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Warbreaker Annotations ()
#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The Guard Approaches, and His Clothing Becomes Brighter

This is an essential part of the magic system. When you get close to someone's aura, their clothing—and everything else about them—brightens in color slightly. It's important to show it in this prologue.

Unfortunately, it also shouldn't be there. You see, Vasher should be smart enough to hide his Breath in his clothing, as the book later shows is quite easy to do. He shouldn't have left himself holding any Breath. It's suspicious. If those guards had noticed his aura—or if someone working in the prison had been of the First Heightening—Vasher would have been spotted. It's such an easy fix that he should have thought of it.

The problem is, I felt I needed to establish the way the magic works from the beginning. Having to explain why Vasher didn't make the clothing glow would have been awkward and confusing at this point in the book. So I left this as it is.

However, being who I am, I developed a background for why Vasher did it this way. He left his Breath in, and thought that maybe it would be noticed—but if it was, he knew that the guards would lock him in a cell much closer to Vahr. That would be convenient, as it would ensure that he was much closer to his quarry. Of course, in such a cell, he wouldn't be able to Awaken anything and escape. However, he'd planned for that too. He set a little straw figure outside the prison the night before, with specific Commands instructing it to search through the cells and find him, delivering a set of lock picks.

It was risky—but either way he did it would be risky. He couldn't know for certain that the guards would take him to the area he needed to be in, and even if he had hidden his Breath in his clothing, some prisons have rules in place requiring each prisoner to be stripped, just in case they've done just that. Fortunately, these guards were particularly lazy. Anyway, Vasher's contingency plan wasn't needed, as the guards didn't end up noticing his Breath.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#2 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher and Denth Spar; Vasher Gets Stabbed

I love scenes in books (when I read them) that imply a great weight of history that we don't get to see between characters. It gives me a sense that the story is real. That these characters lived before the story, and that they'll continue to live afterward (or, well, the ones who survive).

When I built this book, I knew that the Vasher/Denth relationship needed a lot of groundwork to give it that sense. I wanted them both to be complicated characters who have a twisted past. It all comes to head here, in this chapter, and we get the ending of a story over three centuries old. Will I ever tell those stories? Probably not. Like the story of Alendi and Rashek in Mistborn, I think the story between Vasher and Denth is stronger as it stands—as something to lend weight to this book. We will go more into the Vasher/Arsteel relationship (particularly as we deal with Yesteel) in the next book, if I write it.

By this point, you should be wondering just who Vasher is. He's been alive since the Manywar, and Denth implies that Vasher himself caused the conflict. There's obviously a lot more going on with him than you expect.

Hal-Con 2012 ()
#3 Copy

Lance Alvein (paraphrased)

How about the general number of years Warbreaker is from [The Hero of Ages] and [The Alloy of Law/The Way of Kings]?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

RAFO - the reason that timeline questions are being RAFOed right now is because the final times are still not 100% solid, and Brandon said that he doesn't want to give us a time and then have it change around again (like what happened to [The Alloy of Law] being moved to the same time as [The Way of Kings] instead of being a bit earlier), so he won't answer any timeline questions until after he has the final timeline correct in his own system.

Leipzig Book Fair ()
#4 Copy


In Warbreaker: the magic system is really visual, and when heightened people are around, the colours get really saturated and I was wondering about blind people or colour blind people. How can they percieve the effects of Investiture?

Brandon Sanderson

Their minds would interpret it in a way that works for them. Their brain would come up with some way to interpret the sensory they're getting. And so the colour blind... The colours are still going to saturate, but saturate in a way that they can tell. Not being colour blind it is really hard for me to describe. But I read about it, and at least that's the rule I have for myself in the head. For an actual blind person this is going to be a magic system that's harder to use. Just having a disability, unfortunatly. But it also gives perfect pitch, and I think that partially their auditory senses would compensate to a degree, but it's going to be a harder magic system to use. I'm sure they could find a way to work around it.

Manchester signing ()
#5 Copy


I wanted to ask, at the beginning you mentioned that you had twelve books written before your first book was published, can you tell us, or are you allowed to tell us how many have actually been published?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, I can actually go down the list for you. It is somewhat interesting, I think, for people. My very first book was a book called White Sand, and it was basically kind of a Dune rip-off. Your first book is always  a rip-off, right, of somebody, as a new writer? And that doesn't count the one in high school, which was a SUPER rip-off, like a major rip-off, it was basically a Tad Williams meets Dragonlance. Full blown with elves and things-- Yeah it was totally--

White Sand is the first one I finished, and I actually then went and wrote a science fiction book called Star's End.  And then I wrote the second half of White Sand, because I just stopped and said "This is long enough to be a novel" and then I wrote the rest of it and called that book two, that's actually the only sequel in there I wrote. And then I wrote a comedy, where a lot of the thesis of that comedy came out in Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians ten years later, so that one's kind of half been published. White Sand and Star's End are not any good, they have not been published. And then I wrote something called The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora, which was really weird and sci-fi-y and stuff, and that one hasn't been published because it's really bad too. And then book number six was Elantris which was pretty good. Book number 7 was Dragonsteel, which became my honor's thesis as an undergraduate and half of that book ended up in the contemporary Way of Kings, the Bridge Four sequence was all from Dragonsteel and I ripped that out when I re-did Way of Kings.

