Recent entries

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11251 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Forty

    Originally, I had the steps leading up to Elantris from the outside be a construction put there by the people of Kae. I knew I wanted a large number of scenes on the wall–it is such a dominant visual feature of the book that I thought it would make a good stage for scenes. However, I quickly realized that it would be the people of Kae–not the Elantrians–who controlled the wall. The Elantris City Guard grew from this idea, as did the set of steps constructed on the outside, leading up.

    As I worked more and more on the book, however, I came to realize that the pre-Reod Elantrians wouldn't have needed a city wall for protection.

    Obviously, to those who've read more, there is a good Aon-based reason for the wall. However, there is more to it than that, as well.

    The wall of the city is a symbol–it's part of the city's majesty. As such, it made more and more sense that there would be plenty of ways to get up on top of it.

    When we got the cover art back from Stephen, we were amazed by its beauty. A few things, however, didn't quite mesh with the text. One of these was the set of steps–they were so ornate, so beautiful, that it didn't fit that they would have been designed by the people of Kae. At that point, things kind of fell together, and I realized that there was no reason why the Elantrians themselves wouldn't have put a large staircase outside the city leading up to the wall.

    And so, in the final rewrite of the book (the ninth draft) I changed the staircase, and the general feel of the wall, to give the proper sense to the reader. The staircase was placed by the Elantrians as a means of getting up on top the wall. The wall itself became less a fortification, and more a wonder–like the Eiffel Tower. It is there to be climbed and experienced.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11252 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Thirty-Nine

    I did this triad a little differently. You might notice that the Hrathen chapter starts off right where the Sarene chapter ends. Again, I eventually decided to be more loose with the triad system than I'd originally intended. It would have been to limiting to force all three chapters to happen during the exact same time. So, instead I have them all happen on the same day, usually overlapping, but not always.

    Anyway, this chapter was a nice little place for Hrathen to feel proud of himself. You may have noticed that the chapters are speeding up–getting shorter, things happening faster–as the book progresses. This is an aspect of my style, and while it's not quite so noticeable in my new books (I've tried to even out my climaxes and surprised better during the last few years,) Elantris is an "Old School" Brandon novel. My books tend to push toward the endings quite dramatically, and you usually hit a place my friends affectionately call "The Brandon Avalanche." Generally, my books tend to go haywire in about the last ten percent, the pace increasing drastically, the viewpoints going wild.

    That hasn't happened at this point in Elantris, but we're getting closer.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11254 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    You'll notice in the "Sarene prays in the chapel" scene that I take care to describe how high-necked, long-sleeved, and generally enveloping Sarene's dress is. Hopefully, this doesn't look suspicious. However, those of you who are watching carefully probably realized what was going to happen at the wedding. This was just too good an opportunity to pass up–for the surprise factor, for the wrinkles it throws in to the plot, and because it lets me mix Sarene and Raoden again.

    This prayer scene also offers our first, and only, real look into Sarene's religious mindset. Her faith is probably one of the only simple aspects of her personality–she believes, and it doesn't need to go much further than that for her. That's why I had this prayer be so simple. Sometimes, a simple thing can be far more powerful than a complex one.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11255 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    This chapter is supposed to be something of a small redemption for Iadon. First off, we have his proclamation, which gives validity to his structure of rule. I think everything in the Arelish government makes a lot more sense now that we understand why Iadon did what he did.

    The second bit of redemption comes at the burial site, where Sarene watches the barrow being built. Her thoughts don't excuse what Iadon did, but I hope they give something of an explanation. I like this scene because of the way it feels–there is a reverence about it which gives the proper atmosphere for a funeral.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11256 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    By the way, in the original draft, when Sarene gives her "All of Arelon is blessed by your presence" line when the Patriarch is on the docks, the Patriarch originally said "I know." Moshe thought this was a little overdone, so I cut it. In my mind, however, the Patriarch IS overdone and cliché–that's part of his character. But, anyway, one other item about this scene is the storm. I threw it in so that I could fudge the time of the Patriarch's arrival–the triad structure requiring me to have had him on the boat longer than the trip should take. This might actually not be necessary any more–in the original, I had him leave before he found out about the king's death. (I'm. . .not exactly sure why. Something to do with pacing and the triad structure. However, it was always my intention to have him read the proclamation at the funeral, so I had to have him ASSUME that Iadon would be executed, then take off with the proclamation. Either way, I eventually fixed this, smoothing things out considerably.)

