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Firefight Chicago signing ()
#1 Copy

Questioner

When Syl says in The Way of Kings that she had been with other men who have killed. Is she-- Why is she able to say that?

Brandon Sanderson

Syl's memories, the longer she's bonded the more access to them she has, from times before. She knows some of these things. She'll never get it all back.

Questioner

From the time before Kaladin.

Brandon Sanderson

From before Kaladin, from before the Recreance, yes.

Oathbringer Portland signing ()
#4 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

I want to ask you a question about Pattern. Could you speak to anything about where your idea for...

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

I wanted different spren to look drastically different. And, as I was building-- Like, I wanted a lot of the spren of a lot of the Orders of Knights Radiant to kind of have an internal, natural conflict. Like, that's one of the division lines between a spren that's not sapient, and spren that is. For instance, Windrunner, honorspren, right? Honor is about rigidity in a lot of ways, and Syl is the embodiment of a lot of the opposite of that. And Pattern, who is so interested in lies, is a mathematical fractal-- a mathematical equation. This sort of thing, like naming the inkspren Ivory is just-- I want that internal, natural contrast to be part of them. And Pattern, I really wanted a spren that wasn't just another ball of light. 'Cause Syl is basically a ball of light. And a lot of the others are basically balls of light. And I'm like, I need something that's different, I want something that looks different, that feels different. That's where I went.

Oathbringer San Francisco signing ()
#5 Copy

Weltall [PENDING REVIEW]

You mentioned in the annotations that just started releasing on Way of Kings that Syl originally came from another Cosmere book that wasn't working out. Was that Climb the Sky?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Yeah-- how do you know about that one?

Weltall [PENDING REVIEW]

Ah, someone on the 17th Shard found it on the old Time Wasters forum--

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Oh, did they? Yeah, I wrote like three pages of that, right? Yeah, that's where it started. I'd almost even forgotten about that... no, that's totally where it came from. I actually sent three pitches to my writing group, of Cosmere books I wanted to do, and I didn't end up writing any of them.

GollanczFest London ()
#6 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

How did it feel writing Syl as a character, transitioning *inaudible*?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

It took a long time to figure out how I wanted to do her. It took a lot of practice scenes and such. It was very fun when I finally got to do it, because I'd been planning it for so long. It was really just a matter of trying to get inside the head of this creature who is slowly becoming more and more aware of herself. Having children helps, certainly.

Salt Lake City signing ()
#7 Copy

Questioner

So how did Shallan rescue Kaladin when they fell in the chasm?

Brandon Sanderson

She did not. It was actually Syl, but he was in the process of breaking the bond, and so she was able to get some Stormlight to him. But that is what really set it really poorly. Like you can imagine, she-- this bond was really a strain for her to use at that point, so it was her. But doing what she did just about destroyed her, which is why you don't hear from her after that.

General Reddit 2018 ()
#9 Copy

Only4DNDandCigars

I was reading Elantris, with my passive work being Jorge Luis Borges "Book of Imaginary Beings". The chapters are encyclopedic and short, and are meant to have a kaleidoscope style of reading. With Cosmere on my mind, I can across a really interesting entry:

Sylphs For each of the four roots or elements into which the Greeks divided matter there was a corresponding spirit. In the words of Paracelsus, the sixteenth-century Swiss alchemist and physician, we find four elementary spirits: the Gnomes of the earth, the Nymphs of water, the Salamanders of fire, and the Sylphs or Sylphides of air. The words are Greek origin. Litre has sought the etymology of "sylph" in the Celtic tongues, but it is most unlikely that Paracelsus would have known, or even suspected the existence of, those languages. Today, no one believes in Sylphs, but the phrase "a syphlike figure" is still applied to slender women, as a somewhat cliched compliment. The Sylphs occupy a place between that of material beings and that of immaterial beings. Romantic poetry and the ballet find them useful.

I don't think it is a far stretch or much of projection when I say that reminds me of a certain Spren. Either way, it made my day to come across this while reading.

