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Apr 15th, 2013
Hey, all. Brandon Sanderson here. It's been a while since I did my first /r/fantasy AMA, and so I'm back for more punishment...er...questions.
I will answer pretty much anything, though you might want to check out the first AMA to see if your question has already been asked. Feel free to ask spoiler questions, particularly about A Memory of Light, but do use Spoiler tags (see the bottom right) to keep from ruining the book for others.
That should be everything! I'll be answering questions all day, really, rather than being back at a specific time. Oh, I almost forgot. I need to post some proof. There, that should make it very clear this is really me.
Hey there Brandon, thanks for doing another AMA!
Unpublished authors are often told that agents and publishers won't even look at a debut novel longer than 150k words. Your debut, Elantris, was considerably longer than that. How did you get your foot in the door? Was it just a query letter, or did you pitch the novel to someone at a convention/conference? If the former, would you mind sharing that query synopsis with us?
I pitched it at a convention. (World Fantasy Convention, which was in Montreal that year.) WFC does still tend to be one of the best places to meet editors/agents if you're interested in publishing with a mainstream publisher.
Elantris was 250k words, and I had a real rough time getting my foot in the door with it. The editor I met there let me pitch to him after we had a nice long conversation about the authors he was working on at the moment. Dan Wells, who was with me, also pitched and sent his book. His got read far more quickly than mine did. (His was far shorter.)
I waited eighteen months for a reply—so long, that I'd given up on the book. The editor said that every time he sat down to read slush, that enormous book intimidated him, so he picked something shorter to read. When he finally read Elantris, he only got two chapters in before he wanted to buy it—which is nice.
Editors have a love/hate relationship with huge books like this. The big ones do tend to drive the epic fantasy market, but they're more expensive to produce than the short ones, and therefore more risky to take a chance on. I would never suggest writing your books shorter than you feel is the right length, but do realize that both readers and editors will cock an eyebrow at you if the length goes too long. They expect more payoff for the increased size.
Digital formats, fortunately, are helping change this perception. Size (either direction) is no longer as limiting as it once was.
Thanks for the reply! I was actually at WFC this past year and you gave me great advice about going to the room parties. It was definitely an experience.
I waited eighteen months for a reply—so long, that I'd given up on the book.
You have no idea how much a relief it is to hear you say that. Thank you. Currently playing the waiting game on a book I submitted, and I was getting worried. But knowing that it took so long for someone to get back to you and that the answer was in the positive put my mind at rest a little.Thanks again, look forward to seeing you in Connecticut in July!
It's perfectly acceptable to send a polite email to an editor if they've had your book for a long time. Just say that you're curious if it's still being considered, or if there's a chance it has been lost. (Usually, six months is the time to send this.)
What does pitching a book look like? I'm familiar with how that would work in the movie business, but I'd never considered it in the publishing realm.
P.S. love all of your books.
Usually, this is the two or three sentence explanation of a book you'd put in a query letter. It focuses on one idea in the book, kind of the 'concept." Not that different from a Hollywood pitch, only a little less...uh...Hollywood.
For Elantris it was something like "The Prince of a kingdom catches a terrible magical disease, and is locked away in a prison city with everyone else who has the disease. He works to bring unity, hope, and perhaps a cure to the city."
It depends on if you count the vague 'science' of a soft science fiction as magic. If you look at something like "Firstborn" or Legion, there are only faint magical elements. However, since I'm not a hard SF writer, they are there.
I'd say that once in a while, I feel myself wanting to write something along those lines—but I've never had an idea that wasn't at least marginally sf/f that screamed at me to write it. What can I say? It is the wonder and the imagination of sf/f that made me into a reader in the first place. Whatever idea I come up with, I find that adding some speculative fiction elements makes me more excited about it.
I have always been impressed by masterworks like those done by King/Asimov, weaving multiple works by one author together into a single continuity. I felt that most authors who have done it didn't have the chance to start from the beginning intending to combine worlds. It is something that they decided upon after the fact. So, I thought I'd give it a try from book one.
I love stand alone novels, but I also love big epics. This was a way to let me have both at the same time with some of my works. And so, Hoid was born as a character plotting behind the scenes of my novels, connecting them together into a larger tapestry.
Have you ever felt constrained by this commitment to consistency across the Cosmere, or does it amount to "limitations are more interesting than powers" as applies to own options as an author?
I feel it has always helped. If an idea doesn't fit into the limitations, I simply move it to a non-Cosmere story instead.
I don't think it's necessary at all. The writer's own fascinations—whatever they are—can add to the writing experience. But yes, some philosophical ideas worked into my fiction. Plato's theory of the forms has always fascinated, and so the idea of a physical/cognitive/spiritual realm is certainly a product of this. Human perception of ideals has a lot to do with the cognitive realm, and a true ideal has a lot to do with the spiritual realm.
As for more examples, they're spread through my fiction. Spinoza is in there a lot, and Jung has a lot to do with the idea of spiritual connectivity (and how the Parshendi can all sing the same songs.)
Not completely sure where Spinoza comes in. I guess the shards are part of the natural world and have no personality without a human wielder.
Yes on Spinoza there, and also the idea of God being in everything, and everything of one substance. Unifying laws. Those sorts of things. (Less his determinism, though.)
The southern continent is where people have discovered how to harness the metallurgic arts in a more mechanical method. (I've hinted several places that this is possible. I've been holding off doing it until we go here.)
Ooh, cool, ferugolems? Do you have any hints for us where we should look for these hints of how you can use it in a mechanical fashion? I haven't reread the Mistborn books in a while.
The hints are things I've said in interviews, not so much in the stories. (Sorry for not being clear about this.)
About the southern continent, would it be possible for other Scadrians to discover this method of using the Metallic Arts, or is it unique to the southern Scadrians?
It is technology-based rather than genetics based.
There are connections in the things you mentioned above, though I don't want to speak of specifics yet for risk of spoiling future revelations.
As for blurring the line between what makes sense and what is fun...I err on the side of the fun. However, part of my meticulous planning is about how to make the fun make sense. I feel that is part of what makes this genre interesting. I decided I wanted to do a story about the Knights Radiant, with the Plate and Blades. From there, I spent a long time thinking about what would make those kinds of weapons reasonable and important to a society.
You can do anything, but do try to focus on laying your groundwork and being consistent.
Wow. Lots. I doubt many of these are truly underrated on a place like /r/fantasy, but they sometimes don't get the sales I feel they deserve. Guy Gavrial Kay is one of these. (He has a new book out, and did an AMA recently.) You're probably familiar with him, but I would put him and Pratchett as the best two things in fantasy right now.
Melanie Rawn's sunrunner books are some of my classic favorites, and not as well known by many modern readers.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and its sequels are just plain awesome.
Daniel Abraham's works are very good. He's more well known now than he once was.
Hi, Brian. Good luck with the book launch!
I write about 2,500 words a day, writing at around 500 words an hour. My production is more about being consistent than about being fast. I do tend to write around ten hours a day. Don't know if I have any tips other than to perhaps turn off the internet or go outside and write for a while.
EDIT: Posted a little bit of clarity on the 2,500 words a day, and what I do with the rest of the time, below.
If you write about 500 words an hour and write for 10 hours a day? Isn't that 5000 words a day?
I see that doing good at math isn't very important as an author. ^ ^
Ha. I should have been clear. You're absolutely right to point this out.
I spend a large amount of time each day answering email, working on the wiki for my worlds, planning new books, and revising. Many days, I actually do around 3500 words, but the average tends to be closer to 2500 or even 2000 once editing and everything is factored in.
I wish I could answer this first one in a specific way. I think both are certainly a factor. In my class, people come through with immediate talent—but, then, those also tend to be the ones who have practiced writing the most.
I would say that the nurture part is the most important part for the vast majority of us. However, there are savants who just HIT it their first try.
Yes. I will use music to inspire me if I'm having a hard time or need a specific punch. Other times, I generally just have Pandora going on a station with lots of classical and electronica. I'm a huge fan of Daft Punk, however, and will use Alive (the live album) to get me in the right mood for some scenes. Soundtracks are great too. Anything by Michael Kamen can usually get me into the right mood for writing. Harry Gregson-Williams is another go-to composer for me.
Oh, and I almost forgot. I love OC Remixes as well. I tend to listen to a lot of them while planning stories while I run on an exercise Machine. One of my favorites is here.
Boy...favorite scene? That's going to be tough, as anything about my books plays into the "which of your children do you like the most" mentality that authors have. It's hard to choose.
