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2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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That doesn't mean I won't write book two. It just means that I'm thinking of starting a much larger story, then slipping in the WARBREAKER sequel sometime later.
Anyway, WARBREAKER 4.0 will go up early next week. It is my goal to post the downloadable version, then actually do an html chapter-by-chapter version for ease of reading. Would anyone (who hasn't read Warbreaker yet) be interested in this? Sound off on my LJ, my Facebook, or my forums.
You can also let me know what you think I should do next. You probably won't change my mind (it's not a vote) but I'd be curious to see what readers are wanting.
Elantris sequel (Different characters, same world.)
Big Epic (five or six books on a new project)
Random Stand Alone
Dragonsteel (Which is written, but now I don't know when to release it.)
More books in the Mistborn world
Also, for your amusement, two links:
Fantasy gave Brandon direction in his life. When he started out at BYU, his first major was chemistry, but he quickly realized that there was a big difference between “liking science” and college chemistry. However, Brandon’s job as a night desk clerk at a hotel gave him plenty of time for writing.
The idea of getting published with Tor meant something to Brandon because “They published Robert Jordan!” When Moshe told Brandon he wanted to buy Elantris, Brandon’s editor Joshua said, “Now we can see if anyone else can give us a better offer!” and Brandon said, “No way, Tor’s the best there is. Why would I go with anyone else?”
Finally, perhaps the most exciting to me, is something for you Elantris readers: Amazon's exclusive rights to "Hope of Elantris" (the short story I wrote in the Elantris world) ran out yesterday. So I've posted it on my website for you all to read. Those of you who bought it on Amazon have my thanks; you actually pushed me to being a #1 Amazon best seller for a week or so, which was kind of cool. We wanted to offer this to Amazon because they had asked, and we figured it couldn't be bad to earn some good will. However, I always intended to put it on my website eventually.
To add something new, I've done an extended annotation of the short story. You'll find the annotation at the end; if you've already read the story, you'll probably find this annotation quite interesting.
And, in the random news department, it looks like readers have voted Elantris as one of Audible's best fantasy novels of the year last year. Thanks!
Also, I'll be doing an appearance later in the week in West Jordan, Utah. Keep an eye on the website for news. It's going to be later in the evening on Thursday night.
Well, it honestly depends on the book. It's not just a matter of length, it's also a matter of complexity. The more viewpoints I'm trying to balance, and the deeper the setting, the longer the book will take. Also, it depends on what you call 'writing' a book—do you include all drafts, or just the rough? What about the planning? Here are a few estimates based on some of my books, drafting and planning time included.
Alcatraz Vs. The Evil Librarians (50k words, one viewpoint.) 2-3 months.
Elantris (200k words, three main viewpoints.) 6-8 months.
Mistborn: The Hero of Ages (250k words, 5 main viewpoints.) 8-10 months.
The Wheel of Time: The Gathering Storm (300k words. 21 viewpoints. Chunks outlined and written by Mr. Jordan already.) 16 months, pulling extra hours.
So . . . imagine if I HADN'T had outlines and materials left by Mr. Jordan. It would probably have taken around 2 years to write a book that length. (Which, actually, was about how long it took Mr. Jordan to write a lot of his books.)
Every author is different, however. Some write in bursts, some write slow and steady, a little each day. It's hard to judge exactly how long it will take you to write a book. There's no 'right' way to do it.
PROJECT SIX: WARBREAKER, ELANTRIS, MISTBORN SEQUELS
Maybe someday. Time isn't right for any of them, I'm afraid. You'll see some of them in the future, though, and will probably get some Mistborn short stories sometime this year.
I love epic fantasy, but I’m of the generation who grew up reading Robert Jordan and Tad Williams and are now trying to say, what else can we do with the genre? I want to write books that feel like the great epic fantasies of the past that you’ve read, but don’t use the same, familiar stories. In Mistborn, for example, the idea was to turn the standard fantasy story on its head–what if the prophesied hero failed and the Dark Lord took over and has ruled the known world for the last thousand years? My books are also known for their spectacular, interesting magic systems that are very rule based and almost a science unto themselves. But of course none of that matters without characters whose motivations you can understand and who you can care about as a reader. In Elantris I have three very different main viewpoint characters, and readers are fairly evenly divided on who’s their favorite–in writing as in anything else, it’s impossible to please everyone all the time, but I’m happy that my books have shown so many different people a character they can relate to and root for.
Between writing Mistborn 2 and Mistborn 3, I wanted to try something new, and my series of humorous middle-grade novels beginning with Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians was the result. I love epic fantasy, and don’t intend to ever stop writing it. However, sometimes we all need a diversion toward something more lighthearted. If you want to get a taste of what my writing is like, because Alcatraz is so different from my other books I recommend that unless you’re between the ages of ten and thirteen you start with the first Mistborn book—or Elantris or Warbreaker. Mistborn is a good entry point for people who like trilogies and series (and the writing is better in Mistborn than in Elantris; I can see how much I have improved over the years). The other two are good entry points for people who prefer standalones–and Warbreaker is available for free on my website (as well as coming out in hardcover in North America from Tor next month), so it may be the most convenient starting point of all.
Yeah, there's spirituality, but not religion.
And how did you, as a writer that usually writes in that, you know… How did that make a difference for you? How did you have to approach it; did you have to make changes in the way that you write because of that?
You know, that's not one specific thing that I felt I had to change a lot about. The truth is, for any given fantasy work you're working on, there are certain things that draw a lot of your attention, that you focus on, and certain things you don't. When I wrote my kids' series, there's no religion in those. That just wasn't important for the world-building and the setting for those books. And I've written other books where religion is very important. Religion fascinates me. I'm a religious person. And because of that, I feel that the misuse of religion can be one of the greatest evils in the world. And so, you see me delving into that sort of thing and just the different approaches on religion. You know, I love to deal with different types of religion and all that sort of stuff. But I think Robert Jordan's approach is very interesting. And I've always liked his approach to it. Like I said, there's a spirituality without a religion. And...the Wheel of Time, that's not an area that's focused on a lot. And so, it was a very easy transition for me. Different books, you spend your efforts on in different places.
On Elantris, I spent a long time on the languages. On Mistborn, I didn't. Because in Mistborn, it wasn't... The world just didn't revolve around the way that languages work. We had an all-oppressive dictator God King who had forced everyone to kind of adopt the same language. Beyond that, the books were taking place at the center capital of the world where everyone spoke the same language. So there weren't even... You know, there were little dialects here and there, but I didn't focus on language there. Whereas I did in Elantris. The same thing with different books, so...
The man who died before Vin took over was named Leras. (I've occasionally written it as Laras. I've said the names in my head for years, but I'm only now writing them down as people ask me on forums.) Leras, like Ati (aka Ruin), were NOT Adonalsium. (Sorry about the typo on that one in Mistborn 3. I wrote it down on the manuscript, and it didn't get put in quite right. We'll get it fixed.)
Adonalsium was something or someone else. You will find out more. There are clues in Warbreaker and The Way of Kings.
Well, here's the thing. What Sazed is right now is something of a god in the classic Greek sense—a superpowered human being, elevated to a new stage of existence. Not GOD of all time and space. In a like manner, there are things that Sazed does not have power over. For instance, he couldn't bring Vin and Elend back.
Where Tindwyl exists is beyond space and time, in a place Sazed hasn't learned to touch yet. He might yet. If you want to add in your heads him working through that, feel free. But as it stands at the end of the book, he isn't yet with Tindwyl. (He is, however, with Kelsier—who refused to "Go toward the light" so to speak, and has been hanging around making trouble ever since he died. You can find hints of him in Mistborn 3 at the right moments.
Well, what was going on here was a clue established and set by Leras before he died. He wanted something to indicate—should he be unable to inform mankind—that what was happening wasn't natural, but instead something intentional. He worried that men wouldn't be able to realize they were being made into Allomancers.
And so, the mist was set to do something very specific, as has to do with the interaction between the human soul, Allomancy, and the sixteen metals.
Each of the 'Shardworlds' I've written in (Mistborn, Elantris, Warbreaker, Way of Kings) exists with the same cosmology. All things exist on three realms—the spiritual, the cognitive, and the physical. What's going on here is an interaction between the three realms. I don't want to bore you with my made up philosophy, but I do have a cohesive metaphysical reasoning for how my worlds and magic works. And there is a single plane of existence—called Shadesmar, the Cognative Realm—which connects them all.
You will never need to know any of this to read and enjoy my books, but there is an overarching story behind all of them, going on in the background. Adonalsium, Hoid, the origin of Ati, Leras, the Dor, and the Voice (from Warbreaker) are all tied up in this.
I love Mistborn! (also Elantris). I can hardly wait to begin on Warbreaker. I know many have questions on the metal based ideas. In Elantris, where did the idea for the disease come from?
Three things. First, some reading I was doing about leper colonies. I wanted to tell a story about someone locked into a similar situation, only tie it to the magic of the world and the history of the city itself.
Secondly, I had this crazy desire to do a book starring zombies that nobody would realize were zombies. It was one of those things that stuck in my head. Undead corpses, with weak bodies that slowly stop working? As heroes? Could I make it work?
Finally, the idea of pain that didn't go away. What would happen if every little wound you took continued to hurt just as badly as it had in the first moment of pain? And what if that pain never, never went away?
Now my interest is perked. Which character is in both Mistborn and Elantris? I must know!! Of course, if it is a secret for another book don't tell me.
I suggest looking through my forums and talking to the people there. Also, some questions on this forum talk about the issue. I don't like to spell things out, and so I stay away from giving too much. Look around; it's not to difficult to find, now that people have begun to catch on.
What is the X in Aon Mea? Is it one of the Shard-pools?
Afraid not. Aon Mea references the expanded region within which the "Elantris Effect" will create Elantrians. The X is fertile valley with a high density of life, a place with a lot of cognitive activity. (Cognitive as defined by Realmatic Theory includes the 'thoughts' of all things that exist, not just human beings. The more complex the life form, the stronger its presence on the Cognitive Realm.)
Did you know that he wrote 13 books before getting one of them published? Elantris was number six in that list, but he never gave up on his dream of being a writer. We also heard about how Harriet read Brandon’s eulogy for RJ and subsequent read of Mistborn. After two chapters, she was hooked and knew that he was the man to finish her husband’s series.
I'm working on the final draft of The Way of Kings in order to meet its April 8th deadline, and over the past few days I've posted on Twitter and Facebook breakdowns of how many words I'm cutting from each chapter. This has confused some readers who have asked me not to cut anything out or to save them for an eventual "writer's cut" edition. Trust me on this one—the book you'll get on the shelf is the writer's cut, and you wouldn't like the writing as much if I didn't go through and do the trimming on this draft. Sort of like a director shoots a lot of film and then edits it into a coherent narrative later, I tend to overwrite on my first drafts—the language is more wordy than it needs to be, sometimes a character will come to the same realization multiple times as I'm working out where best to fit it in, that sort of thing. In my final draft I go in and trim out all the fat. We talked about this in an episode of Writing Excuses last year; if you're curious about the process, give it a listen.
So the words I'm cutting in this draft aren't anything you're going to miss as a reader. Now, sometimes I will cut an entire scene or heavily rework a section, but that usually happens in earlier drafts than this. I do save the cut scenes in case they contain something I want to use somewhere else or just for posterity. In the Library section of the website I've included some deleted scenes from Elantris, Mistborn 1, and Mistborn 2—check those out if you want to understand why it's a good reason those scenes are gone. Long after The Way of Kings is out, some of its cut scenes or early draft sections may end up on that page. We'll see.
Was Elantris intended to be a zombie story?
Yes, but he disguised it so that it would not be typecast as a horror story by potential readers. He wanted to do a story about heroic zombies, since he had never heard of such a tale.
It's so hard to determine why one thing becomes really popular when something that's equally good does not. And I know many authors whose books I've read who are writing fantastic things that don't end up enjoying the same level of success as I have. So it's really hard for me to determine the whys. In publishing, we would all be a lot happier if we could figure out the whys.
But why do people like my works? I would like to think that a lot of readers when Elantris came out were like myself, waiting for epic fantasy to pull in some new directions. When I was reading in the late '90s and early 2000s I was disappointed that a lot of the books that were coming out seemed to be more of the same old story. When I got into writing, I didn't intend to revolutionize the genre or anything like that, but I did have goals to try some new things. I hoped to create some fantasy that still felt like great fantasy, that had the same wonderful feel to it of the books that I had enjoyed reading when I was younger, but which also would try some new things. And I think Elantris does that. In the end, I think writing comes down to great characters and an engaging story, and hopefully these are things that I've somewhat figured out how to achieve. I don't know if anyone guessed that I would do as well as I have. I certainly owe a great deal of my success to the attention that working on the Wheel of Time brought to me. But other than that I can't really say who could have predicted it or how we could have known that it would go as well as it has.
Believe it or not, Elantris was the sixth novel I wrote. I took a creative writing class at university from David Farland where he said that when you start writing, your first million words will be crap and not to worry about that. The experience and practice you get from writing a novel is the important part; your first novel doesn't have to be any good.
So with that in mind, I sat down to write a novel were I wasn't worried about how good it was. And when that one was finished, I didn't revise it—I just opened a new document and started writing a new novel. I ended up writing thirteen novels this way over a three-year period. Elantris was the sixth, and when I finally got an offer from Moshe Feder at Tor to buy Elantris, I was working on the first version of The Way of Kings. You may wonder how I had so much time to write; I was working as a night auditor at a local hotel, and they let me write while I was on duty as long as I fulfilled my responsibilities. That way I paid my way through college and also got a lot of practice writing.
In my writing I try to combine the unfamiliar with the familiar. If something is too unique and unprecedented, then readers won't have anything to relate to and will just be lost.
But if something is too familiar, it will feel stale and cliche. I like to look for twists on familiar tropes that haven't been extensively covered before. This often comes when I read other books in the field and think of a different way something could go. That's not to say other authors aren't doing the same thing, but I like to tackle takes that I haven't seen before. Trying to do what the market expects of you is a bit of a trap in the publishing field. You want your books to be things that people want to write, but if you try to write to the market you usually end up with something too familiar and boring. Back when I was writing those thirteen books I was sending the good examples out to editors and agents and getting a lot of rejection letters. (Elantris was the first book I wrote that I felt was good enough to send out, and I also sent out a couple I wrote after it.) After being told time and time again that my books were too long (Elantris in manuscript form was 250,000 words), I decided to try to do what I thought the market wanted and write books that were a lot shorter. But I discovered that the books I turned out in that format just weren't any good; they contained some very interesting ideas but were lacking in many areas.
When Moshe bought Elantris and wanted to follow it up with another novel, I first offered him The Way of Kings but we realized that it was too ambitious a project at that point in time. So instead I took concepts from three of those failed novels and rewrote them into the first Mistborn book, writing it at the length my natural style seemed to work best at. And Mistborn was a huge success.
You shouldn't assume that when you've read one Brandon Sanderson novel, you know what the next one is going to be like. From one series to the next I like to try different things. I know that some readers who really liked Mistborn are not going to like The Way of Kings; Mistborn had a narrower scope and faster pace than a huge epic like The Way of Kings has, and if a reader prefers that sort of book that is perfectly okay with me. I am going to write some books that are fast-paced and others that are huge epics. I like to change things up.
Is Adonalsium going to be mentioned by name in Warbreaker and The Way of Kings or is he going to be an underlining "God"(I don't know what to call him yet) idea? I am curious now, so I will have to keep my eyes open for him.
Melissa, I think we have members from another forum joining us and they have information that we don't have. Maybe even advanced book information, like we know nothing about The Way of Kings and only heard about the book recently and know nothing of its content.
Could some of you newcomers introduce yourselves (maybe on our "Introduce Yourself" thread and not clutter up this one) and tell us where you are from? We love the information you are bringing and introducing on this thread but we are confused.
I posted on my website that I'd be doing this, and I don't often have time to interact on forums. (They are a delightful way to interact with readers, but have proven a HUGE time-sink for me in the past. As you might have noticed, I tend to write—and respond—in depth when people ask questions of me.) So I only appear on forums occasionally. Hence the involvement of those from my forums looking for some answers to questions.
Some backstory might help you all. I began writing in earnest in 1997. During those years, I shared the books I wrote with a group of friends. This group worked with me on The Leading Edge, a science fiction fanzine/semiprozine at BYU. Eventually, once we graduated, we founded the Timewaster's Guide, partially as a forum where we could hang out. (Tage and Ookla from the TWG forums—aka Ben and Peter—are among them, and are still very good friends of mine. Another easter egg is to watch how Ben Olsen and Peter Ahlstrom are treated in the acknowledgements of many of my books.)
The overarching story and theme of my books, what I wanted to accomplish as a writer, and how I approached the fantasy genre, all took shape during this time. These readers read many of my most important, and influential (on me as a writer) novels while in draft form. The biggest three of these during this era were White Sand, Dragonsteel, and Elantris. (On the tail end, I wrote—but never finished—the foundations of what years later became Warbreaker.)
The next era of my unpublished writing was when I worked on the worlds, stories, and themes that eventually became Mistborn, The Way of Kings, and a book called the Aether of Night. Many of my writing group friends have read these books, including the first draft of Kings (which is very, very different from the current draft.)
Anyway, these unpublished books are NOT canon yet. I don't canonize a novel until I publish it. But some of the hidden themes (including Hoid and Adonalsium) of my books are present in these novels. (Dragonsteel and Aether of Night are particularly connected—though of the unpublished Shardworld books, White Sand is probably the best written.) Again, none of this is canon yet. (For instance, I've taken chunks out of Dragonsteel to use in the revision of The Way of Kings.) However, these old books do contain clues that aren't available to the average reader.
Dragonsteel can be ordered through inter-library loan through the university library system. There are only four or five copies in existence. The BYU library has one (the book was my honor's thesis.) I believe the honors department has one. My thesis chair has one. (And maybe the committee has one, I can't remember.) I've got one in my basement. And I believe Ben's sister may have sneaked a copy out of the trash when I was cleaning out old manuscripts. (That might be White Sand.)
I do have intentions of rewriting these books and publishing them eventually. They each have pieces of the story. (Though I may decide to shift certain themes from one series to another as I eventually write and publish them.) I've been known to email White Sand or Aether of Night to readers who email and ask. (Though it does make me cringe a little to do so. In many of these books, I was experimenting with magic, theme, and narrative style—some experiments were a success, some were failures.)
Dragonsteel is frozen; I don't send it out any longer, as to not spoil the parts of The Way of Kings that I decided fit better in that world. So the only way to get it now is to borrow it from BYU. I've been told that Dragonsteel is the only undergraduate BYU honor's thesis ever to have been be read so often that it needed to be rebound. (A dubious honor, I'm not sure how I feel about so many people reading a book of mine that is that mediocre.)
One other question, what is the name of the planet that Elantris is on?
Way of Kings: Roshar
White Sand: Taldain
There are others, but I haven't talked much about those yet, so I'll leave them off for now.
Ok, last question. It was really difficult coming up with three questions that haven’t been asked already...
OK... you’re not going to ask me the “what would you ask me” question?
Oooooh, ok. Hm. That one is so hard! Every time people ask me something like this... What have I never been asked that people should be asking, is basically what the question is? Something that the fans have just missed... They pick up on so much, that it’s hard... I do wonder if, you know… all the magic systems [in my books] are connected and work on some basic fundamental principles, and a lot of people haven’t been asking questions about this. One thing I did get a question on today, and I’ll just talk about this one... they didn’t ask the right question, but I nudged them the right way, is understanding that tie between Aondor [the magic system from Elantris] and allomancy [Mistborn’s magic system].
People ask about getting the power from metals and things, but that’s not actually how it works. The power’s not coming from metal. I talked a little about this before, but you are drawing power from some source, and the metal is actually just a gateway. It’s actually the molecular structure of the metal… what’s going on there, the pattern, the resonance of that metal works in the same way as an Aon does in Elantris. It filters the power. So it is just a sign of “this is what power this energy is going to be shaped into and give you.” When you understand that, compounding [in Alloy of Law] makes much more sense.
Compounding is where you are able to kind of draw in more power than you should with feruchemy. What’s going on there is you’re actually charging a piece of metal, and then you are burning that metal as a feruchemical charge. What is happening is that the feruchemical charge overwrites the allomantic charge, and so you actually fuel feruchemy with allomancy, is what you are doing. Then if you just get out another piece of metal and store it in, since you’re not drawing the power from yourself, you’re cheating the system, you’re short-circuiting the system a little bit. So you can actually use the power that usually fuels allomancy, to fuel feruchemy, which you can then store in a metalmind, and basically build up these huge reservoirs of it. So what’s going on there is… imagine there’s like, an imprint, a wavelength, so to speak. A beat for an allomantic thing, that when you burn a metal, it says “ok, this is what power we give.” When it’s got that charge, it changes that beat and says, “now we get this power.” And you access a set of feruchemical power. That’s why compounding is so powerful.
Yes, I will be.
Wait... what!? We already have Warbreaker 1 to recommend to friends as a free trial of your work.
Not that I'm complaining, but why make W2 free too?
Because it was a part of the experience of writing the book for me. It is something I'd like to try again. (Releasing the book chapter by chapter as I write it.)
Was the Warbreaker experiment successful? By which I mean, were there more, less, or as many sales as, say, Elantris?
More than Elantris or MB1/MB2 initially, not as many as MB3. Now it's about even with Elantris. (Expected. Mistborn has the series boost, which makes the entire trilogy sell about double what Elantris or Warbreaker do.)
It depends on the magic system. They are all related to a kind of "Spiritual DNA" that one gets from their heritage on a specific planet. However, there are ways around that. (Hemalurgy, for example, 'staples' a piece of someone else's soul to your own, and creates a work around to give you access to magic you shouldn't have.) Some of the magics are more regionally tied than others. (In Elantris, you have to access the Dor, which is very regionally influenced.)
The end answer is this: With in-depth knowledge of how the magics work, and their connection, one could probably get them all to work on other planets. It may take effort for some of them.
Ok, the question is twofold. The first one is: mentioning the annotations I do on my website, I’ve annotated a large number of my books chapter-by-chapter on my website, so if you like behind the scenes stuff, particularly on the Mistborn Trilogy, there’s a lot of really good information there. I did do annotations for Alloy of Law that we’ll eventually start releasing. I’ve not done them for Way of Kings yet. And so the question was, will I be doing them for the Wheel of Time?
Once the book is out, I would really like to do a collection of Robert Jordan's notes—it alternates with annotations, with me saying, "Here is what he left me, you can now read these notes, and here is why I decided to adapt it the way I did, and here is a hole in the notes, so you can see what I did."—essentially do an annotation that way, a book about the process. I don't know if Harriet will want to do that. It'd be up to her, and she has a really good reason for not wanting to do that, and that is that she doesn't want people's last memories of Robert Jordan to be the unfinished. He was very...he didn't like showing his material to people, when it was in an unfinished state. He liked showing them finished things, and so it made him uncomfortable when people would read early drafts, and it would have to release some early drafts in that. And so, it would really be her call, and I can't make that call for her. If she lets me do it, I'll do it.
I would like to release some annotated editions of my books, maybe for the tenth anniversary of Elantris, we'll do an annotated edition, and then a sequel the next year. That's kind of what I'm hoping to do, if I can.
One of the things that you have to remember is that I wrote Elantris back in 2000, so I have a much bigger head start than it looks like. I sold Elantris in 2003, and had all of 2003 up through a big part of 2006 to write the Mistborn trilogy before the first book of that came out. So what you're seeing is my big head start that I had by having that book already done, then launching right into the trilogy.
I don't think I write faster than any other fantasy writers, but I do write a lot. I love to do it; I spend a lot of time doing it, and it's one of my favorite things to do, to tell these stories. So if you want to bottle it, all you really do is spend ten hours a day writing, and boom, you've got it.
But it does look more impressive than it really is, because I have those extra years. A lot of the years where I had two books come out, I had written one much earlier and the other I wrote the year before. My popularity has made my publishers start increasing the publication schedule of some of my books, so you get overlap—a book I wrote long before and then a book I've recently turned in come out at the same time, because when I turn in the new book they want to publish it as soon as I can. So that's why this year, for instance, we only have one book—The Alloy of Law—and it's a very short book. That's because the publication schedule finally caught up to me.
Ha! As for casting choices, I would direct curious parties to the threads on my forums about this topic. I can't really say who I'd pick, since it takes so long to make a movie. And, to be honest, I have trouble imagining ANY actor in my character roles. They are who they are in my head! An actor wouldn't be them to me.
Not that I wouldn't sell movie rights. Actually, we've had a few nibbles from various producers. As you've said, fantasy is hot. However, it's also very expensive to make a fantasy movie, so producers are wary about the projects they pick up. My kids' series, Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians, which starts this October with Scholastic, is probably the most likely to be made in the near future.
Mistborn was good. Elantris was better, I think. I have a pretty low tolerance for sex and gore in novels and neither of these bothered me. Both were very interesting fantasy that actually spent some time thinking about new ways a world could work.
Oh Frank, Mistborn is much better than Elantris, but then I'm prejudiced against zombies. And as an added bonus, Mistborn had the best cover art ever—that unusual angle, so intriguing, and not contra the text as book covers so often are. In fact, after I finished the book I could see, in retrospect, that the cover depicts an important plot point at the end of the book—what a fabulous Easter egg is that!
It's fun that my oldest child is now old enough to pass my books too. We both love Mistborn. No undue influence from the woman who houses and feeds her, I assume. She wrote one of her big literature projects on Mistborn this year.
How do you pronounce the Mistborn Planet? [Scadrial]
Sca (as in Scab) dri (as in drink) al (sounds like ul).
Okay. I always said Sca (as in Skate) dri (as in drink) al (as in Albert)
That’s perfectly fine. This can launch me into my little thing on pronunciation. As readers, you get the say, you’re the director. I wrote the script. The director can always change things. If you want a character to look differently in your head, that’s okay. If you want to pronounce things however you want, that’s okay too. Because a book does not exist until it has a reader. It really doesn’t live. It exists, but it doesn’t live until you read it and give it life. So however you feel like doing it, go ahead. And remember, I’ve said this numerous times before, I don’t pronounce all the names right. I’m American, so I pronounce things with an American accent. The best example I give is Kelsier, because I do say Kel (as in bell) si (as in see) er (as in air), but they say Kel (as in bell) si (as in see) er (as in hey) in-world (it sounds very French). I say E (as in the letter e) lan (as in lawn) tris (as in hiss), they say E (as in the letter e) Lan (as in lane) tris (as in hiss) in-world. So there are linguistic fundamentals of these because I do have some linguistic background, but I don’t always say them right. I like saying Sa (like suh) rene (like Reen), instead of Sa (like suh) rene (like meany), which is how they say it. Which Suh-reany sounds kind of dumb in English. And in their language, it’s a beautiful woman’s name, but here you wouldn’t call someone Suh-reany, you’d call them Suh-rean.
Heh. Nightblood will happen someday. Bribes of cookies or Magic Cards at signings might help. More seriously, I do intend to do this—and post it online as I write it—but it probably won’t be for a few years.
Then you shall have both when you come here this winter. Help turn a few years into six months, right?
lol. Well, it can’t hurt. But I DO have a lot on my plate... We’ll see. I want an Elantris sequel out for 2015.
Wow, an Elantris sequel would be awesome too. Where would it fit chronologically after the end of Elantris?
Elantris direct sequel would be 10 years later and use Kiin’s children as viewpoint characters living in Fjorden.
Why do Seons become broken when their person is taken by the Shaod?
A Seon has a Spiritual Connection with their user. When the Shaod takes the user, it messes up the spiritual nature of the user, and it really messes up the nature of the Seon.
Well, I think that I'd like to start at the beginning and then come to more recent projects that you've been working on and that's to look a little bit at how you came to be a published science fiction/fantasy author. I did not mention this in your introduction, but you did initially study writing in college and worked long and hard to become a writer. If you could describe that process for us, the process of getting your first novel, Elantris, published.
Alright. It's funny because Elantris...it's my first published novel; it's not actually my first novel. The story starts quite a long time before that, and the longer I've been in this business, the more I've found that this seems to be the rule rather than the exception. A lot of writers spend years and years writing books before they get published. Elantris was my sixth novel, and my story starts like a lot of stories, with an ignorant kid who enjoyed telling stories and writing books and having no idea really what he was really doing.
I went to college my freshman year as a biochemistry major, actually, partially at my parent's encouraging, because 'authors don't make money' was the conventional wisdom, which a lot of us hear, and so I was going to be a doctor, which was, you know, the wrong place for me. But, I was under the impression—I had no idea how to do this writing thing, and even taking a few creative writing classes...they don't really talk about the business side of things, the actual 'how do you do this; how do you break in'—and so I was completely ignorant.
