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EuroCon 2016 ()
#1 Copy

Questioner

You are very famous for being a fast writer, we talked about that in the other conversation, and I'm not going to ask you the secret of your superpower, if you got bit by a spider or something, but I don't want to ask about the discipline of sitting and writing [unclear] straight, or the deadlines of the publishers, because if there's something that is strange about writing, it's that, in your worst moments, when you [unclear] pressure, [unclear] family conflict, you write better, you are more capable of understanding how others feel, how is the world that's around you. And when you're happy, when everything is okay, you have time to find inspiration or the strength to write, because, "The world is amazing, I have these great friends, this great girlfriend, this amazing family to be with. Why do I have to stay five hours closed in my room thinking about people having terrible problems to be happy?" So, how do you make this to keep writing, and having what a fantastic life, with fantastic friends and fantastic fans?

Brandon Sanderson

What a fascinating question, I've never been asked that before! I've been asked thousands, of questions, so that is very interesting. I would say, I am not a writer who writes from a place of pain. Every writer is different, and they find different inspiration. I am best at writing when I am in a place of comfort. And so, I think that most writers are very observant, and this is how we express things in fiction. We pay attention. We listen. For instance, I don't have depression, but Kaladin does. If I waited until I had depression to write Kaladin that would probably be bad, because people with depression, number one, don't want to do anything, and number two, it's just not going to work, right? You just can't sit around and wait to experience everything you want to write. So, for me, it's about research, and listening, and paying attention. I happen to have several people I love dearly who do have depression, and so I talk to them. I take notes. I listen to the things they have to say, and that becomes the foundation for a piece of a character's personality. I don't know, though, maybe I'm just a sadist and I like to do evil things.

Skyward San Diego signing ()
#2 Copy

Questioner

I'm actually a big YA reader, and I became a fan of yours through your YA books; I read The Reckoners first. And I actually found-- to put it in a nice way, some resistance from some of your fans because I like your YA stuff better. But I guess my question would be, what would you say to your readers that are really stuck on Stormlight or your older books that are reluctant to read either yours or other teen books?

Brandon Sanderson

It's really weird to say "adult fantasy" in this context. I once had a panel where they introduced me as the "adult fantasy guy," and I'm like, "Well, yes?"

...I would say, number one kind of most important thing in this is, "Don't feel bad for liking something and not liking something else." This is a big thing to me. It is okay that I hate fish sticks, and some people in this room love fish sticks. And if we acknowledge that writing is an art, and stories are an art, then I think we have to acknowledge that like or dislike of them must kind of have an inherent subjectiveness to it. Because if we all liked the same sort of art, that would not really be a world I want to live in. So it is okay to try things out and say, "This isn't for me." Whether it's written by me or anyone else, that is perfectly all right.

Though I would also say, if you haven't given a try to a genre just because of-- there's a lot of snobbishness to art, at the same time. Like, I was reading an essay recently about how fiction has existed in this state of feeling snubbed by nonfiction, which was the "true" writing, ever since the novel was invented. But of course, once the novel was invented, we started subsetting into different genres where you could be snobbish against other people in that. And then in the subgenres, you're like, "Science fiction is better than furry fanfic," or whatever. So suddenly, all we do is, we spend time being snobbish about somebody else's art that they love. And you see this a lot in science fiction with-- Someone enters reading Eragon, and they love Eragon, and they go somewhere and say, "Eragon's my favorite book ever." And they're like, "Oh, that's just a bad ripoff of Star Wars and Anne McCaffrey." Instead of being like, "Wow, I'm glad you loved something. Welcome to our community." They're like, "Oh, you don't like the right thing." So, if you kind of let this get to you, and you haven't tried any genre, whether it be one of the YA, or a lot of people in Sci Fi/Fantasy (I won't state the specific genres) like to point and say, "Well, at least we're not as tropey as them." I think you will find, in a lot of variety of places, things that you love and you can learn from. And YA in particular, particularly when I was trying to break in, YA had started doing all the really exciting things in Sci Fi/Fantasy. So if you haven't read some Garth Nix from that era, or if you haven't been reading some of the really cool YA. (I just read the Star Touched Queen, which is amazing.) If you haven't been reading some of this stuff, YA has been doing a lot of really cool explorations of setting and genre and stuff like that, then you are doing yourself a disservice not trying it out. You don't have to like it, but I would suggest that you try it out. So that's what I would say.

Shadows of Self Edinburgh UK signing ()
#4 Copy

Questioner

In the first three Mistborn books, and Elantris and Warbreaker, you focus a lot on sort of gods and religion, is there a particular reason for that?

Brandon Sanderson

Why do I focus on gods and religion in my books. Well there's a couple of reasons. The main one is the kind of overarching story of the cosmere, which all my books are connected, there is some divine force named Adonalsium that was broken apart long ago and the scions of that-- people who have that power are showing up and causing problems and things on planets. So that's kind of the hidden epic behind the scenes, and so because of that religion is a very big part of what happens there.

I'm also a religious person. For those who don't know, I'm Mormon, I'm LDS. And so religion is important to me and whatever I'm fascinated by works it's way into my books. Now I'm generally the type of writer who doesn't feel like I should go into a book with a theme, I should explore what the characters are passionate and let the theme manifest naturally. And so I do that a lot, I don't go in saying "Oh I'm going to teach people this" I say "Who is this character, what are they passionate about" But the things I'm interested in you see. That's why you end up with stories about a god who doesn't believe in his own religion, from Warbreaker. Or you end up with these different things, with Kelsier founding a religion to use it, or having people with different types of faith. And I really think that part of the point of fiction is to, for me, to explore different ideas from different angles and try to just tackle them. And so you'll see me coming back to some of the same concepts again and again, because I want to try them from a new angle, see how this person thinks, see how this character deals with it. Because that's just really interesting to me.

Boskone 54 ()
#5 Copy

Questioner

[For Mistborn Era 2-3, with taking technology forward]. Were there specific concerns you had, or concerns you have going forward, about how they will integrate?

Brandon Sanderson

No, I think I’m going to be fine on that. I mean there are things that will pop up, and I’m just used to the fact that I’m just going to have to say, “This is how this works, because we didn’t think of this ahead of time.” I’ll just deal with that. That’s the biggest thing that will probably happen. But, you know, I’m very confident that I can make it work. I’ve done it enough, and I’ve been working on Mistborn long enough. My biggest concern is not that, my biggest concern is that there are a certain segment of fantasy readers who just don’t like guns in their fantasy, and will never get to experience the later era Mistborn books because of that. And that’s just, well, you just have to deal with that.

BookCon 2018 ()
#6 Copy

Questioner

*inaudible*

Brandon Sanderson

You know, I read comic books, but I never really considered writing them. I don't feel I know that format well. I've done a couple graphic novels, but those I always give to a script writer for comic books who's practiced it, let them do it. I haven't really considered ever since I broke-in, because I'd feel like the basketball player playing baseball, you know. You might be okay at it, but might as well let the people who are really good at it, since they're really good at doing it.

Firefight San Francisco signing ()
#7 Copy

Questioner (paraphrased)

Warbreaker had just come out, and I was talking about how you used more comedy in the book, and I was asking about it and everything else, and I was so pleased that you've done such a wonderful job with it, I enjoyed the humor aspects, besides it just sets everything up perfectly.

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

I feel that a great book is going to have a wide range of emotions, so I try to stick various different ones in.

Firefight release party ()
#8 Copy

Questioner

First of all thank you for creating your own justified physics laws for your magic systems. Coming from a scientist I appreciate that, even though--

Brandon Sanderson

My pleasure. I like to have-- You know I was a chemist for one year in college, one year until I washed out. No really what it was… In high school chemistry is about blowing stuff up and doing cool experiments. They use that to trick you. *laughter* Because then you go to college and their like "Great! Now you are doing math equations, all day" And while I loved-- Oh, Eric's over here, he's like "Yes! That's what I love, math equations. Give me more!" I really did enjoy a lot of the concepts, I just did not enjoy the busy work so that's why I jumped ship. But I like my magic to make sense. Don't get me wrong, when I say "Err on the side of awesome" I don't mean "Write your stories in such a way that they don't make sense" but I will often start with "This is a cool image, I want to have work. How can I work out the logistics of that?" That's the difference between me and a science fiction writer. Science fiction writer extrapolates forward to what would happen with technology. I start with something cool and extrapolate backward.

Skyward Anchorage signing ()
#9 Copy

Questioner

How do you go about jumping from something like Stormlight into a science fiction instead, of something like Skyward?

Brandon Sanderson

This is an interesting question for me because, as a writer, I don't look at genre trappings perhaps the same way that you might. I look at story structure and genre trappings as two very different things. Two very important things, but two very different things. And story structure is different.

For instance, the Bridge Four sequence from Way of Kings and the movie Hoosiers and the book Ender's Game are all what we call underdog sports stories. And those are three different stories in three different genre trappings. Modern-day, science fiction, and fantasy; and yet all three of them use the same plot archetype as the core of their story. And you'll find, for instance, that a buddy cop movie and a regency romance will sometimes use the exact same plot archetypes, despite being different subgenres. And so, as a writer, one of the things we do is we start to learn to divide plot archetype, character archetype, genre trappings, and all of these things to build the story that we want to with the feel we want to.

So that's kind of like, when people ask me, "Star Wars. Science fiction, or fantasy?" Well, it's a fantasy plot archetype. (Really, it's a western plot archetype, but they both use the same idea.) The plot archetype is fantasy, it's the hero's journey epic; and the genre trappings are science fiction. So I would place it in science fiction, but with fantasy underpinnings.