I would say either Raoden finally gaining his Elantrian powers at the end of Elantris, since it was the first scene like that I ever managed to pull off in a book, or the final Lan/Demandred sequence at the end of A Memory of Light. I had planned that one for five years, and was pushing toward it all through my work on the Wheel of Time.
My favorite way to unwind is to gather together seven friends, and draft some Magic the Gathering. My personal nerd obsession.
Favorite set to draft?
Lately, Innistrad. Historically...original Ravnica block, I think. Hard to say.
Also love cubing.
My friends have built a cube with really high power density. It's just a blast to draft fresh and build a new singleton deck each time your play, isn't it?
It's awesome. I don't know why it took me so long to come around to trying it.
I get this question on occasion, and always feel the best thing for me to do is emphasize that I prefer you to buy the format that makes you the most happy. That way, you are encouraged to keep reading, and that is really what is best for me.
Most authors makes something around the following:
Hardcover, 15% of cover. (Regardless of store, unless it's a bargain book.)
Paperback, 8% of cover. (Regardless of venue.)
Ebook, 17.5% of the list price. (Unless they are self-published, and then it's usually 65-70% of list price.)
So, the best way to get money to an author is to buy the hardcover, preferably during launch week. (That influences how high the book gets on bestseller lists and how much in-store support it gets.)
However, I don't think that is something a reader needs to worry too much about. To be honest, rather than thinking about this, I think most authors would say that the best thing you can do for us is just read the books. Second best is to loan your copies to a friend so they can enjoy the books too.
With these percentages, were you then sharing/splitting it with the Robert Jordan estate for the Wheel of Time books?
Can I just send you money?
I suppose you could—but I'd rather you buy a copy of one of my books and give it to someone. If I have you send me money, then we work around all of the people who deserve their share for helping me out. (Like my agent and editor.)
Risky question time! How do you feel about those of us that buy your hardcover, then go and pirate the ebook?
* This comment is not an admission of guilt.
Risky answer time. I've got no problem with it. I wish I could actively give away the ebook to everyone who bought the hardcover. I can actually do this on books like Legion and The Emperor's Soul, where I retain rights to the ebook. (So I do.)
I'm not encouraging this, mind you. But I'm also not going to complain or make anyone feel guilty. If you've paid for the content once, I feel you should have access to it into the future, whenever you want, in any format you want. (With the exception being audiobook, where the voice actors deserve to be paid for their work above and beyond me getting paid for the writing.)
What about with audiobooks? I subscribe to Audible and I can't help notice the price I pay for my subscription makes the books I get a steal compared to buying them without subscription or buying actual discs. How does that work out for the authors?
Audible has done wonderful things for the audiobook market, helping the format gain a lot of popularity. But their prices ARE rock bottom. I don't know off-hand how much we make. I don't mind, however, because audiobooks in the past were so horribly expensive.
Ha. Honestly, I'd be an AWFUL replacement for Mister Martin. My writing style is very different from his.
Let's just wish him to be in the best of health so he can continue to write the story that so many people love.
My favorite part of the Mistborn trilogy was Sazed and his scholarly work. I really liked how you described the motivations behind and the methods used in his analyses of religious doctrines. It seemed like you took a lot of care in writing about his quest.
Was Sazed's search inspired by any sort of scholarly work you've done, on religion or otherwise?
Yes, it was, though his sequence in the third was one of the most difficult to get right in any book I've written. Originally, I wrote it as him having already come to the conclusion he does near the end—that all religion is false—and that left him wallowing about in a depressive funk through most of the book. This was just horribly boring to read, and it was only through revision that I decided to show his quest.
I am a religious person, and have spent a lot of time thinking, questioning, and deciding what I believe and why. I don't think questions like these are easy ones to answer, and anything that is difficult is prime material for storytelling in my mind. Writing Sazed was an exploration for me as much as it was an exploration for the character.
If you had a time machine, where would you travel to?
Learn Hebrew. Go listen to Jesus. Get free bread and fish. After that, forward in time to get myself a flying car.
Not to be "That Guy" (as I am also a fan of your works), but Jesus likely spoke Aramaic.
Ha. Well, that's probably the language of his sermons, so I guess I would need that one too. And probably Greek, just to be careful.
Man. Owning a time machine is tough work.
For an architect, should a book be written as a complete work, which you then break into chapters? Or should I be focusing on writing chapter by chapter from the start?
Also, what order should revision be done in, what do you work on first? Punctuation and grammar, trimming, pacing, characters? What do you find usually gives the biggest pay-off first?
1) Both methods have worked for me in the past, so I don't know if there is a "Should" here. I think that early on, visualizing the book as a sequence of chapters which achieve certain goals is a useful way to finish your first few novels. It helps with the step-by-step method of getting it done. I use something more organic now, however.
2) My method is this:
Revision One: Fix continuity, big problems.
Revision Two: Make the language more active, get rid of repetition.
Revision Three: Fix problems mentioned by alpha readers (so long as I agree with them.)
Revision Four: Cut 15%
Revisions 5-7: Beta reader issues, more editorial fixes, more of all above.
However, in those early chapters, the biggest payoff is going to come from making certain character voice is solid and that the language isn't dull. (Trim info-dumps, get rid of passive constructions, that sort of thing.)
Well, it would be tough—I'd have to decide if I wanted the party to be crazy, interesting, or low risk.
For example, inviting Hoid and Kelsier to the same party could result in murdering. Having Sazed around with someone like Jasnah would lead to some great discussions of philosophy.
In the end, I'd probably pick the core WoT cast, just because they've been my friends for so long. Longer than anyone other than Wit and Dalinar, actually. So Perrin, Rand, Mat, Egwene, Nynaeve, and Thom. Fourth book era.
Wait—are you implying Hoid and Kelsier would want to murder each other, or that they would team up to murder other people?
Hoid and Kelsier do not get along. At all.
Book two has been renamed Words of Radiance, as it's Shallan's book. Dalinar's book will be Book Five. (Though I haven't promised he will survive that long. I reserve the right to do flashbacks for someone in a book after they have died.)
It WILL be Dalinar's book, however, not one of his sons.
Late 2013 is still possible. I'm about 2/3 of the way done.
This is a difficult question to answer in the space given. I'm going to assume you've read Sanderson's First Law and Sanderson's Second Law, the rules I place upon myself in writing magic systems. I assume you've also watched the lectures on the topic.
I'll just answer the second part of your question, then, and leave the above to answer the more general "What is your process?"
Every bit you add to magic's cohesiveness does take away from its sense of wonder somewhat. It's a trade off. However, it doesn't have to steal everything. Letting characters be able to use the magic, but leaving them without understanding the WHY it all works is part of this. (Better if you know why and can start dropping hints.)
There will always be mystery in the world to a character with an inquisitive nature. If they are asking questions, wondering, striving to learn and explore, you will have wonder in your books.
I do wish I'd managed to either get it all into one book, or managed the split between The Gathering Storm/Towers of Midnight better. Also, I might have tried to work Fain in more if I'd had more time. Also, there are some little continuity errors here and there that I wish I would have caught.
It's hard to say. For example, would I have written Mat differently in The Gathering Storm if I'd had the time? Perhaps. But it was writing Mat the way I did that helped me understand him, so perhaps not. There are mistakes in the books I did, as there are in all the books I've done, but I'm not sure if the right thing to do is change them. Otherwise, we get into a Lucas-style revision-fest.
Given how George R.R. Martin got Game of Thrones to come out on a TV format, if you had to choose one of your series to receive a similar exposure to television, which would you choose and why?
(For fanboy's sake I'll also include the option for Wheel of Time, R.I.P. Robert Jordan)
I would most certainly pick the Wheel of Time. I've been very straightforward with Universal in stating my preference that WoT be adapted for television, as opposed to the big screen. Both could be awesome, but I think the long form of a season would be better for the books.
After WoT, I'd pick Legion, which I envisioned as a show even as I wrote it.
I see having the WOT becoming a series would be awesome if it is taken care of, for example the The song of Fire and Ice series on HBO. It would be unfair to Robert Jordan if it turns out like The Sword of Truth series did in the form of Legend of the Seeker.
Yeah, that's the danger with the TV series route. I certainly wouldn't want to see that happen.
I recently picked up the Mistborn Adventure game and am loving it. I made a character who is a blind Mistborn because hey, I thought it would make for some interesting possibilities. As I understand Allomancy, he can hear/sense well enough to get around with Tin, plus even though he's blind he can still "see" Steel lines (like the inquisitors), and I assume Atium would work the same way—that is, he could still "see" Atium shadows. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
No, you're right. That works. He'd have to burn metals a LOT though. It might warp him a little. :)
The metal that's stumping me is Gold—what happens when a blind person burns Gold—especially if he "sees" a version of himself that isn't blind? Can he see the other version or just hear/feel/sense him? What about the other version, can it see things? Could a blind person use gold in this way to see the world around him?