After that was a re-write of White Sand, with better writing nowadays, and that one we're turning into a graphic novel, that one's good enough to read-- The biggest problem it has is its a little too bloated.  The story-- It's like 300,000 words with 150,000 words of story. And so we are going to condense it-- into a graphic novel, so you will eventually see that one. The next one was called Aether of Night, that one didn't get published, it's really two decent books that don't work well together, like one half is a Shakespearean farce about a guy who takes his brother's place on the throne, they're twins, it's mistaken identify, yadda yadda; the other half is this dark brutal war book with an invasion going on, and the two halves never really translate well. People read this and they're like, that chapter is hilarious and fun, and OH MY GOODNESS, and yeah, so-- Maybe someday I'll do something with that.

After that I wrote a book named Mythwalker which became Warbreaker. I ripped out the good parts of that and wrote Warbreaker later on. Then I wrote a book called Final Empire, which is not Mistborn: The Final Empire, because then I wrote a book called Mistborn, and neither of those books were working very well. And then I wrote a book called Way of Kings and then I sold Elantris and I said "I want to take these two books that weren't working very well, and I think if I combine them--" because Mistborn had a cool magic system and the Final Empire had this whole thing about the Hero who failed and the Dark Lord took over and mixing these too ideas turned into a great book and that became Mistborn: The Final Empire.

And basically everything from then I've published, Warbreaker came next which was a re-write of Mythwalker. The Way of Kings, the one you hold, is a complete rebuild, I started from scratch, and added the Bridge Four sequence from Dragonsteel and some of these things... The only good one in there, that wasn't published, is White Sand I think, and I think it is going to make a really nice graphic novel because the story is really solid, the characters are really solid. I just wasn't a good enough writer to know how to condense where I needed to.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#6 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Lightsong's Wisecracks

The other major Lightsong revision happened in the form of a humor upgrade. My editor didn't complain about the same thing as my agent—instead, my editor wanted to laugh more. He wanted more witty lines from Lightsong. I resisted this at first, as I worried that making him too snappy would undermine his internal conflicts. I wanted him to be droll, but not necessarily brilliant.

Eventually, however, my editor prevailed upon me. He was always of the opinion that a few extra witty lines wouldn't undermine anything. I have to say, I like the lines, and I'm mostly glad to have them. But I do worry about overloading the humor in Lightsong's chapters, and therefore diluting his internal conflict.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#7 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher and Denth's Climax

I wanted to offer Denth the chance for redemption here, though there was no way he was going to let himself take it. His response is honest. He doesn't feel he deserves it. He has done terrible things; to wipe away the memory of them would be cheating. Better to just get it over with.

There's a very good chance that after killing Vasher, Denth would have walked over, picked up Nightblood, and let the sword drain his life away. He wouldn't have been able to live with the guilt.

But that doesn't happen. When I first designed this magic system, I added to it the idea that taking a lot of Breath shocks you and sends you into a small seizure of pleasure. This is lifted from the magic system in Mythwalker, the story from which I drew Siri and Vivenna. I added the component to Awakening not only because it fit, but because I liked giving one more little nod to Mythwalker.

However, the moment I began writing it, I knew that this twist of giving someone Breath, then killing them, would be an awesome way to pull a reversal with the magic. So I built into the story the entire arc of Vasher beating Arsteel mysteriously, and Denth wanting to duel him to prove that he couldn't win a duel.

Denth was right. Vasher cheated.

General Reddit 2020 ()
#8 Copy


How long after Warbreaker does Way of Kings take place? I know you usually don't finalize timeline details until they actually are stated in-book, but are you willing to say how far apart the books are, in the current plans?

Brandon Sanderson

I have Warbreaker happening a few generations before, right now.  However, I'm very likely to move Elantris up in time, so it's a little in the air at the moment.


Thanks! I assume asking why Elantris being moved affects how far apart Warbreaker and Way of Kings are is a behind-the-scenes thing and/or RAFO?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, it does.  The big linchpin is going to be when I need Sel and Scadrial to align when big crossovers start happening.  We'll know in a few years; there are things I intend to write that I could imagine needing to change, after they're finished, that will influence the timeline structure.

ICon 2019 ()
#9 Copy


In Warbreaker, the royal family's hair can change colors based on their emotions. Why is it only natural colors? Is there a reason for that?

Brandon Sanderson

It's only natural colors, they could go further than natural colors. Basically, their perception is what's influencing that. They can actually change more than just the color of their hair, but as in a lot of things in the cosmere, the way you view how your abilities work shapes the actual abilities.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#10 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Confronts Vahr

Vahr's original name was Pahn. You can find it used in earlier drafts of the book. I liked the sound and look of that so much, in fact, that I based the name of the people he came from on his own name.