So when I'm moving from Way of Kings to Skyward, it's not so much about how the shift between fantasy versus science fiction is. Really, the things I'm looking for that are the big shift are: a narrow focus on one character, versus a wide focus on a large cast. That's the biggest difference for me. Also, the kind of setting-as-character in Stormlight Archive, where you're going to get to know this deep setting, versus setting-as-mystery, which is the setting archetype I'm using for Skyward. We don't know what the enemy is. We're trying to figure out what's going on. We don't know our past.

So those sorts of things, I look as very differently as a writer than I think maybe a reader might look at them.

Skyward Seattle signing ()
#10 Copy

Questioner

How do puns work with all-

Brandon Sanderson

How do what work?

Questioner

Puns, because they're speaking different languages?

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, yeah, the books are in translation; you have to imagine I am the translator, and what I am doing is, I am searching for something in our language that best replicates what they said in their language. That is the same thing for things like Veristitalian and stuff like that that uses Latin in our world. That's indicating it's using a similar older language in their world to build the thing. So you have to understand Wit doesn't actually say that exact pun, he says something that is a pun that I translate into English into a similar pun.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#11 Copy

diffyqgirl

What is writing plot twists in a world with online theory forums like? It always seemed to me like it must be incredibly hard to be clever enough that the theory forums don't figure everything out, while still dropping enough hints to keep the casual readers from being confused. As an example, while there were plenty of surprising things in Oathbringer, I had kind of forgotten that the characters didn't know that humans aren't native to Roshar.

Brandon Sanderson

Well, there are a lot of ways to look at this. The one you highlight was a particularly tricky one, because the books have to work on multiple layers. First, they have to keep the hardcore fans interested. Secondly, they have to work for what the characters know. But thirdly, they can't be so obtuse that they edge out the readers who don't follow every detail on the forums.

With the specific element you mentioned, I tried to layer a reveal that would act as a twist for the readers with a separate one that would shock the characters (but which the majority of the fanbase had already figured out.) But on in the long run, I've realized that trying to one-up the fanbase is a bad path to go down--I have to accept that people are going to guess what I'm going to do, because there are only so many rational things that are in-character that the characters can do. And going outside that requires either bad characterization or bad foreshadowing.

Therefore, one of the best methods is to point the tension away from certain questions toward others that depend on character strength. For example, "Will modern Knights Radiant be able to get armor?" is a weak question, and one that is pretty obviously answered in the books already. But "Will this character be able to work out their issues enough to progress in the oaths" is a stronger question, as it is in doubt--and depends on how the choices the character makes.

Given the option, though, I'd rather live in this era where I can get away with stronger demands upon readers in terms of continuity than you used to be able to reasonably do. I think it makes it easier to do the types of stories I like to tell.

/r/fantasy AMA 2017 ()
#12 Copy

Job601

Your books are unusual for the fantasy genre in that they are interested in exploring traditional Christian values, usually coming down in their favor (especially faith in providence and the willingness to believe in a divine plan for the world and the individual, something which comes up again and again in your work.) At the same time, your characters have reason to be suspicious of the specific forms of religious practice in their worlds, and the cult of the survivor in particular can be read as a conflicted portrayal of religion: it's a kind of religious belief which works in some way for its faithful despite being based on a falsehood, and Kelsier is a kind of dark parody of Christ. The cosmere seems to have an implicit theology which separates the truly divine, which is fundamentally inaccessible even to the most knowledgeable characters, from the apparently divine shards and splinters. I guess my question is, how do you think about integrating religious themes into a fantasy universe, particularly given your systematic style?

Brandon Sanderson

There are a lot of things mixing here--more, probably, than I'm aware of myself. (This is the sort of area where I let reader analysis and criticism do the work, as they're probably going to be able to notice connections more explicitly than I will. Like most writers, I'm working by instinct much of the time.)

One element I can talk about is the need for the cosmere to have questions that will go unanswered. This is most expressly manifest in the "big" questions. Is there a God? What is the actual afterlife like, if there really is one? Is there such a thing as a soul, and are cognitive shadows the actual person, or a manifestation of the magic imitating a person's thought processes?

The reason I don't answer these as myself (though characters certainly have ideas) is because I feel it important the text not undermine the characters who choose not to believe in these things. Though I think I've found answers in life, people rationally disagree with me--and to express only my worldview in the books would severely hamper my ability to have characters who disagree with me, and other characters.

In short, if I were to say, "Yes, there's an all-powerful God" then it would directly undermine characters like Jasnah, who argue otherwise. At the same time, I want characters like Kelsier to develop naturally, and do things that are in line with how sometimes, religions develop on our world, without having it be a statement. (Or, at least one other than, "Hey, this happens some time on our world. It happened here too.")

Fantasy offers some unique opportunities to explore the human condition with religion, and I want to take advantage of that, to see where it takes me and to see what I can learn from the process.

Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing ()
#13 Copy

Questioner

You mentioned one time that there were guards hiding under the bed and in a secret room when Siri first goes to the God King?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, I at least imagined it that way.

Questioner

Do you always add details like that in your imagination?

Brandon Sanderson

It's very frequently I do. Just cause I want to be a few steps ahead. And I want to be making sure that my motives for the characters—particularly the side characters, we're not seeing through their eyes, make sense. Motives are really important to me.

Publishers Weekly Q & A ()
#14 Copy

Michael M. Jones

Are there any particular messages that you hope readers will take away from this book?

Brandon Sanderson

I don't really go into books with a message. I like to explore the characters and their passions, and the theme, without any overt agenda. I just want readers to be able to see through the eyes of people who are different from them, to see that our biases do affect how we perceive the world—and that's both a good and bad thing. I just want them to come out of the story saying, "That was great, let me think about this some more."

Oathbringer San Diego signing ()
#15 Copy

Questioner

You were talking about change. Do you-- A lot of fantasy has this cyclic nature to it, as to the linear nature that a lot of times we think about. How do you think that plays with the idea of change, if you're just doing the same thing over again?

Brandon Sanderson

No, that's a great question... What I love about fantasy is the ability to play with theme. Obviously, with The Wheel of Time, this was one of the themes, that history repeats itself, which is a theme of our world as well, and things like this. I like how they're able to play with that. One of the things we do in fantasy is, we take a few concepts, and we'll often just kind of throw realism out the window, in order to try and do something. And that's the whole point of fantasy, right? Realism's out the window. We'll make you feel like it's plausible, but realism's out the window. We're gonna have a society that doesn't change very much across 2000 years of time, and then we're gonna have them change dramatically in a year and a half. And this concept allows you to exaggerate the things that we've all kind of felt in our life, that change is outpacing our ability to keep track of it, and play with that concept of nostalgia vs keeping up with change, and I think Robert Jordan did a really good job with that. And I wouldn't look at the genre and say "The genre is backward-thinking" because of that-- And some people do. Because I feel that fantasy, like science fiction, is fundamentally about the now, that's what we write about. Science fiction and fantasy approach it differently, but Stormlight Archive is not about what it's like to live a long time ago. I don't know what that's like. I'm not a historian. I'm writing about the now through the lens of everything I'm kind of interested and passionate about... The idea of what I'm interested and passionate about ends up in the books, even if I don't think about putting it in directly. This is how I explore the world.

Skyward Chicago signing ()
#16 Copy

Questioner

At this point, so far out from Oathbringer, what are the best and hardest things about having spent a lot of time writing about mental illnesses?

Brandon Sanderson

One of the reasons why I approached Stormlight the way I did is, during the intervening years, during those seven years, I got to know very deeply some people who we would call non-psychonormative, I think is a good way to say it. And I began to see that the various different ways we perceive ourselves and the various different ways we perceive our own mental processes influence a lot of how we act and who we are. And I also noticed, speaking to them, that a lot of my friends were a little--and there's no problem if you like these--but they're a little tired of every book that represented their mental illness in a story was all about the mental illness. That the book was only just how to cope with mental illness, which are great stories. But they're like, if you look at the statistics, psychonormative is not the norm. In fact, it seems to be this mythical person that doesn't exist, in that the way that all of us think is different, and in some of us it can be really impairing for our lives. And in some of us, the same thing that's impairing to our lives defines who we are. You guys want a really good book about this, Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon is a fantastic look at this.

But this all became really interesting to me. When I was looking at my characters, one of the things I noticed, for instance, I kind of used the pop science version of autism in Elantris. The more I actually got to know people with autism, the more I saw that the Rain Man version was a very extreme representation of something that is something a lot of people deal with, the way they see the world, and I started thinking, "You know, if I'm gonna create real characters in my books, this is something I need to be looking at." And it wasn't that I set out to say, "I'm going to write a book about lots of people with mental illnesses. I said, "I'm going to write a book about a lot of people who are like the people I know. And some of them think in different ways than others." And again, in some of them, that's a thing that they don't want to think that way. And it can be really impairing. But it's not that the story-- The Stormlight Archive is not about mental illness. The Stormlight Archive is about a lot of people that I wanted to try to make as real as I could, and that I also wanted to approach some things that haven't been approached, I thought, in fantasy fiction.

What are some of the advantages? Well, I think the story has been very eye-opening to me. It's hard to talk about advantages and disadvantages in light of this. What are the "disadvantages"? I am walking through a minefield, and I have blown my foot off multiple times. And I think this is part of that whole failure thing as a writer. If I hadn't perhaps done it poorly in some of my books, I wouldn't have had the chance to talk to people who are like, "I really appreciate the book and what you're trying. Here's how, if you ever did this again, you might approach making it feel more realistic." And that made me a better person, not just a better writer, and so in some ways that disadvantage is the advantage. But that is the thing. I have blown my foot off on several landmines. And I will probably continue to do so.