A blind person would indeed sense these things, but not have the vision with the eyes. In the same way that a blind person still dreams, but doesn't "See" in them. (As I understand it.) I'd suggest talking to someone who is blind and getting their take on how this would work.
Anything infused (regardless of the world or magic that infused it) is resistant to magic. So you'd have a lot of trouble pushing or pulling on a spike, unless you had access to a boost of some sort to overcome the resistance.
So, Nightblade would be resistant to steelpushing? Good to know ;-)
My friend and I asked him something like this at a book signing, but for some reason it never seemed to make it onto 17th Shard. We asked if a shardblade or Nightblood could be used as a hemalurgic spike (i.e.: two different investitures of magic). Brandon said that yes, in theory you could do that, but objects have a limit to how much investiture they can hold, and that it could be argued that things like Nightblood and Shardblades are already "full."
He is from Roshar.
Has Hoid taken him to other worlds?
No, Sig hasn't visited any other worlds.
If Odium were lured to Scadrial, would his physical body turn into a burnable metal? If so, could Harmony create an Odium-metal legion of Mistings to consume and burn it? Would that weaken him sufficiently enough to be killed or destroyed?
The difficulty here is, again, one of Identity. People born on Scadrial have an Identity tied to it and its magic. Odium would have to do certain things to make them able to use a magic he fuels. He has done these things on Roshar, so it's not impossible for him to manage it on Scadrial.
Can any person absorb a shard? Or do they have to be somewhat "magical"? (Like Vin and Sazed)
One does not have to be somewhat magical, so to speak, but it does help.
Can someone use their native world's magic system on a different planet? (Ex. Would Galladon be able to use Aons on Roshar?)
Plausible. Certain things would need to be done.
Were any of the other magic systems of Sel affected by the fall of Elantris, such as soulforging?
Finally, when am I allowed to start telling everyone about what happens in Steelheart? (That one's a joke!)Thanks again and happy writing!
When it's out!
Was the Lord Ruler using feruchemy + alchemy to soothe all of the people around him? Or was he, as I like to think, flaring for so long that he became a Soother Savant?
He lived long enough and used his metals enough (particularly Soothing) to become nearly a savant in every area, if not a full savant.
Are all wind spren really just unbonded honor spren?
No, they are cousins to one another, but not exactly the same thing.
Any updates on the Mistborn video game or movie?
Movie I mentioned earlier. Video game has been moved to Next Gen, so next fall. (Hopefully.)
If you had to pick one of your worlds to live on, which would it be and why?
Probably Scadrial. Allomancy would be my chosen magic, and the technological progress appeals to me.
Would you ever expand on The Alloy of Law? I loved the ending, it made me want even more.
Speaking of Alloy of Law... To me it felt paced like a good movie. I feel like it would make a super fun movie. Just wanted to say that.
Keep being awesome!
Ooh! I can answer this one. The sequel to Alloy of Law is called Shadows of Self. As far as I know, there hasn't been a date specified on when it'll come out since it's unwritten, but the best fan guess is sometime in 2014.
I agree on the movie thing. It's like Lethal Weapon with allomancers.
As the other person wrote, I will be doing more. Thanks for reading!
Are you planning on putting together a Cosmere bible at any point? I've fallen down the 17th shard/Coppermind wiki rabbit hole so many times it's not even funny, so I for one would love to have a book with all the bits and pieces laid out eventually.
Perhaps. But not for a while.
Just wanted you to know you nearly gave me a heart attack with your April Fools' prank this year. Thanks for doing the AmA!
:) I almost did something like post, "Seventeen new Wheel of Time novels announced!" But that felt TOO cruel. Also, I didn't want to be getting hundreds of questions about it for the next two decades...
Could someone fill me in? I somehow missed it. :(
Here you are!
Are shardblades Splinters? If not, are they related to Shards in some other way?
RAFO. More to come.
Are Splinters primarily Spiritual?
Less physical. More a blend of the other two.
Is the risk of Vasher dying from wielding Nightblood unsheathed too long because Nightblood would consume his divine Breath or does that also extend to those who are not Returned?
Yes, and yes, it does apply to others.
Obviously, taking on the Wheel of Time was a massive task. How do you feel now it's over? Relieved to return to your 'own' work full time, sad it's done? A bit of both maybe?
Yes, most certainly both.
The initial plan for Mistborn was three trilogies, with Alloy of Law being a spin off. With Alloy getting a sequel, has the Waxillium portion become the second trilogy?
No. The second trilogy will still happen. (As will more Wax books.)
Given the planned length of the Stormlight Archive, is the Mistborn trilogies plan still in place at all?
Yes. Second trilogy will probably be written after Stormlight 5.
Are you secretly a robot? Your rate of output is incredible, and what I've read has all been excellent quality. If you're not a robot, do you have a particular secret to it? I manage 500-1000 words a day, but it never feels like enough.
500-1000 words a day is perfectly reasonable. I do on average 2,500—and that is after twenty years of practice, not to mention being able to do this full time. If you can do 500 words a day five days a week, that's a novel every year. Don't feel this is a bad rate. Keep at it.
Do you ever see yourself writing in genres other than sf/f?
Eh...not likely. I like what I do too much. Maybe some light sf thrillers, a la Jurassic Park.
Do you feel your Mormonism is ever at odds with some of the hivemind aspects of Reddit? For example, Orson Scott Card is particularly reviled around here, though more for his personal views on what many consider to be a societal issue rather than a religious one.
I mostly hang out in places like /r/fantasy, /r/askhistorians, and /r/magicTCG. Things like foodforthought and truereddit also interest me. The smaller subreddits are a wonderful thing.
At times, I feel at odds with what I'm reading—which is just fine. If I only ever read things that are what I would say, I'm not learning anything new. Now, sometimes when you combine large groups and anonymity, you get some pretty caustic interactions. I avoid those. I don't feel reddit is any worse or better in this regard than other websites. But, then, I have RES and actively use it to manage things, so perhaps I don't see much of the worst of it.
How do you feel about modern fantasy? I'm not sure if it's down to religion, but I've noticed you never write sex, and thought you have action, it's never crossed into what I consider to be gory. Do you feel fantasy is going too far down the 'realistic grimdark' route?
I do prefer to both read and write things that are more reserved in these areas. What I like about fantasy, however, is that it is a very broad and expansive genre. It has room in it for everything. Some of these people are fantastic writers. For my own writing, I feel that I can both tackle interesting and complex issues while writing works that do not include graphic content. It is a personal decision, and an intentional one.
I know your Mormon faith is very important to you. In a lot of your books, religion plays a major role in the story. How important is it to you to include religion in your stories? Do you ever try to subtly influence your readers views on religion through your writing?
I tend to write about things that interest me. My religion is important to me, and so religion in general fascinates me. I find myself including it not as a requirement, but as an aspect of what I find interesting.
As nothing bothers me more than reading a book in which the person who believes like me is treated like an idiot, I try to be aware of peoples beliefs (or lack thereof) and explore the issue in multiple dimensions.
My intention in writing stories it to write great stories. Who I am, and what I find moral, is going to seep into it—I don't know that I'd want to stop that. However, I'm not trying to influence people specifically. I do try to present interesting ideas, but I let those be driven by the characters.
This is actually a harder question to answer than, at times, I've realized. I feel that people are given talents to enrich the lives of those around them, and I feel our job as people on this earth is to do our best to make life better for everyone involved. Can fantasy stories do that? I hope so. But I don't sit down to say "What am I going to teach people today?" I sit down and write, "What can I do that is awesome."
I guess I hope that increasing the awesomeness in the world will make people's lives better.
Hello, Mr. Sanderson. This may sound like a strange question, but in Russian WoT-fandom we have a lot of heated debates about it. Some people think "Rand trying to kill Tam"—is part of Cadsuane's Plan. So, [was the] meeting with Tam in tGS:47 planned to "soften" Rand or to purposely provoke him (by mention of Cadsuane's name) and cause emotional outburst that had led him to catharsis after all?
Cadsuane did not expect what happened to happen.
At what point did Rand begin planning his fake death? At least in Towers of Midnight or in A Memory of Light timeline?
He never planned to. It was a matter of opportunity.
Could you explain what the deal is with the Great Serpent? I was half-expecting it to appear in the middle of the big showdown at the end of A Memory of Light. Is it just a different metaphor for the Wheel?
Did we ever meet the Creator in the series? If so, who?
