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    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11401 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    The scene where the children talk about art is one I nearly cut from the book on a couple of different occasions. I worry that this is one of the scenes that contributes overly-much to the "Kiin's family is out of place" feeling that people occasionally get. In addition, I worry that I made Kaise too intelligent here. Three things make me retain the scene. First, I think it's kind of amusing. The second is a spoiler, so I won't say much on it—just let it suffice that I wanted to give Kaise and Daorn some good characterization.

    For you spoiler readers, those two would be the main characters of any sequel I wrote to Elantris. I'd set the book about ten years after the ending of this one.

    The third reason for retaining the scene is because I put it in, in the first place, quite intentionally. Kaise, and to a lesser extent Daorn, are a small reaction against Ender's Game. When I read that book, and some of Scott's other works (which, by the way, I think are all brilliant) I got to wondering if children who were as smart as his really would act the way they do in his books. Not to disagree with one of the greatest sf minds of our time, but I wanted to take a different spin on the "clever child" idea. So, I presented these children as being extremely intelligent, but also extremely immature with that intelligence. I'm not convinced that IQ brings maturity with it, and think there's only so much "adult" you can have in a kid. So, I put in Kaise and Daorn to let me play with this idea a little bit in Elantris.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11402 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Eight

    The economy of Arelon is one of the interesting features of this book. Even still, I'm not certain if I made things a little too odd here. The idea of nobility being tied directly to money is described so often by the characters that I worry that readers will think the system too foolish to have arisen. However, I think that by establishing the king as a former merchant—and by pointing out how the system was created quickly, to fill the void after the fall of Elantris—I manage to keep the economic and social situation in Arelon within the realm of possibility.

    I think that too often fantasy writers are content with simply throwing in a slightly-original spin on magic—ignoring the fact that their cultures, governments, and religions are derivative. There is this idea of the "general" fantasy world, and writers draw upon it. However, I think an interesting cultural element can be just as fascinating—and as useful to the plot—as an interesting magic system. In the best cases, the two are inter-woven, like what one can find in brilliant genre books like Dune.

    Of course, the strange economic/governmental system of the book is only a descendant of another strange economic/governmental system. Sarene and Lukel discuss a few of the problems presented by having a race of people who can create whatever they want through use of magic. I don't get to deal with that aspect of AonDor very much in this particular book, since the novel is set during a time when the magic of Elantris doesn't work. However, there are a lot of interesting ramifications AonDor would present for a book set during Elantris' heyday. What good is gold if someone can create it from nothing? In fact, what good is a monetary system at all when everyone can have as much food as they want? What need is there for invention or ingenuity in the face of a group of people who can re-create any good, no matter how complex, with a mere flick of the magical wrist?

    The truth behind the Elantrian magical abilities is far more limited than Sarene or Lukel acknowledge in this chapter. If one were to go back fifteen years, one would find that the Elantrians who had the skill to fabricate complex materials "out of nothing" were actually quite rare.

    As we learn later in the book, AonDor is a very complicated, difficult skill to master. As I was writing this book, I imagined the complicated Aons that Raoden eventually learns how to draw being only springboards to massive equations that could take weeks to plan out and write. Fabricating something very complex would require a great deal of detail in the AonDor recipe.

    Even still, I think the tension between the Elantrians and the merchants is a natural outgrowth of this situation.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11403 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    This chapter, which Raoden and Galladon crouching atop the rooftop and watching for newcomers, reminds me of the early days of conceiving this novel. The seed for Elantris actually came several years before I got around to writing the book. I knew that I wanted to tell the story of a brutal city filled with people who has some sickness that kept them from dying.

    One of the initial scenes that came to my mind was that of the main character crouching atop a low building, watching the gates to the city. The gates open, and a newcomer is thrown in. At the same time, one of the wretches inside the city snaps–finally giving into his pain, and going mad. This man madly rushes toward the gates, trying to escape. The city guards–who don't have the disease–throw massive spears at the man rushing the gates. One of the spears hits him, piercing him all the way through.

    However, it's quickly explained that the spear wasn't meant to kill, for the man continues to struggle weakly, despite being impaled. However, the spear is so big and bulky that the poor creature can't move any more–obviously, the weapons are intended to slow and immobilize, not kill. After all, the inhabitants of this city can't be killed. The man gives up struggling, and lays there limply, whimpering with the massive spear stuck through his chest.

    At the same time, another sick one approaches the main character. "–Insert name– went mad last night," he whispers to the main character. "You are now the eldest." Meaning, of course, that the main character is now the person who's been in the city the longest without having gone mad.

    You should be able to see the evolution of this scene in the story that I eventually told. Many of the concepts are the same, though I changed the viewpoint character from a person who had been in the city for a long time to a newcomer who still had his optimism. I also shifted much of the focus of the novel to what was happening outside the city, adding the two other viewpoint characters. However, this scene still remains in my mind–it's actually the only real scene I can remember from the very early days of planning Elantris. As an homage to it, I left in the large, bulky spears carried by the Elantris City Guards. Hrathen mentions them in the previous chapter. Though the guards no longer carry them for the same purpose–indeed, the guard probably wouldn't even know what to do with them in case of an attack–I thought this little inside reference to be an interesting one.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11404 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Seven

    It's interesting that this book would be the first one I publish. Many of you know that when I finally sold Elantris, I was working on my thirteenth novel. By the time Elantris was released, I'd written fifteen separate novels. Very few of these are sequels, and of the fifteen, Elantris is actually number six.

    One of the things I pride myself on as a writer are my magic systems. I spend a lot of effort and prewriting on them, and I strive very hard to make them feel like nothing a reader has ever experienced before. Mistborn, the book that will come out a year after Elantris, is a very good example of this.

    Elantris, however, is very interesting in that I don't actually get to spend much time with the magic. Or, at least, I don't get to spend much time showing it–the magic of this book is broken, and so while we find out a lot about it (and I think it's distinctive in its arrangement) we don't get to see it.

    In the end, when the magic finally gets restored, I think it actually loses just a bit of charm. I developed this magic system to be an interesting and original puzzle–and so, when you finally see it working, I think there's a fulfilling payoff. However, in its actual form, it isn't generally as distinctive as some of my other magic systems.