My sophomore year, I realized after one year of trying hard at the biochemistry that I loved the concepts and I was terrible at the busywork; in fact I dreaded the busywork, and if you dread the busywork—the day-to-day work that you are going to have to do in a career—that's probably not the right career for you, whereas with writing, I loved the busywork, the busywork of just working on new stories and plugging away at them, and so I changed to English cause I thought that's what you had to do. I didn't actually know what you had to do—I had no clue—but I figured that was a good place to start. So I changed my major to English and just started going.
One of the things I did—which I think was actually the smartest thing I did at the time—was get a job where I could write while I was at work; it was a desk job at a hotel minding the desk overnight, with the boss telling me during the interview, "Yeah, as long as you stay awake we don't mind...we don't care what you do. Between about midnight and five all we really want is to have someone there in case the building burns down, or in case someone calls and wants towels." It was actually required by the Best Western rules that they have someone on desk, so it was actually perfect for me, and I spent five years working that job, going to school during day, then sleeping in the evenings, and then going to work overnight, and writing all night. It was a wonderful experience. It was kinda was like my own little writers' enclave where I was able to practice my art and try different things, and ignorantly I had the advantage of not knowing how bad I was when I began. This is something I've noticed with authors: When you get going when you're younger, you are don't how terrible you are as a writer, and that's a good thing. Older writers a lot of times will be very critical of themselves, because they've read so much and they have so much more experience with writing that when they start working on their works, it's sometimes very hard for them. They aren't willing to...or it's too hard for them to suck at it long enough to become good at it, so to speak. I didn't have that problem because I had no clue how bad I was.
And I am...like I said, I did that for five years: writing books and slowly, very slowly, learning about the business, realizing how you have to submit manuscripts, realizing where to...how to go about creating a query letter, and these sorts of things. And the real breakthrough, it came my senior year—I took quite a number of years to get through college; I think it was five at the end—so I guess it would be after four years, during my fourth year of writing books at the graveyard shift, I took a class from a published author who had come in to just teach couple of classes for the fun of it—it was actually David Farland, who is a fantasy writer who is local to my area—and what he talked about was the business aspect of it, the real nitty-gritty nuts and bolts of this industry, which nobody tells you about. You never find out about, in most of your creative writing classes—which, you know, they're great classes; they'll talk to you a lot about the craft of writing, and maybe the art of writing, but they won't tell you about the business—and it was because of him that I realized, "Wow," you know, "if I want to get published, one of the things I'm gonna have to do is network," and I never realized that networking would be important for an author. But who you know, the editors you know, that sort of thing, can help you out a lot. And so I started attending the conventions—[?] the literary conventions. And so, WorldCon, World Fantasy Convention, NASFIC...some of these things that you can go to, and editors will attend, and you can hear advice from them, you can meet them, and that sort of thing.
So I started doing that. It's not a silver bullet; it won't get everyone published, but what it does is it partially trained me to think like a professional, and partially allowed me to get advice from people who really knew what they were doing. I spent...oh, three years, four years doing that, eventually graduated with my bachelor's degree, having no idea what to do with it, because I wasn't really prepared for anything by it except for writing books, so I applied to a bunch of MFA programs, got turned down from all of them—they didn't really appreciate [?] fantasy novels—and the next year I applied to a whole bunch more, got into a master's degree—not an MFA—at BYU where I had attended my undergraduate, and got rejected from everywhere else, and so happily went to get that master's degree, partially as a stalling tactic, to be perfectly honest. My dad was dreadfully afraid that, you know, that their poor son was going to be a hobo, and "Oh, why didn't he go into being a doctor like we told him", and so I went back to school to appease them and to stall my life and, you know, to stall myself, give me a few more years to work on it.
And about a year into it, Elantris—which had been my sixth book, as I said—I finally got a call back from an editor that I'd met at World Fantasy Convention, I think in 2003, that I got the call back. It was eighteen months after I'd submitted it. Actually, I had given up on the submission. It was the Tor, whom I love; it's a publisher I wanted to be with. I was a big fan of the Wheel of Time books; I wanted to be with that same publisher, but Tor is also notorious for having an enormous slush pile, and things get lost into that void fairly frequently. They are one of the few publishers out there who will take manuscripts from unknowns, which opens the floodgates to tons of manuscripts coming in, and they do their best with it, but they get easily overwhelmed. I had sent to them before, and I never heard back, and so this time I assumed I would never hear back, [?] in person. And then I got a voicemail one morning; got up, and checked my voicemail, and lo and behold, there was an editor in New York, Moshe Feder, who left me a voicemail that said something along these lines: "Hello; I hope this is the right Brandon Sanderson, because you submitted me a book eighteen months ago, and now it's been so long that your email address is bouncing, your snail-mail address isn't good any more, and your phone number's changed, so we're not sure how to get ahold of you, but we googled you, we got a grad student page at BYU. We assume this is the right person; if it is, call us back, because we want to buy your book." And that's how it happened. I guess the moral of this story is: leave a forwarding address, if you are sending manuscripts off to publishers in New York.
But, it just happened from there, and the years that I spent as an unpublished writer really—just practicing my craft and not worrying about publishing—served me really well. Elantris is by no means the greatest fantasy book ever written, but I do think that I was able to hit the ground running, so to speak, because it wasn't my first novel. It doesn't, I hope, in many respects read like a first novel; I had five other books under my belt by that time, and I got a lot of my terrible ideas and terrible storytelling out of the way, and so I was very aware of what I wanted to do as an author, and where I wanted to make my statement and how I wanted to add to the genre. All of these things, I had...right then, I knew what I was doing as soon as I sold, so I was able to be focused a little more, I think.
So Aona is a synonym for love, hmm? Is Charity the correct Shard name?
Not quite. I'm trying to remember what the guesses were for the other Shard on Sel. I may have dismissed them too quickly.
How about Mercy for Aona, then? The guesses for Skai's Shard include Devotion, Obedience, and Order.
Okay, I was right, then. Ha There's something very ironic in all of this.
While I was thrilled to hear the excellent, excellent intro to Alloy of Law, I was a little sad that we didn't get to the Q&A part of the session. So I headed over to the Harvard Bookstore, where he would be signing and answering questions. Now, this bit was a little strange for me. I've met Brandon before (probably a dozen times or so between '06 and '09), all at varying levels of fame, I listen to writing excuses every week, and I follow his blag, so it wasn't "oh my gosh, I get to meet him" jitters. I feel like, in all the ways that I want to, I already know Brandon.
The jitters were probably a combination of a couple of things: (1) I had no desire to have him sign anything, I just wanted to ask Brandon a couple of questions. I've never a big "sign things" person, especially when the signer is a person to me, and not a Figure (if that makes any sense). And (2) this was the first time that I had one-on-one interaction with Brandon while considering myself an agent for a higher group (namely, the 17th Shard). It was a bit nerve-wracking in a way that was completely new to me. Anyway, ending my indulgent self-psychoanalysis...
I figured out the way to overcome (1). Instead of having him personalize it to me, I asked him to write a clue about the Cosmere in my worn copy of Elantris (it's my first Sanderson, and is literally falling apart; the cover is scotch taped on ).
He wrote "Do not go to Shadesmar on this world (really, I'm not kidding)" on the title page, then said to me "You guys can chew on that for a little while."
I like that. I think that I'll bring in all of my books to his next New York/Boston signing and ask him for Cosmere clues instead of signatures.
"Does Aona = Love or Compassion?
"You have it, it's just a synonym there. You basically have it
"Does Skai = Devotion or Order?"
"You're not on there. But you are on on the first one [Aona]."
"How is a Splinter different from a Sliver?
"Let me see... You have met splinters in Elantris, Warbreaker, and in Way of Kings. You have not met them in Mistborn."
"I feel like we know that. So, qualitatively, what's the difference?"
"Qualitatively, they're reverses of one another. A Sliver is a human intelligence who has held the power and released it. A Splinter has never been human."
"But it derives from a Shard's power."
"Yes. That's not it completely, but there's at least something to think about."
Is the Dor the same as the power of creation that powers Allomancy?
He said that the Dor is similar to that which powers allomancy but not 100% the same.
Do you have plans to continue stories in the Elantris (hope I spelled that right) world?
Yes. I hope to write a sequel for the 10th anniversary of the book's release, which would be 2015.
Complex "magic" system in Mistborn, and the complex one in Elantris; what base ideas do you build from for this?
For Mistborn, Alchemy and biological metabolism. For Elantris, Chinese linguistics and geometry mixed.
I also asked what project he would like to tackle next.
I'm assuming he meant after Stormlight Two. He said he really would like to get Elantris 2 out in time for the 10th anniversary addition of Elantris, which will have extra art and other bits in it. after that one, he says he would love to do another stand alone, and said The Silence Divine would be his choice.
It's exciting, to be honest. The characters and setting to this world are so deep, so complex, so FASCINATING that it's going to be a worldbuilder's pleasure to look through the notes and begin work on the project. It will be hard, and it is certainly daunting, but it's also an amazing opportunity.
As you said, a lot of my work is a direct reaction to the fantasy I read when I was young. Not against it, really, but an attempt to build upon it and take the epic fantasy in new directions. Yet, I've always wanted my books to still FEEL like fantasy, and the Wheel of Time is part of what defines what feels like fantasy in our era.
A part of me has always wanted to deal with the classic fantasy themes, which is why Mistborn was about turning them on their heads. The chance to get right to the source and work with a series that defined those themes. . .it's just plain amazing.
One of the best things you can do as an aspiring writer is learn about editors who publish writing similar to yours, then attend conventions to meet people and make contacts. I met Moshe Feder, a consulting editor at Tor, at World Fantasy Convention in 2001. He agreed to take a look at my work, so I sent him the manuscript for Elantris, my 6th novel. I didn't hear anything from Moshe, so I continued writing and submitting. Elantris sat on Moshe's desk for eighteen months, but eventually he read it, and liked it! I'd moved, so my contact information was no longer correct, but with a little persistence, Moshe managed to track me down and make me an offer for Elantris.
Eighteen months! That's a long time to wait patiently, what can you recommend to aspiring novelists to help them avoid such a fate...but still get their book published!
I think a writer who has several works to send out, and is actively seeking multiple sources to which to send them, is more likely to get published. Be aware, though, that it is against industry protocol to send a complete manuscript to more than one editor or agent. You can send query letters or partial manuscripts to several sources, but if someone asks for a full manuscript, that person must accept or reject it before you send it to anyone else. It is important to know and follow the submission guidelines for the places to which you send manuscripts.
A manifestation of Ruin's gathered consciousness, much like the dark mists in book two. The lake was still around in Vin's era, but had been moved under ground. (Note that the Well is a very similar manifestation. You've also seen one other manifestation like this....)
The "lake" was barely ten feet deep—more like a pool. Its water was a crystalline blue, and Raoden could see no inlets or outlets.If that's what you're hinting at...I never thought of the connection before! I just kept thinking of Aether of Night, and never thought of this pool at all.
Both are accurate, but the first is what I meant, as most people here don't have access to Aether.
I'm also thinking that the Dor in Elantris is another Shard of Adonalsium. Certainly in the Elantris world, where the Dor came from is rather ambiguous, which I expected it would be. Of course, if other Shards of Adonalsium do exist, the Dor could have come from that source.
I will RAFO from here on the other Shards of Adonalsium, as it would be better for me not to give spoilers. Please feel free to speculate. Readers have met four shards other than Ruin and Preservation.
Have we met these four by name, or just by influence? I can't think of a name that would go with the one that the Elantris lake is a manifestation of.
Hoid could be one? I know nothing his purpose other than that he shows up in lots of different books, sometimes begging and sometimes telling stories. Since most of these series happen on different planets (though two of them may happen on the same planet as each other), I'm assuming he has mad planet-hopping skills.
Ookla, I'm going to be tight lipped on this, as I don't want to give things away for future books. But I'll tell you this:
You've interacted with two directly.
One is a tough call. You've never met the Shard itself, but you've seen its power.
The other one you have not met directly, but have seen its influence.
I thought Nightblood was explained sufficiently for my tastes in Warbreaker, so I doubt that it is a Shard, but I've been plenty wrong before. Also, I don't know if Hoid could even be a Shard. Certainly he has mean planet-hopping skills, but I don't know what purpose a celestial storyteller would have in this universe. He doesn't really have the same kind of power as Ruin or Preservation did, so normally I would rule him out right off the bat. But it is possible that these Shards come in many shapes, not just in the near-deific quantity Ruin or Preservation had. I think it's a bit of a stretch to say Hoid is a Shard... but, then again, I don't have any ideas for what those four other Shards are.
Maybe Hoid is just a traveler trying to find remnants of Adonalsium and stories about them. He doesn't need to be a shard, I suppose.
This is slightly a tangent, but here is a relevant chunk from the Warbreaker Annotations. As this won't be posted for months, I'll put it here as a sneak preview.
This whole scene came about because I wanted an interesting way to delve into the history. Siri needed to hear it, and I felt that many readers would want to know it. However, that threatened to put me into the realm of the dreaded info dump.
And so I brought in the big guns. This cameo is so obvious (or, at least, someday it will be) that I almost didn’t use the name Hoid for the character, as I felt it would be too obvious. The first draft had him using one of his other favorite pseudonyms. However, in the end, I decided that too many people would be confused (or, at least, even more confused) if I didn’t use the same name. So here it is. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about. . .well, let’s just say that there’s a lot more to this random appearance than you might think.
Brandon, I believe in one of Sazed's epigraphs, he actually called it "Adonasium" rather than what you are referring to here, which is "Adonalsium". I'm thinking that's just a typo, right?
I don't suppose you could tell us which book series of yours will tell us more about Adonalsium, would you? You know, just so us theorizers on the forum know when to properly theorize about these things...
Well, I guess this means that the proofreaders did not add the "L" when I marked the error on the manuscript.(sigh). Yes, the correct spelling is Adonalsium. I will try to get this fixed for the paperback, but I've been trying to get that blasted steel/iron error in the back of book one fixed for two years now. . .
If it helps, Sazed would probably under-pronounce the "L" as that letter, like in Tindwyl's name, is said very softly in Terris.
As for your other question, you will have to wait and see. Now, you could search my old books for clues, but I would caution against this. While there are hints in these, they are not yet canon. Just as I changed how things were presented in the Mistborn books during editing, I would have fixed a lot in these books during revision. Beyond that, reading them would give big spoilers for books yet to be released. White Sand, Dragonsteel, and Way of Kings in particular are going to be published some day for almost certain. (Though in very different forms). Aether of Night should be safe, as should Final Empire prime and Mistborn prime, though of those three, only Aether is worth reading, and then only barely. (It is still pretty bad).
Hey @PeterAhlstrom could you tell us what Aona's Shard was? Brandon said he'd look it up and get back to us, but.... [he never got back to us.]
I thought sure that was answered already. But anyway, the answer is yes [Aona is Devotion].
This essay I just posted:
Started as a blog post for this thread, talking about the old books I wrote to give context to my previous post. It outgrew the length of a proper forum post, so I put it on the site instead. But this might help you understand some of my history as a writer, not to mention explain the origin of all these old books Ookla that references all the time.
I remembered a thread from ages ago in which Brandon posted a list of the books he'd written, I looked it up when I realised it wasn't in the article, and I figured you guys might be interested too, so here it is.
1) White Sand Prime (My first Fantasy Novel)
2) Star's End (Short, alien-relations sf novel.)
3) Lord Mastrell (Sequel to White Sand Prime)
4) Knight Life (Fantasy comedy.)
5) The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora (Far future sf involving immortal warriors)
6) Elantris (You have to buy this one!)
7) Dragonsteel (My most standard epic fantasy
8) White Sand (Complete rewrite of the first attempt)
9) Mythwalker (Unfinished at about 600 pages. Another more standard epic fantasy.)
10) Aether of Night (Stand-Alone fantasy. A little like Elantris.)
11) Mistborn Prime (Eventually stole this world.)
12) Final Empire Prime (Cannibalized for book 14 as well.)
13) The Way of Kings (Fantasy War epic. Coming in 2008 or 2009)
14) Mistborn: The Final Empire (Coming June 2006)
15) Mistborn: The Well of Ascension (Early 2007)
16) Alcatraz Initiated (YA Fantasy. Being shopped to publishers)
17) Mistborn: Hero of Ages (Unfinished. Coming late 2007)
18) Dark One (Unfinished. YA fantasy)
19) Untitled Aether Project (Two sample chapters only.)
Thanks for posting that. Note that I can never quite remember which was first, Aether or Mistborn Prime. I always feel that Aether should be first, since it wasn't as bad as the two primes, but thinking back I think that the essay is more accurate and I wrote it between them.
This would be the new list:
1) White Sand Prime (My first Fantasy Novel)
2) Star's End (Short, alien-relations sf novel.)
3) Lord Mastrell (Sequel to White Sand Prime)
4) Knight Life (Fantasy comedy.)
5) The Sixth Incarnation of Pandora (Far future sf involving immortal warriors)
6) Elantris (First Published)
7) Dragonsteel (My most standard epic, other than the not-very-good Final Empire prime.)
8 ) White Sand (Complete rewrite of the first attempt, turned out much better.)
9) Mythwalker (Unfinished at about 600 pages. Another more standard epic fantasy.)
10) Aether of Night (Stand-Alone fantasy. A little like Elantris.)
11) Mistborn Prime (Shorter fantasy, didn't turn out so well.)
12) Final Empire Prime (Shorter fantasy, didn't turn out so well.)
13) The Way of Kings Prime (Fantasy War epic.)
14) Mistborn: The Final Empire (Came out 2006)
15) Mistborn: The Well of Ascension (Came out 2007)
16) Alcatraz Verus the Evil Librarians (Came out 2007)
17) Mistborn: Hero of Ages (Came out 2008)
18) Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones (Came out 2008)
19) Warbreaker (Comes out June 2009)
20) Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia (November 2009ish)
21) A Memory of Light (November 2009ish. Working on it now. Might be split into two.)
22) The Way of Kings Book One (2010ish. Not started yet.)
23) Alcatraz Four (2010. Not started yet)
Will elements of your untitled Aether project be worked into the Dragonsteel series?
The Silence Divine (Working title. Stand alone Epic Fantasy. Unwritten.)These titles are news to me. You described two potential YA or middle-grade books to me and Karen when you came out to Book Expo, plus Dark One, but now I can't remember the plots except they were cool (and that one of them involved superheroes). Are they among this list? Also, is that really Harbringer or is it supposed to be Harbinger?
Steelheart (YA Science Fiction. Unwritten)
I Hate Dragons (Middle Grade fantasy. Maybe an Alcatraz follow up. Unwritten.)
Zek Harbringer, Destroyer of Worlds (Middle Grade Sf. Maybe an Alcatraz follow up. Unwritten.)
Bah! That's what I get for typing so quickly. Yes, Harbinger. It should be "Zeek" too. Short for Ezekiel.
Steelheart would be the superhero one, though that's a working title, since I'm not sure if it's trademarked or not. Haven't had much time for thinking about any of these books lately.
Brandon, here you said Alcatraz 4 is called Alcatraz vs. The Dark Talent; is that still the working title? Also, you mentioned Dragonsteel: The Lightweaver of Rens, but now you say The Liar of Partinel is a standalone. Change of plans? (I know you can't get back to Dragonsteel for a while.)
The Alcatraz titles are in flux because I need to know if Scholastic wants the fifth one or not. (They only bought four.) Dark Talent will be one of them for certain.
The Liar of Partinel was part of a two-part story told hundreds of years before the Dragonsteel epic. However, since I've dropped plans to go with Liar anytime soon—A Memory of Light has priority, followed by Way of Kings—I don't know what I'll end up doing with the second book, or if I'll ever even write it. I was planning on not calling either of these "Dragonsteel" in print, actually, and just letting people connect the two series on their own. It wouldn't be hard to do, but I didn't want the first actual book in the main storyline to be launched by Tor as "Book Three" since there would be such a large gap of time.
He responded that sometimes he has several synonyms that he hasn’t quite decided on. So I asked him if he was now canonizing a new shard and he said yes. So this is now official. He agreed to let me share it, so here it is.I’ve attached the picture for you to see for yourself, but the text says: “The second shard on the Elantris world (Sel) is Dominion.”
Firstly he read from his novella, Legion, which is out in November [I think??]. It's about a genius whose genius manifests in the form of hallucinations. Basically whenever this guy studies anything, he creates a hallucinatory expert that retains the full extent of all this knowledge like a repository, and it is with his 'legion' of hallucinatory experts that his full genius and ability comes from.
On the second day he read from a new novel set in the Elantris world (though in a whole different part of the world, with completely new characters (barring, of course, Hoid)). I didn’t write it down, but the title was something like 'Soul of the Dragon Emperor'. The magic system involves Forgers, people who can through study and understanding something’s past, forge a soulseal which can change that past so long as it is touching the thing itself. So a Forger could look at an old and battered table, and by studying it—understanding where the wood came from, where the polish came from, so forth—they could then create a soulseal that says the table has been lovingly and carefully cared for, and so long as that seal is laid into the table, the table will no longer be battered and old, but perfectly polished. This is the gist of the plot as well, that something has happened to the Emperor and a talents Forger who works as a thief is supposed to Forge the Emperor’s soul so that it appears as if nothing has happened.
Other than that the only other thing I have in my notes is that Shallan is to be the Stormlight 2 Flashback character.
How did the whole cosmere come about?
Oh that's a good question, the cosmere came about because- there's really two genesis' of it. First off I'm a big fan of Asimov's work and if you know Asimov's work he tied his two universes together later in his life and I thought he did a brilliant job of it, though patching it together later in his life as he did there were certain continuity problems in doing it and I always thought "Boy, I bet he wished he'd done it from the beginning".
So, as I started to work on things, I thought "Well why don't I try something like that from the beginning." Once again I got to see what one of the masters did and learn from them, stand on their shoulders.
The other thing is early I realised that if I were writing mini-books then writing them all in the same series would be a bad for getting published, let's say I wrote five, I'm gonna write five books and a publisher rejects the first one. If the other four are in the same series, it's going to be very hard to convince that publisher to read book two if they've already said no to book one. However, if they are five standalone books, set in different worlds, then I can say if someone says "I liked this book but not enough to publish it," I could send them another one and say "Hey this one is different but similar maybe you'll like that." It just increased my chances.
The problem with that is I grew up reading the big epics and I love big epics and they are the books of my heart, like the Wheel of Time. I wanted to write big epics and so I started writing a secret big epic. It started with Elantris, which is the first one that I wrote in the Cosmere and right after it Dragonsteel, which is actually a prequel but in a different universe. I started putting characters from each of these books in the other books to have what I call a hidden epic, mostly for myself, because I had all these books I was going to be selling and marketing separately. But when Elantris sold, all of that stuff was buried in there, and I said "Well, I love it, I'm not gonna cut it, I'm just gonna put it in there to see if people notice." I'm going to keep telling my hidden epic because eventually I will be telling the greater story with Dragonsteel and the third Mistborn trilogy dealing with these things and so that's where the idea for the cosmere came from, those two pieces.
Will we be seeing any more worlds from the cosmere?
There are other word-worlds you will see, there are several I haven’t visited yet at all. White Sand, the world of that book which was one of my earlier novels I never published. I intend to eventually do that series, it may not have the same title or anything but I do intend to do that series, there will be a sequel trilogy to Mistborn, eventually. I’m actually in the middle of working on a short story for that world right now to release online and there will be sequels to elantris but the sequels to elantris will deal with new characters they won’t they won’t, they’ll take place the second book will take place 10 years after the first book.
How did you get discovered as a writer?
Well every writer has their own story of how they got discovered; and I’ve heard it said in the business that it never happens the same way twice. For me, I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was about 21. About that time, someone told me that your first five books are generally terrible. Which, for some people, might have been very discouraging, but for me I thought “Well that’s great, I don’t have to be good at this for quite a while. I can just write and enjoy it.” So I just started writing.
I started writing the ideas that were in my head. I really didn’t know what I was doing, but I was exploring: I tried writing several different books in several different genres. I actually wrote five books. Different: one was a humor piece, one was a science fiction, one was a fantasy—I really liked the fantasy book. It was my favorite, it’s what I’d read a lot. When it came time to write that sixth book, I still had in the back of my head that “Your first five books are terrible” and I have now hit my sixth book. This one’s gotta’ be the one. So I sat down and wrote a book called Elantris, which was based on an idea that I’d been working on for a while. I got done with that book and I said “This is the one; this is going to do it.” It was a standalone epic fantasy novel that I was really, really excited about.
And then I started sending it out, and I started getting rejected. That can be kind of discouraging. You always hear that every writer goes through a host of rejections before they get published, but it’s still hard to go through it, particularly when you think that this book is the one. But I kept writing. I never stopped, even though I had a book that I thought really was the book that would do it. I continued to work on novels: I didn’t really do much with those first five because I considered them practice novels. I continued sending Elantris out while I was writing other things. Well eventually I started to do some networking, started going to the conventions, started really learning the business side of it, and started just sending books out to editors by name rather than just by company.
At a convention, I met a guy named Moshe Feder who I really connected with. He was an editor at Tor, the books that he worked on in the past were authors that I loved, their works, and he and I had a very similar philosophy about books. So I asked him if I could send him a novel and he said “Sure.” So when I got home, I took Elantris—which had then been rejected a number of times—and I said “Okay, let me give this a really good revision, and I’m going to send it to this guy and keep my fingers crossed.” I sent it to him and... didn’t hear back. Didn’t hear back. Heard nothing, months passed. Eventually, I sent him and email saying “Hey, did you get this?” and he said “Yeah, I got it, but it’s really long, it’s really ambitious, and that’s not a bad thing, but it might take me awhile to get to it: I’m just not sure.” And so months passed. Months more passed. I assumed it was just gone, that I had no chance on that one, and I continued working on other books.
And then, 18 months after I’d sent that book out, I got home—I was in grad school at that point—got home from school, checked my voicemail, and there was a phone call from a guy called Moshe Feder. A voicemail, he said “hi, I don’t know if you remember me, but you sent me a book a long time ago, in fact so long ago that your email address has now changed: it bounced when I tried to send you an email, and your phone number had changed: I got a disconnected phone number, and your address had changed: so my letters came back returned. So I Googled you and I found your grad student page: I hope this is the right Brandon Sanderson, because if it is, I want to buy your book.” And so I immediately called him back, but that’s essentially how the story, essentially how it went. Thank goodness for Google and thank goodness that I decided to put my phone number up on my student page at college, because otherwise, who knows what would have happened.
Every hotel desk clerk you meet probably has a book or a screenplay on the side, that starving artist sort of thing, you really, really dream about it, but you never are sure if it’s actually going to happen. I got that phone call finally. I honestly just about dropped the phone and collapsed to the floor. It was a voicemail that I got, actually, I didn’t talk to the editor until afterward, and I got that voicemail and my immediate thought was “Oh, this can’t be happening, this is one of my friends that’s called me to try and trick me, or he doesn’t really want to buy the book, he just wants to reject it in a really nice way.” My agent later told me, “No, people don’t call you to reject you, they send you a letter to reject you, and they call you to accept you.”
And so I called him back and I couldn’t believe it was happening. I talked to him for a good two hours, just about the book. He had actually only gotten a couple hundred pages into the manuscript. When he finally picked up the manuscript, it had been 18 months since I’d sent it to him. He finally picked it up and started reading, he said he read all night and got just a couple hundred pages into it before calling me, just wanting to make sure that it was still available, because he wanted to buy it. So I spent the next week with my head in the clouds, just completely befuddled by the fact that it was actually happening.
Tell me about Elantris.
Elantris is an interesting book. In epic fantasy, it’s usually all about the big series. And I like big series. I love reading books where you can read book after book about the same character. But I also love the concept of the standalone. I particularly think that a single book that wraps up its entire plot-line is its own special art. I thought that, breaking in with my very first book, the thing I would want to do most is have it be a standalone so that people could give me a chance and try one of my books without having to get into something really big. They could try a single book and know how I would plot, how I can do a climax and bring things to an end. So it’s different in that it is a standalone, and there aren’t sequels to it: I later did a trilogy set in a different world, but this is a standalone. It also is interesting in that it doesn’t follow some of the standard cliché plots of the fantasy genre: There’s no quest, there’s no young hero searching for a magical object. It’s something different.
Elantris is the story of a magical city, “City of the Gods” it was called amongst these people. What would happen is, in this kingdom, there was this force that no one understands, but it would randomly choose people and grant them divine powers. Their skin started to glow; they could draw ruins in the air that would do these powerful magics. Once you were chosen by this force, you became one of the gods of these people, you move to the city of Elantris, which was the capital, and from there you would rule with all the other Elantrians, as they would call them: there were hundreds of them.
Well, the book is unique in that that’s not the story. The story starts ten years before the book actually start, and something goes wrong. The magic stops working. All these people, who had these divine powers, they lost them all. They caught this sort of “magical leprosy,” this disease, that turned them all into these poor wretches. They lost all their powers, and the kingdom just about collapsed. Imagine what would happen if not only your ruling class, but the divine gods of your religion, just suddenly were cast down: to a person, they all lost their abilities, just became the lowest of the low. So the common people and the merchant class took all of these people who were their gods, frightened that what they have might be catching, and they locked them in the city of Elantris and just tried to forget about them, turned it into a big prison city.
