The Alloy of Law Annotations

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Name The Alloy of Law Annotations
Date March 14, 2014
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#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Two

Wax Ties a Cravat

In the original draft, I conceived this scene specifically because of how strong a contrast it would provide to jumping around in the mists in the previous scene. This has always been a theme of the Mistborn books, and I hoped that some familiarity in that regard would provide a connecting tie between this book and the previous trilogy.

Mistborn was about balance—balancing the life of a thief (and then assassin) in Vin's case with the life of a noblewoman. I wanted Wax to be dealing with some of the same concepts, but from another direction. Instead of a young person discovering high society, Wax is returning to it after abandoning it. But, as Vin never truly abandoned her street-thief roots, Wax never abandoned his gentleman's ways.

#2 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Wayne shows up

Another aspect of the Mistborn books is the humor. I plan the humor in each of my novels specifically. In Warbreaker, the humor is all about wordplay and lofty back-and-forths. In the Alcatraz books, it's about being audacious, whimsical, and . . . well, a little insane. In The Way of Kings, it's more character-specific, certain characters engaging in different types of humor to fit the scene.

The Mistborn books have always employed a type of humor I'll call grim banter. Friends who know each other making jokes back and forth amid sometimes terrible situations. There's usually an edge to the banter, much how Kelsier would speak in the original trilogy. I wanted to maintain that feel, and so for this series to work, it needed to be founded on at least two characters who knew one another well and who were comfortable with insulting one another in the name of levity.

It was actually hard not to get to Wayne sooner in the book—even though this is only chapter two, he's a big part of the heart and soul of this story. I wanted to get him in quickly, as quickly as possible. This was the right place, I'm confident—he'd have distracted from Lessie in the prologue.

I'm pleased with how he turned out, by the way. He's vibrant enough as a person, with a good soul and a lot of quirks, that he quite often steals the show. That was a balance I had to work on in the book to make sure he didn't steal it too much. (Or, at least, too often.)

#3 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Three

Wax investigates

If you've read the book, then you probably won't be surprised to find that a partial inspiration for it was the Sherlock Holmes stories. Of course, you'd have to search pretty far to find any kind of detective story that isn't somehow influenced by good Mister Holmes. This story, however, is more consciously inspired along those lines. I purposely developed a mysterious (almost even magical) series of robberies along the lines of what you see in the Holmes stories. The technological era is similar as well.

Of course, the characters are much different—even down to the character roles and dynamics. I wanted Wax to be a thinker, but more of a lawman than an eccentric. Wayne has enough eccentricity for three characters. I wanted the way that Wax approached solving a problem like this to be more methodical, more like a lawman who has grown accustomed to doing things on his own—but who has procedures he follows.

Beyond that, I wanted Wax to be solid. Many people are going to prefer Wayne for obvious reasons, but I prefer this story to be about Wax. (I'll talk more about Wayne's origins later.) Wax's solidity helps anchor the story, I feel. Perhaps I find him more interesting than others will, but the different parts of him that are warring inside create for a stronger dynamic than some of the other characters, who are more static.

#4 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The Butler

If you watch in these scenes, I'm trying very hard to set up the butler's eventual betrayal. This one must be done very carefully, however, for a couple of reasons. First off, Tillaume is actually a pretty good person. Loyal to Wax's uncle, true, but a good man. He doesn't want to kill Wax, but he sees it as important and understands what must be done.

What he is doing here in discouraging Wax is an attempt to keep him from drawing the old Lord Ladrian's attention. Tillaume knows that if it goes too far, Wax will have to be removed. But Tillaume is fond of him, and doesn't want that to happen. Hence his disapproval. He doesn't actually know he''ll be ordered to kill Wax; in fact, if he had known that he'd be responsible, he probably would have tried harder to sabotage what Wax is doing in these chapters. It takes him a little by surprise that Wax does all this, however, as Tillaume thought he'd sufficiently discouraged such behavior.

#5 Copy

Brandon Sanderson


Yes, one of the months of the year is named after Vin. There are twelve months, one after each member of the crew, with a few tweaks. (The days of the week have different names too, but we ended up not using any in this book.)

By the way, Scadrial—the world of Mistborn—is the closest Earth analogue in the cosmere. I did this intentionally, as I wanted one planet where technology and the like progressed similarly to what we have. There are distinctions, of course, but generally we've got a lot of similarities. Even in the original Mistborn, we referenced plants and animals by Earth-style names. You can assume that on Scadrial they have horses, dogs, cats, sparrows, and the like. There are twelve months, and a twenty-four-hour day. Gravity is earth gravity. Things like this.

There's no hidden meaning there—no tie back to Earth, at least not in any important way. The cosmere is entirely separate from Earth. This one planet, however, has creatures that were developed along the same lines as Earth. (Well, it's not the only one, but to say more would be to give away too much.)