That made for a problem, though. That's like having a person named America. It happens, but it's kind of confusing in a book. So, I eventually had to change his name to something that had a similar look and feel, but which wouldn't lead to so much confusion.

Vahr dies here, and one of the major revisions I made to the book was to bring out more of his influence throughout the book. I didn't want it to be too in your face. However, he was a very important man. We see only the very tail end of his life here, but he worked for over a decade as a Pahn revolutionary, trying to inspire his people to rebel against Hallandren oppression. (Or at least what he saw as Hallandren oppression.) He eventually became such a popular figure that he raised an army, with monetary support from several of Hallandren's trade competitors across the sea.

We see here the end of that—Vahr, captured and being tortured. He's a lot more important than he seems, both to the world and to the novel itself.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
#11 Copy


First of all, I want to say how awesome your books are. The Mistborn series, in particular, is on my list of "best fantasy books ever read".

Now my question: is Warbreaker going to be the start of a series?

Brandon Sanderson

I've talked about the sequel. I wouldn't call it a series, though, since I'm only intending it to be two books. I actually plotted it at one, then during drafting decided that some of the things I wanted to do would be better in a sequel, and started calling it a two-book series. Tor signed me for two, and have put the second one on infinite hiatus, allowing me to turn it in whenever I want.

The Great American Read: Other Worlds with Brandon Sanderson ()
#12 Copy

Questioner 1

[Warbreaker] ends on, you could totally write a second one. Is that in the works?

Brandon Sanderson

It is, but it's kind of a distant plan. It's kind of just more for fun. I wrote this-- I had already written Way of Kings, and I wrote this as a prequel to Way of Kings on a different world, and then it got published before Way of Kings got published. But the characters from this were already continuity in Way of Kings, so I just kept using them, because I figured it works out. Really, Warbreaker, I see it as Vasher's (and Nightblood, the sequel), the prequel, to where he came from, who was Kaladin's swordmaster in the first version of Way of Kings back when Kaladin was training to be a Shardbearer in the first book. Vasher was a major part of that, and Warbreaker was a flashback to where he'd come from.

Questioner 2

Vasher is Zahel, right?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, Vasher is Zahel from The Stormlight Archive. Who is still kind of the swordmaster, but he's no longer Kaladin's, it didn't work out that way. But he ends up as Renarin's instead.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#13 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

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

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

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#14 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Susebron and Siri Chat

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

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#15 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Visits Lemex

In the very early planning of this book, I intended Lemex to live. He was going to become a mentor figure for Vivenna, and have the very personality that she described him as having in her imagination. Spry, quick-witted, intelligent.

So I decided to kill him off.

Why? Well, it's complicated. On one hand, I felt that he was too much of a standard character from one of my books. The witty mentor is not only a stereotype of fantasy, but something I rely upon a lot in my writing. (Though, granted, many of those haven't been published—however, Grandpa Smedry from the Alcatraz books is a great example of this kind of character.)

I also felt that Lemex could too easily be a crutch for Vivenna in the same way that Mab could have been for Siri. The idea was to keep these sisters consistently out of their elements, to force them to stretch and grow.

Instead, I upped the competence of the mercenaries and decided to have them play a bigger part.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#16 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter One - Part One


You can probably guess why I was worried about the transition from the prologue with Vasher to this chapter with Siri. The tone shift is quite dramatic. Actually, one of the things my agent complained a lot about with this book was the tone. Not just for this chapter shift, but for the entire book.

In his opinion, there were too many different tone shifts going on. We have Vasher's plot, which is dark and sometimes violent. We have the Siri plotline, which is romantic and sometimes whimsical. We have Lightsong, whose chapters are glib and smell faintly of an old comedic murder mystery. Then we have Vivenna, whose tone bounces around across all of these.

That's one of the things I like about the book. My agent complained, but I know he likes things more streamlined than I sometimes do. He loved the Mistborn books, and I do think they are excellent novels—but they are very focused. The characters are distinctive, but their plots are all centered on many of the same types of goals.

With Warbreaker, one of the main things I'm trying to do is contrast it to Mistborn. To do something different, something that harkens a little more back to Elantris, with its three very different viewpoints.

I want there to be a lot of different tones and feels to this book. It's part of the theme of the novel—that of vibrant Hallandren and its many wonders. I want it to feel like a lot is going on, and that in different parts of the city, very different stories can be told.

Fantasy Faction Q&A ()
#17 Copy


When is Emperor's Soul set chronologically in relation to Elantris? Because if its around the same time Teod and Arelon might not have to stand alone against the Fjordell Empire.

My other question is also a timeline one. (There are a lot of those tonight haha) I heard you had to move The Way of Kings a little bit due to some plot constraints. So does Warbreaker still fall around the same time as The Alloy of Law or has that shifted as well?

Brandon Sanderson

Thanks for the kind words! Emperor's Soul is after Elantris, but not too long after. It is before Mistborn.

