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Oathbringer release party ()
#1 Copy

JoyBlue [PENDING REVIEW]

*written* What color eyes do Siri and Vivenna have?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

*written* It can vary

*spoken* So this, I'd have to go look in my notes, but it can vary...

JoyBlue [PENDING REVIEW]

In the book, there's the one time they talk about it being darkeyes, but I wasn't sure if it was makeup because it was right after the fight with *inaudible* or if it was makeup eyes.

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

I'll have to look in my notes. But it can vary.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#2 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Two - Part Two

Vivenna and Her Father Chat about Siri

King Dedelin does love Siri. He's a good man, but not quite as great a man as his daughters probably think. He does put Vivenna first. He loves her more. Perhaps because he relates to her; the two of them are very similar in many ways.

The girls' mother passed away over a decade ago, by the way, in a riding accident. Siri doesn't remember it, but Vivenna does, and that is one of the sources of tension between them. Siri's flagrant rides remind both Vivenna and her father of the way the queen died. Memory of their mother is also part of what makes Vivenna more controlled and "perfect." Siri grew up with very little supervision, while Vivenna had much more of it in the person of her mother.

Anyway, Dedelin loves Vivenna more. When he says that he sent Siri, “Not because of personal preference, whatever people say,” he's being truthful as he sees things—but he's deluding himself. He's convinced himself that he did it primarily because Vivenna's leadership is important to Idris and she can't be risked. That is important to him, true, but his love for Vivenna is the primary reason.

Now, he's not callous or hateful of Siri. He loves her. But . . . well, Vivenna reminds him of his wife. I guess you can't blame the guy too much for what he did.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#3 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Four

Siri and Susebron Talk about How the Next God King is Created

Siri's impulse here—that the next God King might not really be the son of the current one—is a good one. She's actually right, though there are a lot of other things in this conversation she's wrong about.

It is possible for a Returned to have a child. Vo, the First Returned, did it. The God King isn't special in that he can do it; any of the Returned could, but it requires some special knowledge that—I'm afraid—I'll have to keep secret until the sequel. Suffice it to say that the priests know how it is done.

The problem is, they aren't always able to get this to work. Sometimes, they have to do what Siri guessed—replace the God King with an infant Returned. Infant Returns happen very infrequently. It's more rare than an adult Returning, so there is something sound to the Hallandren reasoning that you have to do something heroic in order to Return. (That's not true, but it is more sound a doctrine than Siri thinks it is.)

The God King's priests take an infant Returning as a sign that it's time to change God Kings. At that point, they choose a wife for the God King and hope that she'll be able to conceive the next God King. They'd much, much rather that the God King be the literal child of the previous God King. (Susebron wasn't, however. And his mother was indeed his mother, a poor merchant's wife from far northern Hallandren.)

Now, an infant has indeed Returned. The priests see this as a major vindication of their faith, as they made the wedding contract with Idris twenty years ago and now, just when the marriage was to happen, an infant Returned. The problem is, now they've got to push Siri to get pregnant, because they're on a deadline. They don't want to have to replace the God King with this infant; they'd rather use his own child. Hence the push for her to have a child.

But if she doesn't, they'll go with plan B. Note that there's not, in fact, any danger to her either way, no matter what Bluefingers says. She and Susebron, following the change in power, would have been taken to one of the isles in the middle of the Inner Sea and kept in a lavish lifestyle as long as they lived.

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#5 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna and Siri Reunite; Vasher Shows Off His Returned Breath

I believe that this is the first time in the book that Vivenna and Siri talk to each other. (Weird, eh?) I knew I couldn't make their reunion very effusive, since they're both Idrians, and Siri has learned to control herself. Plus, the situation is very tense. (And beyond that, despite Vivenna's coming to rescue her sister, the two were never terribly close. They were sisters, but separated by five years or so.)

