Recent entries

    EuroCon 2016 ()
    #11601 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 ()
    #11602 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.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11603 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Anyway. . .I break triad here again. I'd forgotten about this one. Actually, you'll note that the closer I get to an action sequence or a climax, the more quickly I shift viewpoints. I do it half-intentionally, half-unconsciously. (If that's possible.) Logically, I know that quickly-shifting viewpoints give the scenes more tension and a sense of movement. Unconsciously, I just know that it's good storytelling to keep things quick–and it's more dramatic when you can end with a cliff-hanger line, then switch to a new viewpoint.

    I'll admit that this scene borders on being too melodramatic. A couple of things justify it in my mind. First, the scene is more about Raoden confronting how he'd made a mistake with Shaor's men than it is about Sarene discovering that she'd been betrayed. Second, Sarene's "betrayal," as explained in the next chapter, is really about her own prejudice. Inside, she was just waiting for something like this to happen. That's why she didn't give Raoden the benefit of the doubt–she never wanted to like him. It was almost like she was eager to be hurt, expecting it, since things obviously couldn't work out for her. (Or so she unconsciously assumed.)

    So, in a way, they were both kind of expecting something like this to happen. When it did happen, they allowed it to. In my mind, this takes it from a "silly misunderstanding" and changes it into a "character-driven conflict."

    EuroCon 2016 ()
    #11604 Copy

    Questioner

    I'm going to start by asking about the strangest thing in the Cosmere, which is politics, because I think that your Cosmere universe is full of politics, and let me explain myself when I say this. I can identify a pattern across all your work, which is fighting power. There are oppressed people, oppressed characters, who fight against power, and this is clearly seen in Mistborn, in Warbreaker, across your work, really. So, I know that you say that your novels are not really related to the current times, but I'm wondering whether you have at least a political or a social perspective?

    Brandon Sanderson

    That's a very good and interesting question. As an artist, I am fascinated by certain things, and these inevitably end up in my work. I am not a writer who has a specific social agenda to my writing, but I am a person with interests and passions, and you can't separate that from your work. I also believe strongly in the right of readers to interpret from the books what they think might have been in the back of my brain, and they are often right, even if it was not intentional by me.

    As a professor of storytelling, of creative writing, I would say my instinct is that this theme you're noticing is more because stories are best when they are about upending the status quo. Perfect societies at peace don't usually make good stories. However, I do like to try different types of stories, and so I would hope that you would also be able to find examples of good leaders, who are in power and trying to do a good job staying in power, not just stories about casting out the powerful. I do think there is a theme of revolutionary-ism in my books, and I'm sure that scholars could say a whole bunch about American and that relating to me, but I will leave that to them.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11605 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Twenty-Eight

    I've actually been called a "square peg" before. I believe the line was "You're one of those creative types–you're a square peg, trying to fit into a round hole." I was twenty-two, and was getting let go from one of my first jobs.

    That's another story, though. Just note–apparently, fantasy writers and "creative types" don’t make good librarians. Go figure.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11606 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Fantasy is a slow-starting genre. Readers expect this, and hopefully they'll invest enough in the story to keep them reading this long. I love the first half of Elantris—it does what I want a book to do. It presents fun characters in interesting situations, then laces their actions with just enough of a thought-provoking air and an edge of excitement that the reader feels fulfilled. Writing is truth, and it should deal with important topics. However, before that truth must come enjoyment, I believe. If a book isn't, first and foremost, fun to read, then I think the storyteller has failed. After that, he or she hopefully manages to deal with some real issues and questions—this is, in my opinion, what makes characters real.

    Anyway, on to section two!

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11608 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Part One Wrap-up

    "The Shadow of Elantris." These section headings were added in the last real draft I did, while I was visiting my father in Massachusetts during the summer of '04. By then, the book's title had firmly been changed from The Spirit of Elantris to just Elantris. I knew I needed to divide the book into sections, and decided that I'd use "The Spirit of Elantris" as the final heading, as kind of a nod to the original title of the book.This presented me with several problems, however. First, I needed two more good sub-headings to go along with "The Spirit of Elantris." Second, I needed to find good places to divide the chapters. Because of the chapter triad system, I'd probably need to base my dramatic section cuts on Hrathen's chapters, since he came third in the rotation.

    The Shadow of Elantris came easily as a title. It, of course, has reference to the first chapter, where Raoden looks out the window and feels like Elantris is looming over him. However, it's also a nice summary of the first section. Elantris looms over everything, dark and dirty, during the first section of the book. While we see the beginnings of light from Raoden's efforts in the city, they don't really come to much fruition.

    If we throw out the nostalgia factor "Spirit" has going for itself, "Shadow" is my favorite of the three section titles.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11609 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes, his drinking of the poison is supposed to be a zing. Theoretically, this will push you on into the next section of the book. The slower portions of the novel are beginning to wind down–from now on, the events start to move a little more quickly. Even still, this is probably one of the more slow-moving of my novels, which is part of its charm–as I noted in a different annotation.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11610 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Twenty-Seven

    One of the shortest, but most powerful, chapters in the book.

    I added the "head arteth" conflict (the idea of everyone rejecting the appointment) later in the revision process so that I could have one more thing to push Hrathen over the edge. My only worry about this scene is one of pacing–if I've done the novel right, then this will seem like a climax that has slowly been building for some time. If I'm off, then this chapter will seem out-of-nowhere, and lack power to the reader.

