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The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The scene where Sazed walks along inside the Conventical and talks to himself, speaking into the coppermind, is what really appeals to me about this chapter. It isn't often that, as a writer, I get to do something like this–switch up the narrative style, let myself do a monologue in first person present tense. The tense shift is, I think, what lets these scenes be so creepy. You get to feel, I hope, like you’re with Sazed, walking along in the near dark, listening to a quiet voice-over that doesn't dispel the gloom, but just echoes back to you even more creepily.

This was one of my editor's favorite scenes in the book as well. The part where Sazed describes where Inquisitors are made, and where he walks the corridors, with minimal narrative interjections by me gave this chapter a tone unlike anything else I’ve ever written.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#2 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirteen - Part One

I hope this first paragraph isn't too overly-poetic for you. I have a tendency to dabble in writing poetic language, and can veer into sections of prose that are a bit over-written. But, my editor didn't strike this down, so I assume it's all right.

The things Vin talks about in this first scene are, essentially, the things that will come to form the plot of the entire series. In the original drafts of the novel, she worried about these issues much earlier in the book. However, I backed off on them to let the siege take form first.

It's not that these worries about the Deepness and the past aren't important–they're VERY important. And, they'll play a big part in this book. The armies and politics, however, are the established plot of the novel. This book–book two–isn't about the deepness. It's about the "What Next?" So the characters overthrew the empire. What's next? In my opinion, what they're doing now–struggling to keep something going, rather than tear it down–is far more difficult than anything they did in the first book.

This grueling process is going to have a powerful influence on their characters, and make from them the people they need to become in order to deal with the events of the final book. In a way, that makes this the most important–and most interesting–book of the trilogy. It’s the one which is about character over plot.

My goal with Vin, here, is to take the mists from her. Kelsier gave them to her in book one, and now it's time to take them away.

They are the haven of the Mistborn. But, if you watch as the story progresses, you will see that I slowly take them away and leave her without.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#3 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirteen - Part Two

This Elend scene here is almost a direct parallel of the scene in book one where Kelsier first introduces the plan to his people. Elend has a much harder time of it. In fact, this scene–in conjunction with the scene with the Assembly–is supposed to establish Elend as what he is: a man with great ideas, but poor leadership techniques. He's brilliant and scholarly, but he doesn't know how to get people to do what he wants.

This is reflected in his speech patterns, and has been since book one. He likes to use the phrase "Now, see," followed by an observation. He doesn't command, and when he argues, he uses very passive sentences. All of this is–hopefully–makes your subconscious see him in a certain way.

The only reason he convinces the crew to go along with them is 1) he's right, they like to gamble, and this is the type of plan they like and 2) they already know him, and his ideas have earned a measure of trust from them.

When necessary, Elend CAN give a brilliant speech. He can make people dream and hope. He just isn't good at arguing, and is rather poor at being a dictator.

This scene, by the way, is another substantially rewritten one. I focused a lot more on the idea that the crew was going to have to deal with a long siege in the rewrites.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#4 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

This is, perhaps, the most overtly foreshadowing chapter in this book. I'm trying to tie quite a large number of threads together in this series, and it was a challenge to keep them all in the air at the same time.The events in this chapter, then, will wrap back around to things that happen near the end of this book and in the next book. Mostly, I'm showing the real danger of the mists–that there IS indeed a reason to fear them. Either way, remember one thing from this chapter. Some people were killed (and there's a connection between the two people you've heard described specifically as dying from the mists) some people got away, and some people had seizures, but then were all right later.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#5 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Elend on the wall

Now you can see why Elend's proposal–giving him power to hold the city until he met in parlay with the kings–was such an important plotting device. Don't worry; I'll get into the problems with the proposal soon. It's by no means hard-fast, and I realize that a simple promise like this is not going to hold for long in the face of something like a siege.

Still, it lets me set up the siege. This section here is actually one of the very newest in the book. I wanted a section that officially began the "siege of Luthadel" making it firm and fixed in people's mind, so that they would know for sure what the conflict was.

Adding scenes like this one increased the size of some chapters far beyond what I normally write. This is one. It's interesting to note that, for a given book, my chapters tend to end up being around the same length. It's not completely intentional; it just happens that way. This book, however, has that rhythm thrown off quite a bit now.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#6 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Vin waits for Elend to reveal his plan before the Assembly

I had to do a couple of drafts of Elend's "It doesn't change things" section with Vin. I didn't want to reveal his plan–I wanted Vin to work through it–but I also didn't want it to seem TOO forced that he didn't tell her.

I settled on this, which I think has a nice balance. However, you're in dangerous territory as a writer any time you have characters conveniently forget to tell each other things–or when you keep viewpoints characters plans and schemes back from the reader.

I have a history of fudging these things a tad in this series. I don't give myself that much leeway in all of my books–but I figured with the Kelsier "Real Plan" surprise I had in the last book, I have established that the characters don't always tell the reader every single thing they're plotting.

Skyward San Francisco signing ()
#7 Copy

Questioner

Why did you write Zane for the Mistborn series?

Brandon Sanderson

Zane was a character that I found fascinating. When I designed him, I felt that the setting and characters needed more nuance, and he provided it. I feel that Zane could've gone either way, and he made a bad decision at the end, but could've absolutely gone the other direction and I was really interested in the idea of someone who thought they were insane but actually weren't. So a bunch of things collected, making Zane.