EuroCon 2016 ()
#17 Copy

Questioner

I would not like to say commonplace, but there are some prejudices of people when they read you, when they read your work, because of the religious elements, right? This can be a challenge, but there are three things that are absolutely important in your work. One is faith, the other one is moral, what you organize around faith, and then you always, always have the critical spirit that really fights against all of this, and that tries to find value. And this is very peculiar, because you were discussing very transcendental, very important things with this touch of spirituality, but there's always reason and a critical spirit underneath. I would like to know whether you could explore this farther?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. It is something I have thought about a lot as well. I am a man of faith. I am religious. I am Latter-day Saint for those who don't know. And I am a man of science. I was a chemistry major originally in college, and I am a very big believer, at the same time, in skepticism and logic, and I have a somewhat more rational approach to my faith than perhaps many others do. But I'm not sure if even that is true, I just think that many people are not as vocal as some of those who are faithful, but determinedly ignorant, also.

I feel that, as a writer, one of my mandates is to express multiple viewpoints on topics, and try to work through them by having rational people, sympathetic people, on multiple sides of an argument. Few things bother me in fiction more than a cast of characters who all agree on some topic, except for one idiot who exists to be proven wrong. I don't think that's who we find truth. I think we find truth through disagreement by people who all have good arguments. When two people who disagree discuss an issue, and both listen to each other, both learn, and their understanding of the world expands. And because of my own inherent biases, by being religious, one of the things I seek very strongly to do is to make sure that the opposing opinion to what I believe is strongly represented by someone making the arguments that that side would make if they were writing the book. A falsehood or a weak belief can survive dumb challenges to it, but truth can survive good arguments against it, is what I believe. So you can see, I'm very fascinated by this topic, and the things that fascinate me come out in my books, but it is very important to me that my stories be about questions and not about answers, because of all of this, that questions lead to truth, and thinking you have answers don't go anywhere.

Words of Radiance Omaha signing ()
#18 Copy

Questioner

We all appreciate that you write real heroes who always try to do what's right, instead of the anti-hero.

Brandon Sanderson

There is a lot of anti-hero out there right now.  And I will let that to other writers.  I am more interested in people who are basically good people who are sometimes put in very difficult situations.  That is more fascinating to me than someone who has no morals or has very little of them.  

JordanCon 2014 ()
#19 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Hoid waxes poetic on the idea that the more people expect, the more difficult it becomes for the artist. This is more the critic in me having noticed that my own expectations for a piece play dramatically into how much I enjoy it. Some of my best experiences at the cinema have been films where I had no idea what to expect. The Sixth Sense was like this for me. I had never heard of the film, my friends dragged me to it, they said it's a horror and I said "I'm not sure if I want to watch a slasher pic, but I think it's going to be terrible but whatever." And I watched it and it was a great movie and I came out of it saying, "Wow, I did not expect that." And yet something like The Dark Knight Returns, which is a fantastic film, well done. Yet the second film was so good that I went into the third film and it wasn't quite as good as the second film and I came out and said, "Eh." Where it is a great film and yet my expectations-- It's unfair to the artist but it is the way I think a lot of us work. That our expectations do play a lot into how our experience is for the story. A lot of things when I go into things like that, I'm not trying to let the author speak so much as I'm trying to say what would someone who analyzes art like a critic in my analyzes art what would be an observation they would make. Hoid is not me and he does not voice necessarily my personal opinions, but he is an artist and a critic and so he notices some of the things I notice.  

Children of the Nameless Reddit AMA ()
#20 Copy

cantoXV1

Did you struggle with the limits of the Magic world and magic system since you're so used to creating your own?

Brandon Sanderson

I worried about this a lot when going into the Wheel of Time--but I found that I really like taking an established magic system and pushing it this direction or that direction. It's a lot of fun to me to dig into how something works, and see if I can "break" it in interesting ways.

I suspected I'd have a similar experience with MTG, and I did--though I did need something I could play with to be unique. I settled on the kind of "Gonti/Nightveil Specter" ability to steal spells from someone else, then use them yourself. This was a really fun space for me to play with, and I found it thoroughly engaging.

Idaho Falls signing ()
#21 Copy

Questioner

Are you cameo'ing as a [Seventeenth Shard] character, worldhopper, in any of your books?

Brandon Sanderson

You know, I haven't really wanted to do that, I'm not sure why. If we did movies, I would want cameos. But I haven't cameo'd myself in the books. I was tempted more in Wheel of Time than in my own books. But, I think since we already have this connection thing happening with Hoid and stuff, I don't want to imply that I am Hoid or something like this, if that makes sense. Clive Cussler did that, it was always fun to find him in the book. I don't know, it's never been something that I wanted to do.

Questioner

There's just kind of a Where's Waldo for him.

Brandon Sanderson

When I first started this, I wanted Hoid to be a real thing, so I was putting this in. I feel like if I started doing cameos for me also, one would be silly and one would not be, and it'd kind of confuse the--

Rhythm of War Preview Q&As ()
#22 Copy

simon_thekillerewok

That's interesting that you had this DID direction planned for Shallan since the beginning (pre-Way of Kings I presume). I had just assumed it was something that you developed in between WoR and Oathbringer. I know you've commented on subjects related to this before - but in light of what you're saying about leaning away from the fantastical, I'm curious to know if you think that if Shallan had become, say, an Edgedancer instead (or just never continued in her truths), that she would have developed DID and those aspects regardless? Or would she just have had her trauma manifest in other ways (such as other dissociative disorders like depersonalization/derealization/amnesia)?

Brandon Sanderson

I would say that she would have gone the same way she has, but the manifestations of her disassociation would have been different. But this is something I could perhaps waver on.

LewsTherinTelescope

I've seen quotes from you before that you didn't intend her to actually have DID, is that just about it originally being more fantastical, and now you're trying to make it actually be realistic more?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, that's what is happening here. I originally shied away from it, as I didn't want to open that can of worms--but then, I realized I was opening it anyway, and the only way to be honest was to admit what I was doing and get some people who have DID themselves to advise me.

I think, in hindsight, I was trying to take too much of an easy path--and the path that didn't require me to do the work like I needed to

pweepweemuggins

Aha! So that's what you did. I immediately noted in the first chapters that Shallan's illness seemed to have gotten worse. I thought that it was you alludIng to a downward spiral of the characters in conjunction with the world of Roshar - which made sense because, if you place a mentally ill person in a world with no access to mental healthcare and then make their situation worse, what would happen? Their mental illness would get worse.

I'm surprised that it was just a change in the way you write her.

If you had the option to go back and revise all of her chapters that way, would you?

Because as it is, the real-ness and definition of her other egos reads like a downward spiral.

Brandon Sanderson

What you're noticing is not just me changing the way I'm writing her. More, I realized that her downward spiral was going to require me to actively deal with her mental illness in a responsible way, if that makes sense.

I wouldn't change much about the past books. It was more that I realized that the place she was going in this one required a more delicate touch than I could manage without some expert help.

Oathbringer San Diego signing ()
#23 Copy

Questioner

Is there any magic system you consider softer? And any magic system you consider harder than most of the general audience would think they are?

Brandon Sanderson

...So, this is gonna dig into definitions of what you consider a soft and a hard magic system. And I don't know that we can come to an agreement on this in such a large crowd. I do think that sometimes Harry Potter gets a bad reputation for being a soft magic system where I feel like Harry Potter's a really good study in how you can have a very rule-based magic system for one book. Though she tends to ignore her own rules book-to-book, but that's okay, because that's what the story is. It's a hybrid, where it's really hard for one book, and the rules set up in that book are then used to great effect, and in the next book we get a new set of rules. Which is, you know, the same way that James Bond does it and things like this. Kind of resetting her magic a little bit between books. Not completely, Harry-Potter-philes, I'm not trying to trash on it. I think it's interesting to look at, because I think people don't understand what she's doing, some of the times, with that magic. But whether something is hard or soft doesn't really matter to me in general. It's the sort of thing I think people expect me to think about a lot. I just want the story to work, right? I don't care if it's a hard magic or a soft magic, if it's low magic, if it's high magic. If the story works, and the magic is in service of the story, I'm gonna like it, regardless of what it is. Even if it's-- like, people will be like, "I bet you hate those elemental magic system, where it's just the same old magic system." I'm like, no! My favorite magic system is probably The Wheel of Time, which is an elemental magic system. Even a step away from that, Jim Butcher's Codex Alera did an elemental magic system really well. It doesn't-- There's nothing that's just, like, "You shouldn't do this, you shouldn't do that." Tell a good story.

Skyward San Diego signing ()
#24 Copy

Questioner

Do you ever feel like, as the author of these stories, you are basically the God of these books?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. It feels-- Honestly, I would look at it more-- The better way I feel is more like the historian. I've constructed the story in the outline, and now as the historian I'm writing it out and recording it. Because it's already kind of happened to me as the outline doing it. So I feel more like that. Like, I'm gonna do what the story demands. I'm not sitting there playing God, like, "I'm doing this to you!" I'm like, "This is what the right story is, and I'm going to write it."

Questioner

When you have to make changes, do you ever feel like you're betraying something in your story, when you have to make a change that maybe you weren't planning on?

Brandon Sanderson

No, it's the other way around. I never have made a change I haven't been comfortable with. It's only if I feel a story's gonna be stronger and it's better for the characters. A revision is more like an exploration of "Something was wrong in this, I did it wrong the first way. I'm gonna try to nudge it toward the way it should be." And when I can't do that, that's when I have to pull the book, because I can't figure out what it should be, if that makes any sense. It's kind of nebulous. But I'm trying to get it closer and closer to the perfect version of the story I'm trying to tell.