    This is really where Hrathen's chapters have been pushing. The questioning and self-doubt, the problems with Dilaf and conversion. . . . He's pretty much been defeated at every turn. It was time for him to either crack, give up, or do something spectacular. In a way, he kind of does all three.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11611 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    I suppose the most important scene in this chapter was the exchange between Sarene and Daora. It's hard, in writing, to avoid being heavy-handed with exposition and emotion. Show don't tell, as the proverb goes. Sometimes you get it right–like this particular scene. Sarene, obviously, is falling for Spirit–and Daora mistakes the emotion as being applied to Shuden. (Yes, I know, I shouldn't have to explain this. However, that's part of what these annotations are for–to explain things. I never can tell what people will get and what they'll miss. I've thrown in twists I thought were obvious, only to have everyone miss them–but instead they pick up on the foreshadowing that I never meant to be strong enough to give the ending away. )

    Anyway, one of my challenges in this book was to make the romance between Sarene and Raoden realistic, considering the relatively small amount of time they had to spend together. I hoped to avoid any silly "love at first sight" type plottings, while at the same time making their relationship feel genuine and touching in as short a time as possible.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11613 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    The main edit to this chapter came very early in the process. Very few people have seen this section–I don't think it made it past the first revision. I'll probably post in on the "deleted scenes" section, though. What good is a website if you can't embarrass yourself?

    Anyway, the scene dealt with Daorn and Kaise approaching Kiin (during the fencing practice) and asking him if they could go with Sarene into Elantris. He responded by saying that they could as long as they did some silly homework-style projects for him. (Essays or multiplication tables or something like that.) In a re-read, I realized that this was WAY to modern, even for Kiin. I'd think that people who did this today were being progressive–and a bit odd. (What are these kids? Home-schoolers?)

    Anyway, I cut the scene.

    Elantris Annotations ()
    #11614 Copy

    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Twenty-Six

    This book, as I've mentioned before, is a little less "tight" than others I've written. There are chapters like this one, where nothing extremely important happens–I simply show life from one viewpoint, a state necessitated by one of the other two doing something very important. Still, despite it having very little to do with the overplot, I really like how this chapter turned out. Maybe I should force myself to do a strict triad system like this more often, for it forced me to have some chapters where the characters could just live. Sarene's light chapters center around her friends and family, giving us an opportunity to spend time with them and enjoy ourselves. The Lukel sourmellon exchange probably couldn't have happened in a book like Mistborn, where the pacing is far more tense.

    EuroCon 2016 ()
    #11615 Copy

    Questioner

    I'm very interested about the laws of magic. You wrote so many books, but I think that history will specially remember you because of 2.5 words, right? "Limitations are a bigger sign than powers," right? So, limitations must be bigger than powers, and I think it's a wonderful, amazing second law of magic, and it actually should be applied to the fantasy genre as a whole, because therefore we could avoid 90% of all the garbage that is out there if we really applied this second law of magic. However, you don't apply it to all your works. For example, your work for young adults, you don't apply that law that much, so I'm wondering why it is not a universal law, but rather a law that in some things, like for children or young adults, you don't apply so much?

    Brandon Sanderson

    That is interesting. I actually take exception to several things here. The first is, I don't believe that 90% of things are crap, or that there is a lot of terrible fiction. I take exception to when people say that about our genre or about any genre. Books that get published and are written are loved by somebody. Maybe that's just the author and the editor--once in a while--but usually there is a strong fanbase, and just because one person doesn't like it doesn't mean it lacks value.

    Questioner

    Sturgeon's Law?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I don't believe in Sturgeon's Law.

    Questioner

    No?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I think it's complete bunk.

    Questioner

    Okay?

    Brandon Sanderson

    In fact, Sturgeon did not believe in Sturgeon's Law, if you asked him. He did not believe in it, I do not believe in it. I think by perpetuating Sturgeon's Law, which is that 90% of everything is crap, what we are doing is we are buying into people outside of science fiction and fantasy pointing at us and trying to make us feel bad about our genre. This is not to say that you can't criticize, you definitely can, and there is a very important place for critics, looking at books and at the genre. But once, I thought about Sturgeon's Law, and I actually tried to decide if critics actually hated 90% of everything. And so I went to Rotten Tomatoes, and I picked the harshest critics I could find, and every one of them liked seven out of ten of these movies they saw.

    So, while I think certain things can be pointed at, and say, "This is poorly done, because it is failing to achieve it's goals," we should not look at something that's achieving a different goal from what we think it should achieve, and call it crap because of that. If you can see, this is a point of a bit of interest to me. If someone points at, for instance, a lot of people in the genre disliked Eragon the book, I've referenced the movie earlier. But, is it bad for the millions of children who read that, and it brought them to fantasy and became the foundation for why they love our genre?

    Questioner

    Compared with the movie, it's not bad, right?

    Brandon Sanderson

    *laughs* Yeah. So, going back to your original question, though, my primary YA work is The Rithmatist, which is a story about a boy with no magic at a magic school, and is inherently a story about having no power, and having limitations. If you are referencing, instead, Alcatraz, my other series, it's about a boy whose magic power is breaking things, and he has no control over it. So, this is a story about a child who is in foster care, who has no control over his life, and his lack of control of his magic is a metaphor for his lack of control over his life. But Sanderson's Second Law is about finding the conflict. Making characters powerful can be a problem, but it doesn't have to be. For instance, Superman is usually held up as a character who is considered too powerful. But if you look at the best stories involving Superman, the story is always about what he can't do. He can fly, he can shoot lasers from his eyes, he can lift giant boulders, but he can't make a woman love him. This is what I mean by limitations being more important than the powers. A Superman story can be very interesting, but his powers can often be irrelevant.