This chapter focuses on other things, primarily the changes in the God King's personality and the revelations about Vasher. For the first, I hope they are plausible. Remember, the God King has grown a lot with Siri's help. Beyond that, he's been trained to look regal and act like a king, even if he's not had any practice talking like one. I think he works well here, projecting more confidence and nobility than he really feels, speaking in ways that don't make him sound too stupid, yet still betraying an innocence.

The bigger surprise is Vasher's revelation about his nature. I almost didn't put this in the book, instead intending to hint at it and save it for the second book. The reason for this is that I knew it would be confusing.

The big question is, if Vasher is Returned, why can he give away his Breaths and Awaken things without killing himself?

The answer is simple, in many ways, but I'm not sure if I have the groundwork for it properly laid in the book. (Which is why I hesitated in explaining it.) Remember when Denth said that Awakening was all or nothing? Well, he lied. (I think you've figured this out now.) A very skilled Awakener can give away only part of their Breath. It depends on their Command visualizations. So Vasher needs to always give away everything except for that one Returned Breath that keeps him alive. As long as he has that one Breath (which he's learned to suppress and hide), he can stay alive.

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#6 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Eight

Siri and Susebron Decide to Reveal What Has Been Done to Him

Another short chapter here. You probably have guessed that we're beginning the push toward the ending. Now that Siri and Susebron have gone about as far as they can (both in their relationship and in their personal growth) without being free, it's time for them to begin pushing against their boundaries.

As I said before, I think their relationship is one of the most pure and romantic that I've ever written. For some reason, they just fit together. I tried to explain it in the narrative in the beginning of this chapter, and I think I did a good job. However, it's more than that—it's just a feeling that these two belong with each other. Kind of like when one of your friends shows off the person they've been dating, and you just feel that it's a good match.

I don't think I ever got this far in their relationship when I wrote the original book, Mythwalker. One of the reasons I decided to go back to the story was because I'd always missed writing an ending for Siri and Susebron. (Though I think he had a different name back then.) [Editor's note: In the Mythwalker draft, he was just called the Emperor.] I did a much, much better job of the story this time as well; I've increased in skill as a writer. I was finally able to tell this story and bring it to a conclusion, something I'd been waiting for years to do. I'm glad I finally found the time, even if writing standalone novels isn't the fastest way to bestsellerdom in fantasy.

/r/fantasy AMA WorldCon 2013 ()
#7 Copy

Ansalem

A lot of your works that are stand alone novels or seemingly completed stories, you have announced or started working on sequels for. Are there any stories that you feel complete and don't need to work on the same world or characters again? Or do feel there is always some new tale to tell about every world you make?

Brandon Sanderson

It's hard, because the way I plot I always have to know what happened before the book and what will happen after the book. Knowing that doesn't mean that I have to continue. It's also hard, though, to say no to fans who are so passionate about a specific project.

The Vin/Elend story is most certainly done. As is the Raoden/Sarene story, as is Siri's story from Warbreaker. So there are completed threads. There might be other stories to tell in those worlds, though, so I'll avoid closing the door on them for now. (That said, it did feel very good to finish The Wheel of Time for good, and look forward to putting some of my own works to rest in a similar way.)

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#8 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Susebron and Siri Chat

This first scene with the two of them chatting is one I'd been looking forward to writing since the beginning. Siri's scenes become much more interesting to me now that she has someone to talk to. Plus, their relationship is—in my opinion—the most natural romantic relationship I've ever written. I'm not sure why that is. They just seem to naturally fall for one another in a way that seems smoother to me than Sarene/Raoden or Vin/Elend.

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#9 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The God King Has No Tongue

Okay, so here we have the first major reversal in the book. There are several reasons I wanted to write this story. The first was that I loved the concept of the woman being sent to the terrible emperor, only to discover that he was a puppet of someone else. This was a big part of the original Mythwalker plot for Siri, and was a big part of what intrigued me about that story. (As a side note, Mythwalker was also the first place where I tried out the words koloss and skaa for races. They were completely different then, however.)

