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Fantasy Faction interview ()
#2 Copy

Fantasy Faction

In The Way of Kings, when Shallan zones out and draws a picture of a dead noble at a dinner table, was she drawing her own father after she killed him with her Shardblade?

Brandon Sanderson

Ooh, good question! You will want to read Words of Radiance, where her flashbacks may indeed involve this scene that she drew.

General Reddit 2018 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

So, a couple of things here. First off, I'll take any knocks I get--and try to do better. I'm not an expert on mental health, and though I do my best, I'm going to get things wrong. I'm going to risk defending myself here--and hopefully not dig myself deeper--as I at least explain my thought process, and why I built Shallan the way I did.

However, one of the rules of thumb I go by is this: individual experience can defy the standard, if I understand that is what I'm doing. Like how Stephen Leeds is not trying to accurately portray schizophrenia, Shallan is not trying to accurately portray dissociative identity disorder (if a scholarly consensus on such a thing even exists. I haven't glanced through the DSM5 to see what it says.)

In Legion, I have an easy out. I say, point blank, "He doesn't fit the diagnosis--he's not a schizophrenic, or if he is, he's a very weird one." I don't have the benefit of a modern psychology voice in the Stormlight books to hang a lantern on this, but my intention is the same. What Shallan has is related to her individual interaction with the world, her past, and the magic.

Is this Hollywood MPD? I'm not convinced. Hollywood MPD (with DSM4 backing it up, I believe) tends to involve things like a person feeling like they're possessed, and completely out of control. The different identities don't remember what others did. It's a very werewolf type thing. You wake up, and learn that another version of you took over your body and went out and committed crimes or whatever.

Shallan is coping with her pain in (best I've been able to do) a very realistic way, by boxing off and retreating and putting on a mask of humor and false "everything is okay" attitudes. But she has magical abilities that nobody in this world has, including the ability to put on masks that change the way everyone perceives her. She's playing roles as she puts them on, but I make it very clear (with deliberate slip-ups of self-reference in the prose) that it's always Shallan in there, and she's specifically playing this role because it lets her ignore the things she doesn't want to face.

She's losing control of what is real and what isn't--partially because she can't decide who she wants to be, who she should be, and what the world wants her to be. But it's not like other personalities are creeping in from a fractured psyche. She's hiding behind masks, and creates each role for herself to act in an attempt to solve a perceived shortcoming in herself. She literally sketched out Veil and thought, "Yup, I'm going to become that person now." Because Veil would have never been tricked into caring about her father; she would have been too wise for that.

I feel it's as close as I can get to realism, while the same time acknowledging that as a fantasy author, one of my primary goals is to explore the human interaction with the supernatural. The "What ifs" of magic. What if a person who had suffered a great deal of abuse as a child COULD create a mask for themselves, changing themselves into someone stronger (or more street-smart who wouldn't have been betrayed that way. Would they do it, and hide behind that mask? What would that do to them and the world around them?

DID is indeed controversial, but I really like this portrayal. Not of a disease, but of who this character is. And I've had had enough positive responses from people who feel their own psychology is similar that I'm confident a non-insignificant number of people out there identify with what she's doing in the same way people with depression identify with Kaladin.

Legion Release Party ()
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Stormlightning [PENDING REVIEW]

Okay so, also in Oathbringer, did Wit really speak into Shallan's mind when she was confronting the Heart of the Revel--is that what happened??

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Eh, RAFO.

Stormlightning [PENDING REVIEW]

Can't you tell me if that's what he did? If that was him?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

*teasing sound* Come on. I won't even tell you. You would have gotten similar RAFOs - that does not indicate any yes or no - about stuff in Mistborn that I eventually came around to.

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.

Oathbringer Edinburgh signing ()
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Hoidonalsium [PENDING REVIEW]

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 [PENDING REVIEW]

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

English Reading Series at BYU 2018 ()
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Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW] (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.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Three

Shallan

I chose to use Shallan as my other main character in Part One, rather than Dalinar, because I felt her sequence better offset Kaladin's. He was going to some very dark places, and her sequence is a little lighter.

