Brandon Sanderson Writing Class 318R

Brandon Sanderson Writing Class 318R

One of the most prolific fantasy authors of our generation, Brandon Sanderson, has been kind enough to record and share one of this BYU courses on writing. 

Below you’ll find 12 one hour classes that cover things like Plot, Character, Outlining World Building and many other important topics to writers. This is a wonderful free writing resource that he has given us, so take advantage. 

Brandon Sanderson’s Class Overview

Brandon Sanderson outlines the agenda for his twelve class course:

  1. Overview
  2. Cook vs Chef
  3. The Illusionist Writer
  4. World Building
  5. The Box
  6. The Business of Writing
  7. Character
  8. Magic Systems
  9. Brandon Mull Guest Lecture—Mull’s Writing Advice and Process
  10. Plotting
  11. Dialogue and Agents
  12. Q&A

Cook vs. Chef

In the Cook vs Chef class Brandon Sanderson compares writing to preparing food. Do you want to be a cook that just blindly uses the ingredients of story without truly understanding why those ingredients work, do you want to be a chef that understands how to mix and match flavors and foods to create a wonderful dining experience? He goes over various elements of story, and why they are used they way they are. 

The Illusionist Writer

In this episode Brandon compares writing to a stage magician or an illusionist. He goes into various tricks and techniques to suspend the reader’s belief as you are building out elements of your story like the promises you are subtly making to the reader, a sense of story progress and more. 

World Building

Brandon goes into detail about world building. He and the class brainstorm various layers of the writer’s world. Physical vs Cultural, and many other useful elements that will make world building easier, and more thorough. 

The Box

The box is an analogy that Brandon uses for the lens through which you present the world, and your characters. This colors everything, and essentially determines how the reader will experience your story.

The Business of Writing

In this session, Brandon reviews the business of writing, including factors such as:  focus on writing then exploitation (separately),  self-publishing, hybrid and small press, traditional publishing,  best seller lists, book tours,  marketing, publicity, Brandon’s early book tours, and bidding wars. 


In this episode, Brandon discusses the pyramid of abstraction, the concept of show don’t tell, the grand skill, and his acronym PROMS (Past, Relationships, Obligations, Motivations, Sensibilities.)

Magic Systems

In this video, Brandon reviews the origin of Sanderson’s laws, Sanderson’s first law in detail, hard and soft magic systems, Sanderson’s second law in detail, Sanderson’s third law in detail, and Sanderson’s zeroth law.

Brandon Mull Guest Lecture

Brandon Mull, the other Brandon, introduces himself, then covers: characters,  gardeners and architects,  relationships,  trouble, decisions, consequences, YA / teen / middle grade, creative judgment, voice, the outline process, and making cool worlds


Brandon (Sanderson) returns! He reviews what Plot is, promises, surprises v promises, making the middle interesting, bracketing,  middles, satisfying endings, and author voice.

Dialogue and Agents

In this episode Brandon reviews: dialogue, Motive, Individuality, Conflict, Realism, Objective, agents, and agent advice. 

Q & A

Brandon reviews the course and takes questions from the class.

Alt Codes for Twitter

Alt Codes for Twitter

Have any of you seen all those fun symbols people will put in their tweets on Twitter? In case you were wondering where those come from and how to do them I’ve compiled a list below. Those are ALT codes. On a PC, if you turn on your Num Lock key and then hold down the ALT button, and then key in the number/code next to the symbol, your computer will produce that symbol. Also, you can copy and paste them from below. So, in short, to use these Alt Code Characters, here’s what you do when you’re about to make a post on Twitter (tweet),

  1. Hit the Number Lock on your keyboard. This toggles it on. (Because its a toggle, you will want to toggle it off when you’re done.)
  2. Hold down the ALT key.
  3. Key in the number of the alt code you want to get.

Have fun with these, and spice up your tweets ☣ Just don’t go overboard 🙂 ☟☟☟☟☟☟☟☟☟☟☟☟☟☟☟☟☟☟☟☟☟☟☟☟☟☟☟☟☟

