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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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One of the advantages of moving the first chapter back and making it a prologue is that I now get to start the book, chapter one, with Vin. That's important, in my mind, because she's the main character of the book. Establishing her with a very strong viewpoint as the first chapter of the book adds a lot to it, I think.
We get a lot of important information in this first little section with Vin. I like starting early with Reen's advice and thoughts. As you'll see as you read the book, Reen's teachings have quite a strong influence on Vin. He's a little stronger in this chapter than in others, I think, but it's good to start off strong. You'll find out more about him, and about what these thoughts in Vin's head mean.
I will admit that one of my weaknesses in writing is that I like to spend too long in contemplative, in-head scenes with my characters. This introduction with Vin is a good example of that. I like the scene quiet a bit, but I can understand that too much of this sort of thing gets boring. That's why I move it quickly into a scene where something is happening. Given my way, however, I'd probably spend about twice as long with characters just standing around thinking.
This introductory scene, where Dox and Kell meet on the city wall, has just the right feel for me. I wanted this book—particularly at the beginning—to have the feel of a heist movie. Something like Ocean's Eleven, Sneakers, or Mission: Impossible. I thought a couple of senior thieves getting together on the wall and talking about the team they are gathering would fit in just perfectly.
That was, by the way, one of the major inspirations for this book. I've mentioned that I stole the concepts for Allomancy and Vin's character from other books I wrote. The plot came from a desire to write something that had the feel of a heist movie. I haven't ever seen that done in a fantasy novel—a plot where a team of specialists get together and then try to pull off a very difficult task.
So, Kelsier is very interesting to me as a character. Mostly because of what we see in this chapter. He is a man of dichotomy, which is one of the themes of this novel. On one hand, he's the joking, lighthearted man you see in the second half of the chapter. On the other hand, however, he's a very dangerous, even ruthless, man. He laughs at himself in this chapter, but he wasn't faking when he acted the way he did. There is an edge to Kelsier I've never built into a hero before. Sometimes, he makes me uncomfortable.
In MISTBORN PRIME, there were no such thing as Mistings. Allomancy's practitioners were called Mistborn, and they could use all of the various abilities, depending on which metal they ingested.
When I started work on this incarnation of the book, however, I felt that I wanted to involve a specialized team of Allomancers. That meant including people who were really good at one specific thing, but who couldn't do other things. It's a staple of the heist genre—you want specialists. So, I split up Allomancy, allowing lesser Allomancers to exist. These people, who only could do one of the many Allomantic powers, would be very good at the one thing they do. And, since Mistborn were so rare, you couldn't really make an entire team of them. You'd be lucky to even get one. (Though Kelsier's team just got a second one.)
Soon, you'll get to meet the rest of the crew, and will be able to see how I split up Allomancy. One thing of interest, however, is that there was no emotional Allomancy in MISTBORN PRIME. I added Soothing and Rioting—the ability to make people less or more emotional—into this book because I felt I needed something that would be more. . .sneaky. These are skills that don't relate to fighting, and I think they'd be very helpful for the sort of political intrigue I want to do in this book.
Ah, the introductions. I worry that this scene is a little too long, and perhaps a little too obvious, as we bring in the separate members of the crew. However, it seemed like the best way, and it adheres a little bit to the heist genre framework I'm using.
My favorites of the group are, of course, Ham and Breeze. I knew I wanted to use a smaller crew than you see in some heist stories—I wanted to get to know them better, and deal with them more, than one has opportunity for in a movie like Ocean's Eleven. Ham and Breeze, then, formed the basis for my group. Simply put, they're both guys who are fun to talk to. I can put them in a room with each other, or with Vin, and an interesting conversation will blossom.
The other big part of this chapter is, of course, the plan. This is where the story has been pushing up to this point. I worry that even still (despite several cuts) this section feels a little too much like an info-dump. I couldn't really get around that, since Kelsier is—essentially—dumping some information on the crew.
This is also where I begin to diverge from the 'heist story' framework. I started with that concept to write the book, but as I proceeded with the plotting and the writing of the actual novel, I realized that the heist structure was simply too small to fill the larger concepts for the trilogy I was working on.
So, in rewrites, I came back and reworked this section to take to focus off stealing the Lord Ruler's money. The truth is, Kelsier wants to overthrow the government and get back at the Lord Ruler. The money isn't half as important to him. And, as the story progresses, you'll see that the crew spends most of its time on the army.
Originally, by the way, Yeden wasn't the one who hired the team. There was no employer—Kelsier just wanted to try and overthrow the Lord Ruler. The main way I took the focus off of stealing the atium (making this less of a heist book and more of a Mission: Impossible style book) was to put the focus on raising and training the army. Having Yeden be paying them to get him an army worked much better for this format.