#7 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Sazed speaks to Wax

So, if it matters to you, this is actually Sazed talking to Wax here. It's not just Wax's imaginings.

I'm not sure what readers are going to think of this. My goal with the original Mistborn trilogy was to set up a mythology for the world, one in which real characters were playing a part. Sazed is, essentially, God now. Maybe a lowercase g would be better on that word, but regardless, he's the one watching over the world and making sure things go as they should. At this point, he's working hard to discover what's going on with the other Shards and to keep another disaster from coming Scadrial's way.

I've spoken before on my fascination with religion, and this aspect is a particularly interesting one for me. I've played with the ideas of men being treated like gods in Elantris and Warbreaker—but they didn't really deserve it. Here, however, we have Sazed who is approaching more of what a god would be. Should he be prayed to? Why or why not?

You should know that holding two opposed Shards of Adonalsium has made Sazed more . . . zen, if you will. Not inactive. However, he has taken a belief that both Ruin and Preservation are important in people's lives, and doesn't feel that interfering is something he should often be doing. He sees his primary role being to encourage people to be better, to keep an eye on the other Shards, and to make sure the world keeps working as it should.

#8 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Four

Waxillium enters the party with Steris

Alpha and beta readers had an interesting response to Steris. It was almost always passionate, many hated her immediately, some thought she was terribly flat, and others found her to be the most interesting character in the book.

I wasn't intending her to be so divisive, honestly. I'm very fond of her myself, and so I wanted to embed some strong personality quirks to perhaps make use of some day. Now, that's not to say that I will make use of them. I like to give some depth to side characters (such as Spook and Breeze from the original trilogy) so that, if the opportunity presents itself, I'll have something to work with in new viewpoint characters. It's kind of done by instinct these days, and it being there is no promise (unfortunately) that Steris won't end up dead.

However, I very much like that as you learn more about the situation, the way Steris acts becomes more and more understandable. Perhaps not rational, as she’s really only rational in her own head. But she is who she is.

#9 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Dinner conversation with Marasi

This is probably a good point to talk about Marasi too. She's a little more simple than Steris, but also more innately likable.

Marasi represents me playing with concepts of how to make strong female characters. I'm well aware that in fiction, one of the most simple ways to make someone strong—male or female—is to make them capable in combat. Whether it's Vin or Kaladin, being able to kick butt and take names on a battlefield leads to a powerful sense of competence and self-confidence. It's only one side to those characters, of course, but it's an important side.

It shouldn't be the only way to be strong, however. Though I'm very pleased with Vin's ability to be both feminine and combat-savvy, I don't want to fall into the trap of implying that only those who can lay waste to their enemies are strong. I have conversations about this in The Way of Kings, but this story felt like a place to put some of it into practice.

I'm curious to see what people think of Marasi. I gave myself a challenge with her—create a female lead who is also very young and inexperienced, prone to blushing, and has no interest whatsoever in picking up a gun. I hope that she ends up interesting in her own right.

#10 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Five


I've mentioned before, obliquely in interviews, that Sazed transformed the koloss during his ascension. Part of what he did restored their sentience to more human levels, and he changed the way they interact with Hemalurgy. (And that's all I'll say about it for now.)

Anyway, yes, it's possible for someone to be a koloss-blood. I'm reserving an explanation for precisely what this is, and how it works, for a future book.

#11 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Waxillium gets pushed to the brink, watching the robbery

I realize it's amusing for people to think of the process of this book, which began as a "short" story. Perhaps I'll post my original attempts at writing the book. As a matter of note, Wayne was the first person I imagined for this series. In very early notes I scribbled down, he was actually going to be a hatmaker. (If you can believe that.) He developed a long way from there.

Many of you may know that I wrote this book during my "time off" between finishing Towers of Midnight and starting A Memory of Light. However, the ideas for this story had been around for some time longer, perhaps a year or two. I decided I wanted to do some shorter stories between the first two larger-scale Mistborn trilogies, and . . . well, this is what "short" means to me, I guess.

Anyway, the first scene with Wayne I dabbled in (this was before the break) was him out in the Roughs riding into town on a kandra that had the body of a horse. It was a nice spin on a typical Western motif—instead of being the quiet gunman of Western cliché, he was a screwball hatmaker. And his horse was sentient and grumbling about having to carry him around; she wanted to get back into a human body as soon as possible.

The scene didn't work, though. I didn't get far into it. Wayne wasn't working for me as a main viewpoint character at that time, and I hadn't gotten around to filling out his character with the things he eventually became. (His "borrowing," his love of accents, his good nature despite a dark past. Things like this grew as his character became more deep.)