    Another interesting thing about this book, however, is that the setting includes a mixture of magical wonder itself–kind of as a balancing factor to the fact that we don't get to see the Aons doing anything. I think the problems associated with being an Elantrian, mixed with the interesting setting inside of the city, create an interesting magical ambiance for the book, one that seons serve to heighten.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11405 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    I worry, just a bit, that people will read this book and think that I'm anti-religion. Those of you who know me will realize how opposite this is of the truth–I'm actually rather devout in my own beliefs. However, because of this devotion, that I understand religion and the power it can have over people. I think that something so potentially good also provides great potential for evil. And, as a firm believer in religion–and religious freedom–I can think of few things quite as frightening or as evil as a religion gone bad.

    I am not anti-religion. In fact, I'm not even really anti Shu-Dereth. I tried to construct a religion in Shu-Dereth that had some very interesting, and valid, teachings. However, like some very good religions in our own world, an evil–or even misguided–leadership can transform good teachings into a force for destruction and evil.

    My own religion teaches that contrast is a good thing. Because of pain, we can appreciate joy. Because we understand evil (though we don't necessarily have to partake in it) we can understand and appreciate good. Because we have choices, we have the opportunity to take responsibility for our actions. In this way, I believe that a religion should have no qualms about teaching that it has the truth–and like the fact that we have many options in religions in our own world. When we get into trouble, however, is when we begin to enforce our religious opinions with sword or legislation.

    I guess this belief is the main basis for my painting of Hrathen as an antagonist in this book. Yes, his logic is good–Arelon probably is going to fall. However, that doesn't give him the right to speed that collapse, or even manipulate it to his own good. It doesn't give him the right to overthrow or suppress the beliefs of others. Resisting him as he tries to destroy the belief system of an entire people is a good far greater, in my mind, than the good of self-preservation.

    (Man. That last bit seems a little melodramatic, now that I look back at it. Forgive me a bit of that on occasion, if you please. Occupational hazard.)

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11406 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Six

    In this chapter, we first get to see some of the scars that Hrathen is hiding. Part of what makes him such a compelling character, I think, is the fact that he considers, questions, and seriously examines his own motivations. The things he did in Duladel are a serious source of guilt to him, and his determination to do what is right–even if what is "right" to him isn't necessarily what we would consider right–gives him a strength of character and personality that is hard to resist.

    He combines with this sincerity an actual force of logic. He's correct in his examination of Arelon. It has serious problems. It has weak leadership, weak military forces, and a weak economy. Hrathen's logical explanations in this chapter of why he feels justified in trying to overthrow the government should sound fairly convincing.

    On the other hand, we have his whole "Tyranny in three easy steps" discussion with Dilaf. It's this sense of twisted goodness that rounds out his personality as a villain. He's not just earnest, he's not just logical–he also has an edge of ruthlessness. That's a very dangerous combination in a character.

    Speaking of the "I will show you the way to destroy a nation" line, this concept–that line, actually–was one of the first things I came up with in my mind while imagining Hrathen. The way that he logically approaches something that would seem daunting–even impossible–to an outsider is a strong part of what defines who he is. I also really enjoy finding opportunities to show how Hrathen sees the world. Whenever I place him on the Elantris city wall and let him inspect the defensibility of the city, I give a clue as to how he was trained, and how he thinks. I don't believe that Sarene ever pauses to consider just how weakly fortified the city of Kae is–but Hrathen thinks about it on at least three separate occasions.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11407 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    The second important part of this chapter, obviously, is the introduction of Kiin's family. Sarene's personality makes her less independent than Raoden or Hrathen. It isn't that she lacks determination, or even stubbornness. However, her plots, plans, and personality all require other people–she needs politics, allies, and enemies. Ashe provides a wonderful way for her to talk through her problems. However, I felt that she needed someone within the court of Arelon with which to work and plan. As the book progresses, you'll notice that Sarene's chapters include far more side characters than Hrathen or Raoden's chapters. In fact, I'll bet she has more than the other two combined. This is just another manifestation of her communal personality–she excels in situations where she can coordinate groups, and she needs a lot of different people to interact with to make her personality really come out.

    I have gotten a little grief from readers regarding Kiin's family. Some think that the family as a whole feels too "modern." It is an anachronism that, to an extent, I'll admit. One of the quirks about the fantasy genre is how it generally prefers to deal with ancient governments, technologies, and societies without actually making its characters conform to more ancient personality patterns. In other words, most fantasy main characters are people who, if dusted off a bit and given a short history lesson, could fit-in quite well in the modern world.

    I'll be honest. I prefer the genre this way. I don't read fantasy because I want a history lesson, though learning things is always nice. I read for characters–and I want to like the characters I get to know. I like putting characters in situations and exploring how they would deal with extreme circumstances. I just don't think this kind of plotting would be as strong, or as interesting, if the characters weren't innately identifiable to a modern readership.

    My in-world explanation for this is simple. Just because our world placed a certain kind of cultural development alongside a certain level of technological development doesn't mean that it always has to be that way. In many of my worlds, culture has out-stripped technology. This does have some rational basis; I write worlds that involve very distinct–and often very prevalent–magic systems. Because of the benefit of these magics, many of my societies haven't been forced to rely as much on technology. There is more leisure time, more time for scholarship, and–as a result–the societies are more developed.

    That said, Kiin's family is a bit extreme, even for me. However, the honest truth is that I wrote them the way I like them. They work, for some reason, to me. They stand out just a little bit, but I'd like to think that it's their brilliance and forward-thinking–rather than a mistake in narrative–that makes them seem so much like a modern family.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11408 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Five

    This chapter includes two very important events. The first is the establishment of Hrathen and Sarene's relationship. The "dramatic eye-lock" is, admittedly, over-used in fiction. However, I found it appropriate here, since I later have Hrathen remark on Sarene. I wanted to establish that the two had an understanding, and I needed to introduce an overplot for Sarene. Hrathen got his thirty-day timebomb in chapter three, and Raoden not only has his exile, but the problems with the gangs established in the last chapter. So far, Sarene only had her suspicion regarding Raoden's death, which really isn't enough to carry her sections of the novel.