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11257 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    I brought in the Patriarch for a couple of reasons. Though Joshua wanted to cut him (my agent is quite the headsman) and suggested that I have Omin reveal the proclamation, I felt that I needed someone with a little more authority to fill that role. Plus, Elantris is a book about religion, and I wanted to look at the idea of having a religious leader who isn't necessarily as. . .wise as his people would like. By giving the Korathi religion a man like the Patriarch at its head, I could show a different aspect of faith in the book–the idea that a religion is more than its leader, and faith is more powerful than one man. I think that for any religion to last, it needs to be able to survive IN SPITE of the people who run it, rather than just because of them.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11258 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Thirty-Eight

    Ah, we needed some more Lukel. He hasn't been around enough lately. I'm glad I had the presence of mind to throw in a character to balance out Shuden and Eondel's solemnity. Lukel doesn't really have much part in the plot, but he's always there to throw in a nice quip or two. His annoyance at being told his face is too pink here is probably one of his best moments.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11259 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Another big nod of thanks goes out to my thesis committee for their suggestion regarding this chapter. I'm not sure how I missed it, but in the original drafts, Raoden and company never acknowledge the fact that Hrathen had been healed. They never even mentioned it, and they certainly didn't give their thoughts on why it happened.

    The fix was an easy one–you can read it in a few paragraphs in this chapter. However, the fact that it hadn't been there before was indeed a problem. Moshe was dumbfounded when I mentioned the oversight to him.

    So, thanks Sally, Dennis, and John. You saved me from some embarrassment.

    I like the explanation that Raoden gives here for Hrathen's healing. It seems like it would make sense to the Elantrians, and it saves me from having them suspect what was really going on.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11260 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Thirty-Seven

    We've entered the section of the plot where Raoden has a few short chapters (this one and the one before.) As I mentioned, his major plot cycle–the three gangs–for the first part of the book is over. Right now, the most important things are happening on the outside of Elantris, so Raoden gets a slight breather to study.

    That said, the realization that happens here–that Raoden isn't bad at dealing with the pain, he's simply facing something that the others don't have to–is an important one. There needed to be some progression here, even if it does take away Raoden's main character conflict. (Now he doesn't have to worry that he's inferior.) However, this conflict is replaced by another little timebomb–now Raoden has to worry about being destroyed by the Dor before he can finish his studies. It gives him a sense of urgency, makes things a little more difficult–which is why I introduced this plotting structure in the first place. As I've mentioned, I was worried that there wouldn't be enough tension in his chapters once the gangs were defeated. Hence the Dor attacks.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11261 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    This chapter asks the question "What is a miracle?" You've heard me wax pontificatory too much on religion, so I'll hold off here. Instead, I'll just point out that what Hrathen thinks–that something can be a miracle even if there was nothing "miraculous" involved–makes perfect sense, I think. Look at it this way. A) Hrathen believes (as many in our world do) that God controls everything. B) Hrathen believes (as many in our world do) that God can do whatever he wants without expending any resources or weakening Himself. C) Therefore, it doesn't matter to God whether or not He has to "magically" cause something to occur or not–as long as an event is made to coincide with what He wants to happen, it is miraculous. It's just as easy for Him to make something occur through the natural flow of the universe as it is for him to make it occur through breaking of normal laws.

    (This, by the way, is why "miracles" such as faith healings or the like should never, in my opinion, form one's grounds for belief in a particular religion.)

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11262 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes, all this time Hrathen was under the effects of the potion. It was a little bit contrived not to tell the reader that Hrathen had asked for the effects to be temporary, but I figured the drama was worth it. You should have been able to figure it out anyway–it was the only logical reason Hrathen would drink the potion.

    Of all the politickings, maneuverings, and plannings in this book, I think this is the best one. In a single brilliant gamble, Hrathen managed to make himself into a saint who is seen to have power over Elantris. He out-witted Sarene and Dilaf at the same time, gaining back everything he'd lost during his arguments and self-questioning. This isn't really a "twist," in my mind–it's something better. It's something that makes logical sense, something that carries the plot forward without having to trick the reader, yet still earning wonder and appreciation.

    In my mind, this sort of plot twist is superior to gimmick surprises. I don't often pull it off, but there's something. . .majestic about a plotting device that is obvious, rational, yet still surprising.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11263 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Thirty-Six

    Dakhor. One of the better words I came up for this book, I think.

