an observation. He doesn't command, and when he argues, he uses very passive sentences. All of this is–hopefully–makes your subconscious see him in a certain way.

The only reason he convinces the crew to go along with them is 1) he's right, they like to gamble, and this is the type of plan they like and 2) they already know him, and his ideas have earned a measure of trust from them.

When necessary, Elend CAN give a brilliant speech. He can make people dream and hope. He just isn't good at arguing, and is rather poor at being a dictator.

This scene, by the way, is another substantially rewritten one. I focused a lot more on the idea that the crew was going to have to deal with a long siege in the rewrites.

Elantris Annotations ()
#22 Copy

Brandon Sanderson


So, Hrathen wasn't really dead. (Ironically, while many of you are probably saying "yeah, yeah. That was obvious," I actually didn't have him appear here in the first eight drafts of the book. I'll explain later.)

I think this is my favorite scene of this chapter. Not only is it written a little better than the rest of the book (I added it quite late–just this last summer) but it gives final closure to the Hrathen-Dilaf relationship. It uses Hrathen's time in Dakhor as an ironic twist against Dilaf. In short, it is a pretty good scene. Fulfills character, plot, and theme at the same time–while giving us a nice image to boot. (Though I do hate to do the "Hey look, a guy we thought was dead is really alive" twist.)

The story behind this scene is pretty recent. One of the original rewrites Moshe asked for was a fix of the ending, which he thought was too Deus Ex Machina. (Which, indeed, it was.) I don't think I'll go into the entire original version here–it was quite different. You can read the alternate ending in the deleted scenes section, when I throw it up next month. The short of it, however, is that Ien (Raoden's seon) showed up to save Raoden and Sarene from Dilaf. I used a mechanic of the magic system that I have since pretty much cut from the novel (since it was only in the book to facilitate this scene) that allowed Ien to complete his Aon, "healing" Dilaf. Except, since Ien's Aon was broken, it turned Dilaf into an Elantrian instead. (A non-glowing Elantrian. One like Raoden the group used to be–like Dilaf's own wife became after she was improperly healed in Elantris.)

I know that's probably confusing to you. The scene, over all, was just kind of weak. It relied on a barely-explained mechanic mixed with a tangential character showing up at just the right moment. When Moshe asked for the change, I immediately saw that I needed to bring Hrathen back to life for a few more moments. Letting him die on the street just wasn't dignified enough (though originally I wanted him to die this way because it felt more realistic.) I wanted a final confrontation between Hrathen and Dilaf, since it would give most people's favorite character a heroic send-off, and would also let me tie in the aforementioned Dakhor irony.

In the end, I was very pleased with the rewrite. It's good to have an editor.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#23 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Human Enters the Tunnels

And here we also get some Human viewpoints. I believe I mentioned that he'd be returning. I didn't manage to do very much with him, but my alpha readers demanded something. (These two short scenes with him, as well as the epigraph saying he'd be back, were added in a later draft.) I figured that he deserved a little more screen time after what he'd done for the team, and I had wanted to show the koloss bursting in on the Trustwarren. This seemed like a perfect answer to both problems.

As I've said, I wished I could work Human in a little bit more. At least this lets us give him a parting goodbye.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
#24 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Four - Part Two

The other big part of this chapter is, of course, the plan. This is where the story has been pushing up to this point. I worry that even still (despite several cuts) this section feels a little too much like an info-dump. I couldn't really get around that, since Kelsier is–essentially–dumping some information on the crew.

This is also where I begin to diverge from the "heist story" framework. I started with that concept to write the book, but as I proceeded with the plotting and the writing of the actual novel, I realized that the heist structure was simply too small to fill the larger concepts for the trilogy I was working on.

So, in rewrites, I came back and reworked this section to take to focus off stealing the Lord Ruler's money. The truth is, Kelsier wants to overthrow the government and get back at the Lord Ruler. The money isn't half as important to him. And, as the story progresses, you'll see that the crew spends most of its time on the army.