    One of the plotting elements I had to establish in this book was the fact that a single man–in this case, Hrathen–can have a serious and profound effect on the future of an entire people. If I didn't establish this, then Sarene's sections would lack a sense of drama, since Hrathen himself wouldn't seem like much of a threat. You'll have to judge for yourself if I actually manage to do this or not.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11409 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Other than that massive tangent, I don't know that I have much to say about this chapter. I thought that it was necessary to set Raoden up with a firm set of goals to accomplish–hence the three distinct gangs he has to overcome. Since Sarene and Hrathen's storylines were going to be a little more ambiguous plot-wise, I wanted a conflict for Raoden that could show distinct and consistent progress.

    I knew from the beginning that I wanted him to set up a new society for Elantris, and the gangs represented a way for him to approach this goal in an incremental manner.

    The cliffhanger at the end of this chapter, by the way, is one of my favorites. The chapter-triad system gave me some amazing opportunities for cliffhangers–as we'll see later.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11410 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Four

    Moshe and I agreed on just about every edit or change made to Elantris. There is one small thing, however, that we kind of went the rounds about. The word Kolo.

    Galladon's "Kolos" are, in my mind, an integral part of his personality. I characterize him a great deal through his dialogue–he doesn't really get viewpoints of his own, so everything I do for him at least until the ending I either have to do through Raoden's thoughts or through Galladon's own words. When I was coming up with Galladon's character, I realized I would need a set of linguistic features that would reinforce his culture's relaxed nature. So, I went with smooth-sounds, and gave their dialect a very "chatty" feel. The Dula habit of calling everyone "friend" came from this–as did their habit of softening everything they say with a question tag. Linguistically, questions are less antagonistic than statements, and I figured a culture like the Dula one would be all about not antagonizing people.

    A number of languages in our own world make frequent use of similar tags. Korean, the foreign language I'm most familiar with, has a language construction like this. Closer to home, people often make fun of the Canadian propensity for adding a similar tag to their own statements. I hear that Spanish often uses these tags. In many of these languages, a large percentage of statements made will actually end in a softening interrogative tag.

    Anyway, enough linguistics. I'm probably using the standard "literary" posture of falling back on facts and explanations to make myself sound more authoritative. Either way, I liked having Galladon say "Kolo" a lot. In the original draft, the tags were added onto the ends of sentences, much like we might ask "eh?" or "understand?" in English. "It's hot today, kolo?"

    Moshe, however, found the excessive use of Kolo confusing–especially in connection with Sule. He thought that people might get the two words confused, since they're used similarly in the sentences. Simply put, he found the kolos distracting, and started to cut them right and left. I, in turn, fought to keep in as many as I could. It actually grew rather amusing–in each successive draft, he'd try to cut more and more, and I'd try to keep a hold of as many as possible. (I was half tempted to throw a "kolo" into the draft of Mistborn, just to amuse him.)

    Regardless, we ended up moving kolo to its own sentence to try and make it more understandable. "It's hot today. Kolo?" We also ended up cutting between a third and a half of the uses of the word, and losing each one was a great pain for me. (Well, not really. But I'm paid to be melodramatic.) So, if you feel like it, you can add them back in your mind as your read Galladon's lines.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11411 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    I can only think of two books I've written–out of sixteen–that use a literary "timebomb" as strict as the one in Elantris. Three months to convert the kingdom or Wyrn will destroy it. That's a pretty heavy motivator. Sometimes, timebombs can feel contrived, and I tried to make this one feel as realistic as possible.

    Later, when we discover that Hrathen was never intended to succeed in his conversion, I think this three-month limit makes a lot more sense.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11412 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter three marks the end of the first "chapter triad."

    The chapter triads are a major structural element of this novel. The viewpoints rotate Raoden-Sarene-Hrathen, in order, one chapter each. Each of the three chapters in the grouping cover pretty much the same time-frame, so they can overlap, and we can see the same scene sometimes from two different viewpoints. (Note the point in chapter two where Sarene sees Raoden being led to Elantris, wearing the sacrificial robes.)

    We always follow this same format, going from Raoden, to Sarene, to Hrathen.

    Until, that is, the system breaks down late in the book–but we’ll get into that.

    And, you might have noticed that the Aons at the beginnings of the chapters stay the same for three chapters before changing. Each triad, therefore, has a different Aon to mark it. (I did a little bit of fighting to get this through at Tor. The final decision was theirs, but once they realized what I was trying to do, they liked the idea and approved it.) The placing of the Aons is a little bit obscure, I'll admit, but it might be fun for people to notice. (They also grow increasingly complex, built out of more and more tracings of Aon Aon, as the triads progress. There are some special Aons marking the beginnings of sections.)

    I'll talk more on chapter triads later. You can read more about my theory on the format in the critical afterword to Elantris (which should eventually be posted in the Elantris "Goodies" section.) I might also do essay specifically about the format and the challenges it presented.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11413 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Three

    There is some division among readers regarding their favorite viewpoint character. One group chooses Raoden, but I think the majority go with Hrathen. All things considered, I think he's probably the best villain I've ever written. His personality comes off quite well in this first chapter, and I think he might have the strongest introduction–at least personality-wise–of the three.


    Anyway, back to Hrathen. My hope in creating him was to present an antagonist for the story who would be believable, understandable, and sympathetic. He's a good man, after his own fashion–and he's certainly dedicated. He doesn't want to destroy the world; he wants to save it. It's not his fault he's serving an evil imperial force.

    Regardless, Hrathen certainly has the most interesting character progression in the story. Raoden and Sarene, despite many interesting attributes, are two of the most static characters I've designed. This book isn't about their growth as people, but rather their ability to overcome their desperate odds. Hrathen, on the other hand, has a real opportunity to grow, learn, and change. Perhaps this is what makes him people's favorite. It certainly made him the critic's favorite.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11414 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Two

    So, this chapter gets the grand prize for most edited and revised chapter in the book. There are other chapters that have more new material–but only because they were added in completely after the original draft. This chapter, good old chapter two, was the one that underwent the most tweaks, face-lifts, additions, and edits during the ten drafts I did of Elantris.