Second question is that I've moved things so that The Way of Kings is around the same time as The Alloy of Law, forced by some behind-the-scenes events. Warbreaker now happens before The Alloy of Law.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#18 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Talks to Jewels about Religion

I'm very conscious of the fact that all of my major viewpoint characters in this book—Lightsong included—don't believe in the Hallandren religion. That worries me because the book presents a very one-sided view of their beliefs.

Religion isn't a simple thing. In my books so far, I fear that I've presented the religions in a far too one-sided way. Hrathen with his Shu-Dereth, the Lord Ruler and his religion—these were not the types of religions that are very enticing to readers. The characters, even those viewpoint characters who followed the religions, didn't present them very well. (And, in truth, the Lord Ruler's religion—the Steel Ministry—was a pretty despicable religion.)

In this book, I wanted to present several different viable religions. There is something to be said for Austrism, with its goodly monks and teachings on humility through the Five Visions. But it's a very superstitious and xenophobic religion at the same time, and it is very biased against the magic of the world. The Hallandren religion has more going for it than the characters would like to accept.

So, even though most readers might consider this a throwaway scene between Vivenna and Jewels, is a very important one to me. It is the place where we get to see a follower of the Iridescent Tones really stand up for what she believes. Vivenna deserves to be smacked down here, I think.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#19 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Fights the Soldiers and Finally Pulls Nightblood

In my annotations, I've often talked about focus scenes. These are the scenes of a book that I imagine cinematically before I sit down and write the novel. They're part of what drives me to want to work on that book in particular, and I need a few really good ones before I'll write a book.

This was one of the primary focus scenes for this book. I had this in mind before I developed a lot of the rest of the story. I'm glad that I was able to write to a point where I was able to use it. Vasher, Awakening a rope to save himself, then fighting alongside Awakened sets of clothing. Then finally, at long last, drawing Nightblood. You probably knew that had to happen in this book. I certainly built up to it long enough.

I originally imagined the pulling of Nightblood from a body a little like a dark "sword in the stone" moment. I don't think that quite made the transition to the final book, but hopefully the image of a black sword leaking smoke is visually potent for you. I ended the scene in my head with Vasher standing amid those puffs of black smoke that used to be bodies, Nightblood at his side, feeding off of him with pulsing black veins.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#20 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Four - Part Two


Why, yes, I did visit Hawaii in the middle of writing this book. Did you notice?

Following Mistborn, I wanted to do a book set in a place that looked very different from the Final Empire. What's different from a burned-out wasteland? Why, a tropical paradise of course! One of the great things about being an author is the ability to justify going to Hawaii just so I could do research on how to properly describe the plants, landscape, and atmosphere in a place like that. It's really a tough job, but I'm willing to sacrifice for you all. No need to thank me.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#21 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Siri Does Her Show for the First Time

This little sequence is far more discomforting to me than the actual nudity, to be honest. Being somewhat of a prude as I am, I hesitated to put this into the book. I realize that to most readers, it's not even very risqué. But I'm the one writing the book, and I'm the one who decides what I include. I have to be willing to take responsibility for what's in my stories.

Why did I put this in if it discomforts me? Well, to be honest, there was no other way. It was what the story demanded. I couldn't see the priests not at least listening. (And, as I think will be mentioned later in the story, they did have some people watching the first nights—no matter what Bluefingers says in this chapter. He's not lying, he's just wrong. The priests would never let a potential assassin near their God King without taking precautions. There was even a soldier hiding under the bed that first night, and another watching from a secret chamber beside the hearth. It was still a risk to let Siri into the room, of course, but they were fairly certain—after taking her clothing and instructing the serving girls to watch carefully during the bathing—that Siri had no weapons on her.)

Regardless, it was ridiculous to think the priests wouldn't listen in, knowing what they do of the God King. That meant Siri had to either sleep with him for real, or find a way to distract them. This was a clever move on her part, and I like it when my characters can be appropriately clever. And so the scene stays. If I hadn't allowed her to do this, then I would have—as an author—been holding her back artificially.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#22 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Lightsong's Climactic Scene, with His Vision of the Boat

Lightsong's vision and eventual death in this chapter are another of the big focus scenes. In fact, I'd say that this little scene here is my absolute favorite in the book. It's hard to explain why, but I get a chill whenever I read it. It's the chill of something you planned that turned out even better than you expected. (As opposed to the planning for the Siri/altar image, which turned out poorly and so had to be cut.)

I worked hard to bring this scene in my head to fruition. No other section of the book has been tweaked more in drafting—everything from changing it so Lightsong grabs the God King's hand as opposed to his foot, to reworking the imagery of the ocean. (That imagery, by the way, came from my honeymoon while standing on the cruise ship at night and staring into the churning white froth above deep black water.)

Many people on my forums called this event ahead of time—Lightsong healing the God King. I'm fine with that. It did seem like a very obvious setup. One character with powers he cannot use until healed, another with the power to heal someone one time. Sometimes it's okay to give people what they expect—particularly when the result is this scene. I hope they didn't expect it to be as powerful as it is (assuming readers like the scene as much as I do). I want this one to be very moving.