Mistborn: Secret History Continuity Notes ()
#8 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Hey, all. Brandon here. With the release of this book, there have been some minor updates to continuity that I think some of you will find relevant.The big one has to do with Hoid's visit to Terris in The Well of Ascension. For those unfamiliar with the backstory, this little behind-the-scenes action has been a source of some consistent problems. The outline, and original draft, of Well had Vin and Elend traveling up to Terris, then into the mountains, to find the Well itself.

This was a huge momentum killer in the story. Having your cityscape-focused book suddenly turn into a traveling quest fantasy for a few chapters felt very out of place, and required too much strange time-jumping to make it work. In revisions, I set about finding a way to repair this, and to overlap the Well of Ascension discovery with Vin's return to Luthadel.

The end result worked much better, but I was forced to cut Hoid's cameo. (In the form of footsteps in the snow and frost leading to the Well, hinting that someone had been there just before her.) I knew where Hoid was, and added in the cameo of him with the Terris people—with the plan still being that he visited the Well sometime during the days after Vin's return to the city.

Well, in working on Secret History, I found that this had a problem with it. Hoid had to already know where the Well is, because after the destruction of the Pits, he'd need to use the Well to return to Scadrial after leaving in the middle of book one to attend to certain other events.If you've read the story, you know this is how I proceeded. Official continuity is that Hoid went up to Terris after visiting the Well, as he had things to do there. He did not go looking for the Well. This doesn't change continuity for any of the books, though it does render one of the annotations for Well obsolete.

Otherwise, I'm quite pleased about this novella. I wasn't certain how it would go, writing something using threads I'd left dangling ten years ago. (You should thank the beta readers, who are all Sharders I believe, for their continuity help. They made me aware pf several things I needed to make much more clear from the original draft, so that canon would be more crisp.)

I know there has been a lot of discussion regarding which times when someone appears to hear Kelsier's voice were actually Kelsier. The story offers the official canon for this as well.

It's nice to finally be able to give the answers to some longtime fan questions, such as what spooked Vin during her inspection of Hoid and what was up with Preservation and the Mist Spirit. It's entirely possible that, despite our efforts, we slipped up and made some continuity error here or there. If so, I'm terribly sorry! This one has been particularly challenging to do.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#9 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Zane and Straff meet with Penrod in the night

We haven't had a Straff Viewpoint in a while, though from here out they get a little more frequent. Mostly, I had to include this to let you know why the merchants switched sides, and to give you a little hint of what was going on behind the scenes in places the heroes couldn't see.

I also wanted to remind you of Zane's penchant for poisoning his father, and Straff's own use of that mistress to heal him. This entire plot cycle (with the poisoning) was a late addition to the book in the revision process, added to give more dynamic between Zane and his father.

The really funny thing about all of this posturing, searching, and threatening in order to get the atium is this: atium is worthless. Or, rather, it only has worth as long as people give it worth.

In the minds of all of the characters, this cache is a fabulous treasure. Don't judge them too harshly–think how hard it would for you to pass up gold or diamonds, even if you were in the middle of a catastrophe. That's what's going on here. They still see atium as being incredibly valuable, even though the truth is that it was only valuable because the Lord Ruler made it so much a foundation of his economy.

True, atium can be used by Mistborn to do some pretty amazing things. However, you don't need a whole cache for that. Zane has proven that he has enough atium to kill Vin if he wants, and so more really isn't necessary for the Ventures.

Another worry, however, is that there enemies will get it–and that will let the enemies use their Mistborn to assassinate without as much fear of repercussion.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#10 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Three

Well, there you go. That chapter (with a big chunk of two) was originally the first chapter of the book. Oddly, moving it back made the book move more quickly, for me at least. It's strange how you can sometimes speed up a novel by ADDING material.

Speed in books, however, has little to do with how long the book actually is, and everything to do with how captivated the reader is.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#11 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

There were a couple of interesting edits that I made to this chapter. First off, Elend's proposal to the Assembly. It was a major point of revision in the book.

One of the biggest problems the novel had in the first draft was that readers weren't getting the right idea for the theme and plot of the novel. In early drafts, Vin's worries about the Deepness and the Lord Ruler's final words came before Straff's army arrived. So, readers were surprised when the middle of the novel spent so much time on politics and war. They wanted to learn more about the Well of Ascension. (Which IS important, but not as present–particularly at the beginning–as the rest of the plot.)

So, the revisions. I wanted to make the army a much more PRESENT in the narrative. Originally, Elend's proposal to the Assembly was about something unrelated. (Disaster relief for farmers.) I wanted to show him caring for his people. However, in revision, I realized I needed to focus more. So, now that proposal deals with the army, and is a thread that continues through the next few chapters.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#12 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The second half of this chapter, where Vin and Elend are chatting, is where the book finally starts to feel "good" to me. I'm mostly past the exposition reminding you of what happened in Book One, and I can get into more "showing" of character rather than reminding of past events.

I could have, perhaps, done something different with these reminders. I could have told you less, and let you remember on your own. Or, I could have worked the reminders in more delicately. However, the former would have left some people confused, and the later would have taken many more pages. I eventually took the easier, and time-tested, route of reminder exposition. We'll see if people like this or not, but it really did seem like the best way in this novel. (Interestingly, there's a thread about this on my forums right now.)

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#13 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Five

One of my writing groups had an intense reaction against Vin killing the dog in this scene. I'm not sure, still, WHY they got so upset–but they really didn't like it that she killed a dog "in cold blood" as they put it.

So, her little "I'm sorry about this" in her head is there for them. At least now they know she kind of wishes she didn't have to do it.

