Recent entries

    Firefight release party ()
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    Questioner

    I've been trying to brainstorm what Stormlight characters would have jumped into the other books so far. You told me they had at one point.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes, they have but you've got to remember that The Stormlight Archive you are seeing right now, what's happening in it is like late cosmere era, does that make sense? So there are lots of people from the world that have been to other worlds but the people you know--this is happening just before Alloy of Law era-- So does that make sense? That's the first time you'd be able to see anyone here and by that era the bleed over is a lot less because we have the whole Odium trapped and things like that. There's a lot less-- There are a lot fewer people traveling in and out of Roshar than there once were.

    Firefight release party ()
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    Questioner

    I know you went on mission in Korea, as did I, did anything come from that?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah, quite a number of things have been influenced by it. I'd say the biggest influence is Elantris, the writing system is based on the idea of Korean and Chinese mixed together. But Asian philosophy, like the kami and things like that are also common in Korea, that belief that everything has a soul. So yeah it's had a huge influence on me, just the way I worldbuild-- I mean just the fact, I don't know if you've read The Way of Kings… I don't know if you know but everyone's Asian, right? Like Szeth, the white dude, is the one that looks weird them. And that's just because-- It was partially influenced by that.

    The Way of Kings Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    This chapter in particular was a challenge to write. My experience with Sazed in The Hero of Ages warned me that a character deep in depression can be a difficult and dangerous thing to write. Depression is a serious challenge for real people—and therefore also for characters. Additionally, it pushes a character not to act.

    Inactive characters are boring, and though I wanted to start Kaladin in a difficult place, I didn't want him to be inactive. So how did I go about making scenes of a depressed fallen hero locked in a cage interesting and active? The final result might not seem like much in the scope of the entire novel, but these chapters are some of the ones I'm the most proud of. I feel I get Kaladin and his character across solidly while having him actually do things—try to save the other slave, rip up the map, etc.

    Syl, obviously, is a big part of why these scenes work. She is so different from the rest of what's happening, and she has such stark progress as a character, that I think she "saves" these chapters.

    You might be interested to know, then, that she was actually developed for a completely different book in the cosmere. I often speak about how books come together when different ideas work better together than they ever did separate. Kaladin and Syl are an excellent example of this. He didn't work in The Way of Kings Prime, and her book just wasn't going anywhere. Put them together, and magic happened. (Literally and figuratively.)

    The Way of Kings Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    Kharbranth

    The City of Bells is a true city-state. They have no real authority beyond the city itself, and they trade for everything they need. There aren't Kharbranthian farmers, for example. If commerce were to fail, the city would flat-out collapse.

    They do have their own language, as hinted at in this chapter, but it's very similar to Alethi and Veden. I consider the three languages to really be dialects of Alethi, and learning one is more about learning new pronunciations as it is about learning new words. (Though there are some differences in vocabulary.) I would put them even slightly closer than Spanish and Portuguese in our world.

    The city origins are a little less proud than they'd tell you. Kharbranth was a pirate town, a harbor for the less savory during the early days of navigation on Roshar. As the decades passed, however, it grew into a true city. To this day, however, its leaders acknowledge that they're not a world power—and might never be. They use games of politics, trade, and information to play Jah Keved, Alethkar, and Thaylenah against one another.

    The Way of Kings Annotations ()
    #6656 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Three

    Shallan

    I chose to use Shallan as my other main character in Part One, rather than Dalinar, because I felt her sequence better offset Kaladin's. He was going to some very dark places, and her sequence is a little lighter.

    She is the only "new" main character in this book. Kaladin (under a different name) was in Way of Kings Prime, and Dalinar was there virtually unchanged from how he is now. The character in Shallan's place, however, never panned out. That left me with work to do in order to replace Jasnah's ward.

    Shallan grew out of my desire to have an artist character to do the sketches in the book. Those were things I'd wanted to do forever, but hadn't had the means to accomplish when writing the first version of the book. I now had the contacts and resources to do these drawings, like from the sketchbook of a natural historian such as Darwin.

    One of the things that interests me about scientists in earlier eras is how broad their knowledge base was. You really could just be a "scientist" and that would mean that you had studied everything. Now, we need to specialize more, and our foundations seem to be less and less generalized. A physicist may not pay attention to sociology at all.

    Classical scholars were different. You were expected to know languages, natural science, physical science, and theology all as if they were really one study. Shallan is my stab at writing someone like this.

    The Way of Kings Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Two

    Here we finally get to the book's main character, though I suspect that most readers won't catch that he is the one until we've come back to him at time or two.

    Discounting Shallan, who was not in Way of Kings Prime, Kaladin is the one who went through the biggest evolution over the years. Dalinar has been Dalinar from day one. Adolin, Jasnah, Renarin, and Taln all solidified into themselves while I was writing Prime. Even Sadeas (under a different name) is basically the same person now as he was ten years ago.