    Be patient with me–I'm going somewhere with this whole Dakhor monastery thing. We'll get there eventually. For now, enjoy Hrathen's visions. Or, rather, be disturbed by them. (Dakhor, if you haven't noticed, isn't a very friendly place. . . .)

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11265 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Boy, I have a lot to say on this chapter. Let's talk about Sarene's engagement to Roial.

    Some moments, when you're writing, things just click together. The moment when I came up with this plotting element was one such moment. I hadn't actually planned this into my outline. Suddenly, as I was writing, I realized just how much sense it made, and how wonderful it would be to force the characters to have to go through this. Even still, this is one of my very favorite twists in the book.

    The scene in the carriage has been there from the beginning, but I did change it slightly in the last draft, adding the section where Roial talks to Sarene about herself. His line "You're an excellent judge of character, except for your own" is something I think needed to be said to Sarene at some point in the book. The actual suggestion that it happen came from my Master's Thesis committee. They–correctly–saw Sarene as someone who had an unrealistic image of herself.

    She really isn't as unmarriagble, or as unwantable, as she thinks she is. Even back in Teod, she wasn't regarded quite as harshly as she assumes. However, she's very hard on herself. Someone needed to sit her down and tell her–at the same time acknowledging to the reader–that she isn't half as bad as she seems to think.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11266 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    About here, I decided to start having Ahan be less helpful in these meetings. The subtext here is that he's been playing both sides, intending–yet never quite managing–to overthrow Sarene's group. Early in the book, he was having fun just playing the game–and he never did anything incriminating against the king. Now, with Iadon gone, he's reworking his motivations. So, that's why he's a bit less communicative in this chapter.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11267 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    One interesting note about this book is how small the armies are. Often in books, I'll deal with armies in the tens and hundreds of thousands. Those, however, tend to be war epics–it makes sense to me that in Elantris, they're talking about hundreds of men, rather than thousands. This may seem like a ridiculous number for a defense force, but I imagine Arelon being a small country, quite isolated and–as noted in the text–rather innocent. They really only need policing forces.

    My copy editor was worried about my use of the word "legion," actually, for Eondel's personal force. She said that a legion, dictionary wise, was usually much larger. While this may be true, I think the fact that they call it "Eondel's Legion" makes it a proper noun, and is usable. This is a kind of honorary title, rather than a descriptive name. Besides, in Arelon, a couple hundred men really is quite big.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11268 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    The Jindoeese food section is another one of those potentially out-of-place sections of the book, but I certainly had a lot of fun writing it. I'm interested in the fact that some more "primitive" cultures often understand the same things that modern medicine and science do, they just can't quite explain themselves to our satisfaction. It makes sense to me that a culture like the Jindoeese might figure out that a diet lower in fats is good for you, but they might not completely understand why. Anyway, poor Eventeo doesn't get to eat butter any more.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11270 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Thirty-Five

    The joke is, of course, that Eventeo told Sarene not to do this very thing–not to overthrow Iadon and put herself on the throne. It was back in chapter two, the first Sarene chapter, and he said it in jest. (She broke her promise, though–she said she'd wait at least two months to put herself on the throne. Go read the last page of that chapter if you want to see what I'm talking about.)

    Anyway, yes, I killed Iadon off-stage. I didn't see any reason to go on with him at this point. He'd done his damage, suffered his defeat. The best thing for him was to disappear without causing any more trouble, I think.

    Well, not without any more trouble, I guess. There is that funeral scene. . . .
    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11271 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    And, as for the seon explanation here. . .well, I'm afraid that's all you get for this book. I think this is the last (or, rather, only) discussion the characters have about the origins of the seons. It's not much, but that is intentional. When I wrote Elantris six years ago, I wasn't sure if I'd ever even sell the book. Therefore, I didn't want to invest too much thought into a sequel right then. I wanted the book to stand alone, yet I wanted to give myself plenty of room to do interesting things in a series, if it ever came to that. Therefore, I intentionally left a few open spaces in the worldbuilding–things the characters didn't even know.

    One of these holes is the origin, and even workings, of the seons. I have some ideas, of course, but you'll have to wait for another book before they get explained. (You can thank Moshe for what you got in this chapter–he was very curious about seons, and he wanted a little bit more. That's why we had the discussion of Passing, as well as the explanation that you don't have to be noble to have a seon.)

