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So,foralittlecommentaryonthesechapters,youmightfinditinterestingthatIplottedthisopeningsequenceasifitwereaclimaxsectionofabook.IntheStormlightnovels,Igenerallylimitmyselftooneviewpointachapter.Thisistogiveastrongeridentitytothechaptersandcharacters--weusuallygetbigchunksfromaperson's viewpoint (with chapters that average two or three times as long as chapters from something like Wax and Wayne or Skyward.) This gives each chapter a kind of short-story feel with their own arcs and themes.
However, as I approach climactic sections of books, I bleed the viewpoints across one another, adding to the frantic feel of a building crescendo. Viewpoints alternate in quick succession, with bite-sized chunks, hooks and payoffs, like one might plot closer to what you'dseeinathrillernovel.Thegoalhereistoevokequickscenechanges,lotsoftwistsandturns,andageneralsensethatviewpointsarepilingupontopofoneanothertoenhancethefeelingofanimpendingclimax.
Inanormalstormlightbook,Igenerallystartslowandbuildtosuchaclimaxneartheendofpartone.(ThoughIusuallydon't start the full viewpoint bleeds until the end of the book.) Here, I wanted to give the feeling that the year that passed had its own narrative arc, and some of those threads were culminating here. So we'rebeginningthebookattheendofthe"previous book"(imaginingthein-betweenyearasa"book."
Thatledtosomeconfusionandconsternationamongalphaandbetareaders,sincethisisn't how a Stormlight book generally begins--but in this case, I decided I was all right with that feeling, as this truly was the tone I wanted starting out.
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One of the most revised sequences of this book were these Shallan chapters--continuing through the entire novel. As I have said elsewhere, I originally designed Shallan'smentalstatetobeamorefantasticallookatsomethinglikeDissociativeIdentityDisorder.(LikethefantasticallookatSchizophreniaIdidwithStephenLeeds.)
Iwasfascinatedbyhowsomethinglikementalhealthchallengesrelatingtoidentitywouldintersectwithmagicthatletyouquiteliterallybecomesomeoneelse.TheoriginalversionofthiswasforacharacterIwroteinDragonsteel--whichI'll eventually release to the public like I'vedonewithTWOKPrime.
Inthisseries,however,I've found myself leaning away from the fantastical elements more and more, and trying to lean into the real science and best mental health practices. This is because I'verealizedthathavingShallan's ailment be completely fantastical was both irresponsible (in representation terms) and less realistic. Where I settled earlier in the series was in representing not someone with a fantastical disease, but someone with a very real disease--that is exacerbated by fantastical elements.
Because of this, I listened very hard to my beta readers on Shallan, particularly those with specific experience in this area. In the original draft of these scenes, for example, Shallan wasn'tshiftingbetweenthevariousaltersofherselfnearlyasoften--andwithsomefeedback,Itweakedthat,andfounditnotonlyworkedbetterinarealismway,butitalsoreadfar,farbetter.It's simply more interesting to see Shallan'sdifferentaspectsdoingdifferentthings,thinkingdifferentways.
Someofthemostsatisfyingmomentsinrevisionscomewhenyoutrysomethingdifferent,andfindthatit's what you wanted to do all along--but didn'tquiteknowhowtoaccomplishuntilacommentnudgesyou.
So,thislittlesequencewithKaladin,thelurgs,andtrickingLeshwiwasoneIwasVERYclosetocuttingfromthebook.Thingis,thisbattlebetweenthemhasbeengoingonprettylongatthispoint,andmygutsaysI've done a little too much of "Kaladin chases and fights someone through the air" in these chapters.
I looked long and hard, therefore, at trimming this sequence for pacing reasons. In the end, I left it, and I don'tknow100%ifitwastherightchoiceornot.IlikehowitgivesadifferentkindofinteractionforKaladinonthebattlefieldhere,andhowithearkensbacktotheflashbackfrombookonewithTien.
Iopted,instead,totrimmoreextensivelythroughthewholecombat--takingoutwordsandsentences,ratherthanthisentirescene.Butitwasatoughcall.Andevenintheverylastrevision,Iwentbackandforthonit.IfI'd been forced to trim something here to make a film come in at the right time, this part would have gone--but one of the luxuries of writing epic fantasy in novel form is that I can be a little more self-indulgent. (So long as I don'tletmyselfgotoofar.)