After writing Mistborn, I became increasingly intrigued with the idea of a complete reversal book—a book that did things very differently from the way I'd done them before. I'd dealt with an all-powerful emperor, and so people would (unconsciously) expect the God King here to be like the Lord Ruler. That gave me more opportunity to use their expectations against them and pull off a reversal of roles like the one in this chapter.

I hope it worked. By now, you were probably suspecting that something odd was up with the God King. However, I hope you weren't expecting something as redefining as the lack of a tongue. In this society, with this magic system, that is an even greater symbol of powerlessness than it would be in our society.

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#10 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Two

Siri Lies in Bed and Decides to Take Charge

Reading through this scene again, I feel like it needs a bit of a trim. Ah well. There are always going to be sections like that that make it through.

I felt that there needed to be a scene where Siri finally stopped looking toward the past and berating herself for not being more like Vivenna. For her to step forward and become the woman she must be, she needed to do it of her own choice, with her own motivations. She needed this chance.

Sometimes in writing classes or in books on telling stories, they'll mention a moment somewhere in act two where the character decides to take charge. I always dislike explanations like that, since I think it's too easy for newer writers to look at such explanations as an item on a checklist that you have to do. I never use things like that. I don't think, "This is act two, so the characters need to do X." The tendency to follow a formula like that is part of what bothers me about the screenwriting profession. It seems like if you always follow the rules, there's never any spontaneity in a book.

Still, those guidelines and suggestions are used by a lot of people who tell good stories, so I guess you use what works for you.

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#11 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Siri and the God King Have Sex

You probably knew this was coming. At the very least, I hope that you were hoping for it. They are, after all, married. I thought it very appropriate that this happen, as the two of them have been falling in love for some time now. And beyond that, of course, it ramps up the tension in the book dramatically. That's always a good thing.

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#12 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Denth Chats with Her about Breath

Vivenna and Siri are beginning their role reversals here. Siri is learning to be more reserved—though it's more that she's learning to act like a queen. Taking responsibility, being active rather than inactive.

Vivenna is being forced, just a little bit, into inactivity. She thinks she's doing things, but she's mostly just reacting. Beyond that, she's experiencing what it's like to lose control of her emotions repeatedly.

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#13 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The Origins of Siri and Vivenna

Back around the year 2000 or 2001 I started writing a book called Mythwalker. It was an epic fantasy novel, an attempt to go back to basics in the genre. I'd tried several genre-busting epics (one of which was Elantris) that focused on heroes who weren't quite the standards of the genre. I avoided peasant boys, questing knights, or mysterious wizards. Instead I wrote books about a man thrown into a leper colony, or an evil missionary, or things like that.

I didn't sell any of those books. (At least, not at first.) I was feeling discouraged, so I decided to write a book about a more standard fantasy character. A peasant boy who couldn't do anything right, and who got caught up in something larger than himself and inherited an extremely powerful magic.

It was boring.

I just couldn't write it. I ended up stopping about halfway through—it's the only book of mine that I never finished writing. It sits on my hard drive, not even spellchecked, I think, half finished like a skyscraper whose builder ran out of funds.

One of the great things about Mythwalker, however, was one of the subplots—about a pair of cousins named Siri and Vivenna. They switched places because of a mix-up, and the wrong one ended up marrying the emperor.

My alpha readers really connected with this storyline. After I abandoned the project, I thought about what was successful about that aspect of the novel. In the end, I decided it was just the characters. They worked. This is odd because, in a way, they were archetypes themselves.

The story of the two princesses, along with the peasant/royalty swap, is an age-old fairy tale archetype. This is where I'd drawn the inspiration from for these two cousins. One wasn't trained in the way of the nobility; she was a distant cousin and poor by comparison. The other was heir to her house and very important. I guess the idea of forcing them to switch places struck some very distinct chords in my readers.

Eventually, I decided that I wanted to tell their story, and they became the focus of a budding book in my mind. I made them sisters and got rid of the "accidental switch" plotline. (Originally, one had been sent by mistake, but they looked enough alike that nobody noticed. Siri kept quiet about it for reasons I can't quite remember.) I took a few steps away from the fairy tale origins, but tried to preserve the aspects of their characters and identities that had worked so well with readers.