Idaho Falls signing ()
#25 Copy

Questioner

I have a question about the epilogue in The Way of Kings. You have Wit give this interesting, kind of philosophical-- sermon-thing on novelty. I wonder, what do you think about what he's saying, do you--

Brandon Sanderson

Usually those little things that Wit will do, he does one at the end of each book, are things I've thought about. I don't always one hundred percent agree with Wit. He tends to hyperbolize in order to make a point, but I do think it's really interesting that novelty is so important to us. Even if you did something independently, but come up with it after someone else, then it's not considered as great an art, right? Which is really, really, really interesting if you think about it. And I love that idea, and I like talking about that sort of thing, so these-- All of Wit's little monologues--there's one, like I've said, at the end of each book--is something I think about, but he goes off in his own direction sometimes.

Questioner

I've used that little monologue in some philosophy class that I've in, such as philosophy of art.  

Brandon Sanderson

I did take a-- I took a lot of philosophy classes, if you can't tell, during my undergraduate years. I was quite fond of philosophy. Though the philosophers were all really needed to learn how to write. Man, those guys just, I mean, paragraphs like this that don't really even say anything. I love the ideas, but man, they could use editors. But, yeah, I enjoyed my philosophy classes, and I really liked philosophy of art in particular, it's very interesting to me. The whole Oscar Wilde's intro to Dorian Gray is my favorite speech on art, that all art is, by necessity, useless. Stuff like that really, really gets me going.

Read For Pixels 2018 ()
#26 Copy

Anushia Kandasivam

Vin stands out to us at the Pixel Project because she went through a lot of abuse in her young life, physical and psychological, at the hands of family and people that she should have been able to trust. She is a survivor, and with the help of her new friends she eventually finds self-worth, she realizes she can overcome her past trauma, she grows as a person. The question is, why did you decide to write a character with this kind of background, and what kind of research did you do to write the character who is an abuse survivor?

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah. So, two part question. First up: How and why did I decide. There are two main parts to this. One is, I knew I was writing in the world of Mistborn, a very less than perfect society. Let's just put it at that. The pitch for myself was, what if Sauron had won? What if you had to grow up in Mordor? I felt that if I had a character who was untouched by that, that the story would lack sincerity. If the only main character was someone who had somehow avoided that, there would be a certain-- like I said, lack of sincerity. There would be a certain, sort of-- I feel that, when you're writing stories, one of the things you should be looking to is to let characters who are part of a problem, solve the problem, rather than people outside the problem coming in to fix the problem. It's generally stronger storytelling, and generally more respectful of people who have had these life experiences themselves. So, I knew I needed someone who had been through a lot of trauma, because of the things we needed to change in this society.

The other part about it was planning-- I am an outliner, with my plots and my worlds and my characters, I discovery write. And oftentimes, what I'll do when I start a book is I'll start with multiple attempts at writing a person into that world. It's almost like I have a bunch of actors come in and try out for the part. I wrote three very different first chapters for that book, and the one that worked was the Vin you ended up with. What drew me to her as a character was the mix of strength and vulnerability at the same time, that she has. It's hard to explain why I came up with that, because really, as a writer, you're just kind of searching for someone whose voice works and whose soul matches that of the story. And it gets very mystical, for me, when you talk about characters, which I don't like, I like to be able to break things down, and talk about how it works and why I made the choice I did. But I made the choice of Vin because Vin was right. Part of that was, she was solving a problem that she had been directly-- that had directly affected her life.

How did I go about doing it right? This is where the best research that I get is reading the stories of people who are willing to share them with the rest of us. Reading firsthand accounts from people who are willing, because that takes a lot of bravery. It takes a lot of-- it's not something I could ever ask anyone to do, but it is something that people offer. On their blogs, and on forums, and spending your time listening to what people say, and trying to get the characters to express the way that these people would express it if they could write that character in their story, is one of my main goals. In fact, I think that's my prime mandate as a writer, is, try to write the characters like the people who have their life experience or beliefs would write them if they had my skill as a writer. And, so I spent a lot of time on blogs, I spent a lot of time on forums, and I wasn't ever posting on these, I was just listening. And then I made sure I had some good readers. Shallan has gone the same way. I can directly credit some very helpful beta readers who have had life experience similar to Shallan's, which have made sure, at least I hope I do this right, and always do better, that I'm walking a line between not sensationalizing, and not glorifying, but using this person's life experience to help them become the person that they want to become.

Anushia Kandasivam

And is that why we don't learn about the characters abuse on screen-- it's never on screen, it's always in their thoughts-- did you purposely write it like this because you didn't want...

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. This was very, very conscious. I feel like one of the biggest traps that writers in fantasy fall into, is using abuse of women, specifically, but all people who are in positions of lacking power, as a means of proving how bad your villains are, or how heroic your heroes are. I think that there are certain authors who are really good at doing this without making it a sense that this is how the world is. So it's not me pointing fingers and saying you shouldn't do that, but I felt that if I was to put it on screen, I don't think I could handle it without sensationalizing it. And by making it there, but never explicit, I think everyone knows it was there, I think everyone knows that Vin suffered abuse, but I could write a story that can deal with overcoming these things without having to sensationalize the thing itself.

MisCon 2018 ()
#27 Copy

Brainless

If you had a chance to go back for Elantris and the early Mistborn books and stuff like that, would you potentially consider adding more crossover characters, because you did put Hoid in all of those, but would you potentially put other smaller things from other planets, like other worldhoppers, in it?

Brandon Sanderson

So, the cheeky answer to this is, I've read The Monkey's Paw, and I've read enough science fiction stories to know that if someone says "Do you want to change this thing about your past?" that you say "No." Because depending on the writer you are either going to end up in a horror story, or you are going to have to learn some lesson about how important you are, or your family is, and then it will all be a dream, so no, I wouldn't.

But really the answer is no, I wouldn't change. I like the fact that the cosmere has a very light touch on those early books. I like it in part because I feel like people who are just getting into my fiction, I don't want them to feel like they have to follow everything to enjoy one book. And yeah, I'm adding little bits more into Stormlight, but that's inevitable because so much will take place in Shadesmar, which by it's nature is far more cosmere-aware, and so we're going to have to do more things the further Stormlight gets and the further Mistborn gets, because it will become inevitable. And that's fine, I'm embracing that. The further we go in the cosmere, the more you're going to have to be on board for the idea of the crossovers working. But I don't want the initial books that you get into to have to be like that. I was very intentional with my light touch on those early cosmere books and I wouldn't go back and add more. Even Way of Kings, right? Has what has Hoid and Felt in it, and that's just about it.

Chaos

Felt's in Words of Radiance.

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, is he in Words of Radiance? He's not even in Way of Kings.

Several Questioners

*talking over each other*

Brandon Sanderson

Yeah, you saw Galladon, you saw the seventeenth shard. So there's like one scene in the whole book, maybe two, depending, but Hoid isn't even very Hoid-like in that first one. It's the second one where he mentions Adonalsium and stuff—

Several Questioners

*correct the previous statement*

Brandon Sanderson

Is it the first one? It's the first one. It's that party at the thing with Dalinar. So there's two scenes in Way of Kings, and that's very intentional. By the time we get to the second stage Stormlight books, and the fourth stage Mistborn books, you'll just have to be on-board. But by then you're entrenched. If you're reading Stormlight seven, then the Stormlight series is already longer than everything else, so you might as well just've read everything else.

Read For Pixels 2018 ()
#28 Copy

Anushia Kandasivam

Stories are one of the most powerful ways of bringing about change. In your opinion, how can authors strike a balance in their storytelling between raising awareness about things like violence against women, while telling an engaging story, without being pedantic or preachy?

Do you think it's important for influential authors such as yourself, who are read all over the world, to make a conscious effort to include characters in your stories that show reinforcements of respecting women as people and as human beings?

Brandon Sanderson

Definitely a big "yes" to your last one.

This is a big issue, and I'm glad you asked it, because it's something I've thought about quite a bit. At its core, it comes down to, "How do you write a story that explores difficult questions without preaching." Because, at the end of the day, we're picking up an epic fantasy book because we want to go to a new world, enjoy this new world, and have an interesting adventure. And we're not picking up it up because they want Brandon Sanderson to lecture them. And certainly, there are authors I do read to be lectured. So it's not a blanket statement, "This is how someone should do something."

But for me, there's a couple of core tenets. One is the one I've already mentioned. Which is, if I'm going to put a character in (which I think I should put a wide variety of characters in) approaching questions from different directions, make sure that I am researching that person's viewpoint, people who have that viewpoint in the real world, and make sure I'm doing the job that they would want me to do with their position, their subculture, their belief structure, and things like this.

But that kind of plays into another big... pillar of what I think my duty as a writer to do, which I've expressed it in the books, I've gotten it through things I've heard other authors write. Which is "Raise questions. Don't give answers." I believe that if you are raising questions, and having multiple people who are all sympathetic disagreeing on this question, or struggling with this question in different ways, it innately makes the reader start to say, "Well, what do I think about that? And is it something that I need to think about more?" And not dodging these topics, but also not coming down with long sermons about them, I think, is the way that I want to be able to approach them.

I often share this story, so I apologize if some of you heard it before. But the book that got me into science fiction and fantasy was Dragonsbane, by Barbara Hambly. And Dragonsbane, by Barbara Hambly, is criminally under-read in the science fiction/fantasy community. I have read it again as an adult, it holds up, it is a fantastic novel. What made Dragonsbane work for me? I was a fourteen-year-old boy who was handed this novel by his English teacher, and she said, "I think you are reading below your level. I think you would like something a little more challenging. Why don't you try one of these books on my shelf." And that's the one that I ended up picking up. This book should not have worked for a fourteen-year-old boy, if you read the Cliffnotes on how to get a reluctant reader to read books.

