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    Words of Radiance Washington, DC signing ()
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    Questioner (paraphrased)

    Do you have an adviser for the science?

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    I usually run things by my editor who's very big into science, but mostly we go find an expert and have him read.  The thing about it is, I have to hand wave a lot of things.  Like the laws of thermodynamics, I can't, you know..  There are quantum physics in here.  I'm trying to handwave as little as possible but we are breaking fundamental laws of physics, but even in terms of things like the laws of conservation.  Energy is being conserved, but there's a supernatural source.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    What Bluefingers Knows

    Siri meets with Bluefingers, who surprises her in the bath yet again. In this little exchange, Bluefingers is being very careful, as he doesn't want to let on how much he knows. As well as Siri is learning to deal with court, she has nothing on Bluefingers, who has spent his entire life there—and who was trained by a Pahn Kahl steward before him. He has been planning his coup for a long time and was actually very frustrated when Vahr started his little rebellion—drawing eyes toward the Pahn Kahl. It was partially due to Bluefingers's manipulations and information leaks to the Returned that Vahr was captured in the first place.

    Here, he lets Siri think he doesn't know that the God King is mute (he does know, and has known for most of his life) and that he is worried about the replacement of the Pahn Kahl servants. (That would be a setback, but not really the main problem.) What he wants most to do is drive a spike between Siri and the priests, and he's succeeding gloriously. He almost leaped for joy when Siri offered her little "You get the God King and me out of the palace" offer. It makes his job a lot easier if/when he decides to assassinate the God King himself.

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    Siri Is Confronted by Blushweaver

    This is one of those little scenes you put into a book that isn't foreshadowing anything specific. I don't mind if people home in on this confrontation and worry that Blushweaver will take action against Siri, but I don't go there with the book. Blushweaver here is just jealous. She knows enough to recognize that in herself, however, and won't let it push her much farther than her little warning here.

    I like what this shows about Blushweaver's character, and I like that it illustrates how she sees Lightsong. Yes, she's in love with him. Quite deeply, in fact. She brought him into her plots and schemes here partially because she trusts him, and partially because she wanted to show off for him—and perhaps finally convince him to accept her as a lover.

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    Siri Watches the Priests

    I took a bit of a risk here, having a little scene where Siri admits that all of the troubles and problems in Hallandren excite her. I hope this doesn't seem out of character; I think I foreshadowed well that she'd react this way. Back in Idris, she was always making trouble, partially (even though she wouldn't admit it) because she found it exciting. I think that's common for those who end up in trouble a lot of the time.

    Here, what she feels is that same sense—only a more mature version. She's excited by politics, by being in the middle of things, by having a chance to change the future of the city. I think this is a valuable attribute for one in her position, as long as it isn't taken too far. By having Vivenna constantly frustrated by her situation and Siri thrilled by hers, I wanted to show a contrast and have the reader come to the same conclusion Siri does in this scene: that Vivenna wouldn't have made a very good queen to the God King. She'd have made the expected queen, and would have done what everyone anticipated her doing. But she would have let herself be a martyr the entire time, which would have been a self-centered way of approaching her duty.

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    Anyway, as I've said before, I wasn't intending this to be a book to parallel the state of the United States and the war in Iraq. It just kind of came out as it has, and I think the main reason is one of pulling a reversal upon myself. You see, Mistborn was a book about a bloody revolution instigated by the protagonists. We don't see a lot of the death it caused, and fortunately much of the bloodshed was averted by a timely speech given by a certain young nobleman, but the fact remains that I wrote about overthrowing a government.

    That seems to be a popular topic for novels. And anytime I notice that something is popular in the genre, I start wondering if I could write a book about the opposite. In this case, I began thinking of a book where the protagonists were trying to stop a war instead of start one. Where they wanted to stabilize the government instead of destabilize it. The opposite story of Mistborn, in some ways.

    I had the name of the book, Warbreaker, long before I even knew who the Warbreaker would be or what the rest of the book would be about. I'm glad we were able to keep it, though my editor complained just a tad that he thought it didn't indicate the right sense of epic fantasy for the book.

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    Vasher Takes Vivenna Captive

    Now things are finally starting to move! My books, I know, can be kind of slow sometimes. That comes from the fact that I, myself, like to read books that are kind of slow. These two chapters were very important ones. Vivenna admitted something very important about herself, then in a way took the wrong sort of responsibility for her life. Siri realized something about herself, then took the right sort of responsibility for her life. A little bit of reversal going on, as the two sisters live their parallel—yet so different—lives in T'Telir.