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11272 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    My explanation for the slime, admittedly, relies a bit heavily on "fantasy writer's license." Usually, I resist overdoing things like this. (I.e., simply explaining away events in the world with magical answers.) Though there is a slight logic to Raoden's explanation, it isn't something that would have been intuitive to a reader, given the facts of the novel. That makes it a weak plotting element. However, the slime explanation isn't part of any real plot resolution, so I decided to throw it in. Its place as an interesting world element, rather than a climax, gives me a few more liberties, I think.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11273 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Now that the three gangs have been dealt with, Raoden's storyline has had some major resolutions. The increasing pain of his wounds, however, is something I introduced into the book for fear that he wouldn't have enough pressing conflicts. As stated in previous annotations, his personality is uniquely strong and stable amongst characters I've created, and I figured that giving him a small problem in the area of self-confidence wouldn't be remiss. He feels that he's worse at dealing with the pain than everyone else, and that makes him worry that he isn't the leader he should. We'll have more on this later.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11274 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Thirty-Four

    I know it seems like I'm setting Shaor up for a return, but I really don't intend to bring her back. At least, I didn't when I wrote this chapter. The truth is, I just didn't want to write a scene of the madmen returning with the torn up body of a little girl.

    However, every time I read this section, I can't help noticing that I left one of the book's most dangerous villains alive (potentially.) Ironically, because it seems so obvious from the text that Shaor is still alive, I think I'd avoid doing anything with her in a sequel. It seems like in fiction, any time you don't see a body, you automatically assume (often correctly) that the villain is still out there somewhere.

    However, in this case, it really doesn't make sense to use her again. Shaor wasn't a threat because of any special skills on her part–I see no reason to bring her back.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11275 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    When I was designing this book, I knew I wanted a religious antagonist. Actually, the idea for the Derethi religion was one of the very fist conceptual seeds for this novel. I've always been curious about the relationship between the Catholic church and the Roman empire. While Rome itself has declined greatly in power, the church that grew within it–almost as a side-effect–has become one of the dominant forces in the world. I wondered what would happen if an empire decided to do something like this intentionally.

    The early Derethi leaders, then, were a group who realized the problems with the Old Fjordell Empire. It collapsed upon itself because of bureaucratic problems. The Old Empire was faced with rebellions and wars, and never managed to become stable. The Derethi founders realized the power of religion. They decided that if they could get the nations of the East to believe in a single religion–with that religion centered in Fjorden–they would have power equal to, or even greater than, the power of the Old Empire. At the same time, they wouldn’t have to worry about rebellion–or even bureaucracy. The people of the other nations would govern themselves, but would give devotion, loyalty, and money to Fjorden.

    So, these men appropriated the teachings of Shu-Dereth and mixed them with some mythology from the Fjordell Old Empire. The resulting hybridization, added to the Fjordell martial work ethic, created an aggressive, intense religion–yet one that was "constructed" with a logical purpose in mind. The Fjordell priests spent the next few centuries converting and building their power base. The result was the New Empire–an empire without governments or armies, yet far more powerful than the Old Empire ever was.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11276 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Thirty-Three

    Another short, but powerful, Hrathen chapter. This is the head of Hrathen's character climax for the first half of the book. He has been questioning his own faith ever since he first met Dilaf. It isn't that he questions the truthfulness of the Derethi religion–he just has become uncertain of his own place within it. I wanted this moment, when he's semi-consciously watching the eclipse, to be the moment where he finally decides upon an answer within himself.

    This is a major turning-point for Hrathen. His part in the book pivots on this chapter, and the things he does later are greatly influenced by the decisions he makes here. I think the important realization he realizes here is that not every person's faith manifests in the same way. He's different from other people, and he worships differently. That doesn't make his faith inferior.