Dragonsbane, if you haven't read it, is about a middle-aged woman who is having a crisis as she tries to balance having a family and learning her magic. Her teacher has told her she can be way better at the magic if she would dedicate more time to it, but her family takes a lot of her time. And this is her main character conflict through the story. Now, it also involves going and slaying a dragon, and things like this. And it's a wild adventure with some excellent worldbuilding, and a really interesting premise. The story is about having to kill a dragon, her partner has been asked to slay a dragon, he's the only person who's ever slayed a dragon, but he killed a dragon when he was in his 20's, and now he's middle-aged, and he's like, "I can't do that like I used to anymore." And together, they go down and try to figure out how to kill a dragon when you're an old person. But this story should, on paper, not have worked for me, but it was the most amazing thing I'd ever read in my life.

Meanwhile, my mother graduated first in her class in accounting in a year where she was the only woman in most of her accounting classes. She had been offered, as she graduated, a prestigious scholarship to go become a CPA. And she actually turned that down because of me. She was having me as a child, and she decided that she would put off her education and career for a few years. She is now the head accountant for the city of Idaho Falls power plant, so she did go back to her career, but she put that off for me. Now, as... a middle school kid, if you told me the story, I'd be like, "Of course she did. I'm awesome. I'm me. Of course she would do that. That's the right thing to do." I read this book, and I'm like, "Oh, ditch your kids, woman. You could be a wizard!" I got done with this book, and I realized: I just read a fantasy book about slaying a dragon. High fantasy, all the stuff that should have just been brain popcorn. And yet, I got done with this book, and I understood my mother better. And it hit me like a ton of bricks, that a story could teach me about my mom in some ways better than living with her for fourteen years, because I was a stupid kid who wouldn't listen, and assumed he had the answers. But when I saw through someone else's eyes, who was very different from myself, that changed the way I saw the world.

This is why stories are important. This is why it is important-- if you're writers out there, it's why your stories are important. When you ask, "Well, what can I write that's new?" You can write who you are. And that will be new. And that is valuable in and of itself. Those stories have value because you're telling them. And this is what stories do. And this is how, I think, I want to be approaching telling stories. I want people to read the stories, and I don't want them to feel lectured to. But I want them to see the world through the eyes of someone who sees it in a very different way. Maybe that'll make them, make you, make all of us think a little harder about some of the things in our lives.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#29 Copy

thegatorgirl00

What made you decide to release chapters in advance for Skyward and Oathbringer? I personally don't like reading books in this format and haven't for either novel since it's harder for me to get sucked into and lose myself in the story when it's split up, so I'm wondering what gave you the idea for it.

Brandon Sanderson

I've always disliked doing summaries of my books--I feel that I'm not nearly as good at it as I am at just writing them. My instinct going back to when I began trying to break in was that if I could skip the summary and just get someone reading the story, it would be more efficient.

The releases done this way are, hopefully, to get people talking about the book. I realize that a lot of readers who like my work are just going to wait and read the book when it comes out, but (particularly with Oathbringer) releasing chapters like this was a good way to get some conversations about it started.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#30 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

So my method of plotting-- I've been asked about, "Do I use seven-point story structure? Do I use three act format?" I actually don't use any of these things. So they're tools that I think are good to study. For me I use just a very simple: Promise, Progress, Payoff. This is what I focus on for plot,and I subdivide my stories into subplots and things and say, "What's the promise? How do I early on promise what type of plot this is. What's the progress? What's the payoff?" And you're asking how do you make sure that the hype lives up to the promise, and that is dangerous. The longer you go between books, the more that hype almost like-- I feel part of the-- If you're looking at The Wheel of Time, there were books when we fans were waiting for them to come out, that we were super frustrated by when they came out, that when I reread them in the whole series I didn't-- were less bothered by. It felt like, when I waited three years for something, the hype of what that needed to deliver was way different than when it was book ten bridging between book nine and eleven. And so that is a consideration.

My job-- I think that if your progress is right, if you can kind of-- like if you say, "We're moving towards something here," this is the sort of emotional reaction you're going to get from it by showing-- for instance, an easy way to talk about this is a mystery, right? If you want the mystery to be really cool, then it's your progress toward the mystery that's going to indicate what kind of reveal and surprise that's going to be. If, you know, the characters discovering clues and getting more and more horrified, then the payoff at the end has to be something horrific, right? But if they're like, "Ooo! This connection and this connection together are making something really interesting. If I can just figure this out then it'll click together." Then the payoff is, instead of discovering horror, the payoff is then, "Oh, this comes together and I understand now." So you need the reader to understand that's their kind of payoff, is it clicks for them like it does for the character. And it's really-- that progress is the most important of those three in a lot of ways. If you can indicate to the reader, "This is just going to be satisfying. This character is finally going to let down this burden. That's the progress we're working toward. It's not going to be a surprise, it's just going to be satisfying. That's how you do that.

There are certain things that there's just no avoiding the hype on. In fact, the further the series gets the more I'm worried about that, because-- in part because I'm such a believer in this kind of progress and things like this-- there are very few things, like in the Stormlight for example, that you'll get to that you will be super surprised by if you've been reading the fan forums, because the clues are all there in previous books. And so you just, I think, as a writer have to be okay with, if you're going to lay the foreshadowing, people will figure it out. And I can talk more about like, the third book has some big reveals about the world that I think the casual reader's going to be like, "Woah, mind blown!" where the people who have been on forums are like, "That's it? We've know that for years Sanderson!" But, you know, if you don't-- the only way to really surprise people is to do something completely unexpected. Which is, sometimes can be really nice, but a lot of times it just makes for a twist just to twist for twist's sake, so. I don't know that I've figured this one out a hundred percent across a series, but within a given book, yeah.

Oathbringer Chicago signing ()
#31 Copy

Questioner

If you were to choose a magic system between personalized magic, where each person has their own custom ability, versus one which is an overall thing with branches, which one would you think better? 

Brandon Sanderson

Uh, depends on the story you're trying to tell. They can both be really advantageous. They have their advantages and disadvantages. 

Questioner

But you personally, which one do you like better.

Brandon Sanderson

The branching. 

Words of Radiance San Francisco signing ()
#32 Copy

Questioner

[Complements artwork in The Way of Kings, asks how working with illustrators has changed the way Brandon sees the world]

Brandon Sanderson

One of my initial visions for The Way of Kings was one of these cross-genre books. I wanted to bring illustrations and-- you know there's this sense for whatever reason in contemporary fiction that illustrations are for kids, not for adults. That's not the way it always was. If you go back to the 1800's every book was illustrated, to an extent. And you'd get these beautiful bookplates and things like this that would be in the novels. I wanted to go back to something like that. Though I did want to be aware of the idea that you as a reader are participating, and I wanted to be careful not to define too much what people look like, particularly characters, because I wanted that to be through you.

So I wanted to be doing artwork in the books, but I didn't want to do artwork that was too specific to the characters—other than the cover art. This meant I wanted to do in-world stories, which is how Shallan started to develop as a character. She was based off of Pliny the Elder, as a character and my research about him and some of the people like him; and a little bit about Darwin and his travels and things like this. So I wanted-- I started to build her. She replaced a character in the original Way of Kings, what I call Way of Kings Prime, that I wasn't pleased with.

So I really want to do a lot of artwork for the books, and it's been a lot of fun. One of the first things I did when I went to pitch Way of Kings to Tor was I commissioned artwork of all the characters. Because it was going to be such a visual book, I wanted to have in hand for me reference material on characters, races, things like this. I wanted to have this like world book that you sometimes get in a book afterward, I wanted that in the before. So that I had it all in hand. Because there's a lot of screwy stuff going on in this world.

It really helped me to envision, to visualize how this book was supposed to go. Beyond that it's just awesome. Who here has read Watchmen? Have you guys read Watchmen? If you haven't read Watchmen it's amazing, particularly if you're a comic book geek like me. When I first read Watchmen-- what Watchmen does, it adds all sorts of ephemera. Like one of the characters is creating action figures of all the other characters and trying to market and sell them, and they include his pitch for the action figures and things like that. And it was part of what brought that book to life for me: not just the excellent writing, but it was the idea that this is not just a comic book, this is a comic book plus a world. And I wanted to write books that were not just a book, they were a book plus a world.

It's been a blast. I am in a position where I can hire the artists myself, which allows me to have a lot of control, and so the artwork inside the book is all stuff that I've commissioned. I've gone to the artists and I've talked to them myself, and I've picked my favorite artists and we do this awesome work just as part of it.

Hopefully it's something that people enjoy, it's something that I intend to keep doing and it's been a blast.

General Reddit 2017 ()
#33 Copy

WisdomDoode

I think he is a bit hesitant to incorporate these stuff openly because he thinks that it might be perceived as tokenism. Do I have it right u/mistborn ?

Edit: If Mr. Sanderson decides to show up; the deleted comment was about you mentioning one of your characters was gay but he didn't get a chance to date anyone yet therefore it is not really out there.

Brandon Sanderson

It's partially that, certainly. But in the case of Bridge Four, it's more about the fact that the guys just haven't had time to start many relationships. It's only been a few months, in-world time, between thinking they were doomed to having respectable jobs. Give the fellows some time. Most of the guys, gay or straight, are looking. (Excluding the married ones and the asexual one.)

Wisconservationist

I hope I didn't offend, it was exaggeration for effect, nor do I think the lack of sexual depiction or even mention is done ham-fistedly, there's always a well formed, even subtle, reason WHY your characters don't tend to be particularly sexual, at least not the major POV characters, be it culture or circumstance, I've just noted that it's something of a theme, which I ascribed, perhaps erroneously, to "delicate mormon sensibilities".

Brandon Sanderson

I wasn't offended. I do tend to respond quickly to threads, however, so I know I can come across as terse sometimes. No worries.