The other thing that didn't work in those original scenes was the fact that there was no Wax. Wayne needed someone to play off, someone to be dry and more solemn—but still make for good banter. And Wayne just wasn't a leading man. The story was wrong when it was just about him. I needed to tell a story about someone else and fit him into it.

That brings us to this sequence. When I planned the original short story, this sequence at the party was going to be the end of it. The Vanishers weren't in the book—it was just a simple gang of thieves taking a hostage. The prologue didn't exist, as I've spoken of earlier. It was a more simple story of a man coming into his own and deciding to fight again after losing someone dear to him.

For that reason, this sequence here—this chapter with the next—may feel like a climactic sequence to you, of the sort you often find at the end of my books. Originally, this was going to be the ending. (Though by the time I reached this chapter in the writing, I'd already decided I was going to make the story much longer, and had greatly expanded my outline. Hints of the story's origins can still be found, however. Note that we don't get a Wayne or a Marasi viewpoint until after this sequence when we hit the expanded outline material.)

#12 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Six

The fight in the ballroom

From the early days of the Mistborn books, I'd been planning how an Allomantic gunfight would go down. I felt it the next evolution in what has been stylistically a big part of these books.

There is a fine line to walk in a lot of these sequences. I've made something of a name for myself in the fantasy world by attempting to mix some scientific reasoning with my magic systems. At the same time, Allomancy was designed precisely with action sequences in mind. I wanted them to be powerful and cinematic—and a cinematic fight sequence is often at odds with realism. (Watch two people who really know what they're doing fight with swords sometime, then watch any fight sequence in a film. Most of the time, the film sequences stray far from what would really happen.)

So, as I said, I walk a line. Sometimes, there are things I just can't do because they violate what I've set up as the rules of the world. Other times, I design the setting and nature of the fight specifically to allow for certain types of cinematic sequences. One thing I like a lot about Wax’s abilities is the power he has to manipulate his weight. There's some realism to what he does—for example, increasing his weight doesn't make him fall more quickly, but it allows him to do some powerful things while falling. Destroying the chandeliers is an example.

At the same time, I acknowledge that the weight manipulation aspect of Feruchemy is one of its more baffling powers, scientifically. Is he changing his mass? If so, he should become more dense, which I don't actually make the case when it plays out in fights. (Otherwise, increasing his weight enough would make him impervious to bullets.) So, if it's not mass manipulation, is it gravity manipulation, like Szeth and Kaladin do? Well, again, not really—as when his weight increases, his strength and ability to uphold that weight increase as well. Beyond that, Wax can't make himself so light that he has no weight at all.

So . . . well, at this point, the ability to explain it scientifically breaks down. I do like what it does, but I have to set its boundaries and stick to them—and accept that some of what's going on is irrational. (And don't get me started on what should really be happening scientifically when Wayne speeds up time.)

#13 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Seven

Marasi finds Waxillium experimenting with metals

I was very amused to find that the cover of this book had been steampunkified a little bit, with Waxillium having a pair of extraneous goggles on his head. But, to be fair, I did put some goggles in the book, so I guess I can't complain too much.

One thing I was aware of when writing this book was that I didn't want it to feel too much like Sherlock Holmes. There are a lot of parallels, as I mentioned in an earlier annotation. It was important to me to acknowledge the obvious influence to myself, but try to keep myself from falling too much into the same mold.

That's kind of hard when the story is set up, basically, to be a mystery with an investigator set in a similar time period to the Holmes stories. In my head, however, I decided this book would be more police procedural and less quirky-genius-does-deduction. I wanted Waxillium to be a cop, through and through, not an eccentric who solves cases out of curiosity. In that regard, Sam Vimes—from Terry Pratchett's books—was almost as much of an inspiration as Holmes was.

Anyway, that's all a side note to what is happening in this chapter. Waxillium is being methodical in the way he tracks down what is happening. He's very much a step-by-step kind of guy in these matters. And now that he's let himself loose and decided to be involved, he's gone a little overboard.

#14 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eight

Wayne imitates a constable

Writing this Wayne chapter was a pure delight. It was here that I was finally certain that I had his character down, following the misstarts before changing to this version of the story. Here is also where I made the decision that I'd chosen right in expanding the short story to a novel. For me, a single viewpoint character often isn't enough to carry a novel. (Unless I'm doing a first-person narrative.)

Wayne, as a character, really grew into himself here. It is interesting to me how quickly he came together as I started working on this book. That first false start was awful—yet, once I started writing about him as a counterpoint to Wax, he just popped out fully formed, Athena-like, brimming with personality and strength.

I do worry that he'll overshadow Wax a bit—which is one reason why it's good to wait until chapter eight to give him a viewpoint. However, I think it is a matter of appeal. The two of them will appeal to different readers. I really like how the two play off one another and have different strengths.