I'm not sure why using one archetype worked and the other didn't. Maybe it was because the peasant boy story is so overtold in fantasy, and I just didn't feel I could bring anything new to it. (At least not in that novel.) The two princesses concept isn't used nearly as often. Or maybe it was just that with Siri and Vivenna I did what you're supposed to—no matter what your inspiration, if you make the characters live and breathe, they will come alive on the page for the reader. Harry Potter is a very basic fantasy archetype—even a cliché—but those books are wonderful.

You have to do new things. I think that fantasy needs a lot more originality. However, not every aspect of the story needs to be completely new. Blend the familiar and the strange—the new and the archetypal. Sometimes it's best to rely on the work that has come before. Sometimes you need to cast it aside.

I guess one of the big tricks to becoming a published author is learning when to do which.

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#14 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I wanted a good, strong scene where we could see that Siri made the decision to keep her hair in check. Again, I'm moving her and Vivenna into different roles, but I want it to be natural, an evolution of their characters brought on by who they are and how their surroundings affect them.

In this case, living in the Court of Gods, there is a very good reason to learn to control your hair. If many are like Treledees, who is of the Third Heightening, then even the most minute changes in your hair color will tip them off.

This is one of the interactions of the magic system that was nice to connect, an interaction I didn't expect or anticipate. With a lot of Breath, you can perceive very slight changes in color. With the Royal Locks, your hair responds to even your slightest emotions. Put the two together, and you get this scene. It was, in a way, inevitable from the beginning of the book.

Siri has come a long way. She's still stumbling about and making a lot of mistakes. But she's also winning some victories. There's nothing hidden to learn about this chapter; she really did just one-up Treledees and get what she wanted.

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#15 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Siri Saves Them from Bluefingers

Some people, as I've said, have complained about Siri's damsel in distress place in the book during the next couple of chapters. I want to draw their attention to this chapter, however, which is where she shines. She's in control and careful. She's become a leader out of necessity. She's able to make demands of Treledees and get answers. And she's gotten good enough at politics to make the connection that nobody else did, seeing through Bluefingers's ploy.

If she hadn't acted here in this chapter, this book would have ended very differently. She saved Susebron's life here. Because of what she did, Bluefingers wasn't able to implement his plan to sneak the two of them out onto the waiting boat in the Inner Sea. Her delay gave just enough time that Bluefingers had to go with his secondary plan of getting the God King to the dungeons for the next few chapters.

More than that, however, Siri became the person she needed to in these chapters. She was able to grow as much as Vivenna, but she didn't have to be knocked down for it to happen first.

Brandon's Blog 2008 ()
#17 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

MY HISTORY AS A WRITER

I’ve been thinking that I should give a little bit of an explanation of my history as a writer for those of you who don’t know. I think it might give you some context for some of the posts I’ve made, and things people are saying in the forums about my unpublished novels. Read on if you want a little context.

This all started in earnest when I was 21, about eleven years ago, back in 1997. That was the year when I decided for certain that I wanted to write novels for a living.

My first goal was to learn to write on a professional level. I had heard that a person’s first few books are usually pretty bad, and so I decided to just spend a few years writing and practicing. I wanted time to work on my prose without having to worry about publishing.

You might call this my “apprentice era.” Between 97 and 99 I wrote five novels, none of them very good. But being good wasn’t the point. I experimented a lot, writing a variety of genres. (All sf/f of course—but I did some epic, some humor, some sf.) As you can probably guess by me writing five books in two and a half years, none were very well edited and while I had a lot of fun writing them, they were done very quickly, and had a lot less planning than my later books. Not many people read any of these novels, and I only ever sent one out to publishers (the second one, STARS’ END.)