She is the only "new" main character in this book. Kaladin (under a different name) was in Way of Kings Prime, and Dalinar was there virtually unchanged from how he is now. The character in Shallan's place, however, never panned out. That left me with work to do in order to replace Jasnah's ward.

Shallan grew out of my desire to have an artist character to do the sketches in the book. Those were things I'd wanted to do forever, but hadn't had the means to accomplish when writing the first version of the book. I now had the contacts and resources to do these drawings, like from the sketchbook of a natural historian such as Darwin.

One of the things that interests me about scientists in earlier eras is how broad their knowledge base was. You really could just be a "scientist" and that would mean that you had studied everything. Now, we need to specialize more, and our foundations seem to be less and less generalized. A physicist may not pay attention to sociology at all.

Classical scholars were different. You were expected to know languages, natural science, physical science, and theology all as if they were really one study. Shallan is my stab at writing someone like this.

Supanova 2017 - Sydney ()
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Darkness (paraphrased)

Was Ivory watching when Shallan was in Jasnah's bathing chamber and that whole swap thing kind of went down… what did he relay to Jasnah…?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Umm… he would've been there… but I don't have an answer for that, mostly because I haven't considered it.

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.

Oathbringer Houston signing ()
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Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

There's a lot of situations where people hear voices or see visions, stuff like that. What would be the effect, if somebody had something like mental condition like schizophrenia or multiple personality? Because you talk about-- Because a lot of the magic is about their will, you know?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Schizophrenia in the cosmere is going to-- So, anytime you're seeing the future, and things like that, you're kinda glimpsing into the Spiritual Realm. That's why it happens so often, because the magic systems are the way they work, are coming down from the Spiritual Realm. Schizophrenia will make you more open to that, so you are more likely to actually see the future. But you won't be able to tell it from the things your mind is making up, which is gonna be really dangerous.

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

So, what if you had, like, one personality wanna do one thing, and another one trying to do something else, would it cancel each other out?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Not necessarily. I mean, we're going a little that direction with Shallan, anyway. You'll see.

Skyward Chicago signing ()
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Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

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 [PENDING REVIEW]

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.

Oathbringer Houston signing ()
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Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

So who do you think Shallan's favorite real world artist would be?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

She is a classicist so-- I don't know-- Probably someone really, really classic like da Vinci or, you know, or even Michelangelo.

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

Where they do interesting light studies...

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Yeah, where they're looking right at the musculature and things like that. That would be my guess.

General Reddit 2017 ()
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Kabsal

Huh. It seems a proto-Shallan did already exist as of this version [Way of Kings Prime]. I thought with the prologue's discussions of House Davar that Shallan would have been a more recent development.

Peter Ahlstrom

Brandon sees Shinri and Shallan as entirely different people who have the same last name and are both Jasnah's ward. However, most of the other characters are the same people as they are in the published novel.

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.

Steelheart Portland signing ()
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Kogiopsis

Kind of along the same lines, I just want to confirm something. If someone from Earth saw an Alethi, what ethnicity would they assume they were?

Brandon Sanderson

It would-- The model I use are actually for the half-Hawaiian, half-Asians that are kind of common in Hawaii. That's the model I've used; I actually have one of their faces for Kaladin. So it would depend on what your perspective is, you might say-- some people might say Arab, but the model I'm using is kind of more Hawaiian/Asian mix is what you'd get. The only ones that would look Caucasian to you straight-up would probably be the Shin, though if you get someone who has Horneater blood-- The Horneaters might look-- they just-- they're gonna look like bizarre… redhead… things, but they might look Caucasian to you.

swamp-spirit

So would Shallan also be more towards that?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, Shallan has lighter skin. But she still has the epicanthic fold, and so she maybe would look to you like a Caucasian/Asian mix? With red hair? So… Anyway, she would look fairly Caucasian.

swamp-spirit

I will attempt to send you excited fanart.

Kogiopsis

I've been picturing the Alethi as Indian, myself.

Brandon Sanderson

Okay, yeah. Yeah, yeah, like East India? That’s a pretty good picture on them. That would work very well.