Elantris Annotations ()
#25 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

In the Mad Prince drafts of the book, I was still holding off on revealing him to the readers. His army was out there in this chapter–visible because of its fires in the night. I revealed that Hrathen considered the newcomer an ally, but I hadn't yet given away who the newcomer was.

The Mad Prince's disappearance was probably the most time-consuming cut I made, not to mention the one most difficult for me personally. I'm happy to know he lives on in his web presence–he's practically the star of the "Deleted Scenes" section. The cut came at the suggestion of Joshua "Axe Man" Bilmes. The stark truth is, the story didn't need another random diversion here. We're getting very close to the climax, and introducing another whole character–with his own plot, problems, and tangents–just wasn't good for the pacing. Eton was, in my opinion, a brilliant character. However, he just didn't belong in the book.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Two - Part One

Lightsong Plays Tarachin With Three Other Gods

This is the newest scene in the book, added in the last revision before the novel went to copyedit. I added it for two reasons. My editor wanted to see another chapter between the previous Lightsong chapter and the next one. He felt that the god made up his mind to help Blushweaver too easily, and wanted to spend more time with Lightsong mulling over the decision.

I reacted quickly to the suggestion, as I'd been wanting to show Lightsong interacting with some of the other gods. It's sometimes too easy for me to build my books around a small core cast and rarely involve any others, and I have to force myself to include more characters to round things out. This book had a distinct lack of scenes with "ordinary" gods. We got to see a lot of the exceptions, but never the run-of-the-mill divinities who make up the ranks.

I wanted to show how they schemed and how they acted. Putting Lightsong with three of them here helps the book quite a bit, I think. It makes the world feel more real and helps his character by providing contrast.

The game is something I developed in order to make this scene work. I wanted a divine game—one that wouldn't require too much effort, would require a lot of preparation and extravagance, but would still qualify as a sport. So, we have a game where the gods can sit on a balcony attended by a fleet of servants and scribes tallying their throws.

When my editor read the scene, he loved it instantly. He called to tell me it was one of his favorites in the book, partially because of some particularly good Lightsong quips. He says that he fully expects some Sanderson book readers to develop the rules for the game someday, then play it at a con.

[Editor's note: Also compare the game of Stones in the deleted Mad Prince Eton scenes from Elantris. Warning: Contains spoilers, so do not read this if you have not read Elantris.]

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Brandon Sanderson

Vin Confronts Lady Patresen

I played with this scene, our first ball scene in hundreds of pages, several times—trying to find the right balance I wanted to convey. I wanted to have a nice circle pointing back to Vin's interactions with Shan in the first book, showing how far Vin has come. However, I knew I didn't want to dedicate much time to it, and I didn't want Vin to fall out of character. So, this is the scene that came out. A short, blunt scene with Vin pushing the politics of the party to fit what she wants, rather than playing the games the way they're supposed to be played.

Originally I had Vin's attack convince Lady Patresen to seek Vin's favor, but a friend of mine, Janci, convinced me that it was far more realistic to have the lackeys suddenly switch sides instead. For setting me straight, Janci gained the dubious right to rename Lady Patresen, who had been called something else before. And, being who she is, Janci named the woman after herself—then said, "I get to be the girl who gets spurned by Vin! How cool is that?"

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Aborted attack on the walls

The end scene of this chapter, with the army outside making test on the Luthadel walls, was one that Moshe suggested that we add. It came into the book very late in the process, during the last major revision, well over a year after I'd finished the first draft of the novel. The purpose of the scene was to give a reminder of the armies and the pressure they're applying to the city. We knew we needed to keep the reader thinking about the armies, and this chapter was a way of speeding up the book by making it longer, as I talked about before.

A test on the walls, then, makes sense. This also let me show off a bit how Allomancers might be used in battle, which I'd never been able to do in book one.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Five - Part Two

Lightsong's Dream

The Lightsong sections received two major upgrades during the last few drafts of the novel. The first was the enhancement of his memories of his dreams. We don't get to see the dreams, just their effect on him.