    And, I think poor little Sarene is the cause of it.

    You could say that she played havoc with the book in much the same way she did with Hrathen, Iadon, and Raoden in the story.

    As I worked on the novel, Sarene as a character took on a much more dominant role in the plot than I had intended. Perhaps it's because she's the intermediary between the other two characters, or maybe it's because I liked her best of the three characters. Either way, in my mind, this book is about Sarene. She's the catalyst, the force of change.

    In the end, she's the one that provides the solutions to both Raoden and Hrathen's problems. She gives Raoden the hint he needs to fix Elantris, and she gives Hrathen the moment of courage he needs in order to turn against Dilaf.

    However, I've found that Sarene is many people's least-favorite of the three characters. I had a lot of trouble in the original drafts of this book, since many alpha readers didn't like her in this chapter. They thought she came off as too brusque and manipulative. It was always my intention to show a more sensitive side to her later in the novel, but I didn't intend to lead with it quite as quickly as I ended up doing.

    The first edit to the chapter came with the addition of the Sarene-and-Ashe-travel-to-the-palace scene. This is the section were Sarene sits in the carriage, thinking about her anger at Raoden and her insecurity. This counteracts a bit of the strength we see from her in the first scene at the docks, rounding her out as a character.

    The second big addition came in the form of the funeral tent scene. This was added as a tangent to one of Moshe's suggestions–he wanted us to have an opportunity to see Sarene investigating Raoden's death. In the original drafts of the book, we felt the narrative made it too obvious to outsiders that Raoden must have been thrown into Elantris. Moshe and I felt that it seemed silly that people wouldn't consider the possibility that Raoden wasn't dead. This wasn't what I wanted–I wanted most people to accept the event. Only someone as overly-curious as Sarene would have been suspicious.

    So, I revised the story to downplay the suspicion around Raoden's death. Instead of having Iadon rush through the funeral (an element of the original draft) I added the funeral tent and had Sarene (off-stage) attend the funeral itself. These changes made it more reasonable that very few people would have suspicions regarding the prince's death, and therefore made it more plausible that people wouldn't think that he had been thrown into Elantris.

    Other small tweaks to this chapter included the removal of a line that almost everyone seemed to hate but me. After Sarene meets Iadon for the first time, she is pulled away by Eshen to leave the throne room. At this time, I had Sarene mutter "Oh dear. This will never do." Everyone thought that was too forceful, and made her sound to callous, so I changed it to "Merciful Domi! What have I gotten myself into?" A piece of me, however, still misses Sarene's little quip there.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11415 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Everything else in this chapter pretty much stayed the same. In the original draft, Galladon was actually named Galerion. I made the change because the name "Galerion" just didn't fit the eventual linguistic style I devised for Duladel. Again, I didn't do as much planning for this book as I do for books I write now, and I just kind of let the names and cultures develop as I wrote. In the end, Galerion's culture out-developed his name. I figured that the main Dula in the book needed to have a Dula-sounding name. Interestingly, Moshe–my editor–independently decided that he really didn't like Galerion's name. When I made the suggested change, he was very pleased. Originally, he didn't like Raoden's name either–but this came, mostly, because he had trouble pronouncing it. I actually really like the name, but understand that it can be difficult if you don't understand the Aonic language. Remember–two hard vowel sounds formed by the Aon, every other vowel is soft. RAY-OH-den. (Read the pronunciation guide for more.)

    Galladon/Galerion originally spoke with a much stronger dialect in this chapter. However, these dribbled off after the first few chapters, and I decided I didn't want him to be quite as difficult to understand. So, I went back and cut them. You'll notice, however, that Galladon still hits the dialect pretty hard in this first chapter.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11416 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter One

    There are a couple of interesting things about this chapter. First off, it didn't originally start with Raoden waking up. When I first wrote the book, I threw Raoden directly into the city, line one. That original line was: "It wasn't until Raoden heard the gate swing closed behind him, booming with a shocking sound of finality, that he realized he had been damned."

    While this line worked pretty well, I found I had to do an extended flashback showing him waking up and frightening the maid, etc. In the end, I realized that this was a bulky construction that didn't really speed the novel up–but rather slowed it down. So, I rewrote the first scene to have Raoden waking up, seeing Elantris, and then realizing he'd been taken by the Shaod.

    My books tend to have what are called "steep learning curves." In other words, they take a little getting used to. Fantasy in general has a steep learning curve, and I don't tend to write very standard fantasies–I like to push the genre a little bit, introducing strange settings and irregular magic systems. Because of this, I have to be very careful at the beginnings of my books not to overwhelm the reader. This book was a good example–taking it a little easier, giving the reader a more cautious ease into Elantris, proved the better route.

    Happily, I eventually managed to preserve the original line with its catchy feel. I don't usually do things like this–I don't believe in the standard "hook" idea. However, when I was thinking about this book, the first lines of the first three chapters were some of the first things that occurred to me. These three lines became the foundation for how I characterized the separate viewpoints, and they were part of what drew me to writing the book in the first place. If you go through and read them, I think they each have a little bit of zip, and hopefully invoke a sense of curiosity. These three lines introduce each character and one of their primary conflicts, and do it in a simple, clear way.

    Maintaining this feel with the new first scene was important to me, even though it could be argued that the first line of chapter one is a bit of POV error. I'm revealing information that the viewpoint character doesn't yet know. I avoid these, but in this case, I felt that cohesion was more important than strict POV, right here.

    I also did a second massive cut just after Raoden was thrown into the city. If you read the earlier draft, you'll see that he struggles with what has happened to him a bit more. There's even a brief section where he thinks about Ien and some of the seon's words of wisdom. I cut these sections because they just slowed the book too much. I figured Raoden's shorter soul-searching at the beginning, where he quickly comes to the decision to "look damnation in the face," helped the story move along. Again, I worry about my beginnings–perhaps too much–because they have a history of dragging just a bit. By pushing Raoden into walking through the city, I kept the pacing up.