    EuroCon 2016 ()
    #11616 Copy

    Questioner

    It has been said that there is a change of cycle, that in the last twenty years everything was focused around fantasy, but there were many decades of science fiction before that, and now science fiction is coming back. But in my opinion, that's very simple, and authors like you, like Sanderson, have proven that there is a third way, I'm sorry to call it that way, but this third way would be something like scientific fantasy. This scientific fantasy consists of a mixture, a hybrid genre, mixing both. I would like to know if you really believe that there is a change of cycle or that we are still in this mixing form?

    Brandon Sanderson

    No, I do think that genre moves through cycles, certainly, and some things are popular at some points, and other things are more popular at other points, and as a student of fantasy as a genre, I'm very interested in how the different cycles happen and the different kind of family trees of fantasy we look at, and I think that your observation is correct. I think the scientific fantasy is a natural outgrowth of the fantasy my generation spent our youths reading, because I'm not the only one who does it. Pat Rothfuss has a very rule based magic, though of course his magic, he has two in his books, and it is about the contrast between the one that's very scientific and the one that is not, about Naming things. But you see a lot of my generation of authors building upon what we read, and I think that the next generation will respond to us and go a different direction, perhaps in something less rule based. But the thing that has never gone out of style is a good story, well told. When people were saying, "Oh, people don't read science fiction, people read fantasy," Lois Bujold was still writing fantastic science fiction that was still selling very well. So, even though there are trends, a good story will always be well received.

    EuroCon 2016 ()
    #11617 Copy

    Questioner

    So, of course we need to ask you to start about something which is important, which is the sale to DMG of the rights for the Cosmere. Now it's not just, I mean, it's the champion's lake that we're talking about, right? You're at the same level as many very important authors, and the rights will be sold to the cinema, TV, and so on, so forth, the Cosmere books, which can be about thirty. My question is, are you excited about that? Are you scared, or both? Because you know that when dreams come true, sometimes it's not as nice as it seems. So, the question is, now that you have made your dream come true, will you think that you were better when you were writing and having that dream, or is it okay now?

    Brandon Sanderson

    A writer I once read got asked what he thought of the bad movie that got made from his book. Actually, the phrasing of the question is, "What do you think of what they did to your book?" And I have always remembered his response, which was, "My book is the same. It's right there. They did nothing to my book; they made a bad movie." My dream is not to make movies, my dream is to write books, and I am living that dream right now. Now, the chance of having a good movie come out is exciting to me. I wouldn't have sold the rights if I didn't want to take that chance, and hopefully we'll get some great movies and great television shows, but if we don't, I still am writing books, and my books are what I started this to do. I am going into this with my eyes wide open. I have had some good friends who had some terrible movies made of their films and I have talked to them about their experience, and I am willing to risk that happening. You can't get a Game of Thrones if you don't risk an Eragon.

    EuroCon 2016 ()
    #11619 Copy

    Questioner

    I would like to make two questions for you. The first one is, when were you really aware that that was the book, or that was the style that could find a public, an audience?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah, let me answer this one first. My first five books were very experimental. I wrote two epic fantasies, one comedy, one cyberpunk, and one space opera. I did this so that I could be very sure that what I wanted to do was epic fantasy. I heard a metaphor when I was young for dating which said, "Don't always just date the same flavor of ice cream. Even if you're very sure you love strawberry, date some chocolate, some rocky road, some variety of different ice cream flavors so that you can be sure." I say the same thing about writing. One of my best friends, Dan, first tried only writing epic fantasy, and was having a very hard time being a writer, and then he wrote a horror novel that was super, super creepy, and now he is a famous horror writer because he found his love in that genre. After doing this for five novels, I was sure that epic fantasy was what I wanted to do, and it is no coincidence that book number six was Elantris, the first book of the Cosmere written, and the first book that eventually sold.

    EuroCon 2016 ()
    #11620 Copy

    Questioner

    We have to wrap up, I think, so everyone here is going to kill me if I don't ask you about DMG which acquired the rights to your Cosmere. I wanted to ask how are you feeling about this, do you know at this stage how involved are you going to be? I heard you mentioned that the best adaptations are those that are done by people, just by leaving them do their thing, but I was also asking myself, in regards to this, if you're planning on any other cross-media stories? We have White Sand, we have whatever happened to Mistborn: Birthright. I wanted to ask about that too, because...

    Brandon Sanderson

    So, we'll start with Mistborn: Birthright. Unfortunately, it is dead, sorry. This was a video game we worked on for many years, and it just is not going to happen. As for other cross-media stories, I am very open to doing more. It will depend on how White Sand is received, and whether I can do other video game projects that look like they will work. As for the film, I spent a long time interviewing a lot of different people before we decided to go with DMG. I chose them primarily because I feel they understand the Cosmere, and are willing to approach it as a whole, as opposed to little pieces of something not connected. How much I'll be involved really remains to be seen. They've promised to let me be involved, they gave me a fancy title, we will see once the film's actually in production. I have every reason to believe that they will involve me, and so far they have done so, but I don't want to be the one directing or writing these films, because I am not a director or a screenwriter.

    EuroCon 2016 ()
    #11621 Copy

    Questioner

    Also about The Reckoners, just out of curiosity, David's metaphors, so amazing, did you write them all? Was there a time when you had friends come over and say, "I have a crazy great metaphor, you have to use it for the book"?

