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Stormlight Three Update #5 ()
#4 Copy

IHeartMyKitten

Would Szeth still have been chosen to be a skybreaker if Nalan'Elin had known that Szeth was willing to kill Adolin "on his own time" unlawfully without being compelled by his oathstone? Or did Nalan'Elin know about that and still think he'd be a good fit?

Brandon Sanderson

Nobody is perfect, and Nale knows this--but he has worse days than others. It's not so much the law, as willingness to follow a personal code, that Nale is most interested in. He's also more harsh with people once they join the order than before.

So, he wouldn't have loved it, but it wouldn't have stopped him from offering.

Arcanum Unbounded Seattle signing ()
#8 Copy

Questioner

Szeth-son-son-Vallano, is that name common, in Shin, or is that something that...

Brandon Sanderson

Usually it's, if you only have one son, usually it's... Yeah, the son-son was because he was not considered worthy enough to be worthy of his father. 

Question

So is he related to Vallano?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, it's the grandson.

The Great American Read: Other Worlds with Brandon Sanderson ()
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Questioner 1

In The Stormlight Archive, do we ever find out how the Assassin in White, how he gets the sword?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, that should be next book.

Questioner 2

And does it intertwine any more with Warbreaker?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh... that you're gonna have to wait a little while for. You're talking about Nightblood. I thought you were talking about the Honorblade. Next book will explain how he got the Honorblade. How he ends up with Nightblood, really how Nightblood got onto the planet, is gonna take a little while. I will work it in. But it's gonna take a while.

Questioner 2

Does that sword have a character arc, because it feels--

Brandon Sanderson

The sword is important and relevant to multiple series.

Questioner 2

It's getting better.

Brandon Sanderson

He has learned some things in the intervening years. He learns real slowly.

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
#11 Copy

Questioner

Szeth-son-son-Vallano is one of my favorite characters and I was wondering how-- He's so complex, right, which is why I love him. What was your inspiration for him, and how did you get all those amazing layers of--

Brandon Sanderson

What was my inspiration for Szeth? Boy. Talking about my inspiration for characters is one of the hardest things that I do because, while I plan my settings a lot and I plan my outlines a lot, I do not plan my characters in the same way. I actually discovery-write my characters and this is something I do very intentionally because I feel like if I plan the character too much, I plan the life out of them basically. So when I have a plot I basically cast a bunch of people in it. I'll write a chapter with someone in it and I'll throw it away, and I'll a chapter with a different personality, and I'll do that until somebody clicks with that plot. Once I know who they are I'll usually rebuild the outline to fit them, kind of the character has veto power over the plot that I've designed for them. But I just keep casting people in the roles, and with Szeth I think it was the whole idea of when I was building Roshar and I'm like, alright, I know there's going to be a place where there aren't any rocks, the rest of the world is all about this kind of stone sensibility to it so what if it's reversed, what if these people worship stone. What if stone were holy. And so I kind of built out of that, it was his religious ideals that came first. 

Boskone 54 ()
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Questioner

First, I have a message from my older brother

Brandon Sanderson

Okay

Questioner

He says, "just tell him that Szeth is the man, and he expects a bloody revenge story, where he whoops off all the heads of all the Shin guys who still have honorblades

Brandon Sanderson

Tell him that Szeth is anticipating that too.

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
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Questioner

I read online, something about one of your original drafts, [I think it was about] Gavilar, and it was where he was blind?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah that was actually Taravangian, in the oldest version. One of the very first things I wrote was that, though Taravangian had a different name then, and was very different. Szeth has stayed the same through all the revisions. Kaladin has changed wildly, and almost everybody has changed dramatically, except Szeth is the same person. Him and Dalinar are the same.

Tel Aviv Signing ()
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Alyssum

Will we be seeing Szeth training the Radiants in the future?

Brandon Sanderson

So... Szeth will be sharing some tips, but I don't know that you'll see him training. He starts the next book in jail, so... yeah...

DragonCon 2019 ()
#17 Copy

jmcgit

Compared to Oathbringer, how much Szeth are we going to see in the book?

Brandon Sanderson

This one, probably less Szeth than Oathbringer. Mostly, because we're going to get his big plot in the next book. There's some cool Szeth stuff in this still, but we're looking more like first book Szeth rather than third book Szeth, where I give him his own micro plot in book 3.

jmcgit

I was kind of imagining, he's like the first character expected to die in the first five books.

Brandon Sanderson

He starts in jail, in book four. Because Dalinar told him to go there.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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The__Good__Doctor

Hi Brandon! I wanted to talk about the revised ending of Words of Radiance.