    Kaladin, though… Well, I had some growing to do as a writer before I could write him. He started in my concepts as a very generic fantasy "farmboy" protagonist. In Prime, there was nothing really original or interesting about him other than his situation. This is the danger for that style of protagonist; I feel that the best characters are interesting aside from their role.

    For all my love of the Harry Potter books (and I do think they're quite excellent), Harry is a blank slate at the start. He's not interesting—the situations he's in are interesting. It isn't until later books, where he gets things to care about (like his godfather) that he starts to be defined as a character.

    Kaladin was the same way. It's odd how writers are sometimes better at giving personalities to their side characters than they are at giving them to their main characters.

    The Way of Kings Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter One

    This was a controversial chapter for my writing group and my editor, and was wrapped up in the whole learning curve argument. It was suggested several times that if this chapter were from Kaladin's viewpoint, the book wouldn't feel quite so overwhelming at the start. After all, Chapters One and Two would then be from the same viewpoint and would give a stronger clue to readers.

    I resisted. I had already accepted that this was going to be a challenging book for readers. That's not an excuse to ignore advice, but at the same time, I decided I was committed to the long-term with this book. That meant doing things at the start that might seem unusual for the purpose of later payoff.

    This is an excellent example of that. If I'd done this scene through Kaladin's eyes, I don't think it would have been as powerful. Kaladin is on top of things here, in control. I didn't want the first chapter to feel that in control. I wanted the sense of chaos worry and uncertainty.

    Beyond that, I wanted to introduce Kaladin as a contrast to all of that. A solid force for order, a natural leader, and an all-around awesome guy. Doing that from within someone's viewpoint is tough unless they're on the arrogant side, like Kelsier. It can work in that kind of viewpoint, but not in Kaladin's.

    Finally, I am always looking to play with the tropes of fantasy where I can. I feel that if I'd been writing this as a youth, I'd have made someone like Cenn the hero. (Indeed, in the original draft of The Way of Kings from 2002, Kaladin was much more like Cenn is now.) Opening with a young man thrust into war, then having him get killed seemed like a good way to sweep the pieces off the table and say, "No, what you expect to happen isn't going to happen in this book."

    This also let me set up for a future chapter, where I could flashback to Kaladin's view of these events. As narrative structure was something I wanted to play with in this book, that appealed to me.

    The Way of Kings Annotations ()
    #6659 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Secrets

    Obviously, there are a lot of things embedded in this scene for later books. I've noted frequently that with Mistborn, I got the luxury of writing the whole series before releasing it. I don't have that chance with Stormlight. I had to make sure all of my foreshadowing was placed and ready for later use.

    I worry that so much of it is obvious, yet also confusingly so. The sphere that Gavilar give Szeth is barely mentioned in the book, for example.

    No, I'm not going to tell you what it is.

    The Way of Kings Annotations ()
    #6660 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Lashings

    I'll be referencing the original draft of The Way of Kings (AKA Way of Kings Prime), written in 2002, as I feel it will probably be fun for readers to see how the book evolved over time. Every other book of mine you've read was conceived and executed over a relatively short period. The Way of Kings is different—it had a lot of evolving to do before hitting the state it's in now.

    One of those evolutions was the magic. Mistborn had one of my best magic systems to date. In Way of Kings Prime (written before Mistborn) we only had two types of magic: Shardblades and Soulcasting. Shardblades were great, but not really magic. Soulcasting didn't work so well. [Assistant Peter's note: There was also something called Windrunning, but it was completely different from the version we know now.]

    Mistborn really upped the ante in terms of magic in my books, and I wanted The Way of Kings to have a more dynamic, interesting magic system. That is one factor in why I waited so long to release it.

    I finally worked out Lashings while on tour for The Well of Ascension. (That was the tour I went on following the call from Harriet, asking if I was interested in finishing The Wheel of Time.) What I liked about the Lashings system was the visual power and the means of manipulating gravity and pressure in interesting visual and creative ways. I had already built into the sensibilities of the world the idea that there were ten fundamental forces I had based on the idea of fundamental forces in our world's physics. It all fit together nicely.

    Anyway, Szeth (named Jek in the first version of the book) was a more ordinary assassin in the original. He didn't have powers beyond being a really, really good killer.

    The Way of Kings Annotations ()
    #6661 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Prologue

    Szeth uses magic

    In Mistborn, by intention, I saved any big action sequences with the magic until the characters and setting had been established. This was intentional.

    I did the opposite in The Way of Kings.

    There are a couple of reasons for this. I spoke on the learning curve of this book; I felt it was best to just be straightforward with what I was doing. This book would be steep, and you'd see it in the first few scenes. Better to be straightforward with what you are.