    In fact, I think his faith is actually superior to Dilaf's. Hrathen has considered, weighed, and decided. That gives him more validity as a teacher, I think. In fact, he fits into the Derethi religion quite well–the entire Derethi idea was conceived as a logical movement.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11277 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    There are a couple of important foreshadowings in this chapter as well. One is the seon sense of direction, which plays a very small-yet-important part in the climax of the book. The other is Sarene's insight into Ahan's character here at the party. If you've been following him, you realize that he is like she explains–a little too quick to act, not quite as politically shrewd as he'd like others to think. It's this scene, however, where I really wanted to lay the seeds of understanding in my readers, preparing them for his eventual betrayal.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11278 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Some notes about the party. First off, I had a lot of fun sticking the sickening young couples into this book. I'm not sure why I like to make fun of them like I do, but I certainly have a bit of fun in the Sarene chapters. Ah, poor Shuden. He didn't hold on as well as he thought he might. Anyway, the contrast here is very nice for Sarene, and I like how she and Roial move through the party, mingling. There's just a. . .natural feel about some of the scenes in this book that I haven't quite been able to capture in my other works.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11279 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Showing Roial's seon was important, I think. First off, I wanted to give some evidence that there are indeed seons in Arelon who aren't mad. (So far, I believe that the only named seons we've seen in the book are Ashe and Ien.) Secondly, Opa is a nice little foreshadowing–it's through him that Ashe manages to contact Sarene's friends. Actually, Sarene's interaction with Ashe is quite interesting in this chapter, as it's somewhat more strained–and therefore a bit more true–than what we've seen before. When under stress, Ashe isn't quite so accommodating and straightforward as normal–but he still does retain Sarene's best interests at heart.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11280 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Sarene's extended internal narrative about Graeo remains in the book despite a slight dissatisfaction on my part with the section. It feels a little expository, and we've gotten implications regarding these things before. I'm not sure that we really learn anything new about Sarene's character here, we just get a few specifics about her past.

    However, one of the nice things about a book like this–or, even, books in general, as opposed to movies –is that you don't have to worry TOO much about every scene and moment. I don't have to shave seconds quite as intensely as a film-maker might, or even shave words as much as an author of a shorter work might. I can afford a few diversions like this one, even if they ramble just a bit.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11281 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    There's a tie for best line of the chapter, in my opinion. The first one goes to Sarene, and it's in her thoughts. " 'The problem with being clever,' Sarene thought with a sigh, 'is that everyone assumes you're always planning something.' " This was an original line from the first draft, and it's always struck me as a rather true statement. The other line goes to Roial, and it was actually added in one of the last drafts. "Mean young men are trivial, and kindly old men boring."

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11285 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Thirty-Two

    Time for my second favorite chapter! (The first, if you recall, was the one where Raoden led Karata to the king's palace.)

    There are so many things going on in this chapter that I don't quite know where to start. I guess I'll begin with the Mysteries. I drew part of this religion, including the name, from the mystery cults of ancient Greece. I added the ritual sacrifices to give them a bit of zing. You'll get a little bit more of an explanation of the Mysteries, and why someone might decide to join one, in a later Sarene chapter.

    As I've noted before, religion–especially its dark side–is a theme in this book. I don't think I could have covered this subject well in the book without including a look at cult mentality. Now, I'll admit that "cult" is a word we bandy about too frequently in religious discussions. It has been noted that Christianity started out as a kind of cult, and it seems that many consider any unorthodox religion to be a "cult."

    To me, however, a cult is something that twists who you are, changing you into a shadow of what you used to be. I firmly believe that you can judge a religion by the effects it produces in its practitioners. Does it make them better people? If so, then there's a good chance that the religion is worth something. Does it turn them into people who sacrifice their own servants in an effort to make evil spirits come and kill their daughters-in-law? If so, well. . .you might want to stay away from that one.

    Anyway, the Mysteries were–in my mind–a natural outgrowth of the Mystical Jesker religion. Like Galladon is always saying, they're NOT the same religion. The Mysteries are a perversion and simplification of Jesker teachings. Jesker looks to the Dor–the power behind all things–and tries to understand it. The Mysteries treat the Dor like some kind of force to be manipulated. (Which actually, is what AonDor does. . . .)

    EuroCon 2016 ()
    #11286 Copy

    Questioner

    Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to ask this question, because, when I'm reading your books, I always find myself making the questions that you want me to make, right? And at the end, there's always a surprise, but I'm wondering how you manage to achieve that, to have me asking the exact questions that you want me to ask.

    Brandon Sanderson

    This is lots of practice as a writer, and paying attention to how the art of writing works, that's certainly part of it. I would say that being a writer is a little like being a stage magician. You often distract the audience with what you're doing with one hand, while you are slipping something else out of your pocket and getting ready to throw it in their face. The best twists in fiction are the ones that are right in front of you. Anyone can have something unexpected happen. Sometimes, it's appropriate, but sometimes, just having the unexpected happen without foreshadowing is very unfulfilling. So, if you can lead the reader to be asking certain questions, sometimes they will ignore the question right beneath the surface that is in front of their eyes, but hidden by a larger, more domineering question.