So, it looks like Kaladin won't be actually delivering the killing blow to Szeth any more. I think that Kaladin was entirely justified in doing this, since it was a fight to the death, and Kaladin was protecting not only Dalinar but his entire squad below. Kaladin even seems surprised when he lands the blow, expecting Szeth to block it like he had been doing the entire fight. The killing was not done in vengeance or with malice, unlike what Adolin does later. Having the storm kill Szeth seems like an anti-climatic way to end the scene, since it takes away Szeth's decision to die by the sword, and means we no longer have an example of why the spren Shardblades don't immediately kill people.

Brandon Sanderson

I woud be fine having him do it, though I think killing a foe who has given up was against this thematic plot. But what pushed me over the edge to change was the sense that I was pulling too many fast ones on the reader with people coming back to life. I wanted it clear to readers that Szeth was not dead, so this scene wasn't a fake out, which would weaken Jasnah's arrival later.

Dancingedge

Um, Mr. Sanderson, I don't mean to be disrespectful as you probably have the scene better in your head than I do but how is a man without Stormlight falling from a very large hight, while in the middle of two Highstorms coliding and throwing entire platoos in the air expected to survive? Maybe I don't have the right persective on this given that I saw both Jasnah (the body disapearing is just as much a give away as it never being shown in my book) and Syl (Pattern outright said Sprens can be revived) coming but unless you severly change the fight scene I don't see how being stabbed actually matters for Szeth survival chances.

Brandon Sanderson

The idea is that the reader didn't see him die, so there's a psychological trigger--one that says "Ah, I didn't see a body. He's probably not dead."

Yes, Szeth totally died from that fall--just as the young man that Lift revived had died from what he suffered. We know that Stormlight can fix the body and bring back the dead, so long as very little time has passed.

The import of the tweak to me is allowing some question in the reader's mind, so that the return is not a betrayal.

The__Good__Doctor

That is a lot more understandable. Having too many reveals at the end could be problematic. I agree that Jasnah coming back felt like pulling a fast one right at the end. However, I think the suprise of Szeth coming back was really well done, especially with the reveal of Nin (Nale, Nalan? This dude is so old he has three names!) at the very end with his special sword friend. I feel like that was the real zinger that should have closed the book.

I was a little underwhelmed with Jasnah coming back, not because I dislike her, but because I thought she was well and truly dead. She died so early in the book that I was completely accepting of her death by the end, and her coming back in a 'gotcha' moment felt a little hollow. Perhaps this could have happened about a hundred pages into the next book? I don't know the entire story like you do, of course, but as a reader it felt like Szeth and his rebirth should have been the final closing image.

Brandon Sanderson

This all came about, if you're curious, during the detailed plotting of the second book. Originally, the outline did not call for Jasnah to leave, but I was having real trouble getting Shallan into a place--emotionally and experience-wise--where she could do the things she needed to do while Jasnah was around. I determined that Jasnah needed to pull a Gandalf, and let her ward alone for a while, and I'm glad I did it--the book is much, much stronger for it. However, the side effects of the last-minute change in the plot required Jasnah's reappearance, which sent a few waves through the book. (Szeth's death and survival being the main one.)

Skyward release party ()
#19 Copy

JoyBlu

Szeth Son-Son. When did his name change from Son to Son-Son.

Brandon Sanderson

When he was made Truthless.

JoyBlu

Do we know the time of when he was made Truthless? How long has he been Truthless since the [Prologue]?

Brandon Sanderson

I know, but I'm not confident enough, because I rely on Karen so much to fact check my numbers.

JoyBlu

Is it like a couple of years or a lot of years. Recent?

Brandon Sanderson

I would say recent, but that's also subjective and relative.

JoyBlu

Because if he's lived a thousand years, then a hundred years could...

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, but he hasn't lived a thousand years.

JoyBlu

So, he's lived about thirty years...

Brandon Sanderson

Mmhmm.

MisCon 2018 ()
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Glamdring804

Szeth has an afterglow because his soul is lagging behind his body slightly.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes.

Glamdring804

So if he was moving fast enough, could a Shardblade pass through his physical body and not cut the soul?

Brandon Sanderson

Ummm, that sounds like the sort of thing-- I'm going to say, the soul is more stretchy, so I don't think that's possible. But you could do some weird things where you're cutting the soul and not the body.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Lashings

I'll be referencing the original draft of The Way of Kings (AKA Way of Kings Prime), written in 2002, as I feel it will probably be fun for readers to see how the book evolved over time. Every other book of mine you've read was conceived and executed over a relatively short period. The Way of Kings is different—it had a lot of evolving to do before hitting the state it's in now.

One of those evolutions was the magic. Mistborn had one of my best magic systems to date. In Way of Kings Prime (written before Mistborn) we only had two types of magic: Shardblades and Soulcasting. Shardblades were great, but not really magic. Soulcasting didn't work so well. [Assistant Peter's note: There was also something called Windrunning, but it was completely different from the version we know now.]

