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The Flaws of the Creator


Iredomi

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Okay so I know we are here because of how awesome Mr. Sanderson is and it probably is the worst time to create this thread as Words of Radiance is out soon (OMG dfijjhdlfgkjsdghfkljsdhgf so eexcite kjbdkfsdfkjgf gaaaaahhhhh) ... Ahem. But I was wondering what problems, if any, do you have with his writing/stories?

 

Firstly, know full well he is my favourite author and basically all I read now days and that these issues though I have them they are just my opinion and do little to ruin my enjoyment of his wonderful books. So yeah please be kind...

 

First and foremost his prose, it is improving and was pretty amazing in Emperor's Soul but in his older books it was simply passable. I really believe in world building with language so I do feel a bit disconnected from his work at times when certain out-of-place phrases come up, "mooning over" in Mistborn to be particular, though it definitely can be argued that is a quirk of translation. Just bugs me is all.

 

Secondly there seems to be a lot of telling as opposed to showing and there are times I wish he would trust the reader a bit more, this is symptomatic with the gigantic worlds he constructs but it still annoys me on occasion.

 

And one much smaller thing is the use of "said" a lot, okay I can understand why saidisms bug people but "said" completely breaks immersion for me if used too often. I understand it is an industry standard as it is simply invisible and only serves to inform us on who is talking. I believe the dialogue for the most part informs us who is speaking in most cases and having actions intermingled with dialogue is much better than "said" , "said" , "said". And once again I feel he is improving on this too starting with Way of Kings especially.

 

Finally we come to description, it can be lacking, it gets my mind most of the way into the world a lot of the time but "most of the way" is not what I want. I want description that bring me into the very world with the character and though the depth of his worlds does do this to an extent I would like more.

 

In the end all of these problems I have with his works are to do with prose which Mr. Sanderson is indeed improving on, he just in my honest opinion needs to trust us to read between the lines about a lot more than just his magic. Instead of Kaladin saying he's tired and explaining the kind of tired he is feeling in his thoughts maybe just leave it at "I'm so tired". We know his tiredness is a different kind due to the context. So those are my thoughts on that.

 

Of course to end on a positive note these flaws I perceive in his works are definitely not enough to overshadow the wonderful and diverse character's, world building, systems, and tight plotting that Mr. Sanderson excells in. Never have I been more enrapted in a fictional narrative and the way he uses fictional worlds to comment on so many different real world issues is just astounding.

 

So yeah this is my opinion (broken and deformed as it tumbles from my brain haha) I hope you don't hate me for it. And if anyone from Team Sanderson is reading this keep up the good work I am incredibly grateful for all the effort you put in to produce these treasures of fiction.

Perfection needs work and I believe honest critique can help that.  And of course every reader is different so if you disagree with my points please tell me and give me heaps of wonderful reasons to prove me otherwise haha.

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I don't mind it if it's used as "the awesome bulk of the chasmfiend..." used as a descriptor of quantity and awe, but unless used in a comic fashion (Lift!! :D) just using it as a descriptor of "goodness" throws me off. Brandon could learn a bit -even an awesome amount- from writers such as Rothfuss and Martin in terms of prose, but his magic systems tend to be so integral to the plot that the exploration tends to be in the application rather than the discovery. I like the way he did it in WoK, though, with a clear system and a single character knowledgeable and capable in about a tiny fraction of one system, while giving discovery a chance with the slower characters.

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I agree with you on the earlier prose, especially in Elantris (which I read after mistborn and WoK, for some perspective). If the story and worldbuilding werent amazing, or if I had picked up Elantris first, i would have thought Brandon only a fairly mediocre writer.

Generally though, he isn't trying to be poetic like Rothfuss because he's going for more transparent prose. I feel obliged to mention that.

The only phrasing that REALLY bothered me was WoA/beginning of HoA in which people are constantly 'perking up'. It got to the point where I laughed in amused irritation every time I saw the phrase which pulled me out the story, although interestingly that hasn't been an issue for me on subsequent rereads.

Oh, and maladroit. Everyone everywhere lands maladroitly. It's such an unusual word, it's a little hard for me to look past.

That being said.. I'm on 17th shard which means I'm a pretty crazy fan. I *love* Brandons characters and stories.This is more nit-picking annoyances than real complaints. (Except perking up. I still remember that with irritation :P)

Edit: wow I didn't realise my post would end up so long :/

Edited by Delightful
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I am somewhat bothered by the use of the word awesome. I don`t know why exactly but every time there is a big action scene, that is indeed awsome, and the word is used it just rips me out of the story.

 

Yeah, I know what you mean. I really liked a certain interlude in WoR, but it was just... jarring, having the word 'awesome' used on Roshar. It made it feel way too YA for my tastes.