    EuroCon 2016 ()
    #11287 Copy

    Questioner

    You are very famous for being a fast writer, we talked about that in the other conversation, and I'm not going to ask you the secret of your superpower, if you got bit by a spider or something, but I don't want to ask about the discipline of sitting and writing [unclear] straight, or the deadlines of the publishers, because if there's something that is strange about writing, it's that, in your worst moments, when you [unclear] pressure, [unclear] family conflict, you write better, you are more capable of understanding how others feel, how is the world that's around you. And when you're happy, when everything is okay, you have time to find inspiration or the strength to write, because, "The world is amazing, I have these great friends, this great girlfriend, this amazing family to be with. Why do I have to stay five hours closed in my room thinking about people having terrible problems to be happy?" So, how do you make this to keep writing, and having what a fantastic life, with fantastic friends and fantastic fans?

    Brandon Sanderson

    What a fascinating question, I've never been asked that before! I've been asked thousands, of questions, so that is very interesting. I would say, I am not a writer who writes from a place of pain. Every writer is different, and they find different inspiration. I am best at writing when I am in a place of comfort. And so, I think that most writers are very observant, and this is how we express things in fiction. We pay attention. We listen. For instance, I don't have depression, but Kaladin does. If I waited until I had depression to write Kaladin that would probably be bad, because people with depression, number one, don't want to do anything, and number two, it's just not going to work, right? You just can't sit around and wait to experience everything you want to write. So, for me, it's about research, and listening, and paying attention. I happen to have several people I love dearly who do have depression, and so I talk to them. I take notes. I listen to the things they have to say, and that becomes the foundation for a piece of a character's personality. I don't know, though, maybe I'm just a sadist and I like to do evil things.

    EuroCon 2016 ()
    #11288 Copy

    Questioner

    A part of the evolution--I mean this evolution that has entailed few years, but many, many books--are, in my opinion, two elements, right? One is the female characters, and the other one is the relationship between parents and kids. Is your wife involved in both aspects?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I would say most definitely, most definitely. I would credit my female characters more with the authors I read growing up than anything else. If I can point to one person, it would be Anne McCaffrey, who was one of the early writers that I read a great deal. I have said, I talked about earlier, that the first book that I read in fantasy was by Barbara Hambley. I went from her to Anne McCaffrey, and from Anne to Melanie Rawn. These were chronological, by title, in the card catalog. For the young people in the audience, a card catalog was this thing chiseled out of stone in libraries that pterodactyls sat on. But I had read exclusively women writers of fantasy for many months when someone came to me with a David Eddings book, one of my friends, and said, "You should read this." And my response was, I kid you not, "I don't know if men can write fantasy." As I talked about in the last session, when I started writing, I was not good at writing anyone but the main protagonist. Women characters, side characters, the only characters that worked were the ones that were very like me. The reason I worked so hard to change this was because I knew it could be done better, because I had seen great writers before me do it so much better.

    As for family relationships, as I was working on my books early in my career, I realized I was falling in a cliché. Not all clichés are bad--we can call them tropes instead, because the word "cliché" sounds so bad--but I was falling into the trope of making my protagonists all be orphans. This is very easy as a writer, because it cuts down on the number of characters, which makes it easier, but also, it has an inherent tragic backstory. I mean, it's also part of the Hero's Journey, the orphan with a hidden heritage of nobility. You see it in Luke Skywalker, you see it in Harry Potter. So, useful trope or not, I noticed I was using it, and I said, "I need to be aware of what I'm doing, not just accidentally doing things." So, when I worked on, specifically The Stormlight Archive, I said, "I want family relationships to be important to it," because most of us are not orphans. Most of us have family that have been very important to us, and it feels far more real to approach it that way.

    EuroCon 2016 ()
    #11289 Copy

    Questioner

    I don't have much time to make many more questions to you, but one of my questions--I'll try to make them short, because then we'll open the floor for the audience--one of my questions is whether you could now, seeing the evolution of The Stormlight Archive, what would you say about this evolution, if you could explain it? Since there has been an evolution, imagine you could go backwards in time and explain it to yourself, or even explain it to Robert Jordan, how would you explain it, the evolution of this?

    Brandon Sanderson

    So, the evolution of what, of my book series, in my head?

    Questioner

    The evolution of these ten books.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Okay. Well, the somewhat cheeky answer is that I would never go back in time. I have read this book, and it always ends with you almost getting erased, or coming back to your home being communist, or to some other disaster. Unless I know I'm in the right Connie Willis book, I'm not going back in time, and even then, I might end up in the time of the Black Plague, so I wouldn't risk it.