In the original draft, these dreams were far less ominous, particularly at the beginning of the book. My agent complained that the book felt like it lacked direction, particularly in the Lightsong sequences, and asked me to find a way to make it more tense. He didn't care if Lightsong joked; he just wanted to feel a tension underneath. A sense that all was not right.

The dreams came from this. Originally, Lightsong just dreamed about the ship leaving the port. In the later drafts, I added him remembering more in this chapter—the city on fire, the flames causing a red reflection on the ocean.

This actually wasn't a change to the dream. That's what I'd intended him to have dreamed; I just originally had him forgetting. I didn't start getting into the violent dreams until much later in the book, one chapter in particular. But because of Joshua's requests, I moved the sense of danger up from those later chapters to here to begin foreshadowing earlier.

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Brandon Sanderson

Words of Radiance Tweak

Moving on to Words of Radiance, as we were entering typo fixes for the paperback of this book, I made changes to a few lines near the end. This isn't anywhere near as extensive as the changes in Elantris, but once again I figure I should be up-front about what I did and why I did it.

This part is going to have some spoilers for the book, so if you haven't read it, please stop right here. I'll put a number of blank lines here to prevent accidental spoilers. Scroll down if you've finished the book.

So, in Words of Radiance, I think the scene I worked on the longest both in my head and on the page was the final confrontation between Kaladin and Szeth.

There was something I wanted to do, and took a stab at it in the text, then backed off because I couldn't make it work. It was important to me that Kaladin refuse to kill Szeth at the end. Kaladin is about protection, not vengeance, and once he realized that Szeth really just wanted to be killed, I wanted Kaladin to hesitate.

It didn't end up working, and I moved on to a new version and submitted it. But this itched at me, and by the time the book was released, I felt I'd made the wrong choice for that scene. So I've taken this chance to roll it back to the previous idea, and written it in a new way, which I like much better.

The events are the same, except for that moment. Szeth is now killed by the storm instead of by Kaladin, which I think is more thematically appropriate.

The question this raises is about Szeth being stabbed by a Shardblade, then being resuscitated. I'm sad to lose this sequence, as it's an important plot point for the series that dead Shardblades cannot heal the soul, while living ones can. I'm going to have to work this into a later book, though I think it's something we can sacrifice here for the stronger scene of character for Kaladin and Szeth.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Originally, the nobleman Kelsier met with was Lord Hasting. This was the only place he appeared in the book. I decided in a rewrite to introduce Elend's father here instead, since he's a character we’ll see much more from.

I also strengthened Straff in this scene. Before, he came off too weak as he bought the lies Kelsier told him. (Which, by the way, I've weakened. I realized that spreading too many falsehoods would be dangerous, and not really effective. Kelsier needs to whisper half-truths, rather than outright lies.)

Elantris Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

You'll notice the quick mention of the Widow's Trial in this chapter. This sub-plot was actually added later in the drafting process, and I had to come back and write these comments into this scene. It will become apparent why later on.

Though, you spoilers already know how it is used. I needed to get Sarene into Elantris somehow, and I wasn't certain how I was going to do it. Somewhere along the way I devised the idea of the Widow's Trial. In the end, it worked quite well, as it provided the means for Raoden to create New Elantris.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eleven

First Miles Viewpoint

Dan, from my writing group, thinks that this Miles scene is misplaced, and thinks I should have held off from putting one in for a few more chapters. (He thinks the second one is better placed.) Dan usually has a good eye for these sorts of things, so I'll admit I'm not a hundred percent sure that I like this scene being here.

However, that said, in the draft that Dan read, Wax wasn't sure it was Miles until he saw the cigar box. Even then, there was a question. I decided, because of feedback, that wasn't terribly realistic. Wax would have recognized the voice well enough from the start to begin suspecting Miles, so keeping that suspicion from the reader lacked authenticity. For that reason, in a later draft I revised so that Miles' name is mentioned in the first chapter where Wax starts suspecting him.

