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Warbreaker Annotations () Copy
#1

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.

The Well of Ascension Annotations () Copy
#2

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixteen

Vin in her room

This first scene is a classical Brandon scene–a character studying, thinking, and exploring who they are in their own head. Some people find my narrative style–with the thoughts, the conclusions, and the debates in the head–to be a little slow. I can understand that, even if I don't agree.

I like knowing my characters. A chapter like this really works for that, in my opinion. It seems to me that in too many books, you never really know a character's thoughts, feelings, and logic enough to understand why they do what they do. So, I spend time on those things.

This scene is important for the decisions Vin makes about herself. She is not the type of person to second-guess herself. In a way, she shows some of the very things Tindwyl tries to get across to Elend later in the chapter. Vin encounters a problem, mulls over it, then comes to a firm decision to trust herself.

Oathbringer release party () Copy
#3

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

How do you come up with names that sound awesome?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

It's harder than it sounds, no pun intended... If you wanna know how to name things, find the podcast where we answer that on Writing Excuses, we go into in depth, that'll help you out. But basically I'm looking for, like, lists of baby names from languages that I don't speak, and trying to play with those names until I find something that sounds good.

EuroCon 2016 () Copy
#4

Questioner

I would like to make two questions for you. The first one is, when were you really aware that that was the book, or that was the style that could find a public, an audience?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, let me answer this one first. My first five books were very experimental. I wrote two epic fantasies, one comedy, one cyberpunk, and one space opera. I did this so that I could be very sure that what I wanted to do was epic fantasy. I heard a metaphor when I was young for dating which said, "Don't always just date the same flavor of ice cream. Even if you're very sure you love strawberry, date some chocolate, some rocky road, some variety of different ice cream flavors so that you can be sure." I say the same thing about writing. One of my best friends, Dan, first tried only writing epic fantasy, and was having a very hard time being a writer, and then he wrote a horror novel that was super, super creepy, and now he is a famous horror writer because he found his love in that genre. After doing this for five novels, I was sure that epic fantasy was what I wanted to do, and it is no coincidence that book number six was Elantris, the first book of the Cosmere written, and the first book that eventually sold.

General Reddit 2015 () Copy
#5

Brandon Sanderson

This is an interesting topic, and though I saw this early, I wanted to wait to post anything because I prefer to let discussions like this happen without author intervention, at least not immediately.

I do I like talking about topics like this, though. Humor is such a curiously subjective thing. There are people who just don't get Pratchett, whom I find the funniest thing ever. Conversely, I don't generally like stand up comedians, and actively dislike some of the comedies that people on reddit love. There are people who tell me that my Mat scenes in WoT are the funniest they've read in the series; there are others who consider them absolute duds.

Humor is more subjective than what we find heroic, tragic, or even beautiful. It also depends a great deal on audience buy-in and mood. This makes comedy one of the trickiest things to do in a book, because some people are just going to hate what you do. My approach has generally been a kind of shotgun blast--I try to include multiple different kinds of humor, stylized to the individual character. That way, if you don't find the humor itself funny, you at least learn what the character finds funny--and learn something about them.

In Stormlight, my personal favorite is the bridge crew humor, as it is distinctly character driven. Syl's humor is a different flavor, based on innocence mixed with sarcasm. Wit is another style entirely, though I usually only let him really go when he meets someone he dislikes strongly. I have to be careful, as he's one of the few characters I allow to stray into the vulgar, and letting him go too far risks letting such things overshadow the rest of the book.

Shallan's humor is based upon regency "women sit in a circle and trade witty comments" humor, of which Jane Austen was a master. Much of what the OP said in his post is correct--Shallan's fault is that she over-extends. She uses the humor as a coping mechanism, and to her, it doesn't matter if it's actually funny so long as she's stretching toward something more lighthearted than her terrible past. She tries very hard to prove herself. And she fails. Often.

However, her type of "wit" is to exemplify what Vorin lighteyed women consider to be amusing or diverting. And there are people who genuinely find that kind of thing to be a blast--though Shallan isn't exactly the best at it yet. (She's not terrible either, mind you. If you don't smile at some of the things she says, it's likely this isn't your type of humor, which is just fine. Hopefully, there will be other things in the books that make you smile.)

Though, that said, I'd love to read passages from other fantasy novels that people on reddit find to be actually laugh-out-loud funny. I know which ones I personally like, but it would be useful for me to see what you're liking. Feel free to PM them to me or to post them here.

JordanCon 2016 () Copy
#7

Questioner

I wanted to know what your stance on gods were, if you were trying-- If you had a meta-message about God.

Brandon Sanderson

If I what?

Questioner

If you had a meta-message about God.