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    #11422 Copy

    Oversleep (paraphrased)

    People with mixed Investiture, coming from different Shards, with heritage from different worlds. Will we see them and how would they interact with magic systems?

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    You have already seen them. How they're gonna... it depends on the magic system.

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    #11424 Copy

    Oversleep (paraphrased)

    Back in Mistborn Marsh said that there is a pattern for higher metals. So that would mean that atium and gold would share a pattern but they're not really part of the same quadrant...

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    Humans see patterns everywhere, that's it.

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    #11425 Copy

    Oversleep (paraphrased)

    I asked about Radiant Surgebinder who would tap his Connection to the spren and would he be able to summon Shardblade even at First Ideal?

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    He said it's possible but spren wouldn't like it. IIRC he said something about increasing flow of power (???)

    Warsaw signing ()
    #11426 Copy

    Oversleep (paraphrased)

    I asked whether we could call the Bands of Mourning the Survivor's Spearhead and whether it did have all 16 basic metal metalminds.

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    He hesitated a little but eventually said yes, there were all 16 metalminds.

    Oversleep (paraphrased)

    I asked whether Marasi tapped all of them, because she would tap Kelsier's Identity and memories.

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    He said intentions are important and she didn't tap all of them.

    Warsaw signing ()
    #11427 Copy

    Oversleep (paraphrased)

    Allomantic strength. There are stronger Allomancers, they can burn metals faster, right?

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    Yes, they can also squeeze more power out of it. They can use it more efficiently.

    Oversleep (paraphrased)

    So there is some loss of power along the way? How do savants work into that?

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    Savants can use it way more efficiently. They are more Connected to the Shard. Closer to Spiritual Realm.

    Warsaw signing ()
    #11431 Copy

    Strumienpola (paraphrased)

    Can you slatrify sand into other liquids?

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    *thinks a moment* I admit that slatrification is one aspect of Sand Mastery I'm the least fond of, because it doesn't mesh well with the rest of Cosmere magic. The comicbook writers are working with my original script, with very minor changes, but if we ever release White Sand in print - which we might do - I might end up changing it. So - I won't answer that, because I'm not yet sure if slatifying into water is possible. *laughs* You can think of the comic as sort of in-universe story about those characters, then.

    Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

    About slatrification, he said that if he ever writes the novel, he'll make slatrification an in-world legend.

    /r/fantasy AMA 2017 ()
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    Would the metal an Allomancer burns if he was charging Nightblood with Investiture affect the relative power of Nightblood, say if you are burning duralumin or atium Nightblood would be more powerful than if you were burning bronze or zinc?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Excellent question, actually!

    Nightblood, as I've written him now and as I intend to keep him, feeds of the investiture--but isn't really strengthened by it. Meaning, it doesn't matter to him what the food is, it's all just food to him.

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson


    I'm a very sequential writer. When I write a book, I usually start with the prologue and write straight through until I hit the epilogue. Though I can't remember for certain, I'm pretty sure that this prologue was the first thing I ever wrote for Elantris.

    Back in those days, I didn't outline as much as I do now. When I first put fingers to keyboard, I really didn't know where this book was going to go. I had some vague idea of what I wanted it to be, but I didn't know how I was going to get there. However, this prologue really helped solidify things for me.

    I love how it works in the story. It's quick, descriptive, and gives a marvelous outline of the magical setting of the book. It's also one of the most heavily-edited sections of the book. Moshe didn't like my original draft of it because he thought it was over-written. The original first line of the book was "Whispered are the days when Elantris was beautiful." I kind of still like this line better, but it may just be nostalgia. The line kind of has a faint. . .flowing quality to it. An etherealness.

    Regardless, "Elantris was beautiful, once" made for a nice compromise. I'll probably post the entire, first-draft version of the prologue in the "deleted scenes" section of the website, if you want to compare.

    Despite my preference for the old first line, I like the other changes we made to the prologue. Over all, it became more descriptive and easier to understand. It's a nice springboard to the story, and we've used it several places as a kind of quick teaser to get people to read the book.

    (Including putting it on the back cover of the hardback.)

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson


    I've had a few complaints about this page–but not the complaints I expected. When I was writing the acknowledgments, I was worried that I'd leave someone out who gave me good comments on the book. It took me a lot of searching through old records, but I think I finally found pretty much everyone. However, I assumed that if I did leave anyone out, they would complain. (It's been five years since I wrote Elantris, and a lot of people have read it during that time.)

    However, most of the complaints I got weren't from people I forgot to put on the acknowledgements page. The complaints were from people who were on the page, but didn't think they deserved to be there!

    You see, I added a few names to this list. These were people who hadn't read Elantris as an alpha reader, but who had been part of one of my writing groups or who had otherwise given me support during the days when I was trying to get published. These people read other books of mine, even if I wasn't working on Elantris when I met them. So, on this acknowledgements page, I wanted to give a general thanks to all the people who have helped me over the years. That means if you're on the list and don't think you belong there, tough!

    You get my acknowledgement whether you want it or not!

    Anyway, you can see that there are a lot of names on this list. These are a great bunch of people–good critics, great fans, and many of them pretty good writers in their own right. Though at this point, only one of them has a professional novel publication (Rob Wells,) I'm sure that others will eventually join him. When they do, buy their books!

    The top list of people includes my closest and most helpful writing groups. The first group, named "Here there be dragons" actually started when I was writing Elantris, and that was the first book the group dealt with. Though we didn't spend much time on Elantris, I remember meeting in Ben's office in the BYU alumni house and chatting about the book's terrible title (see the title page annotation,) among other things. The founding members were Dan, Ben, me, and Nate. We added Peter a bit later on, and he went on to become an editor at Tokyopop. A couple of other people–Krista Olson, Alan Layton, and a few others–did short stints as dragons, but I ended up acknowledging them in other places on the list.

    Of those three writing groups, only one is still going. The one with Alan Layton and Kaylynn ZoBell. We meet in Salt Lake every Friday night (yes, I know. That's the best thing we writers often have to do on Friday nights. . . .) Anyway, they're a great support and help to me.

