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    Questioner

    Rysn has come up a lot in interludes in both books.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yep.

    Questioner

    Will she continue to be in the--

    Brandon Sanderson

    She does have an interlude in the third book. She is kind of, like-- so far I have wanted to use one of my interludes on her each time. I only get, you know, I get like only like eight or so per book, but I've used one of those on her every book. And I probably will going forward, but I can't promise.

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    Questioner

    Jasnah's name. What was the origin for it?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Jasnah's name predates most of the language work that I did. It comes from ancient, kind of Semitic languages-- playing around with those. And then her name became one of the ones that I built the language around. Because after I had named her, and written the whole book, I had named her and Dalinar. Kaladin's name changed once I had rebuilt the linguistics. Shallan's name changed once I rebuilt the linguistics. But Dalinar and Jasnah kind of became the origins. But it's ancient-- you know, a blend of Arabic and Hebrew. It's kind of-- yeah.

    Questioner

    Because I have an interesting tidbit--

    Brandon Sanderson

    Uh-huh

    Questioner

    "Jasna" in Polish actually means "bright."

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah, I've been told that! Just-- I went to Poland, like, last-- like a couple of months ago, and they're like, "Did you know this?" I had no idea.

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    Questioner

    So I know that you read The Wheel of Time.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Mmhmm.

    Questioner

    How was it-- the process of this when you found out that you were going to be part of the series?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah, so I would-- did not apply. It just-- they called me on the phone one day. Harriet did...

    So, yeah, they just called me on the phone and said, "We know you're a fan. Would you be willing to do this?" And I was just dumbfounded. I hadn't planned on it. I hadn't applied for it. So what I did is, I went and reread the whole series again, because I had read it before. But I had his notes in hand when I did it, and I built an outline out of notes he'd left and scenes that he'd finished, and built a massive outline. I presented that to Harriet and her assistants, and they said go for it. And I just started writing.

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    Questioner

    When you compound copper? What does that do?

    Brandon Sanderson

    That is-- *hands RAFO card* --the first one tonight. The first one I brought. I'm leaving a lot of the compounding questions for me to explore in later books and show you. And part of the reason is because I like the-- I like letting the readers discover new things and saving things back. And partially it's because I do change it as I go. Once in a while I'll write the book and be like, "No, this thing just doesn't work." Or, "Oh this other thing worked way better." So... That's kind of a double RAFO for those reasons.

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    Spoolofwhool

    What does it mean for an object to be considered "Invested"?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Uh, that is a matter of some discussion among scientists. Usually it means, to most of them, like a-- so, let me see if I can explain this-- So all things are built from Investiture.

    Spoolofwhool

    Right.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Right? Um, when they're using "Invested" they're talking about kind of like saturating a solution, in that-- yes, it's built out of this material, but you are-- there is more in it than-- like, it's a little bit like supersaturation, but not quite. Because it can s-- yeah, anyway.

    Spoolofwhool

    So getting, like, more Investiture in the spiritweb or in Cognitive than normal?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah, more than just the creation of it. Like there is lingering Investiture that could be drawn out. Or more stuffed in. It's--

    Spoolofwhool

    But there are limits, right?

    Brandon Sanderson

    There are limits. We kind of run into that in Feruchemy a little bit, and things like that. But yes.

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    Questioner

    I'm not sure if you're allowed to answer, or you've probably been asked a million times-- the idea of channeling-- the fact-- in the last book of The Wheel of Time--

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yes.

    Questioner

    You know what I'm talking about.

    Brandon Sanderson

    The One Power?

    Questioner

    The One Power, yeah. So Rand loses his ability to channel the One Power. But then--

    Brandon Sanderson

    Oh the True Power. Er, yeah yeah, the One Power, yeah yeah.

    Questioner

    Yeah, yeah. But he can channel-- Um, basically when he, you know, when he takes over Ishamael's body he can--Where did that idea come from?

    Brandon Sanderson

    That's Robert Jordan. He wrote the whole epilogue except for Perrin scenes.

    Questioner

    Oh, really?

    Brandon Sanderson

    And he wrote them as is and just left them and didn't explain to us.

    Questioner

    So the Perrin scenes were from you.

    Brandon Sanderson

    The Perrin scenes were from me. He didn't leave very much on Perrin--

    Questioner

    Oh that's amazing. Well done, cause I think the Perrin picked up right at the end too, so--

    Brandon Sanderson

    But the epilogue. He wrote that whole epilogue, from where Rand stumbles out of the... But when Rand stumbles out of the cavern, that's all Robert Jordan and--

    Questioner

    Wow, that's amazing.

    Brandon Sanderson

    He did not explain to us, how it... We just left it as is.

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    Some people have noted to me that it seems strange to them that Elantris only fell ten years before the start of the book. It seems to them that the legends make it seem older, more removed. This is actually intentional. I wanted it to be difficult to remember, at times, that it has only been ten years since the majestic city fell.

