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Skyward San Francisco signing ()
#1 Copy

Questioner [PENDING REVIEW]

Why did you write Zane for the Mistborn series?

Brandon Sanderson [PENDING REVIEW]

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

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#2 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vin Assaults Cett's Keep

This is one of my favorite chapters in the book. I only occasionally REALLY let myself go with Allomancy, letting the Mistborn reach for their potential. I don't like violence. And yet, I love the beauty of a good fight.

This is a twisted beauty. Corrupt, fascinating, destructive—yet powerful. I've wanted to write something like this ever since I saw the lobby scene in the Matrix. Not because it was so amazing—which it was—but because I think they handled it wrong. The characters commit this huge slaughter, but we never see the horror of it—only the awesome visuals.

There are repercussions for doing something like what happens in this chapter. Perhaps Zane can slaughter wantonly, but that's only because he's beaten his conscience away repeatedly. Vin will not escape so easily.

Oh, and the guy on the wall—Wells—is a cameo. He is my good friend, Dan Wells. He's not this much of a coward, but he didn't make it into book one, so I figured I'd throw him in here. He'll be back, actually. . . . (Watch for him in Book Three.)

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#3 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Straff is generally everyone's least favorite character–though that's kind of what I expected. He's not insane; he’s just a terrible person. Those do, unfortunately, exist–given his power and upbringing, he’s not all that surprising in his bullyness.

I wanted to provide a range of villains for this series. The Lord Ruler was one type of villain–the untouchable god, distant and mysterious. Straff is another: the downright, simple bully with too much power and not enough wisdom. Zane is our third villain–sympathetic, edgy, and possibly more dangerous than either of the two.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#4 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Yomen is one of my favorite characters in this book. In fact, I've liked all three main human villains—the Lord Ruler, Zane, and Yomen—from this series. All were intended to present an antagonist who, in some ways, wasn't as expected. You'll see much more of Yomen in the future, of course, but know that Slowswift isn't lying. Yomen is a good man—and a dedicated one. Perhaps too dedicated.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#6 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty

Zane Visits Vin after the Fight in the Assembly

She mistakes Zane for Elend here, which is a nice little subconscious indication of the mental turmoil she's going through. The best part about this conversation is that I think Zane makes a lot of good points. That fight WAS too hard for Vin, and she really is being turned into a tool. I don't think that's as bad a thing as Zane implies, but he's being honest.

I'm not trying to make a statement against assassination. Given these circumstances, I actually think assassinating Straff would be a reasonable choice. However, I don't think it's a good thing for Vin to do here. She's too close to the edge, too confused and too hurt by the killings she's already had to perform. Plus, I do think that waiting is also a good idea–there's still a chance for diplomacy to work, and the armies haven't attacked yet. Killing someone right now could set the whole thing off.

I still worry that the Zane planting an Allomancer amidst Cett's retinue thing was a bit of a stretch plot wise, and I wonder if any readers are going to be able to follow what happened here. I think this is just about the line of what I think an author can get away with and still have things make sense. Zane's plan went off just a little too well, without problems. I think it works since we don't get to see much of the plan and preparations he made, and can therefore suspend disbelief and give him the benefit of the doubt when it came to how much work he put into making this plan work.

/r/books AMA 2015 ()
#7 Copy

Oudeis16

Zane comments that he's "always had" his spike. Is that just Ruin's influence making him ignore it, "oh this thing, it's always been there" or has he actually had the spike since childhood? Did he get it before he Snapped, after he Snapped, or concurrent with his Snapping?

Brandon Sanderson

More the first.

After snapping.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#8 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vin and Zane Watch Outside the Tent

Zane's cutting has an interesting evolution in the story. At first, I added him cutting himself simply because–well–it made a cool scene. Zane, cutting his own arm in front of his father, primarily to make the other man uncomfortable.

However, there's more behind this, and the cutting worked very well into the interaction of the different magic systems in the book. Particularly Hemalurgy. The pain makes the voice in Zane's head weaker. There will be more on this later.

I'll admit that I didn't originally intend to make the Zane-Kelsier connection with those scars on his arms. However, when writing this scene, I couldn't believe I'd missed seeing what a great opportunity I had. Vin already associates Zane with the Survivor; letting her see the scars on his arms gives her another powerful connection, particularly since she misinterprets where they came from.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#9 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

OreSeur and Vin discuss their interview with Dockson

This series, in total, is about trust. About what it costs to trust people, and what you earn by trusting. In book one, Vin learned to trust–and she learned one of Kelsier's prime beliefs. That it's better to trust, and be betrayed, than to always worry about everyone around you.