    Brandon Sanderson

    For those who don't know, The Reckoners are told first person viewpoint from the viewpoint of a man named David, and though he tries hard, his metaphors and similes are awful. He says things like, "She was as perky as a sack full of caffeinated puppies." And the reason for this is, number one, the material itself is kind of dark. A world with no heroes could be a very, very dark place, so I knew I wanted a hero who was optimistic despite this, but David's main personality attribute is that he is a little too earnest. He tries a little too hard, and doesn't always think before he does something. So, I wanted a personality trait that quickly and easily reflected and indicated this to the reader, and the way that his metaphors don't quite work, but almost do, was the perfect method of conveying this. When he says things like, "You are a potato in a minefield," it doesn't make sense until he explains what it means. That, for instance, he was walking through a minefield, stepped on something he thought was going to kill him, and it turned out to be a potato instead. And then it's like, "Hey, free potato!" When we do this, it allows you to see that he is just speaking a little too fast, that his heart is right, and somewhere between his heart and his brain and his mouth, the wrong thing comes out. So, I guess what I'm saying is, the bad metaphors are actually a good metaphor for David's personality.

    EuroCon 2016 ()
    #11622 Copy

    Questioner

    I think you're going to get asked a lot about the Cosmere today, so I wanted to make a question about the Reckoners saga, because, while I was reading it, there was one recurring thought in my mind, and it was, "Gosh, I wish I could have read this as a teenager," and it's equally enjoyable as a adult, but that kept running in my mind, and I was wondering if when you wrote it, you wrote it with these audiences in mind, or it's simply that David is so real and so like us when we were fifteen or fourteen that it came out that way?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I'm very curious that you noticed this, because in the United States, this is actually published as a young adult novel. In the UK and Spain, and France, it is published as an adult novel. And I very much left it up to my publishers to decide what was best for their market, because David is nineteen, which puts it on the border between is this a young adult or an adult novel. However, when I was writing it, my target reader in my head was me at age fourteen, because, when I was young, it wasn't that nobody gave me books--people did give me books, they tried to make me into a reader--but the books were all boring, and I think the great power of science fiction and fantasy is that we are able to mix deep thought and exciting narrative. Every morning, my wife makes a smoothie for my children with ice cream. They love ice cream, my three little boys, so they're very excited, and every morning she adds a handful of spinach to it, because they love the color green and they think it's cool to drink a green drink. Of course, she adds it because the spinach is very healthy, and I feel like science fiction and fantasy is very good at this blend for books. All of our books are green, because we deal with very important issues, but we mix them with wonder, exploration, adventure, and human experience.

    The Reckoners is about power corrupting. I started the first book after driving on the road and nearly getting in a car wreck because someone pulled in front of me too quickly, and I was very annoyed with this person, and in that moment I imagined myself blowing the car up. I thought, "You are so lucky I don't have superpowers." It was a very cool explosion, too. Yeah, I have a good imagination. After this, I was immediately horrified, because I write books about people, generally, who get incredible powers, and then go on to protect others, but in that moment, I had the worry that I could not be trusted, myself, with those powers. So, The Reckoners is about what happens if people start gaining superpowers, but only evil people get them. It's Marvel's universe with no Avengers.

    EuroCon 2016 ()
    #11623 Copy

    Questioner

    Something I really enjoyed, also, about, particularly the Mistborn saga, and I'm--very briefly, because I don't know if this is intentional or not, and that's the question--is that characters tend to talk a lot about events that have happened for the reader, things that the reader already knows, but even so, characters quite widely discuss these events, and this is something that I rarely find in TV and books. It's like most writers just know that "Okay, this is something the reader already knows, we don't have to bring it up," but I feel like it gives a really natural tone and voice to your novels, and I just simply, briefly wanted to know if it's intentional or if it's simply the way you write.

    Brandon Sanderson

    It's been said that there are very few plots for books, and that most books fit into a set number of plots, though nobody seems to be able to agree on what that number is. That said, a lot of stories' beats or story points follow very similar patterns. This will relate, I promise. What is interesting to us is how the characters we're reading about interact with those events. You could say, on the large scale, many of our lives probably follow the same patterns. Going to school, our first love, probably going to college or trade school, our first time abroad, these sorts of things happen to us in patterns most of the time. And yet, the details are what fascinates us and what makes us individual. So I don't perceive my books being as much about the events as the effect those events have on the people we're reading about. So I try to avoid skipping chances for my characters to offer a different perspective on what they have seen from what another character may think they saw. You have to be careful, because you don't want the book to feel repetitive, and so this is a balancing act that I think I've gotten better at the more that I've written.

    EuroCon 2016 ()
    #11624 Copy

    Questioner

    Something I found really interesting and refreshing--it's sad it is that way, but it is--about your books are female characters, and I recently read that for a while you were kind of mortified because, talking about feedback, someone told you that you were writing really plain female characters. Now, seeing Vin or Megan, I barely can believe that, and I think as fans sometimes maybe get a bit too caught up in how amazing your worldbuilding is, and your magic systems, and we sort of disregard something that really works as well, and that's characters. I really like that your characters have, even if they are kind of secondary, they have purpose, they have motive, they have a backstory, they are not just there as background, really. So, could you describe how is character building for you and how has it changed since then?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah, this is an interesting thing to think about, as a fan of science fiction and fantasy, because the thing that draws us all to sci-fi/fantasy, the reason we're here, is because of the setting. And yet, the setting is in some ways the least important part, because, if you have a bad setting, but great characters, you usually can still have a good book, but if you have terrible characters and and interesting setting, usually that book is still going to be boring.

    This was a problem early in my writing, as you have brought up, particularly my female characters. I can still remember sharing one of my first books with someone, and being very excited for their feedback, and hearing how much they loved the magic system, and then getting to the criticism and saying, "It's unfortunate that the female lead is so wooden," and this was something that I needed to work on. No writer starts out good at everything. I was fortunate in finding early on some of these things that I needed to work on.