Well this force keeps picking people, and now it curses them with this disease. The book is about the crown prince of this kingdom, who catches this disease: whatever it is, the force chooses him and turns him into one of these poor wretches, this terrible disease. His own father covers up what happened, throws him into the city with all of these people who used to be gods. It’s the story of him trying to survive in there while also trying to figure out what happened ten years ago: where did the magic go? What when wrong? It’s his story and the story of his fianceé, who is living outside in the new capital city: she’s trying to figure out what happened to him because of the big cover up. So it’s political intrigue on her part: searching for what happened to him, trying to keep an invading force from conquering, and he is on the inside just trying to discover the secrets of what happened.
This is kind of a different story for the fantasy world. Instead of being about a peasant who becomes a king, it’s about a king who essentially becomes less than a peasant, becomes less than a beggar. His own religion says that he’s now damned for eternity, he’s lost his soul. It’s kind of the story of what it means to be a king or to be a pauper, what does it mean when everything turns against you? How do you see yourself in the world now? Can you be happy as one of these poor wretches or do you have to just give in to your fate?
It did very well, went through three hardcover printings—sold in I think fourteen languages—I was just incredibly excited about how much people have enjoyed it because it was a little bit risky, I thought, in a genre populated by the big twelve-book epic, to release a stand-alone. But we’ve been very pleased with how it was received.
Aon Ehe represents the primal force of fire. A complex Aon with only basic symmetry, its form has often been likened to wisps of tickling fire burning out from a central coal.
While the many poets in history seem to have preferred the overall symmetry of an Aon like Aon Omi or Aon Rao, not a few preferred Aon Ehe for its distinctive look and feel. (Much like Aon Shao, this Aon breaks with traditional Aon form in appearance.) For this reason, and because of the destructive yet vital power of fire, the poet Lenehe of the fifth century named Aon Ehe "The most inspiring of all Aons, a symbol for those with a creative heart and an unhindered mind."
Recently, this Aon—easily recognizable, even to the uneducated—has become synonymous with "danger," and is used as a warning. In many cases, in fact, it is printed on warnings which have nothing at all to do with fire. One might find it upon an unsteady bridge or outside a forest hiding dangerous wolves just as easily as one might find it referencing actual flames.
History and Use
All Aons exist independent of humankind, their symbols inherently tied to their meaning, but few have distinct origin stories explaining how the Aon was first discovered. Some modern scholars scoff at such tales, but Aon Ehe's origin myth is well known among the common people and believed by most.
The story tells of the first princess of Arelon. This was some years after the founding of Arelon following the migration of the Aonic people from other lands. Elantris, of course, had already existed as a city when that migration occurred, and had been discovered empty. While some people assumed it haunted, Proud King Rhashm (later renamed Raoshem) determined to conquer the fears of his people and set up a kingdom centered on Elantris.
The transformation of the first Elantrians happened beginning several decades later. Princess Elashe—the first of Raoshem's line to be chosen as an Elantrian—claimed to have seen the pattern of this Aon inscribed on a coal in her hearth the day after she underwent the transformation. Whether or not this story is true, a coal or rock written with Aon Ehe on it is considered good luck and a ward against winter spirits. (Though this kind of superstition is frowned upon by the Korathi priests.)
Other uses of Ehe are plentiful. It is one of the primal elements, and is often used in scientific writings. It is a ward and warning against danger. It is used on signs in conjunction with other Aons to mean warm food or warm beds available. Some artists and poets choose it as their symbol, both to hint at the dangerous nature of artistry and to speak of the passion of artistry.
Naming and Usage in ELANTRIS
(Warning, spoilers below! Don't read this section if you haven't read ELANTRIS!)
Aon Ehe is often mispronounced as "E-hay." Though scholars of Aonic insist that the proper pronunciation "E-Hee" is more accurate, the former is slowly being acknowledged as an acceptable pronunciation as well. It is infrequently used in names during modern days, as the meaning of "danger" is seen as unfavorable. However, historically, it was a favorite Aon for poets and artists (who often took new names for themselves when entering into their maturity as an artist, a tradition by which they removed themselves from their old body of work and indicated that they were beginning anew).
Some famous examples of names from Aon Ehe include the poet Ehen, the artist Ehelan, and Mehen the philosopher.
In the history of Elantris, Aon Ehe played an interesting role as it is the first known Aon to have been drawn with the Chasm Line. During the research of King Raoden, he was practicing this Aon (for its complexity) when he realized the problem with AonDor. The story goes that he added the Chasm Line without thinking, making Aon Ehe spurt out a column of fire and destroying an entire bookshelf.
Aon Ehe is one of the most spectacular, useful, and awe-inspiring of base Aons when used by an Elantrian. There are many Aons that have destructive or powerful effects, but none are as strong without modification as Aon Ehe.
Drawn simply, the Aon creates a column of flame, acting as a direct and primal conduit to the Dor itself. The diameter of the column depends on the size of the Aon drawn, and the direction the column is launched depends on the direction the Aon is facing. Often, this Aon is drawn on the floor so that a column of pure fire can be launched up into the air. The column is brief—only lasting a few seconds—but incredibly powerful.
With some enhancement modifiers, this Aon can be made to last longer. The pre-Reod AonDor scholars crafted lamps with flames that continued to burn no matter which way they were turned. They would even continue to burn beneath water. This Aon can be used in warfare, if necessary, though Aon Daa is generally a better weapon.
As a modifier, Aon Ehe can be used to create a ward that sets off other Aon chains. It provides one of the more useful tools in an AonDor practitioner's repertoire, though the complexity of drawing it can make it difficult to use for the less talented.
Aon Ene represents wit, intelligence, and cleverness. In recent years, the Aon has also begun to be associated with prosperity and wealth as well. It was once a popular Aon for names, though recently it has fallen out of favor in this regard, and names using it are now considered a little old-fashioned.
The Aon has become a favored symbol of merchants, as cultural bias looked unfavorably on a shop using the symbol for gold or jewels. (Such symbols on a shop were seen as lavish or presumptuous by some.) Instead, many bankers instead use this Aon on their door to indicate their profession. The appropriation of the symbol is a reference to a quote from the appropriately named Enelan, a scholar who lived about a hundred years before the fall of Elantris: "No wealth of gold and silver can purchase a keen mind, but the man of wit will often find treasures beyond what mere lucre can provide."
More traditionally, the symbol was used—and still is used—as a representation of books and scholarly research. Indeed, many scholars, scribes, and illuminators have grown upset by the banking industry's tendency to use this Aon, as they see it as an appropriation of what they believe to be their own symbol. Part of the tension between the groups has made the Aon fall out of favor for names, though others—generally those who are more traditional—still favor it.
The shape of the Aon is said to represent two sides of an argument, interacting together in different ways. If one looks closely, one can see that there are, indeed, two halves that are simply the same set of symbols reversed.
History and Use
Some scholars have expressed amusement that this symbol should come to mean intelligence in a broad sense, as the classical meaning of Aon Ene was far more narrow. Ene was the Aon which represented cleverness, the ability to outwit and outthink opponents. It was often applied in stories and tales to those who had a slyness about them, and often was the symbol which represented the trickster figure. Indeed, those who played tricks on others were said to be Enefels—literally, Wit Killers, or those who kill with wit.
During the Middle Era, when Elantris's influence expanded and the kingdom of Arelon began to take shape, Aon Ene was attributed to the guild of storytellers who brought tales of the marvels in Elantris. It was often rumored that these people, who took upon themselves the Enefel name, were agents of the Elantrians. Their purpose was to spread good will about the city and its inhabitants, calming the rural populace, who regarded Elantris and its magics with suspicion.
Over the centuries, this guild of storytellers transformed into a more scholarly group who gathered stories and histories from the people. By the dawn of the Late Era—about two centuries before the fall of Elantris—the group had burgeoned beyond its origins into several distinct sects of scholars and philosophers. By the time of the fall of Elantris, the constant association of this group with Aon Ene expanded its meaning into the more familiar use, representing scholarly intelligence and study.
Some still remember the original meaning, however. Most of those are themselves scholars, and find the entire transformation to be something of a humorous joke played by history itself.
Naming and Usage in ELANTRIS
(Warning, spoilers below! Don't read this section if you haven't read ELANTRIS!)
As use of the name is out of favor recently, the only character in Elantris who appears with Aon Ene in their name is Sarene. Eventeo, Sarene's father, is not only a traditionalist, but a scholar himself. He is well aware of the ancient meaning of the Aon, and has remarked on occasion that he finds the choice particularly accurate when applied to his daughter.
Ene is one of the primary constellations in the Arelene sky, and the star pattern is the most easy to pick out. It contains the pole star of the world, a concept which has fascinated philosophers throughout history.
Eventeo's use of the simple word "Ene" as a nickname for Sarene is another traditional association with names attached to the Aon. Much as some cultures shorten words or names into common nicknames, Ene—pronounced Eeenee—is a commonly applied term of endearment for someone who has this Aon in their name.
This Aon has a powerful and unusual AonDor counterpart. A properly drawn Aon Ene puts forth a light, known by many as the Light of the Mind. When sitting in this Aon's light, one's mental abilities are enhanced. The Elantrian—or anyone else who happens to be close to the Aon—can memorize more quickly, think more clearly, and stave off mind-clouding effects of tiredness and sickness.
Used in conjunction with other Aons, Aon Ene is what is known as a "linking Aon." Using it properly in the Aon equation will link subsections of Aon lists together, coordinating which effects take place at which times during the Aon list's progression. It is an important Aon to learn to use well for complex Aon linkings, and no true AonDor master is without substantial practice in its use.
In its most basic form, Omi is used to represent love and benevolence. It is a common root Aon for a wide variety of words, including affection, care, passion, piety, zeal, and some synonyms of loyalty.
A complex Aon with strong symmetry, the Aon has often been used as an example of balance and even perfection. The great AonDor scholar Enelan of the fourth century called it "The most perfect of Aons, fully incorporating the base of Aon Aon and spinning it into a complex icon that is artful and complicated, yet somehow simple at the same time."
In later centuries, the symbol has come to mean not only love, but divinity as well, an association created by the Korathi church's appropriation of the Aon. Many devout Korathi also regard the symbol as representing the potential unification of all mankind through peace, temperance, and love.
History and Use
Aon Omi is best known as the official symbol of the Korathi church in Arelon. It was chosen by Korath (known as KoWho in JinDo) himself to represent the church and God. Scholars of the time say that Korath made the decision late in his life, after decades spent preaching his interpretations of the tenets of Shu-Keseg (which eventually became the Korathi religion) in Arelon and Elantris itself.
The choice was shocking to many, as the young Korathi devout saw the Elantrians and their worship as a competing religion. Their Aons, the basis for Elantrian magic an power, were then regarded as heathen symbols. Korath was always bothered by this competitive streak in his believers, and it is widely accepted that he picked an Aon to represent God and his religion as an attempt to show that all people were acceptable beneath the blanket of the Korathi doctrines. He himself called the Aon a "Thing of Beauty" and asked an Elantrian smith of his acquaintance to craft a silver pendant for him bearing the symbol.
That event, and the subsequent adoption of Aon Omi by the Korathi church, led to the odd relationship between the Elantrians and the Korathi religion which took root in their homeland. (Though, following Korath's death, his right-hand man and follower ShanVen moved the religion's center of operations to Teod instead, where the young monarchy there had embraced Shu-Korath as its official religion.)
Over the years, many other Aons have been adopted by the Korathi religion, but this one—Aon Omi—has remained their most powerful and important symbol. It is used extensively in Korathi religious services, and pendants bearing Aon Omi are commonly worn by the devout. (Many simply call them Korathi pendants, or Korathi religious pendants.) Such pendants are commonly exchanged during Korathi wedding services. (See the end of ELANTRIS the novel for an example.)
Many Korathi priests now look at the use of Aons by their religion as a symbol of the potential unity of all mankind, when different beliefs, sects, and cultures will be drawn together through sincere affection for one another.
Naming and Usage in ELANTRIS
As can be expected from its meanings, Aon Omi is a common root Aon for names in Arelon, particularly among those who follow the Korathi religion.
The most obvious word using Omi as a root is the name Domi itself, the Korathi word for God. This usage did not become common until the seventh century; before then, the Jindoeese name Dashu was used by the Korathi, and the Elantrians preferred a word using Aon Daa as its root. In an interesting exchange, the Aonic word "Domi" eventually became a loan word back to Jindoeese, where the word DoMin came to mean "god."
The head priest of the Korathi chapel in Kae, Father Omin, also uses this Aon in his name. (As a side note, like many Korathi priests, Omin chose a new name for himself once he joined the priesthood. In his youth, he went by the name of Elenan.) Father Omin wears a jade pendant of Aon Omi.
Eondel wears a pendant of Aon Omi, his sky blue. Sarene wears one of green and gold, while Raoden wears one of black.
Aon Omi is a powerful Aon, and before the fall of Elantris could perform powerful magics. When drawn it puts out a powerful and pure white light; any who are touched by this light find their negative emotions wiped away, replaced by a sense of serenity and peace. It is difficult indeed to maintain a sense of hatred while Aon Omi is in force.
So powerful is this Aon, however, that using it requires much of the Elantrian who draws it. The Aon will be weak unless the one drawing it feels a sincere affection for those around him, making this Aon very difficult to use in tense situations. This strange requirement has fascinated AonDor practitioners for centuries, as it is one of the few Aons which requires something other than drawing skill from its Elantrian.
Aon Omi is also used in other places in AonDor equations. It can be used to tie other Aon chains together, and is also a weaker power modifier, if used in the correct way.
Welcome to the ELANTRIS Annotations section!
The following are a series of short commentaries I wrote, each one individually linked to a specific chapter, page, or section in ELANTRIS. They give a lot of 'behind the scenes' information relating to the writing process, the concepts and characters of ELANTRIS, and whatever else I was thinking about at the time!
Ideally, I think these would be best read by someone who has completed the entire novel—used as a companion, perhaps, during someone's second read-through. Though I've taken efforts to hide any spoilers, I worry that pausing after each chapter and reading my annotation would slow the reading process down and make the book less enjoyable.
However, I try very hard not to give anything away that doesn't have to do with chapters already read. So, if you've finished chapter four, then you should be safe reading up to annotation number four.
At the top left corner, you'll see a check box and a button you can use to turn on the 'hidden' spoiler text for each chapter. Not every chapter has spoiler text, but many do. In fact, some of these spoilers reveal important plot twists later in the book. It is my request, as the author, that you avoid looking at these unless you've read the entire novel. My works often depend a great deal upon their endings, and I'd hate to think that I myself had contributed to ruining one of those endings for a reader.
But, you're free to use these as you wish.
Thanks for reading
You'd be surprised how much can be said about the title of this book. Naming books is one of the most frustrating, and most fulfilling, elements of writing. I'm more fortunate than some authors I know—for most of my books, the names came easily. Sometimes, I even came up with the title before I wrote the book. (This has actually only happened once, when thought up the phrase 'The Way of Kings,' and thought 'Man! That would be a great title for a book!.)
ELANTRIS has had several titles. During the rough draft phase, I simply called it 'SPIRIT.' I knew that the main character's name would be based on the character for Spirit, and that would also be the name he took for himself when he was in exile. I never intended this to be the final title for the manuscript, but it was what I named all the files when I was typing the work.
Those of you who've read the book realize the special significance of 'Spirit' (or Aon Rao as it eventually became known) to the climax of the story. I'll talk more about this in a bit.
Sometimes, when you're coming up with a lot of fantastical names, you create words that have a certain, unforeseen connotations or connections. In this case, I wasn't even thinking of the Greek myth. 'Ado' was simply the Aon I chose to base the city's name around, and 'Adonis' (Pronounced with a long 'A' and a long 'O') was the word that came out of that Aon.
So, I named the book THE SPIRIT OF ADONIS, hoping to play off of Raoden's name.
It was, however, actually a three-fold pun. I included this line—'The Spirit of Adonis' at the climax, when Raoden realizes that the city itself formed an enormous Aon Rao.
I didn't realize what I'd done until my writing group met for the first time, and they said 'I like the beginning of the book. I'm having trouble figuring out what this has to do with the Greeks. Is it because the god-like people were so arrogant?'
Then it hit me. Adonis, from Greek mythology, was a beautiful man loved by Aphrodite. The word has become a kind of paradigm for a beautiful—almost perfect—specimen of the male species. And I had unwittingly named my book after him.
Let's just say I changed that pretty quickly. However, I needed a new name for the city. I played with a number of different combinations of Ado, but somehow ended up trying up different sounds and combinations. Thankfully, I came up with the word 'Elantris.' As soon as I wrote it down, I knew this was my city. It sounded grand without being overbearing, and it had a mythological feel to it (harkening slightly to 'Atlantis'.) I renamed the book 'THE SPIRIT OF ELANTRIS,' and proceeded.
Then came time to send out the manuscript. I had had some comments on the book—people liked 'Elantris,' but the 'spirit of' was less popular. I tried several iterations, and even sent out some query letters calling the book 'THE LORDS OF ELANTRIS.' That just felt too cliché fantasy for me, however, and I eventually returned to 'THE SPIRIT OF ELANTRIS.'
Finally, the book got sold. At this point, my editor (Moshe Feder) suggested that we shorten the title to simply ELANTRIS. Remembering how other people had been unimpressed with the 'spirit of,' I agreed. Now that I've seen the cover lettering and worked with it as 'ELANTRIS' for some time, I'm very pleased with the change. The new title has more zip, and makes the book sound more majestic. I still get to have a reference to my old title, as Part Three of the book is called 'The Spirit of Elantris.'
Of course, even this title isn't without its problems. People have trouble spelling it when I say the title, and some think of the car named the 'Elantra.' At one panel, I even had one person miss-hear me, thinking the name of the book was 'The Laundress.' That would certainly be a different book. . . .
The Dedication I've always intended to dedicate my first published book to my mother. I poke a little fun at her here, since I can't resist. However, I really do owe a lot of who I am—and what I've accomplished—to her. When I was in elementary school, I had mediocre grades—and my test scores placed me as 'below average' on several occasions. Well, she was bound and determined to prove that I was 'gifted' despite those scores. She worked hard to get me to improve in school, and she was a prime motivator behind my reading habits.
That, obviously, did not happen. The big bad English monster took me in my sophomore year. However, my mother has always been supportive, and it was her sense of dedication, excellence, and assiduousness that forged my determined personality. Without that sense of self-determination, I would never have lasted in this field long enough to publish.
So, thank you mother. Thanks for being proud of me.
I've had a few complaints about this page—but not the complaints I expected. When I was writing the acknowledgments, I was worried that I'd leave someone out who gave me good comments on the book. It took me a lot of searching through old records, but I think I finally found pretty much everyone. However, I assumed that if I DID leave anyone out, they would complain. (It's been five years since I wrote ELANTRIS, and a lot of people have read it during that time.)
However, most of the complaints I got weren't from people I forgot to put on the acknowledgements page. The complaints were from people who were on the page, but didn't think they deserved to be there!
You see, I added a few names to this list. These were people who hadn't read ELANTRIS as an alpha reader, but who had been part of one of my writing groups or who had otherwise given me support during the days when I was trying to get published. These people read other books of mine, even if I wasn't working on ELANTRIS when I met them. So, on this acknowledgements page, I wanted to give a general thanks to all the people who have helped me over the years. That means if you're on the list and don't think you belong there, tough!
You get my acknowledgement whether you want it or not!
Anyway, you can see that there are a lot of names on this list. These are a great bunch of people—good critics, great fans, and many of them pretty good writers in their own right. Though at this point, only one of them has a professional novel publication (Rob Wells,) I'm sure that others will eventually join him. When they do, buy their books!
The top list of people includes my closest and most helpful writing groups. The first group, named 'Here there be dragons' actually started when I was writing ELANTRIS, and that was the first book the group dealt with. Though we didn't spend much time on ELANTRIS, I remember meeting in Ben's office in the BYU alumni house and chatting about the book's terrible title (see the title page annotation,) among other things. The founding members were Dan, Ben, me, and Nate. We added Peter a bit later on, and he went on to become an editor at Tokyopop. A couple of other people—Krista Olson, Alan Layton, and a few others—did short stints as dragons, but I ended up acknowledging them in other places on the list.
Of those three writing groups, only one is still going. The one with Alan Layton and Kaylynn ZoBell. We meet in Salt Lake every Friday night (yes, I know. That's the best thing we writers often have to do on Friday nights. . . .) Anyway, they're a great support and help to me.
Another interesting note is regarding my professors. I intend to dedicate a book some day to the teachers that have helped me over the years. It was a school teacher—the appropriately named Ms. Reader—who gave me my first fantasy book . I can think of few professions as noble as that of teacher, and I am deeply thankful to all of those who have helped me—not just the few names I had room to mention on this page.
I'm a very sequential writer. When I write a book, I usually start with the prologue and write straight through until I hit the epilogue. Though I can't remember for certain, I'm pretty sure that this prologue was the first thing I ever wrote for Elantris.
Back in those days, I didn't outline as much as I do now. When I first put fingers to keyboard, I really didn't know where this book was going to go. I had some vague idea of what I wanted it to be, but I didn't know how I was going to get there. However, this prologue really helped solidify things for me.
I love how it works in the story. It's quick, descriptive, and gives a marvelous outline of the magical setting of the book. It's also one of the most heavily-edited sections of the book. Moshe didn't like my original draft of it because he thought it was over-written. The original first line of the book was 'Whispered are the days when Elantris was beautiful.' I kind of still like this line better, but it may just be nostalgia. The line kind of has a faint. . .flowing quality to it. An etherealness.
Regardless, 'Elantris was beautiful, once' made for a nice compromise. I'll probably post the entire, first-draft version of the prologue in the 'deleted scenes' section of the website, if you want to compare.
Despite my preference for the old first line, I like the other changes we made to the prologue. Over all, it became more descriptive and easier to understand. It's a nice springboard to the story, and we've used it several places as a kind of quick teaser to get people to read the book.
There are a couple of interesting things about this chapter. First off, it didn't originally start with Raoden waking up. When I first wrote the book, I threw Raoden directly into the city, line one. That original line was: "It wasn't until Raoden heard the gate swing closed behind him, booming with a shocking sound of finality, that he realized he had been damned."
While this line worked pretty well, I found I had to do an extended flashback showing him waking up and frightening the maid, etc. In the end, I realized that this was a bulky construction that didn't really speed the novel up—but rather slowed it down. So, I rewrote the first scene to have Raoden waking up, seeing Elantris, and then realizing he'd been taken by the Shaod.
My books tend to have what are called 'steep learning curves.' In other words, they take a little getting used to. Fantasy in general has a steep learning curve, and I don't tend to write very standard fantasies—I like to push the genre a little bit, introducing strange settings and irregular magic systems. Because of this, I have to be very careful at the beginnings of my books not to overwhelm the reader. This book was a good example—taking it a little easier, giving the reader a more cautious ease into Elantris, proved the better route.
Happily, I eventually managed to preserve the original line with its catchy feel. I don't usually do things like this—I don't believe in the standard 'hook' idea. However, when I was thinking about this book, the first lines of the first three chapters were some of the first things that occurred to me. These three lines became the foundation for how I characterized the separate viewpoints, and they were part of what drew me to writing the book in the first place. If you go through and read them, I think they each have a little bit of zip, and hopefully invoke a sense of curiosity. These three lines introduce each character and one of their primary conflicts, and do it in a simple, clear way.
Maintaining this feel with the new first scene was important to me, even though it could be argued that the first line of chapter one is a bit of POV error. I'm revealing information that the viewpoint character doesn't yet know. I avoid these, but in this case, I felt that cohesion was more important than strict POV, right here.
I also did a second massive cut just after Raoden was thrown into the city. If you read the earlier draft, you'll see that he struggles with what has happened to him a bit more. There's even a brief section where he thinks about Ien and some of the Seon's words of wisdom. I cut these sections because they just slowed the book too much. I figured Raoden's shorter soul-searching at the beginning, where he quickly comes to the decision to 'look damnation in the face,' helped the story move along. Again, I worry about my beginnings—perhaps too much—because they have a history of dragging just a bit. By pushing Raoden into walking through the city, I kept the pacing up.
Everything else in this chapter pretty much stayed the same. In the original draft, Galladon was actually named Galerion. I made the change because the name 'Galerion' just didn't fit the eventual linguistic style I devised for Duladel. Again, I didn't do as much planning for this book as I now for books I write now, and I just kind of let the names and cultures develop as I wrote. In the end, Galerion's culture out-developed his name. I figured that the main Dula in the book needed to have a Dula-sounding name. Interestingly, Moshe—my editor—independently decided that he really didn't like Galerion's name. When I made the suggested change, he was very pleased. Originally, he didn't like Raoden's name either—but this came, mostly, because he had trouble pronouncing it. I actually really like the name, but understand that it can be difficult if you don't understand the Aonic language. Remember—two hard vowel sounds formed by the Aon, every other vowel is soft. RAY-OH-den. (Read the pronunciation guide for more.)
Galladon/Galerion originally spoke with a much stronger dialect in this chapter. However, these dribbled off after the first few chapters, and I decided I didn't want him to be quite as difficult to understand. So, I went back and cut them. You'll notice, however, that Galladon still hits the dialect pretty hard in this first chapter.
So, this chapter gets the grand prize for most edited and revised chapter in the book. There are other chapters that have more new material—but only because they were added in completely after the original draft. This chapter, good old chapter two, was the one that underwent the most tweaks, face-lifts, additions, and edits during the ten drafts I did of ELANTRIS.
And, I think poor little Sarene is the cause of it.
You could say that she played havoc with the book in much the same way she did with Hrathen, Iadon, and Raoden in the story.
As I worked on the novel, Sarene as a character took on a much more dominant role in the plot than I had intended. Perhaps it's because she's the intermediary between the other two characters, or maybe it's because I liked her best of the three characters. Either way, in my mind, this book is about Sarene. She's the catalyst, the force of change.
In the end, she's the one that provides the solutions to both Raoden and Hrathen's problems. She gives Raoden the hint he needs to fix ELANTRIS, and she gives Hrathen the moment of courage he needs in order to turn against Dilaf.
However, I've found that Sarene is many people's least-favorite of the three characters. I had a lot of trouble in the original drafts of this book, since many alpha readers didn't like her in this chapter. They thought she came off as too brusque and manipulative. It was always my intention to show a more sensitive side to her later in the novel, but I didn't intend to lead with it quite as quickly as I ended up doing.
The first edit to the chapter came with the addition of the Sarene-and-Ashe-travel-to-the-palace scene. This is the section were Sarene sits in the carriage, thinking about her anger at Raoden and her insecurity. This counteracts a bit of the strength we see from her in the first scene at the docks, rounding her out as a character.
The second big addition came in the form of the funeral tent scene. This was added as a tangent to one of Moshe's suggestions—he wanted us to have an opportunity to see Sarene investigating Raoden's death. In the original drafts of the book, we felt the narrative made it too obvious to outsiders that Raoden must have been thrown into Elantris. Moshe and I felt that it seemed silly that people wouldn't consider the possibility that Raoden wasn't dead. This wasn't what I wanted—I wanted most people to accept the event. Only someone as overly-curious as Sarene would have been suspicious.
So, I revised the story to downplay the suspicion around Raoden's death. Instead of having Iadon rush through the funeral (an element of the original draft) I added the funeral tent and had Sarene (off-stage) attend the funeral itself. These changes made it more reasonable that very few people would have suspicions regarding the prince's death, and therefore made it more plausible that people wouldn't think that he had been thrown into Elantris.
Other small tweaks to this chapter included the removal of a line that almost everyone seemed to hate but me. After Sarene meets Iadon for the first time, she is pulled away by Eshen to leave the throne room. At this time, I had Sarene mutter "Oh dear. THIS will never do." Everyone thought that was too forceful, and made her sound to callous, so I changed it to "Merciful Domi! What have I gotten myself into?" A piece of me, however, still misses Sarene's little quip there.
There is some division among readers regarding their favorite viewpoint character. One group chooses Raoden, but I think the majority go with Hrathen. All things considered, I think he's probably the best villain I've ever written. His personality comes off quite well in this first chapter, and I think he might have the strongest introduction—at least personality-wise—of the three.
Chapter three marks the end of the first "chapter triad."
The chapter triads are a major structural element of this novel. The viewpoints rotate Raoden-Sarene-Hrathen, in order, one chapter each. Each of the three chapters in the grouping cover pretty much the same time-frame, so they can overlap, and we can see the same scene sometimes from two different viewpoints. (Note the point in chapter two where Sarene sees Raoden being led to Elantris, wearing the sacrificial robes.)
We always follow this same format, going from Raoden, to Sarene, to Hrathen. Until, that is, the system breaks down late in the book—but we'll get into that.
