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    Brandon Sanderson

    Vivenna's Thoughts on Being a Drab

    A lot of what happened to Vivenna—how she saw the world and how she acted—was influenced by being a Drab. As I've said before, the Hallandren aren't right when they say losing your Breath does nothing to you. Most Drabs struggle with depression, and the fact that they're almost always sick doesn't help either.

    And so, Vivenna's time on the streets was artificially made more dreary and terrible than it truly was. Being a Drab, being sick, the shock of being betrayed—these things combined to give you the person you saw in the previous two chapters. It's a way to cut a corner. I wanted Vivenna to feel like she'd been on the streets for months, but for it only to have been a few weeks.

    She is able to make her hair change colors again. This is a representation of the fact that she has started to pull out of the nightmare. She's slightly in control of her world again, and the roughest time for her has passed. There's also a clue in that hair, one that Vasher mentions. Because of it, and her heritage, and something very mysterious in the past, every member of the royal line has a fraction of a divine Returned Breath in them. That makes it much easier for them to learn to Awaken than a normal person.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Vasher the Hero

    We finally start to get a sense here of Vasher's true motivations. When designing him as a character, one of my goals was to force myself to stretch. I wanted to tell a story about a hero who was very different from my standard. A person who wasn't glib, who wasn't good with people. The opposite of Kelsier or Raoden—a man who had trouble expressing himself, who let his anger get the better of him, and who was rough around the edges. You really get to see who he is in this chapter as he shoves Vivenna around and bullies the Idrians.

    Vasher tries, and his heart is good, but he just doesn't have a delicate bone in his body. He doesn't know how to influence people. He made for a fascinating hero to write for that reason, but it also led me to want to keep him more mysterious from the beginning. I felt that if we spent too much time with him, we wouldn't be as interested in him. The way people who read the book kept crying for more Vasher and more Nightblood made me think I was right in keeping their chapters sparse—it meant that by the time you reached this point in the book, you were (hopefully) very interested in what he was doing.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Forty-Three

    Vivenna Awakens in Vasher's Care

    Vivenna, as a character, was divided into two parts in my head. There was the Vivenna of the first half of the book, who was haughty and misled, though determined and self-confident. Then there was the break in the middle, where everything was taken away from her. Now we're into Vivenna's second half, the confused and uncertain Vivenna who has to essentially start all over.

    Her plot is a contrast to Siri's plot. Siri's growth is more gradual; she doesn't have an event like Vivenna's time on the streets to make a focus for her plotline. The depth of growth the changes afford Vivenna made her a very interesting character to write; I'm sorry that she's generally people's least favorite character. But that wasn't all that unanticipated. When presented with a large group of characters, many of whom were amusing or mysterious, then dropping one major character in who had a serious growth arc but started out less likable . . . well, you expect readers to latch on to other characters. By this point in the story, they're not used to caring about Vivenna as much as the others, so I think that her drama isn't as powerful for them—which means she doesn't have time to earn their affection, even when she starts changing and growing.

    Of course, part of me still sees the Vivenna of the sequel, where she can continue her growth and learning. I think she'll be a great character for that book, if I ever write it. Though I worry about doing so and making people disappointed that I'm writing about her rather than Siri.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Once, all the gods and goddesses did as Allmother now does—if someone came to them with a petition, they tried their best to find a way to help them without giving up their Breath. The modern gods consider this far too much trouble, and it has fallen out of practice. Everyone says that the gods of this day are weaker than the previous ones. They're right, though weaker isn't the right word. They're just not as high quality a group of people, partially because of their traditions and expectations.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Lightsong Meets Allmother

    This was a tough scene to get right. The trick is, I knew by this point that I wanted Allmother to be one of those who disliked Lightsong. She thinks that he's a useless god, and she isn't one of those who saw hidden depth in him.

    I also knew that I wanted to give a twist here by having Lightsong offer up his Commands and give himself a way out, so to speak. What he does here is rather honorable. He knows that Allmother is a clever woman and perhaps one of the only gods capable of going toe-to-toe with Blushweaver. By giving her his Commands, he does a good job of countering Blushweaver without having to resist her.