By way of conversation, you might enjoy a story from when I was writing the second Mistborn novel. My editor called me one day, and said, "All right. I can't figure it out. Are Vin and Elend having sex or not?" I said, "Of course they are. They've been together for over a year at this point." His response was, "Well, why not say so?"

It was the first chance I had to vocalize something that I hadn't even really figured out myself--something that just felt like the right way to tell my stories. I explained that there were many readers, like my sister, who wanted to be able to pretend that the male lead and female lead in the story were going to do things the way she wanted them to, with a level of chastity that made no sense in the culture. There were other readers who would want to imagine wild Allomancer sex happening every night.

In this case (though it may not be every case in my books) I felt it was best not to intrude as the author, as what was going on in the bedroom wasn't plot relevant. In addition, there was a certain...privacy I wanted to afford them, because of Vin's difficulty with intimacy in the first place. I don't know if that makes any sense or not, but while Wayne's sexual exploits can be front-and-center, it felt specifically wrong to go into Vin and Elend.

That said, I'm totally a prude. The Daenerys chapters from A Game of Thrones, for example, were too much for me, and are a large part of why I didn't continue with the series despite thinking the first book was very well written.

You should go listen to the Writing Excuses episode we did where we interviewed an erotica writer on how to write sex scenes. Mary spent basically the entire episode poking fun at me. (Though I'd like the record to stand that I was NOT blushing as much as she implies on the recording.)

MisCon 2018 ()
#34 Copy

Questioner

What do you feel about the role of allegory? The whole debate between Lewis and Tolkien. But connected to that, the other side of it, how do you feel about the duty of fiction to say something good, or send a message...

Brandon Sanderson

So, where I fall on that is, I fall on Tolkien's side. In my own fiction, I do not want my fiction to be an allegory of anything other than "Here is how some people see the world." And I think that that is a powerful thing that fiction does, is it shows different perspectives on the same issues. I stole a quote that I swear was from Robert Jordan. I hope someone finds it one day, where said he wrote his stories to give people interesting questions. He didn't write his stories to give them answers. And I put that as a quote from one of my characters in one of my books. I haven't been able to find where Robert Jordan said that, but I swear he said it at some point. That the idea is, that I think fiction is about questions and not answers. But that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy reading Phillip Pullman, who's like, "This is an allegory for my life experience." I enjoy reading C.S. Lewis. I don't enjoy certain authors, we won't extrapolate further along that path. But there are lots of authors that have written books as allegory that I think are great books. A Christmas Carol is an allegory. It's a great allegory, it's fun, but that's not how I generally write. I generally write by saying, "Who is this person? What are they passionate about?" I will look for theme in what the characters are struggling with and bring that theme out as a manifestation of the characters, but I won't go in saying "I'm gonna teach people about the nature of honor." But maybe one of the characters is really interested in the nature of honor, and so they'll talk about it.

Read For Pixels 2018 ()
#35 Copy

Anushia Kandasivam

Now you just talked about writing characters that are flawed. Your female characters are generally flawed in some way, as are all people, nobody's perfect. And of course there are women who are villains. So my question is, when you write female characters, do you ever feel pressured by gender and cultural stereotypes to make them likeable or relatable? Do you ever get any flack for not making a female character likeable enough?

Brandon Sanderson

I have not really gotten flack. I think these-- this is the sort of thing that we worry will happen to us, and we use an excuse... just kind of in the back of our mind without it actually really being an issue. I think, readers want interesting characters who are strong character archetypes, that doesn't mean unflawed. And I think, as readers that's what we want. But there are long standing sort of assumptions, that you can't do this, or can't do that.

One of the things that I kind of had to push through when I was writing, and again, I am not the perfect example of how to do these sorts of things. There are people, particularly women authors, you should listen to more than you listen to me, talking about things like feminism, right? Go watch Feminist Frequency, or something like that if you want to-- if you want to get a real in-depth and well done look at it.

But I noticed at least for me, one of the things that happens is, you start off, determined to not fall into the stereotypes, whatever it is. You know, we'll talk about in terms of sexism, right. So what you do when-- men do this a lot, but women do this with male characters also. This does happen, you just don't see it as often, where what happens, you say "I'm going to make sure, that I am writing this person who is different from me, in a way that's not going to be at all offensive." And so the first step you take is you make them just awesome. And you see this in a lot of media, particularly in a lot of media where there's an all male cast and they put one women in the cast. They make sure that women is good at everything, is really, really strong and is a great action hero and things, and this is like the step you take to make sure that you're not falling in the trap, which is a bad trap, of the women always needing to be saved.

But I think there's a step beyond that where you start asking yourself, "Well, how can I make all of my characters interesting? How can I make sure they all have a journey, that they're all flawed? That they-- that instead of-- there's a certain level of sexism to putting someone on a pedestal, as well as to making them always have to be saved. And certainly, it's a step forward to trying to avoid fridging all of your female characters, or things like that, but if they don't have autonomy, if, you know the character is different from you, is only there to be in a perfect ideal paragon, then that's not doing a justice to your characters either. And that's a trap that I think, we all as writers, particularly male writers like me, fall into a little too often. 

Anushia Kandasivam]

So, I guess, do you just have to be brave, and do what you think is right?

Brandon Sanderson

You also have to be willing to fail, and that's really hard. And you have to be able to own up to doing something poorly, even something you thought you were doing well, you have to own up to the fact that you might have gotten some things wrong and that's hard. That's just super hard. We're all very sensitive about our art, and we're very sensitive about trying-- we want to tell a good story and do well by it, and it's hard to listen to any sort of criticism and so-- but the more you listen as a writer, the more, I'm convinced, you become a better writer. 

Salt Lake City Comic-Con 2014 ()
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Questioner

How do you come up with all the different worlds, the magic systems, the religions, the-- everything. How do you come up with it?

Brandon Sanderson

Good question. It's a bigger question than I can really answer right now. But I can give you a few tips and I can point to places where I've answered it better. I've written three essays called Sanderson's First Law, Second Law, and Third Law... Those explain my theories on magic systems, that'll help you a lot. The real thing I'm searching for is conflict. I want to have interesting conflict to each world element that I'm spending my time on. Spend your time where there is going to be conflict. If you've got a story where the conflict is all religious and the character's religion is kind of an intersection between religion and something else, spend your time building your religions. Make them interesting, work things into them. But maybe you don't need to spend all your time building the linguistics for that world. Spend your time as the author on the things that are going to be full of depth and conflict and importance to the characters and don't worry about everything else. Unless you want to pull a Tolkien and spend twenty years preparing. Which-- I mean, you can do. I can't complain about the way Tolkien did it. But I prefer to be able to release a book every year as opposed to every twenty years.

Read For Pixels 2018 ()
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Anushia Kandasivam

We have a lot of different characters in your books. There are, of course, misogynistic characters in your books, and there are storylines that feature violence against women. But generally, the male/female relationships between the main characters are quite equitable. The heroes are respectful of women in their plots and decisions. But oftentimes, the line between consent and coercion in fantasy isn't always clear. Whether it's epic fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal romance. Do you think this is an issue that writers in the genre have started tackling successfully in recent years?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes. I do think... This is an issue, at least in my culture, American media culture, that stretches back pretty far. We showed my kids the original Star Wars movies, which I still love. But Empire Strikes Back, you talk about a line between consent and non-consent, and there's a scene where Han Solo backs Leia into a corner and tells her that she wants him, when she says she doesn't. And it's really uncomfortable to watch in the current climate and realization that our entire society has emphasized a certain sense of masculinity through our media for many, many years. And it's not something that I would have ever noticed if people hadn't started pointing out, "Hey, there's a problem here."

And I do think people are doing a better job with it. I think we, as a culture, though, bear quite a burden for the way that we have glorified this kind of behavior, even in some of our best and most beloved media properties. And this goes back to my philosophy, though, that we try to do better. We don't-- Pointing backward and vilifying the creators of Empire Strikes Back because they were part of it is not my goal. My goal is for us to say, "Hey, we can do better than this. We should do better than this.

And I guess one of my pet peeves, as a side topic to this, is that showing good relationships between people in committed relationships is just not a thing that media is good at, because media wants to have conflict. And conflict is story. But because of that, what we end up with is a whole lot of really dysfunctional relationships being held, and it's hard. Like, when I sat down to write Stormlight Archive, I wanted to write a misogynistic and racist culture that you didn't hate, but that at the same time, you're like, "Yeah, you know,it is." And how do you do that without setting it as a standard? You want to approach it and say, "Look, this is-- through a lot of history and a lot of cultures, cultures that human beings have created have been pretty misogynistic."

So, how do you write a fantasy book that doesn't glorify this, but still says, "This is how cultures often are"? And there's a really fine line to walk there. And one of the things I think we, as a culture, need to do is, we need to get better about distinguishing between, "Hey, this is how this character is, and this is how people should be." And I'm not sure if I have the answers on that, at all. But one of the things I do like to do is to show, people can be in relationships that have some conflict, but still who genuinely love each other, and genuinely do work their problems out like rational human beings do in the real world. And you can still have conflict and a great fantasy story with people whose relationships are functional.

Skyward San Diego signing ()
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Questioner

Is there any character that you think you have learned something from while writing? Or--

Brandon Sanderson

Each character that I write is a mix of two things. It is a mix of some part of me, and something very different from myself. In order to write those characters, I usually do a lot of exploring and trying to find out about people who are like the character that I'm writing, and that teaches me a ton. You could say that the character has taught me a lot on that case. Doing, for instance, Kaladin, and trying to write a hero with depression whose story is not about having depression, and going to people I know and people I love and people I don't know, and asking them what it feels like, has taught me a whole ton. I don't know if that answers your question, but often the exploration of where a character goes is me exploring my own thoughts and feelings on an idea. And I would say that every character, to an extent, takes me on a journey as I write them, and kind of combine myself with something else. So yes, they all have, but also they all are partially me.

