Why did you change the main character's name to "Kaladin" in the final draft?
Excellent question. I see you're stealing all of my annotation questions that I would ask myself. For those of you who don't know, the character's original name was Merin. The change was a very hard decision because the history of Way of Kings goes back so far. You know, I started writing about and working on Merin as a character in the year 2000, so he'd been around for almost a decade in my head as who he was.
A couple of things sparked the change. Number one, I'd never really been pleased with the name. I had been doggedly attached to it, despite the fact that all of my alpha readers on the original Way of Kings, Way of Kings Prime we'll call it now, said, "This sounds like a girl's name." I'm like, "Well…you know, sometimes in different cultures names sound like girls' names. I've recently discovered that Bilbo and Frodo's actual names are "Bilba" and "Froda". Those are their actual names; that's what they say in-world and in the appendices. Tolkien in one of his appendices said, "I english-ized them to make them sound more more masculine for the 'translation' of the Lord of the Rings books, but they would actually call themselves Bilba and Froda." So, anyway, Merin sounded a little bit feminine, but still I dug in my heels.
One of the concepts for the new Way of Kings is Kaladin's arc as a character. In Way of Kings Prime he makes a decision very early in the book, and in The Way of Kings I wanted to have him make the opposite decision. There's a big decision that comes to him and it's almost like these two books are branching paths from that moment in a lot of ways. And so it's going to be a very interesting process when I eventually let people read Way of Kings Prime, which I won't right now because it has spoilers for the rest of the series, but you can see how all the characters go in different directions from that moment and they also change slightly. It's like an alternate world version of the book you're reading.
So, point number two was that I started to feel he's changed so much as a person I can no longer think of him as the same character. Point number three was that, as I am now working on The Wheel of Time, having a character whose name sounded a lot like Perrin started to be problem to me. Particularly since in Way of Kings Prime Merin was not the main character but in this Way of Kings he is. Way of Kings Prime was much more evenly divided between the characters, but in the published book he gets essentially double the space, and so he becomes the main character. I felt I wanted the main character of this book to have a much stronger, perhaps a little more mythic name. I tried lots and lots of names before I eventually settled on "Kaladin".
Kaladin does sound like a much more powerful a name.
Yeah, it's a much better name. I'm very happy we did it, but we changed it on like the last draft, so it was very surprising to my editor and to my writing group when all of a sudden he changed to a different name.