By the way, I realize the cover has a problem with Wayne holding a gun. It wasn't worth complaining about, as I felt that there needed to be a gun on the cover to indicate the shift in the Mistborn setting. However, Wax's hands are both down low, so the gun really does need to be in Wayne's hand. Just pretend he's holding it for Wax.

#15 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Wayne's adoption of personalities

One thing that I wanted to be aware of when writing Wayne was how he saw himself during these excursions where he becomes someone else. My first instinct was to blend the personality completely, until he was thinking of himself directly as the person he was imitating.

That felt like it went too far. For one thing, it was confusing to have the narrative not refer to him as "Wayne" but as the persona. For another, I didn't want Wayne to go that far—in my mind, he always has control of these things. He's not losing himself in his part; he's always aware of who he really is and what he's doing.

So, in a way, he's a method actor. He reinforces who he is in his head, occasionally giving himself thoughts as the persona to remind himself to stay in character. He lets himself feel the emotions they do, and adopt their mannerisms. But it's a coat he can take off or put back on. It's not a psychosis. That was an important distinction for me to make as a writer.

He does, however, become more and more comfortable as he plays a role. One example of this is how Wayne still thinks of constables as being lazy partway through this, though he slowly loses his prejudice as he plays the role longer, shifting to thinking of them as "constables" instead of "conners" in the later part of the chapter.

#16 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Nine

Wax and Marasi talk philosophy and his past

This sort of thing is another hallmark of the Mistborn books. (And, well, perhaps my writing in general.) I intended this book to be faster paced than what I term an "epic" like any of the books in the original trilogy. I wanted to move at a fair clip and not get slowed too often by conversations like this one. However, conversations like these are what add depth to characters for me, so I didn't feel it right to cut them completely.

Here, we get to see Waxillium's and Marasi's different views on life, the ways that who they are ground what they do. Waxillium is a realist. He sees things as they are. (Or how he thinks they are, at least.) He has a touch of a philosopher inside of him, as he wonders about what the truth is—but he wants to find that truth, prove it. He's not unaccommodating or harsh, but he does believe in absolutes and wants to find them.

Marasi is more interested in extremes because they're interesting, not because she is seeking for truth or reality. She's like a moth drawn to flame, fascinated by outliers. She's good with numbers and statistics, and can find those outliers; then she reads as much as she can about them. She could name for you every serial killer in Elendel's history, and talk about their lives and what led them to do what they did. She wouldn't consider it morbid, just fascinating. Wax, reading the same thing, would find his eye twitching. He'd get through a part of the reading, then find himself out on patrol, trying to run across someone doing something wrong that he could stop.

#17 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Butler's betrayal

Yes, the butler is a traitor. It's a cliche, but it fit the narrative very well, so I went ahead and used it. I don't think a lot of people will see it coming, though there are several clues. One of them is the fact that he makes only one cup of tea here and brings it for Wax; Tillaume is not accustomed to killing people, and he's extremely nervous in this scene. That's why he made the mistake of not making three cups and bringing them all over. (My writing group caught this, which amused me. They thought it was a mistake in the writing, though.)

One of the things that made me want to write this story, and keep going on it after I'd started, was the chance for good banter between Wax and Wayne. They play off one another well, and I haven't had a chance to do a book in a while (ever since the first Mistborn book, really) that had a good, long-established relationship between main characters who I could play off each other in this way. There is something deeply satisfying for me about this kind of writing, even though it's really just silly banter. I feel as proud of moments like Wayne toppling over because of the tea, then the conversation in the speed bubble, as I do of a deep character complexly coming to a character climax at the height of a story. That's because, at least as I see it, this is as technically difficult to pull off—the right feel of two characters with a very long relationship, talking in a way that conveys their years of experience with one another. And, at the same time, hopefully being amusing and interesting.

It's very dense writing, for all the fact that it doesn't read that way. (Unlike, for example, a really good section of dense description, laden with meaning.) Part of the reason it works is because it feels so easy to the reader.

#18 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Ten

The Carriage Ride to the Forge

Note that Wayne sleeping here is a side effect of him getting really sickly for a short time, trying to recover a bit of healing power. Marasi thinks he's just relaxed, which . . . well, he kind of is, but he wouldn't be sleeping right now save for the effects of his Feruchemy.

As another side note, the city really is as miraculous as Marasi thinks to herself. Sazed created an Eden-esque little section of land here, a place of extreme bounty and fertility, in order to cradle the regrowth of mankind. The actual science (such that it is) of it has to do with the mists bringing fresh water and hugging the ground extra strongly here, as well as some molds that refertilize the ground.