Miles is the most erratic character in this book, personality-wise. He's an interesting guy on several fronts, but I worry he's got too much going on in that head of his to present a compelling bad guy. He's got a lot of different motives, and he's not certain about many of them. We will see how the reaction to him is; I acknowledge that he's no Zane, however. That's probably a good thing . . .

It may sound like I'm dissatisfied with Miles, but I'm not. I just happen to like what he does to Wax more than I think Miles himself is compelling as a villain. I'm pleased with his role in the book.

Elantris Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Interestingly, one of the noblemen most important to the plot didn't appear very often in the original draft. Telrii was a much more minor character in the first versions of the book. As you'll see later, however, he has an important role to play.

Some of you who read the very early drafts of the book might remember the Mad Prince. This is a character my agent successfully convinced me to cut–I'll talk about it more later on. However, the need for beefing up Telrii's character came from the loss of the Mad Prince. Telrii now does most of what Eton used to do.

So, this addition of Telrii in the party scene was one of the more later revisions to the book. He showed up in draft eight or nine, and I'm glad to have him. He finally has a character–in the first drafts of the book, he was a non-entity. Spoken of occasionally, but really only in the book to show how much money Hrathen was willing to spend on overthrowing Arelon.

Barnes & Noble B-Fest 2016 ()
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How do you become a beta reader?

Brandon Sanderson

People always want to know this! We have beta and gamma readers. Alpha reads are only my agent and my writing group. Beta readers are people from fandom who have proven that they know their stuff and are a part of the community. Peter picks these from people who are on my Facebook, who are interacting with him there, or who are on the 17th Shard. There's no promises you can get in on this. We do change it every book and get some new people, because sometimes we just want people to give fresh eyes on something.

Gamma reads, if you want to read things early, are bug hunters. They can spot a type form a hundred paces. If you are really good at finding typos, you can go to the thread on the 17th Shard, for every book there is a thread, a forum thread that talks about typos. And if you are consistently finding typos no one else has found, chances are good Peter will be like, "Hey, do you want to proofread for us?"

But don't feel like you have to do this because it actually diminishes the book a little bit, even though you get to do something cool, because it's not in its final form yet. I don't like beta reading when I don't have to, I'd prefer reading something with polish.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twelve - Part Two

Several other things were added to this scene in later drafts. One was the moment when Vin looked up at the windows and contemplated the Deepness and what she knew of it. As I've mentioned, I wanted more chances to talk about the mythology of the world. Moshe mentioned this as well, and so for the sixth draft (this book took seven, including the copy edit) I added in this scene.

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Brandon Sanderson

It is hard for me to keep in mind more than one big change for a book [while revising]. I can do it, but it's hard; it's a challenge. And fortunately, the way I write books is, generally I only have one big change per plot cycle or per viewpoint. Like, I can say, "For this viewpoint character, my big focus change for this is changing this part of who they are. This character needs to be more proactive." That's one of the ones that I had for the new Stormlight book, is there was a character that just wasn't proactive enough. And I'm like, "I need to change the way that they're viewing their life, and add a few scenes in appropriate places that up the character's proactivity."

That was separate from a different character, where I had approached some of the mental health things the wrong way, and early beta readers were able to point me the right direction on how to do it better. And that character, I didn't change structurally their plot; I changed their response to it, and then a few places where that response did require some major changes. But I could have them on mind: this revision, I'm doing this for this character.