Brandon Sanderson

I do not really. What I'm fascinated by ends up in the books and I'm fascinated by religion. But even in something like The Stormlight Archive, I don't want there necessarily even be a definitive answer? There are god... lowercase "g" gods. Whether there is a capital "G" God is still, in my opinion, left to the interpretation of various people. I'm not necessarily trying to say anything specific, I'm trying to say what the different characters say. Does that make sense? Jasnah doesn't speak my belief, but neither does Dalinar. But they speak their belief, and I try to respect their belief the best I can. So it's more like trying to be true to the different characters.

The Well of Ascension Annotations () Copy
#8

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Two

Regarding the line to the effect of: "There are a hundred different courts with a hundred different smaller Lord Rulers" in the Final Empire.

One of the problems created by my writing style is that it's hard to give a real feeling of scope to a kingdom or landscape. When you read something by Robert Jordan, for instance, you get to see a whole world full of peoples and places, since the characters travel all about. I prefer to set my stories in one or two locations, usually a large city, since this lets me focus on the political wrangling, and it also lets me give a strong sense of place to that area.

It was impossible in these books–particularly the first book–to give a sense of how large and varied the Final Empire was. I threw in Spook's street slang and Sazed's cultural references to try to hint at the different ethnicity, but these were only that–hints.

I don't regret the way that I write. However, I am aware of the issues involved in the choices I make. I think that's what you have to do in a book–you make trade offs, choosing to focus on some things and not others.

The Hero of Ages Annotations () Copy
#9

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Eight

The Lord Ruler's Final Message

This plaque from the Lord Ruler was very difficult to write. Originally it was much shorter, but I expanded it during the last draft because I felt it was just too useless. Even still, it doesn't say much. And that's the problem.

I was always intending the Lord Ruler's final plate to contain no answers. It works into my themes for this series—this was the "quest" book playing off the epic fantasy ideal of the powerful object that must be discovered and used to fight the evil. Except that this time, I wanted them to get to the place they'd been questing toward and find it empty, with no answers from the Lord Ruler. I felt this would only heighten the sense of hopelessness the characters are feeling in trying to fight Ruin.

The problem is, rereading this plate I realize that I've done exactly what I wanted—but that it's also a really, really big letdown. I hate letting down readers. It feels like breaking promises. After consideration I think this is still the best thing to do, but I wish I'd found another way to deal with this.

Note that the circle with a dot here is completely lost on Vin. The size of the circle in relation to the text around it, and some numerical clues scribbled around the perimeter of the circle, are indications of the size of a scale map it should be placed upon. If placed the right way, the dot will point directly at the Pits of Hathsin.

Vin's awesome, but she's barely got a basic education. A complex mathematical puzzle like that one is completely lost on her. If Elend had had the time to study the plate, he might have figured out where it was pointing. There wasn't time, however.

The Lord Ruler did leave a very important clue on this plate. However, I feel that obscure clues like this are deciphered far too often in books like this one. I think realistically if you're going to leave a clue like that, chances are good that it will end up getting missed or misunderstood. Which is exactly what happened here.

Warbreaker Annotations () Copy
#10

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Suits Up and Leaves

Vivenna is in a similar position to Siri here in these last chapters. Things are getting so dangerous that both women (well, and Lightsong too) are rather out of their elements. However, I knew that I had to have them both involved. It would be incredibly frustrating to read an entire book focused on two characters, then have them get pushed around for the entire climax.

So during my outlining, I made certain to build the story in such a way that they could be useful, even if they're very much out of their elements. I feel this makes the story more tense in a lot of ways, since they're forced to deal with things for which they're completely unprepared.

Here, we have Vivenna sorting through her own emotions and finding enough determination left to go out and do something. This is an important moment for her, even though she doesn't realize it. This is the moment where she takes her first real step toward becoming her new self.

Firefight Chicago signing () Copy
#11

Questioner

Do you ever write like two versions of a scene in a book and if you do how do you decide which--

Brandon Sanderson

Do I ever do two scenes in a book--

Questioner

Like two versions--

Brandon Sanderson

Two versions of the same scene. I do it quite frequently. Every book there will be a couple times. Usually what happens is I'm writing a scene and I'm not pleased with it and so I put it aside and I write it again the next day. And usually letting me subconscious work on it means I end up fixing it. About one out of ten times I start writing it and I realize "It was right the first way, why am I writing something new?" And then I just go back to the book, and it wasn't that the scene was bad it's just I had a bad day. And sometimes you do, no matter what you write you are going to think it stinks. How do I decide? It's very instinctive, I've never had one like "These are both equally good". Always I know one of them is not working. In fact the best way to get over writer's block, I find, is to write the scene anyway, have anything you can think of happen--even if it doesn't make sense in your story--so that you get the scene out, and then attack it again the next day after you have had time to think about it.

The Hero of Ages Annotations () Copy
#12

Brandon Sanderson

Homicidal Hat Trick

My editor tried very hard to get me to cut the "homicidal hat trick" line. Not because it wasn't clever, but because he felt it was anachronistic, as the phrase is commonly a metaphor for some quite modern sports. However, I was able to prove via Wikipedia (which is infallible) that the term was used as early as the nineteenth century and didn't always refer to sports, but to three wins in a row in even simple games of chance. So, grudgingly, he let me keep it.

