Were the Listener the first residents of Roshar and the humans came in afterwards?
That is a big-ol' RAFO.
Were the Listener the first residents of Roshar and the humans came in afterwards?
That is a big-ol' RAFO.
We've seen that the "Sylblade" can change shape to fit Kaladin's needs. Is there a limit on the size of the blade that Syl can become?
Okay. And can you share with me what the upper limits on those sort of things would be?
Upper limits of hers are about human-sized.
Is it always going to be something that has to be a fighting utensil, or does it have to...?
That's going to RAFO. You'll have to see.
I will say this. You have seen Syl changing shape from the first time she appears onscreen and she is frequently not a weapon.
Peter actually said on the 17th Shard that we should ask you about this, we'll see if I get RAFO'd or not.
Would you share with me how Vasher lost his sword to Nale?
Well uh "Zahel".
Oh, oh. *having far too much fun with this*
So how Zahel lost his "sword"...
We're talking about the same thing here. So Nightblood. How did that get in-- how did that transfer over?
I'm not sure why Peter's telling you to ask that, because--
Well he said something about that maybe you could share a little bit about, I don't know...
There will be a lot of information in the book Nightblood about how some of these things came to transpire.
After what Adolin does at the end [of Words of Radiance] are there still Radiant orders that would take him?
Yes, there would be. In fact, yes. Definitely that's possible. I'm not going to say that he becomes one, but yeah.
So like the Skybreakers or Dustbringers or...?
The Skybreakers might have trouble because it wasn't legal. But there are others who would be like "oh that was totally the right thing to do."
Are Skybreakers like the MPs of the Knight's Radiant?
Um, yes you could say that. That's a good way to put them. I will say more about the Skybreakers in the future, but yeah.
Is the Hoed from Elantris similar to the state of [dead] Shardblades? If so is it possible to awaken a Shardblade if the bearer speaks the oaths of the Knights Radiant?
The status is... I would say not as similar as you're probably thinking, but it does have a similarity in that two bacteria causing a disease are both caused by a bacteria, so there is a similarity there.
I can imagine a sequence where a Shardblade would be reawakened, but I think it would be very difficult.
It's not the same that they're in the middle of a transition, like in Elantris.
Oh, okay. So you have to actually... it'd be harder.
It'd be harder, yeah. It's not the same, they're not in the middle of a transition. They have had something ripped from them, and it's very painful and it's left them mostly mindless.
So they have to have that something added back?
Yeah. So what you've got going on: the spren gain-- the bond lets them have sentience in the physical plane, like they can think and all these things, and when that was ripped away from them-- imagine... (this is a very bad metaphor, it's the first one coming to my head though): imagine you had wetware, you had a head-jack or something like that, and someone just ripped it out of your head.
Instead of surgically operating it out. Like that's what's happened, a piece of their soul's been ripped off.
Why was Drehy the first one to speak up for Kaladin from Bridge 4 in The Way of Kings. They were heckling him and he said "lay off of him."
Drehy was a little less beaten down than the others at that point. He was a little newer to being a bridgeman, was part of it. Also also he's one of those people—he's based off my friend Ryan Drayer—who is a big guy, tall, and is very used to sticking up for people, that's part of who he is. And I put his personality into the character a bit.
So what are the chances, once that last Stormlight comes out, that you might open up that worldbuilding wiki up for viewing?
You don't know, I might do that. That's feasible.
It seems like it might be a cool way, other than like waiting another 3–4 years for it to be edited into 2 or 3 atlases or whatever, in this day and age a wiki seems like a good way to do that.
Yeah. The fun thing is, it's now like 15 years old, so it's got all the old stuff from the original write in it as well.
Which would also be kind of cool to see.
Which would be cool to see how I've changed things. There's stuff in there before spren were even part of the world and stuff like that.
In Allomancy, aluminum won't be able to be pushed or pulled, right?
So if you put a piece of steel like a gun barrel, and then you surround it with aluminum, can you still push the gun barrel?
The aluminum will add some interference, it's gonna depend on how thick the aluminum is. It's probably unfeasible. That is a viable concept, I don't think it's feasible on a gun barrel.
I kind of want to make one of Navani's fabrial bracelets but I've got some questions. 1: Are they all heliodors or are they polestones or what?
They will change, yes. They are not all heliodors.
What's the significance of the different number of prongs on each gemstone? [...] Like some of the gemstones have two prongs, some have like *inaudible*.
On the picture? The picture there is no significance, I simply gave artistic license to Isaac to do as he wished.
Here I was trying to match up the numbers because they were the double eye with the Radiant chart and..
Nope, that was simply done by him.
Will we ever get a Renarin viewpoint?
Yeah! Like an interlude or...
Renarin is one of the ten characters.
How were the original beads of Lerasium created?
They were created for the purpose that they were originally used for.
Who created them?
They were created by Leras.
Can you tell me which is the most massive moon [of Roshar]? Not the biggest, but the most massive moon.
I think the biggest is the most massive. All three moons are much closer than our moon is.
Yes, I gathered that. And so is that Nomon?
How big is Nomon on the night sky, compared to our moon?