    At the same time, I felt that readers would put up with more from me. Fantasy readers can handle a steep learning curve, and tend to celebrate books that have a lot of meaty worldbuilding. I feel from my own experience as a reader, however, that I am wary of giving much effort to a book by a new author. Learning a new world takes work, and if an author is going to demand that kind of work from me, I want big payoff.

    My hope is that I've earned my right to put out a book with this involved a setting. I've proven that I can tell a good story, and that it's worth the effort to get into one of my books and worlds. The Way of Kings is the most challenging book I've written; the payoff will be equal to that challenge. (I hope.)

    Calamity release party ()
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    Questioner

    Which ear does Vin wear her earring in?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I don't know... Oh, man. I can't <answer> this one because I can't remember it. They know it on the 17th Shard, you can go ask them. I can't remember. Now if I told you I'd get it wrong.

    Questioner

    Okay. What-- What's your instinct? Off the top of your head?

    Brandon Sanderson

    My instinct? I'm a robot. I work by programming.

    Footnote: Peter has since canonized that Vin's earring is in her left ear. See this entry.
    The Way of Kings Annotations ()
    #6663 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Prelude

    In classic Sanderson fashion, the beginning of this book was the part to see the biggest edits. I usually start a novel, write from beginning to end, then go back and play heavily with my beginning to better match the tone of the book.

    Here, one of my big decisions was to choose between two prologues I had written out. One was with the Heralds, and set the stage for a much larger story—I liked the epic feel it gave, and the melancholy tone it set. The other was Szeth's attack on Kholinar. This was a great action sequence that set up some of the plots for the novel in a very good way, but had a steep learning curve.

    I was very tempted to use both, which was what I eventually did. This wasn't an easy decision, however, as this book was already going to start with a very steep learning curve. Prelude→prologue→Cenn→Kaladin→Shallan would mean five thick chapters at the start of the book without any repeating settings or viewpoint characters.

    This can sink a novel quickly. As it stands, this is the most difficult thing about The Way of Kingsas a novel. Many readers will feel at sea for a great deal of Part One because of the challenging worldbuilding, the narrative structure, and the fact that Kaladin's life just plain sucks.

    It seems that my instincts were right. People who don't like the book often are losing interest in the middle of Part One. When I decided to use the prelude and the prologue together, I figured I was all in on the plan of a thick epic fantasy with a challenging learning curve. That decision doesn't seem to have destroyed my writing career yet.

    The Way of Kings Annotations ()
    #6664 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    World Map

    The world map for Roshar changed dramatically between various iterations of the book.

    Work on this novel started when I was fifteen. Back then, most of the plots and characters were combined with another world of mine, called Yolen. (That's where the book Dragonsteel takes place.) Somewhere in my early 20s, after I had a whole lot more experience and knew (kind of) what I was doing, I realized that the plots I had going in this world didn't click well together, so I divided the books into two separate series.

    I wrote Dragonsteel first, back in 1999 or 2000. (Although Dragonsteel was the third book I wrote in the cosmere—after White Sand and Elantris—it was meant to be the chronological origin of the sequence. Hoid was one of the main characters of that series. The first book even includes significant viewpoints from him.)

    I started outlining The Way of Kings fairly soon after. That original map I imagined as a continent with three prongs facing downward, with a connection at the top. There was the Alethi prong in the center, Shinovar to the west, and a long prong with Natanatan on the east.

    Over the years, my worldbuilding skills grew. And part of that growth was realizing that the map I'd designed didn't work well for the story I wanted to tell. I wanted something better, and I changed designs.

    I gave Isaac the outline of this world that became Roshar. (Based on an iteration of a Julia set, though for a while I played around with making the whole continent a cymatic shape.) That didn't happen for Mistborn, where I basically just told him, "Make the world map as you wish, with these guidelines." Mistborn, I knew, was going to happen basically in a couple of cities.

    The Way of Kings was going to be huge, and I wanted scope for the project. That meant a big, epic map. I'm very pleased with Isaac's work here. Do note that this is a southern hemisphere continent, with the equator up north.

    Calamity release party ()
    #6665 Copy

    Questioner

    So if someone is storing weight-- Feruchemy-- Can you store enough that you can actually float like a balloon?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Uh, your clothing and stuff will still have weight.

    Questioner

    If you were, like, completely naked and just *unintelligible* your hand up a wall, you will?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes. You will-- You could float, yeah. That's-- I mean, you could get your weight so low that it's basically like being in microgravity, which is...q

    Questioner

    Like 99%? Like a vacuum balloon?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah.

    Calamity release party ()
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    Questioner

    So in Scadrial we know that Allomancy is end-positive, and Hemalurgy end-negative, and Feruchemy is neutral, right? Is there such a concept on Sel, with the magics?