That dog had it coming, though.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#14 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Seventeen

So, now the Watcher is named. I didn't originally intend him to remain mysterious for so long. In fact, in the original draft, I had a viewpoint from him fairly early on. That's been moved back in this version, to make things flow more quickly at the beginning, but also so that you could form your opinion of him externally first. He has a. . .particular way of seeing the world, and I felt it better to introduce that later, so that it wouldn't overshadow the other aspects of his personality quite as much.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#15 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Elend comparing himself to Kelsier is a kind of theme for him in this book. I wanted Kelsier to leave a long, long shadow over these next two books.

A lot of people couldn't believe that I killed Kelsier, since he was such a ball of charisma, and the driving force for the first book. (A lot of others CAN believe it, but are rather annoyed at me for doing it.) However, I happen to like this book specifically because of Kelsier's absence.

He overshadowed everything when he was alive. Elend could never have developed as a character–and even Sazed and Vin would have had trouble–as long as Kelsier was there dominating everything. He was a character at the end of his arc–while the others are still only just beginning. It's so much more interesting if they have to do things without him.

Just part of Kelsier's arrogance, I guess. Both as a character in the book, and externally to it. He dominated so much that he had to go.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#16 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I worry just a tad about the light-hearted feel of the end of the chapter here. Originally, this scene was in the book BEFORE the army showed up to attack. In the original draft I showed Elend and company living (and fighting off assassins) without knowing that an army was bearing down on them. Moving the army so that it began the book on the horizon was the major pacing change I made that sped up the book, and increased the tension.

However, we missed a few of the more light scenes–like the upcoming sparring–and I didn't want to cut them because they were so indicative of character. I decided to leave them in. Kelsier's crew is accustomed to dealing with stress and remaining jovial. The only change I really had to make was in the Elend viewpoints, which you will see in the next chapter. Still, I hope the tone isn't off–that's a real worry when you transplant scenes from a previous draft, as opposed to writing them new when you change as much as I did at the beginning here.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#17 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

This fight scene is, in my opinion, a lot more fun that the previous one. It's what I want–quick, dramatic, and shows off character by the way that the various people approach the fight.

I probably should have cut this scene, honestly. The book is a little too long. It's 250,000 words, where both Elantris and Mistborn 1 are around 200,000. I worried about this, particularly since the original Well of Ascension was only around 235,000, but we added 15,000 through editing to make the pacing work.

Regardless, when this beast got in, the people at Tor (the typesetters and the like) immediately raised a warning flag. However, some of the things they said surprised us. They said that the hardback for Mistborn 2, by their counts, was going to be over 700 pages long! Well, I knew that the book was a bit longer, but Mistborn 1 was under 500, so they were claiming it was around 40% bigger–and unpublishable.

My editor went to bat, claiming that 1) It was only really about 20% bigger and 2) That didn't matter, because the book was the right length–it worked well, and was paced well, and that he didn't want to cut it. We caused a big mess of various people arguing, and then finally the people down in production called up and said they'd done a re-assessment, and that the book would be around 560 pages or so. Very doable.

I don't know where those extra 140 pages went. If you find them, let me know. . .

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#18 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

If you didn't see the Zane/Kelsier comparison later, I bring it up here. In a way, Zane's purpose in this book is to represent things that Vin never really had an opportunity to choose.

She ended up with Elend. However, there is another option, and that was the option that Kelsier represented. The option that Zane represents. Despite her assurances to Elend that she didn't love Kelsier, there WAS something there. Kelsier had a magnetism about him, and since he died, Vin didn't ever have to choose between him and Elend.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#19 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eight

So, Moshe and I BOTH worried about the fact that we've got two shadow mysterious figures showing up at the beginning of this book. Part of the problem is the rewrite, which mashed things together at the beginning of the novel, increasing the speed–but then melding things together as well. Originally, the mist spirit showed up before the Watcher. Now they both are introduced in the same chapter, which happens to be the second chapter.

That makes me worry about overlap and confusion, but we decided there was nothing to be done about it. As the story progresses, hopefully they'll be differentiated enough in the reader's head to keep them straight. (It doesn't help that I have creatures in this world known as mistwraiths, which are different from either the Watcher or the mist spirit. Sigh.)

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#20 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vin Investigates the Lord Ruler's Palace

Yes, the mist spirit and the Well are related. They feel the same to Vin. There's something going on there. Also, the footprints in the dust are from someone you know. More on this later.

If you can't tell from those two cryptic comments, this scene with Vin sneaking around Kredik Shaw is one of the new scenes that I added late in the process. I felt that I needed to do some more foreshadowing for things yet to come; the original draft left the surprises at the end just a little TOO surprising. We will be back in Kredik Shaw before the book concludes, and I wanted to visit the place at least once before then to remind you of its existence, and to make a few narrative connections.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#21 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Nine

A very short Sazed chapter. Mostly, this was just here because I had to remind the readers that Sazed was doing things. Getting to the Conventical is going to take enough time that, if I hadn't thrown in a small chapter like this, you would have gone a long time without seeing Sazed.

The things he mulls over here, then, are reinforcement of his character and his conflicts. It's also helping establish Marsh. Not because of what is said, but simply because you see them both again, and are therefore reminded of the things I talked about last time I was with him.

I wrote Mistborn One mostly chronologically, regardless of viewpoint. I did that with this book for the most part too, but I did write a lot of these Sazed chapters together, in bulk, so that I could keep the tone and voice right. I knew how many chapters from his viewpoint I needed, and I knew where they had to go, so I divided up what needed to happen and went from there.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#22 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

You may be interested to know that I planned a prologue for this book, originally, with Sazed seeing the mists during the day. He was going to ride past a valley, see it creeping along inside, then rush down and find it gone by the time he arrived. That's when he was to hear the rumors of people killed by it, then rush off, and eventually get lucky enough to find a person killed just a day before.

