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The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter 10

Kal helps his father work on a young girl's hand

For years I had been wanting to do a full-blown flashback-sequence book. Flashbacks (or non-linear storytelling) can be a powerful narrative device, but they're also dangerous. They can make a book harder to get into (nothing new for this book) and can create frustration in readers who want to be progressing the story and not dwelling in the past.

The payoff, in my estimation, is a stronger piece of art. For example, as Kaladin is slowly being destroyed in the bridges we can show a flashback for contrast. The juxtaposition between the naive Kal wanting to go to war and the harsh realities of the Kaladin from years later suffering in war might be a little heavy-handed, but I feel that if the reader is on board with the character, this will be powerful instead of boring.

I often talk about how books grow out of separate ideas that buzz around in my head. One of those ideas was to create a character who was a surgeon in a fantasy world. A person who believed in science during an era where it was slowly seeping through the educated, but who had to fight against the ignorance around him.

Back when Kaladin was called Merin, he didn't work well as a character. He was too much the standard "farmboy who becomes a nobleman" from fantasy genre cliché. I struggled for years with different concepts for him, and it was when I combined him with the idea for this surgeon that things really started rolling. It's interesting, then, that he didn't actually become that surgeon character. In the final draft of the book, that character became his father—not a main character as I'd always intended—and Kaladin became the son of the character I'd developed in my head to take a lead role.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#2 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter 11

And now comes the redemption chapter.

This is the sort of thing that I write books to do. It's the sort of chapter that I really hope to be able to pull off. That may seem strange to some of you, as it's not the climatic ending or the like—but it's the turning point of the story. Probably the most important one in the book.

I've said before that I feel Epic Fantasy is about return on investment. We often demand a lot of readers in terms of worldbuilding. There's a lot to catch up on and follow in a book like this. The goal, then, is to be able to deliver powerful scenes that make use of the investment.

The reward for the early chapters is this chapter. It lays a foundation for the entire book. I've brought Kaladin as low as I could bring him, and now we get to experience the scramble upward.

Perhaps I think about these things too much. However, this was exactly what was missing from Prime when I wrote it. I was baffled, at the time, as to why the book just didn't work. It had all of the elements of a good epicw, and yet the book felt hollow somehow. There were fun adventures to be had, but no real impact. What it needed was this sequence, which has a lot of motion (and hopefully heart) to it.

This chapter makes the book for me.

Manchester signing ()
#3 Copy

Questioner

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.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#5 Copy

LoneWarmonger

Can you write me something about Dalinar, who's my favorite character, that'll make me happy?:)

Seriously, I'm very sensitive and Dalinar has to deal with some rough stuff in this book. My heart aches for him constantly, and I need a few words for comfort.:)

Brandon Sanderson

Dalinar has indeed dealt with some rough stuff, but most of that comes from the fact that he is willing to turn and face it down--which is sometimes, the only way to deal with it long-term. So while you can let your heart ache for him, also let it be the ache of someone who was willing to pull the thorn from their foot instead of continuing to walk upon it.

And if you want something that might make you happy, in the original version of the book I forced Dalinar to have to kill Elhokar. I backed off from this when I rewrote the book for publication, realizing (I think rightfully) that I didn't need to push him into that, and the story worked better if he could help Elhokar instead of destroy him.

Skyward Chicago signing ()
#6 Copy

Questioner

How do the Heralds come back? As Cognitive Shadows, how do they a physical body?

Brandon Sanderson

That system will be explained in the coming books, so that is a RAFO. I'm gonna dig into it pretty deeply. It's relevant for multiple reasons...

In the original version, Taln ended up in someone else, like they would get a body from someone else, which was part of fueling the "Is he crazy, is he not," because people were like, "I recognize this guy!" I don't use that system anymore.

Questioner

That's what I was wondering, because the Fused--

Brandon Sanderson

They use something kind of more like the Fused in the original draft, it's not that process anymore.

Questioner

Is that gonna give us lead-ins to how it worked with Kelsier?

Brandon Sanderson

Maybe. Maybe. You shall see.

Shadows of Self Portland signing ()
#8 Copy

Questioner

What made you decide to split Stormlight into two arcs?

Brandon Sanderson

A bunch of things. I'd say the primary one is that when I tried to write the Way of Kings in 2002, the first version of it, the book failed. I finished the whole book, but it failed and the primary reason for that was because I had too many viewpoints doing too man things in too many places and the reader wasn't able to follow it and it didn't give a satisfying arc to anybody because there was like a little piece of a story instead of a complete story, so I spent many years trying to figure out why it wasn't working and one of the things i came up with that i should take some of the characters and tell their stories and then take some of the others and tell their stories later.

That natural division became very obvious to me when I was re-outlining the series using this idea. That I could do a Dalinar, Kaladin, Shallan type thing and then save the Herald's viewpoints for the second half, does that makes sense. So that will... it should feel very natural. It should be some changes that indicate separate series but same... anyways, I'm please with how the outline looks.

White Sand vol.1 Orem signing ()
#9 Copy

Questioner

...Really?

Brandon Sanderson

Yup. Most of what you see him doing, Renarin did in the original outline, much more awkwardly.

Questioner

Did you keep him in for longer because he has an important part to play?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. remember, this is the draft I did in 2002, things were very different. Like in that draft Kaladin took the Shardblade and became a Shardbearer and stuff like this, and so it was a very different book, very different themes. I beefed up Adolin's part when I was doing this and eventually he developed into a stronger character. I need Adolin because Adolin is the guy who is not gaining all the magical powers and flying in the air and stuff. I need the guy who is more normal. As normal as the prince of Alethkar can be. I needed him and I really liked where he went after doing that, so.

Firefight Houston signing ()
#10 Copy

Questioner

Of these books that you wrote in the past that you have not published, will any of them be available online?