Once I was to this point in the book, I knew that I had something. I needed a book to follow ELANTRIS—one that did all the things that ELANTRIS did well, but then expanded and showed off my strengths. In other words, I needed a "You haven't seen ANYTHING yet" book.
MISTBORN is, hopefully, that book. I took the best magic system I've ever developed, and put it together with two killer ideas and some of my best characters. I cannibalized two of my books for their best elements, then combined those with things I'd been working on for years in my head. This is the result.
All of that considered, I know the beginning is kind of slow. That's how my books are—while I can often start with a bang in the first few chapters, I then need to go into building mode so that I can earn my climaxes in the later third. We need to have some scenes explaining Allomancy in detail, for instance, before we can have scenes like happen in the next chapter.
Still, I like a lot about the introduction to this book. Vin's character comes off very strongly, and the plot is established quickly—something I sometimes have trouble doing.
I kind of wish I'd had more time to show Yeden's transformation into trusting—even liking—Kelsier. Unfortunately, I've focused the book around Vin. By now, you should be seeing that she's taking more and more viewpoints, and Kelsier is getting fewer and fewer.
That's another reason why I shifted the book from being a true heist book into what it became. I wanted the story to be about Vin, not about the various clever members of the crew. Vin is a deep and interesting character to me, and she deserved the screen time to develop. That's more important to me for the overall series than the clever heist against the Lord Ruler.
The result is that I don't have a lot of screen time for characters like Yeden. So, their character arcs have to happen quickly and abruptly—such as the way he shows his changes in this chapter.
This was the first novel I wrote knowing for certain that it would be published. That was an odd experience for me, after having written some thirteen novels without ever knowing if I'd make it as a novelist or not.
So, in a way, this is my celebration novel. And, as part of that celebration, I wanted to include cameo nods to some of the people who helped me over the years. We get to see characters named after my friends and alpha readers, the people who encouraged me to keep trying to get published—my first fans, in a sense.
So, a lot of the names of side characters come from friends. Stace Blanches, mentioned in the last chapter, is Stacy Whitman, an editor at Wizards of the Coast. House Tekiel was named after Krista Olson, a friend and former writing group member. (Her brother Ben is my former roommate.) Ahlstrom square was named after my friend Peter Ahlstrom, who is an editor over at Tokyopop. There are over a dozen of these in the book—I can't mention them all.
I do, however, want to point out Charlie—or, as he's called in the book, Lord Entrone. I've never actually met Charlie, but he's hung out on the timewastersguide message board for the last three or four years. He was my first British reader. I figured I'd commemorate that by having his dead body get dumped over a wall by Kelsier.
Spook is actually based directly on someone I know, but I'll get to that later.
Ham's family makes no appearance in this book. I added this line in on a whim, since I figured it would add some more depth to a character who—unfortunately—I just don't have much time to develop.
I am happy, however, that I found a chance to spend some time with Dox. The scene between him and Vin is one of my favorites in the book, since it humanizes him while at the same time giving us further insight as to who he is, and why he does what he does. Dockson feels the same way about things that Kelsier does; Dox is just far more subdued in the way he goes about life.
This aspect of the world—the fact that noblemen regularly rape, then kill, peasant women—is the most discomforting to me. I don't like my books to be overly sexual in nature. However, there is a difference between having sexual books and having sex in the books, I think. This is a very corrupt and fallen society, in many ways. I think I had to include this aspect to show just how terrible it is.
In addition, I wanted this scene to be shocking because I hoped to put the reader in Vin's shoes. You all know that this sort of thing happens in noble society—in the prologue, a nobleman tries to rape a young girl, after all. But, I hope that you—like Vin—have kind of glossed over that sort of thing in your mind. Seeing people like Elend, and the pretty balls, has helped you forget about the terrible things these people do. So, when Dockson lays it out so bluntly, I hope that it is surprising.
Some alpha readers thought that it was unrealistic that Vin would delude herself to this extent. She'd know about the whorehouses, after all. However, I think that this is the kind of thing that people naturally try and gloss over. It is natural for Vin to not want to think about these sorts of things until she is confronted by them so expressly.
Since I have a little room here, let me mention something I've been wanting to talk about for a while. Vin's name. I realize that a lot of people read this name and think of a man—it is, after all, the name of a current action hero.
I didn't even make the connection. When I was developing this character, I wanted something that was quick and simple. I'm not sure why, but I felt a single syllable name was important for this hero. It indicated her somewhat base, street-wise nature, I think. Simple, straightforward, but not weak.
Vin was, however, originally a boy. The hero of FINAL EMPIRE PRIME was a young boy named Vin. When I pulled some of those character concepts over to this novel, I realized that making the hero female worked so much better. Some of the original Vin's conflicts hadn't ever felt right—the abandonment issues, the blunt attitude. They just all worked better with Vin being female. I knew I'd written an entire book with the hero being the wrong gender the moment I tried writing my first sample chapter of MISTBORN with Vin as a girl.