Oathbringer Portland signing ()
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Questioner

I just have been noticing this, and it's not exclusive to any author, it's just this kind of theme that simply tires me. Main characters, they die, and then they come back to life. or they just don't die. And it makes it so much less exciting for me. So, I wanted to ask you what you think about that?

Brandon Sanderson

So, here's the thing. Because fiction isn't real, death is meaningless in fiction. The only real things in fiction are the emotions we make you feel, and different stories try to do that in different ways with different themes. For instance, I don't think Lord of the Rings is ruined by the fact that Gandalf has a resurrection, because of the emotions you feel, and then the other emotions you feel, and things like this-- and there's something universal about it. And so, I don't think I'm as big on it as that, because deaths-- maybe it's because I'm a writer, everything feels arbitrary in books, except the emotion that I put upon it, if that makes sense? And I always find that what the characters are going through is the more interesting than an abrupt end, but I guess that's just kinda me.

If you say that, then books can't have resurrection as a theme, or rebirth, which is, like, one of the most interesting themes in existence. But everyone has different tastes, there's no wrong. Not liking it is not wrong. I mean, plot armor also has this thing where we tend to not kill characters arbitrarily, we tend to do it at dramatic moments, and things like this, because the story is better that way, right? And there are some people, like George Martin, who just try to throw this out the window, to tell a different story by doing that. But, of course, resurrection is a huge theme in those books.

YouTube Livestream 23 ()
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Vishal Pani

Why didn't Kaladin seek help from Zahel during the occupation of Urithiru?

Brandon Sanderson

Zahel... At some point I'll tell you what he was doing, but he was not available. That is a RAFO.

It came up multiple times, and there were various points where I was going to delve into it, and it just was one of those things that I just could not fit in. It is a thing that I wanted to, because we have this foreshadowing that Zahel's there; like, we have a scene with him and Kaladin to remind everyone that Zahel's around. And then we don't even bring him up. Alpha readers asked about it, beta readers asked about it. I could not find time for it. So maybe you'll get a deleted scene that is not a deleted scene, that's just a scene that I eventually write, showing what he's doing. This is one of those things like: what happened with Elhokar and the Herdazians and why does Lopen think he's a king? That scene just never fit into the books either.

Maybe I'll do it, maybe I won't. It's entirely possible, both options are possible. If I eventually never do it, I'll talk about it, but we are gonna have a little more Zahel in an upcoming volume of the Stormlight Archive, where some of these things coming out might fit into the story, to the point that your answers will come in that volume. There's a lot of various moving parts on what's going on with Zahel, and with Azure as well, and their relationship to Nightblood that there's just not space in the Stormlight Archive to talk about.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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MoriWillow

I've noticed a sort-of pattern in some of your work of human/non-human partnerships (spren, Aviar, Seons, etc, and now spaceships). Is this a concept you're consciously interested in? (It's actually probably one of my favorite parts of the relevant works.)

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, it's something I'm very interested in. It happens to be a theme of the cosmere, so you'll see it a lot. One reason for this is that I think a purpose of SF/F is to explore things that don't exist to our current knowledge (things that are intelligent, but not human) but which it's very plausible humanity will some day deal with. Another reason is that I like the idea of looking at the things we do from the outside--and the perspective of something like a spren or a machine is very interesting for me to try to wrap my head around.

DragonCon 2019 ()
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Questioner

The concept of bridge warfare and the life of a bridgeman was one of the most horrific things I've ever heard of. Was that inspired by something specific or...? 

Brandon Sanderson

So, there's a couple of inspirations. One is some of the first-hand accounts of World War One I read, where tactics changed so dramatically that people were being thrown into battle not understanding that this was just terrible tactics, you know, charging machine guns, that's, turns out, bad idea in a lot of situations. And the other half of it is being inspired by actual siege warfare.

One of the things I like to do in my books is, I like to have fantastical versions of things that happen in our world, right? And this gives me a way I can look at history. I can read the accounts of, you know, what it's like to run a ladder, change it to suit my own desires and kind of have a bit more expertise where I can say, "In this situation, this is what they're doing." It allows people who know their medieval history to say, "Oh, that's cool," but also, at the same time, suspend their disbelief, right. Like, if you're a medieval historian and you're reading about actual siege warfare, I have to get it really right, or I'm gonna kick you out of the story. But if, instead, they're running bridges, it allows a lot of the mystique for medieval historians to say, "Oh, this is a different tactic, so we can't say one hundred percent what people would've done in that situation. I can enjoy the story too." And as long as I get enough right, that does that.

So you see me doing that sort of thing quite a bit. Otherwise, I do try to get the things that I do right--as right as I can--but I was just visiting some nice fellows who were showing me their sword fighting in Plate. And you'll see, Shardplate is another thing like this. Actual historical plate combat... I wanted to have Shardplate divorced from that a little bit for the same sort of reasons, right? Number one, it allows me to have the kind of epic fights the way I want to have them, it allows me to draw out the fights. And you'll notice if you watch a lot of historical people reenacting fights, the Shardplate fights will look a lot more like people sparring nowadays and not actually trying to kill each other. And that's intentional, because I can watch a lot of those online, right. I can go to conventions like this and see people doing that. You can't see first-hand two people in plate actually trying to kill each other. And if I can make the fight realistically have a good reason why it would feel like a bout, you know, with Shardplate and things like that, instead of what you'd try to do in a normal plate battle is shove a dagger under someone's armpit, right? Well, that doesn't work in Shardplate, so what do you want to do? You wanna hit them in the same place a couple times. Feels a lot more like a sparring duel in our world, and it just allows me to have this line between realism and theatricality that I really like, and allows people who know a little bit about it to be able to like, "Oh, that feels real, but I can also enjoy it." You see me doing that sort of thing a lot.

That's more than you asked, but that's occupational hazard, going on and on and on and on.

Emerald City Comic Con 2018 ()
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Questioner

Do you ever find that you are producing content so quickly that your mind comes up with a better idea after percolating for a while, and the book is already published? And if that does ever happen, how do you handle it?

Brandon Sanderson

This is dangerous, right? I think every author wants to go back and tweak things. And there is a fine line between pulling a Tolkien, where you go back to The Hobbit and you revise the ring conversation so it matches The Lord of the Rings, which has now become a classic conversation, we're all glad he did that, right? It ties The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings together better, it was a good revision. There is a fine line between that and Lucas-ing your work, right? Where instead of taking something and tweaking something to make it better, you tweak it just to make it different. I think there is a fine line there. There is a quote often ascribed to da Vinci, that a lot of people say it isn't his, but it's the idea that, he (maybe) said "Art is never finished, it is only abandoned."

You really have to take that perspective as an artist, you have to eventually just let things go. Not to sing an Elsa song, but you just gotta be willing to say "I'm done." And you are always going to have better ideas later on or ways you could tweak it. And more, it's not that you have better ideas. What happens is you change as an artist, and your goals change over time and the way you would approach something changes over time. While I've played in this realm, I've settled on that I should just avoid this most of the time. You could always tweak it to be better, and you've got to release something sometime.

I do find it very useful to finish something, write something else, then come back to the thing I've finished, because that gives me the right amount of balance between giving it time to rest so that I can approach it with fresh eyes, and also being regular with the releases. I haven't ever felt like I'm going too fast. I have had things that don't turn out too well, but those I just don't release. That happened with Apocalypse Guard last year where I wrote the book, I gave it some time, I came back and looked at it and it just wan't-- it didn't work. It was broken, it was not good, and I'm just like, "I've got to set this aside and think about it."

It's weird. Writing has a little bit more performance art to it than as a non-writer you might think. Meaning who you are in the moment, when you are creating this thing, the connections you make while you're making it are deeply influential to how the piece of art turns out. It's like you're freezing a moment in time for that author. Rather than trying to create the perfect work you are creating a reflection of who they are when they made it, and you have to kind of be okay with that as a writer.

FAQFriday 2017 ()
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Questioner

What, for you, is the "core" to writing compelling fantasy?

Brandon Sanderson

That is a really hard question to answer. Do you emphasize the fantasy, or not? A really great story is going to be about awesome characters that you fall in love with. Beyond that, it's going to need a really great plot. You can't separate these things from writing a great fantasy, because I think the worldbuilding needs to be really cool, if you have terrible characters and plot, it doesn't matter how good your worldbuilding is - you're not going to have a good story.

That said, the core of writing great fantasy as opposed to other fiction, assuming that you're already doing the plot and the character right, is to get down to that idea of the sense of wonder. What is wonderful about this place that would make people want to live there, or be fascinated by it? What's going to draw the imagination?

Fantasy is writing books that could not take place in our universe. For me, that's the dividing line. In science fiction there's the speculation "This could take place here," "This may be extrapolating science beyond what we know, but it could work." In fantasy we say, "No, this couldn't work in our ruleset, our laws of the universe." That's really focusing on it is what makes the genre tick. So you have to do that well.

Emerald City Comic Con 2018 ()
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Questioner

One of the characters in this book replied with "I've got this," or "I got this." It seemed really modern, like colloquially modern.

Brandon Sanderson

I've got an answer for this. So here's the thing. I use Tolkien's philosophy on this, which is that you are reading the books in translation, and the person translating the English tries to use the closest English approximation to the same sentiment that would happen in the books.

And we try to move away from being too modern colloquial, and things like that, but the actual answer is they said something that's a similar saying in this, and people did talk colloquially even if they didn't have modern slang. Like, the name Tiffany is a medieval name, people don't know that. There's all these sorts of things that people did even back then. But we try to find something that is not going to kick people out. We are less worried about historical accuracy, and more about what's going to convey the right idea. So just kind of pretend that. Pretend that it's being translated by someone like me, Brandon Sanderson, who can read the original Alethi and be like, "Oh, they said something that means this. What's the modern equivalent?"