It's the final fulfillment of Lightsong's character. Note that even in the end, his sarcasm and irony come through. He told Siri not to depend on him because he would let her down. Well, Lightsong, you're a better man than you wanted us to believe. There's a reason why so many are willing to rely upon you.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#23 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Bluefingers Avoids Siri, So She Goes to Find Lightsong

I considered having the men performing the athletics competitions in the court be naked. After all, there's been so much female nudity in the book so far that it would only be fair to balance it out. . . .

I decided it would be gratuitous. Just because the Greeks competed in the nude doesn't mean that it would naturally happen everywhere else. Still, thinking of how much it would embarrass Siri almost made me put it in.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#25 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Vivenna Drinks Juice at an Outdoor Restaurant and Plans the Meeting with the Idrian Leaders in the City

Here we have Vivenna showing off her end of the reversal quite well. This is one of the few places where I have a character point out the reversal taking place. Vivenna has learned to blend into Hallandren—she's learned not to judge quite so much. She's still not where she needs to be, but the transformation is happening.

The conversation she has with Denth, where he discusses every man seeing himself as a hero in his own story, is a kind of subtheme for this book. In this novel, everyone does think they're doing what's best. The only exception to that is, perhaps, Denth himself—which makes the conversation particularly poignant.

This is one of the very first conversations I imagined for this book, as I knew it would be very important to a later one, where Vivenna talks to Vasher. And that particular conversation might just have been the first I came up with.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#27 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Eight

Vasher Finds Vivenna

I'm torn about this ending. It seems like this last chapter is a little anticlimactic, and yet at the same time, there is still the major conflict of the book to resolve.

Or is it the major conflict of the book? Probably not, as I think about it. This book's major conflicts were character conflicts. Yes, we want to save Idris, and it's important—but what happens with the characters has overshadowed that. Perhaps that's why this chapter feels just a bit tacked on. It's not as bad as the Well of Ascension second ending, however, and I think it's nearly the best way to format this story. That doesn't stop it from feeling a little extraneous, though.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#28 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Siri and Susebron Discuss Mountains

One of the things I like about having wildly different plots and viewpoints put into one book is that I can use the viewpoints for different things. In the case of this section of the book, we've got death and tension in Vivenna's plot, and we have soul-searching and mystery in Lightsong's plot. Amid this I was able to sprinkle Siri scenes that are more relaxed, with her and the God King talking and falling in love. The scenes add a nice balance to the book.

I made Susebron get better at spelling quite quickly—this is only our second scene with him writing on his board, but already the spelling errors are gone. There is some small justification of this—he's able to use the artisan's script, and he's very clever; besides, the Hallandren alphabet is phonetic. But it still probably happens too quickly.

Having to slog through dialect is just too distracting for readers, however. I wanted to do it once to show his innocence, but I wanted to get past it quickly—as quickly as possible—so that it wouldn't distract from the story. I don't want Susebron to come off as too childlike; I think that would ruin the romance.

All in all, I think that these chapters are some of the most sensual ones I've ever written. I always think that hinting and reserving will always be better than over-the-top romance. The fact that the two of them are forbidden sex because of the danger of having a child, mixed with some of the conversations they have about beauty and their separate lives, makes a very nice tension that I'm pleased to have managed to work in.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#29 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Originally, I had Vasher make an oblique comment about Bebid's daughter as a way to get him to talk. However, I shied away from this in later drafts, moving to more nebulous indiscretions instead. I felt that a comment about a daughter might sound too much like kidnapping on Vasher's part, even though I was thinking that his daughter had done something embarrassing that, if revealed, would get the priest into trouble.

Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
#31 Copy


Elantris, though, how you came out with The Emperor's Soul, it didn't involve any of the magic or anything, I have a feeling they're going to collide?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, there will be - you will see much more of that. Definitely.


So we'll be able to see the actual Elantris again? Shining and beautiful again?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, you will.


It was very sad, to see them all in pain, the continual pain and...

Brandon Sanderson

One of the reasons I wrote Warbreaker was that I didn't think I could get back to Elantris yet, but I realized I'd written this entire book about the city of the gods, and you never got to see the city of the gods. So Warbreaker was another take on that idea.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#32 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Six

Siri Is Bathed, Then Sent to the God King

This was a strange sequence of chapters to write. I've spoken before on writing characters of the opposite gender. This has grown easier and easier for me over the years, partially—I think—because I started out so bad at it that I insisted on forcing myself to practice and practice. Now, it's usually as easy for me as writing men. In fact, I don't even think about the gender of the character when I'm writing—I think about who the character is. What their motivations and conflicts are. How they see the world and how they react to things. True, their gender does influence this—just as it influences their personalities. But I don't sit down and say, "I'm going to write a woman now." I sit down and say, "I'm going to write Siri." I know who Siri is, so I can see through her eyes and show how she reacts.