    Brandon Sanderson

    All of the magics on Sel, every one of them, is end-positive.

    Questioner

    Okay. And what fuel-- well, it's not a fuel. What focuses it? It's-- no, not that too.

    Brandon Sanderson

    They all draw power from the Dor. None of it's coming from the people. That's what this refers to, right?

    The Way of Kings Annotations ()
    #6669 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Endpapers

    The endpapers were one of the things that we weren't certain whether we'd get into the final book or not. Tor was iffy on paying for them, as they add a large expense to the novels. In the end, Tor stepped up because they believed in the project, for which I am very grateful.

    These are one of the last things we finished, and it took several tries to get them right. I knew I wanted them to be in-world pieces of art–things that are supposed to have been created by artists living within the world of Roshar. The front endpapers are murals crafted from stone and gems fitted together, and the back endpapers are stained glass. But the tones and the exact look of the images took some time to get right. (For a while, the symbols of the various magics on the first one had gemstones overlaying them. That turned out to look bad on the page. Perhaps when Peter is putting this up, he can grab those old drafts and post them beneath here.)

    The first one of these is the one I'll talk about the most, the design that outlines the magic for Roshar. (Well, some of the magic.) This design is one of the very first things I developed for the art of this book, way back in 2001. The "Double Eye," as the people in world would call it, is a connection of ten elements.

    I avoid elemental magic systems. I feel they're overdone. However, one of the concepts of this world was to have a theology that believed in ten fundamental elements instead of the ordinary four or five. A focus would be on them, and on the ten fundamental forces—the interplay between the two being a major factor in the magic, the philosophy, and the cosmology of the world.

    Well, that's what these twenty symbols represent, with each of the larger symbols being a Radiant element. The smaller symbols are the forces. You can draw a circle around one element and the two forces that connect to it, and you have one of the orders of Knights Radiant.

    For example, top right is the symbol for air—with the symbols for pressure and gravitation connected to it. The Windrunners.  

    Peter Ahlstrom

    Indeed, there was a lot of swapping around at the last minute to get everything working right with the magic. This is actually why the Way of Kings audiobook gets the Ars Arcanum chart wrong—it was using a version that was messed up between rounds of changes.

    The Way of Kings Annotations ()
    #6670 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Introduction

    Welcome to the annotations, being written at long last.

    Normally, I do annotations for a book while going over the copyedit. That all started to change in 2009 when my time got very short due to finishing the Wheel of Time novels. I also started handing the duty of "Go over the copyedit and see if they are changing anything I don't like" to Peter.

    That left no chance for the TWOK annotations. I told myself I'd need to re-read the book before starting the sequel (Wheel of Time work was going to keep me from getting to it for a few years) so I'd do the annotations then.

    Well, here I am, in late summer 2012. The Wheel of Time is done and I feel an urgent need to get the sequel to TWOK written. I'm sitting down to read it in depth as I tweak my outline, so I thought I'd try writing out some annotations for you all. We'll see if I manage to get through the entire thing.

    As always, if you're reading the novel for the first time, I will try not to spoil anything coming up in the book. If I do have comments that spoil later surprises, I'll hide them using the spoiler function. If you're reading an annotation for a given chapter, I will assume you've read that chapter and everything leading up to it.

    I'm not going to edit these annotations (no time) or do any revisions whatsoever. (Peter might do a proofread, but that's it.) So I'm going to make some mistakes, and the writing is going to be rough at places. Take this for what it is: me sitting down and having a conversation about the book, giving a behind-the-scenes look. Extra facts I throw out in the annotations can be considered canon, but understand that I'm writing quickly and might make mistakes.

    Brandon Sanderson

    August–November 2012

    Calamity release party ()
    #6671 Copy

    Questioner

    You do the [Stormlight Archive chapter header] arches too right?

    Isaac Stewart

    I did do the arches as well, yeah.

    Questioner

    Is there like a pattern <though>? 'Cause I'm trying to find a consistent one. Like certain characters or...

    Isaac Stewart

    You know, the pattern to those is... Peter reads the chapter and then he decides which faces to put on the chapter heading.

    Questioner

    So it isn't just like whose point of view it's from it could be...

    Isaac Stewart

    It can be-- It can be more thematic. I'm not sure of all of the things that Peter takes into consideration. That would be a good question to ask him sometime.

    Calamity release party ()
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    Questioner

    What is the metal that powers the airships?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Ettmetal.

    Questioner

    *sigh* Oh, come on. I know how alkali metals work, just tell me which one.

    Brandon Sanderson

    It is not a metal that is-- um-- It is in the line, but it's not one that exists in our world.

    Questioner

    Mmm, okay.