So,oneofthethingsIworryabout(maybetoomuch)inanextendedserieslikethisissomethingI'll call Skelletor Syndrome. This is the problem that the protagonists need victories through the course of the series--the text will naturally build to important moments, and while there will be failures, there will also be victories.
The more times an antagonist gets defeated, however, the less of a threat they become in the reader'smind.It's hard to justify to the reader that a villain is still a credible threat after they'vebeenfoiledtimeandtimeagain.(KyloRenranintothisproblem,forexample,inthenewStarWarsseries.)
GoingintotheStormlightArchive,thisiswhyIstaggeredthethreatsmovingfromnon-supernaturalantagonists(likeSadeas)towardincreasinglydangerousthreats.Thisisn't to say that someone like Ialai couldn'tbeacrediblethreatwithoutpowers.However,Istillfeltitbesttomoveonfromherasarepresentationoftheantagonistsintheearlierpartoftheseries,pointingustowardlarger(andmorecosmere-aware)threatsastheconflictofthebooksexpands.IcouldeasilyhavehadanentirebookwithamajorthreadabouttopplingherlittleempireontheShatteredPlains,butthatwouldhavebeentoobackwardlooking.
Sointhisbook,we're pointing away from the Sadeas/Amaram team toward Odium, some individual fused, and several of the cosmere-aware players (Thaidakar and Restares.) Don'tworryifthosenamesaren't clear to you on first read--they'vebeenaroundforawhile,butIhaven't delved too much into who they are. This book will do so.
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Moash was one of the characters that was most difficult to get right for this book. There'sadifficultbalancetomaintainwithhim,compoundedbyhowdifficultalineI'm walking with Kaladin in these chapters. I had to do several tone rewrites of this chapter after the Alpha read, to make it all work.
Part of the trick was to convey just how exhausted Kaladin is, mentally while in his viewpoint--since he doesn'tacceptithimself.ThenmixthatwithaMoashwho,inpart,doesstillwanttobeagoodfriend--butnolongeriscapableofreasoninginaconventionalway.(Andwhowon't acknowledge to himself that being right, proving that he made the right decisions, is actually far more important to him than his friendships ever were.)
You'llgetaMoashviewpointinafutureinterlude,whichshouldhelpexplainwherehismindsetisthesedays.AsforKaladin,well,it's becoming more and more difficult for him to maintain the lie that everything is fine.
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So, I might have mentioned this before, but one of the oldest (and eventually discarded) scenes I had for this book was Kaladin returning home. It'sexistedinsomeformsinceIwasfirstdevelopingDragonsteelinmylateteens.Iteventuallyhappenedlastbook,butIgaveKaladinthechancetoruminateonitinthisbook.
LikeIsaid,thatneverhappened.ButIeventuallytookmanyofthoseideasandwroteTheWayofKingsPrime.ThoughBridgeFourdidn't make the jump yet, Dalinar did--and so did the idea of the young peasant boy forced into war. The second book of THAT was to begin with Merin, returning home from war, to find something very strange at home--which eventually turned out to be related to that book'sversionoftheVoidbringers.(AndMerin's nacent windrunner abilities would let him kill one. He would haul the head back to Dalinar as proof that something was up.)
That book never got written either. I finally got to put the scene in, mostly, in Oathbringer. But, like most of the revisions to the story over the years, it became a little less triumphant and a little more messy. (Intentionally messy, to more accurately depict how events in life are often full of contrasting emotions.)
It was interesting for me to reflect on those 25+ years of imagining one scene, evolving over the years, as I put a kind of capstone on it in this book.
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And here we finally reach the culmination of a plot cycle I'vebeenworkingonforfourbooksnow,butreallykickedintooverdriveinOathbringer.
Iknewprettyearlyintothecreationofthe"new"Kaladin(asopposedtoMerin,fromPrime)thatIwasgoingtohavetodealwiththefactthathe'd been put through hell--and that sort of thing leaves scars on a person. Just like I eventually realized I needed to step up and do my research to properly treat Shallan'sarc,IdecidedearlyonI'd need to be responsible with how I treated what Kaladin had been through.
Mental health has become a theme in the Stormlight Archive, but I'veoftennotedthatitisn't that I set out to write specifically about that topic. More, I feel that the extreme circumstances I'mputtingcharactersintonaturallyleadtothesekindsofconflicts.IfI'm going to follow through with what the characters are experiencing, it means talking about these ideas.
