Twentieth in the 1K a Day Motivational Series, in which I talk about something that happened in the previous week that could have or did prevent me from writing a minimum of 1,000 words on a given day, or possibly talk about something that provided support to get me through the day.
It’s the last week of May so it’s time for the next Inspiration post!
Let’s talk about Brandon Sanderson, shall we? That most prolific of fantasy authors, that speed-demon famous for Mistborn, Wheel of Time, Steelheart, The Stormlight Archives, and more.
He of the googolplex of words published every year.
Quick sidetrack: I’ve done an “It Inspires Me” post about a novel before, but I’ve also done an anime (from Japan!) and a ridiculous movie, so I thought I might come back to the written word since this blog does focus on that style of writing as compared to screenwriting or graphic novels or whatever else.
So anyway, back to the Sanderson. BrandoSando.
I recently finished a novella by the name of Sixth of the Dusk, a Cosmere novella. Some limited context for what the Cosmere is: it is a shared universe in which most of the worlds in which Brandon Sanderson writes exist together. Mistborn? Elantris? Warbreaker? Stormlight Archives? All in this shared universe, each world its own unique physics to help explain its take on magic.
So Sixth of the Dusk follows in that same vein. It visits upon the reader a small look into a world in his Cosmere that he has yet to write a story about. The world itself is fascinating, but it’s also the one that most closely connects the idea of the shared universe. The “higher beings” it talks about are obviously interstellar beings or at least interdimensional.
ENOUGH EXPOSITION. HAVE AT YOU!
So let’s get this out of the way: I like Brandon Sanderson. Mostly. The longer his stories become the less I tend to like them. He writes 1,000 pages for the Stormlight Archives? I feel bloated and disconnected because of all the relatively unnecessary world-building he does. I think his writing style lacks a little something.
But you put in my hands a little tale, a hundred pages instead of a thousand, and suddenly I’m interested. Gone are the needless exposits. Gone are the bloated casts of characters. Gone is everything I complain about in his longer form writing.
Sixth of the Dusk is one such story. It sets out to do two things:
1. Introduce the world to the reader, give that reader just a little taste from the tip of the spoon, and
2. Tell a contained story, featuring a limited cast of characters, with one or maybe two goals that can be accomplished in that timeframe.
SO. Why is Sixth of the Dusk so much better, so much worthier of my time? Brandon Sanderson is, as previously stated, hugely prolific. Writing is his day job, his passion. He outlines in reverse, he writes a billion words a day. At least it feels that way sometimes.
And while I might take issue with some of the stuff he’s written (don’t get me wrong, I love Mistborn, and I think Stormlight Archives have a lot of really good stuff in them, but I still have major issues with them), I get excited about his short form.
Sixth of the Dusk is a small story about a man on an island that might also be a god incarnate. The islands mentioned are part of what’s known as the Pantheon, and each has its dangers. The creatures of the world are psychically-linked. They can hunt by mental sense in addition to or in place of the other cardinal senses.
It’s a fun, well-written entry into an already-rich tapestry of mythologies for the Cosmere. The perspective character is interesting, hiding his secrets in what feels a natural way, not hostile to the reader. The woman of the story is brilliant, an agent of change, a fast learner, the pivot upon which the whole story swings.
It contains an almost wonderful symmetry in the way the story is told and the way the things in the story come back to the characters later, but not in a way that feels like it’s being spoon-fed to you.
It’s a satisfying read and does what I always strive to do in my shorter fiction: it makes the reader give a fuck. I’ve dabbled in short stories, flash fiction, a novella or two, and the hardest part about short fiction is that you don’t have any time to waste. You’ve got to invest the reader in your characters, in their trials, in their success or failure, and you’ve got to do it fucking fast.
That’s not easy, but Brandon Sanderson proves once again that it’s possible, while still telling a cohesive, complete story, while still world-building, that you can have characters you care about in a small story.
There’s often this idea that short fiction and novels are two different beasts, and you can’t really learn anything from one that applies to the other. I think that maybe it’s a little true for novels to short fiction, but short fiction to a novel can teach you a million and one things about how to get to the good God-damned point while still writing swiftly, while still giving only what’s needful. I read Brandon Sanderson’s novellas because they are the style I like. They don’t fuck around and they get right to the point. I also supremely and highly recommend The Emperor’s Soul, a small tale in the Elantris world of the Cosmere, featuring one of the most fascinating characters in his entire oeuvre.
So get out there and find that which inspires you to create, that shows you what is possible. And always remember to write the hell on, writers.