    But it was certainly time for a shake-up. The next Vivenna chapters turn a lot of things on their heads.

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    Vivenna Agrees to Learn Awakening

    This has been a long time coming. Sorry to make you wait; in some of my books, I like to use a lot of magic from the start. In others, I like to build out the setting first, letting the characters learn and explore more slowly.

    I've long wanted to call a magic system "Awakening," by the way. I tried it out originally in The Way of Kings as the name for the transformation-based magic system in that book. But it never worked. You didn't really "awaken" things. I was just using the term because it sounded good.

    So I put it back in the file to be recycled someday. As I began to plan this book, I developed a magic system that could be called Awakening. Bringing objects to life seems to fit that just perfectly. So yes, the word came first—though I'm not sure how much I grew the magic system around that one word, or if I was feeling I wanted to do a "bring objects to life" magic system and realized I could use that great name I'd come up with earlier.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Vivenna Admits the Real Reason She Came to Hallandren

    I've been pushing toward this for a long time in the narrative. Vivenna didn't come to Hallandren to save her sister—that's a front. That's what she told herself. But the real reasons are more deep, more personal, and less noble. She had to come because of how much of her life had been focused on the city. Beyond that, she came because of her hatred of Hallandren. She wanted to find ways to hurt it for what it had done to her.

    It was partially her pride. She was the one who was supposed to deal with Hallandren. Her pride wouldn't let her stay away, wouldn't let Siri do the job that Vivenna was certain she could do better.

    She has kept her hatred in check quite well, but it's always been there, driving her. I hope my readers always thought that coming to save Siri was a flimsy reason for Vivenna to come to T'Telir. The term love/hate relationship has become a cliché, but I honestly think there is some real psychology to it, and I feel that I explained one aspect of it here, for Vivenna.

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    Chapter Thirty-Three

    Vivenna and the Mercenaries Wait in the Safe House after the Lifeless Attack on the Slumlords

    Why does Jewels bother sewing up Clod? Why fix Lifeless at all? Denth's answer is a fairly good one, but it could use some more explanation.

    You see, when one makes a Lifeless, the reason the Breath stays and won't come back is because the body of a recently deceased person is too "sticky" for Breaths. One Breath attaches to it, and because the body so clearly remembers being alive, it can use that Breath to power it. (Assuming you have the right Commands and can picture them correctly in your head when you make the Lifeless.)

    However, the more the Lifeless is damaged, the less like the shape of a living person it is, and the more difficult it is for the Breath to keep that body going. Powering a body with only one Breath is hard—it requires the body to work mostly on its own. When you power a cloak or something like that, the Breaths need to provide a lot of energy, since there's no real muscles to use or skeletal structure to rely on.

    So the more wounded a Lifeless becomes, the less well its Breath can keep it going. Eventually you'll need to stick a second Breath into it, then a third, all the way up until that Lifeless is nothing more than a bunch of bones you've Awakened. At that point, you might as well be using sticks or cloth.

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    I wasn't sure if I wanted a map of the world in the front of this book or not. The problem is, if I give a world map, I risk doing it wrong. It takes a very specific set of geographic requirements for a rain forest to work, and what I wanted here was a kind of rain forest valley, irregular and out of place in the world. In the abstract, that can work—but the more details I pin down in the map, the less likely it is to be believable.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Hoid the Storyteller Tells Us the History of Hallandren

    This whole scene came about because I wanted an interesting way to delve into the history. Siri needed to hear it, and I felt that many readers would want to know it. However, that threatened to put me into the realm of the dreaded infodump.

    And so, I brought in the big guns. This cameo is so obvious (or, at least, someday it will be) that I almost didn't use the name Hoid for the character, as I felt it would be too obvious. The first draft had him using another of his favorite pseudonyms. However, in the end, I decided that too many people would be confused (or at least even more confused) if I didn't use the same name. So here it is. And if you have no idea what I'm talking about . . . well, let's just say that there's a lot more to this random appearance than you might think.

    Anyway, I love this storytelling method, and I worry that Hoid here steals the show. However, he's very good at what he does, and I think it makes for a very engaging scene that gets us the information we need without boring us out of our skulls.

    Is everything he says here true? No. There are some approximations and some guesses. However, all things considered, it's pretty accurate. All of the large bits are true.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Thirty-Two

    Siri Lies in Bed and Decides to Take Charge

    Reading through this scene again, I feel like it needs a bit of a trim. Ah well. There are always going to be sections like that that make it through.