Marewill flowers are named after Kelsier's wife. (Spook, the Lord Mistborn, came up with the name—as well as naming a lot of the things that held out until this time, such as the months of the year.) The other little worldbuilding item of note here is the idea of what Wayne calls the "God Beyond," which is an idea that has begun to creep into society, the idea that there is a greater God of the universe beyond people like Harmony or Kelsier. It's somewhat analogous to some of the Gnostic beliefs in early Christianity.

#19 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Wayne's Backstory

This was the final piece of figuring out who Wayne was. When I'd toyed with him as a character in the original short story, I'd intended for there to be something like this in his past. In the case of this book, however, I didn't decide upon it until I was quite a ways into the story.

I've mentioned that when it comes to characters, I often "discovery write" who they are. Meaning, I work my way into them as I write. With plots and settings, I tend to do a lot of planning and know pretty much where I'm going from the beginning. But with characters, I do a lot of exploring. If a book isn't going well for me, it's often because I can't get the characters down the right way.

That stated, one might wonder why I don't just plan them out like I do my plots and settings. It's because it doesn't really work for me to do it that way—the characters don't stick to the plan in the same way that plots do. I've found that I need this element of improvisation in my writing to give it authenticity. The characters have to breathe in a way that the plots don't need to, for me. I have to let them be more real, in a way, though I'm not certain if it's possible to explain this process.

Anyway, my instincts said there had to be something in Wayne's past like this, and I had felt for a few chapters it had to do with why he didn't use guns. But until I wrote this chapter, I hadn't settled on how it was actually going to have played out.

#20 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eleven

First Miles Viewpoint

Dan, from my writing group, thinks that this Miles scene is misplaced, and thinks I should have held off from putting one in for a few more chapters. (He thinks the second one is better placed.) Dan usually has a good eye for these sorts of things, so I'll admit I'm not a hundred percent sure that I like this scene being here.

However, that said, in the draft that Dan read, Wax wasn't sure it was Miles until he saw the cigar box. Even then, there was a question. I decided, because of feedback, that wasn't terribly realistic. Wax would have recognized the voice well enough from the start to begin suspecting Miles, so keeping that suspicion from the reader lacked authenticity. For that reason, in a later draft I revised so that Miles' name is mentioned in the first chapter where Wax starts suspecting him.

Miles is the most erratic character in this book, personality-wise. He's an interesting guy on several fronts, but I worry he's got too much going on in that head of his to present a compelling bad guy. He's got a lot of different motives, and he's not certain about many of them. We will see how the reaction to him is; I acknowledge that he's no Zane, however. That's probably a good thing . . .

It may sound like I'm dissatisfied with Miles, but I'm not. I just happen to like what he does to Wax more than I think Miles himself is compelling as a villain. I'm pleased with his role in the book.

#21 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Marasi is an Allomancer

One of my big goals in these post-epic Mistborn books is to give a chance for more limited-power people (Mistings and their Feruchemical cousins, Ferrings) a chance to shine. In the previous trilogy, the focus really was on the Mistborn. Vin and Kelsier fit the epic fantasy mindset I wanted, powerful in an epic sort of way, broadly capable with abilities in a lot of areas.

For these books, I wanted to show people who had one or two powers, instead of sixteen, and show how specialization can achieve some incredible results. Because of that, I intentionally held back in the first trilogy in letting Vin do a few things. (Note how much better Zane was with minute steelpushes and ironpulls than she was.) Vin was incredibly skilled, but because she had so many powers to work with, she didn't home in as much on any one of them. Things like Wax's steel bubble are tricks I wanted to save for people like Wax. (He's what we’d call in the Mistborn world a steel savant, so capable with his metal—and having burned it so long, for so many years—that he's got an instinctive ability with it that lets him be very precise.)

And so we come to Marasi, who has the power opposite—but paired with—Wayne's ability. Both she and Wayne have powers I wanted to delve into. Indeed, I kind of promised that the last metals would get highlighted in these newer books. Matching that, I've given Miles the same power the Lord Ruler used to heal himself from so many incredible wounds. I wanted to explore more of what this skill was capable of when not overshadowed by so many other powers and abilities.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twelve

The group investigates the railroad tracks and canal

So, let's talk about the realities of speed bubbles. I did research on this, and got different answers from people on what really should happen if you could slow time like this. One of the issues is that light doesn't change speeds based on this sort of issue, so there was discussion of what things would look like inside looking out or outside looking in. It seems likely that there'd be some sort of red shift, and also that things might grow more dim inside a speed bubble. This is all really very theoretical, however, and so, in the end, I decided that there was enough disagreement among scientists with whom I spoke that it wouldn't be glaringly irregular if I just had the shimmer at the borders and stayed away from dealing with speed of light issues.