    Another interesting note is regarding my professors. I intend to dedicate a book some day to the teachers that have helped me over the years. It was a school teacher–the appropriately named Ms. Reader–who gave me my first fantasy book . I can think of few professions as noble as that of teacher, and I am deeply thankful to all of those who have helped me–not just the few names I had room to mention on this page.

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    The Dedication

    I've always intended to dedicate my first published book to my mother. I poke a little fun at her here, since I can't resist. However, I really do owe a lot of who I am–and what I've accomplished–to her. When I was in elementary school, I had mediocre grades–and my test scores placed me as "below average" on several occasions. Well, she was bound and determined to prove that I was "gifted" despite those scores. She worked hard to get me to improve in school, and she was a prime motivator behind my reading habits.

    Now, my mother is a very practical person. She believes strongly in practical professions that pay well and are stable. Writing is neither one of these. I think she realized early on that despite her hopes, she wasn't going to have a doctor or a business man–or even a scientist–for a son. She did convince me to major in biological chemistry as a freshman–though she said this was simply to put me in a better position for getting a scholarship (which I did get, by the way). However, I've always assumed that a little piece of her hoped that the bio-chem influence would persuade me to go to med school, or to at least become an engineer.

    That, obviously, did not happen. The big bad English monster took me in my sophomore year. However, my mother has always been supportive, and it was her sense of dedication, excellence, and assiduousness that forged my determined personality. Without that sense of self-determination, I would never have lasted in this field long enough to publish.

    So, thank you mother. Thanks for being proud of me.

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    Title Page

    You'd be surprised how much can be said about the title of this book. Naming books is one of the most frustrating, and most fulfilling, elements of writing. I'm more fortunate than some authors I know–for most of my books, the names came easily. Sometimes, I even came up with the title before I wrote the book. (This has actually only happened once, when thought up the phrase "The Way of Kings," and thought "Man! That would be a great title for a book!")

    Elantris has had several titles. During the rough draft phase, I simply called it "SPIRIT." I knew that the main character's name would be based on the character for Spirit, and that would also be the name he took for himself when he was in exile. I never intended this to be the final title for the manuscript, but it was what I named all the files when I was typing the work.

    Those of you who've read the book realize the special significance of "Spirit" (or Aon Rao as it eventually became known) to the climax of the story. I'll talk more about this in a bit.

    Well, as I was writing the story, I realized I needed a better title. The most obvious choice was to somehow work in the name of the fallen magical city that was the focus of the book. Now, I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but the city "Elantris" was actually originally named "Adonis." I'm not sure what I was thinking. Sometimes, when you're coming up with a lot of fantastical names, you create words that have a certain, unforeseen connotations or connections. In this case, I wasn't even thinking of the Greek myth. "Ado" was simply the Aon I chose to base the city’s name around, and "Adonis" (Pronounced with a long "A" and a long "O") was the word that came out of that Aon.

    So, I named the book The Spirit of Adonis, hoping to play off of Raoden's name.

    It was, however, actually a three-fold pun. I included this line–"The Spirit of Adonis" at the climax, when Raoden realizes that the city itself formed an enormous Aon Rao.

    I didn't realize what I'd done until my writing group met for the first time, and they said "I like the beginning of the book. I'm having trouble figuring out what this has to do with the Greeks. Is it because the god-like people were so arrogant?"

    Then it hit me. Adonis, from Greek mythology, was a beautiful man loved by Aphrodite. The word has become a kind of paradigm for a beautiful–almost perfect–specimen of the male species. And I had unwittingly named my book after him.

    Let's just say I changed that pretty quickly. However, I needed a new name for the city. I played with a number of different combinations of Ado, but somehow ended up trying up different sounds and combinations. Thankfully, I came up with the word "Elantris." As soon as I wrote it down, I knew this was my city. It sounded grand without being overbearing, and it had a mythological feel to it (hearkening slightly to "Atlantis".) I renamed the book "The Spirit of Elantris," and proceeded.</p>

    Then came time to send out the manuscript. I had had some comments on the book–people liked "Elantris," but the "spirit of" was less popular. I tried several iterations, and even sent out some query letters calling the book "THE LORDS OF ELANTRIS." That just felt too cliché fantasy for me, however, and I eventually returned to "The Spirit of Elantris."

    Finally, the book got sold. At this point, my editor (Moshe Feder) suggested that we shorten the title to simply Elantris. Remembering how other people had been unimpressed with the "spirit of," I agreed. Now that I've seen the cover lettering and worked with it as "Elantris" for some time, I'm very pleased with the change. The new title has more zip, and makes the book sound more majestic. I still get to have a reference to my old title, as Part Three of the book is called "The Spirit of Elantris."

    Of course, even this title isn't without its problems. People have trouble spelling it when I say the title, and some think of the car named the "Elantra." At one panel, I even had one person miss-hear me, thinking the name of the book was "The Laundress." That would certainly be a different book...

    /r/fantasy AMA 2017 ()
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    I have heard you say you consult with doctors, physicist, and other professionals in order to keep your books as grounded in reality as you can. How did you meet these individuals and how early in your career did you have their help?

    Brandon Sanderson

    This is something that grew far easier once I had access to resources such as my editor at Tor. Moshe knows EVERYONE, and he's been able to get my writing into the hands of various experts for review. I didn't do this as much in my unpublished days; it's something I've come to learn and appreciate in the last ten years.

    /r/fantasy AMA 2017 ()
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    I assume that the Worldhoppers (characters who travel from planet to planet between books) can and sometimes enter into romantic relationships. Have there ever been any children born on one world with powers from another? (For example: A misting being born and raised on Roshar)

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes, this has happened.

    FAQFriday 2017 ()
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    Can holders of Shards give them up voluntarily? If so, what would happen?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes, a Vessel for a Shard of Adonalsium can give up their power if they wish.

    As for what would happen...well, there are some variables in there. Kind of like the variables in what happens to a bucket of water if you dump it out. Depends on where it falls, how strong the wind is, what the air is like.