    For me, one of the big breakthroughs came when I started to look at each character as the protagonist of their own story. In some of these early books, characters were fit into a definition by my brain. This is the love interest, this is the sidekick, this is the mentor. But that's not how we are in our lives. Every one of us is a romantic interest at times, a mentor at times, a sidekick at times, but throughout the course of all of it, the only perspective we have of it is our own, and we are always the protagonist in that story. So when I started asking myself for each character, no matter how insignificant to the plot, who are they, what are they passionate about, what would they be doing today if the world weren't ending, and how are they the hero of their story.

    EuroCon 2016 ()
    #11625 Copy

    Questioner

    You've come a really long way since Elantris was first published. How has your process of writing changed ever since, in the sense that then you had the feedback from the publishing house maybe, now you have the feedback from the fans, from the critics, and also I can imagine, very much tighter deadlines. How can you reflect on Elantris from now?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Well, first let me say, I love you, but I had so much time back then! Now, it is a real challenge. Everybody left me alone. I wouldn't go back, because everyone left me alone at book signings, too. My books sat lonely on the shelves by themselves. But the great challenge of this phase of my career is finding enough time to do all the things I need to do. When I turned in Elantris to the publisher, they published it two years and three months later. When I turned in Words of Radiance, three months later. My books pay for the publisher to keep publishing, and they very much like to publish my books, and so it is difficult. I travel a lot, my signings are wonderful but long, and my deadlines are very tight, and everyone is stressed about me turning the books in. I'm just glad I spent all those years writing, with nobody knowing who I was, because that's when I built all of my habits. If you would've asked me, during that time, if it was nice that I hadn't published any books yet, I would've said, "No, I want to publish books," but that era was essential for turning me into the writer I am today. For those who don't know, I wrote thirteen novels before I sold one of them.

    EuroCon 2016 ()
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    Questioner

    So you've mentioned, and you've said this many times before, that you don't have to feel overwhelmed by the Cosmere if you are just a casual reader that wants to read a trilogy and that's it, you don't have to get too much into it, but do you fear this might taint a bit for readers as you keep developing the Cosmere and making it more prominent and relevant to the story itself?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Maybe I should be more scared than I am, but currently I am not very frightened of this idea, for a couple of reasons. When I do stories that are very deeply involved in the Cosmere and the connections, I will be very upfront with it, and give warnings, so the readers will probably not end up in those books unless they are wanting to. The readers I'm most worried about are the ones who haven't started any of my books yet feeling overwhelmed, or feeling they have to read them in a specific order. As long as they don't start with books like Secret History, that says at the beginning, "Don't start with this book," they'll be fine.

    I think one of the strengths of science fiction and fantasy is that the genre does not coddle its readers. Even books in this genre for younger readers are very challenging with their worldbuilding and a lot of the events that happen in them, and I think that the fans are ready and willing to accept this. And the reason our genres tend to have books that become long-term classics is because of this depth. If you go back to the era when Dune was written, you will find Dune and many other science fiction and fantasy books of that era, like Anne McCaffrey's work and Ursula LeGuin's work, that is still being read, and is still considered very important, but if you read in some genres that did not try that depth and complexity, those authors did not last as long, and so I feel that I would be remiss if I didn't add this depth where I can.

    EuroCon 2016 ()
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    Questioner

    You sort of have to be productive to write the Cosmere, because it's really complex. Did you have it planned in advance when you first started, did you really have a very, very clear idea of what you wanted, or was it just the structure?

    Brandon Sanderson

    So, for those who don't know, it has been referenced, my epic fantasies are connected behind the scenes with a lot of secret characters who are moving between the different stories. If you haven't read my books, don't get intimidated by that. It is mostly to be found if you dig for it, but not intended to be distracting from the main story of each book.

    And it did start from the beginning, at least from the beginning of Elantris, which was actually the sixth book that I wrote. It wasn't there in the first few books, but by the time I wrote Elantris it was there. I can trace the idea to a couple of places. From a very young age, when I would read books, I can remember doing this for Anne McCaffrey, it was always very fun to me to imagine a character that was hiding behind the scenes in the story that she wrote that I had inserted, that the other characters didn't know this character's secret motive, and they would appear in the various books that I read. I would say, "Oh, that's him. Ooh, that's him in this other book," written by different authors. That is the origin of the character Hoid, most likely.

    I can also point toward Isaac Asimov as an inspiration. In the late 80's, early 90's, when I was first becoming a big fan of fantasy and science fiction, I read Foundation, and then read the robot books, and then read his connecting the two of them together, which was one of those moments that broke my brain, and as I've read other people's works, I've found other authors who did similar things. Michael Moorcock is one, even the Marvel and DC comics did a lot of this. Famously, Stephen King did it with the Dark Tower books.

    One theme I've noticed is that many of them feel like they decided to add this as a feature after having finished several books, and thought, "What a cool idea, I will connect them," and having seen them do this, and like it, I ask the question, "What if someone started from the get-go, from the first book, setting up a hidden epic behind the scenes?" Like most writers, I owe a great deal to those who came before and provided inspiration for the things that I do.

    EuroCon 2016 ()
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    Questioner

    In that regard, you've been called like a million times a prolific writer, and you are, but many people tend to believe that you have some sort of superpower. You don't, you just said many times that your secret is persistent and consistent writing, and I was wondering if this ever lets you disconnect from your worlds, or even put them on standby, if it's easier having that sort of structure and saying, "Okay, now I'm going to write, and now I'm going to not write"?