I'll preface this with a warning. Even though the series is done, and I can speak more freely, some things are intended to be vague by RJ's own intention. This allows dreaming and thinking about the world to continue. For example, I can't answer question 2 for these reasons. For question one, I think RJ himself was vague. (Maybe a Theorylander can speak here.) This isn't one I'm capable of answering, because I don't want to make an answer canon one way or another, as I don't think RJ wanted that.
If we get enough donations to bribe you with the Power Nine, would you write an outtake for the scene between Tuon and Hawkwing? I loved A Memory of Light, but I really wanted to see that scene. =)
I really, really want to avoid writing any more WoT fiction—even for fun or as an outtake. That's a slippery slope. I know you said this mostly in jest, but I want to be careful on this one.
Why is the Old Tongue always the same Old Tongue? Shouldn't some of Mat's previous lives speak Old Old Tongue? Or Old Old Old Tongue?
I've envisioned it as the Old Tongue being a kind of 'perfect' language, so to speak. An ideal language that goes beyond simple language development. When Mat speaks it, he's tapping into something greater than himself. This is my personal feeling, however, as the notes do not answer this question.
If people can be removed from the Wheel by dying in the Wolf Dream or the Dream World when they're there in person, how is it that there are any people left, if there's been an infinite number of turns of the Wheel?
They actually can't. That only works on wolves, regardless of what some people think in-world. I thought like you do, but Maria was quite firm that RJ said it couldn't happen, even in the World of Dreams. (Or even with balefire—which I thought would also remove people. Maria explained that I was wrong, and RJ was firm on this one too.)
Is Legion part of your Cosmere multiverse?
Legion is not Cosmere. (Earth isn't part of it.)
Before Adonalsium shattered, was it consciously opposed by something, be it people or another cosmic force? Is whatever opposed it still around?
Several times in Way of Kings, you have characters think of the Shin as having big or round eyes. Do the Shin really have giant eyes, or do all the other peoples of Roshar have an epicanthic fold on their eyes?
It seemed to me that this was very similar to how characters in second world fantasies, like Faile in Wheel of Time, are designated as "Asian" even though there is no Asia in the book. Is this a subversion of that? Are the Shin the only people on Roshar who look Western European?
You are right, actually. Normal eyes on Roshar are those with an epicanthic fold. The Shin do not have this. Note, however, that they wouldn't look "Western European." Roshar races are fairly far off from what we imagine as Earth ones. The people most likely to look Western European to you would be those from Mistborn.
I don't really have a question, I just want to say that the twist at the end of Well of Ascension absolutely blew my mind.
I specifically remember when Sazed noticed the Holy First Witness in the prophecy, I was surprised I hadn't made that connection myself since I remember the prophecy so well. Then I get to the end where we learn about Ruin altering text, and thought that was an amazing plot twist, and I started wondering if you'd been altering the text in the passages at the beginning of chapters, since some of them were repeated a few times. THEN I suddenly remembered that the text originally referred to the Announcer, not the Holy First Witness, and . . . my mind was blown. That was one of the coolest things I've ever experienced in any fiction I've read.
Thanks! I worked quite a lot on that one. Glad to see it worked for you.
How old is Hoid? Or better yet (to avoid any trickiness), how many years has he lived through?
He's been alive since Dragonsteel. However, he may not have spent all of that time awake and alert.
I remember reading you answer earlier that a person being used to charge a hemalurgic spike does not necessarily have to die. Would that victim be similar to a Drab from Warbreaker?
Well, making a spike rips off a piece of someone's soul. So...yeah. I'd need to see my exact quote from before, but let's say it's not going to leave a person in good shape.
Another hemalurgy question: Is it possible to steal more than just spiritual DNA with hemalurgy? If you, say, infused someone with a hundred hemalurgic spikes charged from people who liked chicken, would the spike person enjoy chicken as well?
You can steal quite a lot with Hemalurgy. Anything encoded on a person's soul, really. Not sure if chicken liking counts, though...
Is Kaladin naturally stronger than Szeth in using Stormlight? Szeth can only hold onto it for a few minutes, but Kaladin has been shown to hold onto it for much longer. Or does it have to do with Kaladin having a spren?
Ah, so you all noticed that, did you. :) Glad you did. I have like a dozen things I nearly posted here, but all of them spoil a scene in Words of Radiance. So I'll just zip it for now.
If someone broke a coppermind, could the feruchemist still access a fragment of the information in it from a chunk of the coppermind, or would he require that the whole thing be reformed to access any of its storage?
The information would be fragmented.
Will there be Wheel of Time unlimited leatherbound editions?
I'm pushing for them. I don't know if it will happen or not.
How have Eye of the World/Mistborn sales been ever since Game of Thrones hit it big? Has the interest in Game of Thrones garnered more exposure of the fantasy genre?
It's hard for me to answer this one because there are too many factors influencing my sales right now. New Wheel of Time books, for example. You'd be better finding if something that has been out for a while, but hasn't had new books in a little while, has done better. (Maybe something like the Belgariad or Thomas Covenant.)
There's a number of your early works like White Sand and Dragonsteel which haven't actually been published. What's your take on them? Will they eventually be published? Are they fine to read, or are they effectively spoilers for plot elements you might reuse in other books.
White Sand is fine to read—it is part of the shared universe of my books, and I will eventually be writing it. It's not a terrible book, but not fantastic either. If you email me, I'll send it to you. Dragonsteel, however, has some major spoilers for various books, and I prefer not to send that one to people quite yet.
Now that you're done with the Wheel of Time series, could you update us on your writing plans going forward? I know about the three books coming out this year, but it would be great to see what your thoughts are on the multi-year plan, including the scifi Mistborn trilogy. Are there any plans for sequels to Rithmatist or Steelheart?
Current plans are as follows:
2013: Rithmatist, Steelheart, Words of Radiance
2014: Shadows of Self, Steelheart 2
2015: Stormlight 3, Rithmatist 2
Usually, in the past, I've done one smaller book and one larger book a year. This is what I'd like to get back to doing. (As opposed to last year and this year—where last year had no novels, and this year has four, including A Memory of Light.)
I have a technical question here re: gemstones in The Stormlight Archive. How are the lines drawn between different types of gems? Emerald and Heliodor are both varieties of the mineral beryl. Emerald can get its color from trace amounts of chromium, vanadium and/or iron. Heliodor gets its color from iron combined with microscopic crystal defects. So, is the line between these two defined by color? If so, would a heliodor lose its usefulness if it were heated (which would turn it colorless or pale blue). Is it defined by trace elements—in which case, how do you deal with emeralds, or with aquamarine (the blue variety of beryl, which can also contain chromium or vanadium in small quantities and is mostly colored by iron)? Sorry for getting so technical, but this gem nerd needs to know!
I actually spent a long time working on this while building the world. You'd probably be amused by how long I spent on it. Chemically, many of them are actually very similar, as you pointed out. I tried doing the book originally with them all being different, not using any that were basically the same crystal with different colors, but it didn't work out. There weren't enough, and so I had to stretch to make it all work.
So, I went back to the original, and decided that color was enough to differentiate them. Just as steel and iron are very similar in the Mistborn world, emerald and heliodor can be very similar—but produce different effects. The idea here is that the physical items (like the metals or the crystals) provide a key by which magical interaction occurs.
So, in a long winded answer, a gemstone with an impure color would be considered like a bad alloy in the Mistborn magic—it either wouldn't work at all, or would work very poorly. The chemical and color signature needs to be of a specific variety to provide the proper key to accessing the power of transformation.
Hey Brandon! Have you ever been in a fist fight?
Only a couple of times, both as a young man. Neither lasted beyond one or two fists being thrown in a very childish way. Almost more like slap-fests; not particularly manly.
The Flame of Tar Valon—what does it do other than shore up the Pattern? Does it have effects also opposite to balefire? Was the weave related to the weave that Rand used to seek out Shadowspawn in The Dragon Reborn?
This is left for your consideration and discussion for now.
So all the Forsaken pretty much ended up helping the Light win by accident. Is that the Pattern's design?
Well, this question is loaded with some issues. First off, there's the concept of the Pattern. Does it have a will? The Wheel does the weaving. The Pattern more IS...but some quotes in the books do ascribe small motives to it. This doesn't even get into the idea of whether what the characters believe is true or if it is simply their way of understanding.
Let's put it at this...Moiraine would say that the Wheel has woven what it Willed, and men beating against it only served to more surely enmesh them into their places.
What was your favorite bit of A Memory of Light to write?
I wondered particularly about, in the epilogue, Alivia leaving the supplies for the body-swapped Rand. I honestly had to go look up Alivia as a refresher upon seeing her name; was she included from Robert Jordan's draft, and if so, do you think he envisioned more involvement from her throughout A Memory of Light?