This chapter is the unmarked "end" of what I imagined being the cold open lead-in to the novel. (The kind of "climax to a book between the two novels you didn'tsee" that I've been talking about in these annotations.) With the next chapter, we'll go to a character we haven't seen yet this book, and begin into the core plot of the novel.
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Dropped the ball a little on my annotation this week. Was busy yesterday writing a picture book. (Yes, I know. Look, I needed a break to do something different, all right? I'll let you all know if anything ever happens with it.)
Anyway, on to Venli! As I said last week, this is kind of the true "ChapterOne" to Rhythm of War. The Venli chapters in this book are second only to the Shallan chapters in the number and extent of the revisions I ended up doing. There was a fine balance to walk with her in a lot of ways, as will become more evident as the book progresses.
One of those, however, is this: Venli doesn't see herself as a hero, nor is she interested in being one. Emotionally, she's not really about saying ideals. She feels she's the wrong person for whatever it is that has started to happen to her.
This means there's a different tone between her and the other characters. What she mostly wants is to find a way to escape the powder keg she's gotten herself into, and while she DOES want to make amends for things she's done, I wanted her to feel more "normalpersontrappedinastrangesituation" in many ways than someone like Kaladin.
The fine line to walk here is that I didn't want her to come off petulant, or be too annoying. But I also didn't want her to come off as a gung-ho "let's be heroes" type. That'sadelicatebalance,becausethere's a danger because it'sveryeasyforreaderstoresentherfornotbeingas"on board"withthestoryastheothercharacters.
Itwasworththerisk,andthelikelihoodthatsomepeoplewilljustplainnotlikeherviewpoints,formebecauseIfeelitaddsvarietyofperspectivestothestory.It's good to have someone who feels trapped, in over their head. Someone who doesn'tknowthe"right"thingtodo,andisalittlelessproactiveasaresult.Ilikehowauthenticherviewpointsfeelbecauseofthat.
Thisisthelastwe'll see of Rock in the book, I'mafraid.IreallyhopetobeabletodotheRocknovellasometimeinthenextfewyearstotracehiscourse,butoneofthethingsIforcedmyselftodointhisseriesiskeepthefocusonthemainstorylinesandcharacters.
Epicfantasytendstoinvolveballooningcasts,andthistendstoderailbooksastheauthorletstheirfocusmoveawayfromtheprimarystorylinetowardsidecharacters.IputsomerigidrequirementsonmyselfwhenIstartedStormlightthatrequiremetomovesidestoriesoutofthemainnarrative.It's odd to be talking about trying to keep books this length "lean" but I believe one of the strengths of the series is that it has (so far) kept its eye on the proverbial goal. This is more important than ever, with book five being the end of the first sequence.
That said, what we'rewitnessinghereiskindoftheendofBridgeFourasacohesiveentity,atleastasitexistedintheseriesupuntilnow.Iwassad,forallthefunofthischapter,tobemovingintothissequenceofthestories.Therewasatemptation,ofcourse,tojustletBridgeFourcontinuetobeBridgeFour--butitwouldn't feel right. Lives change and evolve. My tight-knit friend group from college can never be the same again, not now that we all have families and jobs. Bridge Four couldn'tremainthesameeither.
Oneofmyproblemswithsomeformsofmedialikeextendednetworktelevisionshowsistheformat's inability to let the status of the characters evolve, change, and grow. For a series like this, we need progression, and we need to let Bridge Four become something else. If we'resadaboutthechanges,theearlybookswillalwaysbetheretoexperienceagain.
AsfortheKaladn/Adolin/Shallaninteractions,Iactivelylookformomentslikethesetoputintothenovels.It's important to let the characters live, and one of the reasons I enjoy epic fantasy is that it (with the space afforded me) allows for more time like this.
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Most of you probably know that it has been important to me to keep the cosmere behind-the-scenes for most of the book series. I don'twantapersontohavetotrackallthedifferentbooksinordertoenjoytheonethey're currently reading.
The large-scale plan for the books, however, has them slowly converging toward certain events in the future. Less "cross-overs" and more that the nature of what I'mcreatingisaboutdifferentworldswhoshareabackground,history,and(eventually)future.