Larger than our moon, but not dominating of the sky.
I do believe Nomon is, I told Peter, bigger. But he had to run the actual calculations, so he may come back and say, "No Brandon, that's not possible." But I believe it is bigger than our moon in the sky. You're supposed to be able to see moderately well by Nomon.
Can you tell me the order the three planets [located the Rosharan system] are in?
Because I know Braize is the third one, I've heard that, is that true?
I'm staying closed-lipped about a lot of this.
Will the flute come back?
A lot of people are curious about the flute. I have been non-committal, so far.
So regarding Hoid, now are we ever going to know his real name at some point in time? I guess in Dragonsteel? I know he says about how he's borrowing stuff and how he steals stuff.
Yes. You will eventually know his real name, but it depends on what you define as real.
We were talking that it's kind of a shame that Dalinar doesn't have his own "real" spren. I think it's an upgrade, is there a way I should think of this? Is it a cool thing or a bad thing?
This is a very cool thing, but it's also a very dangerous thing.
Well [the Stormfather] controls the highstorms ... follow-up question: if he dies, does that affect the spren?
Dying, as long as the oaths are not broken, does not affect the spren in a very terrible way. There are effects.
If Taravangian made the Diagram, and telling the future is of the Voidbringers, is that a bad sign?
It depends on if you're speaking culturally or actual magically.
Magically, I guess.
Because he would claim to you that he did it all with strength of mind and no magical influence other than enhanced mind. That's what he would tell you. And so in that case it would not be—culturally they'd look very weirdly at it, but spiritually he would say it's not of the Voidbringers.
In Mistborn, Allomancy tends to get a little addictive, is that something that's going to happen with Stormlight—holding it just because it feels good?
You are noticing a similarity. That is intentional.
Based on what we know currently about ten heartbeats, why does Szeth require ten heartbeats to bring forth his Honorblade?
Perception is a very important part of how these things all work, and remember the Honorblades work differently from everything else. Everything was based upon them. Why don't you read and find out what's going on there, but remember that the characters's perception is very important.
So then that's why at one point Shallan requires ten heartbeats and now she doesn't?
Right, it's the exact same reason that Kaladin's forehead wounds don't heal. Because he views himself as having those somewhere deep inside of him and he can't heal until that gets away. And it works for the same reason why in Warbreaker when you bring something to life, your intention rather than really what you say is what matters. It's all about perception.
Lightsong Feeds on the Child
Why a child? It doesn't much matter, truthfully. An adult, or even someone elderly, could provide a Breath that would keep a god alive.
But the Breaths of those who are aged aren't as vigorous as those of those who are young. If Lightsong were given one of those to feed on, he'd survive for another week—but he wouldn't feel as vibrant or alive as he does after feeding on the child's Breath.
The people of Hallandren are faithful. Even if Lightsong himself doesn't believe, they do, and they want to provide the best for him. Hence they use children. Old enough to know what they are doing, yet young enough to give a powerful, vibrant Breath to their god.
Chapter Three - Part Two
Llarimar is based on a friend of mine, Scott Franson. Back when I was working on Hero of Ages, my local church group had a service auction for the local food bank. The idea was that church members would offer up services—like a car wash, or some baked cookies, or something like that—and then we'd all get together and bid cans of food for them.
Well, I offered up for auction naming rights in one of my books. The idea being that if you won the auction, you'd get a character named after you and based on you. It was a big hit, as you might imagine, and ended up going for several hundred cans of food. The guy who won was Aaron Yeoman. (And you can see him in The Hero of Ages as Lord Yomen.)
Well, the other major bidder on that was Scott. He's a fantasy buff, a big fan of classic works like Tolkien and Donaldson. (Though he reads pretty much everything that gets published.) He really wanted the naming rights, but I think he let Aaron have it, as Aaron was very excited and vocal about wanting to win.
About a year later, I discovered that Scott, being the kind soul he was, paid for Aaron's cans himself and donated them on the younger man's behalf. I was touched by this, so I decided to put Scott into Warbreaker. It happened there was a very good spot for him, as I'd already planned Llarimar to have a very similar personality to Scott.
I decided that Franson wouldn't work for the name. (Though you do see that one pop up in The Hero of Ages as a nod to Scott as well.) Instead, I used Scott's nickname, Scoot. I thought it worked pretty well, as it's only one letter off from his first name, and his brother claims that they always used to call him that.
So, there you are, Scott. Thanks for being awesome.
First Line and Lightsong's Origins
Lightsong's character came from a one-line prompt I had pop into my head one day. "Everyone loses something when they die and Return. An emotion, usually. I lost fear."
Of course, it changed a lot from that one line. Still, I see that as the first seed of his character. The idea of telling a story about someone who has died, then come back to life, losing a piece of himself in the return intrigued me.
The other inspiration for him was my desire to do a character who could fit into an Oscar Wilde play. I'm a big fan of Wilde's works, particularly the comedies, and have always admired how he can have someone be glib and verbally dexterous without coming across as a jerk. Of course, a character like this works differently in a play than in a book. For a story to be epic, you need depth and character arcs you don't have time for in a play.