    Brandon Sanderson

    This is a very astute question, because one thing that is very hard for writers is to write when we're supposed to. And this goes both ways, meaning, sometimes, for writers, when it's time to sit down and write, writing doesn't happen, but sometimes when we are supposed to be spending out time with our family then our brain is not there and we are somewhere else, and I would say that's the main source of conflict, often, in writers' interpersonal lives.

    Though if I do have a superpower, I owe it to my mother. My mother is an accountant, and she is very, very logical, one of the most logical people that I know, and she trained me from childhood to do the things that I'm supposed to do--to do my homework, to do my chores, all of these things. I had a paper route, as a kid, delivering newspapers from age twelve, and I always remember whenever my money came in, my mother would sit me down, and she would hold the money, and say, "Okay, now how much do you put in this savings account?" And I would have to guess numbers until I got to what she thought was right, and she would put that in, and then the next savings account, and then the next savings account, and then I would get handed a dollar. But I was the one of my friends who had a Super Nintendo because of those savings accounts. She trained me very well, and I often say my biggest advantage, as a writer, is that I am an artist with the training of an accountant. And so, when it's time to do my writing, I'm very good, practiced. It took time, many years, but I am practiced, and I am able to be very productive on most days. It's art, so some days, it still doesn't work, but most days I am productive, and equally important, when it is time to spend time with my family, I can turn that off, go be a dad and a husband, and then turn it back on after they go to bed.

    EuroCon 2016 ()
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    Questioner

    As it happens with any great character I think background is really important, so briefly, because I know you've talked about this a million times, how did you first become interested in fantasy and when did you realized, okay I want to do this for a living?

    Brandon Sanderson

    So, unlike a lot of writers, I didn't enjoy books when I was young. I had a teacher, eighth grade, her name was Ms. Reader, this is true, and she knew that I was goofing off a little too much in my literature class. So, she took me to the back of her room, where there were a whole bunch of old books, paperbacks, that a hundred students had read, and she said, "You need to read one of these and report back to me, because I know you're not doing your readings for class." So I browsed through these reluctantly, and I eventually settled on one that looked pretty cool. It was Dragonsbane, by Barbara Hambly, with this gorgeous Michael Whelan cover. It had a dragon. It had a cool looking guy. It had a pretty girl; that was more important. I thought I'd give it a try. I was fourteen, so... I loved this book.

    This book changed everything. I fell in love with the fantasy genre. From this, I discovered Anne McCaffrey, who was the other fantasy author my school library had, and over that summer after my eighth grade year, I read everything I could get my hands on--Terry Brooks, David Eddings, a lot of Melanie Rawn--and just absolutely fell in love. And these books meant something to me, there was a powerful emotion to them, and I thought, "I have to learn how to do this."

    Questioner

    And about when you sort of decided you wanted to do this, it was around that age as well?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I would say it was maybe a year later that I started writing my own book, my first one. It was terribly, absolutely terrible. It was a bad combination of Dragonlance and Tad Williams, but I loved the process of writing it. And I was a teenager, so I didn't know it was bad, I just loved doing it.

    I actually went to college my first year as a chemist, which you can see maybe coming out in my books a little bit if you've read some of them and seen the magic, but I did not like the busy work of chemistry, right? While I loved the thoughts and ideas, the actual sitting down and figuring how many atoms are in a table or whatever, I hated, and I always contrasted that with the writing where I loved the busy work. I could sit down and work on a story, and forget that four or five hours had passed. That was a really good sign to me for writing, and a really bad sign for chemistry.

    General Reddit 2017 ()
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    Lord_Natimus08

    So basically a Thunderclast is a rock giant. I thought it was a rock monster. Same difference I guess?

    JorusC

    I got the sense in the prologue of Way of Kings that the dead Thunderclast there was quadrupedal. So maybe it's more the class of monster, with different shapes?

    Peter Ahlstrom

    This.

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    Seolin is an interesting character to me. Not because he really does anything distinctive–but because of how he developed. His name was "Saorn" in the original draft, by the way. I think I changed this because it was too close to "Daorn." People also confused it with Shaod. I'm not certain if the new one fixes that problem, but it does feel a little more distinctive to me.

    Regardless, Seolin is one of those characters who grew out of nothing to have a strangely large part in the plot. Again, I realize that he's not all that original as a character. However, his dedication–and the way Raoden came to rely on him–wasn't something I intended when planning the book. While I don't believe in the whole "Books surprise their authors" concept, I do enjoy the discovery of writing. Seolin is one of the characters "discovered" in this way, and I am very pleased with him.

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    Those of you who've read the book before should recognize the case study Raoden mentions in this chapter. The woman who was miss-healed by the Elantrian is none other than Dilaf's wife–he speaks of her near the end of the book. This event–the madness and death of the woman he loved–is what drives his hatred of Elantris, and therefore Arelon and Teod.

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    This is a rather long chapter. Longer, actually, than I probably would have put in a regular story. However, the triad system kind of forced me to lump all of these events together. It was important that I show the danger of Shaor's gang, as well as the way New Elantris was progressing despite its problems. At the same time, we needed to find out more about Galladon eventually. So, when I did the "find the pool" chapter, I had to include these other items before it.

    I kind of wish that I'd been able to include the "Once so very beautiful. . . ." in this chapter somewhere. If you've been watching, you'll know that I do mention the man several other places, often when Raoden is near the Hoed. This is one of the more clever little twists of foreshadowing in the book, if I do say so myself.

