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Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#1 Copy

Djoic

You previously confirmed Kaladin has a depression. What about other two characters? Does Shallan has split personality disorder? And Dalinar has PTSD?

Brandon Sanderson

I don't know that I'd say Shallan has straight up DID--and that is a controversial topic even under the more current terminology. More, Shallan is certainly disassociating herself, but the result is something I consider very individual to her. (Unlike Kaladin's fairly textbook chemical depression.)

Dalinar has had some PTSD, though you'll see more of the traditional symptoms in Kaladin, and is a recovering alcoholic--and a few other things.

General Twitter 2016 ()
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Silverstars

Every time Shallan thinks about Jasnah it's so gay which is #relatable, @BrandSanderson did you realize how bi you wrote her?? Either way, thank you.

Brandon Sanderson

This wasn't directly on my mind while writing, but looking back, I think it was in my subconscious. I'm flattered to hear it.

Skyward Chicago signing ()
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Questioner

I was wondering if there's any correlation between the spren in the Axies interlude in the Way of Kings with his faces, and what Shallan does in Oathbringer when she's going through the faces telling them it doesn't hurt? 'Cause it said the refugees saw her nature as a spren, and I made a connection there. Is it a coincidence?

Brandon Sanderson

I will call that mostly coincidence.

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
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Wetlander

The bit with the bandits out there, and the deserters, and she [Shallan] convinces them to all go... Was she doing Lightweaving? Was she doing Transformation? Was she doing some combination?

Brandon Sanderson

She was... You have seen what she was doing before, done by another character.

White Sand vol.1 release party ()
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Questioner

When Hoid *inaudible* Shallan in...

Brandon Sanderson

In Jah Keved, when she's back in the flashback?

Questioner

In the flashback.

Brandon Sanderson

In the flashback, yep.

Questioner

In--yes--during that experience...

Brandon Sanderson

Mhm.

Questioner

And at the end of the book, Dalinar has that vision that didn't come from the Stormfather. I was wondering if those are related?

Brandon Sanderson

Those are not related. Good question.

General Reddit 2020 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Rhythm of War Chapters 4-5

Here's an annotation for these chapters! One of the most revised sequences of this book were these Shallan chapters--continuing through the entire novel. As I have said elsewhere, I originally designed Shallan's mental state to be a more fantastical look at something like Dissociative Identity Disorder. (Like the fantastical look at Schizophrenia I did with Stephen Leeds.)

I was fascinated by how something like mental health challenges relating to identity would intersect with magic that let you quite literally become someone else. The original version of this was for a character I wrote in Dragonsteel--which I'll eventually release to the public like I've done with TWOK Prime.

In this series, however, I've found myself leaning away from the fantastical elements more and more, and trying to lean into the real science and best mental health practices. This is because I've realized that having Shallan's ailment be completely fantastical was both irresponsible (in representation terms) and less realistic. Where I settled earlier in the series was in representing not someone with a fantastical disease, but someone with a very real disease--that is exacerbated by fantastical elements.

Because of this, I listened very hard to my beta readers on Shallan, particularly those with specific experience in this area. In the original draft of these scenes, for example, Shallan wasn't shifting between the various alters of herself nearly as often--and with some feedback, I tweaked that, and found it not only worked better in a realism way, but it also read far, far better. It's simply more interesting to see Shallan's different aspects doing different things, thinking different ways.

Some of the most satisfying moments in revisions come when you try something different, and find that it's what you wanted to do all along--but didn't quite know how to accomplish until a comment nudges you.

Bloody_Raven

Just had a random idea regarding the Dragonsteel character, could it be Bavadin? (the avatar forming seems in line with this)

Brandon Sanderson

RAFO! :)

simon_thekillerewok

That's interesting that you had this DID direction planned for Shallan since the beginning (pre-Way of Kings I presume). I had just assumed it was something that you developed in between WoR and Oathbringer. I know you've commented on subjects related to this before - but in light of what you're saying about leaning away from the fantastical, I'm curious to know if you think that if Shallan had become, say, an Edgedancer instead (or just never continued in her truths), that she would have developed DID and those aspects regardless? Or would she just have had her trauma manifest in other ways (such as other dissociative disorders like depersonalization/derealization/amnesia)?