 

Brandon could learn a bit -even an awesome amount- from writers such as Rothfuss and Martin in terms of prose

 

Rothfuss is awesome, sure, but Martin? Martin's prose is, I would argue, as utilitarian and functional as Sanderson's.

 

One thing I'm not sure has been stressed enough in this thread is that Brandon has come a long way. His writing has visibility improved by leaps and bounds since Elantris (which, to be honest, I think is Brandon's worst published novel - annoying flat characters, lacking prose, silly twists, a really sort of generic magic system...).

 

And not just prose-wise, his characters have improved, he's showing and not telling more than he did, his plots are even more tightly executed... it's fascinating to watch. The released WoR chapters have great dialogue, something I never thought I would see from Brandon. His dialogue has always felt a bit flat to me (and I have issues with his 'witty' characters), but it veritably sparkled in a few instances for WoR.

 

I really, really, want to see where his writing is at in ten years. If only I had Allomantic cadmium and Allomantic duralumin...

Edited by Moogle
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Something probably no one else is going to complain about, but it matters to me: the abuse of number 7. In alloy of law, most times random statistics are mentioned, the number 7 will be involved: 7 constables in 10 will miss a man at ten paces, wax was wounded 7 times, and a few other instances were something ahppened 7 times in 10, mostly quoted by marasi.

This is not accidental: if asked a random number between one and then, most people will say 7. 1 and 9 are too close to the extremes and don't feel random, 5 is exactly in the middle, and 2, 4, 6, and 9 are too close to the above mentioned. So people having to choose a "random" number will generally pick 7, 3, and 8, in that order of likelyhood. If asked a 2-digit random number, they will mostly say 78 or 87 or 37.

Knowing this, i tend to pay attention to random numbers. seeing that kind of pattern is a moderate blow to my suspension of disbelief, cause it keep pointing me that the story is fake. So I suggest brandon in the future use the random function of a calculator to get random numbers. Although I'm probably the only one who pay attention to that specific detail.

 

Other than that, there are a few things I'm not really satisfied of, but they are all a matter of personal taste, nothing that could objectively be pointed as flawed.

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Is this where I can talk about how I hate Spook and the resolution to his character arc with the burning passion of a thousand fiery suns?

 

I'm actually going to be lazy and copy and paste a tumblr post I made about it:

 

 

Spook becomes a mistborn! Oops, I guess I should start with my “bad” reasons and build up to that…

 

Spook is whiney and annoying.  The impression I get from him is “Oh woe is me, I’m a tineye, which is stupid and worthless.  I wish I was a mistborn!”  This just makes me want to whack him upside the head with a blunt object.  If I were to be a misting I would want to be a tineye, so Spook ragging on how “worthless” being a tineye is, is frustrating.  And we he does doing awesome tineye things it still isn’t enough for him so he eventually endangers himself be becoming a tin savant.

 

I guess this just exemplifies my opinions on people wanting to be what they are not.  There is a fairly well-known quotation in the theatre community, “Act well your part, therein the honor lies.” (This was said by Thespis, an ancient Greek, who is credited as the “first actor” and whose name is the origin of the word “thespian”)  I interpret this  as meaning “Be proud of who you are, don’t try to be something you’re not.”  Spook moaning about how he wishes he was mistborn definitely doesn’t follow that.  Which makes it hard for me to like him as a character.

 

And then Brandon goes and makes him a mistborn… sigh… This could have been such a great character growth moment.  Sazed could have been like “Yo Spook, good job! Wanna be a mistborn?” and Spook could’ve been like “Storm no, being a tineye is awesome!”  But no… Sazed turns him into a mistborn.  (Without even asking permission, which is super-sketchy in my opinion)

 

Now some people have tried the “argument” that he deserved some sort of reward.  This doesn’t really fly for me.  First of all, he survived the Apocalypse.  And second, he got the girl.  Expecting more than that is kind of greedy, don’t you think?

 

Also, I feel like his becoming a mistborn cheapens all of his achievements as a tineye.  It is basically “confirms” what Spook was saying all along, that being a tineye is worthless.

 

Umm… So I think that is everything…

 

But this is very much my interpretation of the character, I don't mind other people liking Spook but he fundamentally fails as a character in my eyes.

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Is this where I can talk about how I hate Spook and the resolution to his character arc with the burning passion of a thousand fiery suns?

 

I'm actually going to be lazy and copy and paste a tumblr post I made about it:

 

 

But this is very much my interpretation of the character, I don't mind other people liking Spook but he fundamentally fails as a character in my eyes.

 

Minor correction, Weiry.  "Act well your part..." is from Alexander Pope rather than Thespis.