And, you might have noticed that the Aons at the beginnings of the chapters stay the same for three chapters before changing. Each triad, therefore, has a different Aon to mark it. (I did a little bit of fighting to get this through at Tor. The final decision was theirs, but once they realized what I was trying to do, they liked the idea and approved it.) The placing of the Aons is a little bit obscure, I'll admit, but it might be fun for people to notice. (They also grow increasingly complex, built out of more and more tracings of Aon Aon, as the triads progress. There are some special Aons marking the beginnings of sections.)
I'll talk more on chapter triads later. You can read more about my theory on the format in the critical afterword to ELANTRIS (which should eventually be posted in the Elantris 'Goodies' section.) I might also do essay specifically about the format and the challenges it presented.
Anyway, back to Hrathen. My hope in creating him was to present an antagonist for the story who would be believable, understandable, and sympathetic. He's a good man, after his own fashion—and he's certainly dedicated. He doesn't want to destroy the world; he wants to save it. It's not his fault he's serving an evil imperial force.
Regardless, Hrathen certainly has the most interesting character progression in the story. Raoden and Sarene, despite many interesting attributes, are two of the most static characters I've designed. This book isn't about their growth as people, but rather their ability to overcome their desperate odds. Hrathen, on the other hand, has a real opportunity to grow, learn, and change. Perhaps this is what makes him people's favorite. It certainly made him the critic's favorite.
I can only think of two books I've written—out of sixteen—that use a literary 'timebomb' as strict as the one in ELANTRIS. Three months to convert the kingdom or Wyrn will destroy it. That's a pretty heavy motivator. Sometimes, timebombs can feel contrived, and I tried to make this one feel as realistic as possible.
Later, when we discover that Hrathen was never intended to succeed in his conversion, I think this three-month limit makes a lot more sense.
Moshe and I agreed on just about every edit or change made to ELANTRIS. There is one small thing, however, that we kind of went the rounds about. The word Kolo.
Galladon's 'Kolo's are, in my mind, an integral part of his personality. I characterize him a great deal through his dialogue—he doesn't really get viewpoints of his own, so everything I do for him at least until the ending
I either have to do through Raoden's thoughts or through Galladon's own words. When I was coming up with Galladon's character, I realized I would need a set of linguistic features that would reinforce his culture's relaxed nature. So, I went with smooth-sounds, and gave their dialect a very 'chatty' feel. The Dula habit of calling everyone 'friend' came from this—as did their habit of softening everything they say with a question tag. Linguistically, questions are less antagonistic than statements, and I figured a culture like the Dula one would be all about not antagonizing people.
A number of languages in our own world make frequent use of similar tags. Korean, the foreign language I'm most familiar with, has a language construction like this. Closer to home, people often make fun of the Canadian propensity for adding a similar tag to their own statements. I hear that Spanish often uses these tags. In many of these languages, a large percentage of statements made will actually end in a softening interrogative tag.
Anyway, enough linguistics. I'm probably using the standard 'literary' posture of falling back on facts and explanations to make myself sound more authoritative. Either way, I liked having Galladon say 'Kolo' a lot. In the original draft, the tags were added onto the ends of sentences, much like we might ask 'eh?' or 'understand?' in English. "It's hot today, kolo?"
Moshe, however, found the excessive use of Kolo confusing—especially in connection with Sule. He thought that people might get the two words confused, since they're used similarly in the sentences. Simply put, he found the kolos distracting, and started to cut them right and left. I, in turn, fought to keep in as many as I could. It actually grew rather amusing—in each successive draft, he'd try to cut more and more, and I'd try to keep ahold of as many as possible. (I was half tempted to throw a 'kolo' into the draft of MISTBORN, just to amuse him.)
Regardless, we ended up moving kolo to its own sentence to try and make it more understandable. "It's hot today. Kolo?" We also ended up cutting between a third and a half of the uses of the word, and losing each one was a great pain for me. (Well, not really. But I'm paid to be melodramatic.) So, if you feel like it, you can add them back in your mind as your read Galladon's lines.
Other than that massive tangent, I don't know that I have much to say about this chapter. I thought that it was necessary to set Raoden up with a firm set of goals to accomplish—hence the three distinct gangs he has to overcome. Since Sarene and Hrathen's storylines were going to be a little more ambiguous plot-wise, I wanted a conflict for Raoden that could show distinct and consistent progress.
I knew from the beginning that I wanted him to set up a new society for Elantris, and the gangs represented a way for him to approach this goal in an incremental manner.
The cliffhanger at the end of this chapter, by the way, is one of my favorites. The chapter-triad system gave me some amazing opportunities for cliffhangers—as we'll see later.
This chapter includes two very important events. The first is the establishment of Hrathen and Sarene's relationship. The 'dramatic eye-lock' is, admittedly, over-used in fiction. However, I found it appropriate here, since I later have Hrathen remark on Sarene. I wanted to establish that the two had an understanding, and I needed to introduce an overplot for Sarene. Hrathen got his thirty-day timebomb in chapter three, and Raoden not only has his exile, but the problems with the gangs established in the last chapter. So far, Sarene only had her suspicion regarding Raoden's death, which really isn't enough to carry her sections of the novel.
One of the plotting elements I had to establish in this book was the fact that a single man—in this case, Hrathen—can have a serious and profound effect on the future of an entire people. If I didn't establish this, then Sarene's sections would lack a sense of drama, since Hrathen himself wouldn't seem like much of a threat. You'll have to judge for yourself if I actually manage to do this or not.
The second important part of this chapter, obviously, is the introduction of Kiin's family. Sarene's personality makes her less independent than Raoden or Hrathen. It isn't that she lacks determination, or even stubbornness. However, her plots, plans, and personality all require other people—she needs politics, allies, and enemies. Ashe provides a wonderful way for her to talk through her problems. However, I felt that she needed someone within the court of Arelon with which to work and plan. As the book progresses, you'll notice that Sarene's chapters include far more side characters than Hrathen or Raoden's chapters. In fact, I'll bet she has more than the other two combined. This is just another manifestation of her communal personality—she excels in situations where she can coordinate groups, and she needs a lot of different people to interact with to make her personality really come out.
I have gotten a little grief from readers regarding Kiin's family. Some think that the family as a whole feels too 'modern.' It is an anachronism that, to an extent, I'll admit. One of the quirks about the fantasy genre is how it generally prefers to deal with ancient governments, technologies, and societies without actually making its characters conform to more ancient personality patterns. In other words, most fantasy main characters are people who, if dusted off a bit and given a short history lesson, could fit-in quite well in the modern world.
I'll be honest. I prefer the genre this way. I don't read fantasy because I want a history lesson, though learning things is always nice. I read for characters—and I want to like the characters I get to know. I like putting characters in situations and exploring how they would deal with extreme circumstances. I just don't think this kind of plotting would be as strong, or as interesting, if the characters weren't innately identifiable to a modern readership.
My in-world explanation for this is simple. Just because our world placed a certain kind of cultural development alongside a certain level of technological development doesn't mean that it always has to be that way. In many of my worlds, culture has out-stripped technology. This does have some rational basis; I write worlds that involve very distinct—and often very prevalent—magic systems. Because of the benefit of these magics, many of my societies haven't been forced to rely as much on technology. There is more leisure time, more time for scholarship, and—as a result—the societies are more developed.
That said, Kiin's family is a bit extreme, even for me. However, the honest truth is that I wrote them the way I like them. They work, for some reason, to me. They stand out just a little bit, but I'd like to think that it's their brilliance and forward-thinking—rather than a mistake in narrative—that makes them seem so much like a modern family.
In this chapter, we first get to see some of the scars that Hrathen is hiding. Part of what makes him such a compelling character, I think, is the fact that he considers, questions, and seriously examines his own motivations. The things he did in Duladel are a serious source of guilt to him, and his determination to do what is right—even if what is 'right' to him isn't necessarily what we would consider right—gives him a strength of character and personality that is hard to resist.
He combines with this sincerity an actual force of logic. He's correct in his examination of Arelon. It has serious problems. It has weak leadership, weak military forces, and a weak economy. Hrathen's logical explanations in this chapter of why he feels justified in trying to overthrow the government should sound fairly convincing.
On the other hand, we have his whole 'Tyranny in three easy steps' discussion with Dilaf. It's this sense of twisted goodness that rounds out his personality as a villain. He's not just earnest, he's not just logical—he also has an edge of ruthlessness. That's a very dangerous combination in a character.
Speaking of the "I will show you the way to destroy a nation line," this concept—that line, actually—was one of the first things I came up with in my mind while imagining Hrathen. The way that he logically approaches something that would seem daunting—even impossible—to an outsider is a strong part of what defines who he is. I also really enjoy finding opportunities to show how Hrathen sees the world. Whenever I place him on the Elantris city wall and let him inspect the defensibility of the city, I give a clue as to how he was trained, and how he thinks. I don't believe that Sarene ever pauses to consider just how weakly fortified the city of Kae is—but Hrathen thinks about it on at least three separate occasions.
It's interesting that this book would be the first one I publish. Many of you know that when I finally sold ELANTRIS, I was working on my thirteenth novel. By the time ELANTRIS was released, I'd written fifteen separate novels. Very few of these are sequels, and of the fifteen, ELANTRIS is actually number six.
One of the things I pride myself on as a writer are my magic systems. I spend a lot of effort and prewriting on them, and I strive very hard to make them feel like nothing a reader has ever experienced before. MISTBORN, the book that will come out a year after ELANTRIS, is a very good example of this.
ELANTRIS, however, is very interesting in that I don't actually get to spend much time with the magic. Or, at least, I don't get to spend much time showing it—the magic of this book is broken, and so while we find out a lot about it (and I think it's distinctive in its arrangement) we don't get to see it.
In the end, when the magic finally gets restored, I think it actually loses just a bit of charm. I developed this magic system to be an interesting and original puzzle—and so, when you finally see it working, I think there's a fulfilling payoff. However, in its actual form, it isn't generally as distinctive as some of my other magic systems.
Another interesting thing about this book, however, is that the setting includes a mixture of magical wonder itself—kind of as a balancing factor to the fact that we don't get to see the Aons doing anything. I think the problems associated with being an Elantrian, mixed with the interesting setting inside of the city, create an interesting magical ambiance for the book, one that Seons serve to heighten.
This chapter, which Raoden and Galladon crouching atop the rooftop and watching for newcomers, reminds me of the early days of conceiving this novel. The seed for ELANTRIS actually came several years before I got around to writing the book. I knew that I wanted to tell the story of a brutal city filled with people who has some sickness that kept them from dying.
One of the initial scenes that came to my mind was that of the main character crouching atop a low building, watching the gates to the city. The gates open, and a newcomer is thrown in. At the same time, one of the wretches inside the city snaps—finally giving into his pain, and going mad. This man madly rushes toward the gates, trying to escape. The city guards—who don't have the disease—throw massive spears at the man rushing the gates. One of the spears hits him, piercing him all the way through.
However, it's quickly explained that the spear wasn't meant to kill, for the man continues to struggle weakly, despite being impaled. However, the spear is so big and bulky that the poor creature can't move any more—obviously, the weapons are intended to slow and immobilize, not kill. After all, the inhabitants of this city can't be killed. The man gives up struggling, and lays their limply, whimpering with the massive spear stuck through his chest.
At the same time, another sick one approaches the main character. "—Insert name— went mad last night," he whispers to the main character. "You are now the eldest." Meaning, of course, that the main character is now the person who's been in the city the longest without having gone mad.You should be able to see the evolution of this scene in the story that I eventually told. Many of the concepts are the same, though I changed the viewpoint character from a person who had been in the city for a long time to a newcomer who still had his optimism. I also shifted much of the focus of the novel to what was happening outside the city, adding the two other viewpoint characters. However, this scene still remains in my mind—it's actually the only real scene I can remember from the very early days of planning ELANTRIS. As an homage to it, I left in the large, bulky spears carried by the Elantris City Guards. Hrathen mentions them in the previous chapter. Though the guards no longer carry them for the same purpose—indeed, the guard probably wouldn't even know what to do with them in case of an attack—I thought this little inside reference to be an interesting one.
The economy of Arelon is one of the interesting features of this book. Even still, I'm not certain if I made things a little too odd here. The idea of nobility being tied directly to money is described so often by the characters that I worry that readers will think the system too foolish to have arisen. However, I think that by establishing the king as a former merchant—and by pointing out how the system was created quickly, to fill the void after the fall of Elantris—I manage to keep the economic and social situation in Arelon within the realm of possibility.
I think that too often fantasy writers are content with simply throwing in a slightly-original spin on magic—ignoring the fact that their cultures, governments, and religions are derivative. There is this idea of the 'general' fantasy world, and writers draw upon it. However, I think an interesting cultural element can be just as fascinating—and as useful to the plot—as an interesting magic system. In the best cases, the two are inter-woven, like what one can find in brilliant genre books like DUNE.
Of course, the strange economic/governmental system of the book is only a descendant of another strange economic/governmental system. Sarene and Lukel discuss a few of the problems presented by having a race of people who can create whatever they want through use of magic. I don't get to deal with that aspect of AonDor very much in this particular book, since the novel is set during a time when the magic of Elantris doesn't work. However, there are a lot of interesting ramifications AonDor would present for a book set during Elantris' heyday. What good is gold if someone can create it from nothing? In fact, what good is a monetary system at all when everyone can have as much food as they want? What need is there for invention or ingenuity in the face of a group of people who can re-create any good, no matter how complex, with a mere flick of the magical wrist?
The truth behind the Elantrian magical abilities is far more limited than Sarene or Lukel acknowledge in this chapter. If one were to go back fifteen years, one would find that the Elantrians who had the skill to fabricate complex materials 'out of nothing' were actually quite rare.
As we learn later in the book, AonDor is a very complicated, difficult skill to master. As I was writing this book, I imagined the complicated Aons that Raoden eventually learns how to draw being only springboards to massive equations that could take weeks to plan out and write. Fabricating something very complex would require a great deal of detail in the AonDor recipe.
Even still, I think the tension between the Elantrians and the merchants is a natural out-growth of this situation.
The scene where the children talk about art is one I nearly cut from the book on a couple of different occasions. I worry that this is one of the scenes that contributes overly-much to the 'Kiin's family is out of place' feeling that people occasionally get. In addition, I worry that I made Kaise TOO intelligent here. Three things make me retain the scene. First, I think it's kind of amusing. The second is a spoiler, so I won't say much on it—just let it suffice that I wanted to give Kaise and Daorn some good characterization. -
For you spolier readers, those two would be the main characters of any sequel I wrote to ELANTRIS. I'd set the book about ten years after the ending of this one.
The third reason for retaining the scene is because I put it in, in the first place, quite intentionally. Kaise, and to a lesser extent Daorn, are a small reaction against ENDER'S GAME. When I read that book, and some of Scott's other works (which, by the way, I think are all brilliant) I got to wondering if children who were as smart as his really would act the way they do in his books. Not to disagree with one of the greatest sf minds of our time, but I wanted to take a different spin on the 'clever child' idea. So, I presented these children as being extremely intelligent, but also extremely immature with that intelligence. I'm not convinced that IQ brings maturity with it, and think there's only so much 'adult' you can have in a kid. So, I put in Kaise and Daorn to let me play with this idea a little bit in ELANTRIS.
This third 'chapter triad' is the first one where I do a real intersection of the three viewpoints. Raoden sees Hrathen on the wall, Sarene and Hrathen spar, then Hrathen thinks about his run-in with Sarene on his way to the meeting with the noblemen.
I'm not sure if I'd ever want to use the chapter triad system again. It made all kinds of problems for writing the book. Almost everything else I've written has been strictly chronological—if you jump from one viewpoint, or one chapter, to the next, you're always progressing forward in time. By jumping backward in two chapters out of three, I gave myself some challenging pacing and coordination issues. For instance, the important events in each of the three storylines had to happen on generally the same days. Also, I had to rotate the chapters strictly, and so I couldn't just skip a character during a given time-frame. That meant I had to have important events happening in all three viewpoints all the time.
However, the benefits of this situation are moments like you see in this triad, where I could flow from one chapter to the next, having the timeframes play off of each other. You might have noticed from this triad that I had to fudge just a bit. Not all of the viewpoints happen at exactly the same time. The rule I set up for myself is that they had to all happen on the same day—preferably as close to overlapping each other as possible.
This chapter is one of the prime 'show Hrathen's competence' chapters. Most of what goes on here is in the way of character development for Hrathen. The plot of him swaying some of the noblemen is important, but not specifically so. However, I've always said that the stronger—and more clever—the villain is, the better the story is. By showing how Hrathen deals with the noblemen, I re-enforce his abilities, and justify him as a threat to the city.
There were a few small edits to this chapter. The biggest one was a change where I slightly-weakened Hrathen's treasonous talk. In the original, he told the noblemen that he was the gyorn assigned to Duladel before it collapsed. Moshe pointed out that this was a little too subversive of him to imply in the middle of a group of men who may or may not end up supporting him, so I made the change.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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. . . .
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!"
I really like Sarene's explanation for why the country is in so much trouble now. You could wonder, perhaps, how Arelon lasted as long as it did beneath Iadon's rule. Her answer here—that the people were anticipating Raoden's rule—is a good one, I think. People can endure a lot, as long as they know that there is a defined end to their suffering.
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.
Some of the most fulfilling experiences in writing this book came from the Hrathen chapters. Though Joshua still occasionally complains that he finds Hrathens 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 Hrathens 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.'
If you want to read more on this topic, read the critical afterword to ELANTRIS I wrote for inclusion with my Master's Thesis. (September's goodie—find it on the goodie page for Elantris) The short of it, however, is that Sarene is a force of change and chaos. Raoden, as mentioned above, is a master at working with what he is given. He manipulates his confines to the point that they are no longer binding.
Sarene, however, just ignores what she is 'supposed' to do. She is chaos. Not the 'evil' chaos usually used in fantasy novels—Sarene is simply unpredictable, a force that can't be measured as easily as others. One manifestation of this comes in the nature of this chapter. If you read closely, you'll notice that—for the first time in the book—I offer two viewpoints in the same chapter. We jump from Sarene to Raoden, then back to Sarene again. It's a little thing, perhaps—a silly thing, even, for me to put in. However, it is representative of the fact that the first time Sarene enters Raoden's world, she brings with her an uncanny ability to mess up his plans.
So, in this chapter we get the first real Sarene-Raoden interaction. I worked very hard on this relationship, trying to find a way to make it work naturally, yet still have the drama necessary for good storytelling. I assume that readers—at least the more romantic lot of you—have been waiting for the time when Sarene and Raoden would meet. Not only are they the male and female leads, but they also happen to be married.
One of the things all writers struggle with is making their plots not seem contrived. Moshe and I tried very hard to make certain that everyone's motivations worked, and this is a good test chapter. Does it make sense to you that Raoden wouldn't show Sarene and the others his true self? I think that his desire to keep himself, and New Elantris, quiet makes sense. However, I could see how some readers might find it contrived. I hope my explanations make sense.
One of the biggest complexities in this book is the way Raoden keeps his true self secret. I hope that the way he does this doesn't seem unbelievable. To him, his old life is gone. Though he is curious about his old friends, and especially about Sarene, he can't afford to let himself grow too interested in or attached to the outside world. He knows that doing so would only bring pain, both for himself, and for others.
As you can probably deduce from what I've said before, this Telrii scene is a late addition. It's not one of my favorites between Hrathen and Telrii—re-reading it, it makes me feel like Telrii is simply there to be persuaded. While the intention of these scenes is, indeed, so show Hrathen as a stronger character, their secondary purpose is simply to let him voice outloud some of the thoughts he's been mulling over. If you have trouble characterizing or motivating one of your characters in a book you're writing, try giving them someone—either friend or foe—to talk to.
Anyway, this particular scene is a little weak, and I suppose I could cut it without too much loss. It is a good idea to keep people thinking about Telrii, however, since he will be important later in the story. Also, there is his warning to Hrathen about not being a pawn, which is some good foreshadowing for what happens later, when he casts Hrathen off and tries to become a Gyorn himself.
As I've mentioned before, the Hrathen chapters tend to be shorter than the other two. As Raoden and Sarene's chapters pick up, I was left struggling just a bit to find things to do in the complimentary Hrathen chapters. I probably could have sped up his plot through these middle chapters just a bit. However, the triad system means that I had to give him a viewpoint every third chapter. That is probably why he got so many contemplative sections—and, possibly, is what in turn made him into such an interesting character personality wise. It's kind of hard to dissect these kinds of things now that the book has been done for five years.
Anyway, I did need this chapter to give Hrathen a chance to do some more foreshadowing on Dilaf. The emergence of Dilaf in these chapters is, I think, one of the more interesting and surprising elements from the middle Hrathen chapters. When Dilaf is originally presented in the book, I expected people to see him as a simple sidekick to Hrathen, much in the same way that I established Galladon and Ashe to be counterparts to Raoden and Sarene. With this parallelism in servant characters, I hoped to pull of a subtle surprise with Dilaf when he started to make trouble for Hrathen, as he is doing in these chapters.
I couldn't resist having Sarene intentionally misinterpret the demands from Raoden's team. Not only did it make for a fun scene with them discovering how she twisted their requests, it also let me characterize Sarene in-abscentia. To her, politics is a game. Any time she can twist her opponent's words and do something unexpected, like send a pile of nails instead of sheets of steel, she feels a thrill of victory.
This is a rather long chapter. Longer, actually, than I probably would have put in a regular story. However, the triad system kind of forced me to lump all of these events together. It was important that I show the danger of Shaor's gang, as well as the way New Elantris was progressing despite its problems. At the same time, we needed to find out more about Galladon eventually. So, when I did the 'find the pool' chapter, I had to include these other items before it.
I kind of wish that I'd been able to include the 'Once so very beautiful. . . .' in this chapter somewhere. If you've been watching, you'll know that I do mention the man several other places, often when Raoden is near the Hoed. This is one of the more clever little twists of foreshadowing in the book, if I do say so myself.
Those of you who've read the book before should recognize the case study Raoden mentions in this chapter. The woman who was miss-healed by the Elantrian is none other than Dilaf's wife—he speaks of her near the end of the book. This event—the madness and death of the woman he loved—is what drives his hatred of Elantris, and therefore Arelon and Teod.
Seolin is an interesting character to me. Not because he really does anything distinctive—but because of how he developed. His name was "Saorn" in the original draft, by the way. I think I changed this because it was too close to "Daorn." People also confused it with Shaod. I'm not certain if the new one fixes that problem, but it does feel a little more distinctive to me.
Regardless, Seolin is one of those characters who grew out of nothing to have a strangely large part in the plot. Again, I realize that he's not all that original as a character. However, his dedication—and the way Raoden came to rely on him—wasn't something I intended when planning the book. While I don't believe in the whole 'Books surprise their authors' concept, I do enjoy the discovery of writing. Seolin is one of the characters 'discovered' in this way, and I am very pleased with him.
This book, as I've mentioned before, is a little less 'tight' than others I've written. There are chapters like this one, where nothing extremely important happens—I simply show life from one viewpoint, a state necessitated by one of the other two doing something very important. Still, despite it having very little to do with the overplot, I really like how this chapter turned out. Maybe I should force myself to do a strict triad system like this more often, for it forced me to have some chapters where the characters could just live. Sarene's light chapters center around her friends and family, giving us an opportunity to spend time with them and enjoy ourselves. The Lukel sourmellon exchange probably couldn't have happened in a book like MISTBORN, where the pacing is far more tense.
The main edit to this chapter came very early in the process. Very few people have seen this section—I don't think it made it past the first revision. I'll probably post in on the 'deleted scenes' section, though. What good is a website if you can't embarrass yourself?
Anyway, the scene dealt with Daorn and Kaise approaching Kiin (during the fencing practice) and asking him if they could go with Sarene into Elantris. He responded by saying that they could as long as they did some silly homework-style projects for him. (Essays or multiplication tables or something like that.) In a re-read, I realized that this was WAY to modern, even for Kiin. I'd think that people who did this today were being progressive—and a bit odd. (What are these kids? Home-schoolers?)
Anyway, I cut the scene.
Oh, and I'm not exactly certain why the Three Virgins were surprised. However, this line from Kiin always cracks me up. I think of three virgins, think of them very surprised, and. . .yeah. Anyway, I'm sure they got more than they expected.
I suppose the most important scene in this chapter was the exchange between Sarene and Daora. It's hard, in writing, to avoid being heavy-handed with exposition and emotion. Show don't tell, as the proverb goes. Sometimes you get it right—like this particular scene. Sarene, obviously, is falling for Spirit—and Daora mistakes the emotion as being applied to Shuden. (Yes, I know, I shouldn't have to explain this. However, that's part of what these annotations are for—to explain things. I never can tell what people will get and what they'll miss. I've thrown in twists I thought were obvious, only to have everyone miss them—but instead they pick up on the foreshadowing that I never meant to be strong enough to give the ending away. )
Anyway, one of my challenges in this book was to make the romance between Sarene and Raoden realistic, considering the relatively small amount of time they had to spend together. I hoped to avoid any silly 'love at first sight' type plottings, while at the same time making their relationship feel genuine and touching in as short a time as possible.
One of the shortest, but most powerful, chapters in the book.
I added the 'head arteth' conflict (the idea of everyone rejecting the appointment) later in the revision process so that I could have one more thing to push Hrathen over the edge. My only worry about this scene is one of pacing—if I've done the novel right, then this will seem like a climax that has slowly been building for some time. If I'm off, then this chapter will seem out-of-nowhere, and lack power to the reader.
This is really where Hrathen's chapters have been pushing. The questioning and self-doubt, the problems with Dilaf and conversion. . . . He's pretty much been defeated at every turn. It was time for him to either crack, give up, or do something spectacular. In a way, he kind of does all three.
Yes, his drinking of the poison is supposed to be a zing. Theoretically, this will push you on into the next section of the book. The slower portions of the novel are beginning to wind down—from now on, the events start to move a little more quickly. Even still, this is probably one of the more slow-moving of my novels, which is part of its charm—as I noted in a different annotation.
"The Shadow of Elantris." These section headings were added in the last real draft I did, while I was visiting my father in Massachusetts during the summer of '04. By then, the book's title had firmly been changed from THE SPIRIT OF ELANTRIS to just ELANTRIS. I knew I needed to divide the book into sections, and decided that I'd use "The Spirit of Elantris" as the final heading, as kind of a nod to the original title of the book. This presented me with several problems, however. First, I needed two more good sub-headings to go along with 'The Spirit of Elantris.' Second, I needed to find good places to divide the chapters. Because of the chapter triad system, I'd probably need to base my dramatic section cuts on Hrathen's chapters, since he came third in the rotation.
The Shadow of Elantris came easily as a title. It, of course, has reference to the first chapter, where Raoden looks out the window and feels like Elantris is looming over him. However, it's also a nice summary of the first section. Elantris looms over everything, dark and dirty, during the first section of the book. While we see the beginnings of light from Raoden's efforts in the city, they don't really come to much fruition.
If we throw out the nostalgia factor 'Spirit' has going for itself, 'Shadow' is my favorite of the three section titles.
As for the first section break, I just really like ending with having Hrathen poison himself. This makes our first section incredibly long—it takes up well over half of the book. I thought that was all right, however, since I figured increasingly short sections would enhance the pacing near the end of the book, speeding things up (hopefully.)
Fantasy is a slow-starting genre. Readers expect this, and hopefully they'll invest enough in the story to keep them reading this long. I love the first half of ELANTRIS—it does what I want a book to do. It presents fun characters in interesting situations, then laces their actions with just enough of a thought-provoking air and an edge of excitement that the reader feels fulfilled. Writing is truth, and it should deal with important topics. However, before that truth must come enjoyment, I believe. If a book isn't, first and foremost, fun to read, then I think the storyteller has failed. After that, he or she hopefully manages to deal with some real issues and questions—this is, in my opinion, what makes characters real.
Anyway, on to section two!
I've actually been called a 'square peg' before. I believe the line was "You're one of those creative types—you're a square peg, trying to fit into a round hole." I was twenty-two, and was getting let go from one of my first jobs. That's another story, though. Just note—apperantly, fantasy writers and 'creative types' don't make good librarians. Go figure.
Anyway. . .I break triad here again. I'd forgotten about this one. Actually, you'll note that the closer I get to an action sequence or a climax, the more quickly I shift viewpoints. I do it half-intentionally, half-unconsciously. (If that's possible.) Logically, I know that quickly-shifting viewpoints give the scenes more tension and a sense of movement. Unconscious, I just know that it's good storytelling to keep things quick—and it's more dramatic when you can end with a cliff-hanger line, then switch to a new viewpoint.
I'll admit that this scene borders on being too melodramatic. A couple of things justify it in my mind. First, the scene is more about Raoden confronting how he'd made a mistake with Shaor's men than it is about Sarene discovering that she'd been betrayed. Second, Sarene's 'betrayal,' as explained in the next chapter, is really about her own prejudice. Inside, she was just waiting for something like this to happen. That's why she didn't give Raoden the benefit of the doubt—she never wanted to like him. It was almost like she was eager to be hurt, expecting it, since things obviously couldn't work out for her. (Or so she unconsciously assumed.)