I love the line because of the way that little section harks back to the old Elend. He's still in there, hidden behind the emperor-at-war exterior. The old Elend could be clever and awkward at the same time, just like he is here when he tries to make a point to Vin but comes dangerously close to an insult instead. That's the same guy as the one who would, while standing on the balcony at a party, compliment a lady and then immediately turn back to his book and ignore her.

And, on that note, I believe that I warned you about the coming ball scenes. We're going to have another nostalgia chapter fairly soon, and it's one of my favorite chapters in the entire series.

Warbreaker Annotations () Copy
#13

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Meets with the Slumlords

When I write a scene like this, I am never quite certain how much time I want to spend distinguishing the side characters who make an appearance. (Another scene like this is the one where Lightsong plays the game with the three other gods.) Here, we're introduced to three different slumlords. They all have distinct personalities and different ways of looking at how Vivenna can help them. However, how much time do I spend explaining them and making them have an impact? It's a tough line to walk. I don't want to bog the scene down and spend a lot of time on characters you'll never see again, but I also don't want the scene to feel ambiguous or lacking precision because you can't imagine the slumlords.

I suspect that most readers won't care about telling the difference between the three, so I don't dwell on it—but I try to give hints that will help those who want to visualize the scene exactly.

Warbreaker Annotations () Copy
#16

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Returns to a Ransacked Home

I'm a little annoyed at myself that it took so long to introduce Jewels. Here we are in chapter seventeen and she still hasn't shown up. She barely gets a mention here. Unfortunately, I knew that her arrival would present problems for Vivenna, so I felt the need to put it off until Viv was attached enough to the mercenaries that she'd be able to overlook a certain "pet" that Tonk Fah talked about earlier.

Firefight Chicago signing () Copy
#17

Questioner

You know how usually you read a good book and it will change your perspective on some aspect of life, do you ever finish writing a book yourself and-- From your own writings do you ever "Ah I've never..."

Brandon Sanderson

It's usually the research I do. Like when I'm like "I need to get in the mindset of this type of person" and I go read about it. I see the world in a different way after I become immersed in that.

Questioner

So what character have you written that was the hardest to imagine or get into?

Brandon Sanderson

Jasnah was very hard originally, and that took a lot of research into the mindset of people who think differently from myself. In The Wheel of Time books Aviendha and Tuon are both very different cultures so getting into those.

Questioner

How was it writing Mat? Was it pretty easy or--

Brandon Sanderson

No, Mat blindsided me. Mat I thought would be easy because Perrin and Rand were and I grew up with Mat, Perrin, and Rand, right? But the thing is Mat is a really hard character to write, meaning actual-- you look at him, he says one thing, he does a second thing, but he thinks a third thing. And so there is a lot of contrast to him and I just started writing him naturally and I wasn't getting all of that contrast because I was like "Oh I know who Mat is. Mat's my--" But he was saying the things that he never said, if that makes sense? I got his actions right but I flipped what he said and what he thought. It was actually really hard to get him down.

Questioner

You mean how he would say that he was going to avoid trouble and then run straight into it?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, it's like "I'm going to avoid trouble", he runs into trouble, and he's thinking all the way about something completely separate, and then something else leaves his mouth.

The Book Smugglers Rithmatist Interview () Copy
#18

The Book Smugglers

What can your fans expect from The Rithmatist, as compared to your other adult novels? Was it easier or harder to write for a YA audience (or was there anything different about the writing process for this particular book)?

Brandon Sanderson

That's an excellent question! I wouldn't say it's either easier or harder. For me, a story grows in my mind till I just can't ignore it anymore, and I have to write it. That certainly happened with The Rithmatist.

As for what I did differently, there are a couple things. When I work on a teen book, I usually try to focus the viewpoints. That's one of the big distinctions for me between an epic fantasy that has teen characters—like the Mistborn books—and a book that I've specifically written for a teen audience. I usually focus on a single character—maybe two—so the narrative is a bit more streamlined.

The other big difference here is that I really wanted to write something with a sense of fantasy whimsy to it. I say whimsical, and it might be the right term, and yet it's not. For example, the magic system is one of the most rigorous and specific that I've written. I hope readers will find it as interesting as I do—with the defensive circles and the different types of lines.

With my epic fantasy books like The Way of Kings, for example, I looked at the size of the planet, its gravitation, its oxygen content—all the sorts of things that allow me to worldbuild with some scientific rigor. I consciously didn't want to do that with The Rithmatist. I replaced the United States with the United Isles, turning the country into an archipelago. I shrank the planet, and I did really weird things to the history of the world because I thought it would be fun. For example, I let Korea conquer the world, because I'm a fan of Korean history.

It's not like I'm sitting down and saying, "What is plausible?" I'm sitting down and saying, "What is awesome?" Then I write a story in which that awesomeness can shine. I let myself do that in my YA works more than in my adult works to give them a different feel. Writing this way allows me to exercise different muscles.