    But he couldn't get away with it. He had to stay in the middle of it all, for the good of the story and for the good of him as a character. So the question became, "Why in the world would Allmother give him her Commands?"

    The prophetic dreams came to my rescue a couple of times in this book. I know that they're cheating slightly, but since I've built them into the story, I might as well use them. Having her having dreamed of his arrival gives me the out for why she'd do something as crazy as give up her Commands. I think her visions, mixed with the knowledge that Calmseer trusted Lightsong, would be enough to push her over the edge.

    Warbreaker Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    In the original draft, I wasn't sure what kind of person I was going to make Allmother. I hadn't planned for her and Lightsong to have any kind of history together; these are just connections I worked into it as I wrote. (Along with his relationship with Calmseer.) He needed something to intertwine him better with the court, and so as I was drafting, these things kind of just fit together. Sometimes readers ask me what I plan and what I don't. Well, the honest truth is that it's hard to look at a book and give clear guidelines on what was planned and what was developed during the process of writing. In this case, Allmother as a character was done completely on the fly.

    Of course, once she was developed, I went back in the next draft and built in some references to her in the Lightsong sections so that I could hint at previous interaction.

    Warbreaker Annotations ()
    #6309 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    My editor tried to take out the shot of the final man, slumping back but remaining kneeling, staring up into the sky with Nightblood rammed through his chest and propping him up from behind. But I think it's one of the more powerful ones in the book, so I fought for it. (He didn't think it was realistic that the body would just remain there kneeling.)

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    #6310 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Nightblood

    Nightblood's name, by the way, is supposed to sound kind of like the names of the Returned. I played with various different ways for his powers to manifest. I liked the idea of him driving those who hold him to kill anyone nearby. It seemed to work with the concepts that have come before—a kind of unholy, sentient mix of Stormbringer and the One Ring.

    The strangest thing about him is the idea that his form isn't that important. The sheath is like a binding for him, keeping his power contained. So drawing him out isn't like drawing a regular weapon, but rather an unleashing of a creature who has been kept chained.

    Once that creature is unleashed, he becomes a weapon—even if he's unleashed only a little bit. The sheath itself turns into a weapon, twisting those around it. You don't need to stab someone with Nightblood to kill them; smashing them on the back with the sheath works just as well. It will crunch bones, but beyond that, merely touching them with the sheath when the smoke is leaking can be deadly.

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    #6311 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Forty-One

    Vivenna, Sick and Disoriented, Gets Turned Away by the Restaurant Keeper

    One of the ways I decided to make Vivenna's sections here work better was by enhancing the fuzziness of her mind. By giving her this sense of numbness, I hope to indicate that something is not right with her.

    It's common for someone who suddenly becomes a Drab to get sick almost immediately. For a time, her immune system was magically enhanced and warded, in a way, to keep her from becoming ill. With that removed suddenly, sickness can strike. She hasn't built up immunities to the sicknesses going around, and by becoming a Drab, her immune system suddenly works far worse than that of other people.

    These things combined made her come down with something pretty nasty the very day she put away her Breath. This would have killed her, eventually, if she hadn't done something about it. She would have grown so dizzy and confused that she wouldn't have even been able to walk.

    By sending men to find her, Denth saved her life.

    Anyway, I feel that these scenes work much better now. We can look at Vivenna's time on the streets in the same surreal sense that she does. They happened in the past, in a strange dream state. In that way, they can seem much longer than just two chapters and a couple of weeks.

    Waygate Foundation Write-a-thon ()
    #6334 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    For the same reason that I didn't want to do a transgendered on air streaming when I haven't done the research. I don't want to write a gay character without having the resources to send the book to my gay friends to read them and say "Hey am I accidentally being offensive" and things like that. It's just something that I want to be very extra careful on so I'm not going to do it on screen. There is just too many potential pit falls. I know that we want to try  to write the 'other', and that's important, but I worry that with all of this brainstorming this could go silly, so I just want to be careful.