So, think of Lightsong as playing a part. When he opens his mouth, he's usually looking for something flashy to say to distract himself from the problems he feels inside. I think the dichotomy came across very well in the book, as evidenced by how many readers seem to find him to be their favorite character in the novel.
Chapter Three - Part One
Similarities Between Warbreaker and Elantris
And finally, we arrive at my personal favorite character in the book. Lightsong the Bold, the god who doesn't believe in his own religion.
I had the idea for Lightsong a number of years ago. My first book, Elantris, dealt with the concept of men who were made gods. However, in that book, we never actually get to see men living as gods. The gods have lost their powers and have been locked away.
This time I wanted to tell a different story, a story about what it is like to live as a member of a pantheon of deities. Yet I didn't want them to be too powerful. Or even powerful at all.
I realize that there is some resonance here with Elantris. I hope that the concepts don't seem too much alike. What I wanted to do with this story was look at some of the same ideas in Elantris, but turn them about completely. Instead of dealing with gods who had fallen, I wanted to look at gods at the height of their political power. Instead of dealing with people who were ridiculously powerful, I wanted gods who were more about prophecy and wisdom.
I made it so that the Returned couldn't remember their old lives as a way to distinguish them from the Elantrians. However, I can't help the fact that the ideas had the same (yet opposite) seed. But I'm confident that there's plenty of room in the idea to explore it in a different direction, and I think this book comes out feeling very much its own novel.
One Last Note on Reversals
We have a nice moment in this chapter rotating around a single word. Siri begins the chapter thinking about how she was supposed to be useless, and how she wishes that she still were. Then Vivenna ends her section thinking about how she's become useless. That terrifies her.
Vivenna Picks Berries
One aspect of the worldbuilding I barely get to talk about is the Idrian monks. I really liked the concept of a group of monks whose duties weren't very religious. Rather than sitting in a monastery all day, their duties are essentially to act as servants to the kingdom's poor. (Not to say that monks in our world don't do that. However, I liked the concept of it being much more formalized.)
In Idris, if a man breaks his leg and can't work the field, a monk will come and take his place on the job. The wages for that work still go to the family of the man who has been hurt. Sometimes, if a father dies and cannot support his family, a monk is assigned permanently to take his place at work duties and provide for that man's family.
They go wherever they are needed, forbidden to own or possess anything themselves, giving all they have to the people. Now, of course, not everyone who becomes a monk fits the ideal. Without the pressures of needing to feed one's self or acquire goods, some of them can be kind of lazy. But many are very diligent, like Fafen.
Chapter Two - Part Two
Vivenna and Her Father Chat about Siri
King Dedelin does love Siri. He's a good man, but not quite as great a man as his daughters probably think. He does put Vivenna first. He loves her more. Perhaps because he relates to her; the two of them are very similar in many ways.
The girls' mother passed away over a decade ago, by the way, in a riding accident. Siri doesn't remember it, but Vivenna does, and that is one of the sources of tension between them. Siri's flagrant rides remind both Vivenna and her father of the way the queen died. Memory of their mother is also part of what makes Vivenna more controlled and "perfect." Siri grew up with very little supervision, while Vivenna had much more of it in the person of her mother.
Anyway, Dedelin loves Vivenna more. When he says that he sent Siri, “Not because of personal preference, whatever people say,” he's being truthful as he sees things—but he's deluding himself. He's convinced himself that he did it primarily because Vivenna's leadership is important to Idris and she can't be risked. That is important to him, true, but his love for Vivenna is the primary reason.
Now, he's not callous or hateful of Siri. He loves her. But . . . well, Vivenna reminds him of his wife. I guess you can't blame the guy too much for what he did.
This is a fun chapter, formatwise. It looks simple—we've got two alternating sequences with Siri and Vivenna. But what's going on here is that I'm trying to pull the first of many reversals in this book.
A reversal is more than just a plot twist—it's a swap. (Or at least that's how I define it in my head.) Just like Elantris's substructure was that of the chapter triads, Warbreaker's substructure is that of reversals. People change places or do 180-degree turns. This presented a challenge to me, as I had to work hard to make such often-abrupt changes well foreshadowed and rational. That's rather difficult to pull off. Most twists take characters in a slightly new direction; spinning them around completely required a lot more groundwork.
If you've read other annotations of mine, you'll probably know that I love twists—but I love them only in that I love to make them work. A good twist has to be rational and unexpected at the same time. Pulling off that balance is one of the great pleasures in writing.
In this chapter, we have the beginnings of the first big reversal in this book. It's more gradual—not an abrupt one-eighty, but a slow and purposeful one-eighty. But the seeds are here, even in this early chapter. If you look at it, we have this:
Scene One: Siri acts just like we expect Siri to. Blustering and emotional.
Scene Two: Vivenna acts just like we expect Vivenna to. Calm, rational, in control, and willing to do as she is told.
Scene Three: Siri grows calm, considers her situation with more care, and acts a little bit like a queen should in deciding to send her soldiers back.
Scene Three: Vivenna is very bothered by what is happening and acts just a little bit like Siri would—she decides upon a plan that is impetuous.