Around 1999 (I can’t remember the exact date) I started attending the science fiction magazine THE LEADING EDGE at BYU; I also took an important writing class, less because of what I learned about writing (though I did learn a lot) and more because of people I met. Through TLE and the class, I ended up as part of a community of writers, editors, and science fiction/fantasy readers who were serious about what they were doing. During this time, I founded a writing group with Dan Wells and Peter Ahlstrom (Fellfrosh and Ookla over on the TWG forums.) Other members included our friend Nate, who doesn’t hang out here any more, and Ben/Tage, who used to be one of the board’s mods and who is still often one of my alpha readers. Eric (St. Ehlers) was another of our good friends, as was Kristy (Brenna), among numerous others, many of whom don’t hang out here very much any more.

You might call this the “Golden Era” of my unpublished career. I was getting to one of the most creative points in my life, and was very energized and excited about the writing I’d learned to do. After practicing for five novels, I felt that I was finally in a position to do justice to an epic fantasy story. In 1999, I started a book I called THE SPIRIT OF ELANTRIS, which eventually just became ELANTRIS.

As I said, this was the golden era of my unpublished career—though I think the ‘unpublished’ part of that statement is important. I hope that I’ll grow and progress, and think that the books I’m writing now are better than the ones I wrote then—just as I hope that the books I’ll do in ten years will be better than the ones I do now.

However, the three novels from this era—ELANTRIS, DRAGONSTEEL, and WHITE SAND—represent some of the best worldbuilding I’ve ever done. Of the three, ELANTRIS turned out the best by far. WHITE SAND was good, though it will feel dated now if you read it, since my writing skill has improved quite a bit since then and it never got the level of editing and revision that ELANTRIS did. DRAGONSTEEL has moments of brilliance surrounded by some really boring sections; it had trouble because of the scope of what I was attempting. I think any of the three could have become publishable if they’d gotten the right editing and revisions.

Anyway, I wrote these books in 1999–2000. By 2001, however, this era was lapsing. I finished at BYU, and since TLE was for students, a younger crowd was taking over and I no longer quite fit in there. I continued my writing groups in various forms, and we started the Timewaster’s Guide as a project and forum for those who had worked together during that era of the magazine.

I was collecting rejection letters for ELANTRIS, WHITE SAND, and DRAGONSTEEL. I felt these books were good—very good. But nobody was giving them much attention. At the conventions, editors kept saying that fantasy novel submissions were too long, and that new writers shouldn’t be trying such beastly first books. I sat down to write MYTHWALKER, by ninth book, and halfway through just couldn’t continue. (It remains the only book I’ve ever given up on.) I was trying another epic fantasy, but I was increasingly disappointed in how poorly the first three had been received. MYTHWALKER felt like an inferior knock-off of my own DRAGONSTEEL, and needed to be rethought. So I stopped working on it. (Though one side story in the book about two cousins named Siri and Vivenna really interested me; they would later get their own book as WARBREAKER.)

The next little time is kind of the “Dark Era” of my unpublished writing career. After giving up on MYTHWALKER, I decided that New York wasn’t looking for my brand of epic fantasy, and that I’d try to see if I could write something else. I wrote three books during this era. MISTBORN PRIME (I added the prime later to differentiate it), THE AETHER OF NIGHT, and FINAL EMPIRE PRIME.

In MISTBORN PRIME, I tried to write a dark anti-hero involved in a story that was NOT epic. I tried to write something much shorter than I’d done before, forcing myself to stay away from grand stories or epic style plotting. The result was a 100k work (which is half the length of my other fantasy novels) which just . . . well, wasn’t very good. The magic (a preliminary form of Allomancy) was awesome, and the setting had great points to it. But the plot was unexciting, the character uninteresting, the story uninvolving.

Depressed by this failure, I didn’t send the book to a single editor. (Though I did show it to Joshua, who is now my agent, as he was curious and following my career at that point. He agreed that this book wasn’t publishable. He never saw ELANTRIS, he’d given up halfway through DRAGONSTEEL—which means he never got past the boring part—and had really liked WHITE SAND, but had wanted to see more from me before picking me up. He felt I still had room to grow, and he was right.