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    #6336 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    The God King's Priests

    Treledees explains, finally, why it is that the God King's tongue was removed. I hope this makes sense. Or, more accurately, I hope that Treledees's explanation and rationalizations make sense. I don't want the priesthood to come off as too evil in these books. In fact, because we're seeing through the eyes of so many Idrians, I work very hard to show the Idrians (and the reader) their prejudices.

    This isn't because I wanted to write a book about prejudice. It's because I wanted to tell a good story, and I believe that a good story works to show all sides of a conflict. Since we don't have any viewpoints from the priests, I felt I needed several reminders (like the confrontation between Vivenna and Jewels) to explain the Hallandren viewpoint.

    Warbreaker Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    I wanted a good, strong scene where we could see that Siri made the decision to keep her hair in check. Again, I'm moving her and Vivenna into different roles, but I want it to be natural, an evolution of their characters brought on by who they are and how their surroundings affect them.

    In this case, living in the Court of Gods, there is a very good reason to learn to control your hair. If many are like Treledees, who is of the Third Heightening, then even the most minute changes in your hair color will tip them off.

    This is one of the interactions of the magic system that was nice to connect, an interaction I didn't expect or anticipate. With a lot of Breath, you can perceive very slight changes in color. With the Royal Locks, your hair responds to even your slightest emotions. Put the two together, and you get this scene. It was, in a way, inevitable from the beginning of the book.

    Siri has come a long way. She's still stumbling about and making a lot of mistakes. But she's also winning some victories. There's nothing hidden to learn about this chapter; she really did just one-up Treledees and get what she wanted.

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    #6339 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Vivenna Finds an Alley to Sleep In

    One of the big stories I'm worried about channeling here is Les Misérables. It's one of my favorite stories of all time, so sometimes it's difficult not to find myself drawing upon Hugo's story and characters. That constant fight to keep myself from leaning too much on what has come before went into overdrive in these chapters.

    In the end, however, I think that Vivenna's scenes belong here and accent the story. So yes, if you noticed them, there are some echoes of Fantine in these sections—Vivenna selling her hair and noticing the prostitutes most prominent among them. These two items, most of all, I considered cutting. But in the end, I decided that if there was anyone I was proud to have influencing my writing, it was Hugo, and I left the references. Partially as an homage, I guess—though that's always the excuse of someone who ends up echoing a great story of the past.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Thirty-Nine

    Vivenna Begs

    This chapter and the next one were originally a single chapter. In the drafting process, I realized that my original chapter just wouldn't do. I'd been in a hurry to get on with Vivenna's viewpoint, and I had been worried about spending a lot of time on the streets with her, since I didn't want to retread ground I've seen in a lot of other books.

    In this case, I was letting my bias against doing the expected thing make the book worse. Now, my drive to find new twists on fantasy tropes and plots usually serves me well. I think it makes my books stand out. You know that when you pick up a Brandon Sanderson fantasy novel, you're going to get a complex, epic story with an original take on magic and a different spin on the fantasy archetypes.

    However, this same sense can be problematic if I let it drive me too far. It's nearly impossible to write a book that doesn't echo anything someone else has done. It's tough enough to come up with one original idea, let alone make every single idea in a book original. I think that trying to do so would be a path to folly—a path to rarely, if ever, completing anything.

    In this case, we needed to have a longer time with Vivenna on the streets. We needed it to feel like she'd earned the sections of time she spent there. I knew I didn't want to go overboard on it, but I also couldn't skimp. So I sliced the chapter into two and added some material to each one, particularly the second chapter.

    Salt Lake City signing ()
    #6341 Copy

    Questioner

    I've got a list of various Cosmere bits of metal and I was wondering if you would rank them from like one to ten or just easy to difficult on how hard it would be to steelpush on them. So with one being just a regular coin, ten being like when the Lord Ruler was moving bits of glass on the floor, so like metal inside a person's body.

    Brandon Sanderson

    It depends on how strong the Investiture in them is.

    Questioner

    Is that gonna be the answer for all of these?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Probably!

    Questioner

    How about a spike charged with Hemalurgy?

    Brandon Sanderson

    A spike charged with Hemalurgy... that depends on...