Brandon Sanderson

Will any of the unpublished books be available? ...Most of them, no, they won't be available. They aren't very good. The first few, in fact, are really bad. Number six was Elantris, which after a lot of revision I eventually sold. Number seven was Dragonsteel, which was my honor's thesis at BYU and is Hoid's backstory. That is only available through inter-library loan because the book is bad, and I won't let anyone else have it, but BYU has a copy. They loan it to people. The one after that was called White Sand, which we're redoing as a graphic novel right now. If people really want to read the prose version of that, I send it to them if they write me an email and ask. Because it's not aggressively bad, it's just kind of weak, does that make sense? The big weakness of it is that it's too long for its story, and I found that, looking back through it, that I can trim it and turn it into a graphic novel that would be really solid. It's just that it's got too many pages for the story, and you have to trim a lot for a graphic novel anyway. So I think that one will work. A couple of the other ones got cut up and turned into other books, and number 13 was The Way of Kings, which I rewrote from scratch when I released it. It's a very different book now, but it was kinda the first draft of that.

Footnote: Brandon has since changed the method for obtaining the prose draft of White Sand. It is now automatically sent out to anyone who signs up for the newsletter on his website.
Firefight Seattle UBooks signing ()
#11 Copy

Questioner

When are you going to write the other Warbreaker book? Last time I came to hear you talk, you said you were going to, and now you have 3000 other projects!

Brandon Sanderson

I know, and the Warbreaker fans really get on my case about that. Well, I wrote Words of Radiance, and I got Vasher into it, so that would kindle interest, and make sure that you at least got to see your characters again.

But did you hear the story about that? So, I wrote The Way of Kings in 2002, the first version, and in that version Kaladin trained with a swordmaster, and that swordmaster, a guy named Vasher, had a mysterious past. After I finished that book, later on I wrote Warbreaker as a prequel to Way of Kings, to show Vasher's backstory. But then Warbreaker came out before Way of Kings, which was a really kind of interesting thing. So in my head, Warbreaker is the prequel, but to everyone else... Yes, it is a totally different world, different planets, people get around...

Wetlander

So how much of Vasher's backstory do we actually have?

Brandon Sanderson

Well, a huge chunk of it…! If you were reading Way of Kings, you would know nothing, and then you’d read Warbreaker and you’d be like, “Oh, here’s a whole past that he had!” That doesn’t mean it’s all of his past.

Wetlander

(He’s not giving any hints as to whether Vasher had any connection with Roshar prior to Warbreaker – or at least not without someone asking a much more direct question.)

Firefight Atlanta signing ()
#12 Copy

Questioner

You talked about creativity earlier, and if you look back on your career until this point as a writer, how have you changed over that time? What has writing done for you as a point of self-improvement?

Brandon Sanderson

What has writing done for me as a point of self-improvement over the course of my career. That's excellent. I discovered writing when I was 15, that was when I was this young, gangly boy who is trying to figure out what to do with his life and I found solace in books and writing, which I had not done when I was younger. It was a teacher who handed me, it was a book called Dragonsbane, when I was 8th grade that changed my life. What it did, right off the bat was give me purpose, and that is so important. Knowing there is something you want to do. All through college, you know I had friends who "I'm taking this degree because it's what was expected of me but I don't know if this is what I want to do". I knew what I wanted to do, and knowing that-- that alone has been worth it's weight in gold.

Spending the time writing and practicing gave me confidence, that's been very important. Like when I finished that first book, it took me three years to write it. I said "You know what, I can do this. I can create this thing." Then being able to see myself get better and better and better, the confidence from that was great.

The big decision I also made late in my career, before I got published, I had to decide who I was doing this for. Because once you've got a dozen unpublished books, you start asking yourself the questions everyone is asking you. At the end I just decided this idea of "I'm just going to keep doing this. If I am 70 and I have a hundred unpublished manuscripts on my dresser. I love doing this, it is very fulfilling. I'm getting these stories out of my head, I can see myself getting better. I'm not going to be a failure if I have a hundred unpublished manuscripts, I'm going to be more of a success than if I never wrote them." And that decision is what drove me to write The Way of Kings, because before I'd been really hunting how to get published and trying to write things like I saw getting published and people kept telling me "Your books are too long" so I've been writing these shorter ones. And I just said "I don't care what you people are saying, I'm going to write the most awesome epic of the style I would love to read, that I don't feel enough people are doing. It's going to have this crazy world and all these characters and all this stuff and I know no one is ever going to want to publish it, but I'm going to write it" And that's when I wrote The Way of Kings, it was right after that decision.

General Reddit 2017 ()
#13 Copy

333Fred

  1. In the part 2 epigraphs of Oathbringer, Michael reads Harmony's letter in Sazed's accent. Is that something you specifically told him to do, or did he figure that out on his own?

  2. By that same token, have there been other instances of you telling Michael and Kate "Read this with a specific accent" or "Make something memorable for this momentarily-appearing side character" (Jezrien the beggar comes to mind).

  3. In TWoK interlude 1, Michael doesn't read Demoux with the same accent as he did in Mistborn. That leads me to believe that Connection also emulates accent. When Dalinar used Connection to speak with the Azish, did he sound like an Azish speaking Azish, or an Alethi speaking Azish?

  4. Finally, this occurred to me as I was typing the previous question: How is Taln understandable to the modern characters of SA? He's been in Damnation for the past 4500 years, and there's been dramatic changes in the writing system. I assume that means similarly dramatic shifts in the spoken language too. I mean, today we can't really understand Old English, and that wasn't even 1 millennium ago. Has the spoken word really not changed that much, or is he using Connection? If he is, do all the heralds use it?

Brandon Sanderson

1.) I believe we warned him.