    I felt that there needed to be a scene where Siri finally stopped looking toward the past and berating herself for not being more like Vivenna. For her to step forward and become the woman she must be, she needed to do it of her own choice, with her own motivations. She needed this chance.

    Sometimes in writing classes or in books on telling stories, they'll mention a moment somewhere in act two where the character decides to take charge. I always dislike explanations like that, since I think it's too easy for newer writers to look at such explanations as an item on a checklist that you have to do. I never use things like that. I don't think, "This is act two, so the characters need to do X." The tendency to follow a formula like that is part of what bothers me about the screenwriting profession. It seems like if you always follow the rules, there's never any spontaneity in a book.

    Still, those guidelines and suggestions are used by a lot of people who tell good stories, so I guess you use what works for you.

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    The City Guard Attacks

    Some of you may be wondering whose plot led to this attack by the city guard on the meeting.

    Well, it's complicated. The city watch—worried about the upswing in crime and the political tension lately—has grown more aggressive. They know that someone snuck into the palace of Mercystar herself, threatening one of their goddesses. The watch captain is making a play for a promotion and favor, and is looking to score a major victory to look very good in front of the Returned. He got a tip that three of the most important slumlords—whom he's been afraid to attack up until now, fearing to commit his guards to action—will be meeting together. He doesn't even know about Vivenna.

    But he did authorize his Lifeless (the city guard has a stock of about fifty that can be used at their discretion) to use deadly force. The Commands weren't quite specific enough, unfortunately.

    Beyond that, Bluefingers has managed—by sneaking through the tunnels that Vasher discovered—to get his forces to Command Break some of the Lifeless in the compound, then insert hidden Commands into them alongside their existing ones. In this case, he wanted the Idrians to see the Lifeless and the city watch cause a slaughter among their people. So he seeded some of the Lifeless with Commands to attack and kill if they were shown aggression by Idrians.

    He didn't know when the slaughter would happen; he doesn't have enough control over events in order to do that. His little Lifeless bombs just happened to go off here, when the Idrians started to resist. Since the regular soldiers—and even the Lifeless not under Bluefingers's Commands—overreacted once blood began to be shed, everything went crazy from there.

    Denth wasn't in on this plan, and Bluefingers never told him that he was behind it. In the end, the whole battle turned into a major embarrassment for the city guard, though they did capture one of the slumlords. He was held until after the events of the book, then eventually released.

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    Anyway, that's a tangent. Meeting with these men was a mistake, something that Vivenna realizes partway through the meeting. There is little she can gain from them—and that which she could gain she's not prepared to ask for. She should have come with more of a plan. Instead, she did what she's done for most of the book—that is, pretend that she is in charge and in control, while in fact she's just floating along with whatever comes at her.

    I think this is the big thing Vivenna has to realize in the book. She has never had a good plan of how to deal with things in T'Telir. Unfortunately, I don't think she can learn until she falls a bit.

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    Vivenna Meets with the Slumlords

    When I write a scene like this, I am never quite certain how much time I want to spend distinguishing the side characters who make an appearance. (Another scene like this is the one where Lightsong plays the game with the three other gods.) Here, we're introduced to three different slumlords. They all have distinct personalities and different ways of looking at how Vivenna can help them. However, how much time do I spend explaining them and making them have an impact? It's a tough line to walk. I don't want to bog the scene down and spend a lot of time on characters you'll never see again, but I also don't want the scene to feel ambiguous or lacking precision because you can't imagine the slumlords.

    I suspect that most readers won't care about telling the difference between the three, so I don't dwell on it—but I try to give hints that will help those who want to visualize the scene exactly.

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    Chapter Thirty-One

    Vivenna Visits the Idrian Slums

    Vivenna probably should have expected what she would find here. She knows that the slumlords, who are Idrians, run whorehouses and illegal fighting leagues. However, she deluded herself into assuming that they employ Hallandren whores or that the fights aren't all that bad.

    I think this would be a hard thing to come to grips with. It's happened repeatedly throughout history—a poorer segment travels to a new country and becomes part of the lower, working class. In Korea, they were always complaining about people from Burma coming in and stealing their jobs. I remember hearing the Japanese saying the same thing about Koreans. I've heard Americans complain about all three. Things like this have far less to do with culture or race and far more to do with relative economic standing and fluency with the language/culture.

    Knowing it happens, however, wouldn't make it any easier to find your own people in such a state, I think.