I believe that children and teens are better able to mode shift. When they pick up a book, they don't necessarily feel that it has to fit in one of the genre boxes. As an author, that allows you to do some interesting things in teen that are harder to do within an adult genre. 

Shadows of Self Newcastle UK signing () Copy
#19

Questioner

In the second Stormlight Archive book... Wit... the Shattered Plains party, where he's introducing all the guests, and just the sheer list of insults. Was that an easy thing to do, and you've got books and books of--

Brandon Sanderson

Man it is so hard to come up with good insults because it's so hard to use one that Winston Churchill hasn't used already. *laughter* But I try to channel the best insult comics and people like that. Being witty in writing is actually the hardest part, but the fortunate thing is that I can take two hours to come up with a line that he's supposed to snap off in a few minutes or a few seconds, and that's how we can imitate being smarter than we are. I totally have to do that in my books.

It's interesting, I got an insight into really smart people. I was roommates with a person who won a ton of money on Jeopardy. Ken Jennings for any of you guys that watch Jeopardy. He won like 80 times in a row, right? I'm serious. He won 80 times in a row, or something like 78-- and before he did that, he was my roommate, and I knew him, and he-- the big difference between him and other people is that speed, that speed of making the connection and snapping it off. You say something and he comes with a comeback, just like that, and then you think  about it and you're like "oh, that was really clever". That's what a lot of these people are, it's not the only type of intelligence by far, but it's one of the ones that this sort of discussion with Wit-- it's what we look for. So it's kind of a marker for somebody that's a little bit too smart for their own good.

The Alloy of Law Annotations () Copy
#22

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixteen

Wayne pretends to be an old woman

These Wayne scenes really did turn out well. It was very fun to write him putting on new personalities and mindsets as he put on new hats.

In a lot of ways, this is a much more standard book than I've released before. My biggest worry is that people go into it expecting it to be something other than what it is.

And what is it? A fun adventure story, told as a detective narrative. I've said that I consider this book more pulp than others I've done. What does that mean? Well, I just wanted to write a fun page-turner that is a quick read from start to finish, and is enjoyable along the way. It makes me wonder if people will call this unambitious. Perhaps that's just the nervous side of me, the artist that worries about what people will say about him, no matter what.

Still, I think it's a legitimate complaint—on the surface. I don't expect readers to understand what's going on in the writer's mind. It's not their job. I've delivered one type of writing in the past, so they expect I will continue to do so.

The thing is, there are lots of different forms of storytelling, and I want to learn how to do many of them. A pulp adventure story doesn't seem less ambitious to me than a deep epic like The Way of Kings. It's not about ambition. Yes, The Alloy of Law is far less deep than Kings—but then Alloy is trying to do different things. Sometimes, an artist wants to paint a deep, realistic painting on a canvas. And sometimes he wants to do a political cartoon sketch. They achieve different functions, but they're both forms of art. I want to be able to do both.

In a way, The Alloy of Law is a reaction to what I'd been doing before. I realize not everyone is going to like the more plodding pace of something like Kings, with lots of characters doing lots of different things. I suspect people will complain that working on The Wheel of Time has influenced me. (I don't think that's a bad thing, but some will.)

Certainly I have been influenced. At least in one style of my writing. However, The Alloy of Law is—in part—for those who liked the pacing and action of Mistborn and were less interested in the epic scope.

I simply hope people read the book, accept it for what it is, and enjoy it.

Warbreaker Annotations () Copy
#23

Brandon Sanderson

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.

17th Shard Forum Q&A () Copy
#24

Yamato

How did you portray Jasnah's atheism so well? As a staunch atheist myself, I think you did an absolutely brilliant job. Honestly, It made me happy that a religious person was trying to understand my mindset. Anyway, who did you ask to get such accurate ideas of atheist thought?

Brandon Sanderson

I found some really good atheist forums. Not the 'hate on religion' type atheist forums, but the kind with some serious depth. People asking one another about morality, talking about how they felt when people reacted to them being an atheist, and expressing their philosophy. I gained a great deal of respect for them during these readings.

From there, I went and chatted with some atheists I know to gauge if I had a good handle on things. It was important that I get this right, as it's different enough from my own worldview that if it went wrong, it would have gone VERY wrong and I'd have ended up with something insulting.

Warbreaker Annotations () Copy
#25

Brandon Sanderson

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.

The Hero of Ages Annotations () Copy
#26

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Eight - Part One

Spacing Out the Climaxes

I tried something new in this book. I've been criticized—rightly—in the past for cramming too much into my endings. A good, fast-paced ending is great, but when you layer climax on top of climax, a little of it gets lost. I've been trying, therefore, to plot things so that we end up with the important climaxes spaced more evenly. My hope is to not lose any of the tension or drama, but to have the climaxes be more focused by not letting them interfere as much with each other.