    Power dropped like this, if left alone, could end up Splintering and turning into something like spren/seons. It could become something more like the Stormfather--a large, self-aware entity. It could become something like the Dor or many of the Unmade--something proto-aware, but not truly an individual. There are other possibilities as well, depending on lots of factors. (Are sapient beings involved? what is being done with the power--is it concentrated in the Spiritual Realm as normal, or is it being pushed somewhere else?)

    FAQFriday 2017 ()
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    Was there ever a time when you had intended to kill off a character, but changed your mind because you liked them too much?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Hmm... I'm trying to think of whether or not this happened. I do believe that Adolin died in the original draft of The Way of Kings, which I wrote in 2002. he had a much smaller role in that book, and it played out very differently. When I did the newer version, which I rewrote from scratch, Adolin evolved much differently.

    For those who don't know, he wasn't intended to have as large a role in the plot--but I ran into a problem during writing. Dalinar was feeling inconsistent as a character. I wanted to present him as strong and confident, but at the same time had him troubled by worries that he was insane from visions he was seeing.

    This worked in outline form, but when I actually wrote, it seemed like he spent WAY too much time standing around worrying that he was crazy. So I expanded Adolin's character, providing a contrast. Dalinar, confident (to an extent) he was seeing something real--and his son, who worried his father was going insane.

    Through this development, and giving Adolin more time on the page, he became a much more rounded character.

    Another instance of this was Spook from the Mistborn series, who grew to have a much larger role than I'd originally intended.

    There's another in this category--but it could include spoilers for an upcoming book. I'll talk about it eventually.

    Brandon Sanderson

    ETA: Szeth originally died permanently in the end of Words of Radiance. I also changed my mind to let Amaram live in the scene with the poison dart. Adolin killed off Sadeas instead.

    FAQFriday 2017 ()
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    Why didn't Dalinar get the powers of a Stoneward when he bonded Taln's [Honorblade]?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Some readers have already figured this out, so I don't think I'm engaging in too large a spoiler to dig into this one here.

    There are several oddities going on here. The most important one relevant to this question is the Blade in question. If you compare the descriptions of the sword described in the epilogue of The Way of Kings to the one that traveled with the madman (allegedly Taln, the Herald) to the Shattered Plains, you'll find they are different.

    The one that the characters obtained in Words of Radiance is NOT an Honorblade. It's an ordinary Shardblade (as ordinary as one of those can be called.) I'm not going to say specifically what happened to the Blade Taln arrived with at Kholinar, but I will say that it IS a different weapon from the one in Words of Radiance.

    The other issue here is the somewhat lesser question of whether this character is actually Taln, the Herald, or not. Some characters in-world don't believe that it is, though his viewpoint in Words of Radiance strongly implies otherwise. This isn't specifically relevant to the conversation for reasons I'll talk about below--but it is tangentially related. Because in the cosmere, Intent is important to many of the types of magic. It's theoretically possible to hold an Honorblade and not realize what its powers are, and therefore be unable to access them.

    As an aside, this character was actually the primary protagonist of the version of The Way of Kings I wrote in 2002. A man who woke up, with lingering memories of madness, and claimed to be a Herald when nobody believed him--as he couldn't manifest any powers, seemed to have lost his sword, and lore said the Heralds weren't coming back anyway.

    When I wrote the new version of The Way of Kings in 2009 or so, one goal was to focus the storyline. I'd included so many characters in the 2002 version that none of them progressed very far in their arcs, creating a strong setting and interesting characters--but a bad book. During the new version, I decided that this character would be moved to the later books, and I'd explore him there.

    In the 2002 version, the text was very dodgy on whether or not Taln was a Herald. Confronting the fact that he might be crazy was a major arc and theme of the book--however, as I've worked on the new version, I've realized that it would be dangerous to be too vague on this. Stringing people along with the question for a book or two is one thing, waiting until book six or eight to do a character's arc, and leaving the question of whether they're a Herald or not all that time, seemed unfair.

    So the text is going to be making manifest fairly quickly who this person is. You'll have confirmations long before we dig into his viewpoint in the later books.

    So, a recap:

    1) The swords WERE swapped somehow.

    2) Someone could hold an Honorblade and not realize they had access to powers.

    3) This character may or may not actually be a Herald--but the text is going to make the answer clear, and I'm not trying to trick you.

    FAQFriday 2017 ()
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    If you could have dinner with three characters from books (not just yours), who would you dine with, and why? Plus what would you be eating?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Hmm... Let me answer this as one from a classic, one from a sf/f book not my own, and one from a book that is my own. Otherwise the question is too big for me to get a real answer to, as there are so many.

    Well, my favorite character from a classic is Jean Valjean. I don't know what we'd eat, but I'd avoid ordering bread...

    My favorite character from a fantasy book not my own is probably Perrin from The Wheel of Time, though that's a half-cheat, as I worked on the series. So it would either be him or, if I had to pick another, maybe Sam Vimes from Discworld. We'd avoid sausages in a bun.

    From my own books, I don't know if I can pick a favorite, as they're all my children. So maybe I'll just tie it to who would be the most fun to go to dinner with. Kelsier would be too dangerous--you never know who is going to show up and try to kill him. Probably Shallan, as I feel she'd have the most interesting conversation. We wouldn't order men's food because I'm too much of a wimp, and it would probably be way too spicy.

    FAQFriday 2017 ()
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    If you could make one change to the cosmere that is impossible to change now, what would it be?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Hmmm.... I gave this some thought all week, and had trouble deciding because the things I would change are more about individual books, and less about the cosmere as a whole. I don't know if I'd change anything about the big story--mostly because the things I would want to change would all take place in the Dragonsteel era, and that book isn't canonical anyway. Once I write it for real, I can change any of the things that I don't think are working.

    As for the core of the cosmere...I might make some small tweaks to Allomancy. I have hever liked how the signal of sixteen worked in Hero of Ages. (for those not in the know, I talk about this in the annotations--I was looking for a sign that Preservation could send that Ruin wouldn't notice, along with help for mankind.) In the end, i think this ended up being a little clunky. Other things (like slatrification in sand mastery) are small enough I can change moving forward, but not Allomancy. So I might take another stap at that.

