Goodreads Fantasy Book Discussion Warbreaker Q&A

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Name Goodreads Fantasy Book Discussion Warbreaker Q&A
Date Jan. 18, 2010
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#1 Copy


You write such wonderful, believable female heroines, who are your role models and influences?

Brandon Sanderson

Writing believable female heroines—I should probably back up and point out that I wasn't always good at this. In fact, in the first few books I wrote before ELANTRIS I was terrible at it. That disconcerted me because it was something I wanted to make a strength in my writing. This is partially due to the fact that so many of my favorite fantasy novels growing up, when I first discovered fantasy, were from female writers with really strong female protagonists. So there was a piece of my mind that said having strong female protagonists is a big part of fantasy. I don't know how common that viewpoint is, but because those were the people whose books I read—writers like Anne McCaffrey, Melanie Rawn, and Barbara Hambly—I wanted to be able to do that in my own fiction. Even beyond that you want every character you write to be believable, and it's been a habitual problem of men writing women and women writing men that we just can't quite get it right, so I knew it was going to be something I'd have to work hard at.

I took inspiration from women I know, starting with my mother, who graduated top of her class in accounting in an era where she was the only woman in her accounting program. She has always been a strong influence on me. I also have two younger sisters who were a lot of help, but there were several friends in particular who gave me direct assistance. Annie Gorringe (who was a good friend when I was an undergraduate—and still is) and Janci Patterson were people I sat down to interview and talk to in my quest to be able to write female characters who didn't suck. I would say specifically that Sarene from ELANTRIS has a lot of Annie in her, and Vin from MISTBORN has a lot of Janci in her. In WARBREAKER, Siri and Vivenna don't really have specific influences but are the result of so much time working at writing female characters that it's something I'm now comfortable with. (Their personalities arose out of what I wanted to do with their story, which was my take on the classic tale of sisters whose roles get reversed.) It's very gratifying to hear that readers like my female characters and that the time I spent learning to write them has paid off.

#2 Copy


You seem to purposefully invent a system of magic for each book/series you create. I think that Warbreaker was one of the most unique I've ever read. Do you have a reason or story behind this habit?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes—both. Back when I was trying to break in, I spent many years writing books and not getting published. I was under the impression (it's just one of my beliefs) that it would be easier for me to break in doing a lot of different standalone novels, or first books in a series, as opposed to writing all in one series and putting all my eggs in one basket. For that reason, I got a lot of practice finishing one book and starting a new one that was in a new setting in a new world.

For me, a new setting/world means a new magic system. Magic is part of what draws me to fantasy, being able to play with the ideas behind it. It's what engages me; it's what excites me. And so part of the real fun of starting a news series is developing a new magic system. In a way that's kind of like the little twinkie or whatever that I'd hang in front of myself in order to get me excited about a new series. I'd be just coming down off a writing high at the end of a book, and I'd still be excited about the old series, its characters and world. Creating a new world is a lot of work, but there's an excitement to it as well. I'd focus on that and say, "Look, I get to create a new magic system, let's see what I can play around with for this book." So because I got used to doing that, that became my modus operandi, my method of working. That still excites me. Oftentimes it's the opportunity to create a new magic system that gets me excited about writing a new book.

#3 Copy


I really loved the character Lightsong, he was my favorite and probably one of the most interesting characters I've ever read about. Did you have anyone in particular in mind when you came up with him? How did go about developing him as a character?

Brandon Sanderson

Rupert Everett was sitting in the back of my mind.

Actually, in order to develop Lightsong's character well, I didn't want to imitate any one voice. That's something we always stay away from. But I had been wanting to work on writing humor in a different way from what I'd previously used. I spent a lot of time watching and analyzing the movie THE THIN MAN, the old comedy/mystery/crime film with an emphasis on very witty characters making wisecracks as they investigate a murder. If you haven't seen it, it's delightful. Along with AN IDEAL HUSBAND and THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, those were my three sources of inspiration. I was trying for a blend of those two styles—and then of course added my own sense of humor.

#4 Copy


What made you decide to release Warbreaker on your website? Was Tor at all irked by this plan? What about your agent or those who purchased international rights?

I must say that I've purchased the Mistborn trilogy and Elantris, but that I read Warbreaker on your website.