So, in a way, they were both kind of expecting something like this to happen. When it did happen, they allowed it to. In my mind, this takes it from a 'silly misunderstanding' and changes it into a 'character-driven conflict.'
We have a nice little cliff-hanger at the end of this section. However, you have to remember the format of the triad system—when we go back to Sarene, we'll be jumping back in time a bit. That means that you won't immediately discover what is going on with the gate of Elantris. Dramatically, this is my favorite of the triad structures. We get to hold this cliffhanger for a long time, building it through the next chapter.
So, here we get the payoff for several hundred pages worth of hinting at Iadon's insecurity and paranoia. Plotting is all about payoffs, in my estimation. You have to earn your plot. You do that by putting the pieces together in the right places, so when you finally get to a climax (even a smaller one) your readers accept what is happening.
The build-up doesn't have to always be subtle—and it doesn't even have to be done through traditional foreshadowing. For instance, if you want a character to be able to defeat a small group of bandits, you have to have earned the payoff that says that he/she is competent with a weapon. It's like an chemical equation—you balance all of your pieces on the one side, and they should equal what comes out on the other end.
In order for Sarene's speech in this chapter to work, I needed to do several things. I needed to build up that she'd be both capable enough to make it and brash enough to go through with it. I also needed to build up that Iadon would crack beneath this kind of external pressure, which I hope I did.
Some other small notes. First, the proverb about the Lion. It's actually a Korean proverb, one which always stood out to me because it was almost identical to our proverb 'Speak the name of the devil, and he will appear,' referring to someone who arrives right when you were talking about them. The Korean version says "If you say the name of the tiger, he will appear." I embellished this a bit with use of my handy creative licence, and you get what we have here.
Actaully, from what I've seen, you'd be surpised at how many proverbs span cultures. They may sound a little different, but the meanings are often very similar.
And, in Kaise's 'Why did YOU have to get sick,' line, you can see a remnant of the cut scene I talked about in the last Sarene chapter. Kaise and Daorn were supposed to be able to go with Sarene into the city, and when I got to this scene, I thought I'd forgotten to add them. So, I came up with the sickness excuse. This was actually an error on my part, since this triad is actually happening several days after the last triad, and the twins got their permission to go with Sarene for the 'next day.' Therefore, their trip into Elantris would have happened during the intervening days.
Kaise's comment, however, seemed like a nice little nod to things happening in the world off-stage. Things like this give a nice feel to a book, so I left it in—despite the fact that the original scene it was tied to got cut early on.
And, as a note on the final exchange, did you forget about the cliffhanger at the end of Raoden's chapter? My hope was that knowing, from Raoden, that the gates to Elantris opened sometime after the attack, the reader would assume that Sarene actually failed to stop the soldiers. Now that she has, however, stopped them, you are reminded that SOMEONE is entering the city. One guess who it is.
And, we finally get to figure out what is going on. As I said, this is one of my favorite triads because of the way it manages to string a cliff-hanger across three separate chapters. I've spoken often of how difficult it was, at times, to maintain the triad structure. However, scenes like these are the reward. We get to see from Hrathen's viewpoint the things spoken off in Sarene's viewpoint, and often (especially later in the book) we can see the same scene from different sets of eyes, seeing different opinions and thoughts manifest.
Another interesting note in this chapter is that we finally get to see what Raoden went through in chapter one. The washing process isn't all that exciting, but I have had several people remark that they were sad to have missed it. I guess that's just human curiosity. Well, for those who wondered what the process was, they finally got to see it in this chapter.
Father Omin, by the way, 'traces Aon Omi' on Hrathen's chest as part of the religious service. This should look familiar. It is a subtle little thing, but I wanted to show how the Korathi religion has been influenced by its proximity to Elantris. The priests probably wouldn't do something like this in Teod. In a way, Hrathen is right—Elantris has had a corrupting influence on those around it.
However, 'corruption' is probably too strong a word. Religions adapt as their people adapt, and often times cultural elements are incorporated into belief structures. People have asked me, as a Christian, what I think about Christmas itself being set in place of a pagan holiday. Doesn't really bother me. The day we happen to celebrate the birth of Christ doesn't have any doctrinal importance to me. A religious person has to be willing, in my mind, to accept that while truth may be eternal, the way we interact with it—as changing human beings—must needs be influenced by the way we think and the way society works.
It doesn't matter if my religion 'borrowed' things from other religions or cultures—especially if the things we filched added good things to the religion. That's what humans do. We adapt. We steal. This especially makes sense if you happen to be a writer. (We're really good at stealing. . .uh, I mean 'adapting.')
Raoden failed in finding ways to defeat Shaor's gang on two separate occasions. First, there was the original infiltration with Galladon (in which Raoden hoped to convince Shaor to stop attacking.) This excursion was informative, but not successful. The second failure was in dealing with the wild men who were trying to get to the carts. Raoden's decision to simply cut them off from the courtyard was eventually a failure. I'm not sure what else he could have done, but he still failed. Saolin's death, among other things, was the cost.
I knew that Raoden had to have more difficulty dealing with Shaor's band than he did with the other two. 'Defeating' Karata and Taan happened quickly, and with relative ease. If Shaor's band hadn't presented a problem, then I felt that the entire 'three gangs' plot would have been unfulfilling.
So, in these chapters, I stepped up the danger from Shaor and the crew. In the early drafts of the book, this danger wasn't present enough. (In fact, this was one of the main comments that Tom Doherty, CEO of Tor, gave me when he read ELANTRIS.) So, I increased Shaor's numbers—by giving them a larger percentage of Taan's men, not to mention a larger number of men to begin with—and made them more dangerous in the way they attacked.
If I were to assign Raoden two defining traits, the first would be his ability to make the best of what he's given (as I've spoken of above.) The second, however, would be the personality trait he manifests in this chapter—his simple belief in the goodness of the human race.
I suppose this is a facet of his optimism. Raoden believes in people—he believes that, as a whole, they will do what is right. He believes that they are more rational than the nobility sometimes give them credit, and he believes that most men will do what is good if they are presented with all of the facts.
He really is a noble man. He's perhaps the only person I've written in a fantasy book who, from day one, actually deserved to be king.
Time for my second favorite chapter! (The first, if you recall, was the one where Raoden led Karata to the king's palace.)
There are so many things going on in this chapter that I don't quite know where to start. I guess I'll begin with the Mysteries. I drew part of this religion, including the name, from the mystery cults of ancient Greece. I added the ritual sacrifices to give them a bit of zing. You'll get a little bit more of an explanation of the Mysteries, and why someone might decide to join one, in a later Sarene chapter.
As I've noted before, religion—especially its dark side—is a theme in this book. I don't think I could have covered this subject well in the book without including a look at cult mentality. Now, I'll admit that 'cult' is a word we bandy about too frequently in religious discussions. It has been noted that Christianity started out as a kind of cult, and it seems that many consider any unorthodox religion to be a 'cult.'
To me, however, a cult is something that twists who you are, changing you into a shadow of what you used to be. I firmly believe that you can judge a religion by the effects it produces in its practitioners. Does it make them better people? If so, then there's a good chance that the religion is worth something. Does it turn them into people who sacrifice their own servants in an effort to make evil spirits come and kill their daughters in law? If so, well. . .you might want to stay away from that one.
Anyway, the Mysteries were—in my mind—a natural outgrowth of the Mystical Jesker religion. Like Galladon is always saying, they're NOT the same religion. The Mysteries are a perversion and simplificication of Jesker teachings. Jesker looks to the Dor—the power behind all things—and tries to understand it. The Mysteries treat the Dor like some kind of force to be manipulated. (Which actually, is what AonDor does. . . .)
Anyway, onto the chapter. Sarene is brought to task here a little bit at the beginning of it. I kind of like this scene—she might be a good leader, but she's more impulsive, and more emotional, than Raoden. This has its good effects, but it does mean she has a little bit more of a potential to brood.
By the way—Roial's observation that people who 'turn away from a religion' being its strongest opponents actually applies to a lot of things in life, I think. You'll find no opponent more bitter than the one who used to consider himself your friend.
There's a tie for best line of the chapter, in my opinion. The first one goes to Sarene, and it's in her thoughts. "The problem with being clever," Sarene thought with a sigh, "is that everyone assumes you're always planning something." This was an original line from the first draft, and it's always struck me as a rather true statement. The other line goes to Roial, and it was actually added in one of the last drafts. "Mean young men are trivial, and kindly old men boring."
Sarene's extended internal narrative about Gareo remains in the book despite a slight dissatisfaction on my part with the section. It feels a little expository, and we've gotten implications regarding these things before. I'm not sure that we really learn anything new about Sarene's character here, we just get a few specifics about her past.
However, one of the nice things about a book like this—or, even, books in general, as opposed to movies —is that you don't have to worry TOO much about every scene and moment. I don't have to shave seconds quite as intensely as a film-maker might, or even shave words as much as an author of a shorter work might. I can afford a few diversions like this one, even if they ramble just a bit.
Showing Roial's Seon was important, I think. First off, I wanted to give some evidence that there are indeed Seons in Arelon who aren't mad. (So far, I believe that the only named Seons we've seen in the book are Ashe and Ien.) Secondly, Opa is a nice little foreshadowing—it's through him that Ashe manages to contact Sarene's friends. Actually, Sarene's interaction with Ashe is quite interesting in this chapter, as it's somewhat more strained—and therefore a bit more true—than what we've seen before. When under stress, Ashe isn't quite so accommodating and straightforward as normal—but he still does retain Sarene's best interests at heart.
Some notes about the party. First off, I had a lot of fun sticking the sickening young couples into this book. I'm not sure why I like to make fun of them like I do, but I certainly have a bit of fun in the Sarene chapters. Ah, poor Shuden. He didn't hold on as well as he thought he might. Anyway, the contrast here is very nice for Sarene, and I like how she and Roial move through the party, mingling. There's just a. . .natural feel about some of the scenes in this book that I haven't quite been able to capture in my other works.
There are a couple of important foreshadowings in this chapter as well. One is the Seon sense of direction, which plays a very small-yet-important part in the climax of the book. The other is Sarene's insight into Ahan's character here at the party. If you've been following him, you realize that he is like she explains—a little too quick to act, not quite as politically shrewd as he'd like others to think. It's this scene, however, where I really wanted to lay the seeds of understanding in my readers, preparing them for his eventual betrayal.
Another short, but powerful, Hrathen chapter. This is the head of Hrathen's character climax for the first half of the book. He has been questioning his own faith ever since he first met Dilaf. It isn't that he questions the truthfulness of the Derethi religion—he just has become uncertain of his own place within it. I wanted this moment, when he's semi-consciously watching the eclipse, to be the moment where he finally decides upon an answer within himself.
This is a major turning-point for Hrathen. His part in the book pivots on this chapter, and the things he does later are greatly influenced by the decisions he makes here. I think the important realization he realizes here is that not every person's faith manifests in the same way. He's different from other people, and he worships differently. That doesn't make his faith inferior.
In fact, I think his faith is actually superior to Dilaf's. Hrathen has considered, weighed, and decided. That gives him more validity as a teacher, I think. In fact, he fits into the Derethi religion quite well—the entire Derethi idea was conceived as a logical movement.
When I was designing this book, I knew I wanted a religious antagonist. Actually, the idea for the Derethi religion was one of the very fist conceptual seeds for this novel. I've always been curious about the relationship between the Catholic church and the Roman empire. While Rome itself has declined greatly in power, the church that grew within it—almost as a side-effect—has become one of the dominant forces in the world. I wondered what would happen if an empire decided to do something like this intentionally.
The early Derethi leaders, then, were a group who realized the problems with the Old Fjordell Empire. It collapsed upon itself because of bureaucratic problems. The Old Empire was faced with rebellions and wars, and never managed to become stable. The Derethi founders realized the power of religion. They decided that if they could get the nations of the East to believe in a single religion—with that religion centered in Fjorden—they would have power equal to, or even greater than, the power of the Old Empire. At the same time, they wouldn't have to worry about rebellion—or even bureaucracy. The people of the other nations would govern themselves, but would give devotion, loyalty, and money to Fjorden.
So, these men appropriated the teachings of Shu-Dereth and mixed them with some mythology from the Fjordell Old Empire. The resulting hybridization, added to the Fjordell martial work ethic, created an aggressive, intense religion—yet one that was 'constructed' with a logical purpose in mind. The Fjordell priests spent the next few centuries converting and building their power base. The result was the New Empire—an empire without governments or armies, yet far more powerful than the Old Empire ever was.
I know it seems like I'm setting Shaor up for a return, but I really don't intend to bring her back. At least, I didn't when I wrote this chapter. The truth is, I just didn't want to write a scene of the madmen returning with the torn up body of a little girl.
However, every time I read this section, I can't help noticing that I left one of the book's most dangerous villains alive (potentially.) Ironically, because it seems so obvious from the text that Shaor is still alive, I think I'd avoid doing anything with her in a sequel. It seems like in fiction, any time you don't see a body, you automatically assume (often correctly) that the villain is still out there somewhere.
However, in this case, it really doesn't make sense to use her again. Shaor wasn't a threat because of any special skills on her part—I see no reason to bring her back.
Now that the three gangs have been dealt with, Raoden's storyline has had some major resolutions. The increasing pain of his wounds, however, is something I introduced into the book for fear that he wouldn't have enough pressing conflicts. As stated in previous annotations, his personality is uniquely strong and stable amongst characters I've created, and I figured that giving him a small problem in the area of self-confidence wouldn't be remiss. He feels that he's worse at deal with the pain than everyone else, and that makes him worry that he isn't the leader he should. We'll have more on this later.
My explanation for the slime, admittedly, relies a bit heavily on 'fantasy writer's license.' Usually, I resist overdoing things like this. (I.e., simply explaining away events in the world with magical answers.) Though there is a slight logic to Raoden's explanation, it isn't something that would have been intuitive to a reader, given the facts of the novel. That makes it a weak plotting element. However, the slime explanation isn't part of any real plot resolution, so I decided to throw it in. Its place as an interesting world element, rather than a climax, gives me a few more liberties, I think.
And, as for the Seon explanation here. . .well, I'm afraid that's all you get for this book. I think this is the last (or, rather, only) discussion the characters have about the origins of the Seons. It's not much, but that is intentional. When I wrote ELANTRIS six years ago, I wasn't sure if I'd ever even sell the book. Therefore, I didn't want to invest too much thought into a sequel right then. I wanted the book to stand alone, yet I wanted to give myself plenty of room to do interesting things in a series, if it ever came to that. Therefore, I intentionally left a few open spaces in the worldbuilding—things the characters didn't even know.
One of these holes is the origin, and even workings, of the Seons. I have some ideas, of course, but you'll have to wait for another book before they get explained. (You can thank Moshe for what you got in this chapter—he was very curious about Seons, and he wanted a little bit more. That's why we had the discussion of Passing, as well as the explanation that you don't have to be noble to have a Seon.)
The joke is, of course, that Eventeo told Sarene not to do this very thing—not to overthrow Iadon and put herself on the throne. It was back in chapter two, the first Sarene chapter, and he said it in jest. (She broke her promise, though—she said she'd wait at least two months to put herself on the throne. Go read the last page of that chapter if you want to see what I'm talking about.)
Anyway, yes, I killed Iadon off-stage. I didn't see any reason to go on with him at this point. He'd done his damage, suffered his defeat. The best thing for him was to disappear without causing any more trouble, I think.
Well, not without any more trouble, I guess. There is that funeral scene. . . .
This spy conversation is a remnant of things left over from a previous version. I'll talk more about it later. However, if it looked like I was foreshadowing something. . .well, I was. Unfortunately, the thing I was foreshadowing got cut. Again, I'll talk more about it later.
The Jindoeese food section is another one of those potentially out-of-place sections of the book, but I certainly had a lot of fun writing it. I'm interested in the fact that some more 'primitive' cultures often understand the same things that modern medicine and science do, they just can't quite explain themselves to our satisfaction. It makes sense to me that a culture like the Jindoeese might figure out that a diet lower in fats is good for you, but they might not completely understand why. Anyway, poor Eventeo doesn't get to eat butter any more.
One interesting note about this book is how small the armies are. Often in books, I'll deal with armies in the tens and hundreds of thousands. Those, however, tend to be war epics—it makes sense to me that in ELANTRIS, they're talking about hundreds of men, rather than thousands. This may seem like a ridiculous number for a defense force, but I imagine Arelon being a small country, quite isolated and—as noted in the text—rather innocent. They really only need policing forces.
My copy editor was worried about my use of the word 'legion,' actually, for Eondel's personal force. She said that a legion, dictionary wise, was usually much larger. While this may be true, I think the fact that they call it "Eondel's Legion" makes it a proper noun, and is usable. This is a kind of honorary title, rather than a descriptive name. Besides, in Arelon, a couple hundred men really is quite big.
About here, I decided to start having Ahan be less helpful in these meetings. The subtext here is that he's been playing both sides, intending—yet never quite managing—to overthrow the Sarene's group. Early in the book, he was having fun just playing the game—and he never did anything incriminating against the king. Now, with Iadon gone, he's reworking his motivations. So, that's why he's a bit less communicative in this chapter.
Boy, I have a lot to say on this chapter. Let's talk about Sarene's engagement to Roial.
Some moments, when you're writing, things just click together. The moment when I came up with this plotting element was one such moment. I hadn't actually planned this into my outline. Suddenly, as I was writing, I realized just how much sense it made, and how wonderful it would be to force the characters to have to go through this. Even still, this is one of my very favorite twists in the book.
The scene in the carriage has been there from the beginning, but I did change it slightly in the last draft, adding the section where Roial talks to Sarene about herself. His line "You're an excellent judge of character, except for your own" is something I think needed to be said to Sarene at some point in the book. The actual suggestion that it happen came from my Master's Thesis committee. They—correctly—saw Sarene as someone who had an unrealistic image of herself.
She really isn't as unmarriagble, or as unwantable, as she thinks she is. Even back in Teod, she wasn't regarded quite as harshly as she assumes. However, she's very hard on herself. Someone needed to sit her down and tell her—at the same time acknowledging to the reader—that she isn't half as bad as she seems to think.
And, as for the ending lines—yes, I did it again. The same little cliffhanger-extension from before. I figured that it was fitting, since this structure threw Hrathen into the city. Why not use the triad system to do the same thing with his getting healed?
Dakhor. One of the better words I came up for this book, I think.
Be patient with me—I'm going somewhere with this whole Dakhor monastery thing. We'll get there eventually. For now, enjoy Hrathen's visions. Or, rather, be disturbed by them. (Dakhor, if you haven't noticed, isn't a very friendly place. . . .)
Yes, all this time Hrathen was under the effects of the potion. It was a little bit contrived not to tell the reader that Hrathen had asked for the effects to be temporary, but I figured the drama was worth it. You should have been able to figure it out anyway—it was the only logical reason Hrathen would drink the potion.
Of all the politickings, maneuverings, and plannings in this book, I think this is the best one. In a single brilliant gamble, Hrathen managed to make himself into a saint who is seen to have power over Elantris. He out-witted Sarene and Dilaf at the same time, gaining back everything he'd lost during his arguments and self-questioning. This isn't really a 'twist,' in my mind—it's something better. It's something that makes logical sense, something that carries the plot forward without having to trick the reader, yet still earning wonder and appreciation.
In my mind, this sort of plot twist is superior to gimmick surprises. I don't often pull it off, but there's something. . .majestic about a plotting device that is obvious, rational, yet still surprising.
This chapter asks the question 'What is a miracle?' You've heard me wax pontificatory too much on religion, so I'll hold off here. Instead, I'll just point out that what Hrathen thinks—that something can be a miracle even if there was nothing 'miraculous' involved—makes perfect sense, I think. Look at it this way. A) Hrathen believes (as many in our world do) that God controls everything. B) Hrathen believes (as many in our world do) that God can do whatever he wants without expending any resources or weakening Himself. C) Therefore, it doesn't matter to God whether or not He has to 'magically' cause something to occur or not—as long as an event is made to coincide with what He wants to happen, it is miraculous. It's just as easy for Him to make something occur through the natural flow of the universe as it is for him to make it occur through breaking of normal laws.
(This, by the way, is why 'miracles' such as faith healings or the like should never, in my opinion, form one's grounds for belief in a particular religion.)
Another big nod of thanks goes out to my thesis committee for their suggestion regarding this chapter. I'm not sure how I missed it, but in the original drafts, Raoden and company never acknowledge the fact that Hrathen had been healed. They never even mentioned it, and they certainly didn't give their thoughts on why it happened.
The fix was an easy one—you can read it in a few paragraphs in this chapter. However, the fact that it hadn't been there before was indeed a problem. Moshe was dumbfounded when I mentioned the oversight to him.
So, thanks Sally, Dennis, and John. You saved me from some embarrassment.
I like the explanation that Raoden gives here for Hrathen's healing. It seems like it would make sense to the Elantrians, and it saves me from having them suspect what was really going on.
Ah, we needed some more Lukel. He hasn't been around enough lately. I'm glad I had the presence of mind to throw in a character to balance out Shuden and Eondel's solemnity. Lukel doesn't really have much part in the plot, but he's always there to throw in a nice quip or two. His annoyance at being told his face is too pink here is probably one of his best moments.
I brought in the Patriarch for a couple of reasons. Though Joshua wanted to cut him (my agent is quite the headsman) and suggested that I have Omin reveal the proclamation, I felt that I needed someone with a little more authority to fill that role. Plus, ELANTRIS is a book about religion, and I wanted to look at the idea of having a religious leader who isn't necessarily as. . .wise as his people would like. By giving the Korathi religion a man like the Patriarch at its head, I could show a different aspect of faith in the book—the idea that a religion is more than its leader, and faith is more powerful than one man. I think that for any religion to last, it needs to be able to survive IN SPITE of the people who run it, rather than just because of them.
By the way, in the original draft, when Sarene gives her "All of Arelon is blessed by your presence" line when the Patriarch is on the docks, the Patriarch originally said "I know." Moshe thought this was a little overdone, so I cut it. In my mind, however, the Patriarch IS overdone and cliché—that's part of his character. But, anyway, one other item about this scene is the storm. I threw it in so that I could fudge the time of the Patriarch's arrival—the triad structure requiring me to have had him on the boat longer than the trip should take. This might actually not be necessary any more—in the original, I had him leave before he found out about the king's death. (I'm. . .not exactly sure why. Something to do with pacing and the triad structure. However, it was always my intention to have him read the proclamation at the funeral, so I had to have the ASSUME that Iadon would be executed, then take off with the proclamation. Either way, I eventually fixed this, smoothing things out considerably.)
This chapter is supposed to be something of a small redemption for Iadon. First off, we have his proclamation, which gives validity to his structure of rule. I think everything in the Arelish government makes a lot more sense now that we understand why Iadon did what he did.
The second bit of redemption comes at the burial site, where Sarene watches the barrow being built. Her thoughts don't excuse what Iadon did, but I hope they give something of an explanation. I like this scene because of the way it feels—there is a reverence about it which gives the proper atmosphere for a funeral.
You'll notice in the 'Sarene prays in the chapel' scene that I take care to describe how high-necked, long-sleeved, and generally enveloping Sarene's dress is. Hopefully, this doesn't look suspicious. However, those of you who are watching carefully probably realized what was going to happen at the wedding. This was just too good an opportunity to pass up—for the surprise factor, for the wrinkles it throws in to the plot, and because it lets me mix Sarene and Raoden again.
This prayer scene also offers our first, and only, real look into Sarene's religious mindset. Her faith is probably one of the only simple aspects of her personality—she believes, and it doesn't need to go much further than that for her. That's why I had this prayer be so simple. Sometimes, a simple thing can be far more powerful than a complex one.
I did this triad a little differently. You might notice that the Hrathen chapter starts off right where the Sarene chapter ends. Again, I eventually decided to be more loose with the triad system than I'd originally intended. It would have been to limiting to force all three chapters to happen during the exact same time. So, instead I have them all happen on the same day, usually overlapping, but not always.
Anyway, this chapter was a nice little place for Hrathen to feel proud of himself. You may have noticed that the chapters are speeding up—getting shorter, things happening faster—as the book progresses. This is an aspect of my style, and while it's not quite so noticeable in my new books (I've tried to even out my climaxes and surprised better during the last few years,) ELANTRIS is an 'Old School' Brandon novel. My books tend to push toward the endings quite dramatically, and you usually hit a place my friends affectionately call 'The Brandon Avalanche.' Generally, my books tend to go haywire in about the last ten percent, the pace increasing drastically, the viewpoints going wild.
That hasn't happened at this point in ELANTRIS, but we're getting closer.
Originally, I had the steps leading up to Elantris from the outside be a construction put there by the people of Kae. I knew I wanted a large number of scenes on the wall—it is such a dominant visual feature of the book that I thought it would make a good stage for scenes. However, I quickly realized that it would be the people of Kae—not the Elantrians—who controlled the wall. The Elantris City Guard grew from this idea, as did the set of steps constructed on the outside, leading up.
As I worked more and more on the book, however, I came to realize that the pre-Reod Elantrians wouldn't have needed a city wall for protection.
Obviously, to those who've read more, there is a good Aon-based reason for the wall. However, there is more to it than that, as well.
The wall of the city is a symbol—it's part of the city's majesty. As such, it made more and more sense that there would be plenty of ways to get up on top of it.
When we got the cover art back from Stephen, we were amazed by its beauty. A few things, however, didn't quite mesh with the text. One of these was the set of steps—they were so ornate, so beautiful, that it didn't fit that they would have been designed by the people of Kae. At that point, things kind of fell together, and I realized that there was no reason why the Elantrians themselves wouldn't have put a large staircase outside the city leading up to the wall.
And so, in the final rewrite of the book (the ninth draft) I changed the staircase, and the general feel of the wall, to give the proper sense to the reader. The staircase was placed by the Elantrians as a means of getting up on top the wall. The wall itself became less a fortification, and more a wonder—like the Eiffel Tower. It is there to be climbed and experienced.
This scene where Raoden and Sarene meet on equal grounds is, I hope, something that people have been waiting for. I intended the moment when Sarene lets Raoden take her hand to be a major event in the book. The phrase 'For the first time' (I.e., she took his hand for the first time) was added at Moshe's suggestion. I'm personally not as fond of it as I could be—my opinion is often times, making a passage shorter actually emphasizes it more. However, I wasn't so set on those four words that I insisted on not putting them in.
These two chapters—forty and forty-one—are another sequential pair in a triad, like I did before. I wanted to push out of Raoden's viewpoint as quickly as possible here, because he's already seen Elantris and New Elantris. In these scenes, Sarene's view of things will be more fresh—and therefore more interesting. She can experience some parts of Elantris for the first time, and we can enjoy her realization and discovery.
My biggest challenge in this chapter was to make it believable to a reader that the characters would accept Sarene as an Elantrian. The plotting of this section of the book relies on Sarene thinking that she's actually been transformed—otherwise, she would try to escape, and I wouldn't be able to have the short interlude in Elantris I have here. It's vital to Raoden's plotting, and to the relationship between the two of them, that they have some time to think and to get to know one another.
I had a couple things going for me in creating this suspension of disbelief regarding Sarene's nature as an Elantrian. First, she doesn't really know what an Elantrian should be like—she doesn't realize that her heartbeat or her tears betray her. Secondly, as Raoden will point out in a bit, Sarene has come during the time of New Elantris. There is food, there is shelter, and the pain has mostly been overcome. The differences between an Elantrian and a non-Elantrian, then, are less obvious.
Even still, there are a couple of things I had to explain. The first is Ashe's existance. This is a major clue to Sarene and company that she's not really an Elantrian. Sarene's bodily changes—or lack thereof—are going to be more and more obvious the longer she stays in Elantris. Obviously, I wouldn't be able to pull this plotting off for very long, but hopefully it works for now.
In this chapter, we really get to see the effects Raoden's leadership. We see how he makes use of what he is given—the bright cloth, the nails, the sheets of metal. On one side, we saw Sarene twisting his demands. Now we get to see Raoden twisting those items back into usefulness. He changes the bright clothing into an advantage, using it to brighten his people against the sludge. He finds uses for all of Sarene's 'useless' payments. The more bleak a situation is, the more Raoden shines.
In these chapters, I had to be very careful during the Sarene viewpoints. As I was writing, I had a habit of accidentally refering to Raoden by his real name, rather than calling him Spirit. Sarene, of course, doesn't know who he really is. I found one place where I called him 'Raoden' that somehow lasted all the way to the final edit—hopefully, that was the last one.
By the way, I took the bit where Sarene judged Raoden's height from real-life experience. My friend, Annie Gorringe, always used to talk about how her near 6' height sometimes made it difficult for her to find men to date. Often, the first thing she'd do when she was interested in a man was judge his height compared to her own.
Watch out, folks. If you know an author, you have to watch your tongues. Anything you say is fair game to be used in a novel, as far as we're concerned.