I'm very excited by the underlying structure of the chapter, even though I'm aware that most people probably wouldn't be. I'm just a screwy author type. I like how the changes are very subtle, and yet already there are hints at the way the characters are heading in life.
I like reversals and tone changes, but I still think that readers deserve to have an understanding of what the major plots and arcs for a character will be. There will be twists, but I don't want to just twist needlessly or endlessly. The characters are the most important part of the story, and one thing I rarely twist (particularly late in a book) is a character's personal arc. I keep personal arcs steady, as they're the foundation of a reader's attachment to the book.
Chapter Two - Part One
Siri Rides South, Stunned
Already, you should be able to see another tone shift in the book. We've gone from lazy highland romping to frustration and terror. My goal with this book was to keep that up—to always have things moving and the characters being pulled out of their comfortable lives into situations that force them to stretch.
One fun thing you can research yourself by looking at the first draft chapters of Warbreaker I posted. In them, I toyed with having Mab the cook be sent with Siri to be a lady's maid.
I didn't intend this while planning the book, but after writing Mab—and having so much fun with her character—I wanted to keep hold of her and let her add some color to Siri's sections. However, I cut this idea out pretty quickly. (Though a draft of this chapter exists with Mab accompanying Siri—I think in that draft, Mab is the one Siri is complaining to, rather than the poor guard outside the window.)
Why cut Mab? Well, a couple of reasons. First off, Siri's plotline was much more dramatic and emotional if she was forced to leave behind everything she'd known. Giving her a support character like Mab undermined Siri's plot and growth as a character. Beyond that, Siri's plots didn't need more color. We've got plenty of interesting characters and experiences coming for her, so the addition of another character wasn't needed.
I tried the chapter, but then realized that my original instincts had been right. I was forced to cut Mab out.
The King and Yarda Discuss Sending Vivenna
I go back and forth on this scene. Sometimes I think it's too long. Other times I worry that it's not long enough.
Through the history of the book, this particular scene inched longer and longer as I tried very hard to explain why a good man like Dedelin would send Siri to die in Hallandren. (And also, I wanted to be sure to explain why he was sure she would die there.) There's a whole lot of setup going on in this sequence between the king and his general.
And I worry that there should be more. While what they do makes intrinsic sense to me, a lot of readers have been confused about the tactics here. Why is the king doing what he's doing? Is it really needed? Isn't there another way? This section is the only answer we get to a lot of those questions, since it's the one and only scene in the book from Dedelin's viewpoint.
That said, I think this scene might also be too long. The more space I dedicate to Dedelin, the more readers are going to think that he might be a main character. Some are surprised to read on and find out that the king doesn't make another appearance in the novel. (Well, okay, he makes one more—but he doesn't have a viewpoint.) I don't want to put too much here or have readers focus too much on the tactics of his decision, since really all that matters is that readers understand that Siri has been sent unexpectedly to marry the God King.
I'm still iffy on the scene. Some test readers wanted to see the scene where Dedelin says farewell to Siri. (We skip it; the next scene begins with Siri riding away.) They feel they missed a chapter. But I eventually decided that I needed to keep this beginning flowing quickly, because the longer we spend in Idris, the longer it will take us to get to the real plots in Hallandren. If it weren't so important to set up Siri and Vivenna ahead of time (so that their reversal has impact), I would have just started the book with Siri arriving in Hallandren.
Mab the Cook
If it sounds to you like Mab knows a lot about Awakening and Hallandren, then you've picked up on something. Mab actually used to live in T'Telir. (She was born in Idris, but ran away during her teens.) During her twenties, she was a courtesan of some repute in the city. She had some fairly high-profile clients—so she was more than just a poor, street-corner prostitute. She fell in love with one of the men, however, and he convinced her to give him her Breath. Then he left her.
As a Drab, she had much more trouble finding work. She'd lost a bit of her sparkle, and whatever she'd used to capture the hearts of men, she'd lost that too. She ended up as a madam, running a much poorer whorehouse, using her old contacts and reputation to get clients.
As soon as she made enough, she bought another Breath and returned to Idris, where she got a job in the king's kitchens. To this day, she bears a lot of ill will toward the Hallandren upper crust, and Awakeners in particular.
One thing to realize is that the Idrians' attempts to make their city colorless are more superstition than they are effective. It's much harder to get colors away from an Awakener than the Idrians think. For instance, black is one of the most powerful colors to use for fueling Awakening—but the Idrians don't even consider it a color. Their browns and tans would also work for Awakening.
However, a lot of times, the traditions of a culture don't have much to do with factual reality. The determination to avoid colors grew out of a desire to contrast with Hallandren and their devilish Awakeners. It got taken to the extreme, however, and as the centuries passed, the Idrians grew confused about just what Awakening is and what it can do. Of course, there are some who know—Hallandren isn't that far away. But there's also a lot of rumor and misinformation.
Chapter One - Part Two
Ramblemen are more than simple traveling jugglers or storytellers. They're merchants who specialize in bringing news (for a price) and stories as well as goods and services.
Readers latched onto this word, and I've had a lot of people say, "I love that term! Why don't we get to see a rambleman in the book?"