I never wrote that prologue. I just didn't feel that I needed it, and didn't want to start with that scene–I wanted something more active, rather than something mysterious, for the opening. As I revised the book and tried to focus the reader more and more on the politics and warfare, rather than the mists (particularly at the beginning) I decided that a prologue that dealt with the mists would be out of place.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#23 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

On a more serious note, this section contains some of the more lengthy additions to the rewrite. Elend's speech, and the arguments against it, were all added in the very last draft. As I said before, the first draft had Elend giving a much different proposal, as the army hadn't arrived yet.

This works TONS better. I worry that Elend comes off a little too strong–or, well, not weak enough–in this scene. I originally included it to show some of his faults as a leader. However, other readers have indicated that they thought he came off as too weak. Even if this is a book about Elend becoming a leader (or, at least, that’s a big chunk of the novel) he doesn't have to quite as hopeless as I originally painted him.

So, perhaps we've got a good balance going on here.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#24 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Obligators. This is the first time you see them in the book. It isn't the last time you'll see them, but it's nearly so. They just don't have much of a part in the story now.

I toyed with making them villains in the novel, involving them a lot more in politics, but discarded that concept. I decided that 1) The Lord Ruler's power was broken, and that fighting against remnants of it would be a little anti-climactic. 2) There just wasn't any more space in the book for more villains.

The armies invading Luthadel, and their leaders, are bad enough. Part of my rational is that the warlords–not the priests–are going to be the real danger in this new world. The priests were a force for stability. Now that everything has been overthrown, they simply won't have any power to be of a threat.

Though, I will note that a major force in the third book is, indeed, an obligator who has taken control of a section of the empire.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#25 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Kandra are a race that will also get a lot of development as the series progresses. During the development of this book, I tried to resist using the "there's a spy among us" plot, but in the end, I just couldn't do it. The pieces were all there, and I wanted to play with the concepts of trust and reliability.

In the first book, Vin learned to trust. She learned that it was better to trust and be betrayed than to suspect everyone. The nice twist on that in book one was that there WAS no traitor in the book. Everyone stayed true to Kelsier and his vision.

So, in this book, I had to sew seeds of distrust. I wanted Vin to have to deal with those problems again, and really have to confront her suspicions and paranoia. The only way to do that was to have her begin suspecting members of the crew.

Besides, you don't just put in a race of shapeshifters then ignore the tension of people wondering if someone they know has been replaced. That would just be irresponsible.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#26 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Two

Vin spies on Ham in the Mists

This chapter has another poetic introduction–I warned you about those, I believe. I hope it isn't too out of place.

Testing Ham in this way is something Vin really should have done earlier in the book. The problem is, I have a lot of things I need to pack into a relatively short space of time in this book. I did things in order of importance, and–oddly–testing the crewmembers took a lower precedent than getting Allrianne into the city or introducing Elend's plan to deal with the warlords.

But, finally, we get to work a little bit on the imposter plot. There are dozens of ways that Vin could have gotten Ham to burn pewter–but she wanted to do one where he didn't know she was there and he where he would use the metal reflexively. She also wanted to do it when she knew he was alone. That way, she couldn't be fooled by someone burning pewter nearby to make it seem like Ham was burning.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#27 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vin asks Ham how to kill a man burning Atium

This conversation about how to kill someone who is burning atium is another one I'd been wanting to include for a long time. It's important to the plot, and the overall arc of the book, that you worry about Vin lack of atium. Plus, I want to keep the reader thinking about the metal, as the Lord Ruler's atium cache is such a large part of the series' plotting.

It's tough to know how to fight someone who can see the future. What Ham outlines here are pretty much the only things that anyone has been able to come up with.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#28 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-One

Vin Sees the Mist Spirit while Traveling

What is the mist spirit? You'll get that explanation later. . .in book three. Sorry to have to keep saying that. I wanted to delve into the nature of the Mist Spirit more in this novel, but there was just too much packed into it already. You'll get a little more on the mist spirit, but the whole of what it is can't be explained yet.

As the book progresses, we have seen more and more that it is divided into two separate plots. There's the defense of Luthadel, and there's the search for the Well of Ascension. Maybe now you can see why I decided to retreat from talking about the Well too much at the beginning, instead focusing on the politics. (See earlier annotations.) If I had focused on the Well too much early, I feel that readers would have been frustrated to be strung along, since the information about the Well really doesn't start to come out until the latter part of the novel.

This book IS about the Well, but it's also about Luthadel and the politics there. Though the book is named after the Well, I feel that the Siege of Luthadel is actually the primary story.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#29 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Elend Discovers that the Koloss have been left to Destroy, then Elend Executes Jastes

And here we have the scene where Elend Kills Jastes. This, more than anything, is a sign to Elend of the way the real world works. This chapter is a sign of innocence lost, and a measure of the price of idealism. Elend will never be the same man after this.

Some of my alpha readers rebelled against this scene, but–unlike the scene where Kelsier used Demoux to kill a man in book one–I decided not to cut it. This event says too much about what has happened to Elend, and it means too much to his character. However, I did arrange things a little differently. In the original draft, Elend struck and killed Jastes, then explained why he did it. In this version, he outlines Jastes' sins first, then takes his head off.

Now, finally, Elend and Vin have discovered Sazed's lies. Did you wonder about him sending the two of them off to climb the mountain in the winter? Spook was around to stop that, in case you were wondering.