    Questioner

    Not in a person.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Depends on how strong, yeah, a spike is moderately, (in the realm of these kinds of things) moderately easy to push on because a spike does not rip off very much Investiture. Only enough to short circuit the soul, and less it over time. I would put that at the bottom, with the top being very hard, to be one of the easier things.

    Questioner

    How about a metalmind that is full?

    Brandon Sanderson

    That is full? That is going to be middle of the realm of the, yeah. Generally easier than, for instance, a Shardblade which is going to be very hard.

    Questioner #2

    A Shardblade is [inaudible] actually metal? [metal]-ish?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Ish. Is Lerasium a metal? Yeah.

    Questioner

    So that'd be the same for Shardplate too?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Shardplate and Blade are very hard. Blade is probably gonna be a little harder.

    Questioner

    A Half-shard?

    Brandon Sanderson

    A Half-shard shield? That's gonna be moderate.

    Questioner

    Nightblood? I imagine that being hard.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Hard, of all the things you've listed, that is going to be the hardest. Far beyond even a Sharblade.

    Questioner

    Far beyond metal inside a person? 

    Brandon Sanderson

    Uh, yes. Depending on how invested the person is.

    Questioner

    If somebody was invested as much as Nightblood?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes, for instance the God King, right. At the end with all those Breaths. Pushing something inside of him, getting through all of that? Gonna be real hard. Average person on Scadrial? You've seen how hard that is. A drab? Much easier.

    Questioner

    That was my next one, or no, sorry not a drab. A lifeless?

    Brandon Sanderson

    A Lifeless, yeah. Even... yeah. Lifeless are kind of weird because they've had their soul leave but then they've had a replacement stuck in in the form of Breath which leaves them in a very weird position compared to a drab which has had part of their Investiture ripped away but a majority remains, so, anyways. I'm going to give you one more. Pick your favorite.

    Questioner

    A soulstamped piece of metal?

    Brandon Sanderson

    A soulstamped piece of metal is going to be on the lower, easier side. Not a lot of Investiture going on in a soulstamp.

    Warbreaker Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    The Tunnels

    The tunnels become a focus for Lightsong, though the truth is that they're not as important to the case as he thinks they are. Yes, there are things to be learned from them. Bluefingers has sequestered a large group of mercenaries down in a secure chamber under there. He's also begun using Pahn Kahl Awakeners (yes, there are some) to Break some of the Lifeless. The tunnels are central to his plot of getting into the God King's palace at the end of the book and securing it.

    But Lightsong doesn't know any of this, and doesn't figure out most of it during the course of the book. (It's left for the reader to infer.) Lightsong's fixation with the tunnels is driven partially by the visions he's been seeing at night, which include the tunnels and his discovery of Blushweaver being captured. He's made a subconscious connection.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Lightsong Throws Pebbles to Count Priests

    One of the challenges in writing these sections was that Lightsong could never do anything the "normal" way. He could have simply sent his priests to count at the gates, then come back to him with some figures. But it wouldn't have felt right.

    Despite his protests, Lightsong likes to meddle. He likes to pick at things and be involved. He couldn't just send someone to count; he had to go count himself. And he had to do so in a properly flamboyant way.

    This scene with the pebbles is important for far more than the obvious reasons. Yes, we're furthering the mystery plots (though this particular one isn't as important to the overall plot as some others). However, the more important part of this scene is how it shows Lightsong's progression and growth.

    I know what it's like to finally find something to latch onto, something to drive you and give added purpose to your life. For me, it was writing. For Lightsong, it's the investigation of the murder.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Thirty-Eight

    Lightsong Awakes from More Bad Dreams

    This is the scene in the book where I originally started to turn Lightsong's dreams a tad darker. As you can see from the final version, I've now been doing that from the beginning. All to keep tension up.

    Anyway, these dreams he saw—a prison, Scoot, Blushweaver—were there in the original draft. As I've said, I'm a planner, and so I had my ending well in mind by this point in the original version of the book. That ending changed in many ways during revision, but it's kind of surprising how much stayed the same. Sometimes, things just work and you do get them right on the first try.