There's a much larger issue dealing with slowed time that rarely gets addressed by this type of fiction. I considered using it, and it's this: conservation of energy. Inside the speed bubble, Wax and Wayne are moving far more quickly, and therefore have a ton of kinetic energy compared to those outside of it. And so, a coin tossed from inside the bubble going outside would suddenly move with a proportional increase in speed (proportional to how much slower things were outside).

In essence, speed bubble = railgun.

This is dangerous for narrative reasons. I've often said that the limitations of a power are more interesting than the powers themselves. (It's Sanderson’s Second Law of Magics: Limitations > Powers.) One of the reasons for removing Mistborn and Full Feruchemists from the setting was so that we could focus in on the usefulness of the individual powers in Allomancy and Feruchemy. That falls by the wayside if any of the individual powers become too strong on their own.

I didn't want Wayne to be able to slow time, then sit inside his bubble and leisurely pick off enemies one at a time. And so, I had to place strong limitations on the speed bubbles. (Much stronger limitations than on other aspects of Allomancy. Pushing and Pulling, for example, have their limitations based in solid science. With speed bubbles, I eventually decided that solid science made them way too powerful. So I had to change things.) Therefore, the rules became: No shooting/throwing things out of speed bubbles, no moving speed bubbles, and a required couple second cool-down between creating different speed bubbles. The first rule broke required objects to be deflected when leaving the bubble and that we have the bubble absorb excess kinetic energy when something leaves it.

Disappointing for the scientists, I know, but it makes for a stronger story.

#23 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirteen

Train-Top Fight

Yes, I had a fight atop a moving train. DON'T JUDGE ME.

I couldn't help myself, honestly. This fit perfectly with the narrative, and while I realize it's a bit of a stereotypical place for a fight sequence, I really wanted to see it happen. So there you go.

This is a rather cinematic book—meaning I see it as translating easily to film. Unfortunately, I doubt that will ever happen. Not because I'm pessimistic about having films made in the first place (which I am), but because this is essentially book four in a series. Beyond that, it's a very odd book four, one that departs wildly from the previous trilogy in setting and (in some cases) tone.

What that means is that we'll probably never see a film. We couldn't start with one just of Wax and Wayne, because the setting is too much of a mismatch. Magic, plus the wild west, plus urbanized early 1900s, but it's not on our world and has three books worth of mythology to it? This sort of thing can work on paper, but I find it unlikely that studio executives would look at it and say, "Yeah, that sounds like a surefire hit to fund."

Still, we can still hope for the original trilogy making it to film. Perhaps if they’re really successful, we could see something happen with these books.

#24 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The Book's Title

It's from this chapter that we get the title of the book. The Alloy of Law. I realize it's an odd title. However, something about it strikes me. I don't think everyone is going to like it; it's certainly not as immediately powerful as something like The Way of Kings. But then, it's also a little more unique. It does, in my mind, encapsulate the theme of the novel. The idea is that these two men—Wax and Miles—are both taking their own interpretations of what it means to follow the law, and mixing it up and making something new of it. This book is a confrontation between their two different ideals.

The working book title was simply Wax and Wayne. (As I was writing the early chapters, that was how they were titled.) I knew this title wouldn't stick, however, as it's a pretty lame pun. Now, I happen to be fond of lame puns. But they don't belong in book titles unless you happen to be writing Xanth or Bob Asprin-type novels.

I can't honestly remember which name—Wax or Wayne—I came up with first. I had Wayne as a character first, but he had a different name. Wax's name came from the Mistborn ideal, where the characters frequently had strange fantasy names that abbreviated to fun terms. (Like Hammond becoming Ham or Dockson becoming Dox.) Wax just fit well with those. Wayne, on the other hand, is a name that feels Western to me, for obvious reasons. As soon as I began thinking of the character by that name, he started to become complete to me—and so I had to keep it, even though the "Wax and Wayne" pun will probably make people groan.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fourteen

They Visit Ranette

Ranette was a late addition to the story. I didn't start building her until I was working on chapter ten or so. (All earlier references to her were added in during revisions.)

I was feeling there was a hole in the story, that it needed one more character, probably a woman. I also wanted to add a gunsmith to the book, and so I started working on who she would be. Some hints of her personality came from the other character from the original short story. (Remember, the person who became Wayne was riding into town on a kandra with a horse's body. That kandra was female.) The personality I'd been developing there eventually jumped rails to become Ranette.

She's not kandra any longer, and I shifted some pieces of who she was to make her a more complete person. If you didn't catch the hint from Wax, she is indeed a lesbian, though it's not much of a big deal for the book. I try to find places for LGBT characters in the novels. (There's another one in The Way of Kings.) However, I back off from making much of an issue about it.