Mistborn really upped the ante in terms of magic in my books, and I wanted The Way of Kings to have a more dynamic, interesting magic system. That is one factor in why I waited so long to release it.

I finally worked out Lashings while on tour for The Well of Ascension. (That was the tour I went on following the call from Harriet, asking if I was interested in finishing The Wheel of Time.) What I liked about the Lashings system was the visual power and the means of manipulating gravity and pressure in interesting visual and creative ways. I had already built into the sensibilities of the world the idea that there were ten fundamental forces I had based on the idea of fundamental forces in our world's physics. It all fit together nicely.

Anyway, Szeth (named Jek in the first version of the book) was a more ordinary assassin in the original. He didn't have powers beyond being a really, really good killer.

Warsaw signing ()
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Questioner

*inaudible, but referring to the RAFO cards*

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, yeah. You want a RAFO card? You gotta ask me a hard question. Come up with a question.

Questioner

So what's next for Szeth-son-son-Vallano?

Brandon Sanderson

Uh, okay, yeah, take [inaudible due to laughter, presumably Brandon was indicating that he could take a card].

FAQFriday 2017 ()
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Questioner

Was there ever a time when you had intended to kill off a character, but changed your mind because you liked them too much?

Brandon Sanderson

Hmm... I'm trying to think of whether or not this happened. I do believe that Adolin died in the original draft of The Way of Kings, which I wrote in 2002. he had a much smaller role in that book, and it played out very differently. When I did the newer version, which I rewrote from scratch, Adolin evolved much differently.

For those who don't know, he wasn't intended to have as large a role in the plot--but I ran into a problem during writing. Dalinar was feeling inconsistent as a character. I wanted to present him as strong and confident, but at the same time had him troubled by worries that he was insane from visions he was seeing.

This worked in outline form, but when I actually wrote, it seemed like he spent WAY too much time standing around worrying that he was crazy. So I expanded Adolin's character, providing a contrast. Dalinar, confident (to an extent) he was seeing something real--and his son, who worried his father was going insane.

Through this development, and giving Adolin more time on the page, he became a much more rounded character.

Another instance of this was Spook from the Mistborn series, who grew to have a much larger role than I'd originally intended.

There's another in this category--but it could include spoilers for an upcoming book. I'll talk about it eventually.

Brandon Sanderson

ETA: Szeth originally died permanently in the end of Words of Radiance. I also changed my mind to let Amaram live in the scene with the poison dart. Adolin killed off Sadeas instead.

DragonCon 2019 ()
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Questioner

Could the Assassin in White assassinate Prof from the Reckoners?

Brandon Sanderson

Could he? Yeah, he could. Depends on what- which place in the books you would put him. But I would lay odds on Szeth in that one, in almost every situation. *laughter* Now, the thing is, it depends also on how familiar he is with Prof's powers, how much he's acting like an assassin, right? Which is what he's generally going to try to do, but... you know, Gavilar got a lot of warning. So, if Prof got a lot of warning... the more warning Prof has, the worse it looks for Szeth. But the further in the series Szeth goes - if you pick him from a different book--the more likely it is he's going to win.

'Cause he gets a hold of something very important. *laughter*

Supanova 2017 - Sydney ()
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R.E. (paraphrased)

Does Vasher have a different way of getting access to Stormlight than everyone else? Given that he has no spren, no honorblade and he isn't a squire?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes. He can use Stormlight to stay alive, but it doesn't let him Surgebind.

R.E. (paraphrased)

Could Szeth get access to this method?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes

R.E. (paraphrased)

And use it to fuel Nightblood?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Yes he could.

R.E. (paraphrased)

Can you tell me what that method is?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

*smiles*

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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Phantine

Let's say some kid ended up with Szeth's Oathstone and tried to pull an Aladdin by destroying it and freeing him.

Szeth doesn't seem like he'd actually let himself be freed, but with the Oathstone destroyed, what does he do next (designate a new rock?)

Brandon Sanderson

Use the pieces and try to glue them back together, I'd say. If you actually completely destroyed it, it kind of depends. He might transfer the devotion to the object used to destroy it, or he might try to get another one assigned to him by his homeland--though he would have trouble convincing himself to go back.

 

Firefight Miami signing ()
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Questioner

Assassin in White. He's still working for the bad guys, right? Because he doesn't have a spren attached to his sword? *pause* You don't know?

Brandon Sanderson

I know. "Bad guys" is an interesting definition in the cosmere. Right now... he is directly under the influence of the Skybreakers. Who were an Order of Knights Radiant.

General Reddit 2016 ()
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Ray745

During the final fight between Szeth and Kaladin, Szeth seems far too surprised when Kaladin follows him out past the stormwall.