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Twenty-Five

    I couldn't resist having Sarene intentionally mis-interpret the demands from Raoden's team. Not only did it make for a fun scene with them discovering how she twisted their requests, it also let me characterize Sarene in-abscentia. To her, politics is a game. Any time she can twist her opponent's words and do something unexpected, like send a pile of nails instead of sheets of steel, she feels a thrill of victory.

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    As I've mentioned before, the Hrathen chapters tend to be shorter than the other two. As Raoden and Sarene's chapters pick up, I was left struggling just a bit to find things to do in the complimentary Hrathen chapters. I probably could have sped up his plot through these middle chapters just a bit. However, the triad system means that I had to give him a viewpoint every third chapter. That is probably why he got so many contemplative sections–and, possibly, is what in turn made him into such an interesting character personality wise. It's kind of hard to dissect these kinds of things now that the book has been done for five years.

    Anyway, I did need this chapter to give Hrathen a chance to do some more foreshadowing on Dilaf. The emergence of Dilaf in these chapters is, I think, one of the more interesting and surprising elements from the middle Hrathen chapters. When Dilaf is originally presented in the book, I expected people to see him as a simple sidekick to Hrathen, much in the same way that I established Galladon and Ashe to be counterparts to Raoden and Sarene. With this parallelism in servant characters, I hoped to pull of a subtle surprise with Dilaf when he started to make trouble for Hrathen, as he is doing in these chapters.

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Twenty-Four

    As you can probably deduce from what I've said before, this Telrii scene is a late addition. It's not one of my favorites between Hrathen and Telrii--re-reading it, it makes me feel like Telrii is simply there to be persuaded. While the intention of these scenes is, indeed, to show Hrathen as a stronger character, their secondary purpose is simply to let him voice out loud some of the thoughts he's been mulling over. If you have trouble characterizing or motivating one of your characters in a book you're writing, try giving them someone--either friend or foe--to talk to.

    Anyway, this particular scene is a little weak, and I suppose I could cut it without too much loss. It is a good idea to keep people thinking about Telrii, however, since he will be important later in the story.

    Also, there is his warning to Hrathen about not being a pawn, which is some good foreshadowing for what happens later, when he casts Hrathen off and tries to become a Gyorn himself.

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    So, in this chapter we get the first real Sarene-Raoden interaction. I worked very hard on this relationship, trying to find a way to make it work naturally, yet still have the drama necessary for good storytelling. I assume that readers–at least the more romantic lot of you–have been waiting for the time when Sarene and Raoden would meet. Not only are they the male and female leads, but they also happen to be married.

    One of the things all writers struggle with is making their plots not seem contrived. Moshe and I tried very hard to make certain that everyone's motivations worked, and this is a good test chapter. Does it make sense to you that Raoden wouldn't show Sarene and the others his true self? I think that his desire to keep himself, and New Elantris, quiet makes sense. However, I could see how some readers might find it contrived. I hope my explanations make sense.

    One of the biggest complexities in this book is the way Raoden keeps his true self secret. I hope that the way he does this doesn't seem unbelievable. To him, his old life is gone. Though he is curious about his old friends, and especially about Sarene, he can't afford to let himself grow too interested in or attached to the outside world. He knows that doing so would only bring pain, both for himself, and for others.

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Twenty-Three

    Sarene=Chaos

    If you want to read more on this topic, read the critical afterword to Elantris I wrote for inclusion with my Master's Thesis. The short of it, however, is that Sarene is a force of change and chaos. Raoden, as mentioned above, is a master at working with what he is given. He manipulates his confines to the point that they are no longer binding.

    Sarene, however, just ignores what she is "supposed" to do. She is chaos. Not the "evil" chaos usually used in fantasy novels--Sarene is simply unpredictable, a force that can't be measured as easily as others. One manifestation of this comes in the nature of this chapter. If you read closely, you'll notice that--for the first time in the book--I offer two viewpoints in the same chapter. We jump from Sarene to Raoden, then back to Sarene again. It's a little thing, perhaps–a silly thing, even, for me to put in. However, it is representative of the fact that the first time Sarene enters Raoden's world, she brings with her an uncanny ability to mess up his plans.

    FAQFriday 2017 ()
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    Questioner

    If a fantasy book had an unhappy ending, would that affect how it was received by publishers and readers?

    Brandon Sanderson

    This is an interesting question to be asking! I'm going to preface this by saying a couple things.

    First, there is a difference between UNHAPPY and UNSATISFYING. These are two completely different things. For example: many classic tragedies are enitre stories with momentum pushing toward the tragic. A modern fantasy example would be some of George R. R. martin's work, where the books often have tragic endings, with the protagonists losing or dying. (Granted, his series isn't done yet, so there's no way to know yet if the final ending will be tragic or triumphant.)

    These books are still satisfying, however. The tone of these stories implies that tragic events will occur--and sadness is a powerful emotion. Stories exist, in part, to explore emotion. If the Story is built well, and handled expertly, the reader will be SATISFIED with the ending even if it's tragic. You will feel, "This is where the story was supposed to go. Even if I don't like what happened, it's beautiful in its tragic nature."

    Many long form stories also tend to have a balance bittersweet ending. Some things are accomplished, some things are lost. As one might say on Roshar, it's not about the last page--it's about whether the journey there was worthwhile.

    In response to your question, then, my instinct says that the sadness of the ending doesn't have a direct correlation with sales, goodreads rating, etc. Quality and deft ahndling of the material will certainly affect these things--but not specifically if the ending is happy or not. Publishers would certainly publish one with a sad ending. Note that if you take the bodies of work by some creators (Including both Shakespeare and Star Wars) the most popular and most successful installments WERE the ones with the sad endings.