After MISTBORN PRIME, I wrote a book called AETHER OF NIGHT, which was far more successful. I think it’s the best of the four “Brandon tries to write more toward the market” books. At 150k, it was only 50k shorter than what I’d been doing during the ELANTRIS era, and I let myself play with slightly more epic stories and scope. At this point, I was trying for something with a little more humor in it, something with lighthearted, fun characters in a situation that was at times ridiculous and at times adventuresome. (A more David Eddings like approach, if you will.) It’s not a bad book. I probably won’t ever rewrite it, but it’s not a bad book. Joshua liked it just fine, and thought it was a step forward from Mistborn Prime.

At this point, my epic fantasy books got another round of rejections, including ELANTRIS rejected by DAW and DRAGONSTEEL rejected by ACE. I’d just sent ELANTRIS to Tor, but figured I’d never hear back. (They’d had WHITE SAND for several years at that point and never gotten back to me.)

Feeling uncertain about my writing and my career again, particularly since I felt that AETHER hadn’t come together just as I’d wanted, I turned my attention to trying the most basic of fantasy stories. Prophesied hero, orphaned, goes on a travel-log across the world to fight a dark lord. This was THE FINAL EMPIRE PRIME. Of course I was putting my own spin on it. But my heart wasn’t in it—I just couldn’t convince myself that I was adding anything new to the genre, and I was again trying for a ‘half-length’ story. Though there were no dragons, elves, or mythical objects to rescue, I felt that I was just plain writing a bad book. (Note that I was probably too down on this book, as it had some very inventive concepts in it, including a precursor to Feruchemy.)

I got done with FINAL EMPIRE PRIME and was just plain disappointed. This was the worst book I’d ever written. (And it is, I think, the worst—though MISTBORN PRIME is close.) Here I was, having written twelve novels, and I seemed to be getting WORSE with each one. I wasn’t selling, I was out of school working a wage job graveyard shift, and my social life consisted pretty much of my friends taking pity on me and coming to hang out at the hotel once in a while.

I think this was one of the big focus points of my career. That year, 2002, I made three decisions. The first was that I was NOT going to give up on writing. I loved it too much, even when I was writing books that didn’t turn out right. (I think this is important for every author to decide.) The second was that I was NEVER AGAIN going to write toward the market. It was killing my books. If I never got published, so be it. At least I would stop writing terrible stories mangled by my attempts to write what I thought people wanted. The final decision was that I’d go to graduate school in creative writing to get myself into that groove of being around writers again, and to also ‘delay’ for a few more years having to get a real job.

Enter THE WAY OF KINGS era. The last book I wrote before I got published was actually pretty darn good. I tossed out everything I was being told about how to get published, and just wrote from the heart. Over 18 months between 2002 and 2003 I wrote a 300k word book with a 180k outline/backstory/worldbuilding document. (Yes, the setting guide itself was LONGER than the previous three books I’d written.) Beyond that, I plotted the book as the first of TEN in a series.

KINGS was good. It had problems, but they were fixable problems, and I was extremely proud of the novel. I felt I’d found my place in writing again. I honestly think it’s the best of my unpublished books; almost as some of the published ones.

In 2003, I got the call from an editor wanting to buy ELANTRIS.

I suppose the story of my unpublished career ends there, though there’s one more side note. Why did I not published THE WAY OF KINGS? Well, a couple of reasons. First, my agent (Joshua) felt it needed a lot of work. (It did.) Secondly, it was so long that I think it scared Tor to consider it. They have published books longer before, but the market has changed since then, and approaching a book that length as an author’s second book made my editor apprehensive. He’d have done it, but he was already talking about how we’d need to slice it into two novels. (And I really didn’t want to do that.)

But more than that, I felt that it wasn’t time for KINGS yet. I can’t explain why; just gut instinct, I guess. I wanted to follow ELANTRIS up with a fast-paced trilogy. Something that could prove to people that I could finish a series, and that I really could write. I felt that launching from ELANTRIS into KINGS would be asking too much of my readers. I wanted to give them time to grow accustomed to me and my writing, and I wanted to practice writing a series before getting myself into something enormous.