    Brandon Sanderson

    It is way too explosive to-- it's more explosive even than the ones in our world.

    Calamity release party ()
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    Little Wilson

    Can you give us any hints about Vax's magic system?

    Brandon Sanderson

    No.

    Little Wilson

    *sighs* Okay.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Nope, nope, nope. Big RAFO. *interruption*

    Isaac Stewart

    It's a magic system based on RAFO. The more RAFO you get, the more Investiture you're able to bestow.

    Calamity release party ()
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    Little Wilson

    And so are there any Shards that we don't know of that are Shattered?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes.

    Zas678's sister

    Four, right? Ish?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Eh... eh... Honor is gone.

    Little Wilson

    And Devotion and Dominion.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Devotion and Dominion are gone. There are others. The question is, [is] Cultivation gone or not? I'm not-- I haven't answered that for you. There are others. So this is what I can't-- I'm not gonna <just> share the answer. This is why I'm not gonna give you answers on these things.

    Rithmatist Denver signing ()
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    Kogiopsis (paraphrased)

    How long before the events of Elantris did Odium kill Aona/Devotion and Skai/Dominion?

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    Same time as the origins of the seons.

    Rithmatist Denver signing ()
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    Kogiopsis (paraphrased)

    How much control do you  have over the Words of Radiance cover?

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    Some. By dint of being fairly well-known in the industry. But I'm really fond of Whelan's work and more likely to pick a direction from concept sketches than push Whelan somewhere entirely new.

    Kogiopsis (paraphrased)

    Could you, for instance, hold firm for epicanthic folds on Rosharan characters?

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    Probably yes, but most of Whelan's cover work has been figures in the distance for now so that isn't likely to be an issue.

    Calamity release party ()
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    Little Wilson

    You mentioned that half(-ish) Shards are whole at-- during Shadows of Self. Is that counting Splinters?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Okay, one more time.

    Little Wilson

    You mentioned that half-- like I think it was at the Bands of Mourning release party-- you said that "half-ish Shards are whole" during Shadows of Self.

    Brandon Sanderson

    "Half-ish Shards are whole?"

    Little Wilson

    Yeah, you didn't want to do the math, because it was-- *interrupted*

    Brandon Sanderson

    Oh, I get it. You're saying-- Okay, so I'm sorry. I'm trying to think of Shards that are half-powered. That's not what you're saying. Half of the existing Shards. 

    Little Wilson

    Yes, yes.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Okay, got it. Yeah.

    Little Wilson

    And does that-- is that counting Splinters? Splintered Shards?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Um, no. I mean, a-- Splintered is one of the ways that they are not considered whole.

    Zas678

    Like completely Splintered as in Dominion and Devotion.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah. That's what-- That's the opposite of whole.

    Zas678

    But having a Splinter, like Endowment...

    Little Wilson

    Because I-- I was kind of going with "Shattered" <and> "Splintered". So Shattered would be kind of what I was going with Devotion and Dominion. 

    Brandon Sanderson

    Okay.

    Little Wilson

    And then Splintered would be more like... You mentioned that Honor kind of Splintered himself off to create the spren before--

    Isaac Stewart

    Oh, and that's mentioned isn't it?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Right, but you've got to keep in mind that-- um... So in Scadrial, Ruin and Preservation did the same thing. Their bodies are part of the world. They-- if their exist-- like, the things on the Spiritual Realm don't matter where they are in relation to each other and things like this. All those <piece> spren are still Honor, when he was alive. Does that make sense? Like, yes those are little Splinters of Honor, but they are still Honor. It's not like he's diminished, because his whole essence is the world, right? There is no diminishing that. And so that thing is we're talking about the fracturing of the mind and the killing of the Shard. That's the distinction between whole and not whole as I was making it for you there.

    Firefight release party ()
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    Questioner

    I want to know how long it took you to write your first book.

    Brandon Sanderson

    First book took about three years.

    Questioner

    Three years?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I got a lot faster after that.

    Questioner

    <How did you do that?>

    Brandon Sanderson

    Practice. Know-- Confidence, knowing what I was doing. Finishing a book you're like "Wow I can actually do this" and after that like-- It was like, this is a weird metaphor, but it's like the first time I got a girlfriend, had a relationship for a while, "Why was I so stressed about getting a girlfriend? That was actually-- I can do that!" and after that I dated a lot. You know what I mean?

    Firefight release party ()
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    Shadow Guardian

    <At one point it says> that there were 99 Desolations before the Final Desolation, in the Prelude. Was there actually 99?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Nope, there were not actually 99. That is a mythological relic. Like the 40 days and 40 nights may well be a metaphor for "a lot" ...Good question.

    Firefight release party ()
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    Kaladin al'Thor

    I noticed my last time reading Words of Radiance that there were several times-- vines that were on Adolin's shardblade as he summoned it. So I was wondering if maybe the Radiant who used it had was an Edgedancer?