Brandon Sanderson

That's all right. I knew that people would do that. I would hope that those who really enjoyed the book will pick up copies, but you know, I don't mind if they just read it and don't pick up a copy—I mean, it's there for free!

I like the idea of a free sample, and for a writer I feel that a free sample needs to be an entire novel so that you can get a real feel for how that author writes and tells a story. When I listen to music, I would like to be able to listen to an entire album and say, "Okay, is this an artist that I like?" Before I pay money for it. I want people to be able to do that with my writing. And what that means is if WARBREAKER doesn't sell any copies, but it has tens of thousands of people read it who are then willing to buy and read my next books because they know they like my writing, then WARBREAKER is incredibly successful.

Was Tor irked? I wouldn't say that; I mean, I got approval from them first. I don't think it's what they would prefer for me to do, but they were certainly willing to let me do it. My agent didn't like the concept at all, and I listened to his counsel, but I'm very interested in the way the internet is acting as a medium for entertainment distribution, and I wanted to experiment with that.

I think it's been a successful experiment. I think that a lot of people who were interested in me because of THE GATHERING STORM and the Wheel of Time announcement were able to try out my books and read one of them for free and therefore somewhat know who I am as a writer. For good or for ill. If they don't end up liking my writing, I'd rather they not have paid for it—I'd rather they not have to pay for something they don't enjoy. I think I'll end up better off—at the very least they'll think, "Well, I didn't really like his book, but he gave it to me for free," and still have a good impression of me. If they do end up liking my book, I would hope that they go and read other copies of my books. And that would increase demand on the libraries or the bookstores. Either way I think I come out ahead.

#5 Copy


Do you spend the most time on your magic systems, or do you find yourself spending equal amounts of time on other aspects of worldbuilding/plot such as religion/culture/language/geography? 

Brandon Sanderson

It really depends on the novel. With some I spend a lot of time on areas that in others I don't spend much time on at all. With every book I spend a serious amount of time on the magic system. That's consistent—it's just something I like to do.

For a given book or series I may spend more time on a given aspect. I'd say the other big aspect that takes a lot of time is characterizing the characters the right way. That takes a lot of work, but I tend to do that during my actual writing period, whereas I spend the planning period focusing on worldbuilding and plot. It's when I actually sit down to write a chapter that I explore who a character is, and so it's really hard to pin down timewise which one I spend more time on. And that varies based on the book.

#6 Copy


Do you ever plan to use bio‐chroma again? It'd be a shame to see such an interesting and original idea left with a single book.

Brandon Sanderson

It is unlikely that I will use this magic system in a different book because it is distinctly tied to that particular Shard. The sequel likelihood is good. There is more to tell in this world, so there is a decent chance I will return and do a second WARBREAKER book (I've been calling it NIGHTBLOOD when I've mentioned it before). That isn't to say that there will never be magic systems that will repeat across series—in fact there's a decent chance that will happen—but I'm not going to say any more on that right now.

#7 Copy


I really enjoyed Warbreaker, especially the history of the Scholars and their relationships. Have you considered writing a prequel novel that would take place when Vasher, et al were much younger?

Brandon Sanderson

People ask me for prequels all the time. They've asked for MISTBORN prequels, ELANTRIS prequels, and now WARBREAKER prequels. My general answer to this is probably not—just because I as a reader don't like prequels. I'm one of those readers that if the ending is spoiled for me, in many ways that can ruin the book. Because of that it's hard for me to decide to write a prequel.

When I plan my books I design them to have a beginning, a middle, an end, and a past and a future. I know what happened in the past. I know what will happen in the future. I could always write that, and I won't rule it out 100% completely. But telling the story of the Five Scholars is not something I sat down to do with WARBREAKER. I had that all worked out; I knew what they did. The exciting story I wanted to tell is the one that happened in the book. There is a good chance of a sequel, but a prequel is unlikely. If I did do a prequel it would probably be in short story form posted for free on my website.

#8 Copy


A common thread in both Warbreaker and the Mistborn Trilogy is religion. I really liked how you handled religion in both these books. Mistborn deals with religious searching and Warbreaker is more about religious tolerance. I've heard that you are a Mormon. How much does your faith influence your writing?