The theme, then, for this book is service and friendship, and trusting those you serve. Elend has to earn the trust of his people. Vin has to earn the trust of the kandra who serves her.

OreSeur's explanations about the Contract are mixed with Zane's worries and problems with being Straff's tool. This story is, in part, about what it's like to serve–what it's like to be a tool–and the difference between a good leader and a bad one.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#10 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vin And Zane Fight

The mists enter the room here, which is–again–intentional. A lot of these things have to do with the deeper worldbuidling we won't get into until book three. However, suffice it to say that they were forced to enter by something.

Zane's "You were supposed to save me" is something that I really don't expect to make sense. Despite what God says at the end, Zane is a little bit insane. He's gone too long listening to the voice, thinking himself mad, and doing things like slaughtering his way to the top of Cett's keep. He's not stable anymore.

The fact that God doesn't tell him to kill Vin is what drew Zane to her in the first place. He figured it must mean something–that somehow, if they were together, he'd be able to drive the voices from his mind. For that, he risked everything–that, and the ability to have someone else to be with. He could leave Straff only if he had someone else to rely upon. Someone to save him.

When Vin turned against him–as he saw it–then he had to go back to what Straff wanted. He'd promised his father that he'd deal with Vin. And so he had to. If she wouldn't come with him, he had to kill her.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#11 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

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

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

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#12 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Zane confronts Vin about her desires and not meeting him atop Keep Hasting

If you didn't pick up on it, one of the things I was trying to do in this chapter–mixed with the last chapter–was forge a link between Zane and Vin. He speaks of things in the very same way that Vin did in the last scene. For instance, Zane here admits to himself that he can't leave Straff because his father is all that he knows. Vin used to think the very same thing about her abusive crewleader Camon.

It goes deeper than that. These two characters share a lot. Even their names are meant to feel a little similar. In fact, the one big difference between them is Kelsier. He injected himself into Vin's life and changed her course drastically. She would have eventually discovered that she was Mistborn, and she would still have become quite powerful. However, she wouldn't have known the people of Kelsier's crew, and wouldn't have learned to trust.

It's interesting to think, sometimes, what she would have done in Luthadel without the Survivor's guidance.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#13 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eighteen

As I said before, the Zane chapters originally started earlier in the book. I pushed them back in order to keep the mystery a little longer and to streamline the beginning.

Now I can finally get into his story. Zane is important for several reasons, many of which I can't really explain without spoiling not only this book, but the next one. One of his most basic functions is to provide a foil for Elend. An opposite. Elend is safety, and Zane is danger. They share many similar features, but in Zane, most of those features are twisted.

He also represents a throwback to Kelsier. He is more like the Survivor than he'll probably ever understand.

Making him insane like this was a gamble on my part. I worry that, at first, it seems cliche. There's a whole lot more going on with Zane than you might assume, but your introduction to him is that of a schizophrenic villain who likes to cut himself. This might just seem like a grab-bag of psychosis, but I ask you to stick with me on this one. Zane has been many of my alpha-readers favorite character.

Words of Radiance Portland signing ()
#16 Copy

Kogiopsis

What would Zane have been like without Ruin?

Brandon Sanderson

Zane without Ruin would have been-- It's so hard to say, is it Zane without Ruin but still having the terrible family life that he has?

Swamp-Spirit

Probably yeah.

Kogiopsis

Still has Straff.

Brandon Sanderson

Then still have Straff but he would probably be more of a Straff heir type thing. Like he would be less crazy, maybe more ruthless and... I mean he would still be his father's son.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#17 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Three

Vin Looks over Elend at Night, then Zane Arrives

So Vin makes her decision here. Yes, she's been manipulated. But, as Breeze is fond of saying, we all manipulate each other all of the time. Zane didn't get her to do anything that she didn't already lean toward doing.

That said, Zane IS a master at manipulating people. I wanted him to be brilliant at playing with people's emotions. He's been Soothing and Rioting Vin for most of this book, but only very subtly. You rarely get to see that explicitly, since when it's happening, we're in her head and her emotions just feel like emotions to her. But watch the narrative and you'll see little spikes of emotion caused by Zane.

Even without emotional Allomancy, however, I hope that you can see why Vin made the decision that she did. It's important for me, and this book, that she does what she does next. She had to try the violent way. She had to give in, I think. It was always there, hovering so close to her, that if she'd rejected it without ever trying, I think it would have felt like a worthless rejection.