2.) Yes, though Peter usually makes these calls (he checks with me on a few.) We do need to do this for translations sometimes too (gender an ambiguous-in-English voice, for example.)

3.) We're better at this than we used to be. He probably should have had the same voice there. However, it can vary, depending on how the magic works. For example, Hoid--who is generally using Connection, rather than using languages--sounds like a native speaker. How you use the magic, how you view yourself, and things like that do influence this.

4.) I'm on this one, and will have answers for you eventually. In original drafts of TWOK, back when it was supposed to be a mystery if Taln were a Herald or not, I believe Jasnah used this as evidence that he WASN'T one, actually. Suffice it to say that the Heralds have had to deal with this a lot, over thousands of years...

JordanCon 2014 ()
#14 Copy

Questioner

From the moment you begin worldbuilding Roshar how long did it take you before it really resembled what we read in The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance?

Brandon Sanderson

Resembled? I would say about a year. But I started worldbuilding it in 2001, if you read the version I wrote in 2002 you would say, "This feels like Roshar" but the spren weren't in it yet.

General Reddit 2015 ()
#15 Copy

Phantine

By the way, if "Awakeners" were something different back then, what did you call Vasher? Or was he just "some guy from another world, I'll explain his magic later".

Brandon Sanderson

The latter. There are hints he has a mysterious past, but not much more.

Emerald City Comic Con 2018 ()
#16 Copy

Zantis

Was Elhokar going to be a Windrunner squire or was he going to be a different Order?

Brandon Sanderson

He was actually going to be a Lightweaver.

Zantis

Interesting.

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. And some interesting story with him because--here's a little tidbit for you... In the original draft that I wrote in 2002 I pushed him far enough that Dalinar had to kill him. It came to blows. And I never quite liked how that turned out, so in the 2010 version we had a different path for Elhokar. But he's been doomed from a long time ago, poor guy.

Oathbringer release party ()
#17 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

*reading* So did Renarin have an antagonist organization like--

FeatherWriter

In [The Way of Kings] Prime.

Brandon Sanderson

Right, 'cause Renarin created the Diagram in Prime... Taravangian was in Prime but under a different name, but yes, Taravangian was there but he was a different-- he was similar. So we'll write that: "Taravangian".

A Memory of Light Chicago signing ()
#19 Copy

Questioner

How did this [Wheel of Time] help prepare you to write Stormlight Archive?

Brandon Sanderson

There's actually a good story there because Way of Kings, the first Stormlight Archive, is the book I was writing when I first sold Elantris. Elantris was my first published but it wasn't my first written, it was my sixth novel. It was the first one that was actually somewhat decent, but I was writing number thirteen when I got the offer on it. You'll find that's very common among authors. It doesn't happen to all of us, but a lot of us, we write for a long time before we get it done. And I just finished Way of Kings and it was not right yet. In fact when I sold Elantris, Tor wanted to buy two books from me, and my editor asked, "send me what I was working on right now". And I sent him Way of Kings and he said, "wow this is awesome, but number one, it's enormous. I'm not sure if we can publish this, at least in one volume, from a new author." Later on I was able to convince them it should be one volume, but that's when I had a little more clout and they could print more copies, which drives prices down for printing them. But also it just wasn't right yet. The book was not right. And I said to my editor, "I'm okay not publishing it now, because I don't know what's wrong with it. As a writer, I think it was just too ambitious for me at the time. I just couldn't do it yet."

It wasn't until I had written Gathering Storm in its entirety that I started to figure out what I'd been doing wrong. It was actually managing viewpoints was one of the things. During the reread of Robert Jordan's entire series, I noticed how he gathered the viewpoints together. You start writing a big epic fantasy series, and you feel like, they have so many characters and I want to start with that. In the original draft of Way of Kings I started them all over the world. I had all these viewpoints and things like this and the book was kind of a trainwreck because of it. Where if you read Eye of the World, Robert Jordan starts with them all together and then slowly builds complexity. Even in the later books, he's grouping the characters together. Even though they have individual storylines going on, they are in the same place and they can interact with each other, and there's clusters of them in different places. That was one thing. Working on Gathering Storm, I've learnt how to make my characters, also how to use viewpoints the way he did, how to manage subtlety--he was so subtle with a lot of his writing. Just some of these things, it all started to click in my head.

And I actually called my agent and said, "I need to do Way of Kings right now." And he's like, "Are you sure? Because you kind of have a lot on your plate." "I need to do it, it's going be fast, because I know how to do it now." So I actually took time off between Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight and rewrote Way of Kings from scratch. It took me about six months, which is amazingly fast for a book that length. And then showed it to my editor and it was right this time. It's hard to explain many of the specifics. It's like, how do you know you can lift this weight after you've been lifting these other weights? It's when you've worked hard enough that you've gained the muscle mass to do it. And writing The Wheel of Time was heavy lifting. That's how it happened. I do apologize the sequel is taking so long. But after that deviation to do the first one which I could do very quickly, I couldn't stop to write the second one after Towers of Midnight because the second one would take too long and delay the last book too long. I am getting back to Stormlight now, and I am working on the second book, but I had other obligations first that were very important.

MisCon 2018 ()
#20 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The fandom found out about The Way of Kings pretty early on. I don't know how this happened, but Amazon put up a listing for it in like, 2006. The book was eventually published four years later. I hadn't written it in 2006. I'd written a version of it that I sent to my editor at Tor when he wanted to buy Elantris. I said, "Here's the other thing I'm working on."

And he read Way of Kings and he called me back, terrified. Because it's 400,000 words long. Well, the print version is 300,000 words. And they say, you should shoot for maybe 120,000 for your first novel. So it's big, and I had all these notes for this art I wanted to put into it. So it was going to be really expensive to print, really expensive to edit. And he called and he was like, "Uhhh can we cut this? This is enormous!"