Brandon Sanderson

This is a surprisingly common question for people to ask me, and I'm always happy to answer it because my religion makes up a big part of who I am. Because I am religious myself, I am fascinated by religion. And so I think that the misuse of religion is a great evil, and the use of religion for good reasons is a great good. In fact, being a religious person, I think that the misuse of religion becomes a much more frightening thing than it might otherwise be, which is why you sometimes see religions as villains in my books. My religion shapes who I am, and it makes me interested in certain things; it makes me fascinated by certain things; it shapes my sense of right and wrong.

But I don't actually sit down and write books wanting to advocate any particular concept. I feel that when I write books I need to advocate whatever the character believes at the time. Now, what I feel is heroic may shape the characters I create as protagonists, but I don't think that the purpose of the fiction that I write is to preach directly to the reader. I think that the purpose of the fiction I write is to explore different concepts and different types of characters and see how they react to the world around them. And that's a very different thing than sitting down and saying I'm going to preach to people. So I don't think my religion causes me to do that, but I do think it causes me to be interested in these kinds of concepts.

I'm not even sure how to define myself. In some circles I come across as very conservative; in other circles I come across as very liberal. One of my core beliefs religiously is that I honestly don't mind you believing whatever you want to believe. What I mind is how you treat people who don't believe as you believe. That's what will get me going. So I don't judge someone based on their belief; I do judge them based on how they treat people who believe differently than they do. (That's a concept, by the way, that you may see pop up in a book later on, because I'm actually quoting one of my characters in this case.)

#9 Copy


I've seen in reviews of Mistborn that a criticsm that pops up from time to time is that you tend to repeat the basic principles of the magic system. I've seen that some feel hit over the head with it. Personally, I liked that fact since the magic system was new and it helped me to remember and understand.

I'm also seeing criticsm now with Warbreaker that the magic system isn't explained enough to thoroughly understand it. I've pointed out in discussions that not even Vasher understands it all.

But here's my question: Did criticsm of the magic system's explanations in Mistborn have anything to do with Warbreaker having considerably less explanation in its magic system?"

Brandon Sanderson

Wow, that's a very detailed and interesting question. The answer is no.

...Okay, there's more to that answer. I accepted the criticisms of the Mistborn books with the knowledge that there was really no other way around it—the way I was writing those books and the complexity of the magic system made me feel like I needed to give those hints. It's not like I'm trying to write down to the lowest denominator, but at the same time I want to make sure that the complicated magic system is a force driving the book—and is something interesting rather than something confusing. Across a three-book epic like that I wanted to make sure that I was not leaving people behind. That's always a balance in a book series. And I don't know where to set that balance. In fact, I think the balance is going to be different for every person. Any given book that you read, some people are going to find it overexplained and some people are going to find it underexplained. I'm always trying to strike the right balance, particularly for the tone of a given book, to make that work for the novel.

With Warbreaker, as you've pointed out, the magic system is much less understood by the poeple taking part in it. In the Mistborn books the magic system is very well understood. Even though there are little pieces of it that people don't know yet, those peices are easy to grasp and understand and use once people figure out what they are. In the Mistborn books the world is in a state where people have spend 1000 years using this magic system and perfecting it and understanding it. In Warbreaker, they haven't. They still don't know much about what's going on. It's very mysticized. People haven't sat down and spent enough time pursuing scholarly research about it, figuring it out. Beyond that there's no immortal Lord Ruler figure explaining it all to them—or if there is, it's Vasher and he's not telling anyone. And so the magic in Warbreaker has a very different feel to it. I wanted it to be a little confusing, because it is confusing for the main characters.

I wouldn't say that the criticism of the Mistborn books is what drove me; the needs of the various plots is what drove me.

#10 Copy


The paintings (I think there were at least two, right?) that remind Lightsong of his dreams and the Manywar etc. Is the Artist someone we know? If not, will we eventually meet him/her in a later book? Does the artist hope to affect Lightsong this way, or is it just some guy giving abstract art to his God?


Is the artist that painted those paintings Hoid?

Brandon Sanderson

Hoid did not make the paintings. The goal of those paintings—and this is spoilery, by the way—the paintings are actually what the text implies that they are. They are abstract paintings which Lightsong, having a touch of the divine, is able to see and read into things that aren't necessarily there.