All that said, I'd never before tried writing a wedding night from the viewpoint of a woman. It presented a few interesting challenges. For one, there's a whole lot more nudity in this book than in my other books. I don't shy away from this (even though I myself am probably more conservative than most of my readers in areas of sexuality), as I feel that what you do with your imagination is your own business. This scene could be done in a PG way, a PG-13 way, or an R way. It's completely up to you how you want to imagine it.

One interesting thing to note is that my own wedding happened during the process of writing this book. I wrote this chapter before then, but I was engaged at the time. While working on the novel I got to go through the entire progression of awkward moments of a wedding night myself. (Yes, it was our first time, by choice.)

I think that probably colored how I wrote Siri's viewpoints throughout the entire book.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Seven

Siri Enters the God King's Chambers

This is one of those chapter breaks that is there for stylistic drama more than anything else. Thematically, these two chapters are really the same chapter. However, I wanted to break before she steps in because it works so well as a dramatic turn in the story.

I've had e-mails asking me about how to decide when to break a chapter. Honestly, I'm not sure how to answer this one. Breaking chapters isn't something I plan; it's something I just do. A good chapter should have a nice arc of its own, with rising action, a climax, then perhaps some brief falling action. (And thinking of that, you can probably see why chapters five and six can be considered a single chapter in this regard.) But there's not a real science to it—break where it feels right.

Anyway, Siri's entrance here is probably the first big climactic moment of the book. It's where I've been pushing the novel since the beginning, and is one of the focal scenes for this book. (The scenes that I imagine and develop before I being writing, which then propel their section of the novel.)

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Five - Part Two

Lightsong's Dream

The Lightsong sections received two major upgrades during the last few drafts of the novel. The first was the enhancement of his memories of his dreams. We don't get to see the dreams, just their effect on him.

In the original draft, these dreams were far less ominous, particularly at the beginning of the book. My agent complained that the book felt like it lacked direction, particularly in the Lightsong sequences, and asked me to find a way to make it more tense. He didn't care if Lightsong joked; he just wanted to feel a tension underneath. A sense that all was not right.

The dreams came from this. Originally, Lightsong just dreamed about the ship leaving the port. In the later drafts, I added him remembering more in this chapter—the city on fire, the flames causing a red reflection on the ocean.

This actually wasn't a change to the dream. That's what I'd intended him to have dreamed; I just originally had him forgetting. I didn't start getting into the violent dreams until much later in the book, one chapter in particular. But because of Joshua's requests, I moved the sense of danger up from those later chapters to here to begin foreshadowing earlier.

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Brandon Sanderson

Book Wrap-Up

And . . . those are the annotations! I hope you enjoyed reading them. As you can probably tell, I write them rather quickly. This, of course, is to give them that feel of an improvisational director's commentary. (And it has nothing to do with the fact that when I work on them for a book, I'm usually about three weeks behind deadline on turning in the copyedit. Why do you ask?)

Joking aside, I'm quite proud of this book and what it does. I think it's the first time I've blended plot twists, humor, worldbuilding, and romance all together in a book the way I've wanted to from the beginning of my writing career.

Would I do anything different? Perhaps. I still wish Parlin had a more compelling character, so there could be more emotional impact when he died. I wish the ending had a bit less of a deus ex machina feel to it. But overall, I think the writing here is a big stride forward for me.

Thanks again for reading, both the book and these annotations.

Brandon Sanderson

October 2008

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Two

Siri Lies in Bed and Decides to Take Charge

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

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

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

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

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Hoid the Storyteller Tells Us the History of Hallandren

This whole scene came about because I wanted an interesting way to delve into the history. Siri needed to hear it, and I felt that many readers would want to know it. However, that threatened to put me into the realm of the dreaded infodump.

And so, I brought in the big guns. This cameo is so obvious (or, at least, someday it will be) that I almost didn't use the name Hoid for the character, as I felt it would be too obvious. The first draft had him using another of his favorite pseudonyms. However, in the end, I decided that too many people would be confused (or at least even more confused) if I didn't use the same name. So here it is. And if you have no idea what I'm talking about . . . well, let's just say that there's a lot more to this random appearance than you might think.

Anyway, I love this storytelling method, and I worry that Hoid here steals the show. However, he's very good at what he does, and I think it makes for a very engaging scene that gets us the information we need without boring us out of our skulls.

Is everything he says here true? No. There are some approximations and some guesses. However, all things considered, it's pretty accurate. All of the large bits are true.

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Vivenna and Vasher Talk about What to Do

One of the biggest revisions to the ending was what to do with the D'Denir. When first drafting the book, I wasn't 100% sure on what Awakening could and couldn't do. I figured that Vasher could have Commands that would Awaken statues, and I wrote the ending that way.

Unfortunately, through revising and developing the story, this ended up not being viable. I was also disappointed in how poorly telegraphed the use of the statues ultimately ended up being. So in revisions, I switched it to make them Lifeless created from bones, something special that Vasher came up with during the Manywar. I then added the concept of Kalad's Phantoms as a mystery in the book, so that readers would be expecting that army to show up by the end. I think this mitigates the surprise somewhat. (Though not completely; see below.)