And I'm like, "No we can't cut it but it's not right yet." So we did a contract for Elantris and Mistborn. We never had a contract for Way of Kings. I don't know how anyone found out about it, but Amazon put up a listing for it anyway...

So the fandom started putting up fake reviews for this book. And they also devised fake pictures of it. Amazon has this Show Your Version. So they printed off fake covers and put them around books and took pictures and sent them in. So eventually, Amazon just put one of their covers up as the cover. And it had a picture of Elvis on the front. It was called The Way of Kings. And it had a quote from Terry Goodkind that said "A hunka hunka burning good book!"

This is what happens when you give fans a blank space on the internet and say "Fill this!" I didn't ask them to do this by the way. They just did this. I just started looking and people were like, "This book cured my dog's cancer!" Stuff like that! You know how they are.

Oathbringer release party ()
#21 Copy

Questioner

I read the earlier version of The Way of Kings. When did Kaladin get depressed?

Brandon Sanderson

That was when I realized he was the main character and the least-- the least a character, right? And so, it was when I sat down and asked myself, what went wrong with it? And the main thing of the things I came up was that Kaladin wasn't real. And so I started looking at what would make him real. And depression doesn't make more real, but it's an outgrowth of him making the other decision, what happened with his brother, he had PTSD, and all of this stuff. It grew out of that.

Skyward Seattle signing ()
#22 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Someday... once I'm sure everything that it would spoil has been released, I will release [Way of Kings Prime] so you can read it. You can probably see that, if you read Stormlight, a chunk of the book belonging to Taln moved to Szeth, instead, who was a character in the first book but had a slightly different plot. Eventually, we will get to the whole story, though.

/r/fantasy AMA 2013 ()
#23 Copy

p0staldave

I believe I've heard you mention more than once that you weren't happy with WoK, could you explain a bit exactly what you would change or love to do-over with it or expand on your comments?

Brandon Sanderson

The original draft of The Way of Kings had some big issues. One of the largest ones was that I was trying to do too many characters with too many separate plots. (Jasnah and Taln both had full sequences with as much complexity as the three main characters in the current draft.) Beyond that, Kaladin's character (he had a different name there) was bland and never worked. I needed to rebuild him from the start.

I'll post more explanations of this in the KINGS annotations, which I'm working on right now. As for teasers for the second book, one of the interludes is from Taln's viewpoint. (He's the guy who shows up in the epilogue of the previous book.)

General Reddit 2015 ()
#25 Copy

Phantine

By the way, the chapters from Way of Kings Prime were pretty interesting when I read them in the [Altered Perceptions] anthology. I assume the rest of the book at the moment is still pretty spoilery... about where in The Stormlight Archive series would you consider it 'caught up' enough to do something with the rest of WoK'?

Brandon Sanderson

Unfortunately, one of the ways I made the series work was by splitting the character into two groupings, and doing half in the first five and half in the second. This means that WoK Prime doesn't spoil anything for Dalinar/Kaladin/Shallan. But it has huge spoilers for books six and seven, with Jasnah and Taln. So it will be a while.

Skyward Seattle signing ()
#27 Copy

Questioner

Is Lhan from the [Way of Kings Prime] reading the same one from Book 2?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, that is the same Brother Lhan. I knew he wasn't going to get to have a big part in the books once I moved Taln so far off. So I gave him a nice cameo with his own interlude so that at least he would be in the books. Because in that version, he basically wandered around, following Taln, complaining for the entire book.

Skyward San Diego signing ()
#29 Copy

Questioner

You mentioned that the Heralds could sense each other's location--

Brandon Sanderson

Only in that version of the story... In that version of the story he actually gets his sword and it lets him sense and it leads him, not to the other Heralds, but the other Honorblades. He was mistaken even about that power because they have never separated from them before. And so, he thinks that he's going to find the other Heralds and he just finds their abandoned Blades.

It was very cool in the context of that book. But of course, where the other Honorblades are now is not necessarily a mystery anymore. It doesn't kinda work in the current continuity.

General Reddit 2016 ()
#30 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Taln has what we'd call black skin pigmentation. So does Ash (the woman from the Baxil interlude.) Same for Sigzil.

Fun fact: in the original draft of The Way of Kings, Taln shared equal screen time with Kaladin. In the revised version, for a multitude of reasons, I moved Taln's story further back in the series. He'll eventually get a book of his own.

Firefight Chicago signing ()
#31 Copy

Questioner

I was wondering when you first thought to put Nightblood in Words of Radiance?

Brandon Sanderson

Nightblood in Words of Radiance happened because... So I wrote the original draft of Way of Kings in 2002 and Vasher was Kaladin's swordmaster and I thought "This guy has a really interesting past, he's not natively from Roshar". So I went and wrote his backstory and that became the book Warbreaker. So he predates-- And then I came back and I re-wrote Way of Kings and I cut him out of it to save him for the later books. So when did I first think of it? Well 2003 probably? Was where that was happening.

Questioner

Nightblood was our apartment's collective favorite character.

Brandon Sanderson

I have some other quote-unquote cons going on the fans so to speak that are going to be very cool when they happen.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
#32 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Syl Leaves

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

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

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

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

General Reddit 2016 ()
#33 Copy

cinderwild2323

What is the biggest change you've made based on alpha/beta reader feedback? (This goes for any of your books)

Brandon Sanderson

Probably adding Adolin as a main viewpoint character in the first book, which was done because I had trouble striking the balance between Dalinar worrying he was mad, and being a proactive, confident character. Worried better to externalize some of the, "Am I mad" into his son worrying "My dad has gone crazy" while letting Dalinar be more confident that his visions were something important. (I still let him worry a little, of course, but in the original draft, he felt temperamental from vacillation between these two extremes.)