    Just like Elantris is crumbling far more quickly than should have been possible, it is passing into legend far faster than people might have thought. Part of this is due to the power of rumors and stories in a land without the ability to provide archival visual records (i.e., film.) Part of it, however, is the Elantris "mystery." Something very bad happened, and nobody understands it. In a way, the entire country has been left with a hole inside of its soul, now that Elantris is gone.

    By the way. Yes, the line "Its sprit has fled" was intended as another little pun off of the then title of the book "The Spirit of Elantris."

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Twenty-Two

    Raoden is an expert at manipulating his surroundings. This doesn't make him "manipulative," in my mind. (You can read about a real manipulator in my next book.) Raoden simply knows how to take what he is given and make the best from them. In a way, this is the soul of creativity. Raoden is like a master composer or an artist–except, where they take images or sounds and combine them to suit their needs, he takes the situation and adapts it to create something useful. Outside of Elantris, he took his father's edicts and turn them against the man. However, thrown into a terrible situation like the pit of Elantris, Raoden really has an opportunity to shine.

    He's kind of like a magic unto himself. I've known people a little like him in this world–people who can defy convention and reality, and just make things work. Somehow, Raoden can make three out of two. He can take the pieces and combine them in new ways, creating something greater than most people thought possible.

    In short, he's the perfect hero for this kind of book. When I was writing Elantris in the winter of 1999 and spring of 2000, I was finishing up my undergraduate degree at BYU. The book I'd written before it was called The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora–undoubtedly the strangest, most-un-Brandon-like book I've ever constructed. Pandora was a SFstory about a man made immortal though careful–and expensive–application of nanotechnology. The process slowly drove him mad.

    Pandora was a dark, grisly book. The man character could withstand alarming injuries without dying. One prime theme of the novel was dealing with the psyche of a man who could slaughter thousands of people while being shot to pieces, then find himself reconstructed a short time later. It was a rather violent book–probably the most disturbing I've ever written.

    When I got done with that book, I reacted against it by wanting to devise a plot that didn't depend at all on violence. Elantris was the result. I wanted to tell a story about a hero who could succeed without having to beat up on the people who opposed him. I took away his physical abilities and his royal resources, leaving him with only his wits and his determination.

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

     I'm very fond of this last scene for two reasons. First is the fact that I get to show Hrathen being charitable. He really does care. When characterizing him in my mind, this scene always jumps out as showing something very important about him.

    Contrasted with that moment, however, is Omin's lucid presentation of Hrathen a hypocrite. All this time, Hrathen has worked against Shu-Korath, trying to stamp it out. Yet, in one brief moment, Omin scores a personal hit that is more painful than anything Hrathen could do in return.

    Notice how Hrathen keeps trying to pull the discussion away from discussing truth in this scene. He knows that he can dominate if he can get the conversation to center around logic. However, truth is something that is hard to define, and something even harder to argue against. Despite his priestly mantle, he finds truth outside of his authority and experience.

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    I mention the Outer Cities here with the beggars. Actually, the main reason I put them in was to give myself another excuse to mention the Outer Cities. Throughout the books progress, I've been worried that people wouldn't understand the ending climax. In order to get what is going on with Aon Rao, they need to understand the geography of the cities around Elantris. Hopefully, I describe it well enough that it comes off.

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    Questioner

    So, pre-collapse Final Empire. The random Allomancer house guards. Were-- are they house members, or--

    Brandon Sanderson

    Oh, yeah usually it's uh-- So if you've got an Allomancer it's because the family's gotten large and there are lots of cousins, and distant cousins, and things like that. And the Allomancy shows up in some of them, and they kind of get brought up in getting a retainer. They're kind of like knights, right? Like, you get money from the house and things like that, but in return you have to protect the -- use your Allomancy for them.

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    Questioner

    I asked you the Legion question, so I've been reading. I've been working my way through that series, so I'm excited to hear there's a third one coming up.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yep. The goal is to write it for that anthology, so that I at least can start wrapping some things up.

    Questioner

    Well there's a lot to wrap up, right?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah.

    Questioner

    There's a pretty high demand, for sure, right? But it's cool, it was interesting to see, "Oh, maybe this is your break, a little bit, of trying to get away from it." A little bit.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah, right. Most of those- the short fiction I write, is to take a break.

    Questioner

    Yeah.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Just to do something different.

    Questioner

    And get the creative juices flowing in a little different area.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah.

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    Questioner

    Did serving your mission in Korea help you in, like, worldbuilding? Kind of give you-- get you out of your own mindset?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Getting out of an-- into another culture is the number one thing for helping me world build. And I still-- the linguistics of things I create are often influenced by Korea.

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Twenty-One

    Some of the most fulfilling experiences in writing this book came from the Hrathen chapters. Though Joshua still occasionally complains that he finds Hrathen's internal monologues to be slow and ponderous, I find them essential to the plot. Chapters like this—chapters where we really get to see how Hrathen thinks—are what makes this book more than just a nice adventure story.

    The section where Hrathen tries to appoint a new Head Arteth is a more recent addition to the book. I wanted to show the power Dilaf was beginning to have over Hrathen's work in the city, and thought that this made another nice little sub-conflict for Hrathen to deal with.