Now, however, the danger with tasting Zane's way is that she'll give in completely.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#18 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Forty-Seven

Vin Stares out at the Mists, decides to go with Zane, then changes her mind

This scene with Vin at the beginning feels just a tad redundant to me. That's because it covers some of the same ground as the one with her trailing through the Lord Ruler's palace in the last chapter. The problem is, I like this scene so much more–it seems to me that the writing is better. So I didn't have the heart to cut it, even though I'd just added another scene that did many of the same things.

This is one of the scenes in the book I worked toward for a long, long time. I knew I had to get Vin's decision just right, and then do Zane's betrayal with equal power. I wanted the reader to be feeling that this was inevitable, once Vin made her decision.

Why did she decide to stay with Elend? It comes down to what she said. Zane jumping when she reached for the vial reminded her of something–that she didn't want to go back to a life where she was suspicious and jumpy. She didn't want the life that he offered. The thing she saw in Elend was the ability to live without fear–or, at least, without the fear that those around her didn't trust her.

Shadows of Self release party ()
#19 Copy

zas678

What would have happened if Kelsier and the crew had discovered Zane instead of Vin?

Brandon Sanderson

What if Kelsier discovered Zane instead of Vin? Ohohoho, no one's ever even asked me that. I haven't considered it. That would have been a bad combination. I could totally imagine that happening, though. Need to get Zane a little bit younger than he was in the series, but yeah bad combination.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#20 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Zane Awakes When Assassins Try to Kill him, then he Bids his father Farewell

The Zane scene is half old, half new. I love that his first reaction to nearly being killed by Straff's soldiers is to think that his father trusts Zane more than he expected. Who else but Zane would see getting attacked as a sign of trust?

Leaving Straff alive was a controversial move for Zane in many readers' minds. Not in mine. He never wanted to kill Straff, even though God tells him to. He really does love his father. If you couldn't sense that in the undercurrent of the story, I'm sorry–but it's the actual truth. Zane loves Straff just like Vin loved Reen, even though Reen beat her.

The scene with the spike in Zane's chest is new. I decided I needed to show this in the book, rather than talk about it in book three. The implications of it will take me another five hundred pages of text to explain. So just remember that you saw it.

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#21 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Kelsier's voice here has gotten to the point where Spook no longer questions its presence, though he still hesitates to do what it says. For those of you who are paying attention to the connections between the books, it should start to seem more and more like the voice that Zane heard in book two. This one is a little bit more powerful and controlled than the one Zane heard—but then, Ruin is free now and can affect things more directly.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#22 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Zane's Plan

For those of you trying to figure it out, this is Zane's plan: First, he got a group of untraceable Allomancers from his father. Then, he got a couple of them onto Cett's staff as serving men to work the kitchens. Vin saw these men, and associated them with Cett.

Then, Zane had them attack her in a public place, where he was counting on her to completely slaughter them. This gave Zane two potential gains. First off, people are always shocked when they see brutality–even when that brutality comes while protecting them. Zane expected Vin's effectiveness to work against her with the Assemblymen and with Elend, making them scared of her.

Secondly, he now knows that Vin–hopefully–will connect the assassins to Cett, not Straff. She saw one of them on Cett's staff. Zane can divert blame for the attack onto Cett, thereby helping his father secure the city. A win-win situation, except for the six half-brothers Zane just let get killed.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#23 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Seventeen

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

The Hero of Ages Annotations ()
#26 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixty-Nine

Marsh Finds Goradel

And, Goradel dies. I hope Rich appreciates the time and effort I put into this death scene. I mean, if you've gotta go, then facing down an Inquisitor in the night, surrounded by ash, and actually giving him some trouble is a pretty good way.

Spook's message is now gone, destroyed. Sorry about that. Not sure what else to say about this short chapter. I like the poetry of the discarded tools imagery, and it reminds me of things Zane said in book two—that he felt like he was always someone else's knife. Spiked through the chest, he was one of Ruin's more useful pawns.

The Well of Ascension Annotations ()
#28 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Zane attacks Vin, then reveals that he's Elend's brother.

The Zane scene represents a major turning point in his character as well. I see it as important how much he reveals to Vin here. He, like her, has trouble trusting–and even though he's manipulating her, even though he's aware of what he's doing, having him tell her these things is a major breakthrough. At least, for Zane. Everything is a little twisted where he is concerned.

Having him fight her with atium was, also, an intentional attempt on my part to remind you how vulnerable she is without the metal. I'm not even sure I can get across how little a chance she had in defeating him.

Here I also mention Snapping here for the first time in this book. It's an important world element that, unfortunately, I think a lot of people tend to forget.

It doesn't really matter until book three, however, so I'm willing to let it slide in this book, giving only occasional reminders.