Beyond that, art is a magical thing in the world of WARBREAKER. When an artist creates a work of art, part of the artist's soul ends up in the artwork. Someone who has many breaths and who's Returned like Lightsong has the inherent ability to see into the art and perceive that. So Lightsong can interpret correctly an abstract piece, based on what the artist is trying to convey, in a way that a normal person couldn't.

I was not trying to make the artists anyone specifically important. In the case of those paintings, they are wonderful artists—I think they are two separate artists, if I'm thinking of the two paintings that you're indicating. As Lightsong has a splinter of divine nature inside him, he is able to interpret the paintings—to foresee, using them, and to see into the soul of the person who made them.

#12 Copy


All your novels are tied together by an overarching magic system, and we usualy see evidence of this in the form of the too-still pools of water. However we did not see any such bodies of water directly in Warbreaker. Is there such a pool in Warbreaker? Is that where the Tears of Edgli grow?

Brandon Sanderson

Wow. I've got some very perceptive readers.

This is speculation that I will neither confirm nor deny.

#13 Copy


If a Returned gives away his/her Breath they die right? So why doesn't Vasher die after he gives his to Denth?

Brandon Sanderson

They will die the moment they run out of Breath to harvest. Once a week their body needs a Breath in order to survive. Each Returned has one single superpowered Breath. Imagine it as one breath that propels them up through the Heightenings, but it is only a single Breath. It's what we speak of in Shard world terminology as a Splinter. And when the seventh day comes, if a Returned does not have another breath for his body to consume to keep him alive, his body will actually eat his divine Breath and kill him. So they don't die immediately after they get rid of the Breath, they're sort of put into a state of limbo where if they don't find more Breath by the time that their feast day comes, then they will die. (Vasher did not give his Returned Breath to Denth, just a number of normal Breaths.)

#14 Copy

Other Brandon

I don't know if I'm remembering this right but I thought I saw somewhere that you said that all your books (yours not WOT) are connected somehow. Is that right or am I going insane already?

Brandon Sanderson

All of my books share a single creation myth, a single cosmology. The connection of them—the greater world, the greater universe—they call the Cosmere. There is a character who has shown up in each of my epic fantasies, and it is the same person, not just a repeated name. Currently WARBREAKER, ELANTRIS, and the Mistborn trilogy do all share a common cosmology. My children's books are not part of the Cosmere.

#15 Copy


While I loved Mistborn and am excited to see you optioned the film rights already, I think that Warbreaker would translate to film even more easily/successfully

So I guess my question is, do you agree that Warbreaker will translate to film better? Did you discuss this with the Paloppa Guys? Which of your works do you think is most "marketable" as a medium—to—big—budget film?

Brandon Sanderson

I think the magic system of WARBREAKER is certainly better suited to film than a lot of the MISTBORN magic system. However, I think the plot and storytelling of MISTBORN—because of the action/adventure style of it—would translate better to film. Story structure-wise, MISTBORN, particularly the first book, is probably the best book-to-film translation I think I've got. I think WARBREAKER would make a wonderful graphic novel, and someday I would love to sell rights to it in that medium. And certainly if we make a MISTBORN film, the metals would have to work in a very different way. They would probably be understated in the film itself.

#16 Copy


Can you explain the process that you go through to come up with your magic systems. So many fantasy books today have a "black box" type of magic system — in that you don't know how things happen but the caster just suddenly shoots a fireball out of his arse. Yours are in—depth and set out a very distinct give and take that the reader can understand.

All of your systems are unique, so again, how do you get to the point where you have a complete magic system that you feel is ready to put into a book. Since this is a discussion about Warbreaker, how specifically did you come up with biochroma?

Brandon Sanderson

I don't know if I can answer that question in the short space afforded by a discussion forum. But in general with my magic systems I'm looking for a variety of components. Most of them start with just an "Aha, there's something there!" moment in my head—either it's a plot hook or a conflict hook or a visual hook or something like that. I'm usually looking for something that does what I find exciting about magic, which is straddling the line between mysticism and science. And I'm looking for new ways to explore that. So when an interesting scientific concept occurs to me, and I can take it in the direction of "what if," that's something that I find fascinating.