Brandon Sanderson

I would say that she would have gone the same way she has, but the manifestations of her disassociation would have been different. But this is something I could perhaps waver on.

LewsTherinTelescope

I've seen quotes from you before that you didn't intend her to actually have DID, is that just about it originally being more fantastical, and now you're trying to make it actually be realistic more?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, that's what is happening here. I originally shied away from it, as I didn't want to open that can of worms--but then, I realized I was opening it anyway, and the only way to be honest was to admit what I was doing and get some people who have DID themselves to advise me.

I think, in hindsight, I was trying to take too much of an easy path--and the path that didn't require me to do the work like I needed to

pweepweemuggins

Aha! So that's what you did. I immediately noted in the first chapters that Shallan's illness seemed to have gotten worse. I thought that it was you alludIng to a downward spiral of the characters in conjunction with the world of Roshar - which made sense because, if you place a mentally ill person in a world with no access to mental healthcare and then make their situation worse, what would happen? Their mental illness would get worse.

I'm surprised that it was just a change in the way you write her.

If you had the option to go back and revise all of her chapters that way, would you?

Because as it is, the real-ness and definition of her other egos reads like a downward spiral.

Brandon Sanderson

What you're noticing is not just me changing the way I'm writing her. More, I realized that her downward spiral was going to require me to actively deal with her mental illness in a responsible way, if that makes sense.

I wouldn't change much about the past books. It was more that I realized that the place she was going in this one required a more delicate touch than I could manage without some expert help.

English Reading Series at BYU 2018 ()
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Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

He told me he consults with several people who are well versed in psychology when he tries to portray anything along these lines. He did say (and this goes along with other statements already made) that his intention was not to have Shallan diagnosed with DID like Kaladin is with Depression. He did take some ideas from the disorder to use in the story, but he didn't intend for her to be set into a specific mental illness category. Like we said before, Brandon's focus was mainly on the magical consequences, which makes her case weird anyways.

GollanczFest London ()
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Havoc (paraphrased)

In Way of Kings, Shallan is being chased by Cryptics. She begins to summon her Shardblade, stops and then Soulcasts for the first time. We know from Words of Radiance that it's her bond to Pattern, her Shardblade that allows her to Soulcast. So my question is, if Shallan had not begun to summon her Blade, would she have been able to Soulcast?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

She would not have been able to. Good question! Wow. No one has ever asked me that before.

General Reddit 2015 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

This is an interesting topic, and though I saw this early, I wanted to wait to post anything because I prefer to let discussions like this happen without author intervention, at least not immediately.

I do I like talking about topics like this, though. Humor is such a curiously subjective thing. There are people who just don't get Pratchett, whom I find the funniest thing ever. Conversely, I don't generally like stand up comedians, and actively dislike some of the comedies that people on reddit love. There are people who tell me that my Mat scenes in WoT are the funniest they've read in the series; there are others who consider them absolute duds.

Humor is more subjective than what we find heroic, tragic, or even beautiful. It also depends a great deal on audience buy-in and mood. This makes comedy one of the trickiest things to do in a book, because some people are just going to hate what you do. My approach has generally been a kind of shotgun blast--I try to include multiple different kinds of humor, stylized to the individual character. That way, if you don't find the humor itself funny, you at least learn what the character finds funny--and learn something about them.

In Stormlight, my personal favorite is the bridge crew humor, as it is distinctly character driven. Syl's humor is a different flavor, based on innocence mixed with sarcasm. Wit is another style entirely, though I usually only let him really go when he meets someone he dislikes strongly. I have to be careful, as he's one of the few characters I allow to stray into the vulgar, and letting him go too far risks letting such things overshadow the rest of the book.