Bringing Adolin to the forefront in the books has had a huge ripple effect through them, as I've been very fond of how his character has been playing out.

Enasor

May I ask why you choose to use Adolin as the viewpoint character to supplement Dalinar as opposed to Renarin? My understanding is Renarin has always been the "most important brother" within SA, which made me wonder why, based on the beta readers comments, you ultimately decided to use Adolin and not your established character to bring forward the dilemma.

I am, obviously, extremely fond of how Adolin has been played out so far and while I have no idea where he is going (but zillions of theories), I am curious to know what his initial purpose in the story was. Did you draft the character's personality just for WoK's needs or did you have an idea of what to do with him when you made the change?

Brandon Sanderson

I was well aware that I needed certain things about Renarin to remain off-screen until later books, and him being a viewpoint character early would undermine these later books.

Adolin is a happy surprise and works exactly because he doesn't need to be at the forefront, even after I boosted his role. With Adolin, what you see is really what you get, which is refreshing in the books--but it also means I don't need huge numbers of pages to characterize him, delve into his backstory, etc. He works as a side character who gives more to the story than he demands pages to fullfill that giving, if that makes sense. Renarin is more like a pandora's box. Open him up, and we're committed to a LOT of pages. (Good pages, but that was the problem with TWOK Prime--everyone was demanding so many pages, from Renarn, to Jasnah, to Kaladin, to Taln, that none of their stories could progress.)

Adolin has basically always had the same personality, from TWOK Prime, through the original draft of the published TWOK, to the revision. The changes to making him more strong a viewpoint character were very natural, and he has remained basically the same person all along--just with an increased role in the story, and more development because of it.

I do discovery write character, usually, as a method of keeping the books from becoming slaves to their outlines. This means that Adolin has gone some new directions, but it's been a growth from the person he was in TWOK Prime. (Which you'll be able to see when I release it, sometime in the hopefully not distant future.)

BookCon 2018 ()
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Questioner

This book seemed a little sadder, I thought Kaladin would reach the next level.

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, he's still got some things to work out. 

Questioner

I was surprised that Elhokar getting killed *inaudible*

Brandon Sanderson

At least, in this draft, it wasn't Dalinar that that killed him like in the original version... That didn't work.

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

Based off of your previous question, the first Kaladin became Adolin?

Brandon Sanderson

Adolin was actually in that book, and so the first Kaladin wasn't even-- didn't even become Adolin, like the first Kaladin was like-- you've read this book before probably. The young peasant boy trains to be a knight, that sort of thing and was just too familiar, it was too-- I was playing the tropes and hitting the nails on the head, but in a way that was not interesting. Adolin and Renarinare both in that book basically as the people that they ended up being. Shallan and Kaladin are the people that I basically pulled out and replaced with new characters, because neither of them were working. I'll someday release that book and you can read it and be horrified about this book where really, really different things happen, and the characters half feel like themselves and half don't. Bridge Four isn't in that version of the book, Bridge Four is actually in Dragonsteel. Which is another book I wrote, which is where Dalinar started too. I wrote 13 books before I sold one. Dragonsteel was number 7 or 8. Half the ideas for the version of The Way of Kings you read came from that and half the ideas came from the original Stormlight Archive.

General Reddit 2016 ()
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Enasor

Merrin was a terrible name... It makes me think of member of Robin Hood, men in tights. I am super glad Brandon decided to change his name: Kaladin works much better, IMHO.

Peter Ahlstrom

It was Merin, but it did rhyme with Perrin and Verin. He was actually still using Merin when he was halfway through the first draft of the published WoK. I was totally used to it and thought it was a fine name, but Kaladin is better.

Enasor

Thanks for the added precision. Merin still make me think of Robin's Hood Merry Men... It somehow does not reconcile quite well with the mental imagery I currently have of Kaladin. I guess it feels rather different when you've known him as Merin for a long time, but knowing him as Kaladin to then find out he initially was a Merin is somehow weird.

This being said, it is super interesting to find out so many names were changed from the early version of WoK to the published book. It wasn't just Kaladin.

Peter Ahlstrom

Yeah, Sadeas used to be a guy called Meridas. One of Meridas's things was wanting to marry Jasnah (and Jasnah did not return the interest). But Sadeas didn't have that interest. So Meridas became Amaram's first name instead.

Enasor

Oh sweet. I didn't know about this one. I also heard Dalinar originally had no sons, then he had three and now he has two: none the original names were retained (except Renarin, I think). Quite a lot of changes. It is very fascinating how characters can move from one identity to another and through this morphing, earn another name.

Peter Ahlstrom

Dalinar's second wife in Prime was one of the craziest things.

Enasor

Oh I would have loved to read that. Has she become the inspiration for another character?

Peter Ahlstrom

No. At least not yet, and the way the series is going I doubt someone like her will fit.

Enasor

Ah then may I ask what she was like?

Peter Ahlstrom

I would leave that up to Brandon to reveal.

Phantine

Any plans to do another Altered Perceptions sometime?

Peter Ahlstrom

Brandon is in no hurry to be involved in something like that anytime soon, but we wouldn't rule it out. More of Way of Kings Prime will be revealed eventually, but at this time some elements of it are still spoilers for future books in the Stormlight Archive.

Skyward San Diego signing ()
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Questioner

Will we ever see that thousand page Way of Kings Prime?

Brandon Sanderson

Way of Kings Prime is the book that I wrote that-- (I will actually read to you a little bit from it today. That's my reading, is from this book.) Eventually, I will just release the whole thing. Warning! It falls apart, and I actually did a little trim of the scene I'm gonna read to you today, because I was really into describing worldbuilding elements back then. You can watch the video from yesterday, where I read it before editing it, and there's like two paragraphs about the architecture. And then there's another two paragraphs about where they got the cloth for the clothing, and things like this.

