002/100 Things – Intro to Brandon Sanderson’s Lecture

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Brandon Sanderson Lecture

  • Writing isn’t about inspiration, the muses, or your lucky rabbit foot.
  • Writing is about SKILL.
  • Gaining that skill is a matter of sufficient practice. The skills of good writing must have time to seep down into your subconscious.
  • If you want to get good at writing novels, write novels; if short stories, write short stories. etc.

“Basically, everybody in a room can judge a pianist level of skill within a minute or two of playing.”

  • That’s why you need to have the skill to impress on that first page of writing – it’s not about ideas, inspiration, luck, etc

Sanderson’s First Law is the first law developed by epic fantasy author Brandon Sanderson for use in designing settings for genre writers. While originally created as a rule for magic systems in fantasy novels, Sanderson has specified that this law need not apply just to fantasy, but is applicable to science fiction as well.

Sanderson’s First Law. An author’s ability to solve conflict satisfactorily with magic is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic.

This Law was originally defined in Brandon’s essay, “Sanderson’s First Law” located on his website. In the essay he qualifies the two extremes1 of design as being:

1. Magic/technology has well defined rules that the audience understands. As a result, one can use this to solve conflict more easily as the capabilities are cleanly defined. Brandon classifies this as “Hard Magic”. C.L. Wilson in her essay “Worldbuilding 101 – Making Magic” advocated this method of creation, stating, “…create your rules, then follow them.”

2. Magic/technology has unclear or vague rules, or none at all. This allows for a greater sense of wonder to be attained for the reader, but the ability to solve problems without resorting to deus ex machina decreases. Brandon classifies this as “Soft Magic”. Lawrence Watt-Evans specifically advised “The trick is to be a benevolent and consistent deity, not one who pulls miracles out of a hat as needed.”

 It has to become a force of habit to write well – a baseball player doesn’t hit purely out of luck, nor do they thing of percentage angles or trajectory in minute detail as they swing.


About thiefofcamorr

Katharine likes to think she’s a Sky Pirate and that takes up most of her time. When she isn’t treasure hunting, she’s writing or playing video games and wishing Doctor Who and Farscape were real. She started writing at age 12 and has written almost every day on paper and most certainly in her mind otherwise – or at least, she used to, and is hoping to get back into that mindset asap. She tends to like the idea of fantasy, but her ideas themselves always seem to gravitate towards science fiction. Katharine is a judge in the Aurealis Awards, and would really like a pet chocobo.

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