Edited by Shardlet
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His tin savantism supersense kung-fu is pretty badass though. You gotta admit that.

 

It is cool.  That's kind of the problem, even when he is doing awesome tin-stuff it still isn't good enough for him.  "Being a tineye" is still kind of worthless in his eyes.

 

Minor correction, Weiry.  "Act well your part..." is from Alexander Pope rather than Thespis.

 

Ah, I was mis-informed then.  But it is the motto for the International Thespian Society, so that might be what confused me...

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It is cool.  That's kind of the problem, even when he is doing awesome tin-stuff it still isn't good enough for him.  "Being a tineye" is still kind of worthless in his eyes.

 

 

 

but nevertheless it is something happening all the time. we use people close to ourselves as our standard of judgment, and spook was surrounded by people more powerful than him.

if people were objective about that kind of things, no one would have ever complained for the economic crysis, instead being happy to still be much whealtier than people in the third worlld, or by people in the industrialized world 50 years ago.

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Let me preface this by saying that I am the kind if reader who will find a lot of little problems in almost any work but not be bogged down, as I find that most positive qualities are more than able to redeem most negative qualities. Problems that bother me the most in books are character motivation, characterization, and (obviously) bad writing. Other than those, as long as the reading experience is enjoyable, I don't have an issue. I hate improper grammar in prose when it doesn't serve some writing purpose, though I can ignore this.

On to Brandon.

I agree that Elantris was quite weak, at least comparatively speaking. The writing in that book was meh to me. Not great, but not bad.

I have little problem with Brandon's prose since that book. Many people seem to misunderstand different types of writing and how to judge skill. As mentioned, Brandon strives for clear prose, meaning he wants it to be forgotten, in a way. It should convey the scene and feelings of the characters to the reader. This is not bad writing, as some people seem to think. Simple prose is no better or worse than beautiful prose; it just serves a different purpose.

One of my biggest quibbles with Brandon is below.

and I have issues with his 'witty' characters)

This.

Brandon's two most prominent witty characters are Lightsong and Shallan.

Don't get me wrong, they are both really good characters (Shallan's characterization in WoK is a bit weak IMO). But their wit often across as too great to produce in the moment, and occasionally it meant that their characters were a bit unbelievable. In Lightsong's case, his wit fit his character and internal conflict very naturally, so it did not bother me as much, but in Shallan it is less believable. I have not read the WoR preview chapters yet, so I am glad to hear this may get better.

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Ah, I was mis-informed then.  But it is the motto for the International Thespian Society, so that might be what confused me...

 

That is actually how I am familiar with the quote.  Lifetime membership to ITS.  Fun fact: Pope is the third most quoted single writer.

Edited by Shardlet
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While his intention is to make invisible prose, I have a firm belief that no prose is ever really invisible. The closest I've read to invisible prose is something that many would indeed argue overtly poetic. Prose only becomes invisible when it fits the story perfectly, I know this may be asking for a lot but I do not see Brandon's prose as invisible it has too many noticeable ticks (note he has greatly improved; and this was something I was trying to emphasize in my first post). Of course what I am thankful for in Brandon's writing is that it is never overwrought having spent years reading Wheel of Time with it's absolutely atrocious prose which to it's defense is quite a non-issue while reading, Brandon's more straight forward style is welcome.In opinion he just needs to improve on word choice which I do not think is much to ask.

 

I'm almost certain that Mr. Sanderson will end up at the pinnacle of the fantasy genre in terms of both ambition and writing ability but he isn't quite there yet and that is absolutely fine. I will stick with him as long as he is writing and I'm reading.

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Another little note to go with what I said above and what Iredomi just said about word choice: I agree that Brandon's word choice is sometimes a little strange, as mentioned above with "awesome" and "maladroit". Another problem I see is that many seem to think that word choice is essential to good prose, which I don't believe either. Prose has to do with the writer's ability to construct sentences and paragraphs in a way that serves its purpose well, be it to be invisible or to create great sentences or to amuse, etc. While word choice definitely affects some elements of prose, it is not essential. As long as the idea is conveyed as the author wants it to be, then it is fine. A reader may disagree with a word choice, but that does not necessarily affect the prose as a whole. Brandon's word choice, in my opinion, does not hinder his prose in any way.

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You make a very interesting point I'll make sure to talk about word choice in future as opposed to putting it under the blanket term prose and when considered this way Mr. Sanderson's prose is really quite efficient . Also don't be surprised if you see me say something that contradicts a previous statement as my thoughts are pretty fluid until they have been externalized and cemented somewhat and even then I still change my mind on things as I'm sure we all do to some extent.

 

 

Edit: grammar and spelling.