I will eventually release it. Right now, it still has spoilers for things that happen in the series, and so I don't want to release it quite yet. But we're getting close to the place where I can release it, where all the spoilery things have happened in the main series, that are going to happen.

Words of Radiance Seattle signing ()
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Arbron

So how long has "Zahel the swordmaster" been slumming it on Roshar? I mean I don't know who that is obviously.

Brandon Sanderson

Zahel the swordmaster has been on Roshar for a long while at this point. There's something on Roshar that's very easy for him to get that's very hard in other places. And so, yeah.

Arbron

So he retains his previous abilities?

Brandon Sanderson

He was actually in the first draft in 2002. But yes there's something in Roshar that makes it better for him to be there.

TWG Posts ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Now, I would like to point out that I have been miss-represented. While I have a penchant for characters who avoid marriage, I have some (not as many, I admit) who look forward to it. Let's look at viewpoint characters in my current novel:

Jasnah: Female. Doesn't want to get married.Taln: Male. Doesn't want to get married.Shinri: Female. Eager to get married, and engaged.Merin: Male. Never really thought about it (only 17) but not really opposed to it.Jek: Male. Neutral.Dalenar: Male. Has been married twice, and is currently married. Wanted to the first time, was forced into it the second time.

So, while I wouldn't argue that I tend to have a lot of characters who (perhaps) share my philosophy, I try to represent the other side as well.

Oathbringer release party ()
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Questioner

So, November is the National Writer's month. Have you ever participated in the NaNoWriMo challenge?

Brandon Sanderson

I have!

Questioner

Awesome! How did that go?

Brandon Sanderson

It went pretty well. I'm a pretty compulsive writer, so-- I don't do it as much anymore, 'cause I'm almost always on tour during it or something. But during the early days when I was trying to break in, I did it all the time. I actually wrote a big chunk of the first draft of Way of Kings in 2002, in NaNoWriMo.

TWG Posts ()
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Brandon Sanderson

How much [Writing Preparation] do you do? What files do you create?

I've done it various ways. Usually I have an 'outline' document for plots, a 'character' document for characters, and a 'world' document for magic systems and things.

Sometimes, the preparatory documents are only a couple dozen pages. (Elantris.) Sometimes they're hundreds of pages long. (Dragonsteel, Way of Kings.)

TWG Posts ()
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Brandon Sanderson

ELANTRIS and WHITE SAND have what I would call 'flawless' heroes. DRAGONSTEEL and AETHER OF NIGHT have mostly flawless heroes, with their internal issues being only minor parts of the plot. These four have, from what people have told me, are generally their favorite books of mine.

WAY OF KINGS, MISTBORN (version 1), and FINAL EMPIRE all have heroes with serious emotional or psychological issues that they're dealing with. KINGS is the most daunting of these, with each of the major characters having their own personal 'thing' that they are working through in the book. MISTBORN (version 2) is similar to this (though none of you have read it yet.)

These three books have received mixed reactions. While many people claim to like them, I'm not sure that they enjoyed them as much as the previous set.

Tor.com Q&A with Brandon Sanderson ()
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Maru Nui

You've said you lifted the Shattered Plains from Dragonsteel, what would Kaladin have been doing if not running bridges and what will happen to Dragonsteel without the Plains?

Brandon Sanderson

Both good questions. I've spoken before of the big changes that happened when I wrote The Way of Kings 2.0. One of them was bringing in the Shattered Plains. The problem was that there was a big hole in Kaladin's storyline, because in the original manuscript of The Way of Kings (major spoiler), he accepted the Shardblade. That was the prologue of the book; Kaladin—then known as Merin—saved Elhokar's life. They tried to take the Shardblade away from him, and Dalinar insisted that he be given it. So Merin was made a Shardbearer in the very first scenes of the book. And from that point, his character never worked. So in doing the second version of the book, I decided that no, we've got to build more into this, we've got to dig deeper, and he has to make the opposite decision, which is where the entire framework of him turning down the Shardblade and then being betrayed all came from. The problem was then what was he going to do? I knew I wanted him to have therefore ended up sold into slavery and have terrible things happen to him, but I couldn't figure out what Kaladin was going to do and was unable to write the book until I mashed in the Shattered Plains and said, "Ah, that was what he needed to be doing all along."

I really don't know what I'll do in Dragonsteel without that now. The problem is that it was the part of Dragonsteel that worked, but it was the part that was most at odds with the story in Dragonsteel. The story that I wanted to tell was the first half of the book, which is the more boring part. Hopefully as a better writer now I can make that part more interesting, but that was the core of what Dragonsteel was. The Shattered Plains was always just going to be a small diversion, but when I wrote it it was fascinating, and I ended up pouring tons of effort and time into it. In many ways it was a distraction, a deviation, a beautiful darling. So for a long time I've been thinking, "I can't kill my darling, because that's the most exciting part of the book." Yet it was at odds with what the story of the book was originally intended to be. I wasn't as good at controlling my stories back then, making them come out to have the tone I wanted. Anyway, we'll have to approach that when I actually write Dragonsteel.

The Way of Kings Annotations ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Five

One of the problems with The Way of Kings Prime was it had too many characters competing for the limelight. It lacked focus. One could argue that the published The Way of Kings is kind of all over the place itself—indeed, a lot of the plot threads don't connect until the end. (And then only in some limited ways.)

In the published book, I feel it works. Yes, the book is expansive, but we really only have two locations for our plot: the Shattered Plains and Kharbranth. In Prime, Jasnah and Taln both had major sections of the plot, in addition to Kaladin, Dalinar, Szeth, and the character Shallan replaced. It was just too much, and the thing never pulled together.