Because some things in books are just there to hint at the greater world. Sometimes a keen, cool word like that can evoke so much more when used in passing than it would if developed into a side plot or attached to a character.
The Origins of Siri and Vivenna
Back around the year 2000 or 2001 I started writing a book called Mythwalker. It was an epic fantasy novel, an attempt to go back to basics in the genre. I'd tried several genre-busting epics (one of which was Elantris) that focused on heroes who weren't quite the standards of the genre. I avoided peasant boys, questing knights, or mysterious wizards. Instead I wrote books about a man thrown into a leper colony, or an evil missionary, or things like that.
I didn't sell any of those books. (At least, not at first.) I was feeling discouraged, so I decided to write a book about a more standard fantasy character. A peasant boy who couldn't do anything right, and who got caught up in something larger than himself and inherited an extremely powerful magic.
It was boring.
I just couldn't write it. I ended up stopping about halfway through—it's the only book of mine that I never finished writing. It sits on my hard drive, not even spellchecked, I think, half finished like a skyscraper whose builder ran out of funds.
One of the great things about Mythwalker, however, was one of the subplots—about a pair of cousins named Siri and Vivenna. They switched places because of a mix-up, and the wrong one ended up marrying the emperor.
My alpha readers really connected with this storyline. After I abandoned the project, I thought about what was successful about that aspect of the novel. In the end, I decided it was just the characters. They worked. This is odd because, in a way, they were archetypes themselves.
The story of the two princesses, along with the peasant/royalty swap, is an age-old fairy tale archetype. This is where I'd drawn the inspiration from for these two cousins. One wasn't trained in the way of the nobility; she was a distant cousin and poor by comparison. The other was heir to her house and very important. I guess the idea of forcing them to switch places struck some very distinct chords in my readers.
Eventually, I decided that I wanted to tell their story, and they became the focus of a budding book in my mind. I made them sisters and got rid of the "accidental switch" plotline. (Originally, one had been sent by mistake, but they looked enough alike that nobody noticed. Siri kept quiet about it for reasons I can't quite remember.) I took a few steps away from the fairy tale origins, but tried to preserve the aspects of their characters and identities that had worked so well with readers.
I'm not sure why using one archetype worked and the other didn't. Maybe it was because the peasant boy story is so overtold in fantasy, and I just didn't feel I could bring anything new to it. (At least not in that novel.) The two princesses concept isn't used nearly as often. Or maybe it was just that with Siri and Vivenna I did what you're supposed to—no matter what your inspiration, if you make the characters live and breathe, they will come alive on the page for the reader. Harry Potter is a very basic fantasy archetype—even a cliché—but those books are wonderful.
You have to do new things. I think that fantasy needs a lot more originality. However, not every aspect of the story needs to be completely new. Blend the familiar and the strange—the new and the archetypal. Sometimes it's best to rely on the work that has come before. Sometimes you need to cast it aside.
I guess one of the big tricks to becoming a published author is learning when to do which.
Chapter One - Part One
You can probably guess why I was worried about the transition from the prologue with Vasher to this chapter with Siri. The tone shift is quite dramatic. Actually, one of the things my agent complained a lot about with this book was the tone. Not just for this chapter shift, but for the entire book.
In his opinion, there were too many different tone shifts going on. We have Vasher's plot, which is dark and sometimes violent. We have the Siri plotline, which is romantic and sometimes whimsical. We have Lightsong, whose chapters are glib and smell faintly of an old comedic murder mystery. Then we have Vivenna, whose tone bounces around across all of these.
That's one of the things I like about the book. My agent complained, but I know he likes things more streamlined than I sometimes do. He loved the Mistborn books, and I do think they are excellent novels—but they are very focused. The characters are distinctive, but their plots are all centered on many of the same types of goals.
With Warbreaker, one of the main things I'm trying to do is contrast it to Mistborn. To do something different, something that harkens a little more back to Elantris, with its three very different viewpoints.
I want there to be a lot of different tones and feels to this book. It's part of the theme of the novel—that of vibrant Hallandren and its many wonders. I want it to feel like a lot is going on, and that in different parts of the city, very different stories can be told.
Also, if you look, I've inputted in the last drafts a little hint here of Vasher being a Returned. He says he could have the Fifth Heightening if he wanted it, which is true. He has his Returned Breath suppressed, but if he let it out, he could instantly have the Fifth Heightening. However, he'd be instantly recognizable as Returned the moment he did that. Plus, he couldn't use that Returned Breath for Awakening things.
Vasher Confronts Vahr
Vahr's original name was Pahn. You can find it used in earlier drafts of the book. I liked the sound and look of that so much, in fact, that I based the name of the people he came from on his own name.
That made for a problem, though. That's like having a person named America. It happens, but it's kind of confusing in a book. So, I eventually had to change his name to something that had a similar look and feel, but which wouldn't lead to so much confusion.
Vahr dies here, and one of the major revisions I made to the book was to bring out more of his influence throughout the book. I didn't want it to be too in your face. However, he was a very important man. We see only the very tail end of his life here, but he worked for over a decade as a Pahn revolutionary, trying to inspire his people to rebel against Hallandren oppression. (Or at least what he saw as Hallandren oppression.) He eventually became such a popular figure that he raised an army, with monetary support from several of Hallandren's trade competitors across the sea.