And so—perhaps brashly—I looked at the two greatest disappointments of my career and said “Let’s do these the way they SHOULD have been done in the first place.” I took the best ideas from both, I added in a greater majority of other new good ideas, and I planned out a 600 thousand word epic told in three parts. My goal: A kind of calling card to fantasy readers. A trilogy they could read through and get a feel for who I was and what my writing was like.

Of course, then the WHEEL OF TIME came along and changed everything. I’m even more glad I did what I did, as I didn’t have to stop a series in the middle to work on AMoL. Plus, working on the WHEEL OF TIME has given me an unparalleled insight into the mind of the greatest master of the long-form fantasy series of our time.

Anyway, that’s a bit of history for those who are curious. Thanks for reading.

#tweettheauthor 2009 ()
#18 Copy

onelowerlight

What first gave you the idea for Warbreaker? What was your first inspiration for it?

Brandon Sanderson

WRBRKR came from a lot of sourcres. Siri and Vivenna were side characters in a book I never finished.

Vasher came from the line that starts the book. No space to post it here, but give it a read.

Nightblood came because…well, I just wanted to have a talking sword.

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#19 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Siri Watches the Priests

I took a bit of a risk here, having a little scene where Siri admits that all of the troubles and problems in Hallandren excite her. I hope this doesn't seem out of character; I think I foreshadowed well that she'd react this way. Back in Idris, she was always making trouble, partially (even though she wouldn't admit it) because she found it exciting. I think that's common for those who end up in trouble a lot of the time.

Here, what she feels is that same sense—only a more mature version. She's excited by politics, by being in the middle of things, by having a chance to change the future of the city. I think this is a valuable attribute for one in her position, as long as it isn't taken too far. By having Vivenna constantly frustrated by her situation and Siri thrilled by hers, I wanted to show a contrast and have the reader come to the same conclusion Siri does in this scene: that Vivenna wouldn't have made a very good queen to the God King. She'd have made the expected queen, and would have done what everyone anticipated her doing. But she would have let herself be a martyr the entire time, which would have been a self-centered way of approaching her duty.

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#20 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Six

Siri Grows Her Hair for Susebron and Talks about Seduction

I think these two chapters best show off the tone reversals I was trying for in this book—and explain partially why I was all right with those early chapters being so different from the prologue. Following Vivenna's biggest chapter for shocks, surprises, and failings, we come here—to what is one of the most flirtatious and calm of the Siri chapters.

You should have been able to notice some changes about Siri, one of the most subtle being her ability to control her hair. The hair is, in a way, an extension of the metaphor. In the beginning chapters, Siri wasn't able to control it at all, and it always changed back right after she tried to make it go to a specific color. It did what it wanted, reflecting her attitudes, and kind of represented her ability (or lack of ability, in her case) to control the world around her.

Now, she's able to manipulate things around her slightly to her liking. In contrast, Vivenna's life is completely out of control. And her hair will respond.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#21 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Siri mentions sounding out words as she reads. This was actually a very common thing in most cultures, even literate ones, up until the modern era. People would speak to themselves as they read. Even someone who could read, like Siri, wouldn't be particularly accustomed to reading. Their society didn't demand it the same way that ours does.

In her scenes with the God King, I didn't have her sound out the words for reasons of brevity and clarity. However, if you were there watching, you'd hear her reading out loud each word that the God King wrote on his board.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#22 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Character Shifts

This is a fun chapter, formatwise. It looks simple—we've got two alternating sequences with Siri and Vivenna. But what's going on here is that I'm trying to pull the first of many reversals in this book.

A reversal is more than just a plot twist—it's a swap. (Or at least that's how I define it in my head.) Just like Elantris's substructure was that of the chapter triads, Warbreaker's substructure is that of reversals. People change places or do 180-degree turns. This presented a challenge to me, as I had to work hard to make such often-abrupt changes well foreshadowed and rational. That's rather difficult to pull off. Most twists take characters in a slightly new direction; spinning them around completely required a lot more groundwork.