We're seeing this here with Spook. This chapter is, essentially, the climax of his scenes. We'll have some smaller chapters involving him later in the book, but his storyline pretty much ends here (save for one loose end). Hopefully, by having this explosive chapter here, I can save the last third of the book to deal with the other characters, making the pacing a little more even.

The Hero of Ages Annotations () Copy
#27

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Five

"Reen" is Ruin

Did you really think I'd bring Reen back?

Well, maybe you did. It's all right if you did; we in the fiction world have kind of acclimatized people to strange resurrections of long-dead characters. I'd guess it's due to one of two things. Either 1) The author is so attached to the fallen character that he/she wants to have them return or 2) The author wants to do something completely unexpected, so he/she returns to life a character the reader isn't expecting.

Unfortunately, both answers are based on emotions outside of what is commonly good for the actual plotting of the story. Do this enough, and readers are required to stretch their ability to suspend disbelief. This sort of practice is part of what earns genre fiction something of a bad reputation among the literary elite. (How can there be tension for a character if the reader knows that death doesn't mean anything?)

The trick with saying this is, of course, that I'm as guilty of this as anyone. I've got two books in the works where I'm planning deaths and resurrections—though, of course, I'm building in these elements as plot points of the setting and worldbuilding.

Beyond that, there are lots of instances where this sort of thing is appropriate in fiction, and where it works. After all, one of the reasons to write fantasy is so that you can deal with themes like this that wouldn't work in mainstream fiction. I just worry that we, as a genre, are too lazy with ideas like this. If we push this too far, we'll end up where the comic book world is—in a place where death is completely meaningless.

The Hero of Ages Annotations () Copy
#28

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Narrative Clues about Spook's Condition

The scene here where Spook goes into the building without a torch, and Sazed stands outside waiting, is a direct parallel of a scene in book two where Marsh does the same thing to Sazed. Both Spook and Marsh can see in ways Sazed cannot, and both tend to forget others aren't as talented in that area.

That's not the only similarity. I intended Spook's glasses with cloth wrapped around them to be a reference to how an Inquisitor looks with spikes through the eyes. Both these parallels are designed to be big clues about what's happening to Spook in this book.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A () Copy
#29

iwinUlose2

If you were going to write a novel in a genre other than scifi/fantasy which genre do you think that you would write in?

Brandon Sanderson

Hmm... Perhaps a historical. Something I could really sink my teeth into. I could also see myself writing a mystery or a thriller.

The thing is, unless I'm under some kind of restriction, I know that any of those three would probably end up having fantasy or sf elements. It's just how I think.

Stormlight Three Update #3 () Copy
#30

Stormdancer

How do you manage your time to keep writing productively, during all that time on the road? Do you find yourself thinking about the WIP while signing book after book after book?

Brandon Sanderson

It's hard, and I'm not that productive, honestly. That's why I generally work on some new project, like a novella, instead of the main project. It's tiring enough on the road to write; writing something that is intense and requires a lot of working with other pieces in the story is even harder.

I can't think about the WIP while signing--otherwise I'll miss questions people ask. The last thing I want is for someone to wait four hours to meet me, then feel like they got brushed off. If I'm going to do the signings, I need to be mentally there for the signings.

I do get a lot of thinking done in the mornings before flying out to my next location for the day.

The Hero of Ages Annotations () Copy
#31

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eighty-One - Part One

Prophecy

I wasn't certain how I wanted to treat prophecy in this book. On one hand, it's a staple of fantasy books—and my goal in this series was to take the fantasy staples and turn them upon their heads in a way that hadn't been done before. That meant I needed to include and use them, and so I did. In book two, the prophecies turned out to be false, and Ruin used them to trick Vin into releasing him.

However, the fact that he twisted the prophecies left me with the implication that they had once been true. What does that mean, though? If you look at prophecies in our own religions, very few of them are used like fantasy prophecies. In fantasy novels, it seems like prophecies are intentionally obscure, abstract things intended to confuse people and act as some kind of twisted guidebook for the hero to live his life. Yet, in modern religion—specifically Judaism and Christianity—prophecy is more general. Prophecy in these religions means things like "in the end, the faithful will win." They're general or symbolic. Of more use to the population as a whole, rather than applying to one distinct individual.

Sazed and Tindwyl have a great discussion about this in book two. Regardless, I make use of the prophecies here in the final book. As far as I'm concerned, they were given to the original Terris people by Preservation as a means of maintaining hope. They were a promise—a hero will come; that hero will protect you. Have faith.

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#32

Questioner

I had another question, did you ever read books by other authors to get your ideas?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes I read a lot of books by other authors and what I usually do is I will read something and if they did it really well, I don't want to do anything like it. But if I think they messed it up then I'm like "Oh I need to do a story that does this the right way" Does that make sense? It is one of the most fun parts of being a writer. You can watch a movie and go "Ah they totally did this the wrong way... and then do it yourself, the way you want it to be.