    But to answer it more seriously, if I were to go back in time and explain about The Stormlight Archive to my young self... Boy, that is a hard question, for me to consider what I would say about it, because I tried to write The Way of Kings in 2002, and I failed at writing it. I completed the book, but the book was a failure. I did not have the skill as a writer yet to juggle the number of characters and the depth of worldbuilding that book requires. It is a book that required about twenty years of writing practice before I was able to write it. And so, I think I would tell my young self to keep going, that the work will be worth it, that I will get to the point that I will be able to do it, but I still would have had to write the 2002 version in order to learn how to write the later version that worked. Working on The Wheel of Time was certainly part of that. It was like going to the gym and knowing I was going to have to be lifting these heavier weights, and I couldn't afford to be doing the light weights anymore.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11290 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    If I were to assign Raoden two defining traits, the first would be his ability to make the best of what he's given (as I've spoken of above.) The second, however, would be the personality trait he manifests in this chapter–his simple belief in the goodness of the human race.

    I suppose this is a facet of his optimism. Raoden believes in people–he believes that, as a whole, they will do what is right. He believes that they are more rational than the nobility sometimes give them credit, and he believes that most men will do what is good if they are presented with all of the facts.

    He really is a noble man. He's perhaps the only person I've written in a fantasy book who, from day one, actually deserved to be king.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11291 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Thirty-One

    Raoden failed in finding ways to defeat Shaor's gang on two separate occasions. First, there was the original infiltration with Galladon (in which Raoden hoped to convince Shaor to stop attacking.) This excursion was informative, but not successful. The second failure was in dealing with the wild men who were trying to get to the carts. Raoden's decision to simply cut them off from the courtyard was eventually a failure. I'm not sure what else he could have done, but he still failed. Saolin's death, among other things, was the cost.

    I knew that Raoden had to have more difficulty dealing with Shaor's band than he did with the other two. "Defeating" Karata and Taan happened quickly, and with relative ease. If Shaor's band hadn't presented a problem, then I felt that the entire "three gangs" plot would have been unfulfilling.

    So, in these chapters, I stepped up the danger from Shaor and the crew. In the early drafts of the book, this danger wasn't present enough. (In fact, this was one of the main comments that Tom Doherty, CEO of Tor, gave me when he read Elantris.) So, I increased Shaor's numbers–by giving them a larger percentage of Taan's men, not to mention a larger number of men to begin with–and made them more dangerous in the way they attacked.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11292 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Father Omin, by the way, "traces Aon Omi" on Hrathen's chest as part of the religious service. This should look familiar. It is a subtle little thing, but I wanted to show how the Korathi religion has been influenced by its proximity to Elantris. The priests probably wouldn't do something like this in Teod. In a way, Hrathen is right–Elantris has had a corrupting influence on those around it.

    However, "corruption" is probably too strong a word. Religions adapt as their people adapt, and often times cultural elements are incorporated into belief structures. People have asked me, as a Christian, what I think about Christmas itself being set in place of a pagan holiday. Doesn't really bother me. The day we happen to celebrate the birth of Christ doesn't have any doctrinal importance to me. A religious person has to be willing, in my mind, to accept that while truth may be eternal, the way we interact with it–as changing human beings–must needs be influenced by the way we think and the way society works.

    It doesn't matter if my religion "borrowed" things from other religions or cultures–especially if the things we filched added good things to the religion. That's what humans do. We adapt. We steal. This especially makes sense if you happen to be a writer. (We're really good at stealing. . .uh, I mean "adapting.")

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11293 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Another interesting note in this chapter is that we finally get to see what Raoden went through in chapter one. The washing process isn't all that exciting, but I have had several people remark that they were sad to have missed it. I guess that's just human curiosity. Well, for those who wondered what the process was, they finally got to see it in this chapter.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11294 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Thirty

    And, we finally get to figure out what is going on. As I said, this is one of my favorite triads because of the way it manages to string a cliff-hanger across three separate chapters. I've spoken often of how difficult it was, at times, to maintain the triad structure. However, scenes like these are the reward. We get to see from Hrathen's viewpoint the things spoken off in Sarene's viewpoint, and often (especially later in the book) we can see the same scene from different sets of eyes, seeing different opinions and thoughts manifest.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11295 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    And, as a note on the final exchange, did you forget about the cliffhanger at the end of Raoden's chapter? My hope was that knowing, from Raoden, that the gates to Elantris opened sometime after the attack, the reader would assume that Sarene actually failed to stop the soldiers. Now that she has, however, stopped them, you are reminded that SOMEONE is entering the city. One guess who it is.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11296 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    And, in Kaise's "Why did YOU have to get sick," line, you can see a remnant of the cut scene I talked about in the last Sarene chapter. Kaise and Daorn were supposed to be able to go with Sarene into the city, and when I got to this scene, I thought I'd forgotten to add them. So, I came up with the sickness excuse. This was actually an error on my part, since this triad is actually happening several days after the last triad, and the twins got their permission to go with Sarene for the "next day." Therefore, their trip into Elantris would have happened during the intervening days.