Shallan's humor is based upon regency "women sit in a circle and trade witty comments" humor, of which Jane Austen was a master. Much of what the OP said in his post is correct--Shallan's fault is that she over-extends. She uses the humor as a coping mechanism, and to her, it doesn't matter if it's actually funny so long as she's stretching toward something more lighthearted than her terrible past. She tries very hard to prove herself. And she fails. Often.

However, her type of "wit" is to exemplify what Vorin lighteyed women consider to be amusing or diverting. And there are people who genuinely find that kind of thing to be a blast--though Shallan isn't exactly the best at it yet. (She's not terrible either, mind you. If you don't smile at some of the things she says, it's likely this isn't your type of humor, which is just fine. Hopefully, there will be other things in the books that make you smile.)

Though, that said, I'd love to read passages from other fantasy novels that people on reddit find to be actually laugh-out-loud funny. I know which ones I personally like, but it would be useful for me to see what you're liking. Feel free to PM them to me or to post them here.

Emerald City Comic Con 2018 ()
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Questioner

Why don't you have to say the words if you're just bonding a Cryptic?

Brandon Sanderson

Every Order's First Oath is the same. Then the Second Oaths for the Cryptics go into truths, but everybody says the First Oath the same regardless of Order. Which should raise the question of--

Questioner

Did Shallan say it when she was a teeny-weeny, like in the cradle?

Brandon Sanderson

That should raise a question. She wasn't teeny-weeny, but it should raise a question there.

FanX Spring 2019 ()
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Questioner

At the end of Oathbringer, or near the end, Kaladin is talking to Syl about not getting Shallan or whatever, and he says that she really just reminded him of someone, who is it that she reminded him of?

Brandon Sanderson

She reminded him of Tien, his brother, because his brother was a burgeoning Lightweaver, and Lightweavers, you'll notice, when they're around someone, that person starts to act a little bit more like a little bit of their best self. There's a bit of, also, counteraction to feelings of darkness and despair, it's just a natural Lightweaver sort of thing. And so, part of what Kaladin was drawing from Shallan was that feeling. I think it could've totally become love. And he's now cutting that off, he's saying it couldn't at all have become-- it could have. But that was part of what was drawing him in.

Firefight release party ()
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Questioner

Who is your favorite character, character development-wise?

Brandon Sanderson

Oooh, favorite character for character development. Who develops the best? That is really hard for me to say... From any book? Who has the most development-- I would say Shallan has undergone the biggest transformation in the major books. No, Vin. Vin goes through the biggest change, so we'll go with Vin. Vin's the best character development across the course of the books.

Oathbringer Edinburgh signing ()
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Hoidonalsium

The resonance between various powers, specifically about Shallan... The way that she seems to be sort of Soulstamping herself, is that due to a resonance power? Or is that something external—or is it mental?

Brandon Sanderson

...It's a combination of the two, but it's not resonance. It's more mental health and her magic kind of interacting.

Words of Radiance Dayton signing ()
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darkanimereal1 (paraphrased)

The Weepings--Shallan and Kaladin react very differently to them.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

They do.

darkanimereal1 (paraphrased)

It just seems to me that the Weepings feel very close to Cultivation.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

The primary thing you’re noticing -- and I'm not going to say there's not any magical influence -- but the primary thing you're noticing is that Kaladin has seasonal affective disorder and Shallan likes the rain. That's the primary thing you're noticing. I like the rain--my wife hates it. My wife gets depressed when it rains and I love when it rains.

Bands of Mourning release party ()
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Questioner

We've got Kaladin's name meaning, do we have Shallan's?

Brandon Sanderson

Shallan is-- Her name comes from Shalash, the herald, so it's kind of like naming somebody Christian in a lot of ways. Or naming someone Michael, though Michael has a meaning. Shalash does too but it's so old-- Like-- Yes, it will have a meaning but really what you need to know is "she is named after the Herald Shalash", right? But I'm sure we can dig out what the meaning is because it does have a meaning... I mean Kaladin's has a meaning even though he's named after Kalak.