    Brandon Sanderson

    You are right.

    Kaladin al'Thor

    You mentioned before that it would be possible to revive a dead shard[blade], but it would be very difficult--

    Brandon Sanderson

    Very difficult.

    Kaladin al'Thor

    Like I think what you said is that it would have to be the same person that broke the bond?

    Brandon Sanderson

    That would be the-- Yeah.

    Kaladin al'Thor

    So if it was an Edgedancer's blade if he made those same oaths could potentially he…

    Brandon Sanderson

    That would most likely not be enough. Something else would have to happen. Good guess though.

    Firefight release party ()
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    Questioner

    What is it like for you when you end a characters life? Like how is it for you emotionally?

    Brandon Sanderson

    How is it for me emotionally--

    Questioner

    Like when I lost a character in Mistborn, I couldn't read. I was done.

    Brandon Sanderson

    ...The thing about it is I am a planner as a writer. So I have usually prepared a great deal. That means that I am prepared and ready for the character's passing. And the way that I usually build in character death is that it is more the characters demanding it than I'm killing them. It is them saying "This is the risk I demand to take" and me as the narrator saying "Well that risk has certain consequences and sometimes I will protect you from those consequences, sometimes I won't" The narrator will decide when I should and when I shouldn't, but the character decides when they make those risks, if that makes sense? It's kidn of this pseudo-organic process, talking about characters is  the one that is most organic to me-- Plots and worlds I can talk a lot about the nuts and bolts, with characters it's a feeling and an instinct of what they would do. And then I have to decide what I do with the consequences to that. But usually I've planned it out quite a bit ahead of time, it doesn't happen off the cuff for me and so I'm ready for it. I do apologize but I feel that it makes a stronger story.

    Firefight release party ()
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    Questioner

    You've talked about all these awesome ideas, do you ever get to the point when you are writing where you're like "This isn't awesome, this is stupid."

    Brandon Sanderson

    Do I ever get to the point where I'm writing where this isn't awesome, this is stupid. Yeah. Yeah it happens, and then I just set that aside or I go talk to someone and "is this awesome or is this stupid?" My writing group is helpful for that. But it does happen, to everybody. There are ideas that are just so lame. You think they are cool, you are excited about them-- Mostly they happen at night where you're going to bed and thinking and you're "This is the coolest idea, I'm going to write this book" and the next you are like "What was I thinking?! This is not a cool book."

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    Jasonioan

    Have you ever written a character name that you have no idea how to pronounce? *laughter*

    Brandon Sanderson

    Have I ever written a character name that I have no idea how to pronounce. Oh boy, I got to have, right? Like Rock's real name uh, Numuhukumakiakia'aialunamor, maybe? But most of the Hornearter things I just can't, I'm like what? But even some other ones… The thing is that sometimes I don't pronounce them the right way. Like I say "Kel-see-er" in-world they say "Kel-see-ay" because it is French, the original core I was using so you get things like Vin Demoux and things like this which are French terms or French names or French words, and Kelsier, I say his name "Kel-see-er" but I'm an American. 'Murica.  I say it like an American would but you are free to pronounce the names in the book however you want to.

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    Questioner

    Do you have any plans to release Death by Pizza?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Do I have any plans to release Death by Pizza?  When I was getting ready for what I should do my readings on for this I was like "Oh I could read them Death by Pizza" and I opened it up and read the first chapter again and was like "No I can't read--" *laughter* Someday if I have time to fix it, I will. It was mostly-- A lot of what you see me doing is experimenting in other genres so I can practice that genre and incorporate it into my mainline epic fantasies. I think that great writing, particularly in a big book like those, means that you draw on a lot of different traditions so that the different plot lines and characters feel like different types. So I'm practicing urban fantasy, I'm practicing-- Things like Legion is me practicing a detective novel so I can use that later on. That one just didn't turn out good enough to release. It was good practice for me.

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    Questioner

    Is Mistborn ever going to be made into a movie?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Is Mistborn going to be made into a movie. I recently read the treatments by the guy who has the movie rights and I like them a lot. They are doing good work with the treatments. We sold the rights. Whether they'll get made or not is still kind of a crapshoot because this is how Hollywood works, right? So we will see, but the treatments are good. Peter can back me up on that. The first one we like a lot… So yes there is motion but I don't know how long it will take us, okay?

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    Questioner

    Where did you get the idea of gloryspren and fearspren showing up when people feel certain emotions?