And yes, Spook knew. Considering how long it took Vin to get over the fact that OreSeur knew about Kelsier's plan to die, you can imagine that she's not soon going to forgive Spook for this one. In his defense, he was pulled about between some very strong emotions and motivations, not the least of which being his uncle explaining that if he DIDN'T go, nobody would be there to explain the truth to Vin and Elend and keep them from trekking all the way to Terris. Besides, Spook didn't want to die, and this path offered him an escape. Can you blame him?

He'll blame himself. Book Three.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#30 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Two

The Battle Begins

You'll notice something about these next chapters. Instead of focusing on the trained warriors during the siege of Luthadel, I spend my time inside the heads of Breeze and Sazed–the two least experienced with war and killing in the entire crew.

This is intentional. I want to give the sense that Luthadel is a place unprepared for war. Even its soldiers aren't really fighters. There hasn't been much war in the Final Empire, and those veterans who do exist are in Cett or Straff's employ. I would rather show the battle against the koloss, then, through the eyes of men who will be horrified and confused at what to do, as I think that will be the norm for this conflict.

It heightens the tension, and the tragedy, of this all when you get to see Breeze and Sazed trying to cope with the horrors of a battlefield. Plus, the opposite has been done quite well a lot–whether it be in a David Gemmel book or in Lord of the Rings. You've seen brave warriors defend a city. Now watch a politician and a scholar try to do it.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#31 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Five

Vin and Tindwyl go Shopping

Part of me wants to get the same reaction out of the reader that Vin gave in this chapter. "Shopping? They're going SHOPPING?" I realize that this scene is a gamble. This is a book about a besieged city, and in the middle of it, I include a chapter spent trying on dresses.

There are a lot of important things I wanted to show in this chunk of the book, and this really did seem like the best way. First off, I wanted to get Vin back to the market so that she could see how tense the people were. Also, I wanted to have a chance to let her interact with Tindwyl–both to show another side of Tindwyl, and to finally force Vin to start confronting some of the things she needs to work on in this book.

She's reacted too strongly against the person she was becoming in the last novel. With Kelsier, and his encouragement, gone, she's reverted. She's frightened to accept the noble half of who she is.

I also wanted to show just a bit more of Allrianne. She's going to get some more screen time in upcoming sections, and I wanted a chance to give her character a little more rounding.

Beyond all of those reasons, I also just wanted to do something different, something a little more light. I miss the ball scenes we had back in book one. There was really no way to work them into this book, and so I let them go. However, I wanted to at least give a nod to those people who enjoyed them in the last novel. This scene and the dinner with Straff are both kind of throwbacks to those chapters from the first book.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#32 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Aborted attack on the walls

The end scene of this chapter, with the army outside making test on the Luthadel walls, was one that Moshe suggested that we add. It came into the book very late in the process, during the last major revision, well over a year after I'd finished the first draft of the novel. The purpose of the scene was to give a reminder of the armies and the pressure they're applying to the city. We knew we needed to keep the reader thinking about the armies, and this chapter was a way of speeding up the book by making it longer, as I talked about before.

A test on the walls, then, makes sense. This also let me show off a bit how Allomancers might be used in battle, which I'd never been able to do in book one.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Three

Sazed Defends the Gate

The Sazed fights scenes interest me because of how much of a contrast they are to the Vin fights. Sazed's scenes are so brutal–strength against strength, blunt fighter against blunt fighter. Vin fights with grace. Sazed is just trying to stay alive.

I worked a lot on the plotting here of making Sazed's gate hold so long. When I planned the siege of Luthadel, I knew that I would need a very deep, character driven set of scenes with Sazed. It was the only way I felt I could add something new to this plotting sequence. The heroes defending their city during a siege has been done before. (One notable example being in The Lord of the Rings.) I was worried that I would be bored of writing these scenes, and so I decided to head that off by focusing in on Sazed here, who I thought would approach a battle like this in a new way.

I don't know what readers thought, but I found myself drawn very much into writing the scenes, which is a good sign. They up going longer than I'd anticipated, which is another good sign. Something about the contrast of the quiet religious scholar in the middle of such a terrible war was fascinating to me.

So fascinating, actually, that I forgot to write Ham into any of the scenes in these chapters. I didn't remember him until about chapter fifty-five. It was then that I remembered that the best warrior in the group had disappeared for the entire fight. So, I wrote him in, and added him to this chapter where Sazed gets to Breeze.

You'd be surprised at how often writers do things like this, forgetting a character. It's a tough call sometimes to keep track of everyone who is involved in various parts of a complex plot. Don't even get me started on the challenge of keeping track of everyone while writing in the Wheel of Time world.

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Reasons for the Plot Sequence

Even still, I realize that what happens in these two chapters represents a very bold–even crazy–move on the part of the heroes. Part of the reason I devised this plot sequence because I wanted to make book two feel a little more like book one. The first book was all about Kelsier's crazy plans, and pulling them off. If you remember, it seemed like every other chapter someone found reason to ask him "are you insane?"

I wanted to give this book a little bit of that "impossible heist" feel, if just for cohesion's sake. In this book, it is represented by Elend visiting Straff's army, and by the characters doing a few other crazy things.

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Brandon Sanderson

Straff and Cett Viewpoints

We also have brief Straff and Cett scenes in this chapter, mostly so that you don't forget about them. Things are working with them, bringing them closer to where they'll need to be for the next few chapters to work, but they're not really doing anything at the moment.