Interestingly, I've never annotated about Sarene's nickname before. Only her father uses it, and when Moshe read the draft, he had trouble understanding how to get 'Ene from Sarene. That's probably because he, like most people, pronounced her name like the word serene. That's all right—I don't really mind how people pronounce the names in my books. When I read, I see a name, come up with a pronunciation in my head, then go with that from there on. Nothing can convince me that I'm pronouncing it wrong, not even the author him/herself. (Even still, the names of Anne McCaffery's dragons are jumbled, meaningless noises in my mind. That seemed right at the time.)
Anyway, if you're interested, there's a pronunciation guide for Elantris on the site. Sarene's nickname comes from the Aon in her name: Aon Ene. While in our world, we tend to choose nicknames based on the first syllable of a name, nicknames in Arelish come from from the Aon. Since Sarene's Aon comes late in her name, that's where the nickname comes from. 'Ene,' by the way, is pronounced 'Ay-nay.'
It's a tie—best cheesy line from this chapter.
He half-smiled, his eyes unconvinced. Then, however, he regarded her with an unreadable expression. "Well, I suppose the time during your Trial wasn't a complete loss. I gained something very important during those weeks."
"The supplies?" Sarene asked.
"When I opened my eyes, I thought that time I had died for certain." (Remember, when this happened, Raoden was laying on his back. He oppened his eyes, and the first thing he would have seen was Sarene's face hovering above him.)
What can we learn from this? That people who are falling in love are utter cheese-heads.
Hum. I forgot how short many of these chapters got. Usually, I don't let my chapters get this short in a book. I like longer chapters, and tend to be pretty stable in my chapter lengths. ELANTRIS, however, is an aberration. It has a good twenty chapters more than my average book, despite being shorter than many of them.
The line about a Svordish epic is, for those of you who are wondering, a reference to the monomyth. (I.e., the heroic archetype.) It's ironic that I should include a nod to Campbell in my novel, since I rant about fantasy writers paying him too much heed in one of my critical pieces regarding ELANTRIS. (I posted it in the ELANTRIS resources section.)
The only other thing to say about this chapter is that it's about where the Mad Prince subplot began in the original drafts of the book.
Though this is explained other places on the site, I should probably note it here. The Mad Prince, a character who has been cut from the book, dominated about three or four chapters in the last quarter of the manuscript. Originally, Raoden wasn't an only child—he had a brother who was something of a madman. Eton—the Mad Prince—was sent away by his father to live in seclusion. He was mentioned several places in the text, foreshadowing the time when Hrathen decided to pull him back into Arelish politics to try and use him as a pawn.
In this chapter, the Mad Prince arrives in the area—though we don't know it. Hrathen finds out that Eton has arrived, and goes to meet with him off stage. The reader doesn't know what's going on yet—you only know that Hrathen has some other little scheme he's been cooking up since Sarene's fall. (Remember, in the original draft of the book, Telrii was far less of a character. Hrathen gave up on him early in the book, after the plan to sink Iadon's ships ended up being a wash.)
So, in the original version of the book, Raoden and Galladon saw Eton's army outside the city when they went up to the top of the wall. This shocked and concerned them, which is why they went searching for Sarene to get news about the outside world. More on the Mad Prince later, however.
"Hama," Galladon's word for grandmother, is actually another theft from the real world. One of my cousins has a little son who calls his grandmother 'Hama,' and I always thought it was a cute nickname. The really funny one, however, is when he refers to my grandmother—his great-grandmother. She's Big Hama. (In keeping with this tradition, Sarene's childhood nickname for Kiin is 'Hunkey Kay,' a child's version of 'Uncle Kiin.' This is a spin off of what that same little kid in the real world calls my mother. She's 'Hunky BaBa,' or 'Aunt Barbara.')
What did I warn you about we writers and filching things?
Originally, when Raoden and Galladon got to the top of the stairwell, they hacked their way through the door with Seolin's sword. When I got to this point, I'd completely forgotten that I'd already established that there was at least one axe in Elantris. In the rewrite, I put that in instead.
So, why does Raoden keep his identity secret from Sarene? I think his explanation here is earnest—he wants to get to know her without the truth of his identity throwing a crimp into the relationship. He, of course, intends to tell her eventually. At the risk of giving a spoiler, however, you needn't worry that this is going to turn into a 'I'm mad at you for lying to me' plot. Those always annoy me too. (Chick flicks are famous for them. "Oh, you're really a rich prince? Well, I hate you for pretending to be a pauper to win my love!")
I'm a little bit chagrined at how much faking I have going on in this chapter. Sarene isn't telling Raoden about the outside world (a necessary plotting device because of the triad—three days have passed, and I had to have a reason why she hadn't told Raoden about events outside the city yet.) Raoden isn't telling Sarene who he really is. On top of that, I'm keeping the secret of Hrathen's potion from my own characters, and I have to do some more rationalizing in this chapter—explaining why Sarene has enough food, and why she can't do AonDor—to make it all work. Ah. . .why can't we all just be honest.
Okay, now, I know you're going to laugh at me here. However, I suppose you deserve to know the whole story of this book. After all, I told you about the whole 'Adonis' thing.
Well, the thing is, the first version of the book included about two pages of poetry from WYRN THE KING. I think every prose writer goes through a stage where we think, for some reason, that we have a talent for poetry. It's doubly bad in fantasy, where we've all read Tolkien, and fell like adding poems, songs, and the like to our stories.
The thing is, most of us aren't very good at it. WYRN THE KING was a narrative alliterative poem patterned after BEOWULF, and it was TERRIBLE. I might be masochistic enough to post it in the 'deleted scenes' section of the website. I'm honestly not sure yet. (Actually, I wrote the poem as a college assignment. I wiggled out of doing something research-oriented by somehow convincing my teacher that I deserved to do a creative project instead. When I finished, I felt a little bit obliged to stick it in my current book, as I'd told my teacher I would. Sorry, Dr. Thursby, but. . .uh. . .it didn't make the final cut.)
Anyway, there was a point behind sticking the poem in the text, even if I completely overshadowed it by including so many lines of poetry. This section is really all we get in the book itself about Fjorden's past. As I've explained in the annotations, Fjorden switched to Shu-Dereth to do its conquering, relying on religion rather than armies. When they did so, they went back and rewrote many of their great classics. (Orwell would be proud of them.)
This is actually based on some events in our world. Some scholars think that BEOWULF underwent similar revision, the monks who copied and translated it adding Christian symbolism to the text. After all, no great artist could possibly have been a true pagan. Everyone knows that Aristotle was a Christian—and he died before Christ was even born!
Anyway, I had to do some rewriting of this chapter. However, I worked very hard to preserve the last few lines. I figured it would be nice to see Raoden's reaction to the news that his father was dead. I particularly like the off-handed way Sarene begins her explanation.
Cutting the Mad Prince forced me to rewrite a bit of this chapter. As I mentioned, in the original draft, Raoden and Galladon saw Eton's army crouching outside the city. At first, Sarene didn't know what to make of this news. She decided it couldn't be a Fjordell army—one could have never arrived so quickly. She knew it wasn't Teoish.
The chapter used to end with a startling realization from Sarene—she decided that the phantom army must belong to Prince Raoden. She decided that he hadn't died or been killed, but had instead fled to raise an army to take the throne from his father. I thought this was a very clever twist, and it was one of the things I was most sad to lose by cutting the Mad Prince.
I like how Raoden and Sarene's relationship is progressing in these chapters. I realize that it's probably moving just a bit too quickly to be natural, but remember that they don't really have much to do all day besides spend time with each other.
All in all, I like that their relationship has an opportunity to really develop and progress naturally. They don't fall in love because they fight all the time (which seems to be the only reason some fantasy characters hook up) or because they're possessed by hormones. Their personalities really do compliment one another, and they get along. They both like politics and keeping secrets for the game of it, and they are both sincere, intelligent people.
In other words, they don't just hook up because—as my friend Alan likes to say—'One of them is the male lead, and the other's the female lead.' I'd like to think that there is more to it than that.
I figured the rats metaphor in this chapter was appropriate. It seemed like the kind of connection that Hrathen would make—and it says something about him that he would think this way. He might be a sympathetic villain, and he might have some measure of nobility, but he isn't by any means unprejudiced. He is, in that way, a product of his culture. You can be a good man and still be prejudiced—I know a lot of people, good people, who simply don't seem to have the ability to see beyond their own assumptions.
So, I contrast this bit of prejudice from Hrathen with a sincere measure of humanity on his part. He's worried about Sarene. Not worried simply because of his desire to use her, not even worried simply because of his latent affection for her—though both are motivations for his actions. He's worried because he feels guilty for using her like he is. It's that pesky conscience of his, messing things up again.
And yes, Hrathen does have some feelings for Sarene hiding inside that armored chest of his. I'm always very subtle in the way I have him show them—for instance, his coming up to the wall to try and see if she's all right.
In the Mad Prince drafts of the book, I was still holding off on revealing him to the readers. His army was out there in this chapter—visible because of its fires in the night. I revealed that Hrathen considered the newcomer an ally, but I hadn't yet given away who the newcomer was.
The Mad Prince's disappearance was probably the most time-consuming cut I made, not to mention the one most difficult for me personally. I'm happy to know he lives on in his web presence—he's practically be the star of the 'Deleted Scenes' section. The cut came at the suggestion of Joshua "Axe Man" Bilmes. The stark truth is, the story didn't need another random diversion here. We're getting very close to the climax, and introducing another whole character—with his own plot, problems, and tangents—just wasn't good for the pacing. Eton was, in my opinion, a brilliant character. However, he just didn't belong in the book.
Hrathen's deal with Eventeo here is the final piece of his most brilliant plan in the book. He milked those two vials of poison for a whole lot. He managed to regain his own faith, defeat Dilaf, turn himself into a hero, and get Eventeo's promise all with a few clever political twists. After he's pulled off a few tricks like this, three months suddenly doesn't seem like an unrealistic amount of time to convert a nation. (Or, at least, convert its nobility—which, as Hrathen has pointed out, is the same thing.)
Raoden's reaction to Iadon's death is just a little bit cliché, but I think that cliché exists for a reason, so I wrote the scene this way.
Sometimes, I have difficulty in my writing because I try to be TOO original. I react pretty strongly against anything I've seen before, and don't want to include it in my books. This has served me well in some ways—Moshe bought ELANTRIS partially because he found it refreshingly different from other fantasies on the market. I generally have a strong element of originality to my worlds, my magic systems, and my plot structures. This is part of what draws people to my work.
However, sometimes I go too far. If I see something written one way—even if that way is good—then I react against it, trying to find another way. I've stayed away from 'Eternal Apprentice' plots (Thank you Craig Shaw Gardner for the name) even though they are extremely popular in fantasy—indeed, they are what got me into fantasy when I was younger. But, because of some things like this, my books can be more difficult to get into. The extremely steep learning curve of my works, the focus on strange settings and odd magic systems, might be off-putting for some readers. (ELANTRIS, by the way, is only a hint at these kinds of things. MISTBORN is a much better example.)
I try to walk a fine balance in my works. The trick is to write something that is original and new, breaking convention and tradition—yet at the same time have it FEEL like a fantasy. People read in the genre because they like the things it can do. I have to add the new, Sanderson, spin to things without tossing out all that is wonderful and resonant within the genre.
That's why you'll see some old archetypes showing up in my works occasionally. In a way, MISTBORN is an old-fashioned 'overthrow the evil empire' fantasy. When choosing my next project, I decided that I had enough sufficiently new material—both in setting and in plot—to tell the story in a way that would be fresh. I think it adds something to the genre, rather than just recycling what is there. So, I went ahead with it, hoping that the familiar and the original would work together.
ELANTRIS is similar. I threw in odd (for fantasy) plotting structures, but I let the air of 'standard medieval culture' remain in the book. (In fact, as I've noted, this is probably my most like-Earth book in that way.)
The balance between the new and the familiar. That's what it's all about.
Anyway, back to the chapter. I planned from the beginning for Sarene to give Raoden this vital bit of information about the magic system. As I've said before, she represents chaos—and chaos isn't always a bad thing. She is able to give Raoden the one simple bit of information that, despite all of his studying, he hasn't been able to find.
I worry, now that we have the map, that the Chasm answer is too obvious. Jeff made the Chasm a lot bigger than I intended it to be. And, since we zoomed in on the map so much, the Chasm dominates a large section of what we see.
Fortunately, I think it's the very next Triad where Raoden figures out how to use Sarene's bit of information. We don't have to wait long for him to figure out the secret—so, hopefully, if the readers figure it out, they won't feel Raoden is too stupid for taking so long.
As I've said before, I worried about the Sarene-Raoden plot falling too much into 'romantic comedy' stereotypes, so I took measures to try and make them act more honestly. In this chapter, Raoden tries to push Sarene away—but, of course, she doesn't believe him. Honestly, I think people in a lot of such plots TRY to find ways to misunderstand each other. That's the only explanation I can give for why such ridiculous things occur.
In cutting the Mad Prince, this section in the Sarene/Raoden chapters was one of the things I was sad to change. As I mentioned in a previous annotation, in the Mad Prince version of the book, Sarene thought that Raoden had returned with an army to try and take the city. I started this chapter out with a scene of Raoden thinking about the problems Sarene's realization caused. I'll just stick it in here:
One side effect of her mistaken supposition was that she hesitated in regards to their own relationship. He could see the conflict within he—the two of them had grown very close over the last five days, acting on the feelings they had both been forced to hold back during the weeks of Sarene's food distribution. Yet, now, Sarene thought that her husband might actually be alive and, a truly devout daughter of political necessity, she felt that getting any closer to Raoden would betray her vows. With surprise, Raoden realized that he was competing with himself—and losing.
I really hate to lose that last line. I always struck me as ironically clever. However, there was another loss that was even tougher to lose. It comes in where Raoden and Sarene are at the city gates:
Raoden fell still. He wanted her to stay—he longed for her to stay. But, at the same time, he knew he had to do whatever it took to get her out of Adonis. The city was death. As much as it pained him to think of her leaving, it pained him more to think of her staying.
"He will be there," Raoden said enticingly, his voice suddenly growing quiet. "Raoden. The man you love."
Sarene's hand grew slack, and she waved uncertain eyes towards the Elantris city gate. "No," she finally said. "That's not what I want any more."
I think the reason I hated to lose this scene is obvious. Right here, Sarene gets to choose 'Spirit' over the images she has in her head of the perfect Prince Raoden. It's an opportunity for her to show that she really does love him, despite what he is, despite what the other options might be. It's love offered against logic and against wished-for dreams. In other words, it's realistic love. Of all the scenes I had to cut, these few paragraphs make me the saddest to lose, I think.
This ending scene is where Hrathen and Raoden come the closest to speaking to one another. Hrathen stands there, looking down on Raoden. Then he leaves. In case you were wondering, no. They never say a word to one another throughout the entire book. Sarene mixes with both of them, but Hrathen and Raoden barely interact.
I love this exchange at the beginning of the chapter. We actually don't get many scenes in the book where Hrathen gets to interact with Sarene, let alone her friends. The dialogue in this section is rather spiffy, if I do say so myself. The exchanges feel quick, poignant, and telling of character.
One part of that is probably due to the pair of extremely good metaphors Hrathen makes during the scene. The crushing mountain, the bird banging its head against a stone—these are didactic metaphors, exactly the kind of thing you'd expect a priest to say. He places them quite keenly, and his oration has an effect on Sarene and the others. I'd call this scene the final cap of Hrathen's victories during the last few chapters.
By the way, I'm still fond of the fact that Hrathen is more skilled a warrior than Eondel. Eondel's good, but he's not in the same league as a warrior-priest. Besides, Eondel is a leader, trainer, and general—his skill set is different than Hrathen's. If the two were to spar, Hrathen would win nearly every time.
Interestingly, this is one of the first real action sequences we've gotten in the book. So far, all we've really had are: the fencing match between Sarene and Eondel, the place where Hrathen fights off Shaor's men, and a couple of short battles between Raoden's men and Shaor's wildmen. Really not very much. I'm quite proud, actually, of how well I managed to keep up the tension and pacing in a book without much physical action.
Of course, that doesn't mean that I'm not a sucker for some good action. Go read MISTBORN if you want to see what I mean.
You get a couple nice foreshadowing hints here. First, there's the scene that reminds us that—for some reason—Kiin's family knows an awful lot about Elantrians. We've gotten other hints, but they were back a long time ago. The one I remember best is when Sarene was with the twins on the wall. Kaise and Daorn had some things to say about Elantrians that surprised Sarene, I think. Also, notice that Ahan is with Telrii. Though it's presented that the group decided that he should go see Telrii, the actual backstory is that Ahan manipulated himself into the position. It's just another small clue as to what he's planning to do.
I think this final scene with Sarene in bed is much more powerful since I didn't show the actual conversation with Eventeo. Having it begin with a depressed Sarene, the Seon link disappearing, leaves an air of melancholy on the scene that is more telling than the sense of sorrowful confrontation that would have come from having Eventeo explain himself to Sarene.
Obviously, poor Eventeo isn't in a very easy position. I didn't want him to have an easy answer; I think this is a very difficult decision for him to make, and I don't really think there is an obviously right answer—even though Sarene thinks that there is. We'll see later that Sarene doesn't look at things the same way a person who actually has to be a leader does.
I wish I could have made Eventeo a viewpoint character—he goes through a lot of conflict and trouble in the book. Unfortunately, there's never enough room to do all the things that you want to, and I like how tight the book feels with only having the rotating viewpoints.
Now we're getting into the most heavily-edited chapters of the book. From here, if you're curious about the Mad Prince version of the book, look in the 'Deleted scenes' section. For the rest of the annotations, just realize that what the Mad Prince once did, Telrii now does. There is, of course, a lot of cut material—however, all of the essential elements of the plot still occur.
Basically, the Mad Prince gave aggravation and problems to Hrathen in these late chapters. He'd had so much success with his Elantris-poison plots that I knew I had to give him a few more wrinkles during these chapters. In the original draft, he instigated the arrival of the Mad Prince, then realized that he couldn't control what he'd unleashed.
These were all difficult edits. I still think the Mad Prince worked better in the role than Telrii does—however, the book as a whole works better without the Mad Prince in it. Sometimes you have to cut something good in order to achieve a better over-all effect.
So, all of Telrii's characterization through the novel has been pushing toward this chapter. I knew I wanted him to throw a huge wrinkle into Hrathen's plans, and so the basic thing I had to decide was what Telrii could possibly do that would be as disastrous as the Mad Prince's uncontrollability. In the rewrite, then, I made certain to make Telrii a more unpredictable character. He's not just wasteful, he's arrogantly wasteful. At the same time, however, he's not as much a fool as people assume. He likes his spending, but he also likes how that luxury makes him look. It makes other people underestimate him, and makes them assume that he's predictable. That lets him pull little coups like the on he throws at Hrathen in this chapter.
Hrathen is, of course, right. Telrii doesn't have any clue how great a misjudgment he just made. The idea is not that Telrii is brilliant—he's just smart enough, just wily enough, to be surprising. He's just dangerous enough to do something disastrous like this.
My biggest worry about these chapters is that people will look at the map we put in the front of the book and realize that it doesn't match the text. I really do like Jeff's map—it's well-drawn, and it has a very cool feel to it. I love the little city designs; they give the map a different feel from many fantasy maps. Overall, I think this map fits the 'mood' of the book quite well.
However, I myself didn't give him good enough instructions on how to develop the map, and now it doesn't completely fit what I talk about in the text. Since the landscape of the land is so important to the development of the book and the magic system, this could be a problem for some readers.
Anyway, yes, Raoden makes the connection here. The Chasm line is what has been missing all along. I tried to emphasize the Chasm several times in the text, reminding people that it's around. However, as I may have said in other annotations (the spoiler sections), I now worry that the Chasm is TOO obvious. Anyway, I suspect the discovery will work for some people, and not work for others. Hopefully, the characterizations and the events in the book are interesting enough that even if some people think this discovery is obvious, they'll enjoy reading anyway.
Speaking of that, I haven't really talked much about viewpoint in these annotations. You may or may not have noticed that I'm a big fan of strictly-limited third-person viewpoints. Third person past tense has pretty much become the industry standard during the last fifteen years (before that time, you saw a lot more omniscient—look at DUNE, and to a lesser extent, ENDER'S GAME.) You almost never see it these days, though, and I personally think that's a good thing. Omniscient is a little better for plotting in some places, but limited is far better for characterization.
Any time you read one of my books, you should remember that I'm almost always in strict limited. Whatever you read in the text, it is something that a character feels or has observed.
So, in this chapter we get to have a nice look at the 'mathematical' style to AonDor. To be honest, I'm not really a math person. I did well in my classes, but I never pursued the skill long enough to get deeply into theoretics. That's why there aren't any specifics in these chapters—I try to give enough to imply that AonDor works like mathematical proofs, but I don't include any specific ratios or equations.
My goal was to get across the 'Feel' of the magic without actually having to get into number crunching—which is something at which Raoden's much better than I am. (Though, it's less numbers and more of an understudying of length, location, and combination.)
By the way, there is a little foreshadowing in this chapter. Raoden's ability to draw with a stick or a quill to do his Aons is very important, obviously. Some people still have trouble what is going on at the climax of the book, and so I found constant need to incorporate explanations and hints where I could to foreshadow events.
Joshua absolutely hates it when I use plots like this.
I don't know why I insist on putting things like this (mistaken identities, people pretended to be someone else, that kind of plot) into my books. I think, deep down, I've got a weakness for old-school Shakespearean farces. Storytelling is just more fun when people can do a bit of pretending.
Anyway, I'd been wanting to show a real Dula ever since I started writing the book. Galladon is such a 'bad' Dula that I was very pleased when I found an opportunity to work Kaloo into the plot. You've been hearing, through various asides, about Dulas for most of the book. Now you actually get to meet one. Or, at least, someone pretending to be one. (Uh. . .I hope I'm not giving anything away by letting you know that Kaloo is really Raoden. It wasn't supposed to be a surprise.)
Anyway, we'll get an explanation from Raoden later about why he didn't come clean immediately. If he were truthful, however, he'd have to admit something: Though he sometimes teases Sarene for being too fond of political games, he likes them just as much as she does. The opportunity for him to meet her for the third time for the first time was just too tempting to pass up.
In order for 'Kaloo' to appear in this chapter, he and Galladon had to do some serious moving. (Realize that this has to be the same day as the last chapter.) I imagine that they made their discovery early in the morning, and Raoden was extremely eager to get out of the city and find out what was happening. They put on new faces, snuck out of the city, and went to the Arelene market to buy some costumes. After that, they went looking for Roial—whom Raoden wanted to contact first. Instead, however, he found Sarene and company fencing in the backyard. As mentioned, Raoden couldn't resist the opportunity to see her—and the opportunity to try out his Dula impersonation.
By the way, you might remember that I've mentioned Raoden's fencing ability before. Very early in the book, I note during one of the fencing practices that Raoden had Eondel teach him to fight simply to spite Iadon. He's actually surprisingly good—Raoden, however, is the type of person who is surprisingly good at a surprising number of things.
This is a different kind of Hrathen chapter. With it, I wanted to set the tone for the final section of the book. Only about 15% of the novel remains, and things are going to change for the last bit. You may have noticed a slight tone shift in this chapter—I made it a little darker, filling it with death imagery. (Incense, ash, darkness, Svrakiss.) I wanted to subtly get across that things are growing more dim for Hrathen and Arelon.
Originally, this scene happened outside, at the Mad Prince's pyre. I liked the death imagery there a little better—Dilaf sifting through the ashes of a funeral pyre made for a very interesting image. However, the visuals in this newer version have their own advantages. I was able to use the lantern to half-light Dilaf's, and the smells from the tent make a nice sensual addition to the section.
This scene ends with a question. Hopefully, the reader is reminded that we haven't really seen anything from Dilaf in the last few triads. Hrathen has been in control ever since he left Elantris, and what we've seen of Dilaf has been cursory and ignorable, for the most part.
Now, however, he's back. His low profile in the last chapters was intentional. My hope is that the reader will hit the last few lines of this chapter and think "Oh, wait. I've been ignoring Dilaf lately. That's not a good thing. . . ." In other words, I want them to feel like Hrathen does. He's suddenly realized that he's let a foe slip under his notice for a time, and now he's worried about what Dilaf has been planning.
In a later draft, I added a bit of padding to this chapter—in particular, I included more explanations by Raoden regarding how he'd been trying to meet with Sarene. I was worried that I was pushing the bounds of plausibility too much with Raoden's false persona. One of the main reasons that he left Elantris was to see Sarene again, and it just didn't make sense that he would try to keep fooling her. Moshe noted this as well.
So, we have Sarene refusing Kaloo's letters, and not wanting to let him get her alone. Perhaps this is a little implausible as well—I can't see Sarene avoiding anything that smells of politics. Fortunately, Sarene is also far more impetuous than other 'political' character's I've used. I can see her sending away Kaloo's letter because of a mood, or simply because she thought he was trying to taunt her.
Either way, I had to find a reason to maintain the chrade through this chapter, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to pull off Raoden's dramatic appearance in the next chapter.
The saddest part about Kaloo, I think, is that he's not a real character. I had a lot of fun writing him, and when I was done, I wished that I had a full character to play with. Even in these few chapters, I got across a complexity for him that I thought was most interesting. (His line about acting the fool on purpose, as well as the one "The revolution rolled over us while we were still discussing what to have for dinner" are some of my personal favorites.)
Unfortunately, all of this characterization is undermined by the fact that Kaloo is really just Raoden playing a part. I often develop characters in my mind based solely on their dialect—and everyone has a dialect, despite what you may think. Galladon's might be the most obvious, but—in my mind, at least—everyone in the book speaks a little differently. Roial is dignified mischievous, Ahan favors flamboyant words, Kaloo favors frivolousness words, and Ashe likes words that make him sound solemn. Karata is curt, Lukel likes to quip, and Raoden firm.
That's probably why I grew so attached to Kaloo—he had a lot of dialogue, and through that I created who he was in my mind. This tendency of mine to characterize through dialogue is why I had so much trouble cutting Galladon's frequent use of 'kolo', which always bothered Moshe. Galladon's dialect is so much a part of who he is that each cut made me cringe.
It may seem odd that Roial invites Kaloo to the meetings after just a short time. Remember several things, however. First, Sarene wasn't in the town for very long before she herself got into the meetings. Second, they're desperate for help and new perspectives. Third, Kaloo has been living with Roial, and Roial knew Raoden quite well. I'm not saying that Roial saw through the persona, but he undoubtedly sensed some of the same things in Kaloo that he liked in Raoden.
I hereby dub this chapter the official start of the Brandon Avalanche! Let the rejoicing begin.
On a more serious note, I'll get to some of the major events in the chapter in a moment. First, let's talk over some smaller annotations. I like the fact that Lukel doesn't like Kaloo—it seems like a perfect characterization for both of them. I will note, however, that Lukel has much better lines in this chapter than Kaloo does. His crack about Ahan getting sick by sheer laws of probability makes me chuckle every time I read them. Kaloo, on the other hand, spends all of his time trying to be honorable and true. Raoden is a good hero, but he can be dreadfully boring sometimes. Maybe that's why he threw himself into the Kaloo persona so eagerly.
Speaking of Raoden's honor and truth, I'd like to note something about assassination and killing in this book. As I've stated in earlier annotations, I wanted this book's conflict to be non-violence focused. I think that the characters in this book, therefore, represent a more mature philosophy regarding social problems—a philosophy that could only exist among a people who have spent so much of their lives not having to deal with death and war. A people who have a valid reason for seeing things more like people in a contemporary culture.
As my friend Alan likes to say, however, "Violence may not always be the best answer—but it's usually AN answer." Conflict and social commentary should be based on the characters and their beliefs, rather than forced expressions of the author's message. That doesn't mean that I don't let my personal views shade my writing—I think that level of self-removal would be impossible. However, I do think that the themes expressed in a book need to be reflective of the characters.
I like that I was able to write a novel where the characters came to the conclusion that they'd rather find a way to stop their opponents without resorting to hiring assassins. This, I think, is a noble way of viewing the world. However, the realist in me says that most people—and most situations—won't be so open to this kind of decision. It says something that after working so long on ELANTRIS, I promptly went and made my next heroine (the one from MISTBORN) an assassin herself. In her world, life is far more brutal—and these sorts of philosophical problems aren't as difficult to deal with. There, there is too much riding on the protagonists for them to worry about their methods. I think they're still good people. They just have a slightly different philosophy.
Yes, Ahan is a traitor. When building this book, I knew that I wanted one of the characters to betray the rest. I also knew that I didn't want it to be the most obvious one in the group. This left me with a problem. I had to provide a character whom nobody would suspect as a traitor, yet at the same time make it believable that he would turn traitor.
The first thing I did was throw in Edan as a diversion. He worked perfectly—virtually all of my alpha readers mentioned that they thought for certain that he would turn traitor. I had Edan run off early because I wanted to lull the readers into a sense of security, thinking that their 'traitor' character had disappeared already. I also didn't want to throw Ahan's betrayal in with Edan still there—I think that would have made Edan's purpose too obvious to those who could see the two contrasted that way.