Kaladin exploded out of the stormwall, surrounded by windspren that spiraled away in a pattern of light. He shouted, driving his spear toward Szeth, who parried hastily, his eyes wide. "Impossible!"

And before that you make a point of mentioning all the windspren streaming around Kaladin as he's flying. A popular theory about Shardplate is that it's made up out of "cousin" spren. Obviously that is a RAFO question, but I wanted to ask if Szeth was surprised for any reason other than Kaladin just following him out of the storm? My theory is Szeth saw the beginnings of a vague suit of Shardplate forming around Kaladin. I know you won't answer that directly, but I was hoping to see your face when I asked it haha. Do you have any comment on that theory?

Brandon Sanderson

Szeth was surprised for more reasons than just Kaladin following him out. He is realizing that the Radiants are returning, and that his exile was unearned.

General Reddit 2016 ()
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Ray745

Is Lift the only one who is able to see the afterimage around Szeth when he moves? And would she have seen that afterimage around him before he was brought back to life by Nalan?

Brandon Sanderson

Lift is seeing that Szeth's soul isn't quite attached to his body any longer. She is not the only one that can see it, but her special physiology is certainly helping her see it.

General Reddit 2016 ()
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cinderwild2323

What were you dissatisfied with in WoR?

Brandon Sanderson

It's twofold. Spoilers follow, obviously.

In the original draft, none of the alpha readers felt that I had 'sold' Jasnah dying to them, and were all like, "Ha. Nice try. No body. She's alive.' So I kicked the assassination scene up a notch, until betas were like, "Stormfather! Jasnah just died!"

That was a mistake, I now believe. (Though this didn't get changed, and won't get changed.) Sometimes, I over-emphasize to myself the importance of surprises and twists. The book is fine if readers suspect Jasnah is still alive--actually, I think it's stronger, because it is more satisfying to be right in that situation, and doesn't detract from Szeth's miraculous survival at the end.

I knew this soon after I'd released the book, but decided it was just too extensive a change to try tweaking.

The other one I did tweak. In the battle at the end between Kaladin and Szeth, I'd toyed with letting the storm take Szeth--him essentially committing suicide--as opposed to him spreading his hands and letting Kaladin kill him. I felt that after the oath Kaladin had just sworn, stabbing a docile opponent unwilling to fight back just didn't jive. This I tweaked, changing the paperback from the hardcover, which has produced mixed results.

Most people agree the change is better, but they also say they'd rather not have the hardcover and paperback have different accounts in it, and would rather I just stick to what we put in the hardcover. It was interesting to try, to see what the response would be like, but it seems that the better option all around is to just wait until I'm certain I don't want to revert any of the revisions or tweak anything new.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
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Amerikoni

I only yesterday found out you changed the ending for the way of kings. So here is my question. I've only read the first version where Kaladin kills Szeth. When Szeth gets killed now, it's by the storm. What is it that specifically kills him since he can normally just evade the storm or even be healed by stormlight?

Brandon Sanderson

Good question! So, the idea here is that Szeth has given up, and wants to die. I wanted the storm to kill him, then, as opposed to Kaladin. What kills him is losing control in the storm, and being slammed into the ground.

The bigger change here was actually my desire to leave it at least partially clear that he's not dead, in order to avoid the 'fake out' ending. Having him be dead and reborn was important, but I felt in the first stab I erred on the side of pulling a fast one on the reader.

OdysseyCon 2016 ()
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Blightsong

Is anything magical going on with the screams Szeth hears?

Brandon Sanderson

Uhhh, Szeth's screams. Uhhm, I'm trying to decide how to answer this. It is not, see here's the thing. What we would call magical may not be considered magical in the Cosmere, but it depends on your definition of magic. Would Szeth if he were on our planet and have done those things would he hear those screams, probably not, but would someone else in the Cosmere who had gone through what he had gone through hear those screams, yes.

Blightsong

So it has to do with the spiritual realm?

Brandon Sanderson

Yea, mhmm, yea.

Goodreads WoK Fantasy Book Club Q&A ()
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Jay

Do Szeth and Kaladin both belong to the same order of knights radiant?

Brandon Sanderson

Szeth isn't actually in an order of Knights Radiant. Something different is happening with Szeth that people have already begun to guess. And Kaladin isn't yet a Knight Radiant, but the powers he uses are those of the Windrunners, one of the orders of the Knights Radiant. Szeth is using the same power set. So your phrasing is accurate to that extent.

Skyward release party ()
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JoyBlu

Szeth, when he writes when Gavilar dies, what language was that written in?

Brandon Sanderson

That was written in Alethi.

JoyBlu

Where did Szeth learn Alethi?

Brandon Sanderson

He has been living among them for a long time, and Alethi was also part of his training.