That scene was indeed one of the ones that Robert Jordan wrote before he passed away, and was include as is. He MIGHT have included her a tad more in other scenes, but the notes were blank on her save for this last scene, so I don't know. I know for certain that her helping Rand to die meant only leaving the items for him. It was a very small thing that fandom (perhaps by RJ's design) blew up into something much larger. The characters did too, to an extent.
I've got a non-Brandon-specific question. I just happened to think about one thing about authors: When do you decide if the character is male or female?
1. Did it happen to one of your characters that you changed the gender pretty late?
2. What is important when choosing the gender?
3. So why did you make Vin female and not male, for example? Is it much easier to write a male character as a male?
Personally, I don't like books where a woman is very physically strong. I don't know, I'm strange. gotta admit I stopped reading Mistborn after the first book due to it. As I said, I'm strange...Still love your books and I never was looking forward to a book as much as I am looking for followup of Way of Kings. (Not even Harry Potter LOL!)
1. Vin, in Mistborn, started as a boy. I wrote about one chapter of Mistborn with her as a guy, then changed. However, another character by that name had existed in one of my unpublished books as a boy.
2. This is hard to answer, as characters are very organic things for me. I don't plan them nearly as much as I do plots or settings. I go with my gut when writing them. I can't say why some "feel" right as male and other "feel" right as female. I write it and see if it works. If their voice is right, I go with it.
3. As mentioned, Vin swapped genders. It had to do with my writing instincts, her dynamic with the other characters, her backstory, and just WHO she is. I'm sorry that I'm not being very specific. Characters are hard to explain.
Hey Brandon once upon a time you posted Final Fantasy X song "To Zarkanad" on your Facebook page and said it was perfect for the scene you were writing in A Memory of Light, so tell me if you remember which scene was that?
It was the last few scenes I was working on, Perrin after the Last Battle and a few of the Loial sequences in the epilogue, which were parts I had a hand in writing as opposed to putting in what RJ had written.
Thank you for doing this AMA, Mr. Sanderson! You're a huge inspiration to me and, though you may not remember me, I met you in Portland on your AMOL tour a few months ago. I had mentioned that I had been working on my book and you told me to listen to your podcast and that there was no excuse not to write! I've taken that to heart and have been writing my fingers off ever since.
But what I've found is that I've been written pages and pages of history about the world that I'm creating as a sort of encyclopedia for myself. My question is thus:
When preparing to write a book, how do go about world building? Do you have everything in mind from the start and just work from there, or do you write everything out to use as a reference later?
I feel like I'm doing too much work on building the history, and not enough time writing the actual story. Therefore my question. Thank you for any response you give!
I am the type that likes to do a lot of worldbuilding ahead of time, before writing. However, I feel it is easy to go too far in this regard. I usually give myself a set amount of time to spend planning a story, then I need to start writing. (At least a few chapters.) By writing some of the book, I can get a better idea of how much worldbuilding I'll need, and which areas need the most work.
One thing to keep in mind is that great worldbuilding is usually that which intersects with character interests and conflicts. Having your history in line can help the world feel rich—but it can also distract if you spend too much time in the book giving dumps of information about historical events that don't have any bearing on the current characters or conflicts.
You don't need to have everything in place before you start. You can always add more as you go. Focus your attention on those aspects of worldbuilding that will help the story be better. Worldbuild religions if those are important to the story; otherwise, spend a shorter amount of time planning them. Same for languages, history, governments, and all the other things you can do.
At some point, you need to start writing. Err on the side of not enough worldbuilding. You can fill more in later.
Hello Mr. Sanderson, I have a question about bendalloy bubbles—what happens to a human that is partially in and partially out of the bubble when it's placed? Does the difference in the flow of time kill him?
And, if yes, is the boundary of active bendalloy bubble effectively impassable for living organisms? I get that bullets shot out of the bubble randomly change directions, but what happens to, let's say, a person trying to jump out of the bubble (or, given enough time, a person trying to get inside)?
Any living thing touching the bubble is affected by the bubble.
When you were working on A Memory of Light, I know Mr. Jordan had the fates of most, if not all of the characters written down. Were there any characters where you got to decide the fate of, either in A Memory of Light or the previous two books?
Yes, there were some. For example, Pevara's fate isn't mentioned in the notes, which is why I felt all right co-opting her for the Black Tower storyline, which was mostly mine. Siuan's fate wasn't mentioned in the notes, save for the rescue of Egwene from the White Tower. Harriet made the decision on how her story was to play out.
What was your favorite scene in any of your published books that you had to eventually cut from the book?
Perrin traveling the Ways in A Memory of Light.
What?! Can you tell us about that scene? This is the first I've heard of it. That sounds awesome.
Perrin gathered a team and traveled the Ways in order to try to close the Waygate in Camelyn from behind. It was determined that this section, among having other issues, was not needed for the final book and was distracting from the momentum toward the Last Battle.
Why does Hoid want the Moon Scepter? Or was it just a convenient excuse to get Shai imprisoned?
He wanted it for more than just getting Shai in prison.
Shai refers to an Unknown God, is this at all related to the rocks that fell from the sky that Shai's ancestors carved?
For her people, there is a relationship. But watch for mentions of the God Beyond in the books. There is more here.
Why does Scadrial, which has two Shards, only have three manifestations of investiture, (Allomancy, Feruchemy, and Hemalurgy) but Sel, also with two Shards, has five manifestations of investiture (AonDor, Dakhor, ChayShan, Forgery, and Bloodsealing)?
Sel's magics are much more regionalized than Scadrial's. Each area has its own manifestation, but they're all actually the same magic. So really there is one magic on Sel—much as Windrunning and Lightweaving on Roshar are kind of different magics, but also kind of the same.
Are there any questions you wish someone would ask you?
Actually, people frequently ask me this, and I can never come up with anything. (Sorry.)
Is there anything in any of your books that, after the fact, you wish you had done differently?
Yes and no. For example, I think that some of the explanations in Elantris for how the magic works at the end are not terribly clear. However, at the same time, it is the process of making mistakes like this that helps us learn and evolve as writers. Beyond that, going back and changing a piece of art to be something else kind of defeats the point of creating different works of art as one changes as a person. So I don't know if I'd change the mistakes.
If you had to be a Misting, but got to pick your metal, what would you be?
In your opinion, which pony is best pony?
Bill the pony.
You're turning out often huge books with alarming regularity while still managing to make appearances, sign books, record a podcast, teach others, have a family, and possibly patrol the streets in costume by night. I feel accomplished if I manage to write a couple of thousand words and eat a solid meal in a day. Are you, in fact, a wizard?
YOU HAVE FOUND ME OUT!
Honestly, I just love what I do, so I find excuses to do it instead of other things. That's only secret there is to it. However, if you are doing a couple thousand words in a day, you're keeping up with me. Don't sweat it. Keep writing at your own pace, and enjoy the process.
For me, editing/redrafting is a vastly more intimidating process than writing the initial draft. I can recognize things that need to be altered or fixed, but once I begin that process, I feel that I have difficulty focusing the elements into a cohesive whole. How do you manage taming all the threads?
I keep telling myself that if I don't fix it in this draft, I can do another one, and that's okay. So narrowing down my drafting goals to something manageable each time helps a lot. Also, giving myself specific goals. If a character needs to be revised, I look for every scene with that character and make the revisions. I don't always read the whole book, I go and fix that character. Then, when I next read the book, I can watch for continuity with the fixes.
It doesn't need to be done all at once. Be like a sculptor, going through, slowly working the shape out of the stone pass by pass.
In the Mistborn Trilogy was one of the coolest twists I've ever come across, and foreshadowing is kind of a tightrope walk. If you don't point out Chekhov's gun often enough, it won't have impact when it's fired, but if you belabor it, it'll be too obvious that it's important (almost like watching an old cartoon where you could see which objects were going to be animated before the fact because they stood out so much against the static background), and the payoff won't be as satisfying. How do you determine exactly how much to emphasize foreshadowing?
For me, I use beta readers to help with this. They give me a read on when I'm being too heavy handed, and when I'm not being heavy handed enough.
I'm probably 80% architect and 20% gardener; I tend to make a lot of plans and know what my plots are leading up to, but I leave room to adjust along the way if my characters decide to take different paths to the end. When laying out your stories' structures, how much of each character's arc is planned, and how much arises organically?
I will often have the arc in mind from the start, after doing a few chapters to figure out the character. However, this is where I go gardener myself—and so I will just keep an eye on the character and see if they're becoming someone who would fulfill that arc, or if I need to revise my outline to fit the person they have become.