    The chapter used to begin with Hrathen trying to send Dilaf away. Though I added some new information at the beginning, that particular scene is pretty much intact from the first draft. I do worry that some of Hrathen and Dilaf's posturings don't come across as well as they could. This exchange is a wonderful example—I haven't had time in the book to do as much explaining about the Derethi religion as I would like. Because of this, I have to explain Dilaf's move as he tries to perform it. This is always a weaker narrative structure than if the move itself is an obvious outflow from the dynamics of the world. If readers had understood just what an Odiv and a Krondet were, then all Dilaf would have to do is mention that he'd sworn a bunch of Odivs, and the reader would know what he was doing.

    Even still, I like what happens here. For the first time, the book expressly shows that Dilaf is planning and working against Hrathen. Before, he's always been able to fall behind his excuse of, I was caught up in the moment. This, however, is an obviously planned maneuver intended to give him power over Hrathen.

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    Sarene's half-breakdown in this chapter was intended as both a simple reminder of the stress she's under as well as further characterization of her. She's far more volatile than Raoden and Hrathen, and I think that is part of what makes her my favorite character in the book. She doesn't always keep it all in–nor is she perfect. Occasionally, she makes mistakes, and things well up inside her. In this way, she's very real to me.

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    Sarene used to tap her cheek a lot more than she does in this draft. It was a quirk I designed for her at the beginning–a nervous habit I thought indicative of her personality. However, a lot of people found it distracting. They seemed to think that tapping the cheek was an odd behavior. (Just as a note, when she taps her cheek, I'm thinking of her folding her arms, with one hand raised contemplative, index finger resting on her cheek. I've been known to sit that way some times.)

    Anyway, I took out many of the references. As Moshe said, "There's just too much tapping going on!"

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    Brandon Sanderson

    If you read over this scene in the garden, you might notice something odd. I didn't see it until I was doing the copy edit, and by then it was too late to change. Lukel and Kiin aren't there for the meeting. They're never mentioned, and I never explain why they aren't there. I think that I just forgot to put them in, since the scene isn't set in the customary location of Kiin's kitchen.

    I don't know if readers notice it or not–or even if they care–but I get tired of writing scenes in the same locations. I know it's common in storytelling to do this. Most sitcoms, for instance, always take place in the same locations over and over again. However, I enjoy describing new settings, even if the change is as simple as putting the meeting outside instead of in the kitchen. Maybe it's an unnecessary complication, but it makes the writing more interesting for me.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Twenty

    Ahan's line here is one of my favorite openers in the book. Partially because it is amusing, and partially because it so perfectly represents what is going on in the story. Good political maneuvering, in my opinion, leads to shifts in power. Two or more sides vie, the upper-hand bouncing back and forth between them.

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    This is the first chapter where I really start to get into the magic system of the book. There will be much more later. Some people have accused me of writing science fiction that masquerades as fantasy. That is, of course, an exaggeration. I like fantasy idioms–the deep characterization, the slower plot progression, the sense of wonder and magic–far more than I like the science fiction counterparts. However, I'll admit that I do design my magic systems with an eye for science. (Or at least pseudo-science.)

    The idea of a runic magic system is not new. I've seen several other authors write some very interesting runic systems (David Farland, for instance, has a particularly good one.)

    The twist I wanted to bring to my novel was twofold. First, I wanted to focus on what went wrong with the magic–therefore really allowing me to get into its mechanics. Secondly, I wanted the runic system to be more mathematical than it was mystical. Raoden hints at this in the chapter, and you'll get more later. However, the idea of runes that include qualifiers and functions appealed to me as a little more distinctive than some of the other systems I'd seen before.

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    In this chapter, I also go a little bit into the linguistics of the novel. If you'd been able to figure out that "Dor" wasn't an Aon, then you were a step ahead of Raoden at this point. I realize it's probably too small a thing to have been of note, but I do actually mention the "Dor" one time earlier in the book. It's in the discussion where Galladon discovers that the republic has fallen. He says, "Only outsiders–those without any sort of true understanding of the Dor–practice the Mysteries."

    ...

    Anyway, if you want more on linguistics, head over to the "goodies" section of the website. I've got a whole essay on the languages in Elantris over there.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Nineteen

    Yes, okay. I'll admit it. I started a chapter with a dream sequence. However, if you didn't realize that it was a dream before you got to the end, they you obviously haven't been paying much attention to the rest of the book. It's usually good advice to avoid dream sequences. It's particularly a good idea to avoid flashback dream sequences at the beginning of your novel. I did it anyway. The truth is, I liked what this scene did too much to cut it. My purpose was not to "fake out" or confuse–but simply to show some things that would be otherwise impossible to show in the novel.

    I wanted to show AonDor working without Elantris' current limitations. The only way to do this–to really show this, rather than just describe it–was to have a flashback. So, I gave Raoden the dream where he able to remember the days before the fall of Elantris. You'll notice that I refer back to this dream several times through the chapter, using it as an example of several things Raoden considers.