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#33

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Seventy-Three

Cinematic Writing

I sometimes wonder just how much writers from my era have been influenced by the visual media of entertainment we've experienced. How do I imagine things differently because of my childhood watching television and movies? What have the improvements in special affects done for my ability to visualize things I have not seen? How does my pacing, plotting, and description reflect my background and my exposure to media?

I look at a chapter like this one, and it feels extremely cinematic to me. Not that I'm some great master of the cinematic form, but rather that I'm so familiar with that media—as are many of us—that I am drawn to it instinctively.

The quick flashes from viewpoint to viewpoint—TenSoon, Breeze, Elend—showing what was going on, followed by a quick cut of Vin mid-action . . . it just feels right to me to do it this way.

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#34

Brandon Sanderson

The contact Vasher mentions in this scene is Bluefingers. The little scribe is working very hard to push the court toward war, and he thinks that if Vasher sneaks into the hidden tunnels, he might do something dangerous like kill a few guards. More than that, Bluefingers is hoping that by giving away that tidbit of information, he might be able to get Vasher to trust him, and therefore get the chance to manipulate him toward fomenting the war.

At this point, Vasher has contacted Bluefingers pretending that he's interested in the politics of the court and the war. Bluefingers inaccurately assumes—from intelligence he's gathered, from what Denth has said, and from some faint awareness of who Vasher might be—that Vasher wants to drive Hallandren back to war with Idris. At the very least, Bluefingers assumes that Vasher will want to kill and destroy, since death and destruction have often been his wake.

And so, Bluefingers sells to Vasher a little tidbit that he assumes is innocent (the presence of the tunnels). This gives Vasher an unexpected edge. He now knows that it's possible to get to the Lifeless garrison, and into the court itself, through ways nobody knows about. That makes him suspect that something greater might be going on, perhaps a coup of some sort.

I apologize for only showing little pieces of this in the book. But, to be honest, I don't think it's that interesting—mostly because everybody is so wrong about what they're assuming. And the assumptions are rational enough that I think it would be confusing in the book. Vasher is wrong about the coup, and Bluefingers is wrong about Vasher's motives. Denth only cares about getting a chance to punish Vasher for the death of his sister.

/r/Fantasy_Bookclub Alloy of Law Q&A () Copy
#35

Questioner

I just wanted to say ... I like how the main characters are named Wax and Wayne.

Brandon Sanderson

Thanks. In all honesty, I was hesitant about the pun. I liked it, on one hand, but also worried that it was too goofy. By the time I tried changing the character names, however, they were too strongly cemented in my head, so changing them proved too difficult and I just left them as-is.

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#36

Questioner

When it comes to major, pivotal plot twists. Moments where the reader goes "WOAH" or "Oh my god". Are those something you write as starting point or ending point?

Brandon Sanderson

What I do is I plot my outline backward, starting with those scenes. And then I write the book forward to those scenes. The reason I can do it that way is because in the plot I don't need to know the characters' emotional state, I can just come up with "This is going to be a great scene". But I have to have been with the characters through the journey to write their reaction to the scene. So I can't actually write it early.

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#37

Questioner

Have you ever tried to write, not a novel, but for a comic or try a script to pitch yourself for an original story?

Brandon Sanderson

Have I ever tried doing some writing that is not novels? So, screenwriting or comic strip or things like that? Yeah, I've done a little bit of everything. Not with the intent that I'm going to pitch myself, but just so I can be familiar with it. And so I have written a screenplay, never gonna let anyone see it. It was so that I would know what it takes to write a screenplay so I can advise better on mine, because I don't intend to do it. I mean, the difference between writing novels and writing screenplays is probably as different as playing basketball and playing baseball. And we know how that worked out for Michael Jordan. He was decent at the second one, but it takes a lot of work to get good at something like this, and I would rather have really great screenwriters be writing my things. But I did want to know enough about the process to be able to talk intelligently.

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#38

Questioner

When you put together different magic systems, do you just have a file of those that "this is goiing to work for this one"?

Brandon Sanderson

I have a file of magic systems, characters, and settings, and plots. Usually I review it for a while, periodically I mean, and certain connections are made. I build on those in my head, then eventually stick them back in if it doesn't end up working. But ocasionally it's like-- Like Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell, I wanted to write a book about a bounty hunter woman who runs an inn and kills the people who come to the inn. I developed that all without the magic system or anything like that, and then said what world would this fit on? Would it fit on any of them? Do I need to make a new story? And I'm like "This worked really well on Threnody" so I put it there and put the magic in. Usually it's the other way around, I've got the world and things and I need some characters to plug in.