And I had, like, three of those in my 4.0 draft. And for all the other characters, I could say, "In this, we are just focusing on tightening-normal-prose sort of cleaning." And that way, when I went to the 5.0, if there were things for those other characters, I could feel that I had already done the prose tightening for them, and I could get into some more of the problems they needed, and I was able to keep the big changes in my head for the other characters. And then, in the last draft, I was able to do the prose tightening on their viewpoints. And that worked really well for this specific book.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Originally, by the way, Yeden wasn't the one who hired the team. There was no employer–Kelsier just wanted to try and overthrow the Lord Ruler. The main way I took the focus off of stealing the atium (making this less of a heist book and more of a Mission: Impossible style book) was to put the focus on raising and training the army. Having Yeden be paying them to get him an army worked much better for this format.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty

I worry a little bit about this chapter. The problem is, it's probably one of the chapters that has undergone the most revisions. Not in a "Fix problems" way–more in a "I need to add scenes to the book. Where shall I put them" kind of way.

For instance, the beginning has a few paragraphs that–looking at them now–I think drag on a bit. The reiteration of Vin's relationship with Shan, for instance. I put it in because I need to indicate that time has passed, and that Vin's relationships have continued, but I worry that I spent too much time on it at the beginning of the scene. Next, I added another scene showing skaa life (the one with children shaking the trees) in order to remind the reader of how bad things are. Then, later on, I changed the book to have canal convoys rather than caravans. So, this chapter got some more revisions. Then, I added a lot to the scene with Marsh, including Vin’s discussion of her mother.

All in all, it feels like a hodge-podge chapter to me. A lot of important information is explained, but it doesn't fit together as well as I might have wanted. The rhythm of the chapter is just a little. . .off.

I'm not certain how interested people are in the real theory of Allomancy and how it works. However, I do think that some people like to hear the theory and background to magic systems like this, so I try to include the occasional explanation. For those of you who don't fit into this category, I apologize for Marsh's lengthy explanation here.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirteen

Timing of This Chapter

My editor threw me a little curveball in the last edit for this book by asking me if I could move the first Vivenna chapter (the previous one) up a few spots so that she was introduced earlier in the book.

This presented a problem, since I had her arriving, meeting the mercenaries, going to Lemex, then going to see Siri all in the same day. (Though across three chapters.) That meant that I had to move two chapters forward, then, since I didn't want to break with the mercenaries telling her that they were there to kill her. I wanted to go directly to the next scene with her.

It took a lot of juggling. One of the revisions I had to make was to move this third chapter a day later in the process. She had to arrive, fall asleep, then get up the next morning and have a conversation about giving the Breaths away. Then she had to go see Siri that same day.

I still worry that this jumble caused timing issues. I think I caught them all, but I worry that at one point Lightsong says, "The presentation of the queen is two days away," then we have Vivenna arrive that same day, then fall asleep and go see Siri the next day. If that's the case, then the explanation is—unfortunately—that the chapters aren't happening quite in chronological order.

Usually, I try to make my chapters all chronological, even across different viewpoints. But once in a while, the story is better if they aren't. The distinction is very hard to pick up. But I think it may happen here. (Note that a lot of authors, like Robert Jordan, don't strive for chronology—they like it better if the chapters are out of order a little. In a Robert Jordan book, for instance, we'll often have characters doing things in one chapter, then jump to other characters doing things a few weeks earlier. The chapters are always chronological by viewpoint, but the viewpoints can be off from one another. In fact, he plays with this concept a lot, setting book ten mostly back during the same time as book nine.)

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Brandon Sanderson

Kalad's Phantoms

Kalad used to be Khlad, by the way. I didn't want his name to sound so Pahn Kahlish, which I signify with the extra h sounds to give them an airy feel to their words. I added the mythology of Kalad's Phantoms to the book late in the process, wishing to give some more depth to the superstitions of the world. And perhaps do some other things too. . . .

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Brandon Sanderson

First Line Origins

Of course, this line got a tweak of its own in later drafts. I was fond of this first line, as I'd used it in the original short story with Vancer. However, in that story, he'd been thrown into prison for other reasons. In Warbreaker, I began the book with Vasher getting himself purposefully tossed into prison.