I guess I could be accused of not giving them full representation because of the fact that they usually have minor roles. The truth is that I'm worried I'd just do a poor job of it if I tried to write from their viewpoint; being gay is one of those things that tends to be very dominant in a person's way of seeing the world. It seems that there are a lot of pitfalls that I could saunter right into. I've think I've learned, after a lot of work, how to write female characters who (hopefully) don't feel wrong. However, I haven't taken the dive in trying to figure out how to write a gay or lesbian character.

But that's only one reason. There's a deeper one for me. Ranette will likely get viewpoints in the series, when I do more Wax and Wayne books. However, the books aren't about sexual identity, so I'll probably steer clear of that topic. In a way, I think that making a big deal of it could be more harmful. One of the reasons I put LGBT characters in my books is because they are a part of our world, and deserve representation in fiction. It's strange to think that in our world, LGBT people make up a significant minority of the population, yet in fiction (particularly fantasy fiction) they tend to either vanish completely or the story has to be all about who they are and their sexuality.

This strikes me as a bad way to do things. Just like not every book including women characters should be about feminism, not every book including LGBT characters should be about sexual orientation or gender identity issues. If they are, then that just highlights the supposition that they're out of the ordinary—it draws attention to that idea, rather than simply letting them be characters with a larger role in the story. We don't care about Lord Harms's sexuality, or Mister Suit's, or that of Miles. Why shine a big spotlight on Ranette's? It just seems divisive to me.

Anyway, those are just a few of my thoughts on the topic. Perhaps they will change as I ponder on it more.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifteen

Miles talks with Suit, gets two minders, then burns gold to see two versions of himself

One curiosity of dealing only with Mistings, rather than full Mistborn, was what to do with the less powerful metals. Certainly a Pewterarm or a Tineye can be useful. We've seen them in the series do plenty of interesting things.

But what about a person who can burn only gold? I think there's just one place in the entire first trilogy where someone does it, the time Vin burns it in the first book. (I may have put a second time in; I don't recall.) Gold, as a power, was placed into the schematics to give a clue as to what the Eleventh Metal was. Beyond that, I wanted some of the powers of Allomancy to be more metaphysical, more thoughtful, and less about combat.

I'd already decided that Miles would be a Gold Compounder, capable of the Lord Ruler's healing. That meant he had to be a gold Misting. What would one do, with this power? Ignore it? Was there a way to use it? His nature as a gold Misting is a large part of why Miles is such a thoughtful, introspective person. He is not a good man, but he is a self-reflecting one.

There's more going on here, of course. Pay attention to the name he mentions: Trell. This is one of the gods from the ancient religions Sazed talked about. You might think that the spikes in Miles will let Sazed influence him directly, and they would—except that Sazed has taken a complete "free will is needed" perspective on life. He won't let himself take control of people directly unless they've "given themselves" to him, as most of the kandra have at this point. Even then, he usually only nudges.

But there is something odd going on with Miles.

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Brandon Sanderson

Wax and Marasi talk in Ranette's house

There's a tiny bit of sexual tension between the two of them. It's not supposed to be very strong, as Lessie's death hovers over Wax like a shadow. He's not really looking for romance, and I didn't want to push the book too much in that direction.

I'm assuming that people will pick up on Marasi as a romantic interest from the get-go. And, of course, I therefore hope that they find themselves a little bit upended when Wax stubbornly ignores, or resists, the story cues that he's supposed to be falling for Marasi. Because so far, he's really not. Though who she is looks good on paper for him, it's just not right, and he knows it. Sometimes in real life, you put two people together and they start dating. They seem perfect for one another, but for some reason there's nothing there.

Part of it is the hero worship that Marasi has. He can sense it, and that makes him uncomfortable. He worries that she's interested in him merely because she has read so much about Wax the lawkeeper. Unfortunately, he's right. She doesn't know him. She could fall for the real him—and she's in the process of doing that—but from his perspective there's still something wrong with this relationship. Too many things wrong, I should say.

An interesting note here is that my editor took great effort in this scene (for some reason) to shorten "Waxillium" each time it was mentioned to simply "Wax." I didn't catch what he'd done until the copyedit. That was utterly wrong, because this is Wax's viewpoint. And in his head, he now sees himself as Waxillium, and not just Wax. If you never noticed it, read through the book again and pay attention to when he calls himself Waxillium and when he calls himself Wax. It's done very deliberately.

Peter Ahlstrom

What name other characters use for Wax when talking to or thinking about him is something to pay attention to throughout this series.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Sixteen

Wayne pretends to be an old woman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Seventeen

The Mists Form

In writing this book, I had to nail down a few worldbuilding issues I'd been contemplating even before the first trilogy ended. What would happen to the mists, for instance, once Sazed took over and became Harmony?

The mists, obviously, are a big part of the series. It didn't make sense—either narratively or worldbuilding-wise—to lose them completely. However, they'd been created as an effect of Preservation trying to use his essence to fight against Ruin's destruction of the world. So . . . wouldn't they go away?