    ...

    There are a lot of other clues sprinkled through these chapters. If you're really clever, you could probably figure out from this chapter what is wrong with AonDor, and from that extrapolate why the Shaod went bad.

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    You should notice the comments about unity popping up in religious scenes throughout the book. Omin spoke of it before, and Hrathen often thinks–or mentions–the concept. When designing the religions of this book, I really wanted them to feel authentic. If you look at our own world, one thing is obvious (I think) about the way major religions work. They always fragmented–different sects of the same teachings often rise up and squabble with each other. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity share obvious links. In a similar way, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other eastern religions share some common roots.

    So, in designing the Korathi and Derethi churches, I decided to give them a common ancestor–Shu-Keseg. All three religions came from the teachings of a single Jindoeese man. (You might note that the word "Shu," as used in connection with Shu-Korath and Shu-Dereth, doesn't seem to fit the linguistic styles of Aonic or Fjordell. This is an intentional reference to the Jindoeese commonality of their origin.)

    The central tenet of Keseg's teachings was unity, and his followers began to squabble about what he meant by "Unity." Hence we have the loving, inclusive Korathi; the aggressive, expansionist Derethi; and the contemplative, didactic Jindoeese.

    Of course, Jesker and the Mysteries are a completely different religious line. We'll get more into them later. . . .

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Eighteen

    This chapter went through some heavy edits. First off, I originally had Hrathen interrogate the Elantrian off-stage. At a suggestion from my editor, I put this in-scene, showing Hrathen talk to the Elantrian. The intention here was to give a little characterization to Hrathen by showing his logical approach to studying and interrogating his prisoner.

    The other big change to this chapter came in the middle. As I was working on the later revisions, I realized–at Joshua's suggestion–that I really wanted something here in the early middle of the book that showed Hrathen sparring against Dilaf and winning. In certain sections of the book, Hrathen's character came off too weakly–and this was one of the chapters. Originally, I had Dilaf extinguish the torches of his own accord, then burn the Elantrian later, despite Hrathen's protests.

    In the new version, I get to have Hrathen prove his competence by having him wrestle control of the crowd. He is the one who burns the Elantrian, which enhances the scene by letting Hrathen feel guilt for it. He comes off much stronger in this chapter than he did before.

    Those of you who have read on realize how important this is to the plot, because from here out, Dilaf starts to get the better of Hrathen. I needed to reinforce Hrathen's strength at the beginning of the story, otherwise I feared that the scenes of Dilaf winning would make Hrathen seem too weak. Hopefully, things now feel like they are balanced–one gaining dominance for a time, then the other wrestling it away, and so on and so forth.

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    Sarene's visit to the chapel is probably the strongest scene in the book dealing with the Korathi religion. I felt this scene was important for the sake of contrast. Hrathen, and therefore Shu-Dereth, gets quite a bit of screen time. Unfortunately, Sarene and Raoden just aren't as religious as Hrathen is. I consider them both to be believers–Sarene the more devout of the two. Religion, however, isn't as much a part of their lives as it is for Hrathen.

    I've actually seen this kind of aggressive religion/passive religion dynamic before. (Referring to the dynamic between the peaceful Korathi believers and the aggressive Derethi believers.) In Korea, where I served as a full-time LDS missionary, Buddhism and Christianity are both fairly well represented. Buddhism is having problems, however, because it doesn't preach as aggressively as most Christian sects. It is not my intention to paint either religion in a poor light by adopting the aggressive religion as the antagonist in Elantris. However, even as a Christian, I was often troubled by the way that the peaceful Buddhists were treated by some Protestant missionaries. I was there to teach about Christ's gospel–I believe that Christ is our savior, and that people will gain happiness by following his teachings. However, I think you can teach about your own beliefs without being belligerent or hateful to people of other faiths.

    The most memorable example came when I was walking in the subway. Often, Buddhist monks would set up little mats and sit chanting with their bowls out, offering prayers and chants for the people while trying–after the tenet of their religion–to gain offerings for their sustenance. Standing next to one particular monk, however, was a group of picketing Christians holding up signs that read "Buddhism is Hell." You could barely see or hear the monk for all the ruckus.

    I guess this has gotten a little bit off from the source material. But, well, this is a book about one religion trying to dominate another. In the end, I don't think Hrathen's desires are evil (it's okay to want to share what you believe–it's even okay to think that you're right and others are wrong.) His methods, however, are a different story.

    In other words, I think we should be able to preach Christianity (or whatever you happen to believe) without being complete jerks. (Sorry for that little tangent. I'll try to keep the rants to a minimum in the future.)

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Seventeen

    Of all the books I've written, I think this one hearkens most closely to our own world. Usually, when I develop cultures and languages, I try to stay away form basing them too closely on any one Earth society or race. I'm not certain what made me do things differently in Elantris. It's not just fencing–JinDo, with its obvious links to Asian cultures, is a good example too. And Fjorden's language has some obvious references to Scandinavia. (Dilaf's name comes from Beowulf, actually. I named him after Beowulf's heir, Wilaf.)