    (Note that I DO think certain readers are going to dislike an ending that is sad, while others are going to dislike an ending that is too neat and happy. Individual certainly will have opinions. I just think the balance, at the end, will probably be around the same.)

    That said, you do focus on a "Bad" ending, equating it with sad. So in the interest of discussion, I'll call this a sad ending to an otherwise upbeat book--a twist of tone that happens right at the end, unexpectedly, leaving the reader frustrated. This would be an ending that completely defies genre conventions. The heroic adventure story where the hero unexpectedly dies at the end, or the Jane Austen style romance that ends with the love interest running off with some other woman.

    There would be a subset of people who would just love this, but I think if the book doesn't give the proper tone promises at the start, it would create a less commercially viable work. I don't think this is a reason not to try something like that as a writer, but I do think you might have more trouble finding an audience.

    Ad Astra 2017 ()
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    Questioner

    Do you make a conscious effort to incorporate *inaudible* morals? Like not...

    Brandon Sanderson

    Um, yeah...

    Questioner

    I mean, more sexually.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Right, so, I personally don't like reading things that kind of are explicit themselves. I feel like I shouldn't force all of my characters to keep the same moral code, because that's not accurately representing the world. It's-- But at the same time, what I think is moral influences things. So it's like very conscious that--

    Questioner

    More like how you describe it.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah. And also, you know, you go to some-- a place like Roshar, where it's based on oaths and things like this. That's playing into part of what I think is moral, right? So, yeah. But the same time we have people like Wayne, whose just like-- you know Wayne is not going to-- yeah, he's got very loose morals-- that's who he is. And if I didn't put people like that in my books there would be something wrong. But I don't feel like I have to be explicit, is the thing.

    Ad Astra 2017 ()
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    Questioner 1

    What's the title of the sixth book gonna be?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Right now it is named-- it says "Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians" with the "Alcatraz" crossed out, and says "Bastille". And it says, underneath, "Versus His Own Dumb Self"-- is the title I'm going with right now, but it might change. But it's called Alcatraz Versus His Own Dumb Self.

    Questioner 2

    ...How long does it take to do the first run?

    Brandon Sanderson

    How long does it take to do what?

    Questioner 2

    The first run.

    Brandon Sanderson

    The first draft, of an Alcatraz book, usually takes about two months. They can be a lot faster than my other books, but yeah.

    Ad Astra 2017 ()
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    Questioner

    Does the Lord Ruler have children?

    Brandon Sanderson

    So, I've been dodgy about this before, but the answer is yes, the Lord Ruler did have children. I don't think I've-- I've strongly hinted at it, and so I think people basically know. But yes, he did... But it is children.

    Ad Astra 2017 ()
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    Questioner

    What does your writing desk look like?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I don't have a desk. I set in an easy chair. I sit, lean back, and relax.

    Questioner

    So maybe it's comfy when you're leaning back and relaxed.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yep. And I do-- I go, like, walk on the treadmill or run on the elliptical-- I don't know what you call it on an elliptical, half-run or whatever-- and plan out my writing of the day. And then I go sit in my easy chair, and I-- it's by the hearth-- and I just work.

    Ad Astra 2017 ()
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    Questioner

    Is there any other magic types on the Warbreaker world?

    Brandon Sanderson

    There are different manipulations and manifestations of Breath.

    Questioner

    Okay.

    Brandon Sanderson

    They are gonna be much closer than, like, the Selish magic systems and things like that.

    Questioner

    Okay.

    Brandon Sanderson

    So, the deviation is much smaller, but it does manifest in slightly different ways-- Kind of a thing.

    TheHunter

    Have we seen any?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Ahh! RAFO!

    Ad Astra 2017 ()
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    Questioner

    And question: what is your favorite and least favorite thing about Hoid?

    Brandon Sanderson

    My favorite thing about him is that he just doesn't care about, you know, like-- what-- he is able to have the right amount of caring what people think about him, right? He's able to kind of control perception. My least favorite thing about him is he can be a very not nice person.

    Ad Astra 2017 ()
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    Questioner

    What do you do when you have writer's block?

    Brandon Sanderson

    So, the easiest way I've found to get rid of writer's block is to write anyway, and have it turn out badly. And then my brain will work on the scene, having written it poorly, the next day my brain almost always figures out how to just fix it. And so, I have to write the scene badly, and often I just have whatever happen. You know, just crazy things. And then set it aside knowing it's not going to go in the book... It's a little bit hard to write something you know isn't going to end up in the book and is wrong. But training yourself to do that so your subconscious can fix the problem is really handy.

    Ad Astra 2017 ()
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    Questioner

    What's your favorite word?

    Brandon Sanderson

    My favorite word? Rutabaga.

    Questioner

    Mega? Mega?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Rutabaga.

    Questioner

    Rutabaga?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yep. It's in the Alcatraz books, so...

    Questioner

    Okay, yeah. I haven't gotten to those yet, but I will.

    Brandon Sanderson

    I just like the way rutabaga sounds.

    Ad Astra 2017 ()
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    Questioner

    Question for you, regarding Nalthis.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes.

    Questioner

    Do priests use-- to extract the divine Breath and hoard.. Do they use a sharp object to get the divine Breath and hoard from the God King?

    Brandon Sanderson

    The divine Breath what?

    Questioner

    Divine Breath and hoard. Can you get it away from him by using a sharp pointy object?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Oh, the-- like you're asking like--

    Questioner

    Hemalurgy as an option.

    Brandon Sanderson

    It is not, but that's a good question. That is a really good question. I'm surprised no one's asked me that before.