Arcanum Unbounded Hoboken signing ()
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Brandon Sanderson

So the reasons the fans...*inaudible* ...because I've found-- there's some authors I've read who allowed that to happen, and it seemed like it could compromise the integrity of the book. However, once in a while someone will ask a question, I'm like, "...yeah," right? Like someone asked about-- if Shallan might have some latent bi tendencies, right? And she'd been admiring women throughout the books. I'm like, "Yes, she probably does." Like that's something that was there that I hadn't vocalized, so that happens. And once in a while they ask me questions I'm just stumped on because I hadn't even considered it. In those cases I'll either say that or I'll just say, "RAFO, I need to think about it."

Questioner

*inaudible*

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, yes. Well, you come up with the fundamentals of a magic... *brief interruption* ...then some questions can be easily answered. If you know, okay-- how-- Like with Elantris the fact that they could do it in any medium. They could chisel it. They could do all of these things to get the-- if they want to get it drawn in the air, says that, you know,... *inaudible*. And so if you have the fundamentals and they are consistent, you can extrapolate. And the fans should be able to extrapolate too.

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.

Oathbringer London signing ()
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kari-no-sugata [PENDING REVIEW]

Shallan... in Oathbringer... she meets Adolin, and he's staring into her eyes. And she thinks that he can see that when she's Shallan again. So, my question is, is she correct? And if so, how did Adolin see that?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

So, it's not a magical thing. She shifts even when she's kind of being herself-- When she becomes different people, even if she's not completely Lightweaving herself, she shifts.

kari-no-sugata [PENDING REVIEW]

Is it visible?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

It is visible.

kari-no-sugata [PENDING REVIEW]

So he's looking very closely.

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

And he wouldn't be able to point out that he had seen that. But it's intuitive, and he's learned to recognize that.

kari-no-sugata [PENDING REVIEW]

...In her final scene, she seems like she kind of summons her personas-- as if she's fully in control, and they're not coming by themselves anymore, is that correct?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

No.

kari-no-sugata [PENDING REVIEW]

So, they still come and go as they want?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Yes, she's much more in control, but still has a way to go.

kari-no-sugata [PENDING REVIEW]

Would Wit basically approve of what she's done?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

He would give her a "that's a step forward, but you're not there yet."

/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.

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.

Emerald City Comic Con 2018 ()
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Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

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

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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 [PENDING REVIEW]

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

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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

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…

Firefight Miami signing ()
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Questioner

I can't really remember very well, but I think only Kaladin really says Radiant Oaths in the books, at least. So, for Shallan to have as many powers as she does, has she already said one of the ideals, and we just don't know?

Brandon Sanderson

...You have her glyph whisper one. And you have seen Dalinar say one. So, most of them say them. Shallan's Order, they admit truths. Their Oaths are a very different sort of thing.

Questioner

'Cause I know, I did read that, but I was wondering-- it said somewhere else that all the Knights Radiant have to say the First Ideal.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, they do have to do that.

Questioner

So, she has said that.

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, yeah, she has said that. That is somewhere in her past.

Questioner

Which, presumably, we'll find out about some other point in time?

Brandon Sanderson

Possibly. I think that can be inferred.

Stormlight Three Update #3 ()
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Moosehead

I'm pretty sure it's a case of me just forgetting that I read such a part, but where in the book does Shallan find out about Kaladin's abilities? I know once Adolin confronts Shallan for the first time about her powers, he then asks if she can fly like 'him (Kaladin)', and she just goes yeah, as if she knew for some time now about Kaladin's abilities.

It's such a small thing but it's been grinding away at me. I know Shallan revealed to Kaladin by summoning her shardblade over his shoulder in the chasm, but how did Kaladin reveal himself to Shallan?

Brandon Sanderson

If you re-read that scene, I believe she's confused by the question about her being able to fly, as so far as she knows, Radiants don't fly. (She only knows about herself and Jasnah. She finds out about Kaladin sometime around when most everyone else finds out about him, I believe. I'd have to look back specifically to see if I noted it, but by the end of that battle, everyone will be talking about it and so she will know.

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.

Skyward Seattle signing ()
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Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

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

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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 [PENDING REVIEW]

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 [PENDING REVIEW]

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