    Notice that the Idrians here often wear dark clothing. This is partially to hold to their old ways of avoiding colors, but they tend to wear clothes that are black and dark instead of light. (Though there are some who follow the more traditional way.) However, by wearing these dark colors, they completely defeat the original stated purpose of dull clothing—that of removing color to keep Awakeners from using their art.

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    Some of Blushweaver's sparring here should give you a hint that she's far from the shallow egotist she pretends to be. In a lot of ways, she and Lightsong are perfectly matched, and I imagine this being the reason they ended up spending so much time together. They both have an extreme persona that is almost a parody of the other gods, and for both of them, that persona is but a sliver of who they really are. Blushweaver is more conniving, Lightsong more noble, when you strip everything else away. But they understand each other in a way that I think few people do.

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    Lightsong and Blushweaver Visit Hopefinder

    I wanted to show some Returned of different ages; I think it's important for people to realize that you can be any age when you Return. There are children, babies, grandmothers, and people in their middle years who Return.

    Hopefinder is the youngest person at court currently, though there are a couple of other gods who Returned when they were in their teens. It's hard to tell them from the other gods now, however. (And often, when a god Returns in their middle years, their body transforms to be much more youthful. Not always; it depends on the god.)

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    Chapter Thirty

    Lightsong Tries Pottery

    It's been a while since one of the gods tried something like this. Lightsong isn't the first, of course, to wonder at his old life and realize that some of his skills and abilities came with him to his new one. But he's the first of this generation of gods who has taken any interest in it.

    His father was actually a potter, if you're interested in knowing. As for why he knows nautical terms and mathematics, I'm afraid you'll have to wait on that. They come up eventually.

    The juggling, though . . . well, that'll just have to remain a mystery.

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    The Pahn Kahl Religion

    In the Siri section, she mentions the Pahn Kahl religion, but she doesn't know what it is. This happens numerous times in the book, people getting confused about whether the Pahn Kahl are just Hallandren or being unable to describe their religion.

    If you're curious, the Pahn Kahl are nature worshippers who focus on the storms of the Inner Sea as a manifestation of their unity of five gods. They believe that all Returned are men who deny the power of the gods and are forbidden entrance into heaven, yet are otherwise just men and not sinners worthy of hell—so they're given a chance to come back to have another try at life, to try to find belief this time.

    Anyway, the purpose of having people so confused about the Pahn Kahl was to try to make readers vague about them in the same way. In this case, I want the reader to feel that the Pahn Kahl are unimportant, like the characters do, which is exactly the reason why the Pahn Kahl are so annoyed in the first place. If Hallandren didn't take them for granted so much, there's a good chance they wouldn't be so inclined to rebel.

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    Vivenna and Denth Visit the Corpses in the D'Denir Garden

    That these deaths happened in this place is a coincidence. Yes, Vasher killed these men because he knew they were connected with Denth. However, he didn't do it in the garden because that was where Vivenna had been the day before. That just happened. (The garden is a popular meeting place after hours for clandestine operations. All Vasher had to do was throw in Nightblood and let him do what he does. To Vasher, that's often all the justification he needs. If the sword can make them kill each other, then they were guilty.)

    It was important to have this scene here, however, to reinforce the tension between Denth and Vasher. I also wanted a good chance for Vasher to watch Vivenna. She notices him, but doesn't point him out to Denth—she's too afraid of Denth making a scene, and she just wants to get away from Vasher.

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    Chapter Twenty-Nine

    Siri and Susebron Discuss Mountains

    One of the things I like about having wildly different plots and viewpoints put into one book is that I can use the viewpoints for different things. In the case of this section of the book, we've got death and tension in Vivenna's plot, and we have soul-searching and mystery in Lightsong's plot. Amid this I was able to sprinkle Siri scenes that are more relaxed, with her and the God King talking and falling in love. The scenes add a nice balance to the book.

    I made Susebron get better at spelling quite quickly—this is only our second scene with him writing on his board, but already the spelling errors are gone. There is some small justification of this—he's able to use the artisan's script, and he's very clever; besides, the Hallandren alphabet is phonetic. But it still probably happens too quickly.

    Having to slog through dialect is just too distracting for readers, however. I wanted to do it once to show his innocence, but I wanted to get past it quickly—as quickly as possible—so that it wouldn't distract from the story. I don't want Susebron to come off as too childlike; I think that would ruin the romance.