The next thing I did was begin foreshadowing that Ahan acts, and speaks, without thinking through his actions. I mention this a couple of places, including at the eclipse party. I made his character a bit indifferent, a lot blustery, and tried to indicate that he didn't quite see the treason he was engaging in as being as dangerous as it really was.
Finally, I began having him act suspicious. You can go look through the spoiler annotations if you want notes of where I had him doing things like this. Essentially, he acted odd when Telrii was mentioned, and he was the one who went to visit Telrii when the group wanted one of their party to get in good with the enemy.
These are small things, I realize. However, I think they work well enough. I wanted to get across a sense of shock and surprise at the betrayal. I always hate it when traitors are obviously oily men with shifty eyes. I don't think people trust that kind of man.
Anyway, I think the other thing that lets me get away with Ahan's betrayal is that he doesn't completely change characters with the treason. He isn't a different person—he doesn't suddenly become a 'bad guy,' like happened in some stories. (Ahem. The TV show 24, first season.) Ahan just didn't think hard enough about what he was doing—he took his actions too lightly.
There has been some confusion about Raoden's line "After I left" to Sarene right before they go back into the kitchen. Right here, he's getting ready to tell her that he's really Raoden. He is implying that, after he left Kae (and was thrown into Elantris) he didn't think his group of noblemen would keep meeting. It was supposed to be a subtle hint—Sarene would catch something too obvious, and I didn't want to weaken the drama of Raoden's appearance.
This is a very noble, and a very sorrowful, scene. A lot of emotions fly around in this chapter. Again, if I have done my job and made you sympathetic to the characters and their stories, then these emotions will come off as powerful drama. If I've failed, then all you'll get from this scene is melodrama. I hope it worked for you. I wanted Raoden's final revelation—and return to Kae—to be a dramatic and powerful event.
Originally, this scene happened with the Mad Prince, whom I'd built up as being deathly afraid of spirits and ghosts. When Raoden appears, Eton thought he was a ghost, and ran away. (Ha ha. Another pun off the original title of the book. I felt so clever—then cut it all out.) Anyway, on consideration—and in rewriting these scenes to use Telrii instead—I realized that Telrii's soldiers would never strike down Raoden. His nature as the true king of Arelon would be enough to send them all fleeing in surprise and worry.
Some people are very surprised by this chapter. It isn't the most narratively-surprising death I've ever written, but it was one of the more sudden ones. I'm sorry if you really liked Roial.
I wrote this book to be less of a 'violent book than some others I've written or read. However, on reflection, I realize that what I intended by this was to write a novel where the protagonists didn't rely on violence as much as they did on their wits. I didn't mean that I wouldn't let the bad guys be. . .well, bad.
(In addition, by the way, this is part of why Raoden and Sarene are such competent people. They don't have swords or magic to perform flashy fight scenes—so, instead, I gave them competence in relation to their personalities. In part, this is what amuses me by complaints that Raoden and Sarene are too flat as characters. Make a man the most brilliant swordsman ever, but make him emotionally incompetent, and you have a 'deep' character. Make a man incapable with weaponry, but emotionally mature, and he's flat. Go figure.)
Anyway, back to the topic at hand, I don't think I'm particularly brutal with my characters. (I'm no David Gemmel, for instance. I swear, the body counts in that man's books. . . .) I am, however, realistic. People die in my books. Sometimes they're viewpoint characters. It happens. From a storyteller's viewpoint, I think it makes the tension more real. There IS danger for the characters. In a more philosophical bent, I think this makes the characters more heroic—they aren't protected from the consequences of their decisions. Even if those decisions are good. Choosing to try and overthrow a dictator like Telrii is a dangerous decision, and if the heroes are going to be considered 'heroic' for that action, then I have no right to protect them from harm. Doing so would take away the 'will' of my villains.
Poor Hrathen. He's been getting jerked around a lot lately—it's hard for him to react to events before new ones draw his attention. In addition, most of the Mad Prince scenes happened in his chapters. That meant that when I did the revision, he lost the largest number of pages. So, his sections here got even shorter than they had been.
Regardless, things have obviously changed for him again. The guard switch-out here is one of my favorite moments in the book. I like the urgency of Hrathen's realization, not to mention how this introduces the scene into chaos.
Originally, the fight scene here took place in the Mad Prince's tent. I had to stretch a bit to keep the dripping flames from above—I just really liked that image. And, I apologize for actually using the words 'Time slowed.' That mechanic is a bit over-used in fiction, I admit. However, this is one of my early books, so you'll forgive me, right?
“I fell in love with the process of writing. I would write even if I couldn’t sell any of it. Of course it makes it easier that it does sell.” (Laughter)
He then went on to describe that Elantris was the first thing he had ever sold, the thirteenth piece that he had submitted and the sixth novel. He went on to say that he doesn’t read any bad reviews of his work. “If it has a low star count I pass it by.” He said that there could be thousands of rave reviews and only one negative one but he would focus on the negative and ignore all the raves, so he has learned to only read the “good” reviews. He also said that when he needs encouragement he will find a book he really likes and thinks is absolutely stellar and he will then read a one star review of it. “You can always find a one star review, no matter what it is. Even Hamlet has gotten one star reviews.” (laughter)
He went on to talk about how the fans comment on that “you are not RJ.” He agrees with them. “I’m not RJ and they have every right to be angry that I’m not.” He then said that they need to finish their grieving process and get over with it. He agrees that the book isn’t as good as what RJ would have done but he is happy with it.
And, the body count grows. (Ha ha. One of them IS a count.)
I don't kill for shock value. I don't think that's a good reason to do much of anything. I kill characters because of consequences in the plotting. Eondel, unfortunately, was doomed the moment he decided to exact revenge on Telrii. He didn't have enough men to both get in and out of the king's chambers.
I think this is a legitimate reaction for Eondel, however, based on how his character. He was honest, straightforward, and he respected Roial a great deal. He knew that Raoden would never condone an attack like this, but he also thought that it would be best for the country if he killed Telrii. So, he went and preformed his 'assassination.' This is supposed to be a little ironic, considering the events and decisions of the last chapter.
Things certainly are moving along now. I told you the book would speed up as it approached the ending.
There were some very good moments in this part. I like how removing the Mad Prince from the book streamlined the pacing, and I think it pushes quite well to the final section. A lot is happening now, so I hope that it's hard for you to get to these annotations—I want you to keep reading the book! You can always re-read it a second time, and look through the annotations then.
I worked for a while on the last line of Part Two. Originally, Hrathen thought to himself "Well, this isn't good." However, Moshe disagreed with that line. First, he thought it was too quippish. He wanted something more serious here. Second, he didn't think that these events were actually bad for Hrathen. Telrii, a man who had been giving Hrathen serious troubles, and Eondel, one of his main enemies, had just killed each other. On top of that, Roial—the main rival for the throne—is dead. All in all, a lot of annoying people are dead.
Moshe had a point, though I did disagree a bit. I think Hrathen would see Telrii's death as a wasted investment. He was still hoping to control the man, and having Telrii on the throne and amiable to Hrathen would have been a much better outcome, since it would leave Hrathen looking less powerless before Wyrn.
However, I went ahead and changed the line. It now reads "So much for avoiding a bloody revolution." It gets across the same ruefulness as before, without being as flippant.
Also, 'The Call of Elantris'—the name of Part Two—is probably the weakest of my three sub-titles. I liked 'Shadow' and 'Spirit' a lot, and I knew that I had to use something parallel. I named this one 'Call' because of the way Hrathen and Sarene both end up getting tossed into the city, then end up using that event to their advantage. Raoden also deals with the 'call' of the Dor inside himself during this section, overcoming that particular conflict.
Essentially, everything is resolved in this section except for the really big questions. Who will end up as king? Will Arelon get invaded? Can anything be done to save the Elantrians?
Well, you'll just have to read on, won't you.
So, one thing you should notice from this chapter is that Raoden no longer needs his book of equations to draw his face illusion. He's been practicing and getting better. A subtle hint, but one I decided to throw in.
I don't know if you, as a reader, have been imagining Sarene with short hair since her departure from Elantris, but this chapter fixes that. The heroine has her hair back—all is right in the world.
Aons are an interesting part of this book—perhaps my favorite of the world elements. If you think about the system I've set up, you'll realize some things. First, the Aons have to be older than the Aonic language. They're based directly off of the land. So, the lines that make up the characters aren't arbitrary. Perhaps the sounds associated with them are, but the meanings—at least in part—are inherent. The scene with Raoden explaining how the Aon for 'Wood' includes circles matching the forests in the land of Arelon indicates that there is a relationship between the Aons and their meanings. In addition, each Aon produces a magical effect, which would have influenced its meaning.
The second interesting fact about the Aons is that only Elantrians can draw them. And Elantrians have to come from the lands near Arelon. Teoish people can be taken, but only if they're in Arelon at the time. Genetically, then, the Teos and the Arelenes must be linked—and evidence seems to indicate that the Arelenes lived in the land first, and the Teos crossed the sea to colonize their peninsula.
Only Elantrians can draw Aons in the air, so someone taken by the Shaod must have developed the writing system. That is part of what makes writing a noble art in Arelon—drawing the Aons would have been associated with Elantrians. Most likely, the early Elantrians (who probably didn't even have Elantris back then) would have had to learn the Aons by trial and error, finding what each one did, and associating its meaning and sound with its effect. The language didn't develop, but was instead 'discovered.'
There are likely Aons that haven't even been found yet.
I made certain to throw in lots of references to the Arelene Market. You'll find another one in this chapter. Obviously, the market itself is important. Since the Dakhor are going to pop out of the tents, readers need to understand that they're there.
This chapter begins with an interesting scene. There's already a bit of tension between Sarene and Raoden. Nothing big, of course—but I think it's realistic. People don't always agree. Loving someone doesn't change the fact that you sometimes think what they're doing is flat-out dumb. It does, however, tend to change your reactions. And so, Sarene acknowledges that Raoden is acting like a king, not a friend, and lets the matter drop.
This highlights a difference between the two of them that I have pointed out earlier. Sarene was not raised to rule—Raoden was. That lifetime of preparation has changed the way Raoden sees things; it has made him look at everything in the light of how it effects his people. Actually, there is no 'Raoden the man' separate from 'Raoden the ruler.' They're tightly integrated.
Kiin doesn't take orders, here. Another interesting little character trait, but it shouldn't be too surprising. Kiin's personality all along has indicated how little he regards the titles and authority of other men.
So, this section marked one of the biggest changes to the text during the revision process. In the Mad Prince version of the novel, the soldiers who ride up to Kiin's house were members of the Mad Prince's army. They arrested Raoden—he went willingly—and tried him for the death of their leader. This took the better part of two chapters, and ended with Raoden almost getting beheaded.
Overall, I kind of happy to lose the scene. The trial was a big distraction, and I'm not sure that I ever pulled it off narratively. There were a few interestingly tense moments, and it did let Raoden show his honor in his defense (he accepted the judgments of the army assuming they promised to make Sarene queen.) However, I sense that the scene in general was just over-written
Yes, Dilaf manipulating the Dor is supposed to be a major 'What the. . . ?' moment in this book. I'm sorry—I didn't really give you much foreshadowing on this one. There really wasn't an opportunity; this isn't the kind of thing that Dilaf would use very often, for fear of betraying his secrets.
I think it works, however, since this scene is actually supposed to be foreshadowing itself. You'll find out more about Dilaf, obviously, in the next chapter.
If we were in Sarene's viewpoint here, we'd probably see her thinking about the time this very thing happened to her—at her wedding.
I think her speech makes some good points. However, I think the people of the city have also been through so much lately that they're ready to accept anything. The combination of moving speech and unresponsive crowd is what let them get away with making Raoden king. Honestly, so many people have been popping in and out of Elantris lately that I suspect the people of the city are beginning to lose their edge of fear. They know that the Shaod isn't contagious, and they now know that many Elantrians aren't dangerous. The would see the illusion drop, and finally make the connection between Raoden and the Elantiran Spirit that helped them distribute food.
In this case, hope overcomes fear.
As I've mentioned before, I didn't want Hrathen's affection for Sarene to ever be overt in the book. He's not a man of passions, and I think he would be very good at keeping his interest unacknowledged, even in his own thoughts. He has 'learned to ignore' the passions of the flesh. We only get a few small clues as to his attraction to Sarene, and this chapter is probably has the most of those.
Still, hidden though they are, I wanted it to be obvious that Hrathen is a man, and does have masculine desires. He's found a woman whom he considers his equal—the fact that she is of a heretic religion would only make her more appealing, I think. Hrathen is attracted to challenges, and Sarene is nothing if not challenging.
I use this chapter as a strict triad chapter—it covers the same space of time as the other two chapters. With Sarene and Raoden running around together now, the triad system has been easy to forget. While I still start each chapter with the correct character, I often let the viewpoints intermix after that.
Again, this is intentional. After this last Hrathen chapter, I have the triad system break down completely. It's supposed to be a subtle indication of the chaos of these last few chapters. I'll even start throwing in viewpoints that aren't of the core three, which I hope with give the reader a sensation that something different is happening. The world, even the narrative structure of the book, is breaking apart. None of the old rules hold any more.
Ah, and Hrathen's three month timebomb. It's always nice when you can have a timebomb go off early. Hrathen thinks in this very chapter about how he's got a month left on his deadline. However, I suspect that readers will look at the book and realize that there's less than a hundred pages left. Hopefully, with these chapters—Raoden crowned king, Hrathen apparently beaten—I invoke a sense of confusion in the reader. They'll be expecting something big, something they weren't looking for.
The arrival of the Dakhor monks is it. You'll get some more explanation of this later, of course. Anyway, now you know why I kept mentioning the Arelene market and how unprofitable it seemed. The merchants there weren't even really merchants.
In the first draft, I had the monks hiding on the merchants' ships. In a later rewrite, however, I realized that this wasn't as powerful as if I had them actually playing the part of the merchants. If I had them on the ships, I had to have Hrathen follow Dilaf all the way to the docks. In addition, those monks would have had to spend weeks cooped up in the holds of a bunch of merchant ships. So, I changed it so that the monks were impersonating the merchants themselves—a better plan, I think, on their part. This lets them infiltrate the city, move around and scout the area, and essentially hide in plain sight.
Okay, so I'm a prude. I'll admit that. I like my characters to be married before they have sex. Besides, Sarene is right—she deserves a wedding. She's waited since chapter two to have her big, princess's wedding. She deserves something official. So, Raoden and Sarene spend this night apart. Besides assuaging my moral sense of decency, it works much better for the plot to have them apart.
Notice that Raoden awakes here, much in the same way that he did in chapter one. I kind of wanted this chapter to call back to that one. Both chapters open with a slight sense of peace, followed by awful discovery. Both end with Raoden being cast into hell.
My only sadness concerning the Dakhor is that I had to wait so long to reveal them. I think that visually, they are very interesting. The concept of a group whose bones have been twisted and deformed by powerful magics brings interesting images to mind.
The Dakhor aren't majorly deformed, however—they still have all the pieces in the right places. Their bones have simply been. . .changed. Expanded in places, simply twisted to form patterns in others. Because of this, of course, they have to run around shirtless. It's more dramatic that way. Besides, we spent all this money on special effects—we might as well show them off.
Of all the things in the book, this one worries the most with its sudden appearance. I really did try to foreshadow this as best I could. If it's still too sudden for you, I apologize. My suggestion is to just sit back and enjoy the ride.
In the original drafts of the book, I had Sarene feeling a sense of foreboding here at the beginning of her section. My thought was that we'd just seen the Dakhor attack Raoden—the reader is going to be feeling some tension, so I thought I'd like to keep it up in the Sarene scene.
There's still a little bit of it there, but I cut most at Moshe's recommendation. He felt that having Sarene feel an unnatural eeriness about this particular night was too melodramatic, and implied a kind of psychic link. Personally, I think there's nothing psychic about it—it's just a general storytelling convention that characters can sense when something is wrong.
Either way, I do think the more subdued tone of this first part has its own advantages. By having Sarene completely ignorant, even unconsciously, of what is coming, I think I build a sense of tension. The reader knows danger is approaching.
So, this is where the book turns a little violent. You can read some of my earlier annotations on the topic. I was a little bit worried about putting any strong violence in this book, since it was generally focused around politics and other, more subtle methods of building tension. However, I decided to go with contrast instead. So far, nearly everything in the book has been surprisingly peaceful. We didn't even see Shaor's men kill many people.
Now things are going very wrong. An evil that nobody was expecting has come against the city, and it's controlled by a demented, hateful creature. I don't see how we could get around having these scenes be particularly dark. I think there is an element of realism here too, however. This is what happens with all of the politics and the maneuvering breaks down.
So, call me melodramatic, but I think the Kiin surprise is one of my favorite in the novel. I've been foreshadowing this one from almost the beginning. And while it isn't a major part of the plot, it does suddenly explain a lot about Kiin's character.So, in case you couldn't infer it from the text, Kiin is Eventeo's (Sarene's father) older brother. He should have inherited the throne, but he wasted his youth on pleasure voyages and exploration, visiting foreign ports while his little brother stayed behind and helped rule the kingdom. (Their father was ailing, and often Eventeo would have to hold court for him and attend the other tasks of king.)
Some minor crisis arrived at the same time as their father died, and Eventeo—thinking his brother unworthy of the throne—eased into the role of king and was crowned before Kiin was the wiser. Eventeo dealt with the problems of state, and generally was a good king. When Kiin got back from his latest trip, however, he was furious to find that his crown had been stolen from him. He demanded it back; Eventeo refused, and had Kiin banished.
Kiin was popular with the military men, however, because of the heroic figure he cut. He was the adventuring sailor, while Eventeo was a scholarly bureaucrat. Over the next few years, Kiin managed to gather a naval force from pirates, deserters from Eventeo's armies, and mercenary forces. It was during this time he nearly died to the accident that crushed his throat. He took the name 'Dreok,' after Aon Reo, and sailed against Teod, trying to take the throne by force.
Eventeo won (barely) and Kiin escaped with his life (barely.) He went to Arelon to recoup and plan his next invasion. However, he fell in love with Daora, and slowly began to loose his hard edge. A decade or so later, we have Kiin the chef and home-maker.
I think it's a great backstory because of the questions it leaves. Eventeo did something that might have been right for his country, but something that was legally incorrect. All excuses aside, he usurped the throne. Kiin wouldn't have made a good king—he didn't have practice at administration, and he was a brusque, impetuous young man. However, the throne still should have been his.
Moments like this one—when the secrets, foreshadowing, and hints all click together—are one of my greatest joys in writing. We've got a few more good ones coming up in the book. However, I did go a little overboard in places. We'll talk about that next.
So. . .in the original draft, Torena is Eventeo's new spy in Arelon. Do you remember the conversation that Sarene and Eventeo had a little ways back? The one where he told her he had a new spy in Arelon, and refused to tell Sarene who it is? Well, yes. Torena.
When I was writing this book, I went a little bit too far with the hidden pasts and amazing discoveries. I had Torena being the one who came to rescue Sarene from the Dakhor. (She arrived in a second carriage, I think.) However, the Dakhor caught up to them again, and suddenly Kiin appeared to save them.
This scene was terrible. It's not that any of the pieces were bad. It's just that it was too repetitive. First you find out Torena has a secret past, and that she's come to rescue Sarene. Then we find out that Kiin has a secret past and he's come to rescue Sarene. It just didn't work—and the Torena surprise, which was only mildly foreshadowed, ruined the much better Kiin surprise.
So, I cut the Torena parts—and I'm very glad that I did. My early alpha readers said that the worst part about the book was how all of the surprises at the end interfered with each other. Looking back, some of the things I did are embarrassing. I was adding surprises just for the sake of surprises. This is always a bad idea—surprises should be integral to plot and character, just like everything else. We want to find out about Kiin because we like him and are interested in him. We don't really care about Torena.
(In my defense, I originally intended Torena to be a female friend for Sarene, kind of a second sidekick. However, there were already too many people hanging out with Sarene, and I just couldn't work Torena in without complicating things even further.)
I don't know if you've noticed this, but this chapter forms a mini-triad of its own. It shows all three characters in their traditional rotation. It's something fun I decided to, playing with my own format. The idea was to give an unconscious sense of urgency to the reader by giving them a whole triad compacted into one chapter. I don't expect anyone to pick up on it—actually, I don't want them to. For it to work right, the reader will be paying so much attention to the text that they don't consciously notice the speed up. However, I hope that it will make them read faster and faster as the book progresses.
I've only mentioned Gragdets a couple of places. Hrathen never thinks much about them, since he doesn't consider them part of the traditional Derethi structure. In truth, they aren't—but they do have authority over a Gyorn in their own small sphere. I don't think that the reader needs to understand the entire social structure of the religion, however. Hrathen understands what is happening, and knows that he should probably let himself be under Dilaf's authority. That should be enough for most readers.
And, yes, Dilaf always had bones that were deformed. That's why I mention that they're not terribly disfiguring—they would be quite easy to hide under robes. And I often pointed out in the book that Dilaf was wearing his enveloping robes.
Hopefully, these moments—Dilaf's unleasing—have been building for you through the entire book. By now, you should have realized that Dilaf was always the main villain of the story. He's the one with true hatred, and true instability. Hrathen is an antagonist, but he's no villain. Dilaf, however, has been built-up as someone who can do some truly terrible things. Now he's unleashed, and he has an army of demonic monks at his control.
And yes, we'll get to more about how Dilaf was able to imitate an Arelene later.
I think I've noted that my viewpoints tend to speed up as I approach the endings of books. Well, ELANTRIS is a perfect example. We're hopping viewpoints like a crazed body-snatcher. At the risk of sounding redundant, I did this to increase pacing and tension. Quick-rotating viewpoints give a cinematic feel to the story, in my opinion—kind of like cameras changing angles. This keeps things quick and snappy, and keeps the reader reading.
It should be noted that writing and filmmaking are two completely different arts. What works in one doesn't work in the other—action sequences, for instance, have to be written completely differently in a novel than they would be displayed on screen. However, both storytelling forms try to evoke similar feelings in their audiences. So, you can't do the same things in writing as you can in filmmaking—but you can get a similar effect by using different tools. Here, I use viewpoint shifts, which is something a filmmaker can't really access without first-person voice-overs. Viewpoint is, in my opinion, one of the prime unique tools that we have as writers. That's why I think it's important to understand, and to manipulate.
If you're paying attention to such things, we actually get two complete—and well-rotated—viewpoint triads in this chapter. Again, this is to increase the sense of urgency and pacing.
Oh, and yes, Elantrians can go unconscious. They can fall asleep, after all. The Elantrian brain is the one organ that continues to work very similarly to the way it did before the Shaod. So, taking a large amount of trauma can make it black out. The Elantrian won't remain unconscious forever—but when he wakes up, the actual physical damage will be there. That's why Raoden loses his sense of balance and everything gets fuzzy.
Kiin gets a little over-confident here by letting the two of them go on top. However, he doesn't know how powerful the Dakhor are. He assumes that his roof is unscalable.
In addition, he realizes how difficult a situation he is in. Dilaf has an army—Kiin's fortress house, no matter how well fortified, can't defend against them for long. He needs to do something, and thinks that maybe the negotiations will offer a way. So, he takes the chance.
Hrathen's conditioning is manifesting here. We've always seen him as the leader of the area, but he spent many years as a lesser priest beneath other leaders. In the Derethi religion, you do what you're told by your betters. As soon as it is established that Dilaf is in charge, Hrathen's training would force him to become a follower.
From here on out, the chapters get longer. It's interesting to try and work with pacing. I think the shifting viewpoints achieve the sense of drama I want, and coupling that with lots of new chapters would be repetitive, I think. So, I waited for the most dramatic moments possible to end chapters. I think this ending counts.
The triad system breaks down completely here. Everything is falling apart, and we're getting wild viewpoints from all over the place. (Well, not exactly—we only add Galladon and Lukel. However, I think that after fifty-nine chapters with only three viewpoints, suddenly adding two more will be disorienting enough to have the effect I want.)
Part of the reason I add the viewpoints is so that I can show the breakdown of the form of the book. However, another—perhaps more important—reason is so that I can show what is happening in places that don't involve one of the three viewpoints. Raoden is off in his own little world of pain, and Sarene and Hrathen have gone to Teod. If I want to show what's happening in Arelon, I need some new viewpoints.
I like finally having a chance to characterize Galladon internally. My sense is that you can never really get to know a character until you can see their thoughts. So, I gave a nice little series of viewpoints to Galladon, partially to show what was happening to Raoden's body, partially so that I could have some last-minute introspection and philosophizing regarding what is happening in the chapters.
Galladon's hope monologue in this chapter is probably the most powerful, and most interesting, section he gets in the book. This piece is supposed to mimic what the reader is feeling—things are going terribly, but Raoden has always managed to pull out a miracle. He may look bad now, but he can still save them. Can't he?
I think Galladon is more pessimistic—naturally—than the reader will be. However, he raises good questions, and his talk about hope—how Raoden's gift to him is the inability to give up completely—is one final showing of the power Raoden's personality has in this book. Perhaps the most amazing thing Raoden does in this book—more difficult a task to overcome than the gangs, more rewarding than taking the throne of Arelon—is make a believer out of a man like Galladon. A man who had given up on hope, but who now continues to believe, even though all is lost.
I hope that Dilaf's explanations about his past are suitably creepy. I also hope they give some explanation. He is a man who betrayed his religion when he thought it would save the woman he loved—only to find himself, in turn, betrayed by the Elantrians. His wife became Hoed, and he himself burned her. This would have something of an effect on a man's psyche, I think.
Now, recall that Elantris was at the height of its power when Dilaf took his wife in to be healed. I mentioned her earlier in the book, in a Raoden chapter. He found a story in one of his textbooks about a woman who was improperly-healed, and it turned her into what the Elantrians now are. This is Dilaf's wife. (Go re-read Chapter Twenty-Five for the story.) I find this little item beautifully circular.
Anyway, we now have an explanation for Dilaf's instability and his hatred. I really like how Dilaf, normatively, grows into being the prime villain for this book. He comes to it slowly, kind of stealthily, while the reader is focusing on Hrathen. Yet, Dilaf is there from the first Hrathen chapter, always dangerous, always trying to destroy Elantris, always making his own plans. I worked hard to bring about his rise to power in the book, and I hope that it worked. Puling off the Dilaf/Hrathen reversal was one of my main goals in the story.
I almost cut this entire twist from the book. I've never been happy with how it worked out, and I think there are—as I've mentioned—still a few too many surprises and twists at the end of the book. (Though, I have fixed it somewhat. It used to be that virtually EVERYONE had a secret past or personality trait that came out in these last four chapters.) Anyway, I don't like the Adien twist—it lacks power since we don't really care about him, and his character—the autistic—isn't terribly original anyway.
I've left the Adien twist in for a single reason. However, it's a bit of a spoiler, so I'll put it invisible for those of you who haven't read the ending yet. You can come back and read this later.
Anyway, Adien is my planned hero for book two. I like the concept of a healed autistic being the hero of the next book. And, since he's so good with numbers, he would be incredibly powerful at AonDor. I think he'd be a compelling character to look at, so I left him in this book in case I wanted to use him in the next one.
Adien has been an Elantrian for some time. That's why Kiin's family knows so much about Elantrians. Read back to the earlier chapters, and you'll see a scene or two where Sarene wonders why they know so much about Elantris and its occupants. They hid Adien's transformation with makeup, and his autism kept him out of social circles anyway, so no one really paid much attention to the fact that he was never around.
I wanted to bring the 'sheep' idea full-circle in this chapter, and show that people don't just have to go along to their slaughter with docility. I think readers will be rooting for this, and this section—where Lukel and Shuden prepare to attack—gives us a little hope. This is a very tense chapter, and everything is going wrong. I decided I needed a few points of light in the narrative, otherwise it might get too depressing. So, I hint the people won't get killed without a fight.
Besides, this lets Lukel—the regular guy surrounded by mages, heroes, and politicians—be a bit of a hero himself. He overcomes his fear and his lethargy.
It was essential to this chapter that I establish that Raoden can catch glimpses of what's happening around him. I went to a lot of work to get him into place above the city where he could make the connection, looking down on Elantris and the outer cities. The pool, actually, simply grew out of my need to find a way to put Raoden on the slopes of the mountains near the ending of the book. I like how it turned out in the final story—it added a dimension of mysticism to the Elantrian belief system, and it worked very well into the plotting I had developed. My only worry about it is that it was too far away from the Elantris, but we'll talk about that later.
So, this moment—where Raoden is nearly dead, looking down on the cities, and finally makes the connection—was one of the scenes that made me want to write this book. In each novel I write, I have some important scenes in my mind. They're like. . .focuses for the novel. They're the places I know I need to get, and they're usually very dynamic in my mind. In a way, I tell the rest of the story just so I can make my way to these moments.