Hi I'm in love with the universe you have created, anyway you can make me a Mistborn in real life, or at least just a pewterarm. I know you are working on it, I'm not fooled. Kidding aside you made me get back into reading again with your awesome stories, thank you.
Enjoy. But please don't eat any metals that will make you sick just because I said it's a good idea...
Have you ever thought about a television/film/video game adaptation of the Mistborn series? I always thought that a television series would be great or a video game in which you could actually push/pull off metal within an open world. What are your feelings in general on adapting your/other's books for a different medium?
We're working on both a film and a video game for Mistborn. I think Mistborn would be better as a film, as opposed to a TV show, personally.
I've approached these things with optimism, but have tried to retain what rights and control I can to keep the adaptation from becoming a disaster.
In general as a writer how can one deal with their own self-doubt? I'm a fantasy writer, I've been writing for about 10 years. I think I'm not bad. But between depression and OCD I can't write more than a few sentences before stopping.
I have the worlds, the stories, the characters—but I need constant reassurance. I know this is in a large part OCD, that's how OCD works, but it still grabs me. I'm terrified of failing. But at the same time it's all I've ever wanted to really do.
I keep thinking if some famous author gave me the stamp of approval I'd be able to just write :P
I understand this is imposing terribly, but it does say AMA up top, I have ~2K of something written, I know you teach writing classes occasionally (watched your Youtube videos <3 ) a glance would make my day.
Man, depression and OCD are a rough mix, my friend. Fist bump for pressing through it.
This sample is good. You've got a distinct style and it practically drips from the page. The constant motion of the piece, the fluidity, was moving and engaging. Keep going.
How fast could a steel/steel Twinborn move?
You'd hit physical limits eventually. While the Metallurgic arts generally enhanced the body to deal with the powers granted, things like air resistance would hold you back—perhaps even kill you—if you weren't careful.
Any chance of seeing a zinc ferring computer hacker in a present-day Mistborn story? :)
Ha. That could be interesting.
Time...with all the different happenings across the Cosmere, is there a cross-book timeline available?
Timeline hasn't been made official yet. I'm planning to post one eventually.
When you took over writing the Wheel of Time series, was there anything that RJ had in his notes that just completely surprised you?
Hmm... The scene where Egwene gets a specific visitor in The Gathering Storm surprised me the most, I think. Also, at the end of Towers where Moiraine and Thom get engaged. I hadn't noticed how strong the clues about those two were.
How would you say doing Writing Excuses for all these years has impacted you as a writer? The content has impacted those who listen, but I'm curious what it's done for you going through all those discussions w/the rest of the crew.
It certainly has helped me work on the theory of the craft. Having to think through what I do and explain it, along with listening to people who do things differently, has helped me a great deal. Also, the brainstorming sessions we do are pure gold. Some of the most purely creative sessions in my life.
Mistborn didn't contain any explicit sexual themes but did have gore. I would have no trouble recommending it to a YA reader. Did you go about changing your style/tone/whatever for something like The Rithmatist that is geared more towards YA or is it mostly the same?
The whole YA movement is a difficult one to parse in sf/f. We have a grand history of books that might be packaged right now as YA. Would Shannara be YA if published today? What about the Belgariad? I think you could make arguments for both.
At the core of designing a story, I don't think about which audience it is for. I design something I think is interesting and fun. However, during the writing process, I think it is appropriate to consider audience. In a YA book, I will focus more on the younger protagonists and their viewpoints. I will also generally try to streamline the story—not dumbing it down, but keeping my attention on a more focused narrative.
Hi, I'm a male writer writing fantasy at the moment with a female perspective character. I'm having trouble with the tone whenever my character bumps up against barriers women have to deal with in my universe. I don't want to beat my audience over the head with gender issues or come off as preachy, especially as I'm still new to writing a female character.
My question is, when you were writing your female characters, especially Vin who jumped out at me as a natural but strong female protagonist in a male character dominated genre, did you find her voice came from your previous writing experience, or did you consult much with other authors and/or women you knew? I keep feeling like I should consult some female friends on how I'm writing her, but I don't want to lose my own voice in doing so.
Also, I love your novels. I find fantasy is a genre filled with characters who feel like tropes or someone's DnD character, while your characters jump off the page and walk around. If you have any general tips for writing a realistic person, that would be great. If not, just thanks for writing such great people.
I do consult with others. I think it's vital, particularly when writing 'the other' so to speak. Someone who is different from yourself in some fundamental way.
At the same time, every character should be different from yourself in some fundamental way. And, beyond that, there's a trap in thinking "My character has to think like a woman." No, your character has to think like herself. That's an important distinction to make. For every generalization, grouping, or stereotype out there, you can find many, many people who break that mold.
I actually focus on personality, wants, and needs first. Gender is a part of the character as a concept, and it informs how I write the person—but it is secondary to their passions, goals, and temperament.
I'd say write the character first, then consult with your female friends. Let them read the character in the context of her story, and get a read on it. So long as the character is strong and individual, you should be fine. Some pointers will undoubtedly help, of course.
The best way I've found to make someone realistic is to separate them from the plot and ask yourself who they are, and what they'd be doing, if the plot had never come along and swallowed them up.
Hey Brandon! Big fan, and a regular listener to the very insightful Writing Excuses. I recently took all your talk about making time to write to heart and have since found a way to juggle my career, life, and MBA study in order to write. Over the past 6 weeks, I've done about 50k words and still managed to stay on top of everything. So, I guess I'm saying thanks to you, Mary, Howard, and Dan for the kick in the butt I needed to get to writing!
I do have some questions however: What do you do to refill the creative well?
Congrats! Nice work.
Family is a big part of it for me. Also, times just listening to music and not writing anything down.
What method do you use to store you ideas for later use?
Files on a computer. Nothing fancy.
Pre-Hero of Ages, was the human population of Scadrial located only within the Final Empire? Were there people living beyond the lands of the Lord Ruler? If so, what happened to them?
The southern continent of Scadrial is inhabited. It still is. No contact has yet been made.
Knowing what you know about Shai'tan, would it have been possible or at all interesting to have had a part from his POV?
Anything is possible, but I don't think it would be right for the book. Even in 'What if' land. Putting in a recreation of him was even a stretch—anything you read in the books is how mankind's minds choose to visualize him. He doesn't really have a personality. He, like the Pattern, simply IS.
What are your plans for the order of to-be-written books?
Words of Radiance—Steelheart 2—Shadows of Self—Rithmatist 2
How did The Emperor's Soul e-book experiment work out? (Buy the book, get the e-book for free)
I think it worked wonderfully. I'd like to be able to do it with more of my books. I plan to try to make it work for Words of Radiance.
You've said that while many of your books are interconnected "behind the scenes", you didn't want to put too much in the books themselves so readers didn't feel like they're missing information (HIGHLY paraphrased). Have your opinions changed on that given the size of your fanbase? When do you expect to have more crossover between worlds (as in major characters or plot points as opposed to cameos and subtle allusions)?
I still think that keeping this to less is going to be better. However, it's going to be tougher and tougher to keep them separate, logically. As the worlds advance and more and more people begin dabbling in crossing planets, the signs will compound. I still intend to keep it from the forefront. There will be an increasing amount of this, however.
If Nightblood were a Magic card, what would its abilities/stats be?
Equipment. When equipped creature does combat damage, destroy all other creatures. During your upkeep, pay WUBRG or you lose the game. (Note, I have no development chops, so I have no idea how to properly cost the artifact or the equip.)
Hey Brandon!!!! Here's my question, and I fully expect you'll never get to it, so no worries on that account.
We live in an era of instant gratification and fleeting interests. Relationships that once lasted a lifetime, such as marriages, sometimes come and go in years or even months. Readers' commitment to long range tales, such as the Wheel of Time, now often outlasts their commitments to spouses and careers. What do you think it is about these epic fantasies that draws people in and keeps them coming back for literally decades of their lives? Good luck on not wearing out your typing fingers on these questions!
Robin! Hey, hope you're having a cool AMA yourself today.
You ask a very interesting question, one I haven't thought nearly enough about. For me, the Wheel of Time was like the high school friend that stayed with me. As relationships drifted apart, as I stopped being able to see many of the people I knew back then, I could always come back to the Wheel of Time and find some of my old friends. Perhaps that has something to do with it.
There was also, of course, the sense of, "I have to know the ending." I know I've met more than one reader who expressed this as the reason they kept going all those years.
There's just something wonderful about the constant like this in our lives.
As an abuse survivor I just wanted to thank you for creating a character like Vin. The emotion you brought about through her story, was so authentic. How do you create your characters and how much research do you do?