I decided that Sazed would still send them. They're part of the nature of the world now. To acknowledge what had happened, they wouldn't come every night any longer. But they would come. They were changed in that they are no longer simply the raw power of Preservation; they're now a part of Harmony—so they no longer pull away from Hemalurgy in the same way as they used to. They still have the odd effect of being able to power Allomancy. (And Feruchemy as well—if one knows how to do it.)

The mists are, in part, the raw power of creation. And when one is favored of Harmony, the mists have a greater effect than they might otherwise have. We'll see more of this later.

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Brandon Sanderson

The train cars get swapped

I hope this will surprise a few people, but it's one of the more obvious twists I've had in my books. It's pretty well foreshadowed, and it's pretty much the only way this could play out, so I think the "inevitable" part of this twist is more powerful than the "surprising" part of it. That's all right for me, as I decided to give Miles viewpoints, which meant the "How is he doing it?" side of the mystery became less important to the story than his motivations.

That's part of what, to me, makes this book more of a "Brandon" book than a regular detective story. As I said in a previous annotation, I hope for this to be a fun page-turner, but it's still one of my books—which means that the worldbuilding and the characters are more important to me than the amazing mystery. (Which may not be all that amazing.)

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Brandon Sanderson

The Church of the Survivor

Another aspect of worldbuilding had to do with building all of the religions. Kelsier is still around, by the way. I'll tell you eventually what he's been up to, but if you look through the original trilogy you'll find hints of it.

I wanted the religions of the world to all be grounded in fact, but all have different motivations. I wanted them to be realistic, however, in that they don't always get along. Harmony may be there watching, but I didn't think he'd interfere too much. That comes from holding two opposed powers; he's got more of a Zen outlook on things.

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Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eighteen


I didn't really intend Ranette to become a kind of "Q" figure, providing Wax with a cool gun. I had written into the outline (once I added her) that he got a new Sterrion from her.

However, I wanted some more quirk to her character. Beyond that, I felt that one of the things this book should do is show the ways that Allomancy—and dealing with Allomancers—has entered the common consciousness of the world. It makes sense to build guns to deal with them, just as now we build guns specifically to deal with armor, or specific situations a combatant might find themselves in.

I felt that I wanted to integrate the Metallic Arts more into real society. You may notice, for instance, that I worked hard in this book to work Allomancy and metallurgy into the way that people speak. The metaphors they use, the way they see the world. A person who is up to no good is a "bad alloy." That sort of thing.

It would be possible to overdo this, of course, but I feel—looking back objectively at the original trilogy—that I didn't do enough of it. That's okay, because in the original trilogy Allomancy was something that you kept hidden, and the common people didn't know much about it. Feruchemy was an underground art, and only the Inquisitors knew of Hemalurgy.

Now however, at least two of the three are very common in society. I wanted to account for that. Building Vindication, the special Allomancer's gun, was a way to integrate the two halves of this book—the historical western and the fantasy.

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Brandon Sanderson


In the summer of 2010, my wife and I visited New York. My editor, Moshe, is a life-long New Yorker and a repository of details and facts. (I've found this is a common thing in a lot of editors; they tend to be the type to pay attention to details.) The result of this was him towing us all over the city, telling us little tidbits about this building or that one.

Well, one of the stories he told us was about the early days of skyscrapers, and how people would race to build the highest building. He talked about some of the famous rivalries; I think that's the first time I began to envision a cool Allomantic fight taking place in the heights of an unfinished skyscraper. Five months or so later, I wrote this scene.

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Brandon Sanderson

Miles as a God

I had to be careful about the Miles "Are we not gods?" monologue, as I feel this is a theme that's come up a little too often in the Mistborn books. The Lord Ruler had it, Kelsier had it to an extent, and Zane flirted with it. We ran into it with Spook as well.

I like that it's a running theme—this would be a real concern, I feel. In our world, we talk about one race or gender being superior, but in the end there's really no scientific basis for it. Yes, people are different, but I find no solid argument to one group being better than another. That hasn't stopped a lot of people from trying to prove it.

Well, what if there were something like Allomancy? It's the only major magic system I've done that is genetic. And in this world, you have the only solid argument of "Well, one genetic line is obviously superior to another." That creates for some troubling things to think about, I should hope. It goes further than skaa and nobility, as talked about in the first trilogy.

If you were Miles—who, by genetics, was practically invincible and immortal—I think it would be very hard to not to start thinking of yourself in this way. So it keeps popping up as a theme. (Eventually I'll really dig into it, rather than flirting with it as I have in most of the books.)

Event details
Name The Alloy of Law Annotations
Date March 14, 2014
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