    Brandon Sanderson

    So spren in The Way of Kings where did I come up with these ideas for things that physically manifest people's emotions. So I honestly think the earliest seed of this, years and years ago, was reading Perrin in The Wheel of Time where he can smell people's emotion and I thought that having an actual different sense to recognize emotion was so cool I think that is what planted the seed in the back of my brain. The other thing that that is mashing-up with though is kind of Shinto ideas, because I was relying a lot on some Eastern philosophy when I was building Roshar and The Way of Kings. And the Shinto believe that everything has a soul and a spirit, a kami as they call it, and things like this and wanting to expand that into not just the rock but your emotions have a soul and they manifest and things like that. And then I was working in the cosmere and all this stuff but in the end I think it is a mash-up of those two concepts. Wanting a cool way, a different way, a way that changes society that emotions play out mixed with this idea of the kami and the Shinto beliefs.

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    Questioner

    So when it comes to the superhero genre and female characters, I feel you have the two types. You have the damsel or the super sexualized black widow that is awesome. How has that been a worry for you?

    Brandon Sanderson

    So she's talking about the-- In superheroes you usually have the damsel, so you have the Mary Jane that needs to be rescued, or you have the black widow, hypersexualized thing like this, and the question is has that been a worry for me. It is something that is in the back of my brain, it's not  just a problem in superhero fiction, it's one of the ones that it is most manifest in. You will find the problem in most genres of speculative fiction, especially action genres. There's also what they call the-- There's the archetype of the Mother and the Crone. Those are your archetypes that women get to play. And it's been in the forefront of my brain a lot, in my writing, because I think as a writer the further you go as a writer the more you need to be aware of when you are falling into a cliche and when you're not. So yes it is something I've thought about quite a bit, particularly when I was writing Firefight "How am I going to deal with Megan as a character? And how am I going to deal with Mizzy as a character? And how they differ." So it was something I was thinking about very consciously as I working about on these books.

    I think one regret I have a little bit is that I feel Mistborn I did a great job with Vin, but there's not very much of a female supporting cast in those books. It's kind of the archetype  that there's one girl in the whole city and then everyone else. And you kind of run into this and things like that and I was a little less conscious as a writer in those days. But it is something that I think all writers need to be aware of. The thing is that we talk a lot about feminist theory because it tends to be most manifest when men are writing, but when women write there is also one that they do that is they tend to make the guy like this perfect guy and what happens is the guy has no personality he's just perfection and the girl is either a klutz or a doofus or she can't do anything right and the guys are all these perfect ideals. And that's when women write, when men write it's like the girl exists to be saved or to be lusted after. You just have to be aware as a writer these are going to be very natural to you because of our society or whatever we've seen a lot in storytelling, and you just have to become aware of them. And as soon as you become aware of them you can start working on them.

    The easiest way of getting away from doing this is to avoid tokenism, meaning if you are going to put someone in who is a certain ethnicity or is different from yourself or one thing like that, if you force yourself to put two in you then suddenly can't make them the stereotype because otherwise they are the same character and that forces you to really think about that and is one very easy way. I can go on for hours about that so take my class and ask me and we can talk about it.

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    Questioner

    So, your Legion series, where the guy has multiple hallucinations and everything like that-- Where did you come up with your idea? Was it just hanging out--

    Brandon Sanderson

    Where was the idea for Legion, which if you are not familiar with it Legion is this weird  thing where I have a guy who's a genius, he can study any topic and learn that topic and become an expert in it very quickly but the information appears as a hallucination who can coach him in that information. So it's like he's a schizophrenic but instead of the voices telling him to kill people they tell him how to hack computers or things like that.

    The idea came because I was actually working in a writing group with my friend Dan who was working on a book called The Hollow City which is about a real schizophrenic, not a super-powered schizophrenic in a weird Brandon-world. And I'm like "Oooh this would be so cool, what if his hallucinations helped him? What if--" and he's like "That's not my book, I don't want to write that book" and I'm like "But it's so cool!" and he's like "Then you write it!" So I did. And that's where it came from. A lot of time being a writer is realizing "Oh I wish someone would do this, HEY! I know someone who can do that, ME!" and then I write the books.

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    Little Wilson

    Have we seen any of them [Rashek's children] in Era 2?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Any of the Lord Ruler's descendents?

    Little Wilson

    Yes.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes...

    Little Wilson

    Where?

    Brandon Sanderson

    It is not necessarily... Um... I'm not gonna answer that.

    Zas678

    Is it-- Are they just descendants in the same way that, you know, after two thou-- after thirteen hundred years they're all descendants?

    Brandon Sanderson

    You will-- They're not all, but there's a lot of them, percentage-wise. So it's not like you're...

    Zas678

    Specially just kind of...

    Brandon Sanderson

    You're looking for something that's not really there. I'll go ahead and tell you that. There are descendants of the Lord Ruler. But it's not like they have some secret coven or anything like that. At least--

    Zas678

    The Illuminati!