    All in all, I think that these chapters are some of the most sensual ones I've ever written. I always think that hinting and reserving will always be better than over-the-top romance. The fact that the two of them are forbidden sex because of the danger of having a child, mixed with some of the conversations they have about beauty and their separate lives, makes a very nice tension that I'm pleased to have managed to work in.

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    Jewels and Parlin Chat and Laugh

    Vivenna isn't in love with Parlin. She has affection for him, but it's the affection one might have for a younger brother. That's all she's ever felt for someone so far, however, as she's never given herself a chance for romance in her life. She's always stamped it out. She was going to marry the God King. No room for childish things like love for her. (That will bite her eventually, of course. In a later book, I'm afraid.)

    Her affection for Parlin, however, makes her possessive of him. He's her best tie back to the life she left, and she's always kind of seen him as hers. So you can probably see why she might be annoyed to see him spend time with Jewels.

    Denth is right. Jewels might be amused by Parlin, but she's not interested in him romantically. She has other ties, which I believe I discussed in a previous annotation.

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    Vivenna and the Mercenaries Meet the Forgers in the D'Denir Garden

    This particular plan, as Vivenna says, was her idea. Denth goes along with it, obtaining the forgeries that (falsely) prove that priests have been extorting Idris. However, he doesn't plan to let them get out.

    He knew that turning down this idea from Vivenna would either annoy her or even make her suspicious. He has to let her feel that she's in control; that way he can remain in control himself and get her to the meetings he wants. Unfortunately for him, that means letting her do this, creating fake documents that could hurt the war effort.

    After she vanishes, he cancels the project immediately, which is why the papers never end up materializing.

    Oh, and if you're wondering, she got the letter from her father from Lemex's stash. Some people asked about this.

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    Chapter Twenty-Eight

    Vivenna Drinks Juice at an Outdoor Restaurant and Plans the Meeting with the Idrian Leaders in the City

    Here we have Vivenna showing off her end of the reversal quite well. This is one of the few places where I have a character point out the reversal taking place. Vivenna has learned to blend into Hallandren—she's learned not to judge quite so much. She's still not where she needs to be, but the transformation is happening.

    The conversation she has with Denth, where he discusses every man seeing himself as a hero in his own story, is a kind of subtheme for this book. In this novel, everyone does think they're doing what's best. The only exception to that is, perhaps, Denth himself—which makes the conversation particularly poignant.

    This is one of the very first conversations I imagined for this book, as I knew it would be very important to a later one, where Vivenna talks to Vasher. And that particular conversation might just have been the first I came up with.

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    The toughest thing to balance about Lightsong was how genuine to make his sense of indolence. His discussion with Siri here is probably the most candid he ever gets in the book in regard to the fact that, in part, he's just putting on a show with all of his humor and remarks. They're intended to distract, and are also a subtle commentary on what he thinks of the other gods and the way they're all treated.

    The problem is, unless he really is somewhat like he pretends to be, it wouldn't work at all. His advice here to Siri is based on his perception of the world.

    When he first Returned, his initial inclination was to act like this. (I believe he brings that out later in the book.) However, after meeting Calmseer and having a relationship with her (it wasn't love, not in the traditional sense; more of a sincere mutual respect that turned physical), he spent a lot of time trying to be the god who everyone expected him to be. He failed miserably, and his people were dissatisfied with him. He blames his failure mostly on the other gods, who mocked him for turning into a hypocrite.

    So he returned to being Lightsong the indolent, and he sharpened his wit against the others and let loose with as much vengeance as he could muster. The others weren't offended, however—they just took it as natural that he act that way. We find him several years after that in this book, where he's just given up on being able to change things.

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    Chapter Twenty-Seven

    Bluefingers Avoids Siri, So She Goes to Find Lightsong

    I considered having the men performing the athletics competitions in the court be naked. After all, there's been so much female nudity in the book so far that it would only be fair to balance it out. . . .

    I decided it would be gratuitous. Just because the Greeks competed in the nude doesn't mean that it would naturally happen everywhere else. Still, thinking of how much it would embarrass Siri almost made me put it in.

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    Lightsong Inspects the Murder Scene Again

    The interesting thing about this scene is that it reveals almost nothing about what happened. At least, it doesn't reveal anything to the readers.

    However, it reveals a whole lot about Lightsong as a character. I waited until he'd been established before starting to bring up questions like the ones in this chapter, where I begin to dig deeply into who he was before he died. In a way, he's not investigating the murder so much as he is investigating himself—and that's why the scene works, even though we know the information about the murders he reveals. (Though we don't know who that second person was. Unless you read the spoiler above, of course.)