    Salt Lake City signing ()
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    Questioner

    What would happen to a Kandra if you bisected down the middle with half of its blessing ending up on either half?

    Brandon Sanderson

    That would, like ripping off any other piece of it, it would be very disturbing for the Kandra but they could reabsorb and come back together. They would not be able to function half and half. That would eventually kill them. Basically, they cant like send pieces and do things. They can be ripped apart and heal, but if you ripped them in half that would be killing them.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Vivenna Hides Her Breath in a Shawl

    This has been possible from the beginning, and if Denth had truly been on her side, he would have admitted that there's a way she could get rid of her Breaths. What she would need to do is Awaken something with a one-Breath Command. There are some. They don't do much, but you can Awaken a very tiny scrap of cloth tied into the shape of a person with a very simple Command. That takes one Breath.

    Next, you put the rest of your Breath into another object. Then you get that one Breath back and go hunting for a Drab to give it to. Then you take the rest of your Breath back from the object. From there, you can repeat the process if you want to. Vivenna could get rid of the Breaths one by one.

    Of course, Denth didn't want that to happen. He was coveting those Breaths. What he said was intended to sound like an innocent mistake. Many people unfamiliar with Awakening would make that mistake, so if Vivenna learned the truth later, he wouldn't look suspicious.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Thirty-Seven

    Vivenna Wanders, Then Is Confronted by a Thief Who Takes Her Dress

    The next few Vivenna chapters are short. I wanted to convey that she's on the streets for a time, but didn't want us to have to wallow in her problems. I've seen books do that quite well, and I don't want this novel to focus on it. (If you're interested in one that does it well, Paula Volsky's Illusion has a nice section about what it's like to be a noblewoman who is forced to live on the streets.)

    Instead, these chapters are the transition chapters for Vivenna's character. The representation of her going as low as she can go, so that later she can begin to rebuild. The dress was a problem—it was way too distinctive, and it could sell for enough that she wouldn't have to live on the streets. She could buy something cheap and modest, then put herself up in an inn. So, naturally, it had to get stolen.

    I didn't want to strip her all the way, though. We've been through enough of that with Siri, and I really didn't want to go there in this situation. Vivenna can be brought down to the lows she needs to reach without having to be raped by a random man in an alley. (Personally, I think that rape is overused in a lot of fiction.)

    Salt Lake City signing ()
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    Questioner

    So Kandra that just bones. Obviously they need that physically but is there a Cognitive and Spiritual purpose to the bones too?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Uh, no the bones are just there for the muscles to pull against.

    Questioner

    So they don't need it, some spiritual link for the bones to...

    Brandon Sanderson

    No, good question.

    Warbreaker Annotations ()
    #6349 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    What else . . . oh, Susebron's taste buds. A couple of people have e-mailed me about this. From my research (which could be wrong), I've come to understand that the old teaching that certain parts of your mouth have taste buds that focus on certain tastes is wrong. The conventional wisdom is that your "sweet" taste buds are on your tongue, and if it is removed, you won't be able to taste sugar. (Which is why people e-mail me.)

    That's apparently an urban legend. There are different kinds of taste buds, but each kind appears in clusters alongside the other kinds. And while most of your taste buds are on the tongue, many are on the roof of the mouth too. So Susebron could taste sweets as well as he tastes anything else.

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    #6350 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Siri and Susebron Eat a Midnight Meal

    This is a scene lifted almost from my own life. While on my honeymoon, Emily and I thought we were being so indulgent by ordering room service at three a.m. It was on a cruise ship, and you can do that kind of thing without having to pay extra for it. It kind of felt like the entire ship's kitchens were there for our whims. And so, a variation on the event popped up in this book.

    That doesn't happen to me very often in books. Usually, it's hard to point toward one event in my life that inspired a scene. But those sorts of things are peppered throughout this book. Another one is the scene where Siri tries to look seductively at Susebron, then bursts into laughter. My wife is absolutely terrible at looking seductive—not because she isn't pretty, but because whenever she tries, she ends up having a fit of laughter at how ridiculous she thinks she looks.