Salt Lake City signing ()
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Questioner

Do we ever get to see a good banter between Wit and Shallan?

Brandon Sanderson

Um, you uh... She is not quite ready yet, to be on his level. And if you watch the series, her use of humor will mature. Um, in fact you should be able to notice a difference between these two even. By later books she will be able to stand a little bit better. Right now he would rip her to shreds.

Skyward Seattle signing ()
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Questioner

Is Shallan's truth, "I am hap-- It's okay that I can be happy?"

Brandon Sanderson

I'm going to dig into that, but this is a big part of it. Let me RAFO that because I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to express it as it goes along, but that sentiment is a huge part of what's going on with Shallan.

Questioner

I was expecting her to manifest Shardplate in the middle of her wedding because she had spoken such a core truth of her identity.

Brandon Sanderson

Let's just say that I'm being very careful about how I show off the first manifestations of Shardplate for narrative reasons.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Seven

I've taken some visual art classes. I'm terrible at drawing—as you would expect from someone without a lot of experience—but I felt it would be important to know how visual art works and how artists think. Listening to the professors talk was in many ways more useful than the practice itself, though I did enjoy the drawing as well.

(As a side note, my final project for an art class in 2002—a basic drawing class—was a landscape of Roshar with rockbuds and the like. I took a stab at doing my own concept art, and bad though it was, it did help me start to visualize the world.)

How Shallan thinks here is really a blend of how I think as a writer and how I've heard visual artists think of their process. I'm drawing heavily on my own experience, and because of that blend, I suspect that to many artists her process will sound odd.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eight

Shallan Rejected Again

I do wonder at reader reaction to these Shallan sequences. Some in the writing group found these scenes too long. They figured it was inevitable that Shallan would end up as Jasnah's ward, and so spending several chapters with Shallan working overtime to secure the position wasn't interesting to them.

I admit this is a potential problem with the sequence. However, I felt it important to show both Shallan's determination and Jasnah's character with these sequences. I needed to show Shallan working very hard for what she wanted. It also gave me several opportunities to show the contrasting timidity/insolence that makes up how I view Shallan as a character.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Shallan berates the book merchant

The timid nature is a result of the problems in her past (see book two's flashbacks). I see the moments of flaring passion as being far more “her.”

Shallan's father has an infamous temper; it's buried deep within her as well. If she'd been allowed to grow up more naturally, without the oppressive darkness that her family suffered, she would have turned out as a very different person. Still, the person she could become is buried inside her. In my mind, this is one of the big connections between her as a character and Kaladin. It is also part of why both attract a certain type of spren…

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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Botanica

Will Shallan undergo more apprenticeships in future SA books?

Brandon Sanderson

I think you'd find that she considers herself beyond that. Not because she's full of herself (though she is a little) but because she has started to resist boundaries placed on her by others.

FanX Spring 2019 ()
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Stormlightning

So about the Girl Who Looked Up, when her hair turns white, I'm just wondering, was that a Shallan-caused thing, or was that external?

Brandon Sanderson

External.

Stormlightning

It was nothing to do with her?

Brandon Sanderson

Everything in that had something to do with her.

Stormlightning

But she didn't cause it? Subconsciously or otherwise?

Brandon Sanderson

Well, she was involved, but the original source of that-- Yes, she is involved in that--

Stormlightning

But she didn't know something that caused it, even way back in her memory?

Brandon Sanderson

No, no. You're going the wrong direction for that.

ConQuest 46 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

The question is: Shallan from The Stormlight Archive being an illustrator herself, an artist, gave me an interesting opportunity to show the world through sketches and illustrations, is that something I thought about ahead of time?