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    Also, just so you know, the second person who snuck into the palace was Denth—tailing Vasher, trying to decide what he was up to. Bluefingers let Denth know that Vasher would try to enter, but warned him not to attack the man. Not while it could expose Denth and possibly Bluefingers.

    Denth would have attacked anyway, if he'd decided he had a good opportunity. But he didn't, and he decided it was better to watch.

    And yes, he'd hidden away his Breath so that Vasher couldn't sense him following.

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    Lightsong Sees the Painting of the Red Battle

    This is our first major clue (though a subtle one at the same time) that there might be something to the religion of the Iridescent Tones. Lightsong does see something in this painting that an ordinary person wouldn't be able to. A well-crafted piece of art, made by a person channeling the Tones and connected to them via Breath, can speak to a Returned. Now, in this case, it doesn't work quite like Llarimar says it does—Lightsong doesn't actually prophesy about the black sword in the way the priest thinks. In other words, Lightsong isn't prophesying that he'll see the Black Sword (Nightblood) in the day's activities.

    Instead, Lightsong is seeing an image of a previous war, which is prophetic in that another Manywar is brewing—and in both cases, Nightblood will be important to the outcome of the battle.

    The person Lightsong sees in the abstract painting is Shashara, Denth's sister, one of the Five Scholars and a Returned also known as Glorysinger by the Cult of the Returned. She is seen here in Lightsong's vision as she's drawing Nightblood at the battle of Twilight Falls. It's the only time the sword was drawn in battle, and Vasher was horrified by the result.

    It's because of her insistence on using the sword in battle, and on giving away the secret to creating more, that Vasher and she fought. He ended up killing her with Nightblood, which they'd created together during the days they were in love—he married her a short time before their falling out. That marriage ended with him slaying his own wife to keep her from creating more abominations like Nightblood and loosing them upon the world.

    Nightblood is part of a much larger story in this world. He's dropped casually into this particular book, more as a side note than a real focus of what's going on, but his own role in the world is much, much larger than his supporting part here would indicate.

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    Chapter Twenty-Six

    Lightsong Gets Up Early, Excited

    Let this be a lesson to aspiring writers. People's reactions to these Lightsong sections—where he goes to investigate the murder—are proof of a long-standing rule of writing. Characters who do things are more interesting than those who don't.

    Now, this may seem obvious to you. But let me assure you, when you start to write, you will often be tempted to include viewpoint characters with internal conflicts. Many times, poorly written, these conflicts result in the character being inactive. They can't decide about things, or they're a coward, or they're depressed or indifferent. All of these things are flaws the characters are going to grow out of during the story, and you're very tempted to build them into the character as a way of giving the character more growth and things to overcome.

    That's not a bad instinct, but it's much more difficult to pull off than you think. The problem is that a lot of characters like that don't really do anything for the first part of the story. They're reactive, and they don't care about the plot, which makes the reader not care about the plot.

    Until you've practiced a while, might I suggest that you stick with characters who are passionate about what they're doing and who try consistently to achieve their goals? Give them different internal conflicts, things that don't keep them from acting. Learning to write a good book is tough enough without tackling an inactive character in your first few stories.

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    Vivenna Talks to Denth, and Considers Her Faith

    Vivenna's line here—to believe is to be arrogant—is something I've thought about a lot myself. How do you believe that you're right, yet also not be dismissive of others or arrogant about it?

    This applies to more than just religion. It bothers me that in things like religion or politics, our natural inclination as human beings is to assume the worst about the other guy. If you look at the recent political elections in the United States, it seems that the other side—whichever side—can never do anything right. There is no candidate that the Republicans could have chosen who the Democrats wouldn't have dismissed completely, and vice versa.

    Isn't it possible for you to think that you're right without deciding that any who believe differently are stupid and corrupt?

    I believe that my religion is true. And, by the definition of that religion, it means that everyone else is wrong. And yet my religion teaches me to be humble. I think there's a way to do that and hold to your belief, but it seems to require more effort than a lot of people are willing to make.

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    Vivenna Talks to Jewels about Religion

    I'm very conscious of the fact that all of my major viewpoint characters in this book—Lightsong included—don't believe in the Hallandren religion. That worries me because the book presents a very one-sided view of their beliefs.