Fixing this was one of my main goals for revising the book. I started The Way of Kings over from scratch during 2009, between writing The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight. I knew I needed a tighter narrative.

At the end, I moved Jasnah and Taln out of the book for the most part. They will have stories later in the series, but for this book, Jasnah isn't a viewpoint character.

I'll dig into Soulcasting at another time.

Rhythm of War Preview Q&As ()
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LewsTherinTelescope

Something I've been curious about: will Liar of Partinel be released as a Sanderson Curiosity eventually? I noticed that in the stream a while back where you listed your unpublished books, you didn't list it among them.

Also, you gave four approximate sort of "quality tiers", of

  1. Decent but not great: White Sand, Aether, WoKP, Dragonsteel Prime
  2. Readable but not good: Final Empire Prime, Mistborn Prime
  3. Bad but not horrible: Knight Life, Star's End, Sixth Incarnation of Pandora
  4. Just plain terrible: White Sand Prime/Lord Mastrell, Mythwalker

Which tier would Liar be in?

Brandon Sanderson

Liar would be #2, I'd think. Problem is, it's close enough to continuity (having been written after I'd outlined the cosmere) that I wouldn't want to actually release it until after I've done the actual Hoid backstory book. I've changed some dramatic things about how I want to present the story, so it would be bad to release this one.

We've reached a point where Dragonsteel, however, wouldn't be a spoiler. So I'm tempted to release that one in the next kickstarter. I've been kicking around the idea of an actual revision of White Sand, to make it publishable, and release that as an actual cannon novel. It's the only one that could happen to.

ItchyDoggg

Does this mean there is no chance of a cannon version of Aether of Night ever being published? I really enjoyed it and think a fully polished version would be fantastic.

Brandon Sanderson

It is unlikely, but not impossible. Aether could be made cannon with only slight changes--but it doesn't fit into the larger cosmere story any longer, so I don't know of how much interest it would be.

LewsTherinTelescope

To clarify, you're referring to the actual Aether of Night novel, not the future rewritten Aether books that you've mentioned before, right? Or are those not likely anymore either?

Since Aether of Night could be canon with slight changes, I assume the Aethers in the book will be mostly canon as they are, at least in your current outline?

If you were to revise Aether to be canon, would you be replacing Ruin and Preservation with two other Shards, or would you be more likely to just remove Ruin convincing the Twins to imprison Preservation?

Brandon Sanderson

Future Aether books are very likely. And the aethers themselves are going to be very like the ones in the book.

If I did try to make it cannon, I'd probably remove the whole Shard plot from the book and instead either use another Shard, or not add a new one, since the Aethers (as I have them now in the notes) function without a Shard's involvement, and even predate the shattering. (Note, that's not yet canon.)

TWG Posts ()
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Brandon Sanderson

Yes, it's looking like my next series--after Warbreaker, which is looking like it will be a two-book cycle--will be set in the Dragonsteel world. I'm revamping the setting significantly, mashing it together with Aether of Night, which always had a cool magic system but a weaker plot.

I have some sample chapters done, actually. Dragonsteel is now the series name, and the first book will be titled "The Liar of Partinel." (Probably.) The book you all read (now tentatively titled "The Eternal War") will be the third or fourth book in the series, and we will wait that long to introduce Jerick, Ryalla, and Bat'Chor. "Liar" will take place some five hundred years before "The Eternal War."

Brandon Sanderson

The following is a complete Brandon Sanderson Bibliography, published and unpublished.  Prime indicates an early attempt at a book which was later redone.  (Note that when I redo a book like this, it isn't a 'rewrite.'  Generally, it's me taking some elements from the setting and writing a whole new book in that setting, using old ideas and mixing them with fresh ones.)  Published books are in bold.

1) White Sand Prime (My first book, took two + years to write.  1998)

2) Star's End (Science fiction.  1998)

3) Lord Mastrell (Sequel to White Sand Prime.  1999)

4) Knight Life (Fantasy comedy.  1999)

5) The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora (Science fiction.  1999)

6) Elantris (2000.  Published by Tor: 2005)

7) Dragonsteel (2000)

8 ) White Sand (2001)

9) Mythwalker (Never finished. 2001)

10) Mistborn Prime (Stole the magic system and title for a later book.  2002)

11) Final Empire Prime (Stole a character, some setting elements, and title for a later book.  2002)

12) The Aether of Night (2002)

13) The Way of Kings (350,000 words.  Took a long time.  2003)

14) Mistborn: The Final Empire (2004, Published by Tor 2006)

15) Mistborn: The Well of Ascension (2005.  Contracted to Tor for 2006)

16) Alcatraz vs. The Evil Librarians (2005.  Contracted to Scholastic for 2006)

17) Mistborn: The Hero of Ages (2006.  Contracted to Tor for 2007)

18) Warbreaker (2006.  Tentatively to be released by Tor for 2007)

19) Alcatraz vs. The Scrivener's Bones (2006.  Contracted by Scholastic for 2008)

20) Dragonsteel: The Liar of Partinel (Unfinished.  2007?)

21) Alcatraz vs. The Knights of Crystallia (Planned.  2007  Contracted by Scholastic for 2009)

22) Nightblood (Planned.  2008)

23) Dragonsteel: The Lightweaver of Rens (Planned. 2008)

24) Alcatraz vs. The Dark Talent (Planned.  2008.  Contracted for Scholastic for 2010)

I'm not sure if I got all of those dates right, but the order is correct.  I'm finished with all the books up to Dragonsteel, though Mistborn 3, Warbreaker, and Alcatraz 2 are all only in the third draft stage.