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Chapter Eleven

Siri Visits the God King's Chamber Again

To be honest, in a perfect world, I'd probably slow this down just a tad. I'd insert another chapter from Siri's viewpoint with her going to the chambers, the God King watching her, and her being subservient. I wouldn't do this chapter, where she explodes at him, until their third scene together.

But that would only happen in a book where I don't have quite so much going on with other viewpoints. My books are already a tad on the long side, as far as the booksellers are concerned. They'd like it if epic fantasy novels shrank down to about 120,000 words (instead of my average of 240,000).

If I'd really thought it mattered, I'd have put the extra scene in. The real problem is that since Siri is only one of four major viewpoints, I needed to be careful. If this book were only about her, I could have filled her chapters with more political intrigue and added a lot of subplots. That would have made a slower pacing with the God King work. However, I decided not to go that direction with the book, so I needed instead to make sure the pacing was quicker on the main plot she's involved in.

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Origin of Bluefingers as a Character

Bluefingers originated, like most ideas for my books, as a character unconnected to any story or world. I wanted to tell a story about a scribe in a palace who was looked down on by the nobility for his simple birth, but who became the hero of the story. I felt that a scribe would make a nice, different kind of viewpoint character.

And maybe I someday will tell a story like that, but the character evolved to be the one who entered this story. He's much changed from those origins, as you can see, but he's largely the same person in my mind. And I love the name Bluefingers for a scribe character.

Yes, Bluefingers was also planned as a traitor from the beginning. The whole reversals idea required me to build my shadowy villains quite carefully and deliberately.

Just above, I spoke of the original Bluefingers as a hero. Well, the thing is, that's how he still sees himself. The heroic Pahn Kahl figure with his fingers in events, ignored by the nobility (or, in this case, the priests) because of his race and position, he was able to manipulate quite a bit of what was going on in the kingdom.

He was the hero trying to free his people. He just took it too far.

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Anyway, in this chapter, he's trying to give Siri a seed of worry and doubt. He's hoping that if she feels she's in danger, she'll trust him more and that will let him do what he needs to. At this point, he's not sure that he will kill her. It's more that he's hoping he'll be able to manipulate her to in turn manipulate the Idrians in the city. So he wants to make sure Siri sees the Hallandren as her enemies. He can tell that she's beginning to think her life in the city isn't all that bad, and he's worried about that. Idris and Hallandren won't go to war, in his opinion, if Siri is too content.

However, Denth's success with Vivenna out in the city (and yes, Bluefingers is the one employing Denth) will eventually convince Bluefingers that he doesn't need Siri for that role. Unfortunately for her—and for him, in a way—he realizes that if she were seen as having been killed by the Hallandren priests, it would certainly spark a war.

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Anyway, as I've said before, I wasn't intending this to be a book to parallel the state of the United States and the war in Iraq. It just kind of came out as it has, and I think the main reason is one of pulling a reversal upon myself. You see, Mistborn was a book about a bloody revolution instigated by the protagonists. We don't see a lot of the death it caused, and fortunately much of the bloodshed was averted by a timely speech given by a certain young nobleman, but the fact remains that I wrote about overthrowing a government.

That seems to be a popular topic for novels. And anytime I notice that something is popular in the genre, I start wondering if I could write a book about the opposite. In this case, I began thinking of a book where the protagonists were trying to stop a war instead of start one. Where they wanted to stabilize the government instead of destabilize it. The opposite story of Mistborn, in some ways.

I had the name of the book, Warbreaker, long before I even knew who the Warbreaker would be or what the rest of the book would be about. I'm glad we were able to keep it, though my editor complained just a tad that he thought it didn't indicate the right sense of epic fantasy for the book.

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Siri Realizes That She Needs to Be Proactive

As I said in the other section, I think that Siri's plot here is just a tad accelerated from what I'd like—but that's necessary. Nothing is worse in a book than a character who never does anything. She needed to get through her fear and her worry and decide to become proactive. It was only then that interesting things could start to happen in her storyline.

So, I pushed through the moments of indecisiveness and inaction as fast as I could, getting to this moment where she decides to change. I feel that her character being what it is (impulsive and determined) justifies her quickly deciding to take responsibility for herself, now that she's been placed into a situation of great stress.

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Chapter Thirteen

Timing of This Chapter

My editor threw me a little curveball in the last edit for this book by asking me if I could move the first Vivenna chapter (the previous one) up a few spots so that she was introduced earlier in the book.

This presented a problem, since I had her arriving, meeting the mercenaries, going to Lemex, then going to see Siri all in the same day. (Though across three chapters.) That meant that I had to move two chapters forward, then, since I didn't want to break with the mercenaries telling her that they were there to kill her. I wanted to go directly to the next scene with her.

It took a lot of juggling. One of the revisions I had to make was to move this third chapter a day later in the process. She had to arrive, fall asleep, then get up the next morning and have a conversation about giving the Breaths away. Then she had to go see Siri that same day.