For MISTBORN, for instance, telekinesis mixed with vector science was interesting to me. In WARBREAKER it was the concept of sympathetic magic—the idea that you can create something that's like something else and it will have power over that. I wanted to try and take it in a direction I hadn't seen before and blend that with the concept of animation, bringing inanimate objects to life. Those were interesting concepts because at one point people believed in both of these things as real forms of magic. They believed they could make it work. The myth of the golem goes way back, and the idea of sympathetic magic was around not too long ago—in fact there are still plenty who believe in it, in various forms of superstition.

So I look for a blend of concepts. I usually look for an interesting visual paradigm—something that will work in a way that helps the reader visualize the magic. I don't want it to all happen nebulously in the back of someone's head. (And speaking of rear-end fireballs, I do believe I read a webcomic where someone did that. It was Thog Infinitron...I guess it wasn't a fireball.) But anyway, I'm looking for something that you can see and follow the process of what the character's doing in a way that makes sense.

I find that if there's one thing to take away from this, limitations on magic are more interesting than the powers themselves. And so I'm always looking for interesting limitations, because that forces me to be creative and forces my characters to be creative with what they have.

#17 Copy


I was wondering if you had any certain inspiration for Adonalsium, Hoid, and the Cosmere other than the concept of a Creation story itself. To clarify, I guess I'm asking if you had any other author you read as an aspiring author that did anything similar.

Brandon Sanderson

There are certainly authors who have done this sort of thing before. I generally tend to react against what inspires me instead of toward it. I've talked about this before—if I think someone does a very good job with something, I'll try to approach it from a different direction because I figure they've covered that concept. At other times, if an author does something that I thought could have been way cooler, then I will react I guess in that direction...I don't know if that's a reaction for or against.

Asimov eventually had an overarching plot/universe. Stephen King did it. Other authors have done it, but they have not planned it from the beginning. As well as Asimov did with some of the concepts, I was always disappointed in his attempts to bring all of his stories together into one world because it just wasn't meant to be that way, and it felt like that. It felt clunky—I've always preferred the early robot stories and the early Foundation books to the later ones.

So I felt that if I was going to have a supermyth, so to speak—an overarching paradigm for these books—it would have to have a number of things. One, it would have to be limited in scope, meaning I wasn't going to try to cram everything into it. That's why ALCATRAZ is not involved in any of this. Number two, I would have to plan it from the beginning, and number three, I would want it to be subtle. In other words, I don't want it to come to dominate any of the stories because I want the books, the series, to stand on their own. I want this to be something that you can find if you're searching, but that will never pull the characters of a given book away from the focus on what is important to them.

#18 Copy


This question delves into religion greatly since I spent a good portion of my free time studying theology. Besides that, being a Christian, I sighted many interesting pieces in "Warbreaker," about the pitfalls of blind faith.

I'm wondering if you are criticizing some religious sects who elevate themselves as God though use God or some other deity as a method of control. With more relevance to the Christian faith, are we seeing the consequences of humans who rely on human reasoning for their understanding of God, an often superficial explanation?

Brandon Sanderson

Religious themes are interesting to me. I rarely go into a book saying, "I am going to expose this foible of religion" or "I am going to highlight this wonderful part of religion." I go into a book telling stories about characters, and the ways that they believe and the things that they believe have an effect on them. I try to present those as realistically as possible.

I do think that there is a dangerous line between faith and what goes beyond that. You call it blind faith, yet at the same time there is something to be said for trusting those who have gone before and for not having to fall in a pit yourself because other people already fell in that pit. Where that line comes is a subject of great debate between religious people and non-religious people. I do think that questions should always be allowed and should always be asked. It is important to be asking questions.

I don't really mind how people believe, or what faiths people have. I think it's a fascinating part of us, that we all have different faiths. Where we stray into danger is in how we treat people who don't agree with our faiths. That, I think, is a very dangerous and frightening thing—the ways that various people treat others who disagree with them. No matter what side you're on, whether they belittle them, discard them, or destroy them, these various things are one of the great pitfalls of any type of belief or faith. So I deal with that. But again it's not because I sit down and say, "I am now going to write a book about this, or tell a story about this." It's because that's what's important to the characters I'm writing.

That said, when I was approaching WARBREAKER, I did think distinctly to myself, "You know, religion's been the bad guy in the past two stories you've told. You probably ought to do something different." That's why the—Spoiler alert!—the religion in WARBREAKER is vindicated in the end. I think there are some very good things about their religion, and though Siri is convinced that they are the bad guys, it turns out that indeed they are not. In fact, they are quite good...though there are certain things they're doing that I wouldn't necessarily agree with.