We see here the end of that—Vahr, captured and being tortured. He's a lot more important than he seems, both to the world and to the novel itself.
The Straw Figure Returns with the Keys
Vasher couldn't have used a thread to unlock the door here, by the way. I know a certain person manages to pull it off later in the book, but that doesn't happen in the God King's dungeons.
One thing to remember about designing magic systems—particularly those as important to their societies as mine—is that the people in the world live with this magic. They use it and see it being used regularly. They think of it and consider it.
It's not hard to design a lock that an Awakened thread can't unlock easily. It is more expensive to buy a lock like that, and so not all locks have such precautions. These ones do, however.
If you've read the book through, then you know that Vasher's simple-sounding Command of "Fetch Keys" given to the straw man is incredibly complex. In fact, it's probably one of the most complicated Commands given to any Awakened object in the entire book. It's kind of cool to me that Vasher uses it here, showing off incredible mastery of the magic, before anyone reading will even realize how much skill saying those two words correctly really takes.
Prologue - Part Three
Vasher Awakens the Cloak
He doesn't end up using it. A lot of people point this out. Him not needing it was intentional. I know it raises a question in the prologue, and seems kind of useless, but it's there to give some added depth to the scene and the magic. Plus, it was just a smart thing to do. Awakening the cloak to protect him was a precaution—one that didn't end up being needed, but one of the things that annoys me about books is when every single thing the heroes do ends up being important, useful, or even a hindrance. Sometimes you pack yourself a lunch, but then just don't end up needing it.
Vasher Awakens the Straw Figure
I love how intricate and delicate Vasher is in creating the straw figure. The little eyebrow is a nice touch, and forming the creature into the shape of a person has a nice resonance with our own world's superstitions.
Voodoo dolls, for instance. This is very common in tribal magics and shamanistic rituals—something in the figure of a person, or the figure of the thing it's supposed to affect, is often seen as being more powerful or more desirable. The same is said for having a drop of blood or a tiny piece of skin, even a piece of hair.
Those two things—making the doll in the shape of a man and using a bit of his own body as a focus—are supposed to create instant resonance in the magic for those reading it. I think it works, too. Unfortunately, there's a problem with this, much like with the colors above. In later chapters, the characters are generally powerful enough with the magic that they don't have to make things in human shape or use pieces of their own body as a focus.
If I were to write a sequel to the book (and I just might—more on this later) I'd want to get back to these two aspects of the magic. Talk about them more, maybe have characters who have smaller quantities of Breath, and so need to use these tricks to make their Awakening more powerful.
Anyway, this little scene threw all kinds of problems into the book. Later on, I had to decide if I wanted to force the characters to always make things into the shape of a person before Awakening them. That proved impossible, it was too limiting on the magic and interfered with action sequences. The same was true for using bits of their own flesh as focuses. It just didn't work.
I toyed with cutting these things from the prologue. (Again, they are artifacts from the short story I wrote, back when Awakening wasn't fully developed yet.) However, I like the resonance they give, and think they add a lot of depth to the magic system.
So I made them optional. They're things that you can do to make your Awakenings require fewer Breaths. That lets me have them for resonance, but not talk about them when I don't need them. I still worry that they set up false expectations for the magic, however.
The Guard Approaches, and His Clothing Becomes Brighter
This is an essential part of the magic system. When you get close to someone's aura, their clothing—and everything else about them—brightens in color slightly. It's important to show it in this prologue.
Unfortunately, it also shouldn't be there. You see, Vasher should be smart enough to hide his Breath in his clothing, as the book later shows is quite easy to do. He shouldn't have left himself holding any Breath. It's suspicious. If those guards had noticed his aura—or if someone working in the prison had been of the First Heightening—Vasher would have been spotted. It's such an easy fix that he should have thought of it.
The problem is, I felt I needed to establish the way the magic works from the beginning. Having to explain why Vasher didn't make the clothing glow would have been awkward and confusing at this point in the book. So I left this as it is.
However, being who I am, I developed a background for why Vasher did it this way. He left his Breath in, and thought that maybe it would be noticed—but if it was, he knew that the guards would lock him in a cell much closer to Vahr. That would be convenient, as it would ensure that he was much closer to his quarry. Of course, in such a cell, he wouldn't be able to Awaken anything and escape. However, he'd planned for that too. He set a little straw figure outside the prison the night before, with specific Commands instructing it to search through the cells and find him, delivering a set of lock picks.
It was risky—but either way he did it would be risky. He couldn't know for certain that the guards would take him to the area he needed to be in, and even if he had hidden his Breath in his clothing, some prisons have rules in place requiring each prisoner to be stripped, just in case they've done just that. Fortunately, these guards were particularly lazy. Anyway, Vasher's contingency plan wasn't needed, as the guards didn't end up noticing his Breath.
Prologue - Part Two
There are a couple of other relics from the original short story version of this chapter that made it into the final book. I toyed with cutting these, but figured that there were good reasons for them.