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#39

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Three

Sazed Defends the Gate

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

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

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

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

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

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#40

Questioner

When you finished writing A Memory of Light you posted on Facebook a beautiful piece of music *inaudible* and I was wondering, do you listen to music often when you write, and how does music influence--

Brandon Sanderson

I do listen to music. I almost always am listening to music when I write, and I really like things like Pandora or the discover weekly playlist on Spotify, or things like this. Any time I can get something seeded with some unusual different disparate elements and discover some new music, that'll be good for me. A lot of soundtracks, Pink Floyd, a lot of Pink Floyd, <Tangerine Dream?>, stuff like electronica, like that works really well for me. What else, Daft Punk would be in that group as well. So, it's a mix between piano music, electronica and soundtracks, what you're going to see me writing to most of the time.

The Hero of Ages Annotations () Copy
#41

Brandon Sanderson

Part One Wrap-Up

Setting the Scene

Like always, part one is a little slow. I'm working on my style, trying to get the pacing better in the first third of my novels. However, one feature of my style is the setup, followed by fast-paced endings. I don't want to lose that; I just want to make sure every part of a given book is fun to read.

There are a lot of good things happening here, but also a lot of establishment. How Allomancy and Feruchemy work, what has happened to the characters in the year between books—the setup for the conflicts of this novel. Things start to pick up in the next section, and we add our final viewpoint: Spook.

Overall, I'm pleased with part one and the way it sets the scene of the book. The world is ending. People everywhere are in trouble. Elend, Vin, and the team have no idea how to fight it—they're just doing their best at guessing.

The Hero of Ages Annotations () Copy
#42

Brandon Sanderson

Another reference to previous books comes when Sazed mentions the executions from book one. This is the second or third time we've had a reference back to those in this novel, and there were a couple references in the second novel as well. I hesitated to put those executions into the first book because of the graphic nature of the beheadings (which, if you recall, were done into the fountains at the central square, causing the water to flow red). However, it became such an important scene throughout the series that I'm certainly glad I did it. The characters needed a poignant visual memory of the Lord Ruler's brutality.

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#43

Questioner

On about Wayne from The Alloy of Law, so reading the first book everyone's smiling because he's a rascal. But he's not really a rascal in the first book. You slowly turned him into a rascal in book 2, filling in what he's done in his past. Book three just a downright rascal... I wanted to know your progression of that character mirrors your progression of that world because the Alloy of Law isn't particularly gritty, but in book three you've got a bit more grittiness.

Brandon Sanderson

See, I would argue that two is the grittiest of the three, personally. It's hard for me to talk about this one just because I wrote Alloy of Law as an experiment to see if I liked it, and then I sat down and built a trilogy about those characters, so you could almost imagine that Alloy of Law is a standalone, and the next three are a trilogy about those characters. I don't know that I made any specific decisions in any way, I just said "what is the story I want to tell about these characters with these three books", and then I took them and I dug into them and I felt like I hadn't dug into them deeply enough in Alloy of Law, to really who they were. It was done, again, kind of more as a free writing experiment than an intentional novel, even though I did have an outline and things for it.

The books two, three, and four--which form a trilogy--have a distinct outline. Any changes are changes kind of focused on that idea. That I took something that was kind of like a seed for a trilogy and then built a trilogy around it. I didn't make any specific determination that I would be more gritty; I think the second book is grittier because of the difference between hunting a group of bank robbers vs. a serial killer. That's gonna have some natural move towards that, but it's not any specific event. That said, reader response is kind of how you decide on these things. I just kind of write the books as I feel they need to be and what you get out of them is certainly valid.

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#44

Brandon Sanderson

Playing with Clichés

Well, that turned into a strangely unexpected rant. I'll leave it because it might be interesting to you all, but I did want to continue with my original idea. I didn't bring Reen back (or Kelsier back) because I feel opposed to this kind of plotting unless it is well foreshadowed in advance and built into the magic system. I did, however, want to make the reader think that I'd brought them back, as for some reason it gives me pleasure to bait readers into thinking I'm following the clichés, then ducking away from those clichés. (In a way, that's what this entire series is about.)

As a nod to the intelligence of my readers, however, I didn't let this one last for long. I figured that many would have figured out that the image of Reen was false, particularly after the epigraph strongly hints that Vin has been spiked. In addition, I wanted to use this scene to point out the difference between Vin and Spook. He's an idealist and is rather fresh and inexperienced, despite what the crew has been through. Vin's a realist and a skeptic, and is far more experienced. It makes simple sense to me that she would almost immediately see through Ruin's tricks.

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#45

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Explains the Different Kinds of BioChromatic Entities

This is a scene I'd been waiting to write for almost the entire book. Not just because I wanted to get into the scientific rules for Awakening, but because I wanted to pull a good reversal for Vasher. When he begins talking like this, I hope that the reader responds like Vivenna: Who is this guy?

A lot of readers, my editor included, resisted the term BioChroma. They wanted me to simply use Breath, as they thought BioChroma was just too scientific sounding. I like this concept, however. I want people to read the book and think it sounds scientific. My novels, my magic systems, have a kind of "hard magic" sense to them. I want there to be an edge of science to them, a feeling that people are studying them and trying to learn about them using the scientific method.

