You’ve said you lifted the Shattered Plains from your unpublished novel Dragonsteel. What would Kaladin have been doing if not running bridges and what will happen to Dragonsteel without the Plains?
Both good questions. I’ve spoken before of the big changes that happened when I wrote The Way of Kings 2.0. One of them was bringing in the Shattered Plains. The problem was that there was a big hole in Kaladin’s storyline, because in the original manuscript of The Way of Kings (major spoiler), he accepted the Shardblade. That was the prologue of the book; Kaladin—then known as Merin—saved Elhokar’s life. They tried to take the Shardblade away from him, and Dalinar insisted that he be given it. So Merin was made a Shardbearer in the very first scenes of the book. And from that point, his character never worked. So in doing the second version of the book, I decided that no, we’ve got to build more into this, we’ve got to dig deeper, and he has to make the opposite decision, which is where the entire framework of him turning down the Shardblade and then being betrayed all came from. The problem was then what was he going to do? I knew I wanted him to have therefore ended up sold into slavery and have terrible things happen to him, but I couldn’t figure out what Kaladin was going to do and was unable to write the book until I mashed in the Shattered Plains and said, “Ah, that was what he needed to be doing all along.”
I really don’t know what I’ll do in Dragonsteel without that now. The problem is that it was the part of Dragonsteel that worked, but it was the part that was most at odds with the story in Dragonsteel. The story that I wanted to tell was the first half of the book, which is the more boring part. Hopefully as a better writer now I can make that part more interesting, but that was the core of what Dragonsteel was. The Shattered Plains was always just going to be a small diversion, but when I wrote it it was fascinating, and I ended up pouring tons of effort and time into it. In many ways it was a distraction, a deviation, a beautiful darling. So for a long time I’ve been thinking, “I can’t kill my darling, because that’s the most exciting part of the book.” Yet it was at odds with what the story of the book was originally intended to be. I wasn’t as good at controlling my stories back then, making them come out to have the tone I wanted. Anyway, we’ll have to approach that when I actually write Dragonsteel.
One of the big things with this book is, as I was saying, that I think I started Way of Kings Prime in the wrong place. I moved some things back in time and some things forward in time. For instance, if you ever read Way of Kings Prime, the prologue to Way of Kings Prime is now the epilogue to The Ways of Kings. You know, the thing that happens in the epilogue with the thumping on the door and the arrival of a certain individual? That scene is now from Wit’s viewpoint which it wasn’t before. Pull Wit out of that scene and you’ll get almost exactly what happened in the original prologue. So, the timing has been changed around a lot.
As I was playing with this book I found that, like I said, one of the big things I had a problem with was that I felt that Kaladin had taken the easy route when he needed to take the hard route. I was really looking for a good plot cycle. I needed something to pull this book together. I had characters but I didn’t have a plot and I’ve mentioned before that sometimes things come to me in different orders. In this book world and character came to me, in fact character came to me first, world came second and then I was building the plot around it. I knew the plot of the entire epic and the entire series but I needed a much stronger plot for book one. Because of the various things that are happening I wanted to deal with a war.
So I was planning a war away from Alethkar, and I’m trying to decide what I’m going to do with this war. Meanwhile I have Inkthinker, Ben McSweeney, doing concept art for me to use in my pitch to Tom Doherty at Tor and he says, “Hey, I just drew up this sketch of some creature that lives at the bottom of a chasm, what do you think?”
I had told him that we were looking for kind of above water coral reef formations, and he sends me this brain coral, which is essentially the Shattered Plains with a big monster living at the bottom and I’m like, “Wow!” I actually did a book where this was essentially the setting. I looked at that, and that’s actually what made me say, “Wait a minute, could I transpose this and would the Shattered Plains actually make more sense on Roshar than they ever did on Yolen?” I started playing with that concept and I absolutely fell in love with the idea. Unfortunately for Dragonsteel, that was the only really good plot cycle from that book.
So, I ripped it out of that book and I put it here, and that means it brought with it a few side characters who no longer live on Yolen because they now live on Roshar. Rock is one of them, though he’s been changed. When he came along the Horneaters were born; they had not been in the books before. For those who have read Dragonsteel, he was Ke’Chan (a nationality, not a name) in that book. I couldn’t bring that culture because that culture is extremely vital to Dragonsteel. I can bring a plot cycle or a little region, and there’s certain things you can pull out of a book without ruining the soul of what the book is. I couldn’t take the Ke’Chan out of Dragonsteel; they’re just part of what that book is and so Rock had to change nationalities. I had to build him his own nationality, a new culture essentially just for him. And yeah, it worked wonderfully.