First Line Origins
Of course, this line got a tweak of its own in later drafts. I was fond of this first line, as I'd used it in the original short story with Vancer. However, in that story, he'd been thrown into prison for other reasons. In Warbreaker, I began the book with Vasher getting himself purposefully tossed into prison.
So, in the end, my editor pointed out that the line no longer worked quite right. We had to change it—why would Vasher complain about getting thrown into prison if he had done it to himself on purpose? So, it became "It's funny how many things begin with my getting thrown into prison."
Vasher's name has interesting origins. I first began toying with the ideas that became Warbreaker back in 2005. I was hanging out with my then girlfriend (not Emily, but Heather, the girl I dated before I met Emily). We were up at Heather's family's cabin in Island Park, Idaho, and I had just met her father for the first time. His name was Vance.
The name intrigued me. Yes, I'd heard it before, but for some reason at that moment it struck me. Later that day, sitting on the dock of the lake, I pulled out my notebook and began to play around with ideas for a story. I tweaked the name to Vancer, but that just didn't sound right, though I used it for a while. The next incarnation was Vasher. [Editor's note: Brandon had earlier used the name Vasher in 2003 for a different character in the draft of another novel, but he had completely forgotten that by the time he wrote this annotation.]
I began doing some preliminary prose writing, plugging in a magic system I'd been working on. (I'll talk more later about how I came up with Awakening.) It became a story about a guy who was thrown into prison, then used his Awakening magic to get out of it. (Along with the help of his longtime sidekick, whose name escapes me right now.)
It wasn't very long. I'll have to dig it out sometime—it's only handwritten and wasn't something I ever intended to publish. Just a quick character sketch. It did have the first line, however, of what eventually became this book: "Why does it always have to end up with me getting thrown into prison?"
Prologue - Part One
The Origins of the Prologue
This began as a first chapter; I only later turned it into the prologue. My worry when I made the change (and it's still a bit of a worry) was that it was kind of a sneaky way to begin the book. Let me explain.
This novel focuses primarily on Siri, Vivenna, and Lightsong. Vasher, as the fourth viewpoint, is only in there fairly sparsely. True, he drives a lot of what is happening from behind the scenes, but he's a mysterious figure, and we don't know a lot about him. This prologue is pretty much the most extensive, lengthy, and in-depth scene we get of him.
Therefore, it's kind of sneaky to begin the book with him. I did it for a couple of reasons. First off—and this is the most important one—this scene is just a great hook. It shows off the magic system and the setting of the novel (most of the action takes place in T'Telir, even though the first few chapters are over in Idris). It's full of conflict and tension, with a mysterious character doing interesting things. In short, it's exactly how you want to begin a book.
My worries aren't about this prologue so much as they are about the following three chapters, where things slow down a lot. I was tempted to cut this scene and put it in later, but I eventually decided that giving it the mantle of a prologue was enough. A lot of times, particularly in fantasy, we writers use a prologue to highlight a character or conflict that might not show up again for a while.
A lot of people helped me with this book. As you may or may not realize, I posted drafts of the novel online as I was writing it. It was a rather nerve-racking experience in many ways. My goal was to show the process of writing a novel as it happened. As such, I would finish a chapter, spellcheck it, then post it. (Though sometimes I held it for a while, as I eventually wanted to get to posting one chapter a week, and I'd often write two or three a week.)
Why did I do this? Well, for a number of reasons. First off, I'd never seen anyone do it before. I'd seen serialized novels, of course, and I'd seen people post their complete novels once the book was out in stores. I'd never seen anyone post, chapter by chapter, the rough draft of a book that they already had a contract for. This was less serializing a novel and more showing the process. As I finished a new draft, I would post that so that people could compare and see how I tweaked my manuscripts.
I also wanted a free novel on my website so that people could give my work a chance without having to pay for it. I figured that if they liked it, they'd try out my other books (and probably even buy Warbreaker when it came out). And if they didn't like it, then at least they hadn't spent any money on it.
The third reason I posted it this way was that I wanted to see what kind of community and feedback I could get for a book while it was being posted, then use that kind of like a writing group. Now, I tend to write fairly clean rough drafts. They're far from perfect, but since I like to outline a lot, I generally know where I'm going with a book when I write it. However, a great deal still changes in drafting, and many of the people who posted comments on my blog had an influence on the novel. Not really in changing the plot or the characters—it's more that their questions and concerns would inspire me to explain something better or develop an aspect of the story more.
I tried to get everyone on the list who helped out in a moderate or significant way. However, I'm sure I missed some people. If you're one of those who gave me a lot of comments during the early months when I was posting the rough draft, and I forgot you in the acknowledgments, drop me an e-mail so I can at least get you added to the electronic version.
The map for this book was done by the awesome Shawn Boyles.
For this book, I wanted something with an illustrated feel to it. The Mistborn maps were supposed to look realistic and gritty—like maps from London during the nineteenth century. I wanted twisting, cramped streets and a sense of overcrowding.
For Warbreaker I wanted a very different feel. I wanted a picture that looked hand drawn, something a little exaggerated and intentionally less accurate. Like a picture you might see hanging on someone's wall, vaguely showing the size, shape, and relative locations of important things in the city.