So we hop from them quickly, giving each of them a few poignant things to observe about the battle–and to let us take a breather from the action–before diving back in.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Four

Vin Versus A Whole Lot of Koloss

The Vin fight scene here is meant to be quick and a little bit abstract, giving you the sense that she's killed a lot without going into a lot of details on blocking and blow-by-blow. I figure you got enough fighting with Sazed, and now we need to advance the plot.

In this chapter, we have a number of really nice moments that hearken back to the first book. Vin mentions several of them directly. There's the scene where she spins around atop Kredik Shaw, looking at the fires in the night. We'll have a scene like this in book three–a city lit by fire in the night as things change. We got one in Book One as well. Also, we have a scene here with Vin her thinking about how useless it is to try fighting an army on her own, referencing the time Kelsier wanted to do just that, and Vin kept him back.

With this chapter, I'm pushing quickly for the end sequence. The real climax of the siege was meant to be Vin's arrival, and the rest of these chapters make for an unavoidable downswing. She still needs to save the city, and–now that she's arrived in time–I believe most readers are expecting her to succeed. The only question now is how she'll do it.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter One

This was the hardest chapter in the entire book to write.

That's often the case for me. I will write a first chapter, continue on through the rest of the book, and then be forced to write the first chapter a few more times to get it right. For this book, I wrote the chapter some five times. If I'm feeling proactive, I'll post some of these chapters in the deleted scenes section about the time Mistborn 3 comes out.

Anyway, I just couldn't get the right feel for the first chapter. I wanted to start with a dramatic fight scene involving Vin (you now get that in chapter two) but every time I did, the book actually felt too slow. That's because, in order to have a fight, I need to explain Allomancy.

I started to get this one right when I backed off of the fight a bit and just had Vin creeping through the city. This let me get out a little bit about Allomancy before I threw her into the fight.

However, I didn't actually get it right until I added the Elend and Ham scene at the beginning. This scene had been in the book, but much later. The first chapter wasn't the only one I rewrote, actually—this entire first section of ten chapters underwent some significant revisions to fix the pacing. Originally, I didn't say much about the army until the later chapters, after Vin's fight.

However, I realized that I needed to give the sense of large-scale danger to the book before I got into the smaller danger of Vin's fight. Elend and Ham here talking sets the book off right—it introduces the conflict right off, shows what we're going to have to worry about in this book, then gives context to Vin's fight.

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Part Two Wrap-up

And that, Elend getting deposed, leads us into the next section of the book. The first section was intended to re-establish the setting and character, part two introduced us to the plot. Now we'll get into the thick of things, with the three different rulers vying for control of Luthadel—and, they hope, the hidden atium supply it represents.

I like that this book is, again, about the atium. I hope that people don't get tired of hearing about it. This is a theme for the entire series. At the core, both the first two books are started by the conflict over the atium. In book one, the atium is what Kelsier intends to steel. In book two, the atium the reason the warlords come to conquer the city. It's fun that something that has yet to make an appearance—if, indeed, it's even real—has sparked the conflicts of two separate novels.

Of course, in both books, the atium quickly becomes overshadowed by other things. Kelsier was going to steal the atium, but he really wanted to overthrow—and get revenge upon—the Lord Ruler. As Straff points out in the last chapter, he may have come for the atium—but the real reason he wants Luthadel has to do with more personal reasons.

Regardless, the throne of Luthadel is now up for grabs, and that will demand our attention for Part Three of the book.

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little_wilson

So, Brandon. Hoid. I remember you saying at the Idaho Falls signing last year that he was in Well of Ascension. We, your dedicated fans who like scouring books searching for obscure characters who have any possibility of being the mysterious Hoid, have yet to find him. Peter sent us on a hunt for him (Hoid, not Peter...) in the deleted scenes, and we found his boot-print.

Now, I think he broke the pottery there too—the one holding the lerasium—and since there's broken pottery in the actual version, I think he may have snuck into the cavern and broken it as well. If so, is this Hoid's part in Well of Ascension? This trace of him? I commend you if it is. It is clever, making us think it was a person, when in fact it's just something he did.

Brandon Sanderson

You are on the right track, but wrong on one point. Hoid does appear in the book.

I had originally toyed with making his touch on the novel more obscure, but decided that I wanted to be consistent with the other novels by actually having him appear. Once I realized I'd probably cut the scene with the footprint, I decided I needed this actual appearance even more badly.

Fortunately, I knew what Hoid had been up to all this time, and had placed him in a position where several characters could run into him. In Well of Ascension, Hoid believed (as Vin did) that the Well was in the North, even though it was not. He spent much of the book pursuing this idea.

Through events, however, he discovered he was wrong. He made the realization after Vin did, but only because of a chance meeting. (This is recorded in the books. Let's just say he was listening in when someone implied that the Well was in Luthadel.)

He hurried to Luthadel, and was in the town, skulking about in the last parts of the novel. He isn't seen here, though he does still infiltrate the Well. (Hoid is quite proficient at manipulating Shadesmar for his own ends.)

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Zas678

I have some more in-depth questions that might be RAFO'd. For fans who want to know what I'm talking about, go here. Here they are:

Who is Hoid in Well of Ascension? We (TWG) have found some candidates:

Wolfhound merchantTerris person that Elend meets after Vin went back to LuthadelTeur or old Jed (the two Skaa in the first Sazed chapter)Crazy cannibal Skaa (I doubt it though)

We already know it isn't the man who discovered duralumin, or the Skaa leader outside the dress shop, or the old Skaa who waits with the Holy First Witness when the Koloss attack.

I think those were all of the characters that we found as candidates.

Brandon Sanderson

People are really close to this one, and I noticed that later in this thread, you or someone else mentioned the footprints in the deleted scene.