Brandon's Blog 2018 ()
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Brandon Sanderson

In the last post, I talked a little about how characters come into existence, walking the line between an instinctive process and an intentional one.

Working this way can create some issues. The first is that sometimes when I talk about my process, this part of it ends up getting presented as a lot more… deliberate than it really is. I spend a lot of time trying to help new writers, and I worry that in presenting all of these outlines, exercises, and techniques, we miss emphasizing just how little we really understand about the process.

In some ways, writing a story is like hitting a baseball. You can talk all you want about the physics involved in how a baseball is pitched, then hit with the bat. But the truth is, neither pitcher nor batter are thinking about any of this in the moment.

This makes the process feel overwhelming to some new writers, who think they need to have all of this in hand before they can write a story. Truth is, I'm generally explaining things I did by instinct early in my career, then figured out ways to talk about as I proceeded to study what I'd already done.

You don't need to feel some mystical connection to characters to start writing—and if you focus too much on the idea that your characters should "feel" right and "do what they want," you can end up frustrated, as you don't have the practice writing yet to get them to do what needs to be done to actually create an interesting story.

Another problem with the voices in my head is the worry that I'll repeat myself. Working by instinct, as so many authors (including outliners like me) do, can lead to repetition. Something can "feel" right because you've seen that thing done so many times, you think it is the "right" way—even when it makes for a worse story.

This sort of writing, even when you're doing something interesting and new to you, can get repetitive as you only write in one way or style. In fact, I see a lot of writers talking about the "right" way to do something, as if it's a hard and fast rule—but it's not really that, it's simply the way they've trained their instincts to respond. Something that goes against this feels off to them, but only because of a kind of tunnel vision.

You can also start to regurgitate stereotypes and other weak or harmful tropes because they're part of your historical experience with genre—and you take them for granted. I did this in the original Mistborn novels, where I spent a lot of time working on Vin as a character, wanting an interesting and dynamic female lead for the stories. But then I wrote the rest of the team as men—not because I consciously decided it, but because stories like Ocean's Eleven, The Sting, and Sneakers (which were part of my inspiration) contained primarily male casts.

It isn't that you can't make a story that does this, or couldn't have reasons for writing a primarily male cast in a story. But I didn't have any of those reasons in mind; I did it because I was mimicking, without conscious thought, things I'd seen before. It felt "right" to me, but during examination later, I felt the story would have been stronger if I hadn't just run with the default that way.

Overall, I think that repeating myself is my biggest worry as a writer. Specifically, I worry that I'll end up writing the same characters over and over, or look at themes the same way time and time again, without even realizing that I'm doing it. That's one of the reasons I force myself to approach stories like the Legion ones—where I have to get out of my comfort zone, write in a different kind of setting with different kinds of storytelling expectations, and see where that takes me.

And so, the third part of this series will look at the Legion stories specifically, and where the voices in my head came from in that regard.

Skyward San Francisco signing ()
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Questioner

As Professor Sanderson, do you get situations where past students have success but you don't really care for it and how do you handle it?

Brandon Sanderson

That has not happened to me. The students who have gotten published, particularly lately-- To get into my class at BYU, you have to submit an application and chapters and there's a three-day window and we get a hundred applications and we take fifteen. These days, about a third of those students that get in tend to be what we call, "continuing education," meaning they are people who have gone to BYU and take only that class. Oftentimes, they move to Provo to take that class. So there's some pretty stiff competition and the writers who are in the class these days are really good.

But even in the older days, the people who got published, you can usually tell, and even if you can't, I mean, there's not a lot of writing out there that I can't read and say, "Wow! I understand how someone appreciates this," right? Part of, I think, being a writer and an artist is learning to appreciate things, even if you don't necessarily care for them, to be able to recognize, "This is good and someone is going to love this. This has craft, even it's not something that I particularly enjoy." But none of my students have even been there. All the ones that have gotten published, I'm like, "Wow, this is a great book." So, maybe someday I'll have to deal with that, but I haven't really had to deal with it so far.

Read For Pixels 2018 ()
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Anushia Kandasivam

Let's talk about geek culture. So, geek culture in general, including science fiction and fantasy, has had its share of critics saying that it's still too male-dominated despite there being a rising number of prominent, well-respected, well-known female authors. Plus, there's still plenty of hostile misogynist and sexist behavior by male geeks towards female geeks. What do you think needs to be done to make geek culture as a whole, whether it's comics or gaming or books or conventions, more welcoming for women and girls?

Brandon Sanderson

Wow. I don't know if I'm the right person to ask, right? I am at the top of this social structure, and so asking me this question-- I mean I'll try to give an answer, but let's point out that I may not be the best person to answer this question. I see it a lot in Magic: The Gathering circles, where you go to the game stories, and there are just so many guys who are--

I wanna say this the right way. I have had female friends, who when they visit, feel like they are being evaluated by everyone in the room based on their dateability, primarily. And I think this could be a big part of the problem, is that-- maybe not emphasizing in your head, that when a woman enters our realm-- It shouldn't even be "our realm," right? There's my bias speaking right there. But when we look at women who walk into an area that has a lot of male dominance, and then everyone hits on her? I can't imagine how off-putting that would be, right?

I think we need to listen. I think, when women explain their experience in some of these circles, we need to be less dismissive. I mean, these are, like, 101-level things... Oh, man, I see these posts, and the immediate explaining of why they're wrong, and I'm like, "This is a person's experience. Their experience can't be wrong. It is what they experienced in life." It's not there for argument. It's their expressing who they are, and what they've been through.

So, what can we do? Boy. We can certainly listen better. We can try to make these atmospheres less focused on, like I said-- do a little less-- You see how much I'm struggling with this? Because I feel I need to listen better on this topic myself. And I need to have other people telling me. I'm not the one who needs to be saying what we can do.

I do think there's still a problem. There's obviously a problem, because people who are writing about it are saying there's a problem. And they're the ones who have experienced it. And I think that sci-fi/fantasy, in particular, we like to pride ourselves on being forward-thinking. This is what science fiction's all about, let's look to the future and try to imagine a better world. Sometimes, we imagine that better world by displaying a terrible one and saying, "Let's not become this." But either way, it's kind of about trying to imagine a better world. And fantasy, I think, doesn't look backward. fantasy is talking about the world we live in right now by using certain metaphors and storytelling.

So, yeah. We think that we're very good at this. And we need to be willing to acknowledge that we're not. And be willing to listen about how we're not. And be willing to change in the ways that people who are not me tell us we need to change.

So, I don't know if that's a good answer to your question. Because it's a hard question for me, specifically, to answer. My response would be, "Well, let's here what women who are having problems with-- Man, how can I even say it without-- Yeah, let's listen to the women, and see what they say.

JordanCon 2018 ()
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Questioner

After people die, in this universe, where exactly do they go? Because, at first they appear in this one world, and then they go somewhere else.

Brandon Sanderson

So where do people go when they die. *laughter* In the cosmere. One of the things that's very important to me as a writer, when I am writing stories, is when we get to these kind of fundamental questions about faith and religion and things like this, that the narrative is allowing multiple characters' viewpoints to be plausibly true, if this makes sense. For instance, I am not gonna come out and say, "Is there a capital-G God of the cosmere, is there an afterlife?" These are not questions I'm gonna answer, because in-world, they can't answer them. What they can say is, your Investiture will leave what we call a Cognitive Shadow, which is an imprint of your personality that can do certain things. And that most of those fade away, and you can see them, glimpse them, and then watch them go. But, are they going somewhere? Or are they not? Is that simply the Investiture being reclaimed, Is it more of a Buddhist thought, where your soul is getting recycled and used again? Is it nothing, you return to, you know, being-- yeah, is it a different type of matter? Or is there a Beyond, is there a capital-G God? Things like this. These questions are not answered. I'm never gonna answer those.

Now, the characters will try to answer them. But it's important to me that both Dalinar and Jasnah can exist in the same universe, and that the story is not saying "This one is right, and this one is wrong." The story is saying "This is how this one sees the world; this is how this one sees the world." It's very important to me from the beginning to do that, just because-- Like, I hate reading a book where someone espouses my viewpoint only to get proven wrong by the entire structure of the narrative, and in that universe, that person is wrong. But I'm like, "In our universe, I don't think that I am. Just the way you constructed everything makes it so that I have to be wrong, if I were living in your universe, even if it's a universe that's not a sci-fi/fantasy one." If that makes sense.

This is just kind of for respecting my characters and for the people who hold the viewpoints of my characters, in particular if they happen to be different from my own viewpoints. I feel there are certain lines I'm not gonna cross.

So, the answer is: who do you believe? Which of the philosophies in the books do you look at and say "Yeah!" Or, even better: listen to lots of different ones, and maybe these different viewpoints are all gonna have interesting points that'll give you things to think upon.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
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MasterDex

I love every book of yours I've read. However, I'm a sucker for grim, dark and/or mature fantasy tales (Malazan, Black Company, The First Law, etc). Have you ever considered going right down that route? Have you any stories that you think would fall into more mature/darker territory? Or do you feel that you have no need to go there? (obviously, Stormlight Archive has some quite dark and mature moments but not quite to the level of the aforementioned series)

If you're answer is No, could you explain why?

Brandon Sanderson

The Threnody novel, if I find time with it, would probably be the closest you'll see from me. I've read and enjoyed each of the authors you listed above, though my own writing tends to not lean that direction. One reason is that I tried (when trying to break in) to make my style more gritty to see, since GRRM-like was what everyone was searching for. It just didn't feel true to my own voice.