I picked Shawn because of his style. He has a very colorful, very round and smooth style, and I thought that would translate very well to a map of the city. Ironically, the first map he gave me looked very detailed and intricate, much like the Mistborn maps. He was trying way too hard, I feel—imitating the style of the previous books.
I asked him for something that was more natural to his style, something that was a profile view rather than an overhead view and had stylized houses. The second draft came back nearly perfect; I was very excited. The only problem with that one was that it wasn't big enough. (It was about half the size of the final product and didn't have the upper portion of the map where the city curves around the bay.)
One more draft, however, and we were finished. He did the artwork by hand on a large piece of cardstock, then scanned it and filled in details on the computer. I love the finished product. I wish we could have done colored end pages using it.
This book is dedicated to my dear wife, Emily. I started writing this book when we were dating, and worked on it all through our engagement. I even took it on our honeymoon to Hawaii—though I didn't actually get any writing done on it then.
When I proposed to her, I wrote out a little poem in the form of a proposal that I said I'd use as the Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians dedication. She didn't want it to appear in the book, however, because a live dedication in a novel would have embarrassed her.
However, I asked if she'd mind having Warbreaker dedicated to her, and she was excited about that. You may know that when we were married, I commissioned a large batch of swords—inscribed with names from my books—and gave them to my closest friends. I named Emily's sword Lightsong, and she carried it around at the reception. (Mine is named Dragonsteel.)
So, anyway, this book is very dear to her. It's the first one of mine she had input on during the editing process. And now it's finally published, about three years since the date of our wedding. Ah, how time flies.
As a side note, when I was a teenager, I dreamed of someday proposing to my wife via a book dedication. Back then, being married and getting published were both very, very distant goals of mine. Like twin holy grails, shining on the mountain, virtually unobtainable but hoped for nonetheless.
I can still remember thinking of how cool it would be to surprise my soon-to-be-fiancée by walking with her into the bookstore to see if my new book was on the shelves yet. (In my daydream, it was the Cosmic Comics store back in Lincoln, which sold sf/fantasy books. It's the place where I first saw Eye of the World on a store shelf, by the way.) I imagined myself walking over and finding it on the shelf during its release week, then calling her over. That would be the first time she'd see the dedication, which would be a proposal to her. Of course, I'd have worked it out with the bookstore owner so that there was a ring taped to the next page.
Ah, ignorance. It was a fond dream. What I didn't realize is that often, there are years between the writing of a book and its publication. I didn't really think that Emily would want to wait three years for a proposal, just so that I could surprise her by having it in the front of a published book. . . .
Sometimes, though, it's still amazing to me to look back at that sixteen-year-old version of myself and realize that I've achieved both of those goals. I'm not only a published author, but I'm writing fantasy books as a full-time job. And I'm not only married, but I'm married to just about the most wonderful woman who's ever lived.
So those things weren't so unobtainable after all. But they're still just as precious as I imagined.
When you're writing a book, and you're writing a character that's better at something than you are, like Shallan is very good at drawing, or Wayne is very good at imitating voices, how do you write that?
This is a good question. You get this old adage in writing classes where people are like "write what you know". And you're like, buuuuuut...writing about English professors gets a little old, unless you're writing literary fiction and that's like half of it. What do you do when you want to write someone that's better at something than you are? Excellent question. A couple of things. You can construct the perfect situation to show off what you want to show off, which is not how life normally goes. So I'm not nearly as clever as some of my characters, but I can construct the situation and then take like two hours thinking "Alright, what's the perfect comeback" Go get a burger and it's like "Ahh the perfect comeback". Like you might do when you're like "Ahh if only I'd thought of that. You can make that happen.
The other thing you can do is good research, and for a lot of things where it's a skill I don't have, what I try and do is I try to do enough research to get myself like seventy percent of the way there as an expert. And you can do that pretty fast, you take a couple of months, read a couple of books, and you can get yourself to the point that you don't sound embarrassing. Then you write the scenes and you find someone that is an expert, because that last thirty percent is what takes like nine years extra. And you give it to them and you say "Where am I wrong?". And since you've kind of done enough work that you're not just like completely out of left field, they can fix it usually, and they're like "Oh yeah, this is not something that a doctor would say", "This is not something you do, you fix it right here, but you got these parts all right, the context is correct". And that's what you want to do, if you can. Forums are very useful, in the internet age you can go and hang out, learn around people talking about all kinds of things. You can be like "How do these people think? How do people who think this way think?", and you can go there and get from their own mouths and their own voices, a lot of how they're talking and thinking, what their passionate about and things like that. And then you try to represent that the way they would represent it if they were writing the book.
In The Stormlight Archive, Damnation is a physical planet, or place, to my understanding. The Tranquiline Halls seems a little less tangible, is it a physical place and will we see it?
So, Damnation and the Tranquiline Halls, are they physical places? In Rosharan mythology they are places, much like heaven and hell are places. Tranquiline Halls is-- and so they believe that they do exist, but they're not sure if they exist on this plane or the next plane, or things like that. And that's all I'm going to say about it.