In fact that was one of my big goals with The Stormlight Archive, I wanted to-- So I have this feeling on epic fantasy, one of the cool things about it is this sense of immersion, and then the epic fantasies that I have loved the most, things like Dune, if you count that as fantasy it's one of those hybrids, or The Wheel of Time, what they do is they really make this world real to you and that helps these characters, you know I will say that characters are most important but if characters are caring about things you think are silly or interacting in a world you think is not real, you aren't going to believe those characters. And so for me I am always looking for how I can enhance that sense of immersion, and how can I do that without burdening the reader with huge long paragraphs of descriptions of the world around them. And very early in the process of doing The Stormlight Archive I decided I wanted to base a character on Pliny the Elder, which is one of the early scholars in Western thought who did all these sketches and writings-- Back in those days a scientist was everything, right? Darwin did sketches and things like this. You are going to be drawing and writing and approaching all of the sciences and arts as one. Instead of being a person who makes food or stabs other people you are going to do all the other stuff. And that was a really interesting character for me because I was able to develop this idea of "We are going to put sketches in the books". Now The Stormlight Archive, one of the rules with myself is that these all, all the art and there's some thirty pieces of art plus in each book, all have to be in-world artifacts. That's the sense of immersion, right? I don't think we've lost it but it's become a cliche that every fantasy novel has a map in front of it. And that stretches back to Tolkien, but Tolkien's map was the map they used in the book to travel, right? It's the actual map. And I like that, it says "Here's this artifact from the world" rather than "Here is an illustrator from our world giving you this extra information". And so I've taken great pains to say what kind of art they would have, how can I get this into the books, why is it relevant, and how does it help? I found that this helps, particularly with Shallan being a natural historian, sketching out creatures that I don't have to maybe spend quite as long describing-- I still have to because a lot of people listen to the audiobook and I still want them to get the picture, but it just helps cement those things. Anyway, that was one of my big excitements about the world for years and years and it's one of the things propelling me to write it.

Barnes & Noble B-Fest 2016 ()
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JoyBlu

Do you have a pronunciation guide anywhere?

Brandon Sanderson

So, we need to put one of these up. I put one up for Elantris. The trick with pronunciation guides is that, personally, I am kind of a believer in that I write a script where you are the director. You get the script I've provided, and then as you read the story, you are creating the actual final detail of how everything looks and osunds and stuff. And so, in your head, your version of the character names are canon to you, and there is no right pronunciation, really. I can give you the one that I thin is closest to how they would say it in-world, but I don't even always say them right. For instance, I just said Tashikk for the country in the Makabaki region when I was reading the Lift thing. But that's actually the Arab ق (IPA: /q/) sound, I can't even do it, it's the double-q. I can't say that. *Brandon tries to say taʃiq* Peter can do it, my editorial assistant, he's not here, but he can do it. I can't. I say them like an American. I say "KELsier" (ˈkɛlsiər). They say "kelsiEY" (ˈkɛlsiˌei). So, is my version right? My version is wrong, but it's right to me? So, yeah. But if there's a character name you want to know how I say it, I can tell you. Is there one specifically?

Questioner

Shallan?

Brandon Sanderson

I say shuLAWN (ʃəˈlɔn). But, again, none of us are actually Veden like her, so who knows how they say it? They would have some accent that would be something that I can't even do.

Questioner

What's Sazed? How do you say that?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, Saze? So, I say say-zed (seizɜd). But I say that, and that's how Kelsier says it. Sazed himself is from the Terris region, he's gonna have a slightly different pronunciation. I would say that say-zed is not how he says it. It's gonna be either sawzd (sɔzd) or, it's gonna be something softer like that. I just say it like Kelsier does. But he says it wrong, depending on your definition of wrong.

Words of Radiance Portland signing ()
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Swamp-Spirit

Shallan's Memory ability to capture an image doesn't seem to be working exactly like an eidetic memory...

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Swamp-Spirit

...because she can erase it by drawing. Is that tied directly to the magic of Lightweaving? And if so would other creative Lightweavers have similar abilities.

Brandon Sanderson

If you look at the epigraphs there is a big hint on this, where it talks about it and yes... I have problems with eidetic memory, just because scientifically most scientists say this is not a real thing. So I would say that whenever-- Because of my knowledge of the science of it understand that you would need some sort of magical enhancement to be able to do what she does.