Hoid's appearance in Mistborn: Well of Ascension is a little unlike the others. When the scene at the Well was moved in revision, one of Hoid's major influences on the book had to go (for various reasons). Left in the book is only one little hint, really. A character notices something odd about someone, but doesn't dwell on it. You can probably find the line if you look very closely.

Let me say this. Hoid got wrapped up in things he didn't expect to be involved in, and they dominated much of his time during the events of Mistborn: Well of Ascension. He spent most of the book in a different place from most of the viewpoint characters. He's only near them for a very short time, and he's deeply in disguise. I couldn't include his name, as he'd never have used the name "Hoid" for himself there, because it wouldn't have been right for the disguise. He'd have used another pseudonym. (He didn't, by the way, mention one.)

I've probably said too much already. Now, perhaps what people should asking me is this: "What has Hoid been up to in all of these books?" Or, maybe they shouldn't ask me, as I wouldn't be likely to answer. (There are clues in the novels, however.) No, he's not just hanging out. Yes, I know what he's been doing. Will I write his scenes some day? Maybe. We'll see. There may be short stories posted on my website.

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Brandon Sanderson

Part Five Wrap-up

The name of this section was Snow and Ash. I think that's pretty self-explanatory. While some of the section titles were tough to come up with, this one was rather easy. The image of the snow and the ash mixing was powerful to me because of how similar, yet at the same time opposite, the two materials are.

It was a brutal section, and actually marks the pseudo-ending of the book. We've dealt with the major conflict that was raised in the first chapter. The armies are defeated with and the city is safe.

However, there's still something to do. I had a lot of trouble deciding how to work the separate climaxes of this book. Did I try to interweave them, having Vin find the Well of Ascension even as the koloss were attacking? That seemed too obvious, and I felt one of the two plots would overshadow the other. Beyond that, I worried it would all just become a big mess, hard to follow. It IS possible to have too much going on during an ending.

So I went with the other option—dealing with the armies, then moving on to a final, shorter section that focused on the Well of Ascension. We're getting into parts of the book that were very heavily revised, and so these are things that will probably end up with deleted scenes on the website, once I get around to posting them.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Six

Elend in the Mists after Vin Leaves

I wanted to include a reference to mistwraiths in this book. They're a minor world element, but aspects of their origins are a piece of the puzzle that gets explained further. . .in book three.

The mists are indeed coming earlier in the day, and they are staying later in the mornings. They're getting stronger, you might say. Elend doesn't know this, but some of the very outer parts of the empire already have mists lingering almost to the afternoon. The answers to why are coming. . .in book three.

The mist spirit doesn't want Elend to go to Luthadel. And yes, it was using Allomancy on him. (Influencing his emotions, as it's done several places through this book.) It doesn't work very well. The thing doesn't have much of a mind remaining. The answer to why. . .yes, you guessed it. Book three.

As you can tell, I'm using this last section of the book to set up The Hero of Ages. I didn't want to do this–I wanted all three books to stand well on their own. However, the events in the third book are just too large to deal with in one novel, so they spilled over into the end of this one. I actually began foreshadowing a lot of these things in book one–they were just easier to hide then.

By the way, the scene where Elend stands there, looking into the darkness, hearing leaves rustle and thinking how frightening it is. . .well, that's a scene from my life. Nothing big, but one night I was just walking past a darkened backyard and I heard rustling like that. I stood for a while, looking into that darkness, realizing just how creepy it was to stand in shadowed light and stare into the void without knowing what was back there. I had to put that in a book.

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Brandon Sanderson

Vin Goes to Kredik Shaw

Originally, the Well of Ascension WAS in the mountains. That's the big reason for the rewrite of the ending. This section of the book felt TOO disjointed with the rest of the novel, and I felt that I needed to move the Well to Luthadel. That way, the fight for the city meant something–and I didn't have to send Vin out, have her come back, then send her north yet again.

It works far better this way. Of course, I had to do some major rewriting–and I had to explain why the Well isn't in the mountains. But, in this case, fixing one thing gave me motivation for fixing something else. I had worried about how easy it was to find the Well, and how difficult it would be to take Vin and Elend into the mountains to find it. All very awkward. Both the history and the current story work much better when I decided to have the Lord Ruler have moved the Well down and put his city on top of it.

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Brandon Sanderson

Marsh

One of the things about this novel is that the bookends–the beginning and the end–are very closely tied together, with only small strands weaving through the middle. Here, at the end, we come full circle. We find a body, just like the one that Sazed found in the first chapter where we introduced him. Next, we run into Marsh, who vanished so many months ago.

He's actually been in the city. Some of Demoux's people reported seeing an Inquisitor, if you recall, and Vin found footprints inside of Kredik Shaw. Marsh has been here the whole time, watching and waiting.

Now he has something to do.

I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing that the beginning and the ending are tied so closely together. On one hand, I worry that you've forgotten about Marsh and the killings the mists caused. On the other hand, I like the symmetry in this book. You think you're done with it after the siege of Luthadel.

Then this happens.

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yurisses

Can you tell us a little bit about what Hoid was up to in Terris in The Well of Ascension?