#19 Copy


Do you plan to annotate Warbreaker?

Brandon Sanderson

I've written annotations for WARBREAKER already. There is supposed to be a special edition WARBREAKER e-book from coming that will include all the annotations right there with the text, but I'm not sure when it will appear. The annotations will still go up chapter-by-chapter on my website, but if you get the special edition e-book you can have them all at once. We'll see when that happens

Footnote: The annotations for Warbreaker, and many of Brandon's other works, are available on his website.
#20 Copy


I have read Elantris, the Mistborn Trilogy and Warbreaker and thoroughly enjoyed all of them. But I have to say, The portion of Chapter 33 with Hoid (or Dust) the storyteller was a painful experience and I was glad you never brought him back. What was the idea or point of him pulling things from his pocket and dropping it on the ground? I feel like I missed some theme or clues here.

Brandon Sanderson

That was simply a way that he tells stories—there was no particular theme other than that. He throws puffs of different-colored dust into the air as he's speaking to try and evoke the feelings of the story that he's telling. Sorry it didn't work for you; not everything is going to work for everyone, but this is how he does it.

#21 Copy


My question: What exactly does the Mistborn sequel series entail?

Brandon Sanderson

Several hundred years after the original trilogy—Spoiler alert!—Wait, aren't these questions supposed to be about WARBREAKER?

Anyway, the Mistborn sequel trilogy, as I've said before, takes place in a more technologically advanced version of the world, several hundred years later. They've progressed beyond steam technology to combustion engine technology, are building skyscrapers—that level of technology. It will follow the exploits of a team of Allomancers who are kind of like an Allomantic SWAT team, a group of hybrid mercenary/deputized individuals who are brought in by the police to take out Allomancer criminals. The first book will deal with when they are called in to deal with a Mistborn serial killer. That's how it starts. It will go bizarre from there, of course, but think guns, cars, skyscrapers, and Allomancers.

#22 Copy


I'd like to ask what led to this decadence in the Iridescent Tones, what were the social causes? It started out as the Cult of the Returned, and a simple faith in caring for the Returned so they'd live long enough to fulfill their purpose. And I assume the Voice even sends them back without memories exactly to foster this faith and hope in people, so that mortals can be part of their salvation instead of just getting divine hand-outs. That sounds really nice. But by the time we reach the events in Warbreaker, a lot of corruption and cynicism has found its way in, no?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes, it has. Part of it is something that Lightsong points out. Their religion encourages the best of the Returned to give up their lives for their people, and they hit a patch where a lot of the best of them have already given up their lives. The rest have their needs and wants seen to. Beyond that, remember this is a society in which they're living in a very temperate climate where there isn't very much harsh weather at all; they're very sheltered, they have an extremely rich resource, and they have a lot of leisure time. So we're mixing leisure time with a somewhat selfish batch of Returned in control, and we're mixing that with a religion that focuses on art and beauty and that sort of thing.

I think one of the dangers this society would have to be worried about would be for this decadence to creep in as has happened at various points in various cultures around the world. The society certainly isn't irredeemable at all, but it is going through a patch of these three concepts aligning in some of the worst sorts of ways. But there are some better Returned than we focus on in the book, and there have been much better Returned in the past.

#24 Copy


I was talking with a couple of others in another chat room about Vivenna and Siri's personal journeys in the book, especially at the end when Vivenna decides that she isn't going to write to her father in Idris. There was much debate over whether Vivenna was being childish and running away from responsibility, or if she realized that she was so drastically different from who she was before that she knew she was going to disappoint her father and family. As the author, what is your take on this scene regarding Vivenna's growth as a person?

Brandon Sanderson

I would say yes to both. Vivenna ends the book having experienced a great deal of personal growth. However, unlike some of the other characters, she is only a few rungs up the ladder. She's got a long way to go. That's why as I was plotting the book, before I even started, I decided I'd probably want to do this as a two-book cycle. Overlapping and forcing upon Vivenna the level of personal growth that it would take to get her character to completely reach an end point just couldn't happen in the book. Particularly with me doing what I did with Lightsong and the personal arc he has, and with Siri. So Vivenna certainly had a lot of growth, but I planned a separate book where I could really delve into and dig into her psychoses and her psychology.