    Religion isn't a simple thing. In my books so far, I fear that I've presented the religions in a far too one-sided way. Hrathen with his Shu-Dereth, the Lord Ruler and his religion—these were not the types of religions that are very enticing to readers. The characters, even those viewpoint characters who followed the religions, didn't present them very well. (And, in truth, the Lord Ruler's religion—the Steel Ministry—was a pretty despicable religion.)

    In this book, I wanted to present several different viable religions. There is something to be said for Austrism, with its goodly monks and teachings on humility through the Five Visions. But it's a very superstitious and xenophobic religion at the same time, and it is very biased against the magic of the world. The Hallandren religion has more going for it than the characters would like to accept.

    So, even though most readers might consider this a throwaway scene between Vivenna and Jewels, is a very important one to me. It is the place where we get to see a follower of the Iridescent Tones really stand up for what she believes. Vivenna deserves to be smacked down here, I think.

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    Vivenna notices the Tears of Edgli here, the flowers that drive Hallandren wealth and trade. I added these in an early draft, as I realized that there needed to be a cheap, easy source for all of those dyes the Hallandren use. (This was pointed out to me by my friend Jeff Creer, I believe.) The Tears offer something else as well—a reason for the wealth of the people. In early times, dye trades were extremely lucrative, and being able to control a method by which unusual dyes could be created would have been a very good basis for an economy.

    I also like what it does for the flavor of Hallandren as a whole. This story happens in the place that is, in most fantasy books, far away. A lot of fantasy novels like to make their setting someplace akin to rural England, and they'll talk of distant countries that have exotic spices, dyes, and trade goods.

    Well, in this world, Hallandren is that place. It's at the other end of the silk road, so to speak.

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    Chapter Twenty-Five

    Vivenna and the Mercenaries Attack the Salt Merchant's Shop

    A very quick and efficient way to hurt the future Hallandren war. Denth doesn't mention that there are ways of preserving meat (drying and smoking) that don't require salt—but even in most jerky methods, one uses a brine solution, so his argument is reasonably satisfactory.

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    I worry that Susebron is too innocent in his regard for sex. Some readers like this; others think it's unrealistic. He'd have had sexual urges, after all. It comes down to the question, how natural is it? If someone had never had sex before, and had never had it explained to them or had friends to talk with about it, would they know what to do? I'll bet they could figure it out, but I'm not sure it would be something one could simply reason out ahead of time.

    Perhaps Susebron's innocence is a bit of a stretch, but I believe it's a possible reaction—if not the average one—to his seclusion.

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    Susebron and Siri Chat

    This first scene with the two of them chatting is one I'd been looking forward to writing since the beginning. Siri's scenes become much more interesting to me now that she has someone to talk to. Plus, their relationship is—in my opinion—the most natural romantic relationship I've ever written. I'm not sure why that is. They just seem to naturally fall for one another in a way that seems smoother to me than Sarene/Raoden or Vin/Elend.

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    Siri mentions sounding out words as she reads. This was actually a very common thing in most cultures, even literate ones, up until the modern era. People would speak to themselves as they read. Even someone who could read, like Siri, wouldn't be particularly accustomed to reading. Their society didn't demand it the same way that ours does.

    In her scenes with the God King, I didn't have her sound out the words for reasons of brevity and clarity. However, if you were there watching, you'd hear her reading out loud each word that the God King wrote on his board.

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    Chapter Twenty-Four

    Siri Visits the Palace Library

    The Priests here think that Siri is making a play for power, asserting her will in the palace. They wouldn't have stopped her from reading in the library, if she'd wanted to. Treledees just wants to enforce his will over her and show that she can't bully the priests. They're worried about her trying to assert her independence. They assume she already knows the things in the histories that Bluefingers mentions, and so they aren't concerned about her studying them.

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    Questioner

    Szeth-son-son-Vallano is one of my favorite characters and I was wondering how-- He's so complex, right, which is why I love him. What was your inspiration for him, and how did you get all those amazing layers of--

    Brandon Sanderson

    What was my inspiration for Szeth? Boy. Talking about my inspiration for characters is one of the hardest things that I do because, while I plan my settings a lot and I plan my outlines a lot, I do not plan my characters in the same way. I actually discovery-write my characters and this is something I do very intentionally because I feel like if I plan the character too much, I plan the life out of them basically. So when I have a plot I basically cast a bunch of people in it. I'll write a chapter with someone in it and I'll throw it away, and I'll a chapter with a different personality, and I'll do that until somebody clicks with that plot. Once I know who they are I'll usually rebuild the outline to fit them, kind of the character has veto power over the plot that I've designed for them. But I just keep casting people in the roles, and with Szeth I think it was the whole idea of when I was building Roshar and I'm like, alright, I know there's going to be a place where there aren't any rocks, the rest of the world is all about this kind of stone sensibility to it so what if it's reversed, what if these people worship stone. What if stone were holy. And so I kind of built out of that, it was his religious ideals that came first. 