Most of my character research comes from talking to people, reading interviews, and taking notes. For Vin, it was particularly important to me that I get it right, so I did go speak in person with some special individuals that helped me out. In most cases, however, I look on-line.
Hey Brandon. Just now finding out about this AMA so I don't know if you will answer this but I really must know something.
I'm just wondering if you still plan on doing a sequel to Warbreaker one day. I just want to say that Vivenna was my favorite character and had my favorite arc. I remember you saying in the annotations that you were worried that people would be disappointed with a sequel starring Vivenna but I just wanted you to know that at least this guy would not be disappointed.
Good to know! Thanks.
Yes, the Warbreaker sequel will happen—but it's near the bottom of my list at the moment. (I'm sorry.) I want to make certain the Stormlight Archive doesn't languish first.
Hello Brandon !!! One of my favorite question with people with a good sized fandom, What are some your favorite fan made stuff ? Be it fan fication, art, crafts. I hope this isn't too late <3 .
I generally stay away from reading fanfiction done on my work, for various reasons, though I don't have a problem with people writing it. I think the coolest thing is when I get fanart from the books; it helps me understand how people are visualizing my characters, and it gives me a boost to see that what I've written has inspired other artists.
Are there any plans for more Legion stories? I really just want a book full of "episodes". Do you think maybe Legion would work as a comic book?
I plan to do more. The goal was to get a television show going, though I don't know if that will happen. I plan to do a few more episodes to try to motivate the people who bought the TV rights. If that doesn't work, I could see a comic.
What is the most unique thing a fan has asked you to sign in one of their books?
Hmmm... I'd say that the pictures are the oddest things. One person asked for me to draw a picture of Snoopy with a sword.
Do you plan for the Stormlight Archive to stay grounded to its world, or will there be some interplay with the rest of the Cosmere, as, literally, worlds collide?
Mostly grounded, though as I've answered in other questions, the further into the future of the cosmere we go, the more interactions between the worlds will happen. There is a certain inevitability as more and more people discover the true nature of the universe.
Will the Mistborn RPG have hints towards the seventeenth shard and whatever secret story that your building to?
Very small hints. I've purposefully kept most of them out.
What do you suggest to be the best way to learn how to become a good writer? (Writing seven books?)
There is no substitute for writing. So yes, write a lot—but reading a lot and learning to think critically about story structure, prose, and character can help.
Finally, looking at the Future Mistborn Trilogy, what role will the "gods" play in that? The "gods" played a massive role in the original series, being a main character. However, seeing how the Mistborn world's god is no longer a destructive force, what will be the new threat to their world? Themselves, the seventeenth shard, or more likely, Odium himself?
The current Wax/Wayne books will be smaller-scale Man vs Man type stories. The second trilogy will deal with something larger, but giving away too much now would be to reveal my hand.
Mr. Sanderson! I just picked up Mistborn over the weekend. It'll be my first of yours. Planning on starting it as soon as I finish Pat Rothfuss' The Wise Man's Fear. Greatly looking forward to it.
Also, I'm a Utah local. I'd love to take a class from you at some point in the future (though I am not a BYU student).
Cool! Hope you enjoy the book. Wise Man's Fear is excellent. I'm jealous of the sheer beauty of Pat's narrative.
Hi Brandon, I was wondering, considering that we are supposed to be living now in the First Age, I was wondering what RJ took to be the end of the Fifth Age and the Breaking? Who was the Dragon for that Age? I assume we would remember him in the same way that the people of the Third Age remember Lews Therin.
I'm afraid this is something that must be led to speculation, as if he knew the answer, he did not put it in the notes given to me. I honestly don't know. (Maria might, though. If anyone does, it would be her.)
Hey Brandon, just one question I have.
Why didn't you continue with Warbreaker as a series? Seriously the best characters you have made are in that book IMO (though I haven't read Elantris yet, I've read everything else you have made).
The primary reason is because the story doesn't cry for an immediate sequel, while Way of Kings did. That forces me to prioritize Stormlight. But I will eventually get to another Warbreaker book.
Hope I'm not too late! This question does contain spoilers for the first Mistborn book. I'm electronically inept to a degree so that's all the warning anyone will get.... Seriously, though.
Did you intend for the reader to almost believe Kelsier would come back to life... or was I just sort of crazy?
Yes, I did. And whether he is completely gone or not is actually something I want to be more nebulous than many people think it is.
Who are your favorite audio book readers (is that the correct phrase...I think voice actors sounds better) to work with, or have read your work for the audio books?
I am a big fan of Michael Kramer and Kate Reading. The work Kramer does with character voices...man, it gives me shivers sometimes.
Hay Brandon, Huge fan! Finished A Memory of Light, Re-read all 3 Mistborn for the 2nd time, re-read Way of Kings for the 4th time and am currently listening to Alloy of Law while I toil away at work. Also recently listened to all of season one of Writing Excuses, very cool stuff please keep doing it, maybe a live podcast from SDCC this year?
I also wanted to mention I met you last year at SDCC on preview night and I'm working on that Memento. http://i.imgur.com/tve4Xqv.jpg
To the questions...I believe I've heard you mention more than once that you weren't happy with Way of Kings, could you explain a bit exactly what you would change or love to do-over with it or expand on your comments?
Also, any teasers for the new Stormlight archive?
The problem with doing something live like that at SDCC is that it's really hard to get the space or work out the logistics. We keep talking about it, but have trouble making it happen. Everyone is just so BUSY there. But maybe!
The original draft of The Way of Kings had some big issues. One of the largest ones was that I was trying to do too many characters with too many separate plots. (Jasnah and Taln both had full sequences with as much complexity as the three main characters in the current draft.) Beyond that, Kaladin's character (he had a different name there) was bland and never worked. I needed to rebuild him from the start.
I'll post more explanations of this in the Kings annotations, which I'm working on right now. As for teasers for the second book, one of the interludes is from Taln's viewpoint. (He's the guy who shows up in the epilogue of the previous book.)
Why is there only one Chasm line per Aon? Since each Aon is made up of repetitions of Aon Aon, shouldn't there be a Chasm line per repetition?
The Aons aren't JUST made up of repetitions of Aon Aon. There's a lot more to them than that. Some follow a repetition pattern, others do not. The only requirement is using the initial Aon once, then building from there. Because of this, I made the new requirement be only one use of the chasm line.
Aons can actually have multiple forms and still work. For example, if you drew the chasm line on each one of those Aons, they'd work fine. (Maybe even better, in some cases.) What is happening in the books is that the Aons are ALMOST functional, and the Dor is straining to come through them. The chasm line brings them the one step further they need to be functional. However, further tweaking could make them more efficient.
Hey Brandon, love all of you work and so does everyone I give them to. Keep up the good work.
Which of your protagonist characters do you dislike the most as a person? Taking into account that you know all of their inner secrets and motivations.
On the flip side. Which of your antagonists do you connect with the most? The Lord Ruler seems an obvious choice as he was misunderstood by everybody for so long. But still, I'm curious.
This is a tough one, as while I'm writing, I HAVE to like everyone. However, the most disturbing of them is probably Kelsier. He's a psychopath—meaning the actual, technical term. Lack of empathy, egotism, lack of fear. If his life had gone differently, he could have been a very, very evil dude.
Elend. I see myself as an idealist like him.
How old is Hoid? How long did it take to become that old?
Ha. Let's just say that he's far older than a human should be able to get.
You've mentioned Spook being a bit of a 'stud' before, because I get oddly curious about this, how many children did he have?
A pretty weird question I know, but he does have a LOT of descendants.
and I love your writing and books so much, glad you're a non human writing machine :D
Spook has a lot of descendants, it's true. He had over a dozen children.
We know Hoid stopped by the Well of Ascension. Would it have been possible for him to take up the power while he was there? Or is it limited to guys created out of Preservation and Ruin?
Hoid had no interest in holding that power in the state it was in.
Are there any magic systems in the cosmere that aren't shard based?
This depends on definitions. The effects of Adonalsium permeate everything, and Adonalsium is also the source of the Shards. It is possible to find a magic that isn't DIRECTLY powered by a specific shard, however, though most of these would have been set up before the shattering and would be much smaller in scope than things like Allomancy and Surgebinding.
Would it have been theoretically possible to create thinking life by adding excess Ruin instead of excess Preservation?
How cosmere-aware was the Lord Ruler? If a Returned waltzed into Kredik Shaw, would he have any idea what was going on? Or at least be able to recognize 'hey that guy seems endowmenty'.
Aware enough to know he wasn't alone, but not so aware that he'd know specifics. He didn't hold the power long enough to explore outward very far.