    Anyway, in this chapter we find two very obvious "borrows" from our world. I've always been fascinated by fencing, though I've never participated myself. The idea of turning swordfighting into a sport intrigues me. In addition, I found the light, formalized dueling appropriate to the tone of this book, so I took the opportunity to write it in. (I do realize, by the way, that Hollywood has done some interesting things to fencing. Most real fencing bouts are much shorter, and far less showy, than what we see depicted. This is pretty much true for any kind of fighting, however. Think what you will, but combat is usually brutal, quick, and really not that exciting to watch.

    This kind of fighting is very appropriate in some books. However, I allowed myself the indulgence of doing my fencing scenes a bit more flourish than one would find in real life. It felt right in the context to have the participants spar, parry, and jump about for far longer a time than is realistic. If you need justification, you can assume that in Teod, the rules for fencing are very strict–and so it's very hard to actually score a point on your opponent, forcing the battles to be prolonged.)

    The other item of interest in that scene is, of course, Shuden's ChayShan dance. As mentioned above, his culture is pretty obviously borrowed from Asia. In fact, the link is so strong that some readers have trouble imagining his features as anything but Asian. (Note, once again, that this is not the case. The JinDo have dark brown skin. Though, I guess you'll imagine Shuden however you wish.) The ChayShan is a martial art I devised to feel just a bit like Tai Chi–though ChayShan focuses on speeding up the motions and gaining power from them. I've always kind of thought that Tai Chi would look more interesting if it slowly sped up.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Raoden finally confronts Taan here in this chapter. In a way, the three gangs that Raoden has to defeat represent three things that the Elantrians themselves need to overcome. The first is their solitude, represented by Karata's exclusionary attitude. The second is self-pity, represented by Taan's indulgent madness. The final is their pain, represented by the wildmen of Shaor.

    The way, therefore, to defeat Taan was to turn his attention outside of himself. Self-pity melts when confronted with larger issues, such as the beauty and wonder of Elantris itself. I worry that this scene itself was a bit too melodramatic–however, I've always said that the difference between drama and melodrama is how engaged the reader is by the story. If everything is working like it should, this section should seem powerful, rather than over-the-top.

    I do think, however, that Raoden's arguments are a bit too philosophical for his audience. I did that intentionally. Raoden is a child of privilege, and he is something of a thinker. His philosophical arguments are probably the first things he himself would consider, because of how curious and interesting they are. However, he doesn't achieve success with this crowd until he turns to more practical observations. In reality, his strongest ally in this scene was the way he broke the tension and the passion of the moment. Once Dashe's momentum was gone, he couldn't convince himself to continue.

    You'll note in later chapters that Raoden's victory here wasn't as complete as it was with Karata's band. This is mostly due to the fact that Taan's followers weren't as committed to him as Karata's were to her. Though I still see this as a victory for Raoden, the fact that many of Taan's followers find their way in to Shaor's camp implies that his efforts had some serious side-effects.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Sixteen

    Raoden's memory of Ien at the beginning of this chapter pretty much sums up what the seons are. A lot of readers have asked me for more on them, and I'll give it eventually. However, in this book, you simply need to know that they are what they appear. Servants bound out of love, rather than duty, force, or pay.

    The original inspiration for seons came, actually, when I was in high school. Visually, I was inspired by the Passage series–a collection of paintings by Michael Whelan. Every painting in the series contained little floating bubbles with what appeared to be a candle flames at their center. At the same time, I was getting the idea for a story. When I wrote it, I included a group of sentient balls of light.

    Well, that story didn't go anywhere. Six years later, however, I started Elantris. I wanted a sidekick for Sarene, and I knew I needed someone wise and cautious to off-set her sometimes reckless personality. I had already decided to use the Aon characters, and I considered transforming my old idea of balls of light into glowing Aons. As Ashe's character began to develop, I realized I had something quite strong, and I began to build the mythology and magic behind the seons. 

    The latest addition to the story regarding seons is the idea of "Passing." I only speak of it a few times, but in earlier drafts, I didn't have any definite indications that a person and their seon were bound. The only hint was what happened to seons whose masters were taken by the Shaod. When Moshe asked about this, I decide I'd include a little more information, and added a couple references to "Passing" seons in the book.

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    One of the major post-sale revisions I did to Elantris came at the suggestion of my agent, Joshua Bilmes. He noted that I had several chapters where Hrathen just walked about, thinking to himself. He worried that these sections made the middle of the book drag a bit, and also feared that they would weaken Hrathen's character. So, instead, he suggested that I add Telrii to the book some more, and therefore give Hrathen opportunities to be clever in the way he achieved his goals.

    This is the first chapter that shows any major revision in this direction. In the original, Hrathen simply walked along, thinking to himself. I added Telrii to the second half of the chapter, putting some of Hrathen's internal musings into their discussion. I cut some of the more repetitive sections, and then left the others interspersed between lines of dialogue.

    The result is, I think, a very strong new section.