Vasher still has a long way to go too. His personal growth is more like a zigzag pattern—a line graph with lots of peaks and valleys. He's been around and still hasn't really found himself, though he's thought he's found himself a number of times. Anyway, those two characters led me to think that there was a lot more to explore there. I didn't want to ram them through the paces it would take in this one book. I thought it would ruin the book. So I let them grow at the rate they needed to grow at, or decline at the rate they needed to decline at, and saved a second book in the series to deal more with who they are and who they become.

#25 Copy


What do the Pahn Kahl believe in? All we seem to know is that they are similar to the Iridescent Tones. Any more info?

Brandon Sanderson

I was going to get into this more in the sequel, because we would have some more Pahn Kahl people. Anytime I'm saving something for a sequel, I feel like I shouldn't say too much because I don't want to lock myself in. Let's say that it's like the Iridescent Tones, but without the god-worship of the Returned. More worship in the concepts, and more of a focus on the voice itself.

One thing to remember about the Pahn Kahl is that they've kind of lost a lot of it. By letting themselves get so focused on the enemy that conquered them, they've actually ended up losing much of who they were. Not everything, of course, but substantial portions of who they were have gotten swept under the rug and consumed in their desire to get their freedom. Which is an important thing, but they've let it consume them to pretty extreme levels.

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Also, would the Elantrians and the Lerasium-mistings be considered Slivers? Or is just the Lord Ruler and Vin Slivers (Via the Well)? Or do you need more power to be considered a Sliver?

Brandon Sanderson

Elantrians are not slivers. Mistborn trilogy spoiler warnings follow! The Lord Ruler was indeed a Sliver. So was Vin. For the rest, I would say probably not.

What defines an actual Sliver of Adonalsium is not as clear-cut as you might think. It's a term that in-universe people who study this have applied to various existences and states. Every single person on the world of Scadrial has a bit of Leras in them—a bit of the power of Preservation. Every single person has a bit of Ati in them. There's a certain threshold where these scholars would call you a Sliver of Adonalsium. But I would say that any regular Misting is probably not a Sliver. A full Lerasium Mistborn is getting closer, but people who have held one of the powers are what would probably be termed a Sliver by the definitions. If you hold all the power that makes you a Shard, but the Lord Ruler held a little bit of it and then let it go. From then on they referred to that change in him—the residue, what was left—as a Sliver. When he held it he became the Shard for a short time, and Vin was a Shard for a short time. After Vin gave up the power, what Kelsier is at the end of the trilogy—that's a Sliver of Adonalsium.

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I was wondering how the animation of the lifeless statues worked, in regard to the use of Susebron's Breath. If they were lifeless, then vasher wouldn't have been able to take his Breath back out of them, nor would susebron have needed such a great deal of breath to revive them—he just would have needed a password. But if they were simply Awakened, no password would have been necessary to animate the statues, just Breath and Command.

It seems like the statues could be neither lifeless nor awakened. Are they unique, because of the use of bone, or am I missing something? The only other explanation I could think of was that they were lifeless, but Susebron's breath wasn't used to activate the statues, he simply had it passed down from vasher, in addition to the statues. If that's the case(and then I've simply been confusing myself with unnecessary, convoluted logic), why was it necessary to keep the breath safe for all these years?

Brandon Sanderson

Wow, there are a lot of questions in there. If you follow the drafts, I think you can see the evolution of what became of the Lifeless army. Originally I had planned for the statues to simply have been placed there so that you could Awaken them—just in my original concepts, before I started the writing—and then that became the army.

I eventually decided that didn't work for various reasons. Number one, as I developed the magic system, Awakening stone doesn't work very well. You've got to have limberness, you've got to have motion to something for it to actually be stronger. So a soldier made out of cloth would be more useful to you than a soldier made out of stone, if you were just Awakening something. At that point, as I was developing this, I went back to the drawing board and said okay, I need to leave him a whole group of really cool Lifeless as the army. But that had problems in that the ichor would not have stayed good long enough. Plus they already had a pretty big Lifeless army, so what was special about this one? Remember, I'm revising concepts like this as the book is going along. You can see where in the story I could see what needed to be there. So I went back to the drawing board again.