    Kaise's comment, however, seemed like a nice little nod to things happening in the world off-stage. Things like this give a nice feel to a book, so I left it in–despite the fact that the original scene it was tied to got cut early on.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11297 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Some other small notes. First, the proverb about the Lion. It's actually a Korean proverb, one which always stood out to me because it was almost identical to our proverb "Speak the name of the devil, and he will appear," referring to someone who arrives right when you were talking about them. The Korean version says "If you say the name of the tiger, he will appear." I embellished this a bit with use of my handy creative license, and you get what we have here.

    Actually, from what I’ve seen, you'd be surprised at how many proverbs span cultures. They may sound a little different, but the meanings are often very similar.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11298 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Twenty-Nine

    So, here we get the payoff for several hundred pages worth of hinting at Iadon's insecuirty and paranoia. Plotting is all about payoffs, in my estimation. You have to earn your plot. You do that by putting the pieces together in the right places, so when you finally get to a climax (even a smaller one) your readers accept what is happening.

    The build-up doesn't have to always be subtle–and it doesn't even have to be done through traditional foreshadowing. For instance, if you want a character to be able to defeat a small group of bandits, you have to have earned the payoff that says that he/she is competent with a weapon. It's like a chemical equation–you balance all of your pieces on the one side, and they should equal what comes out on the other end.

    In order for Sarene's speech in this chapter to work, I needed to do several things. I needed to build up that she'd be both capable enough to make it and brash enough to go through with it. I also needed to build up that Iadon would crack beneath this kind of external pressure, which I hope I did.

    EuroCon 2016 ()
    #11299 Copy

    Questioner

    I would not like to say commonplace, but there are some prejudices of people when they read you, when they read your work, because of the religious elements, right? This can be a challenge, but there are three things that are absolutely important in your work. One is faith, the other one is moral, what you organize around faith, and then you always, always have the critical spirit that really fights against all of this, and that tries to find value. And this is very peculiar, because you were discussing very transcendental, very important things with this touch of spirituality, but there's always reason and a critical spirit underneath. I would like to know whether you could explore this farther?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes. It is something I have thought about a lot as well. I am a man of faith. I am religious. I am Latter-day Saint for those who don't know. And I am a man of science. I was a chemistry major originally in college, and I am a very big believer, at the same time, in skepticism and logic, and I have a somewhat more rational approach to my faith than perhaps many others do. But I'm not sure if even that is true, I just think that many people are not as vocal as some of those who are faithful, but determinedly ignorant, also.

    I feel that, as a writer, one of my mandates is to express multiple viewpoints on topics, and try to work through them by having rational people, sympathetic people, on multiple sides of an argument. Few things bother me in fiction more than a cast of characters who all agree on some topic, except for one idiot who exists to be proven wrong. I don't think that's who we find truth. I think we find truth through disagreement by people who all have good arguments. When two people who disagree discuss an issue, and both listen to each other, both learn, and their understanding of the world expands. And because of my own inherent biases, by being religious, one of the things I seek very strongly to do is to make sure that the opposing opinion to what I believe is strongly represented by someone making the arguments that that side would make if they were writing the book. A falsehood or a weak belief can survive dumb challenges to it, but truth can survive good arguments against it, is what I believe. So you can see, I'm very fascinated by this topic, and the things that fascinate me come out in my books, but it is very important to me that my stories be about questions and not about answers, because of all of this, that questions lead to truth, and thinking you have answers don't go anywhere.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11300 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    We have a nice little cliff-hanger at the end of this section. However, you have to remember the format of the triad system–when we go back to Sarene, we'll be jumping back in time a bit. That means that you won't immediately discover what is going on with the gate of Elantris.

    Dramatically, this is my favorite of the triad structures. We get to hold this cliffhanger for a long time, building it through the next chapter.