Sowe're slowly moving out of what I'dcallthe"each series separate"eraofthecosmereandintothe"careful mixing"era.Thegoalforthesebookswillbetostillmakeitthatyoudon't feel you need to remember everything, or need to follow everything. I hope to be able to walk this particular tightrope in such a way that someone who has never read any of the other cosmere books doesn'tfeelleftout--butrather,thattherearemysteriousandinterestingthingshappening,butthecorestoriesstillmakesense.However,ifIwanttolaythegroundworkforwhatIeventuallywanttodo,itwillrequiremorebleed-overthanI've allowed in the past.
This chapter is one of those that illustrates this new philosophy on my part--the "let them mix, but try to do it in a way that doesn'tunderminetheintegrityoftheseries" philosophy. We'll see how well I manage it. FYI, Chapter Fifteen goes even a little further in this area than this chapter did. (Though don't expect full-blown cross-contamination between the series until the space age Cosmere era, which is still a ways off.)
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One of the themes of some of my unpublished books was the nature of immortality. I've always been fascinated by the idea, and some of its implications. I think about how shadowy in my mind events of some ten years ago are, and I wonder what would happen if we lived centuries, instead of decades, in lifespan. How would we adapt? How would our physical apparatus (like our brains) adapt to something like that? Like a car built to drive 200,000 miles instead being kept going for many times that.
As an aside, one of the more fun stories I've read dealing with this idea is the excellent 17776, which you really have to experience, since it defies explanation.
I enjoyed writing this chapter, and many in this book, as the series is finally in a place where I can start delving into the personalities and attitudes of the fused. I can't say a whole lot more about that yet, but suffice it to say that I'm excited for you to get the whole book.
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I've been waiting for you guys to read this one, as it has some of my favorite moments in the first part. From the conversation with Rlain, and me finally being able to talk about some of the mechanics that let the Listeners survive on the Shattered Plains, to--of course--being able to write a fight using Awakening for the first time in a while. I also enjoy writing about Kaladin through the eye of someone like Zahel, as it gives me some interesting opportunities.
Obviously, I'm pushing (again) the boundaries of what a reader can be expected to remember/know about the cosmere to enjoy these books.
It's my opinion that thinking "Zahelcandoweird,mysteriousstuffIdon't understand" is all right for those readers who don'thavealargercosmereexperience.Infact,I'm confident that even if Warbreaker hadn'tbeenreleased,I'd be writing scenes like this in the same way. It'sacommontropeinfantasyforthepowerfulfigure,likeGandalf,todothingsthatseemoutsidetheruleseveryoneelsehastofollow.OnethingIlikeabouthavingthecosmeretoplaywithasacreatoristhatitletsmedosceneslikethis,whichbotharemysteriousbutalsofullyexplainedbythegreatermagicsystem,ifyouwanttodigintoit.
This is your last relatively cosmere-aware chapter for the previews, I'mafraid.Thereareafewmoresimilartothismuchlaterinthebook.
SeemslikeagoodplacetotalkaboutmyphilosophyonhowIchooseviewpointcharactersforthesebooks.I've been getting DMs saying, "Why no Dalinar viewpoints?" or "Why no Adolin viewpoints?" And I can understand frustration there.
When I started this series, however, I dug into the multi-book epic fantasy stories I'denjoyedinthepast,aswellasthemorepopularexamples,andtriedtoreallynaildownthepitfallsoftheformat.Amainonefelt,tome,tobecharactersprawl.Theseseriestendtoendupwithsomanyinterestingcharactersthattheauthor,inturn,endsuphavingentiresequences(andevenbooks)thatdon't move the storyline forward, but instead investigate new storylines.
While I do appreciate some of that, I wanted to do what I could to mitigate that. Which meant limiting my viewpoints, even among main characters. This helps prevent sprawl, at least for me, because when I'minsomeone's head, I naturally begin working on subplots and character arcs for them. In this case, I needed to keep my focus, and limit myself. To not try to do full sequences for every character in every part of every book. While I know some of you would have enjoyed that, I would really rather finish this series before I am a hundred--and feel that the books need to be as focused as is reasonable for their length.
That'swhywhenIoutline,IlookatallthecharactersthatCOULDhaveaviewpointinagivensection--thennarrowmyscopetoafewofthem.DalinarmostcertainlycouldhavehadviewpointsinPartOneofthisbook,butIdecideditwasNavani's perspective that made the most sense for this story. So, while you get to see a healthy dose of Dalinar, we don'thavehisviewpoints.