Brandon Sanderson

He was hunting for the Well of Ascension.

yurisses

In the new continuity, he already knew where the Well was, because he used it to come back to--

Brandon Sanderson

Right, we changed the continuity, didn't we. Yeah. Oh boy. We came up with an explanation of this, because when we wrote the book-- Yeah, why don't you send me an email on that one. Now that I have the conversation with Peter, he brought that one up when I finally got around to Secret History. That was one of our big casualties. What did I come up with? I think he was just really, really-- I will have to-- because I canonzied it to Peter. We're gonna have to go to Peter and say "What's in the wiki now?" Yeah, that was one of the big casualties, and the fact that I couldn't get Kelsier to one of the places where I had left foreshadowing for him to speak in someone's head, and I can't remember what that one was, either.

yurisses

Oh, that one was Sazed, you said it was his imagination.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, I had to make that his imagination. Because I just couldn't get people where they needed to go. This is the problem with writing an outline, then writing a book, and then writing another book so many years later. Certain things, we just can't work into the continuity. Write us an email, we'll get you the official continuity for that one. Because Peter did nail me down when we were working on the book.

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Brandon Sanderson

Vin Gives up the Power

Writing toward this scene where Vin would have to take the power, then give it up, was one of my focuses in this novel. I had to get her, as a character, to a point where she'd be able to do something this gut-wrenching.

It was extremely cruel of me. And yet, there's a beauty to being cruel like this to characters. (It's why George R. R. Martin is a genius.) I plotted out this particular plot element from the beginning of the first book, as I wanted to not only upend some fantasy tropes in the series, but approach them from a post-modern perspective. If people are so powerfully motivated by the concept of prophesy and religion, then what better way would there be for a force like Ruin to manipulate them than to use that sensibility against them? In many ways, Book One was my look at the concept of the Dark Lord in fantasy fiction while Book Two is my look at the concept of prophesy as used by fantasy. (Book three is my look at the concept of the hero.)

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Brandon Sanderson

Drawing upon the Mists

Vin draws upon the mists here for the second time. I kind of wish I'd been able to make her do it in the second book somewhere, but I decided to back off on that plot in book two. The thing is, Vin drawing upon the mists is kind of deus ex machina, and I didn't want to make the entire series about that. It's a mystery to be explained, true, and was worked into the magic system from the beginning. But I can't deny that it feels like it comes out of nowhere.

So, having her use her ability to draw upon the mists here was an attempt to have that happen sometime other than a major climax moment, reminding the reader of what happened back in book one so we can begin to delve into what was happening and why.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Nine

Nothing is worse than trying so hard to do the right thing, then discovering that it was the worst thing you could have done.

I wrote this final chapter to be a slight upswing in the plot so that we wouldn't end on such a sour note. No, I didn't kill Elend. I sure wanted you to think that I would, but I never planned to. I had always intended them to discover where the first Mistborn had come from when they reached the Well of Ascension, and this bead of metal is very important to the cosmology of Scadrial and, indeed, the entire overarching story of my books as a whole .

Elend was intended to become Mistborn from the very early stages of this book's development. So, I figured I ought to do something to him that would make him NEED to be Mistborn. Why did I want to make Elend Mistborn? I know it bothered some readers. I felt I'd explored his character as well I could in this book, and I needed something to upset the balance–tenuous as it is–that he'd arrived at here. He's not going to replace Vin–you'll see in the next book that Elend as a Mistborn doesn't change as much as you might think. But it does put him in new situations, and those situations allow him to progress as a character in the way I felt he needed to.

Anyway, this will make for a very interesting book three. Also, the mist spirit–now, maybe, you can see a little of what it was trying to do. It was struggling to find a way to get Vin to NOT go to the Well of Ascension. Giving hints to Sazed, scaring her, threatening Elend, pointing in the opposite direction. However, it is rather hampered in what it can do, as we'll find in the next book.

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Brandon Sanderson

Epilogue

And so, the circle is complete. Sazed returns to the south and visits the Conventical again, Elend returns to the city wall.

Hopefully, I revealed this well enough for you to understand what you need to in order to make this book work. There are a lot of holes, I know. I've already apologized for that–we'll answer all of them in book three.

For now, understand that something was imprisoned, and it hijacked the Terris religion–the prophesies–and used the Well of Ascension to get free.

Book three is about the real theme of these books. Survival. It's going to be a tough road.

As a wrap up, I guess I'll say that for me, this book was about Vin and Elend testing and proving their standards. In the beginning, they both made certain determinations about themselves and what they wanted to accomplish. Elend intended to make a good government and not be an exception to his own rules.

Vin intended to love the good, kind man of Elend rather than the man of the street–the hard, strict man that was Kelsier. (See Chapter Ten, where Vin snuggles in the chair with Elend, for an in-dialogue outline of her belief system for this book. This is the offering of the challenge. The trial comes later.) They are both tested, then, in these assertions–Elend by losing his throne, Vin by being forced to take a long hard look at her own heart and what she really wanted. To her, Zane represented the past. Did she return to that, or did she look forward to the hope–and the future–that Elend represented?

They both hold strong. That's the true victory of this book. The release of Ruin disregarded, this book marks great success for the characters. They were tested in their absolute most vital of personal convictions, and they passed. This prepared them for the final book. Now that they'd proven their ideals, they could bear the weights and griefs of the empire.

Of course, there is also Sazed. One of my goals in writing this book was to fix Elend and Vin. But another big one was to break Sazed. While they held firm to who they were, he has been forced to reassess his convictions, and he finds them wanting. Chapter fifty-four was one of the saddest chapters for me, personally, to write. In many ways, Elend and Vin have nearly completed their arcs as characters. But Sazed and Spook have just begun. And that is what leads us into Book Three.

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Elend discovers that a well has been poisoned

This poisoned well scene is another one that was added to the book during the final draft. Much like Straff's test attack on the walls, this scene is here to remind you that the armies are out there, that Luthadel is besieged, and that things are not going well for the heroes. I don't want you to forget about the armies just because our focus is on politics for the moment.