    Elantris Annotations ()
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    Brandon Sanderson

    Perhaps the most interesting of Hrathen's internal thoughts in these chapters is his conviction that it's better to do things that cause him guilt, as long as it saves people's souls. This is a logical conundrum I've considered on several occasions. Taking Christian theology–which says that a soul is best off when it is "saved"–wouldn't it be the ultimate sacrifice not to die for your fellow man, but to somehow sacrifice your own soul so that he could be saved? In short, what would happen if a man could condemn himself to hell so that another man could go to heaven? Wouldn't that act in itself be noble enough to un-condemn the man who unfairly went to hell? (Enter Douglas Adams, and god disappearing in a puff of logic.)

    Anyway, that's the logical fallacy I see Hrathen dealing with here. He knows he bears a heavy guilt for the bloodshed he caused in Duladel. However, he's willing to take that guilt–and all the damage it brings–in order that people might be saved. He allows his own soul to bear the burden, rather than turning it over to the church. Again, I see this as a fallacy–but it certainly does make for an interesting line of reasoning.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Fifteen

    When I teach writing, one of my major educational philosophies is that an author must understand his or her strengths. If you do something well, play to that strength. Write books that show off what you can do. This isn't a reason to ignore, or to not work on, your weaknesses. However, like the opportunity cost laws of economics, the more time you spend on your strengths, the greater rewards you're going to receive. That translates to better books, a better chance of publication, and better sales.

    Every writer is different. We can't all do everything perfectly. As a writer, one of the things that I don't do is beautiful prose. I don't think my prose is bad, but it is somewhat utilitarian. Some authors, like Orson Scott Card, can turn this minimalism into a strength itself. I'm not there yet–I still write with a more flamboyant style, I'm just not a brilliant prose craftsman like Gene Wolfe or Ursula LeGuin. I think I do other things, however, that are better than those two can manage.

    Anyway, despite that acknowledgement, I occasionally write a paragraph that I just think is beautiful. The first paragraph of chapter fifteen is probably my favorite descriptive paragraph in the book. I love the imagery and language of it. Perhaps others will see it as trite–I had to end up changing the first line of the prologue, after all, which I also thought was beautiful. However, one of the nice thing about being published is that I can look at this paragraph in a bound hardcover and say, "I did that."

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Another interesting moment in this scene is Sarene's idiocy act. There's actually a good story behind this plotting device. I've always enjoyed this style of plot–where a character intentionally makes people underestimate them. You can see a similar plotting structure (pulled off quite a bit better) in my book The Way of Kings. (It should be published around 2008 or so. . . .) Anyway, some of my favorite plots of this type are found in Hamlet and Dragon Prince (by Melanie Rawn.)

    Sarene's own act, however, plays a much smaller role in the book than I'd originally intended. I soon discovered that I'd either have to go with it full-force–having her put on a very believable show for everyone around her–or I'd have to severely weaken it in the plot. I chose the second. There just wasn't a reason, in the political climate I created for the book, to have Sarene pretend to be less intelligent than she was. (The original concept–though this never made it to drafting–was to have her pretend to be less intelligent because of how many times she'd been burned in the past with people finding her overbearing and dominant.)

    I decided I liked having her personality manifest the way it is. The only remnant of the original feigning comes in the form of this little trick she plays on Iadon to try and manipulate him. Even this, I think, is a stretch–and it has annoyed a couple of readers. Still, it doesn't play a large part in the plot, and I think it does lead to some interesting moments in the story, so I left it in.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Interestingly, one of the noblemen most important to the plot didn't appear very often in the original draft. Telrii was a much more minor character in the first versions of the book. As you'll see later, however, he has an important role to play.

    Some of you who read the very early drafts of the book might remember the Mad Prince. This is a character my agent successfully convinced me to cut–I'll talk about it more later on. However, the need for beefing up Telrii's character came from the loss of the Mad Prince. Telrii now does most of what Eton used to do.

    So, this addition of Telrii in the party scene was one of the more later revisions to the book. He showed up in draft eight or nine, and I'm glad to have him. He finally has a character–in the first drafts of the book, he was a non-entity. Spoken of occasionally, but really only in the book to show how much money Hrathen was willing to spend on overthrowing Arelon.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    I had a bit of trouble in this book devising personalities for all of the noblemen who would be hanging around Sarene. Some of them, such as Shuden, don't get very much screen time, and so it was a challenge to make them interesting and distinctive. In the end, however–after several drafts–I had their characters down so well that when my agent suggested cutting one of them, I just couldn't do it. So, perhaps there are a few too many names–but this is a political intrigue book. Lots of people to keep track of is a good thing.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Fourteen

    Shuden's comments on marriage early in this chapter have often earned me smiles and jibes from my friends. An author puts a little of himself into every character he crafts, and sometimes we find a particular character being our voice in one way or another. I'll admit, the way marriage is treated in this book does have a little bit of a connection to my own personal thoughts on the subject. It isn't that I'm avoiding the institution. . .I just find the formalities leading up to it to be a dreadful pain.