I think the original draft of WARBREAKER you can download off my website has them just as statues, though at the time when I was writing that I already knew it would need to change. I was just sticking to my outline because I needed to have the whole thing complete on the page before I could work with it. A lot of times that's how I do things as a writer—I get the rough draft down, and then I begin to sculpt.

I eventually developed essentially what you've just outlined in the first part, before you started worrying if you were too convoluted. I said, well, what if there's a hybrid? What happens if you Awaken bones? Can you create something? The reason that you can't draw the Breath back from a Lifeless is because the Breath clings to it. If the Lifeless were sentient enough, it could give up its own Breath, but you can't take it, just like you can't take a Breath from a person by force. You have to get them to give it up willingly. So it sticks to the Lifeless. A Lifeless is, let's say, 90% of a sentient being. The Breath doesn't manifest in them, because they aren't alive, yet they're almost there. A stone statue brought to life would be way down on the bottom rung.

Is there something in between? That's the advancement I had Vasher discover—what if we build something out of bone, but then encase it in stone to make it strong, and build it in ways that the bone is held together by the force of the Breaths? That's really what you're getting at there, that you need a lot of Breath, a lot of power, to hold all that stone together. There are seams at the joints. What the Breath is doing is clinging there like magical sinew, and it's holding all of that together.

Vasher left the Phantoms Invested with enough Breath to hold them together but not to move. You needed another big, substantial influx of Breath in order to actually make them have motion, to bring them enough strength to move and that sort of thing. So it's kind of a hybrid.

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It was said throughout the book that you cannot just give some of your breath, but must give all of it. Perhaps I'm simply forgetting part of the book where this changes, but wouldn't Vasher have to give his Returned breath along with his others?

Brandon Sanderson

The "You must give up all of your Breath, not some" line was mostly perpetuated by Denth, who is saying it to Vivenna to stop her from giving away her Breath to all the people she passes. It is a lie. Now, it's a lie that's commonly accepted by a lot of people. But it's still a lie—as we find out midway through the book, you can stick some of your Breath in an object and bring it to life, and then recover that Breath. So it's very easy to give some of your Breath to someone if you know the logical steps to take. Invest most of it into an object, give what you have to someone else, then pull back what you Invested. So it's flat-out proven in the novel that what Denth is telling her is wrong. Now, he could dance around that lie by pretending to be the ignorant mercenary—he's just perpetuating a falsehood that many people believe. But it is a lie. In fact, a lot of the things people believe about BioChromatic Breath isn't true.

One of the things I was trying with this book was to take a few steps back from MISTBORN, where so much was understood. I feel that the approach I took in MISTBORN is right for that book, and yet people have so much superstition regarding all sorts of science. I worry sometimes that there isn't enough superstition in my books, regarding magic as science. What people believed and what people knew and what people understood was so varied and confused throughout most of history, that I worry that I lack realism in that. Vasher brings up at several points in the book that they don't know a whole lot and that people perpetuate a lot of myths and stories and lies.

Vasher has learned to suppress his Returned Breath. When it's suppressed, it's as if it doesn't exist to him. He's Invested it into a place within himself, much like you can Invest your Breaths into a shirt, and when he gives away the rest of his Breaths, he doesn't give that one away. He could split off others of his Breaths if he wanted to—he's learned to do that, so that he could give a few Breaths and not all. It's just a matter of practicing as long as he has. But even people who aren't as practiced as him do it all the time when they Invest an object with not all of their Breath but just enough to bring it to life

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The question I have for you is will we ever get to know what Hoid's purpose is? He shows up in each of the books, presumably looking for something or on some kind of mission. (Lerasium bead?)

Will Hoid have a short story, novel or will we have to try and piece it together?

Brandon Sanderson

There will someday be Hoid short stories. I've actually written half of one and then haven't been able to have time to finish it. He will also have short viewpoints throughout the Stormlight Archive series, assuming he survives.

Mostly this is for you to piece together. As I said before, this is a story I'm telling, and if I have to explain the story outside the story, then in some ways I've done something wrong. So let the story speak for itself, and you will see. I guess that's a RAFO.

Event details
Name Goodreads Fantasy Book Discussion Warbreaker Q&A
Date Jan. 18, 2010
Entries 29
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