This book had two main Moments for me. We haven't gotten to the second yet, but this is the first. I hope that you, the reader, arrived at the realization just as Raoden did. I've had a lot of trouble getting this balance right. Some readers figured out the secret early, while others (the larger group) didn't even understand what's going on in this chapter.
If it requires explanation, Raoden is thinking about Aon Rao. Then he notices that Elantris and the cities around it form a pattern—the exact pattern of Aon Rao. The cities form an Aon on the ground. At this moment, Raoden realizes why Elantris fell, and why the Elantrians went with it. If you haven't figured it out yet, I won't spoil it for you.
I really wanted to bring these Dilaf scenes in and make them personal. That was my prime reasoning behind sending Sarene with him. I wanted the reader to care, and I wanted Hrathen to care—which, hopefully, would make the reader care even more.
Dilaf was very interesting to write as an antagonist. By the time he finally came to his own, I didn't have to worry about developing him as a viable threat. His personality through the entire novel had prepared the reader for the awful moment when he finally got the other characters into his power. And, because Hrathen was so sympathetic a villain through the entire novel, I think I can make Dilaf more raw and unapproachable. It's nice to have sympathetic villains, but with Hrathen in the book, I didn't feel that I needed much sympathy for Dilaf. Also, with one such well-drawn villain, I felt that if I tried to do the same with Dilaf, the comparison would make him come off very poorly. So, I went the other direction, and the contrast gives the readers someone that they can just hate.
If they didn't hate him already, then this last scene with Sarene was meant to push them over the edge. Here is a man who kills for pleasure. No matter how wronged he was in the past, he has no justification for the cruelty and enjoyment he displays in anticipating Sarene's death. This is an evil man.
So, things look pretty grim, eh? Sarene about to be murdered, Teod about to fall, Elantris about to be burned, Raoden in the pool.
Hum. Guess the good guys lose. There's no reason to read the last three chapters. . . .
As I've mentioned, Hrathen has the most progression of any of the characters in this book. It's fitting, therefore, that he should get the best character climax.
Essentially, ELANTRIS—at least Hrathen's third of it—is a redemption story. It is the story of Hrathen trying to make up for the massacre he caused in Duladel. Beyond that, it's the story of a man struggling to understand what faith is, and what that faith requires of him. In the end, his decision to save Sarene comes as a rejection of the sins of his past. And, in a slight way, it is a rejection of the heartless, logical man he assumed himself to be.
So, this is a SLIGHTLY contrived mechanic, and I realize that. I let Raoden off easily by having him simply choose not to be dissolved by the pool.
Partially, I did this simply because I couldn't think of a better way to get him out of it. In addition, however, I think it fits the form of the novel. The pool represents giving in—though it's giving in to peace instead of pain, it is still an admittance of defeat. I've mentioned over and over that the pain has no power against one who doesn't give in to it. I don't see why the peace should be any different. If you can resist one, then you can resist the other.
Besides, the image of Raoden bursting from the pool in front of Galladon and Karata was too good to pass up.
I'm honestly not sure what the pool is or how exactly it fits into the theory of this magic system. It was added as a plotting devise, as mentioned earlier, and therefore was never tied directly to the cosmology or theoretics of the world. When I do a sequel to this book, I think I'll try and find a way to tie it in. For now, however, it's kind of a loose thread. The only thing I know for certain is what I mentioned above. Just like the pain of an Elantrian, I think the peace offered by this pool is a supernatural force. It has something to do with the physical form of the Elantrians.
The several mentions of the ChayShan, along with both of the scenes where Shuden performs it, were added to the book to give a feeling of scope. I wanted the reader to understand that there are things in this world that are different from the increasingly-familiar magic and society of Arelon.
We'll talk a little bit more about this event in the text. However, realize that the ChayShan wasn't ever intended to be effective or successful—it's not a Deus Ex Machina for the people trapped inside Elantris. It is a hint of things I plan to do with the future of this world.
Talk of the ChayShan leads us into the scene where Sarene's women decide to fight back. Like the ChayShan, this plotting element wasn't intended to be anything spectacular, or to provide last minute salvation. In fact, the actual battle is kind of short. (My editor, by the way, thinks that I should have expanded this scene, letting the women be a little more heroic. I didn't necessarily disagree, but that edit just never found its way into a revision.)
The women attack because it fulfills the form of this novel. This is a book about people who resist despite hopelessness, and it is about making use of you limitations to overcome your hardships. It's about the spirit of mankind.
Not everyone who does things like this, however, is going to be as successful as Raoden. I wanted the women to fight back here—I wanted them to give a nod to the theme of the book while at the same time fulfilling Sarene's 'fencing plot' cycle. The women did her proud—the fought back while their men waited to be slain.
Interestingly, this Lukel scene fulfills the opposite function of what his previous one. Instead of offering a bit of hope when all the other viewpoints look dark, this one turns down while the others are having success.
Now, perhaps, you see why I was worried that I had Raoden too far up on the slope. In order for the plot to work, I had to get him down to the city in a hurry so that he could draw the Chasm Line.
If you think about pacing a little bit as you read this chapter, you'll see that a lot more time is passing between sections than I'm implying by the quick cuts. It probably takes Raoden a good twenty minutes of running to get down that mountain. Fortunately, I've established that Elantrians don't get out-of-breath.
He also runs, dragging the stick, longer than I imply. I think the pacing here is important to keep up the tension. However, if you draw the line, you'll see that he had to cross a good distance of land while dragging his stick.
So, my only worry about the climax here is that it's a little hard to visualize. Because I never quite got the map to look like I wanted it too, it's hard to see what Raoden is doing in this chapter. Essentially, he adds the chasm line to the Aon Rao that Elantris and its outer cities form. Because Elantris was an Aon, it stopped working just like all of the other Aons did when the Reod occurred. I've established several times in the book that the medium an Elantrian draws in—whether it be mud, the air, or in this case dirt—doesn't matter. The form of the Aon is the important part. By putting a line in the proper place, Raoden creates a gate that allows the Dor to flow into Elantris and resume its intended purpose.
This is the scene that made me want to write this book. It, along with the one I talked about in the last chapter, formed a climax that I just itched and squirmed to write. (That's always a good sign, by the way.) The central visual image of this book is that of the silvery light exploding from the ground around Raoden, then running around the city. Storytelling-wise, this is the one scene I wish I could do cinematically rather than in text.
I'm sorry for killing Karata. It felt like the right thing to do right here, even though my readers universally disagree with this decision. This is a very important series of events. If I didn't have any real danger for the characters, then I think earlier events—where characters did die—would come across feeling more weighty. Karata and Galladon throw themselves at a troop of armed soldiers. There was no way for that to end well.
(By the way, none of the readers have even batted an eye about Eshen's death. I guess she got on their nerves.)
There is some good, if terse, exposition here with Hrathen sorting through his feelings. I don't think he really wants to come to any answers right now. Logic has lead him astray before, and now that he's doing what he feels is right, he doesn't want to pause to give himself a chance to consider the ramifications of what he's done.
Again, Sarene has fulfilled her purpose in the book. She's thrown chaos into Hrathen's otherwise-orderly life. However, her chaos here—just like the chaos she caused in Elantris with her food—eventually proves to be a good thing. It inspires change for the better, even though that change is painful.
And, of course, I remind the reader here that there is something odd about Hrathen's arm. I've only mentioned it in a couple of places, so I don't expect people to remember what is going on here. I actually forgot to have the sleeve in the original rewrite. I didn't even think to notice that his Dakhor arm would be exposed to Sarene in this scene. . . .
I keep promising that I'll tell you about some of the other silly character revelations I had pop up in the book. This one is particularly embarrassing. To be honest, I have NO idea what I was thinking.
In the original draft of the book, Hrathen turns out to have been from Duladel the entire time. It's revealed in this scene, when he and Sarene are running from the Dakhor. He was of Dula blood, having grown up there, then moved to Fjorden as a teenager.
Yes, I know. I must have been tired when I wrote that chapter. Anyway, at one point it must have seemed like a good idea. It didn't make even the first cut, however—my first readers rose up in open rebellion, and I joined them.
I figure I must have decided that it was more dramatic to discover that Hrathen had betrayed his own people by destroying Duladel. (Note, in the early draft of the book, I made more of a habit of pointing out that the Duladen republicans weren't generally dark-skinned.) In the first draft, I always had Hrathen wear black die in his hair and pretended to be from Fjorden.
Yes, again, I know. It was stupid. We writers do stupid things sometimes. I didn't even pause to think that the drama of Hrathen betraying his own people and religion in the present is far more powerful than a betrayal that happened before the book even started. I denied his entire character by trying to rely on some whim that seemed like a clever, unexpected twist. Don't let yourselves do things like this, writers. Let the twists help develop the character, not exist simply to surprise.
Anyway, I'll post this scene in the deleted scenes section. It'll keep me humble to know people can read it.
Yes, Raoden lets the Dakhor monks go. That's the sort of thing that happens in this book. If you want something more gritty, you can read MISTBORN. (Which is gritty for me, though nowhere near the genius sadism of George R. R. Martin's books.)
I like having this scene from Lukel's viewpoint. If nothing else were gained from his other sections, I think the scene of the Elantrians emerging from the flames would be enough to justify his viewpoints in these last few chapters.
So, anyway, that's one major plot line finished. Elantris has been restored. Most fantasies, however, are about characters more they are about plot. I love great twists and revelations—but the book isn't over until the characters are fulfilled. So, onward.
Sarene doesn't get it. She has no clue how Hrathen feels—of course, he doesn't even really acknowledge it himself. At least, not until he's dying in the street.
Okay, so not all of the random surprises were cut from the book. I considered writing Fjon's appearance out of the book on several occasions, and I also played with several ways of using this scene. Eventually, I settled on what you see now—which was my original version.
I realize this is a kind of 'out-of-nowhere' shock. If I were writing this book today, I'd probably have cut this one. I'd also have slowed this chapter down a bit—I think the quick viewpoint jumps are getting a bit tired. They work for a short time, but I've been going with them for too long. (Sorry.)
Anyway, back to Fjon. He has two basic purposes in the book. First is to kind of prove to Hrathen that no amount of logic and planning can prepare him for everything. The second is to set up Wyrn as a more mysterious, and more powerful, character. I definitely meant to imply that Wyrn managed to see, limitedly, into the future and sent Fjon to the place where he'd be able to slay an important traitor to Fjorden. I also thought Fjon's appearance a nice tie back to the early chapters.
Looking back on it now, I still worry about this scene. Perhaps the book would have felt more professional if I'd just taken Hrathen out with a stab from Dilaf or one of his monks. The Fjon shock just wasn't built up enough to earn its place in the book. However, at the same time, a piece of me likes the fact that this one event is completely random. It doesn't detract from any of the characters—which is my main reason for avoiding random surprises. In battles, wars, and political conflicts, sometimes things happen that are completely unexpected. This is one of them.
And, here we have Lukel joking again. Just like a the end of last chapter, where he faints. Comic relief shouldn't be underestimated, I think. Especially comic relief like this—jests and levity given in-character by people who are trying to lighten the mood of a stressful time. Lukel isn't there simply to entertain the reader, he's there to show a different side of human reaction. I think that if I were in his situation, I'd be trying to find a way to laugh about what happened too.
I had to work very hard to make this one work. I think it turned out, but it is a little bit of a stretch. Hopefully, readers will go with me on this one because of the climactic feeling of the near-ending.
Regardless, I do think I gave Raoden all the pieces he needed here. Adien always existed in the book for this one moment—to give Raoden the length measurement he needed to go try to save Sarene. I've established that Seons have perfect senses of direction, and I've talked about how to use Aon Tia. More importantly, I think I've established that this is something that Raoden would do. He gets just a shade foolhardy when Sarene is concerned. (It's all her fault.)
There is another important element to this teleportation. I thought it important to involve deity in the climax of what has been such an overtly religious book. You may not believe in God, and it is never my intention to belittle your choices. However, the format of this book has been one that dealt with religion and the way that people interact with their faith. And so, I took this last moment of the book, and gave Raoden an opportunity to call upon the aid of providence.
Raoden arrives safely, despite the odds against his having gotten the distance, direction, and other factors right. You are free to simply think of this as luck, if you wish.
Now, I'd just like to note here that Raoden's just returning a favor. Sarene is the one who gave him the clue that led to his fixing the Aons, then finally restoring Elantris. Now that she's in danger, he gets to rescue her in turn. Just because someone finds themselves in danger or trouble does not mean that they themselves aren't competent.
Elantris is like a massive power conduit. It focuses the Dor, strengthening its power (or, rather, the power of the Aons to release it) in Arelon. This far away from Elantris, however, the Aons are about as powerful as they were before Raoden fixed Elantris.
If you consider it, it makes logical sense that the Aons would be tied to ELANTRIS and Arelon, yet would work without them. The Aons had to exist before Elantris—otherwise, the original Elantrians wouldn't have known the shape to make the city. Their study of AonDor taught them a method for amplifying Aon power.
In the original write of the book, the Dakhor broke and ran before the Elantiran attack. My thought was that the Dakhor always been so much more powerful than their opponents that they didn't know what to do when faced with someone more powerful than they were. In a rewrite, however, I changed this. I'd spent too much time establishing that he Dakhor were fiercely loyal. I see them as fanatics—people who were either originally like Dilaf, or who became like him through their conditioning. They wouldn't break before a superior force—they'd attack it, even if it meant getting slaughtered.
This revision works far better for me—especially since I can have the scene where Dilaf wishes he could join them. Death is not something that scares a group like this.
There's really only one way this battle could have ended—Dilaf had to win. Raoden might know his Aons, but Dilaf has been a Dakhor for decades. Sarene has practiced fencing, but Dilaf is a warrior monk with a supernaturally fast and powerful body. It makes sense to me that this little battle wouldn't even be much of a contest. Both Sarene and Raoden are people who succeed not based on their ability to beat up their enemies, but on their ability to manipulate their surroundings. By having the heroes defeated in combat by the villain at the end, I think I give a final nod to my desire to write a book that didn't use violence as the solution to problems.
(Oh, and if you caught the reference to the word 'Skaze,' then good for you. The Skaze are a group that will appear in the sequel, when and if I get around to writing it. They're pretty much evil Seons.)
So, Hrathen wasn't really dead. (Ironically, while many of you are probably saying 'yeah, yeah. That was obvious,' I actually didn't have him appear here in the first eight drafts of the book. I'll explain later.)
I think this is my favorite scene of this chapter. Not only is it written a little better than the rest of the book (I added it quite late—just this last summer) but it gives final closure to the Hrathen-Dilaf relationship. It uses Hrathen's time in Dakhor as an ironic twist against Dilaf. In short, it is a pretty good scene. Fulfills character, plot, and theme at the same time—while giving us a nice image to boot. (Though I do hate to do the "Hey look, a guy we thought was dead is really alive" twist.)
The story behind this scene is pretty recent. One of the original rewrites Moshe asked for was a fix of the ending, which he thought was too Deus Ex Machina. (Which, indeed, it was.) I don't think I'll go into the entire original version here—it was quite different. You can read the alternate ending in the deleted scenes section, when I throw it up next month. The short of it, however, is that Ien (Raoden's Seon) showed up to save Raoden and Sarene from Dilaf. I used a mechanic of the magic system that I have since pretty much cut from the novel (since it was only in the book to facilitate this scene) that allowed Ien to complete his Aon, 'healing' Dilaf. Except, since Ien's Aon was broken, it turned Dilaf into an Elantrian instead. (A non-glowing Elantrian. One like Raoden the group used to be—like Dilaf's own wife became after she was improperly healed in Elantris.)
I know that's probably confusing to you. The scene, over all, was just kind of weak. It relied on a barely-explained mechanic mixed with a tangential character showing up at just the right moment. When Moshe asked for the change, I immediately saw that I needed to bring Hrathen back to life for a few more moments. Letting him die on the street just wasn't dignified enough (though originally I wanted him to die this way because it felt more realistic.) I wanted a final confrontation between Hrathen and Dilaf, since it would give most people's favorite character a heroic send-off, and would also let me tie in the aforementioned Dakhor irony.
In the end, I was very pleased with the rewrite. It's good to have an editor.
Well, Sarene finally gets her wedding. I hope the women don't kill me for showing it from Raoden's bored viewpoint rather than Sarene's excited one. However, there were a lot of things I needed to go over in a relatively short period of time here.
When I was younger, I always got mad at authors for having denouements that were too short. Perhaps I'd be angry at myself, if I were to read the book. (I've always wondered what Brandon the teenage reader would have to say about my current works.) Regardless, I've since become a fan of terse endings. I try to wrap things up thematically while still pointing out all the different ways the plot could go, if more were to happen.
Stories never really end. Any author will tell you this—we've always got more to say. That doesn't mean that there will certainly be a sequel to this book. (See below) It just means that the characters live on in my mind, and that I want to give a sense that the world continues.
You'll notice, therefore, that I pile on the lose threads here. The most important one, of course, is the concept that Fjorden has gained access to the Dor (presumably recently.) The Dakhor are a newer development—Wyrn was just getting ready to use them against Elantris when the city fell on its own. (Dilaf wasn't the only Dakhor plant inside Arelon. But, those are stories for another time.) Anyway, I think I gave myself plenty of sequel room here. There are the questions about the Dor, about Fjorden, and about the Seons.
That said, I can't honestly promise that I'll do an ELANTRIS sequel. When I was writing during this period of my life (some seven years ago now), I was trying to create as many first books as possible. I was sending them all off to publishers, trying to get someone to bite on one of them so I could start a series. However, since I was a nobody, I had to write each book as a stand-alone as well. Publishers, I was told, like to get books from new authors that could stand alone or launch into a series. That way, they're not committing to anything drastic, but can monopolize on popularity if it comes.
ELANTRIS turned out to be one of the best stand-alones I did. I kind of like how it doesn't really need anything more to make it feel complete. And, I've got so many stories that I want to tell, I don't know that I'll be able to get back to this one. I guess it will depend upon how well ELANTRIS sells, and whether or not Tor pushes me toward writing more books in this world.
Anyway, I've got plenty of things I could talk about if I do come back.
Oh, and I apologize for the cheesy last lines of the chapter. The felt right. I keep trying to cut them, but a piece of myself knows that there's a place for cheese—and this it. So, they remain.
This is the dénouement to the denouement, I guess. We get to end with my favorite character, tying up some of the small loose ends that were related to her storyline. There is some good material here—she points out that Raoden is doing well as king, how Ahan is fairing, and gives a nice prognosis for the future of Arelon.
However, the important part of the epilogue comes at the end. I love the last line of the book, despite the fact that Joshua disagrees with it. (He wanted something else there—I can't quite remember now what his quibble was.)
Anyway, I always intended to end this book talking about Hrathen. He was their savior, after a manner—and he certainly was a dominant force in the book. I wanted to give him one final send-off—to honor him for what he did, both for Arelon, and for the story in general.
So, that's my book. It may be about seven years old to me now (it was written in '99), but I still retain a great fondness for it. You have no idea how exciting it is to finally see it in print.
Hopefully, you enjoyed these annotations. I want to do them for all of my novels, but we'll see how things go. (Note from future Brandon, who is posting this after he wrote it some months earlier. There WILL be MISTBORN Annotations starting July, 2006!)
For now, I've got about 40,000 words here—a good half of a novel for free. Keep coming back to the website for more information, and make certain you check out the other bonus materials. (Deleted scenes will be posted throughout June.)
Oh, and make sure you go by MISTBORN when it comes out! If ELANTRIS was this good and I did it seven years ago, think of what kinds of things I'm working on right now!
I did most of these annotations while doing the copy edit of ELANTRIS—which is probably the last good read I'll give the book in the drafting process. Ten drafts. And now I turn away from the book and call it complete. Thank you so much for reading.
The ELANTRIS project
Begun 9-27-1999 (First Word to Page)
Finished 10-18-2004 (Final Annotation Written)
Several people have asked for a list like this, so I wrote it! If you have a local book club, please consider suggesting Elantris to them. Then, you can use questions from the author himself to guide your discussion!
1) Most people who read the book find themselves gravitating toward one of the three characters. Which was your favorite, and why? Did you find yourself disliking the time I gave to other characters, and if so, which one was your least favorite?
2) The format of the book is a little bit unique. I use a 'chapter triad' system, where I rotate through the three viewpoints covering roughly the same period of time thrice over. How do you think this enhanced/detracted from the book? Did you even notice?
3) Some of the cultures in ELANTRIS were based, obviously, on ones from our world. (JinDo, Duladel.) Others were developed specifically for the book. (The Elantris society, most of Fjordell society.) Which culture felt the most real to you, and why?
4) The ending of the book was devised to stand out from the rest of the work. The chapter triad system broke down, the tone changed from 'political intrigue' to 'outright warfare' and the viewpoints began to speed up, moving in quick rotation. Did you like the rushed feeling of the ending, or did you find it too overwhelming? Why? Which of the twists were your favorite? Which ones did you see coming, and which ones surprised you?
5) The magic in ELANTRIS was designed to be one of its more unique points, which makes it ironic that for most of the book, it doesn't work. What were your thoughts on this? Did you like the scientific approach to magic, or would you have preferred something more mystical? What parts of the magic system and its plotting did you like, and which did you find unimportant?
9) Speaking of sequels, here's what I'M planning. A book that takes place ten years after the events of ELANTRIS. It would occur in the capitol city of Fjorden, and would star Kiin's children as viewpoint characters along with a Seon viewpoint character. The plot of the book: Wyrn has declared that Jaddeth, the Derethi God, is going to finally return. (A new interpretation of the scriptures says that he'll return when everyone east of the mountains converts, so they don't have to worry about Teod and Arelon.) Kiin's family, ambassadors to the Fjordell state, has to deal with the chaos of this announcement, and investigate the truth behind the Dakhor magic. Thoughts?
Correct me if I am wrong. But has Brandon not been planning sequels for Elantris and Warbreaker?
BUt writing a sequel after the fact does not mean the first book is not Stand-Alone.
The question will be whether the 2nd book is as stand-alone as Warbreaker was, for instance.
Totally true! That's why Fellowship of the Ring, Eye of the World, A Game of Thrones, A New Hope, and The Final Empire were all standalones!
(In less snarky terms, Elantris and Warbreaker may both be less obviously part of a series, but there's pretty obviously a ton of story hooks for potential sequels. Hell, Warbreaker ended with two characters going off on adventures! Brandon has said he's always planned on them being part of series.)
Brandon also adds story hooks even if he never plans on writing more. That's because books with no story hooks feel artificial to him. He wants to give a sense that the characters lived before the book started and will continue to live on (at least, those who don't get killed) after the book ends.
How many attempts did you make to publish before you wrote Elantris?
Elantris was my sixth novel. I was working on my 13th when I sold Elantris. It was not publishable when I first wrote it; it took several revisions and drafts. It was probably somewhere around book nine that I was really figuring things out, I feel. I like to write and jump projects. Instead of finishing one and slaving over it to make it much better, which may have been better for me in the long run, I would always jump to something new.
For new writers, I always advise balancing those two. When you finish a book, write another one, but then go back to your first one and work it over to see if you can make it better. Then, go write a third one and go back to the second one and see if you can make it better.
Do that instead of doing what I did, where you finish a book and go, "Hmm...that one was good, but I can do better?" and then writing another book and ignoring the first one. Elantris was the first one that I really dug into revisions on, and it ended up paying off.
Is there an appetite, either on your behalf or that of your readers, to write an Elantris sequel?
There certainly is, based on the questions people ask me. Basically, at every signing, someone asks me that. You know, we'll have to see what happens. I plan and hope to do one, but The Wheel of Time has really drawn a lot of my attention and my efforts lately. So once The Wheel of Time is done, I can reassess and figure out what my five-year plan is for novels.
All right, first annotation! About the title page.
I'm generally just going to call this book MISTBORN, though the entire series is the "Mistborn Trilogy." Technically, this book is MISTBORN: THE FINAL EMPIRE. The second book is MISTBORN: THE WELL OF ASCENSION, and the third book is MISTBORN: THE HERO OF AGES.
There's an interesting story behind this title. As some of you may know, I spent a number of years trying to get published, writing books all the while. My first five books are what I call the "throwaway books." Those were ones I did mostly as practice, figuring out how to do the whole novel-writing thing. Book six was ELANTRIS, which was published in May of 2005; it was the first book I managed to sell.
However, while I was trying to get ELANTRIS published, I wrote a number of other books. The three after ELANTRIS were big epic fantasy books, much like it in style. After that, I decided that I was writing things that were too big—that no publisher was going to take a huge epic fantasy book from an unknown author. (Though that's eventually what happened. . . .)
Anyway, I decided to try writing some shorter (i.e. only about 125,000 words instead of 250,000 words) fantasy novels. The first of these was what I now call MISTBORN PRIME. It was the story of a man who was a 'Mistborn' (a kind of super-powerful assassin) who gets trapped in a small village with people hunting him, and has to try and blend in with the population there.
MISTBORN was a different book for me in many ways. It was shorter, for one thing, and it was also about a kind of anti-hero. It only had one viewpoint character, and the plot was much smaller in scope than my other books. It was successful in some ways, but a failure in others. The magic system I developed for it—Allomancy—was quite spectacular, as were the action sequences. The character, however, didn't appeal to many readers. And, the plot was just a little. . .uninspiring. I'm really better when I have more to deal with.
As you can probably tell, this book—which was unpublishable—became the inspiration for the book I eventually wrote named MISTBORN:THE FINAL EMPIRE. We'll cover that second part in the next annotation.
Okay, so here we see the words FINAL EMPIRE for the first time. Continuing the discussion I had in the last annotation, one of the books that I wrote after MISTBORN PRIME was called THE FINAL EMPIRE. (I now call it FINAL EMPIRE PRIME.) It was the story of a young boy (yes, boy) named Vin who lived in an oppressive imperial dictatorship that he was destined to overthrow. It was my attempt at writing a shorter book that still had epic scope.
This book turned out to be okay, but it had some fairly big problems problems. While people reacted rather well to the characters, the setting was a little weak for one of my books. Also, once again, I wasn't that enthusiastic about the way the plot turned out.
After that, I gave up on the short books. I proved no good at it. I decided to do THE WAY OF KINGS next, a massive war epic. It turned out to be 350,000+ words—I kind of see it as me reacting in frustration against the short books I'd forced myself to write. About this time, I sold ELANTRIS, and Moshe (my editor) wanted to see what else I was working on. I sent him KINGS. He liked it, and put it in the contract.
I, however, wasn't certain if KINGS was the book I wanted to use as a follow up for ELANTRIS. They were very different novels, and I was worried that those who liked ELANTRIS would be confused by such a sharp turn in the direction of my career. So, I decided to write a different book to be my 'second' novel.
I had always liked Allomancy as a magic system, and I liked several of the character concepts FINAL EMPIRE. I also liked a lot of the ideas from both books, as well as some ideas I'd had for a great plot. I put three all of these things together, and conceived the book you are now reading.
This page is much like the one from ELANTRIS. I don't know if people ignore these, or if they read through them. Regardless, these are some important folks. They do a great job helping turn the rough drafts of my books into things that people would actually want to read.
I really do like having writing groups. I don't know if I've talked about this before, but I find a good writing group to be a vital part of the process. Not only do they give you encouragement, but they provide great chapter-by-chapter responses to books. Giving the entire book to alpha readers helps a lot with the big picture—but those kinds of readers don't generally catch the smaller issues in a given chapter.
But, there's another reason I like writing groups. I really enjoy watching writers progress, and seeing their prose develop. It's a lot of fun to take place in a small community of people who are all working toward the same goals, and to give them encouragement and aid.
I also felt I needed to give David and Irene acknowledgements on this page. I added them in last, after I realized just how much I owe to the people at Tor. Without the people who do the publicity and the artwork, no book would ever get taken off the shelves—or even get out of the warehouse. These people do a great job, and I think they are part of the reason Tor is the powerful force that it is.
I really like the scene where Kelsier first displays his scars in this chapter. In fact, I really like how this chapter sets up Kelsier in general. It gives him a chance to be a light-hearted (perhaps even a little flippant) while also showing that he's had a hard pas. He has some scars—both visible and hidden. At the end, his attack on the manor house should be something of an indication of what he's capable of doing.In addition, we establish very quickly why Kelsier smiles so much. I've been accused of being a chronic optimist. I guess that's probably true. And, because of it, I tend to write optimistic characters. Kelsier, however, is a little different. He's not like Raoden, who was a true, undefeatable optimist. Kelsier is simply stubborn. He's decided that he's not going to let the Lord Ruler take his laughter from him. And so, he forces himself to smile even when he doesn't feel like it. This is a more brutal world than I presented in ELANTRIS—which is somewhat amusing, since ELANTRIS was essentially about a bunch of zombies. Either way, my goal in this chapter was to show the Final Empire as a place of contrast. Despair contrasted with Kelsier's attitude. The wealth of the nobility contrasted with the terrible conditions of the skaa.