Thosewillcomelaterinthebook,inapartwhereitmakessensetohavehisperspectiveonthings.Ineedtolookforthecharactersthatareaddingthemosttoagivensequence--thatusuallymeanstheoneswhoarechangingthemost,learningthemost,orwhohavethemosttensionintheirsequence.Idofeelbadforthissomewhatcutthroatuseofviewpointsattimes,butIbelieveitistherightdecision--it's either this, or watch the series balloon to many more books while at the same time slowing the narrative down to the point that books pass, and you wonder what was actually accomplished in them.
Only three more chapters left in these previews before you get the entire book! (Also, apologies for those who found this annotation repetitive from things I'vesaidbefore.Itisdifficulttojudge,sometimes,whatisnewinformationtothemajorityofreadersandwhatisbecomingwell-worn,sotospeak.)
Allright,soItalkedearlierabouttheoddstructureofthisbook.Youcanseeitmanifestinginthischapter,andthenextone,whicharethelastchaptersofthepart.InaregularStormlightBook,atthispointinthenovelwe'd be pushing toward a more action-oriented or mystery-oriented climax (such as Shallan'sconfrontationwiththeMidnightMotherinOathbringer.)
Thereversedstructureofthisbook's first part--which began with the climax of the "in between" book we didn'tsee,insteadcomestoamorecalm,character-orientedclimaxherewithKaladinmakinghisdecisiontobecomeasurgeon.(Alongwith,inthenextchapter--whichisacalm,introspectiveNavanichaptertoendoutthepart.)
Still,it's an important moment for Kaladin, one I'vebeenpushinghimtowardforawhilenow.Thoughhe's always been the surgeon'sson,hehasn't had a chance to truly be a healer, and see how it fits him as an adult.
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So, this brings us to the end of Part One, and you can fully see the reversed shape of the story here. Explosive beginning, contemplative ending. I went back and forth on whether I should end with Kaladin or Navani, as his decision to become a surgeon was the larger of the narrative arcs--but Navani'ssectionbettermatchedthethematicendofthepart.
IfullyexpectsomereaderstobealittleindignantaboutthefactthatTaravangianiswalkingaroundfree,whileSzethisimprisoned.Iagree--it's unfair, but I also believe it to be (unfortunately) accurate. Taravangian is, despite his unassuming mannerisms, one of the most powerful people in the world. While it would have been great to toss Stalin into jail for his crimes, it wasn'treallyanoption--andduringthewar,thealliesneededhim.
Thatisn't to say Taravangian is untouchable. Only that I felt what you read her to be one of the more likely outcomes to his outing. His argument that he didn'tdoanythingworsethanDalinardidisaprettysolidone;iftherehadn't also been suspicion he was working with the enemy, it'slikelytherewouldhavebeennorelevantconsequencestohisassassinationorders.
You'll be getting his perspective on all of this soon, as he has an interlude after each part of this book. (Like Szeth got in the first book, or Eshonai got in the second.)
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<h1 id=jasnahspoiler>Jasnah Spoiler</h1>
<strong>BIG WARNING: WHAT FOLLOWS IS A SPOILER FOR THE REMAINING BOOK. SEE <a href="#annotation-14">ANNOTATIONS FOR CHAPTER 17</a> BEFORE YOU READ THIS.</strong>
Jasnah is asexual, and currently heteroromantic. Her feelings on physical intimacy are very neutral, not something she'sinterestedinforitsownsake,butalsonotsomethingshe's opposed to doing for someone she cares about. I tried several different things with the character, and this is what really clicked with me--after getting some advice, suggestions, and help from some asexual readers.
<a href="#jasnahspoilerreturn">Click here to go back to reading the annotation</a>
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<p>Note that these illustrations are for Part 1 of the book.</p>
<img src="images/row-1.png" alt="Sketch from Navani'sNotebook:TheFourthBridge">
<figcaption>Sketch from Navani's Notebook: The Fourth Bridge</figcaption>
<img src="images/row-3.png" alt="SketchfromNavani's Notebook: The Arnist Method">
<figcaption>Sketch from Navani'sNotebook:TheArnistMethod</figcaption>
<imgsrc="images/row-3.png"alt="Sketch from Shallan's Notebook: The Atrium">