Edited by Iredomi
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My thoughts are very fluid as well; I know exactly what you mean. I should note that my thoughts above about the definition of prose are really my own; by no means am I an authority on literary terms and ideas, so you do not need to necessarily amend your reference to prose, as relating to word choice.

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Brandon's prose has never really bothered me. In fact, I rather enjoy it; it strikes a great median between purple and beige prose (extremely flowery and incredibly simple, respectively). The only novel of his that I do not thoroughly enjoy is Elantris, and that's mainly because I felt that the book had too much emphasis on the "Woe is me, I'm a widow," Sarene plot. In fact, I just didn't enjoy Sarene all that much. My opinion obviously.

 

The important thing to remember about Brandon is the massive leaps and strides he has made during his writing career. Elantris may not be the best book on the planet, but considering it was his first novel, it could have turned out a lot worse. As a struggling author myself, I draw a lot of hope from Brandon's improvement. It means that I can get better as well. Of course, I'm not nearly on par with Brandon, and I've got a long way to go. But it's very refreshing to crack open one of his earlier books and then read a more recent book and then see how far along he's come.

 

Also, can I just say that I didn't enjoy Steelheart as much as other Brandon books? I just felt that David's crush on Megan wasn't very believable, considering that she acted like a whiny jerk most of the time. He is a teenager, and I know plenty of teens who get into terrible relationships like that, but it just didn't flow with me and kind of jarred me out of the whole story. At least Brandon didn't go with the first person present tense that seems to be the norm these days.

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My thoughts are very fluid as well; I know exactly what you mean. I should note that my thoughts above about the definition of prose are really my own; by no means am I an authority on literary terms and ideas, so you do not need to necessarily amend your reference to prose, as relating to word choice.

 

I see but I definitely understand how it can be helpful to on occasion separate word choice and prose.

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Brandon's two most prominent witty characters are Lightsong and Shallan.

Don't get me wrong, they are both really good characters (Shallan's characterization in WoK is a bit weak IMO). But their wit often across as too great to produce in the moment, and occasionally it meant that their characters were a bit unbelievable. In Lightsong's case, his wit fit his character and internal conflict very naturally, so it did not bother me as much, but in Shallan it is less believable. I have not read the WoR preview chapters yet, so I am glad to hear this may get better.

 

Your suspension of disbelief is pretty strange.

You are ready to believe that kaladin, at age 20, is the best spearman in the company, a doctor better than the ones employed by high nobles (he remarks that he could have medicated amaram's leg better), and the kind of leader capable of turning bridge 4 into an advanced fighting unit, all before he even started using radiant's powers.

 

You can accept that vin, a girl wheighting 40 kg, captured and without metal, surrounded by 20 trained hazekillers, can indispose 4 of them before being captured.

And, still without metal, can pickpocket an inquisitor who was likely burning pewter, while ruin was watching her.

 

You can accept that Elend at age 20-something has apparently read all books of political/governing theory ever written, and knows them so much that he can recognize books by a single quote when talking to Yomen.

 

But you cannot accept that Shallan and Lightsong are so witty.

 

Funny thing, the suspension of disbelief.

 

Yeah, I am fully aware that my own issues with the number seven turning out in random statistics are no less strange than that.

 

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I see what you mean about the suspension of belief, though I may not have made my point clearly enough.

 

But you cannot accept that Shallan and Lightsong are so witty.

 

It is not that I cannot accept that they are so witty. It is rather that I believe that their wit is too perfect to exist. It can be produced with thought, as Brandon likely did, but it just seems to me that they would not be able to come up with some of the things they do in the moment.

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I see what you mean about the suspension of belief, though I may not have made my point clearly enough.

 

 

It is not that I cannot accept that they are so witty. It is rather that I believe that their wit is too perfect to exist. It can be produced with thought, as Brandon likely did, but it just seems to me that they would not be able to come up with some of the things they do in the moment.

I do believe one time I did see a WoB where for some of Lightsong's dialogues and witty remarks, it took him a couple hours sometimes just to come up with the 'perfect response'.

So I think that helps your argument a little bit. If it took Sanderson that long to come up with witty responses, then it definitely isn't a natural, quick quip that clever people are most known for, and that's the characteristic he is trying to show us for Lightsong/Shallan type characters.

 

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I see what you mean about the suspension of belief, though I may not have made my point clearly enough.

 

 

It is not that I cannot accept that they are so witty. It is rather that I believe that their wit is too perfect to exist. It can be produced with thought, as Brandon likely did, but it just seems to me that they would not be able to come up with some of the things they do in the moment.

yeah, but my point is that a lot of characters display levels of skill too high to exist in many fields, and it is strange that you accepted those and not the wittiness. all the examples i have made are characters displaying levels of skills I find much more unbelievable.

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