If you've read other annotations of mine, you'll probably know that I love twists—but I love them only in that I love to make them work. A good twist has to be rational and unexpected at the same time. Pulling off that balance is one of the great pleasures in writing.

In this chapter, we have the beginnings of the first big reversal in this book. It's more gradual—not an abrupt one-eighty, but a slow and purposeful one-eighty. But the seeds are here, even in this early chapter. If you look at it, we have this:

Scene One: Siri acts just like we expect Siri to. Blustering and emotional.

Scene Two: Vivenna acts just like we expect Vivenna to. Calm, rational, in control, and willing to do as she is told.

Scene Three: Siri grows calm, considers her situation with more care, and acts a little bit like a queen should in deciding to send her soldiers back.

Scene Three: Vivenna is very bothered by what is happening and acts just a little bit like Siri would—she decides upon a plan that is impetuous.

I'm very excited by the underlying structure of the chapter, even though I'm aware that most people probably wouldn't be. I'm just a screwy author type. I like how the changes are very subtle, and yet already there are hints at the way the characters are heading in life.

I like reversals and tone changes, but I still think that readers deserve to have an understanding of what the major plots and arcs for a character will be. There will be twists, but I don't want to just twist needlessly or endlessly. The characters are the most important part of the story, and one thing I rarely twist (particularly late in a book) is a character's personal arc. I keep personal arcs steady, as they're the foundation of a reader's attachment to the book.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eighteen

Siri Decides to Spite the Priests, Then Reverses That Decision

This chapter involves a bit of a backslide for both Siri and Lightsong. It was important to establish that they, as characters, are still the same people that you started reading the book about—even if both of them are being forced to change the way they react to things. (Well, at least Siri is being forced to change. Lightsong is more just mulling over what he wants to do. Or not do, as the case may be.)

Siri's decision here is intended to show just how far she has come during her short time in Hallandren. Siri had all the potential to blossom like this before; she just never had a good reason. With Vivenna there dominating and drawing everyone's attention, Siri was like a plant growing beneath the shade of an enormous tree—she couldn't get enough sunlight to grow herself. Freed from that shadow, she's ready to go.

Her first impulse is very characteristic—it's the sort of behavior that she's ingrained in herself for many years. But she decides against it, which should be a big tip-off that she's capable of much greater things.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Oh, and since we're on to random notes, I want to mention that I'm not intending Siri to ever betray who she is through the reversals of this book. When I say that she and Vivenna are switching places, I don't mean that they'll start acting like each other. Siri will always be the type who likes to feel the rain on her face and walk barefoot in the grass. Vivenna will probably always be the type who restrains herself from those kinds of activities.

My intention was to have them remain who they are, but still progress and learn to fill one another's roles.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Three

Vivenna Awakens in Vasher's Care

Vivenna, as a character, was divided into two parts in my head. There was the Vivenna of the first half of the book, who was haughty and misled, though determined and self-confident. Then there was the break in the middle, where everything was taken away from her. Now we're into Vivenna's second half, the confused and uncertain Vivenna who has to essentially start all over.

Her plot is a contrast to Siri's plot. Siri's growth is more gradual; she doesn't have an event like Vivenna's time on the streets to make a focus for her plotline. The depth of growth the changes afford Vivenna made her a very interesting character to write; I'm sorry that she's generally people's least favorite character. But that wasn't all that unanticipated. When presented with a large group of characters, many of whom were amusing or mysterious, then dropping one major character in who had a serious growth arc but started out less likable . . . well, you expect readers to latch on to other characters. By this point in the story, they're not used to caring about Vivenna as much as the others, so I think that her drama isn't as powerful for them—which means she doesn't have time to earn their affection, even when she starts changing and growing.

Of course, part of me still sees the Vivenna of the sequel, where she can continue her growth and learning. I think she'll be a great character for that book, if I ever write it. Though I worry about doing so and making people disappointed that I'm writing about her rather than Siri.