Brandon Sanderson

If you poke around a bit, you can probably find where the names of some other spren (like Notum) come from. In a lot of their names, I'm looking for something similar to what I did with Syl. My rationale is that if you heard her name in-world (which might not actually be the exact sounds Syl) you'd have the benefit of local traditions, word roots, and mythologies. You'd hear it and say, "Huh, that sounds like a word for wind." So, when the books are "translated" to English, the translator creates names in English that evoke the same feel in readers here.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#11 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

This chapter in particular was a challenge to write. My experience with Sazed in The Hero of Ages warned me that a character deep in depression can be a difficult and dangerous thing to write. Depression is a serious challenge for real people—and therefore also for characters. Additionally, it pushes a character not to act.

Inactive characters are boring, and though I wanted to start Kaladin in a difficult place, I didn't want him to be inactive. So how did I go about making scenes of a depressed fallen hero locked in a cage interesting and active? The final result might not seem like much in the scope of the entire novel, but these chapters are some of the ones I'm the most proud of. I feel I get Kaladin and his character across solidly while having him actually do things—try to save the other slave, rip up the map, etc.

Syl, obviously, is a big part of why these scenes work. She is so different from the rest of what's happening, and she has such stark progress as a character, that I think she "saves" these chapters.

You might be interested to know, then, that she was actually developed for a completely different book in the cosmere. I often speak about how books come together when different ideas work better together than they ever did separate. Kaladin and Syl are an excellent example of this. He didn't work in The Way of Kings Prime, and her book just wasn't going anywhere. Put them together, and magic happened. (Literally and figuratively.)

Shadows of Self Portland signing ()
#12 Copy

Questioner

How do you envision Patter and Syl when they are in their Shardblade form.

Brandon Sanderson

We're going to do sketches eventually, mhmm.

Questioner

Ok, cause I'm getting a tattoo at some point and i want to make it relatively accurate.

Brandon Sanderson

Send to Peter and to... well Peter can be in touch with him. Ben, who does a lot of the... Ben is the one that we have canonize the Shardbaldes, and so after i write a book he does a bunch of sketches for us of what I've describes and we kinda pick one, and i know we've picked one already, but I don't know. I cant draw it for you or anything but if you go to them they can give it to you.

Lucca Comics and Games Festival ()
#15 Copy

SirSavien1

I asked about how Syl was invented, I don't even know if this is already known information, I'm not that knowledgeable in Cosmere lore.

Brandon Sanderson

He said that originally he thought about the idea of wind coming alive, which remained. Initially he wanted to have only four wind spren, one for each cardinal direction, and Syl was supposed to be the wind of East. Then things changed, but this was the initial concept.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#17 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Syl's inspiration came from a lot of different places. I'm not sure if I can point to one thing.  The spren are inspired by Japanese mythology, that everything has a soul. That is the original inspiration for it.  But Syl as a character, I'd been toying with forever, and I think she came about as a counterpoint to Kaladin's darkness; a figure of light that I knew that the story would need.

JordanCon 2016 ()
#19 Copy

Questioner

What is Syl's favorite form? What is her favorite form?

Brandon Sanderson

Syl is kind-- kind of ephemeral. Meaning she has a peculiar little personality and her favorites change quite often. I would say, she probably likes being the human-form the most, because she gets the best reaction from the people she's interacting with. But that wouldn't always have been the case, because she is responding to how people are perceiving her.

Oathbringer release party ()
#22 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

Is there even the babiest tiniest little bitty babiest chance of Syl and Kaladin ever being able to be together?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

That would take a lot.

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

But itty bitty babiest chance?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

Itty bitty babiest chance? Sure.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#24 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Syl Leaves

I hated sending Syl away from Kaladin here, but it had to happen—in part because of how much it hurt to send her away. She's basically the only light left in these scenes with Kaladin in Bridge Four.

Syl wasn't in the original draft of Kings. I developed her over the years between 2003 and 2009; there was a time when the four winds from mythology would be active and alive on Roshar, and she was one of those. Eventually, the spren developed as a concept. They grew out of the greater worldbuilding and magic system rules for the cosmere. (The connected universe of my epic books.)

At that point, she became a sentient spren—one of many that would be in the books. Still, she was very special. I do worry about the Tinkerbell vibe that she gives off to some people. I tried hard to distance her from that. No wings, the constant shape changing, that sort of thing.

Her innocence and childlike nature is an important foil and balance to the darkness in Kaladin's life. Then she leaves, and all innocence is gone from him.