Vasher's explanations here are dead on. He's got a lot of good information, and he has a handle on what he doesn't understand. That alone should be a big clue about who he is. The fact that he never has to trim his beard is another one.

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#46

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

...There are sometimes that you'll have a line of dialogue or a description, and I'm just in awe of how either hilarious or amazing it is. Have you ever written a line of dialogue or a description where you're like, "Wow, I am hilarious"? *laughter*

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

...All the time! No, I mean, this gets to a larger question of, when the creative process is working... you get surprised by how well the connections start working, and how things start coming together. Sometimes they don't, and you bash your head against the wall. But I think in every writing situation, at some point, you're gonna say "Wow, did that come out of my brain?" Because I got into it so much, I didn't realize all these connections were coming together in the back of my brain, and boom, it happens. And, again, sometimes it doesn't. In fact, I'll get into that in a moment, as we go to the reading. Because I... pulled a book from the publisher and decided not to publish it just recently, like last month.

Footnote: The book Brandon is referring to is The Apocalypse Guard.
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#47

Brandon Sanderson

I worry that Susebron is too innocent in his regard for sex. Some readers like this; others think it's unrealistic. He'd have had sexual urges, after all. It comes down to the question, how natural is it? If someone had never had sex before, and had never had it explained to them or had friends to talk with about it, would they know what to do? I'll bet they could figure it out, but I'm not sure it would be something one could simply reason out ahead of time.

Perhaps Susebron's innocence is a bit of a stretch, but I believe it's a possible reaction—if not the average one—to his seclusion.

Warbreaker Annotations () Copy
#48

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-One

Vivenna, Sick and Disoriented, Gets Turned Away by the Restaurant Keeper

One of the ways I decided to make Vivenna's sections here work better was by enhancing the fuzziness of her mind. By giving her this sense of numbness, I hope to indicate that something is not right with her.

It's common for someone who suddenly becomes a Drab to get sick almost immediately. For a time, her immune system was magically enhanced and warded, in a way, to keep her from becoming ill. With that removed suddenly, sickness can strike. She hasn't built up immunities to the sicknesses going around, and by becoming a Drab, her immune system suddenly works far worse than that of other people.

These things combined made her come down with something pretty nasty the very day she put away her Breath. This would have killed her, eventually, if she hadn't done something about it. She would have grown so dizzy and confused that she wouldn't have even been able to walk.

By sending men to find her, Denth saved her life.

Anyway, I feel that these scenes work much better now. We can look at Vivenna's time on the streets in the same surreal sense that she does. They happened in the past, in a strange dream state. In that way, they can seem much longer than just two chapters and a couple of weeks.

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#49

Tortellini (paraphrased)

Someone asked if it were hard to write Jasnah, an atheist character, for a devout Christian.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Brandon said he read a lot of atheist message boards for inspiration. Also, it sounded like he'd had the character in his head for a while, but hadn't found the right book to put it in—e.g. he said it would make no sense to put an atheist in a world where gods walk around (i.e. Warbreaker).

Arcanum Unbounded San Francisco signing () Copy
#50

Questioner

I have a question about process. When you start writing on a series how much of it do you have mapped out in advance and at what point does something that you're writing make you change direction completely?

Brandon Sanderson

What an awesome question. So how much do we have mapped out and how much-- before we start a series in specific-- and how often to we do something that makes us change, to do something else, or whatnot...

...See I had an advantage over Jason in that, when I was writing Mistborn I had just gotten married and my wife had a very lucrative job as a middle school English teacher *laughter* and so I quit my job, which was working at the front desk at a hotel and was able to write full time almost from the get-go. You can thank Emily for that. That she believed in the fiction, she took care of me while I did this work. And so I was able to write all of Mistborn before I had to turn in the first book. Just so that I could make sure that I could make these connections.

These days what I do-- Because I can't do that anymore-- I usually write the first book of a series just-- I write an outline for it and I write the first book without any sort of feeling for the rest of the series. This isn't quite what happened with Stormlight, that's the outlier, but for most things. Like The Reckoners, or the Wax and Wayne books, and stuff like that. Write one book and then with the book in hand and knowing the characters very well I can more accurately feel out what their arcs can be and things like this. Like the problem with being a planner-- I'm very much a planner-- is that if you over-plan your books, your characters feel stale, right? They feel wooden. And so, write that first book, let the characters have a lot of freedom to become who they need to be. And then I outline the rest of the series in great detail, so I can put into the first book any references that I'm going to need for future books in the series. Just so that I can know where things are going. I'll re-write the characters a little bit, so their arcs now match the over-arching arc they will have for the series, and things like this. So most books, it's "Finish the book, then write five pages about each book in the series, and then revise the first book and write the rest of the series."

With Stormlight I spent a lot of time planning the series. It's the one where I have the most time on. It's a different beast entirely. I went into Stormlight knowing what Dalinar's arc was, knowing what Kaladin's arc was, for the whole series and things like this. But I still did a lot...