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    Questioner

    This is a question I was wondering when you did Steelheart. When you were developing the story did you ever think of what kind of Epic you would be?

    Brandon Sanderson

    *laughs* Uh, no, I didn't really. My-- The Alcatraz books were kind of focused on dumb things I do. Steelheart I was really just kind of looking at comic book lore, and dealing with, you know, tropes from comic books.

    Questioner

    Thank you.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Uh-huh.

    TheHunter

    But in that car, where you thought, "If I had super powers..."

    Brandon Sanderson

    Oh yeah, that's true!

    TheHunter

    What were you going to do to that car?

    Brandon Sanderson

    I was gonna blow up the car.

    TheHunter

    So there's your answer.

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah, blow up the car, yeah.

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    Questioner

    How do you handle names, because it's like the hardest thing to do properly

    Brandon Sanderson

    So, easy mode is to pick a culture, a real world analog to your-- to one of your-- each culture in your book. Go get a list of baby names from that culture in our world. Play with those names. Don't steal them; play with them until you-- try to find something that works for you. That sounds right, and things like that. Hard mode is to come up with kind of some-- learn some linguistics, and build the names based on--

    Questioner

    From the ground up, kind of thing?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Yeah, don't build the whole language, but kind of build sounds, the morphemes, this sort of stuff. And then build names around that.

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    Questioner

    I was wondering, how do you feel about people using, like, the word "Allomancer" in their own stories?

    Brandon Sanderson

    Well, I would s-- Depends on how it's used. If you're saying, it's for-- if it's the same magic system, I would recommend against that. If you are referencing-- like there's an-- actually a word called alomancy, spelled slightly differently, that is using sand to foretell the future. It's not like I have the thing trademarked or anything like that. So--

    Questioner

    Right, like, I was unsure, so--

    Brandon Sanderson

    But I would suggest coming up with your own magic system in your own terms. It'd just be a stronger story. But it's not like-- yeah, I don't have it trademarked or anything.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    My favorite moment in this chapter? Probably a tie. One moment is when Raoden draws the Aon to stop the guard. A truly clever character doesn't need a fireball or a blast of power to defeat his enemies–he simply needs a wit quick enough to manipulate the resources he has. The other moment is when Raoden arrives back at the chapel and gives the sword to Seolin. This is the story's first big victory moment, and after this many chapters dealing with the pains and dirtiness of Elantris, I think Raoden and co. deserved it.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Also, in this chapter we begin to get a few pay-offs from the building I've done in previous chapters. The foreshadowing with the well, the foreshadowing with Karata's escapes into the city, and the foreshadowing with the child Elantrians all come to head in this chapter.

    At the same time, I give foreshadowing for Iadon's paranoia, and foreshadowing regarding the passage out of his palace.

    These are the sorts of little plotting events that make writing exciting for me. When they pay off–when the reader has that moment of "oh, I get it"–is when I'm the happiest as a novelist.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Thirteen

    This is easily one of my favorite chapters in the book. This chapter really shows off the core of Raoden's character–lets him be the hero that he is. I've never written another character like Raoden. In a way, he's not as rounded as some other characters (characters like Hrathen.) He doesn't have the flaws or internal battles of some of the more complex characters I've designed.

    That doesn't, however, make him any worse a character in this particular book. Raoden is something of a superman–he does the right thing at almost every turn, and his internal struggles only serve to make him more noble. You can't often get away with this in fiction. However, I do think that there are really people like him in the world–I've known a few of them. By including him in a book with Hrathen and Sarene, each of whom have their foibles and internal problems, I think I avoid making the characters of the book feel too shallow.

    And, there is a certain. . .beauty to a character who is simply noble. Often times, we as authors think that making a character "rounded" or "realistic" means corrupting them somehow. I think Raoden defies this concept. He probably wouldn't be a very compelling character outside of an extreme situation like Elantris. However, confronted by the almost overwhelming problems and tasks associated with the city, his strength only serves to make him feel more realistic to me. A weaker character would have broken beneath Elantris. Raoden can struggle on.

    In this chapter, I do begin to introduce what will become Raoden's main character struggle–that of his burden of leadership. He's taking a lot upon himself, and I think a man of his sincerity couldn't help but pause and wonder if he's worth all of the loyalty he is receiving.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    As a side note, I'm planning this seon here to make an appearance in the sequel (if I write one.) She would be Adien's own seon, as he would probably be the hero of the sequel. (Along with his brother and sister.) For those of you who think I didn't deal enough with the seons in this book—the sequel would have strong focus on them. In fact, I'm tempted to make this seon a viewpoint character. However, that would bump me up to four characters, which wouldn't let me use the chapter triad system.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    I didn't originally intend for Hrathen to have a seon. However, as I was working on this chapter, I realized how much sense it made. It lends a bit of hypocrisy to the Derethi religion, and I found that I liked that a great deal. The seon also allowed me to move more quickly with Hrathen's plans. I couldn't have made the storyline nearly as compact if Hrathen didn't have access to a seon.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Dilaf's outburst in this chapter is my first real hint that things are not going to go well between him and Hrathen. In a way, this chapter is a paradigm for events to come—Hrathen sets up what he think is a perfect, careful presentation. Then Dilaf arrives and throws chaos into it. Yet, despite that chaos, Dilaf has a profound—and arguably successful—effect on those around him.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    I've spoken earlier about how fantasy books tend to place modern-like characters in more archaic settings. The seons in this book are one of my rationalizations for the way that people act. I believe that a lot of our civility and maturity as a global culture comes from our ability to communicate quickly and effectively with one another.