Brandon Sanderson

You DON'T have to have read the other Dragonsteel to understand this. The other Dragonsteel will never be published. Some of the plots and characters in it, however, will eventually become book three of this series. Not because I'm doing a 'Dragonlance' type thing, but because when I sat down to work on this project, I realized that I'd rather start back in time a few hundred years. In other words, I'm writing the prequels first, if that's possible.

Brandon Sanderson

In worldbuilding this, I realized that I missed a big opportunity in Dragonsteel Prime by not dealing with fainlife all that much. It was a powerful world element that got mostly ignored. By writing a book here, where I can slam a city in to the middle of the fain assault--before people learned really how to keep the alien landscape back--I think I'll be able to focus more on the setting.

One thing that always bothered me about Dragonsteel Prime is that it felt rather generic for me. I like more distinctive settings, with more distinctive magics. Yet, Dragonsteel Prime had a fairly standard fantasy world (though one set in the bronze age) with magic that didn't really get used all that much in the first book. The idea here is to add the Aether magic in, which is a 'day-to-day' magic, and to enhance the originality of the setting by using fainlife more. Microkenisis, Realmatic Theory, Cognitive Ripples and Tzai Blows, and all of that will STILL be part of this world. I've simply folded the Aethers in as well, and hopefully I can make it all feel cohesive.

JordanCon 2018 ()
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Questioner

At what point did you go, "Elantris was good, Mistborn was good, now let's do 40 more books"?

Brandon Sanderson

So, a brief, brief history (writer's side, not the in-world side) of the Cosmere is this. So, Elantris was written without the cosmere in mind. This was-- Elantris was the first, kind of, book in my--

So, the way my history works, I was told early on that your first five books are generally terrible. And this was actually really relieving to me, because I'm like "Oh, I don't have to be good until book six." So I wrote five books as, just, lots of experimenting. Lots of different types of stories. And I didn't really even try, I sent one or two of them out, but I didn't really aggressively try to publish them. They were White Sand--not White Sand that you can get from my newsletter signup, an earlier version--which is my first book. And then Star's End, which was a little science fiction book, and then a sequel to White Sand, and something called Knight Life, which was a comedy. Yes. But bits of that got repurposed into Alcatraz. And then The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora, which was a weird cyberpunk, far-future thing. And I got done with all of those, and I'm like, "All right. I kind of know what I want to do. I thought it was epic fantasy. I now know it's epic fantasy." And then I wrote Elantris. My next books were Elantris, a rewrite of White Sand, and Dragonsteel. And this was kind of me exploring "What do I want to do? How do I want to-- What is my-- What do I want to add to this genre?"

But the idea of the interconnected universe grew out of doing these things, writing these books. I started planning The Way of Kings then, I started planning the book that became Warbreaker then. It was called Mythwalker at the time. And I wrote a book called The Final Empire and a another one called Mistborn, which are neither of the ones that you guys actually have read. What eventually happened, is when I sold Elantris, this whole thing of the cosmere had really come together, this is what I wanted to do, I was really excited by it.

And so, the first book that I wrote knowing about the cosmere was Mistborn. And Elantris got retrofitted into this as I was writing the Mistborn trilogy. And it was while I was working on the Mistborn trilogy that I made the nine book arc that is kind of the core, though-line of the Cosmere, the past/present/future Mistborn. I called my editor in... 2005 with a really big, exciting, sort of huge outline for 40 books (it was 32 back then), I'm like, "It's gonna be this, it's gonna be this, it connects here, and all this stuff--" That's when it all kind of happened, and I built that all out. It was the process of working on the Mistborn original trilogy and building out the nine book arc for those that really solidified a lot of these ideas. By then, I had written Dragonsteel, so I knew--- Dragonsteel was book number seven, so I knew about Adonalsium and all of this stuff, but it was really kind of in Mistborn where I decided how I was gonna incorporate all of that. And even then, even in Mistborn, there are still things that I was still putting together.

So, yeah. There's a brief history of it. By the time I had those three books done, 'cause I wrote them in a row, I was pretty solid on how all of this was gonna come together.

YouTube Livestream 12 ()
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17th Shard

Originally, it was said Way of Kings Prime had spoilers for later Stormlight. But we've released it now. Why is that? Do you still feel it has spoilers, or do you think it's safe or fine?

Brandon Sanderson

I think it is fine, though it still has minor spoilers. The whole thread with Dalinar and Elhokar, I felt, was a pretty big spoiler. Because a very similar relationship played out in the published books, just with different results. I thought that one's a spoiler.

I felt that some of the Taln stuff is slight spoilers. But one of the things that worked passably well in Way of Kings Prime is the question of, "Is this guy a Herald, or is he crazy?" That was a central theme for him. And that whole arc got transposed to Dalinar. "Am I seeing visions, or am I crazy?" Whole thing got transposed, and I knew by the time I was into the actual published versions of the Stormlight Archive, I knew by then that I couldn't do the same thing with Taln. We'd already had a plot cycle like that, plus I was going to be introducing the Heralds, and it was going to be very clear that the Heralds are back and that the Voidbringers are here. And so the question of "Are the Voidbringers actually coming back? Were the Heralds real?" Thats, like, a major theme of Way of Kings Prime. And that cannot be a theme of the published version. And so, for a while, I was still holding onto the hope that maybe I can do something like this with Taln. And eventually, I said, "No, I just can't." It would be too repetitive and what-not, and that's part of what made me realize it's okay to release Way of Kings Prime. The stuff that happens to Taln is going to be so different from where I'm going to be taking him moving forward that it's okay.

There's still some minor, slight things that are still gonna show up, but it would be hard to pick out what those are. And when they happen in the actual series, you'd be like, "Oh, I can see the resonance of this to the original." Just like the Elhokar/Dalinar thing (which is more overt) resonates through that one into this one.