I still worry that this jumble caused timing issues. I think I caught them all, but I worry that at one point Lightsong says, "The presentation of the queen is two days away," then we have Vivenna arrive that same day, then fall asleep and go see Siri the next day. If that's the case, then the explanation is—unfortunately—that the chapters aren't happening quite in chronological order.

Usually, I try to make my chapters all chronological, even across different viewpoints. But once in a while, the story is better if they aren't. The distinction is very hard to pick up. But I think it may happen here. (Note that a lot of authors, like Robert Jordan, don't strive for chronology—they like it better if the chapters are out of order a little. In a Robert Jordan book, for instance, we'll often have characters doing things in one chapter, then jump to other characters doing things a few weeks earlier. The chapters are always chronological by viewpoint, but the viewpoints can be off from one another. In fact, he plays with this concept a lot, setting book ten mostly back during the same time as book nine.)

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Character Shifts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The King and Yarda Discuss Sending Vivenna

I go back and forth on this scene. Sometimes I think it's too long. Other times I worry that it's not long enough.

Through the history of the book, this particular scene inched longer and longer as I tried very hard to explain why a good man like Dedelin would send Siri to die in Hallandren. (And also, I wanted to be sure to explain why he was sure she would die there.) There's a whole lot of setup going on in this sequence between the king and his general.

And I worry that there should be more. While what they do makes intrinsic sense to me, a lot of readers have been confused about the tactics here. Why is the king doing what he's doing? Is it really needed? Isn't there another way? This section is the only answer we get to a lot of those questions, since it's the one and only scene in the book from Dedelin's viewpoint.

That said, I think this scene might also be too long. The more space I dedicate to Dedelin, the more readers are going to think that he might be a main character. Some are surprised to read on and find out that the king doesn't make another appearance in the novel. (Well, okay, he makes one more—but he doesn't have a viewpoint.) I don't want to put too much here or have readers focus too much on the tactics of his decision, since really all that matters is that readers understand that Siri has been sent unexpectedly to marry the God King.

I'm still iffy on the scene. Some test readers wanted to see the scene where Dedelin says farewell to Siri. (We skip it; the next scene begins with Siri riding away.) They feel they missed a chapter. But I eventually decided that I needed to keep this beginning flowing quickly, because the longer we spend in Idris, the longer it will take us to get to the real plots in Hallandren. If it weren't so important to set up Siri and Vivenna ahead of time (so that their reversal has impact), I would have just started the book with Siri arriving in Hallandren.

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Denth Captures Vasher

So, between this chapter and the previous one, Denth's mercenaries—who were being hidden in the tunnels beneath the palace—quietly killed the two soldiers who were standing guard at Siri's door. They are also, along with the Lifeless that Bluefingers broke, securing the Lifeless compound, grabbing Blushweaver, and taking control of the palace.

The priests get wind of this, though, and react by marshaling their own forces. For most of the night, the priests assume that they're struggling with Idrian rebels who have tried to take the palace and rescue Siri.

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The God King Approaches Siri in Bed

Siri wonders why the God King wears black, rather than white—which his BioChroma would distort. The answer is simple. To Awakeners, black is a symbol of power. It's a fuel, a color that can be used for Awakening. White, however, is useless. So to wear white would be foolish, except in certain cases where the priests want to prove how powerful the God King is by letting him dynamically bend the light. So while he occasionally appears in white, his everyday attire is black.

His ability to bend light into the prismatic colors, by the way, was added about halfway through the first draft. I wanted a stronger visual indication of someone who had reached the top Heightenings, and I like the imagery associated with it.

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I loved the character reversal that took place with [Vivenna] and Siri [Moderator: and actually I'm enjoying that at the moment]. Did you come up with that idea--was that an early idea in your planning or did it emerge as a result of the story writing itself?"

Brandon Sanderson

That's a good question, for most of those they were early ideas. I had two main themes for myself when writing Warbreaker, one was character reversals. I wanted to play with the idea of reversed roles, you see it from the very beginning when the two sisters are forced to reverse roles and also the role reversal between Vasher and Denth.

The other big thing was I wanted to work on my humor and try and approach new ways of being, of having humor in a book and seeing what different types of character humor I could use. It was really actually me delving into a lot of Shakespeare at the time and seeing the way he pulled reversals and the way he used multiple levels of humor and I wanted to play with that concept in fantasy novels, so a lot of those were planned. Some of them were not, some of them came spontaneously, as you're writing the book, you always come up with great ideas for books while you're working on them so you kind of see the evolution of a few of them.

Warbreaker is posted for free on my website, the complete draft of it and I actually posted the first draft all the way through to the last draft and so you can actually take and compare the published draft to the very first draft and even the chapters as I wrote them, you can see how some things were evolving and coming to be and I was realizing certain things while I was doing it and other things just were very well foreshadowed from the beginning.

Footnote: Many early ideas from Warbreaker, such as Vivenna and Siri and the role-reversal, came from an unfinished novel named Mythwalker.