    Brandon Sanderson

    At least, you know, there are-- there are-- How should I say? It's not outside of reason that there are people who are descendants of the Lord Ruler who are part of a coven or something. But you know what I'm saying?

    Zas678

    Yeah, it's not like... super secret magic power society.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah, mhm.

    Zas678

    There could be a group of people who are like, "We're so much better."

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah.

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    Questioner

    What has been your best motivation for writing/What would you advise to aspiring writers?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Okay so what has been my best motivation in writing and what would I advise a new writer. So motivation is a tricky thing because it is very individual. For me, a big part of my motivation was wanting to tell these stories. Just having these stories in my head and wanting to find a way to make these books make people feel the way I feel by the books that I love. Like when I was reading Anne McCaffrey books and they had this powerful effect on me "I've gotta learn how to do that." It was just something that was in me. Mixed with the increasing knowledge as I went to school that I was preparing myself for something that as Oscar Wilde would put it, basically useless. And then if I didn't end up making it as a writer-- It's like I imagined, I say sometimes, that it was like a phantom cubicle chasing me and if it caught me I had to become an insurance actuary or something. I'm sorry if there's an insurance actuary, I'm glad we have you. *laughter* I'm glad we have Erics who love math... But anyway I felt if I didn't give it the best shot I could that I would never have another shot at it. So that worked for me. You are going to have to find your own motivation.

    The number one thing I would tell a new writer is to treat learning to write like you would treat learning to draw or play a musical instrument, in that it's a creative process not an event. Writing a book is a process, and so your job as a writer is to train yourself to be someone who writes great books not someone who wrote one good book. That means you have time to practice, you've got to sit and-- like you do your scales, you have to spend time at it. I would also say take my class at BYU, or watch the versions online, and Writing Excuses, my podcast for writers. We started something brand new starting today where we are doing a master class in writing where every month we are going to take one topic and drill down very deeply into it.  It will be a great place to start.  Just go to WritingExcuses.com and click play and listen to our episode, okay?

    Footnote: Brandon is referring to Season Ten of Writing Excuses here.
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    Questioner

    So you have a lot of emotional times in your books where you feel something really strong, do you feel that when you are writing or do you think "I need to have an emotional point--"

    Brandon Sanderson

    The question is, I have a lot of emotional times in my book, do I feel that when I'm writing or do I just sit there and say "I need an emotional time right now". There's a little of both, as a storyteller you get a good feel for when you need certain beats in storytelling. One of the things I like about stories though, and this will tell you a little about me, I am not a very emotional person. My friends will tell you and kind of reinforce this, I am basically, kind of the opposite of an emotional person. When I saw that movie Unbreakable, I know that there are people who are broken so there must be people who can't be broken at all. I know people who are bi-polar with huge mood swings, I'm kind of the opposite of that. If you have a 0 to 100 emotional scale I get between a 65 and 75 every day. Doesn't change. I feel the same way every day when I wake up, but stories make me feel powerful emotion. They are one of the things that just tweak that needle in me and make it go crazy up and down. Which is one of the reasons why I think I fell in love with books and storytelling is because of that powerful emotion. So yes I do, and at the same time part of me is "I need something here. What do I need right here?" and my instincts say "Oh you need a pow. What's our pow?" and you work on it for a while until it comes together for you.

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    Zas678

    About Bands of Mourning... Marasi finds ReLuur's missing spike, and she describes it as pewter... Which is not one of the four metals conventionally used in kandra blessings...

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes.

    Zas678

    ...and is used to steal Feruchemical abilities. Was Marasi just mistaken, or is something going on there.

    Brandon Sanderson

    That you will eventually find out.

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    Questioner

    Where did the idea to split The Way of Kings and to make it take place in multiple places come from?

    Brandon Sanderson

    The Way of Kings taking place with the different timelines? So Way of Kings I wrote, the very first version of it--in its contemporary form, I wrote the first book about Dalinar when I was a teenager--but the very first book called The Way of Kings I wrote in 2002 and I tried to cram way too much into that book. The big failing of that book was I tried to do everyone's story at once. And so when I re-wrote it in 2009, or whenever it was, I decided I would take the characters and spread them out across the 10 book series and I would focus on a certain set of them early on and then transition into other ones. But in order to maintain some of the complexity I like in my books, particularly big epic fantasies, I added in the flashback sequence, one per character per book as a means to adding some depth and complexity but using it to build up a character you already knew, rather than doing someone completely different. And so this kind of allowed me to tell the story the way I wanted to, by doing-- That did mean I still had to have two separate timelines because I needed to do Shallan and I needed to do Kaladin, 'cause I knew they were going to be important, interacting together for the next few books. Which did put me in two different places but that was much better than the six different places the original had. And it's just because I like complexity, I like a book that everything comes together at once.