Between the banter that happens on Twitter and elsewhere it seems a large crop of the current fantasy writers seem to be quite friendly with each other. Do you feel connected to other fantasy writers in any way? What happens when you meet with other writers—do you gush over each others work, talk shop or just crack on about nothing in particular?
A lot of us went through the same era of reading books, and have many of the same influences. We also went through the publishing experience during a similar time.
So, when we meet at conventions or on signing tours, we tend to have a lot in common. A lot of these folks are a blast to chat with. I wouldn't name them friends, as I only see them once or twice a year. More colleagues whom I admire.
When we hang out, it's a combination of everything you mentioned. I tend to be a little more 'talk shop' focused than others.
Are the changing beauty standards of Returned and the "plausibility" of Forgeries determined by the same kind of "cognitive ideals or concepts which have taken on literal personification over time" that some types of Spren represent?
Yes. These things all work according to the same fundamental framework.
Does a limb that has been "severed" by a Shardblade have any Hemalurgic bindpoints? If the same limb was then cut off more conventionally, would a Bloodmaker ferring be able to grow it back?
A severed Shardblade limb needs repair to the soul before it would function again. A Bloodmaker would be able to heal it without needing to grow it back.
Does Denth have the Royal Locks, independent of being a Returned?
Yes. (Good question.)
Could Syl, or any other type of spren, be seen in a photograph?
Excellent question, and I like the way you phrase it. Let's give this one a little more time before I get into the specifics of whether spren are manifesting physically or not.
Are Conjoiner fabrials sensitive enough that pairs of them attached to taught membranes could work as telephones (conjoiner-phones?)?
Yes. (Though this is somewhat far off, technologically, for the people on Roshar.)
What two books would you recommend to someone who hasn't read any of your books yet but is a huge reading especially in fantasy?
I would say either Mistborn or Warbreaker. Mistborn (also called The Final Empire) is more action-oriented, and has the stronger magic system and plot. Warbreaker is more character and humor driven, and is a stand alone, rather than being part of a larger series.
First of all, just wanted to say that I love your work. I got hooked with Elantris and have felt the need to purchase all your other books as a result. Also, fantastic job with handling the WoT series!
I'm curious on your thoughts regarding the self-publishing market. I've always had an interest in writing fiction and have finally completed my first novella. As a person with a full-time job, I'm seriously considering self-publishing rather than finding an agent to represent me, and attempting to market through the internet.
So, how do you feel about the self-publishing route, rather than the publisher-agent-writer trifecta?
I think self-publishing is a perfectly viable option these days, and has many things to recommend it. For a novella in particular, it can be one of the best ways to get your work out there.
I cover some of the differences in depth, by my perspective, as one of the latter writing lectures at WriteAboutDragons. (Those are videos a grad student posted of my lectures for a class project he's working on.)
The long and short is, however, that I think you are wise to consider both options. If I were breaking in right now, I'd probably try both methods.
I just wanted to say that Towers of Midnight saved my life. Literally. I figured that if I were going to kill myself, I should at least finish up this book. By the time I was done, I A) had gotten enough help that I no longer wanted to die and B) was really looking forward to the next one.
The characters of the Wheel of Time had been my oldest friends for half a lifetime. I couldn't just abandon them, you know?
Wow. I don't know what to say other than that. I'm glad you got the help you need, my friend. Depression is a pernicious beast. I wish you the best.
Thank you for sharing this, and I know exactly how you feel about the characters.
Brandon, I'm a huge fan of The Way of Kings and met you at GenCon last year. Would you ever consider offering a license for a Way Of Kings Board Game or a Mistborn cardgame? It wouldn't take any of your time and we would give you full final approval on the game too. I gave you a couple of our games as well as my card but I know you are very busy and probably hit by this sort of request all the time.
I'd certainly consider it. (Did you email me too?) The trick is, I'm worried about jumping the gun on Kings licensing. I only have one book out in the series so far. I intend to be writing in this world for a while. I'd rather that a game come later, once more about the story/setting/characters is known so that the game is more true to the soul of the series.
Thanks so much for all your writing, Way of Kings is the best book I've read in the last decade.
If Sazed were to die, would he drop the shards Ruin and Preservation, or would he drop the shard Harmony?
Excellent question. The shards are now intermingled, and would take effort to split apart. He would drop Harmony. (This is what Odium feared would happen, by the way.)
I am a big fan and, being a wife to an aspiring author, I sometimes think about what your schedule must be like for your family. Sometimes you talk about twelve hour work days and I'm wondering do you get to spend a decent amount of time with your wife and children?
Also, I am currently reading Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians and this book is sheer wit. Sadly, the cover has made me uninterested for years. I actually first saw the book at the 7th Harry Potter midnight opening party at the Border's in Provo. We've all heard not to judge a book by its cover but, seriously, do you have any say in the cover art or is it one of those things you just have to sign over?
Balancing this can be hard, but it's not so bad now that I'm published. I work long hours some days, but I always steal the extra time from leisure, not family. I finish work at 5:30 most days, hang with family until nine or ten, then go back to work. The lack of a commute makes it so that long hours don't really steal time from the family, which is very important.
I would say that it's harder for an aspiring author. I'd suggest that your husband make specific writing goals, and section off time—and everyone agree to leave that time alone. (Whether it be four hours on a Saturday each week, or an hour at night when everyone else is watching TV.) It can be done in a way that doesn't leave the family lonely, but it requires careful management.
As for the cover of Alcatraz...no, I'm not fond of it. I never have been. This was very early in my career, however, when I didn't have much influence over such things. We did complain as the covers to the series got worse and worse, but our complaints fell on deaf ears.
Hey Brandon, thanks for doing this AMA! I am a huge fan of your writing, and love how you seem to understand that a good story does not have to be completely unique. What really irritates me about a lot of modern scifi is a lot of the new stories coming out seem to to try so hard for "uniqueness" that they literally do not copy anything that has been done before. When in fact by leaving out these "common" elements their story really suffers IMO. As a sucker for epic fantasy with great character development I thank you for putting books out that inspire me.
Lastly, have you ever considered writing a superhero-esque type book? I love the way you flesh out your characters, and I know it may be a little one dimensional for your tastes, but I feel you have a gift for taking something simple and making it complex, yet eloquent. (Also I know my grammar sucks so I hope you do not to cringe too much when/if you read this lol)
Everyone has their own "ideal" when it comes to the balance between the familiar and the innovative. My goal is almost always to walk right down the middle, some familiar tropes, some innovation. Those were the stories I enjoyed the most reading.
Regarding superheroes, as has been mentioned, watch for Steelheart. The premise is that people start gaining super-powers, but only evil people get them.
Thanks for reading!
I only have one question, and its WOT related. What the hell is the jumara's final form???
River of Souls, the deleted sequence from A Memory of Light we put in a charity anthology, includes a fully grown one. So the answer will soon be revealed.
Will there ever be some overarching plot with all the Cosmere and Adolnasium stuff?
Yes. There is one already, honestly, you just don't have the beginning or the end. I will write those books eventually, and things will start falling into place.
Have you read the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind? Honest opinion?
It's pretty popular, I'm not sure but maybe at or beyond WoT levels, and I read it and wanted to tear my hair out by the end, can't believe I actually got that far. The first couple were ok, good even, then it started with the 30 page speaches and repetition and re-describing every character every time they were on screen as if he couldn't fill enough pages.
I read the first one and found it to be quite good, though I found the torture sequence somewhat oddly placed in relation to the rest of the plot. The second one did not grip me, and I did not continue reading the series.
During Towers of Midnight, Rand says "How I wish I had listened to Gilgame..." while he and Min are in Far Madding. Was Rand going to reference Gilgamesh before Min interrupted him?
He finished the word, I believe. Gilgame is the person referenced.
Not sure if this question has already been posted. Which author would you say has influenced your writing the most? From deciding to be an author to making you write like you do. You are my favorite author right now and therefore what made you decide to start and to have the style of writing that I so love.
It's really hard to judge the MOST influential. Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly was the book that got me into fantasy, and the Dragonriders of Pern books kept me there. My favorite classic is Les Miserables. Tad Williams, Robert Jordan, and Melanie Rawn were very influential on me during my early years as a writer.
My style came as a mix of many of the things I was reading, as a reaction against some elements—and toward others. Brent Weeks, I've noticed, has a very similar style to my own, particularly in his Lightbringer books. I believe we're both products of the same era and books.
Did you read any Steven Brust? He's got a recurring character who cameos in every book, and a repeated number with great mystical significance (17, not 16). And, of course, lots of snarky conversations.
I don't read as much Brust as I should, but what I have read has been excellent.