    On the whole, though, I'm very pleased with how the larger cosmere story is playing out.

    FAQFriday 2017 ()
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    Can I become a beta reader for Brandon's books?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Beta readers are some of the people to whom I send early versions of my books for feedback. Usually, these are different from alpha readers, who include industry professionals like my editor, my agent, and my writing group. Beta readers, instead, are usually fans and "average" readers, used as a test audience. I don't expect them to offer solutions to problems; more, these are the people i want to use to gauge how the book will be received.

    Most of these people fall into two groups. The first are old friends who have been reading my writing for a long time, and whose opinion I trust. The second are people who have made insightful comments on places like the 17th Shard,, or my Facebook page. They are generally people well known in the fandom community surrounding my books--people who have good reputations, with whom we feel we can entrust early copies of books without leaking them.

    We do pick from general fans sometimes to do beta readers, but there are a LOT of people who want to do this--and not many slots available. Usually, we pick people who have a special experitise relating to a book I'm working on. (We might pick a person who has been an EMT, for example, when reading Stormlight--to help with Kaladin's surgery scenes.)

    I don't generally pick beta readers myself. I leave this to my team, mostly Peter Ahlstrom. I suggest not pestering him with requests, however. Instead, if you really want to beta read, participate in the fan community and get to be known there. Another great way to help is to find typos that HAVEN'T YET been found and post them in the appropriate thread for that book on the 17th Shard. (Don't just send these via email; chances are, peter already knows about them and has fixed them in a newer edition of the book.)

    FAQFriday 2017 ()
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    When all of the contest judges, beta readers, and writer's groups say that your work is ready, but all of the agents say it's just not right for them, how do you find out what would make it right for them?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Sometimes, you can't.

    One thing you have to be ready for is that even the best piece of writing will have people who don't like it. this is the nature of art--because human beings are different, we simply like different things. It doesn't have to have a value judgement attached to it. There is no "fixing" a painting so that everyone loves it. By fixing it, you would sometimes just make it so that different people love it.

    That isn't to say that skill level is flat, and art can't be improved. I'm just saying that sometimes, you just can't change a piece in a way that will make a specific person like it--at least, not without changing it into a completely different piece of art.

    If your honest feedback from contest judges and early readers is all great, and if you feel that the stories you've been submitting are ready, then you should keep going and keep submitting. And keep writing. Elantris was rejected several times, as were many famous books. Sometimes, what the agents need to see is that you can be consistent.

    But beyond that, if you keep writing and submitting, one of several things will happen.

    1) You'll eventually find an agent or editor who loves your fiction as much as all these other people.

    2) You'll grow as a writer and realize that the book you've been submitting, though enjoyable to many people, were still flawed in big ways and can be revised (with your new skill) to make them work better for an audience who doesn't know you.

    3) You'll realize that your stories have an audience, and the agents are just not getting it. (All too often, they miss excellent writers.) You'll self-publish to great success.

    I can't say which of these is the future of any individual story, and I can't say if it's a legitimate flaw that professionals are seeing in your writing or not.

    I can say: keep writing, be patient. If you want to traditional publish, keep submitting. Agents can be timid. If they don't pick hits, they don't eat.

    But do write for you, first, and don't let yourself be pushed into trying to be someone else, writing-wise.

    FAQFriday 2017 ()
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    I just had a question about writing, specifically regarding your laws on magic. Your first law states that the ability to solve problems using magic is directly proportional to the reader's knowledge of said magic. My question comes kind of as the opposite. What is your opinion on the ability of the author to create problems using magic? Does the reader need to know a lot about the magic system for you to be able to have the "villain" use it to create problems for the protagonists? Or can you create problems with this magic without the reader knowing a lot about it?

    Brandon Sanderson

    One thing to remember about my laws is that they're laws I devised for myself--laws I find make my writing stronger. I think they hold very well in general, but there are no "rules" for fiction. There are as many ways to do things as there are people doing them. However, like most things, I DO have an opinion. :)

    Magic causing problems in the story is a great thing--as more conflict generally makes for a stronger story. Obviously, this isn't a 100% correlation, but it's a good rule of thumb. Using the magic as a kind of "human vs. nature" style plot is a great idea, and I've used it to great advantage myself. One could say that in Elantris, the magic (which is broken) is a primary antagonist of the story.

    There are a few things to be aware of. First, avoid what my friend and colleague Bryce Moore dubbed "Deus Ex Wrench." Yes, that doesn't quite work. But the idea is this: Just like solving problems out of nowhere, with unforeshadowed powers or advantages, can be unsatisfying, sometimes just having problems happen out of nowhere in a story can be unsatisfying.

    If a dam breaks, risking flooding the city, it's much stronger if we know the dam is there--if the characters have walked along it, or if something similar happened somewhere else in the story in parallel. Likewise, having the magic create problems unexpectedly, if handled without some measure of foreshadowing, could be unsatisfying. (For example, if the One Ring suddenly started--three quarters of the way through the series--melting your friends if they crossed their eyes.)

    Just as I think you can create a great magic system that doesn't have explicit rules, I think you can have the magic be a huge problem in the books if the reader/characters don't understand it. Doing so in this case is probably going to be about making sure that the major conflict is not FIXING the magic, but overcoming it.

    For example, if the magic in your world--when used--causes rainfall that floods and kills crops, one story (the explicit rules story) would be about finding out why, and learning to use the magic safely. But another story would be about surviving a terrible flood, and another about hunting down and stopping the people who use the magic. All three can use the magic as a huge conflict, but only one would probably need deep explanation of the magic system in order to have a satisfying resolution.

    FAQFriday 2017 ()
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    If you had a pet animal that you could communicate with (just like dæmons in the trilogy His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman) which animal would you choose?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Can I cheat and make an animal that doesn't exist? Because if so, I'd pick a dragon. Because then I'd have a cool animal to talk to AND I'd be the only person around with a DRAGON.

    If it has to be an animal that's real--a kind of spirit dragon--I would pick some kind of intelligent bird. A parrot or a raven. Something that can fly, do things I cannot, and look totally awesome sitting on my shoulder and glaring at people.