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    Questioner

    Are there cats anywhere in the cosmere?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes there are cats in the cosmere. There are lions in Mistborn, and have been mentioned numerous times, so you can assume, extrapolation, that there are also cats in the worlds somewhere. Scadrial, the Mistborn world... is my Earth analogue. When I was designing I'm like, I'm gonna design this one in such a way that I can-- because I knew I was going to be doing 1900's fiction, and 1980's fiction, I wanted it to have some sort of parallel societal evolution and so I put in a lot of parallel cultural things, and things like that. So you can make an assumption that, unless I say otherwise, on Scadrial they have basic Earth ecology, particularly now after events that I can't talk about because they're spoilers.

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    Questioner

    Would it be reasonable to assume that Baxil's mistress is Shalash?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Hehehe. That is a reasonable assumption, that Baxil's mistress is Shalash, or just Ash as she is normally known. That is a reasonable assumption. Whether I can confirm that it's true or not-- That should be one of the top candidates for who that is. 

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    Questioner

    Any plans on doing anything similar with Aether of Night?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Any plans to do Aether of Night, which is the next best book? And really the only other one that I want people reading, because the rest kind of fall into the threshold of, yes this is not as good as my current work and it's bad. Aether of Night is two good books put together that don't intertwine very well. I'm more likely to take Aether of Night and take pieces of it, like I did with some other books, and make a new book out of it, than I am to  do a graphic novel.

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    White Sand, I know you're working to convert it into a graphic novel, how close is that graphic novel going to be to your initial--

    Brandon Sanderson

    Alright, so the question is about a book called White Sand, which is one of my unpublished novels. I wrote thirteen during the days when I was trying to break in. Several of them were good but not great. One of them was great, and that was Elantris, the one I published. There were a lot of practice novels in there and some that, with some revision, could be very good. One of those, the best of them, is called White Sand, and some of the fandom have read that. I mean, if you really want to read it, it's not up to the par of my current books--so read all of those first--but if you've run out of stuff to read you can email me and I email to people, just in my web form. But the book is actually pretty decent, it's got one major flaw, which is that it's really about 100,000 words of story stuffed into about 200,000 words of book, right. I hadn't quite learned how to do pacing quite as well, and the characters aren't quite as complex as the ones that I write now. So we are doing a graphic novel adaptation of that, because I felt that we can trim and add a little depth to characters and it'll be a great book, and it felt like it would be a lot easier for me to do that, working through scripts in a graphic novel format, because you naturally just trim, than it would be to rewrite the entire book. 

    So we're doing a graphic novel, I'm doing it with Dynamite, who has put out a lot of really solid adaptations, it's one of the things that they do very well. They've been a blast to work with. Their illustrator is excellent, their schedule, they've been very regular on their schedule. I told them that I really would like to have the entire book done before we release anything, because, I don't know if there's any Wheel of Time fans here, but the Wheel of Time comic book had issues, with release times. So I'm a skeptic, because I know about that whole thing and so we're going to try and get the whole book done. So it's going to be a little while before we actually release it, but theoretically once it's done we should have the whole thing, or at least a sizable chunk of it finished already. So the big difference is going to be trimming that down. We'll also probably do a little bit more stuff with the cosmere than I originally did in it. 

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    Questioner

    In one of your Alcatraz books, what exactly is the meaning of fourteenth, upside-down übercousins?

    Brandon Sanderson

    *laughing* Ah, this is one of the weird sorting systems that is used by the Librarians and it's a weird word. What does it mean? I have no idea, I just made it up. Sorry! No no, that's not the real answer. The right answer is Alcatraz wrote those books and I've never been to the Free Kingdoms or met the real Librarians, so I have no idea what he's talking about. I'm just the name they put on the cover so the Librarians don't find him.

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    Questioner

    And I also have a question about the nature of spren being dead. Specifically about whether or not they can resurrected. Because ideas can never really die...

    Brandon Sanderson

    Ideas can never really die--

    Questioner

    ... Cognitive creatures--

    Brandon Sanderson

    They are Cognitive creatures. This is theoretically possible but very difficult without the people who originally betrayed their oaths.