    Instantaneous communication changes the world. It makes countries seem less distant, and it allows for faster resolution of problems. Often times, when I'm creating a magic system, this idea is one of the first that I consider. Can this magic provide for instant communication or travel? If it can, I can use that to shrink the world, allowing me to place characters in more distant settings and still have them tied to the plot. (This isn't something I have to do often in this particular book. However, the ability to communicate with Wyrn and Sarene's father does have the effect of shrinking the world, making it easier to plot such drastic events in such a short period of time.)

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Twelve

    The language metaphor I use in this chapter is one of my favorites in the book. Hrathen's attitude can be quickly summed up in the way that he decides it is all right to preach to the people in their own language. He admits that he probably shouldn't do such a thing, but the logical justification is just too strong for him to deny.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    You'll notice the quick mention of the Widow's Trial in this chapter. This sub-plot was actually added later in the drafting process, and I had to come back and write these comments into this scene. It will become apparent why later on.

    Though, you spoilers already know how it is used. I needed to get Sarene into Elantris somehow, and I wasn't certain how I was going to do it. Somewhere along the way I devised the idea of the Widow's Trial. In the end, it worked quite well, as it provided the means for Raoden to create New Elantris.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Eleven

    I certainly didn't want this book to turn into a political statement about female-empowerment. I think that sort of thing has been overdone in fantasy–the woman in an oppressive masculine world seeking to prove that she can be just as cool as they are. However, I did have to deal with some cultural issues in Elantris. There's no getting around the fact that Sarene is a strong female character, and I think it would be unrealistic not to address some of this issues this creates with the men around her.

    I actually used several women I know as a model for Sarene. I've often heard women say that they feel like men find an assertive, intelligent woman threatening. I suspect that there some strong foundations for feelings like this, though I would hope the men in question form a small percentage of the population. Still, I do think that it is an issue.

    In my own culture, people tend to get married early. This is partially due to the LDS Church's focus on families and marriage, and partially because I've lived mostly in the west and mid-west–where I think that the general attitude is more traditional than it is in big cities. Because of this, I've seen a number of people–many of them women–complain about how they feel excluded from society because they're still single. Sarene's own insecurity is related to the real emotions I've seen in some of my friends.

    However, I do have to point out that some of the reactions Sarene gets aren't because she's female–they're just because she's bull-headed. She tends to give too much stock to the fact that she's a woman, assuming that the resistance she receives is simply based on gender. I think a man with her personality, however, would encounter many of the same problems. The way she pushes Roial into a corner in this chapter is a good example. In my mind, she handled things in the kitchen quite well–but not perfectly. She still has some things to learn, some maturing to do.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    This chapter introduces a couple of minor characters for Raoden's gang. One thing you'll notice here is the good-natured humor I include in the chapter. (Or, at least, I hope you found it humorous.) I had a real worry that Elantris would be too dark a book, considering the things that Raoden has to go through. That's why Galladon's character is so important. In my mind, Galladon fits the most basic definition of a humorous character–he is a juxtaposition. He is a pessimist from a culture of optimists. He is a foil to Raoden, yet at the same time his comedic pessimism lifts the story and points out just how ridiculous their situations are.

    Galladon isn't simply comic relief–I have never used, and never intend to use, a comic-relief character. However, he allows for some farce and some fun-poking, which in turn lightens the air of what could otherwise be a very gloomy book. His relationship with Raoden proves that even in the hellpit of Elantris, things like friendship and trust can exist.

    Because I have three separate storylines in this book, I have to move quickly. (Or, at least, quickly for me.) This allowed me to keep up the pacing, and to have a good amount of tension in every chapter. Of the three viewpoints, however, I think Raoden's chapters seem to move the quickest, though Hrathen has the smallest number of pages.

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    Brandon Sanderson

    Chapter Ten

    Are the Elantrians zombies? I've been asked this question before. The answer is a little bit yes, a little bit no. I very intentionally don't make any references in the story to them being zombie-like, and I certainly don't call them "undead." Both words bring a lot of baggage with them.

    No, the Elantrians aren't "zombies." However, they certainly would fit the standard fantasy definition of being "undead." After all, their bodies aren't really alive, but they can think. Still, I resist comparisons to established fantasy traditions. I wanted the Elantrians to be their own genre of creatures. In the world I have created, they are simply "Elantrians." They are people who don't need to eat, whose bodies only function on a marginal level, and whose pains never go away. For the function they fill in the world and the story, I'd rather that they be compared to lepers.

    That said, I always have wanted to do a story with a zombie as a main character.