So, in the end, my editor pointed out that the line no longer worked quite right. We had to change it—why would Vasher complain about getting thrown into prison if he had done it to himself on purpose? So, it became "It's funny how many things begin with my getting thrown into prison." Q&A with Brandon Sanderson ()
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Tyran Amiros

Why does Bastille say they're speaking Melerandian in book 1 and Nalhallan from book 2 on?

Brandon Sanderson

When I originally wrote Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians, I put that in there partially as a throwaway joke. Melerand is one of the main kingdoms in Dragonsteel, and I thought it would be amusing for them to be speaking that language somehow filtered into this world. By the end of the book I decided that Alcatraz could not be anywhere in the same continuity as Dragonsteel and that I was probably wrong for including that. Though there are other jokes in there relating to my other books—it's much like the scene where Quentin speaks in Spook's dialect. Those were just jokes, inside references to my other books.

Remember that Alcatraz was written as a writing experiment, not as something that I was intending to publish. As the series grew more serious to me, meaning that I developed what I actually wanted to happen—which with me usually happens as I write book two of a series, when I sit down and build an arc for the entire series—I "realified" Alcatraz's world a little bit, if that makes sense, made it its own substantial thing. So at that point it wasn't appropriate for them to be speaking Melerandian anymore.

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What is the biggest change you've made based on alpha/beta reader feedback? (This goes for any of your books)

Brandon Sanderson

Probably adding Adolin as a main viewpoint character in the first book, which was done because I had trouble striking the balance between Dalinar worrying he was mad, and being a proactive, confident character. Worried better to externalize some of the, "Am I mad" into his son worrying "My dad has gone crazy" while letting Dalinar be more confident that his visions were something important. (I still let him worry a little, of course, but in the original draft, he felt temperamental from vacillation between these two extremes.)

Bringing Adolin to the forefront in the books has had a huge ripple effect through them, as I've been very fond of how his character has been playing out.


May I ask why you choose to use Adolin as the viewpoint character to supplement Dalinar as opposed to Renarin? My understanding is Renarin has always been the "most important brother" within SA, which made me wonder why, based on the beta readers comments, you ultimately decided to use Adolin and not your established character to bring forward the dilemma.

I am, obviously, extremely fond of how Adolin has been played out so far and while I have no idea where he is going (but zillions of theories), I am curious to know what his initial purpose in the story was. Did you draft the character's personality just for WoK's needs or did you have an idea of what to do with him when you made the change?

Brandon Sanderson

I was well aware that I needed certain things about Renarin to remain off-screen until later books, and him being a viewpoint character early would undermine these later books.

Adolin is a happy surprise and works exactly because he doesn't need to be at the forefront, even after I boosted his role. With Adolin, what you see is really what you get, which is refreshing in the books--but it also means I don't need huge numbers of pages to characterize him, delve into his backstory, etc. He works as a side character who gives more to the story than he demands pages to fullfill that giving, if that makes sense. Renarin is more like a pandora's box. Open him up, and we're committed to a LOT of pages. (Good pages, but that was the problem with TWOK Prime--everyone was demanding so many pages, from Renarn, to Jasnah, to Kaladin, to Taln, that none of their stories could progress.)

Adolin has basically always had the same personality, from TWOK Prime, through the original draft of the published TWOK, to the revision. The changes to making him more strong a viewpoint character were very natural, and he has remained basically the same person all along--just with an increased role in the story, and more development because of it.

I do discovery write character, usually, as a method of keeping the books from becoming slaves to their outlines. This means that Adolin has gone some new directions, but it's been a growth from the person he was in TWOK Prime. (Which you'll be able to see when I release it, sometime in the hopefully not distant future.)

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Testing the Mistfallen

Originally, I didn't have Elend have Demoux and his soldiers take a look at their metals until a little later on. Alpha readers correctly noted this, however, pointing out that it was one of the very first connections they made. I had to put it off mostly for dramatic reasons, which you'll see in the next chapter, but I decided I could insert these few lines of Elend telling the men to go test themselves to see if they were Allomancers.

