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Brandon Sanderson on Bringing ROY G BIV to Warbreaker

From Darkness to Light: Brandon Sanderson on Bringing ROY G BIV to Warbreaker

By Brandon Sanderson

The first idea for Warbreaker was actually sparked by a comment my editor made. He and I had been working on the Mistborn trilogy for some time now. Near the end of the process, he mentioned, “This setting is very dark, with all of the ash and blackness around all of the time—and it strikes me that Elantris had some of the same feel. Perhaps we should do something different for your next book.”

That comment itched at my brain, as they sometimes do. I’d already been planning my next book. I wanted to do another stand-alone, as I’d done with Elantris. I love the form of the stand-alone fantasy epic. I wanted to deal with some of the same concepts I’d approached in Elantris, but take them from another direction.

At the same time, as my editor mentioned, I did feel a need to do something that departed from Mistborn—a story that was slightly different both in visual setting and narrative style. So when I sat down to plan Warbreaker, I played with several concepts.  Mistborn had been a series filled with night-time assassinations and dark, brooding hues.  Could I do something colorful and bright instead? Sometimes, danger comes as a shadowed knife in the night—but in many ways, the more frightening danger is that which comes packaged up in bright, unthreatening colors. The ending of the Mistborn books had been grim; could I create that same sense of danger in Warbreaker, but approach it wrapped up in wry humor and wit instead?

And so, the world of Warbreaker was born: A place where the magic was fueled by color itself, a place where I could mix wit and danger into its own blend of intrigue.

Using color as a fuel also grew from my desire to do an animation-based magic system. The concept of color as life fascinated me. When something dies in our world, the color fades from it—green plants become brown and human bodies lose their color, becoming pale as the blood drains to the bottom of the corpse. In a lot of ways, color is a representation of life itself. So it felt natural to do a story where color was the means by which life was given to inanimate objects.

Of course, the other big idea that sparked this story was the concept of a god who didn’t believe in his own religion. But that’s a different tale entirely….

(from the Tor/Forge June 2009 newsletter)