Mistborn: The Final Empire Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-One - Part One

You can thank my editor Moshe for the canals in this book. He's a bit of a canal buff, and when he had read through Mistborn, he excitedly explained to me how canal technology was just perfect for the level of development I had in this book. So, at his suggestion, I changed caravans into convoys, and swapped horses for longboats.

I really like the change. It gets boring seeing, reading, or writing the same old things. So, by getting rid of one standard fantasy element–highways and horses–I think we add something very distinctive to the world.

Moshe, though. Man. He knows TOO much about this stuff.

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Brandon Sanderson

Who here was in the beta for [Oathbringer]? ...They had a lot of affect on part four in particular

Part four, so I had this weird thing... So I had this thing in Oathbringer where the plot archetype was Kaladin feeling like he needed to get to Dalinar, followed by him failing to do so. Which was a really important thing for Kaladin, but the original time where he discovered he needed to get to Dalinar was when he met the Ire and it was in the city--Celebrant. And in the beta that's where it was.

And so what it felt like is, everybody on the ship is like, "Oh we need to get to the perpendicularity in the Horneater Peaks." And then, I just took them down south instead. So I'm like, "Oh I need to get them there." And all the readers were like, "This feels like a digression, it feels boring. Why are we not going-- why are we going the wrong direction?"

It was just one of these promises thing where I had promised--set the expectation. So moving the Ire to the lighthouse meant that Kaladin was a contrast to the other people. And you were like, "Oh yes, Kaladin" When a character in the fantasy novel has a strange vision of the future, that means something! So we will be okay with following Kaladin down south.

Elantris Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Part One Wrap-up

"The Shadow of Elantris." These section headings were added in the last real draft I did, while I was visiting my father in Massachusetts during the summer of '04. By then, the book's title had firmly been changed from The Spirit of Elantris to just Elantris. I knew I needed to divide the book into sections, and decided that I'd use "The Spirit of Elantris" as the final heading, as kind of a nod to the original title of the book.This presented me with several problems, however. First, I needed two more good sub-headings to go along with "The Spirit of Elantris." Second, I needed to find good places to divide the chapters. Because of the chapter triad system, I'd probably need to base my dramatic section cuts on Hrathen's chapters, since he came third in the rotation.

The Shadow of Elantris came easily as a title. It, of course, has reference to the first chapter, where Raoden looks out the window and feels like Elantris is looming over him. However, it's also a nice summary of the first section. Elantris looms over everything, dark and dirty, during the first section of the book. While we see the beginnings of light from Raoden's efforts in the city, they don't really come to much fruition.

If we throw out the nostalgia factor "Spirit" has going for itself, "Shadow" is my favorite of the three section titles.

Elantris Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Ah, and Hrathen's three month timebomb. It's always nice when you can have a timebomb go off early. Hrathen thinks in this very chapter about how he's got a month left on his deadline. However, I suspect that readers will look at the book and realize that there's less than a hundred pages left. Hopefully, with these chapters–Raoden crowned king, Hrathen apparently beaten–I invoke a sense of confusion in the reader. They'll be expecting something big, something they weren't looking for.

The arrival of the Dakhor monks is it. You'll get some more explanation of this later, of course. Anyway, now you know why I kept mentioning the Arelene market and how unprofitable it seemed. The merchants there weren't even really merchants.

In the first draft, I had the monks hiding on the merchants' ships. In a later rewrite, however, I realized that this wasn't as powerful as if I had them actually playing the part of the merchants. If I had them on the ships, I had to have Hrathen follow Dilaf all the way to the docks. In addition, those monks would have had to spend weeks cooped up in the holds of a bunch of merchant ships. So, I changed it so that the monks were impersonating the merchants themselves–a better plan, I think, on their part. This lets them infiltrate the city, move around and scout the area, and essentially hide in plain sight.