  • [ ℠ ] Service Mark [number: &8480]
  • [ ℃ ] Celsius [number: &8451;]
  • [ ℅ ] care of [number: &8453;]
  • [ ℉ ] Fahrenheit [number: &8457;]
  • [ № ] numero symbol – number sign [number: &8470;]
  • [ ℗ ] Sound Recording Copyright [number: &8471;]
  • [ ℞ ] Prescription Take pharmaceutical symbol [number:&8478;]
  • [ Ω ] Ohm [number: &8486;]
  • [ ℧ ] Inverted Ohm [number: &8487;]
  • [ ☀ ] sunshine – sun [ number: &9728;]
  • [ ☁ ] cloudy – cloud [ number: &9729;]
  • [ ☂ ] raining – rain [ number: &9730;]
  • [ ☃ ] snow – snowman [ number: &9731;]
  • [ ☄ ] comet [ number: &9732;]
  • [ ★ ] star solid [ number: &9733;]
  • [ ☆ ] star outline [ number: &9734;]
  • [ ☇ ] lightning [ number: &9735;]
  • [ ☈ ] thunderstorm [ number: &9736;]
  • [ ☉ ] sun [ number: &9737;]
  • [ ☊ ] ascending node [ number: &9738;]
  • [ ☋ ] descending node [ number: &9739;]
  • [ ☌ ] conjunction [ number: &9740;]
  • [ ☍ ] opposition [ number: &9741;]
  • [ ☎ ] phone number – phone service [ number: &9742;]
  • [ ☏ ] phone symbol outline [ number: &9743;]
  • [ ☐ ] check box – ballot box [ number: &9744;]
  • [ ☑ ] ballot box check mark [ number: &9745;]
  • [ ☒ ] ballot box with X [ number: &9746;]
  • [ ☓ ] Saltire – St. Andrew’s Cross [ number: &9747;]
  • [ ☚ ] left-pointing index finger [number: &9754;]
  • [ ☛ ] right-pointing index finger [number: &9755;]
  • [ ☜ ] left-pointing index finger [number: &9756;]
  • [ ☝ ] upwards pointing index finger [number: &9757;]
  • [ ☞ ] right pointing index finger [number: &9758;]
  • [ ☟ ] downwards pointing index finger [number: &9759;]
  • [ ☠ ] skull & crossbones [number: &9760;]
  • [ ☡ ] caution sign [ number: &9761;]
  • [ ☢ ] radioactive sign [number: &9762;]
  • [ ☣ ] biohazard sign [number: &9763;]
  • [ ☤ ] Caduceus or “Kerykeion” [number: &9764;]
  • [ ☥ ] Ankh [number: &9765;]
  • [ ☦ ] Eastern Christian Cross [number: &9766;]
  • [ ☧ ] Chi Rho Cross [number: &9767;]
  • [ ☨ ] Patriarchal Cross [number: &9768;]
  • [ ☩ ] Greek Cross [number: &9769;]
  • [ ☪ ] Crescent Moon & Star [ number: &9770;]
  • [ ☫ ] Farsi symbol [ number: &9771;]
  • [ ☬ ] Adi Shakti [ number: &9772;]
  • [ ☭ ] hammer & sickle [ number: &9773;]
  • [ ☮ ] peace sign [ number: &9774;]
  • [ ☯ ] yin & yang [ number: &9775;]
  • [ ☰ ] trigram Heaven [ number: &9776;]
  • [ ☱ ] trigram Lake [ number: &9777;]
  • [ ☲ ] trigram Fire [ number: &9778;]
  • [ ☳ ] trigram Thunder [ number: &9779;]
  • [ ☴ ] trigram Wind [ number: &9780;]
  • [ ☵ ] trigram Water [ number: &9781;]
  • [ ☶ ] trigram Mountain [ number: &9782;]
  • [ ☷ ] trigram Heaven [ number: &9783;]
  • [ ☸ ] Dharma Wheel [number: &9784;]
  • [ ☹ ] frowning face [number: &9785;]
  • [ ☺ ] smiley face [number: &9786;]
  • [ ☻ ] black smiley face [number: &9787;]
  • [ ☽ ] waxing crescent moon [number: &9789;]
  • [ ☾ ] waning crescent moon [number: &9790;]
  • [ ☿ ] Mercury [number: &9791;]
  • [ ♀ ] Venus – Female symbol [number: &9792;]
  • [ ♁ ] Earth symbol [number: &9793;]
  • [ ♂ ] Mars – Male symbol [number: &9794;]
  • [ ♃ ] Jupiter [number: &9795;]
  • [ ♄ ] Saturn [number: &9796;]
  • [ ♅ ] Uranus [number: &9797;]
  • [ ♆ ] Neptune [number: &9798;]
  • [ ♇ ] Pluto [number: &9799;]
  • [ ♈ ] Aries [number: &9800;]
  • [ ♉ ] Taurus [number: &9801;]
  • [ ♊ ] Gemini [number: &9802;]
  • [ ♋ ] Cancer [number: &9803;]
  • [ ♌ ] Leo [number: &9804;]
  • [ ♍ ] Virgo [number: &9805;]
  • [ ♎ ] Libra [number: &9806;]
  • [ ♏ ] Scorpio [number: &9807;]
  • [ ♐ ] Sagittarius [number: &9808;]
  • [ ♑ ] Capricorn [number: &9809;]
  • [ ♒ ] Aquarius [number: &9810;]
  • [ ♓ ] Pisces [number: &9811;]
  • [ ♔ ] White King [number: &9812;]
  • [ ♕ ] White Queen [number: &9813;]
  • [ ♖ ] White Rook [number: &9814;]
  • [ ♗ ] White Bishop [number: &9815;]
  • [ ♘ ] White Knight [number: &9816;]
  • [ ♙ ] White Pawn [number: &9817;]
  • [ ♚ ] Black King [number: &9818;]
  • [ ♛ ] Black Queen [number: &9819;]
  • [ ♜ ] Black Rook [number: &9820;]
  • [ ♝ ] Black Bishop [number: &9821;]
  • [ ♞ ] Black Knight [number: &9822;]
  • [ ♟ ] Black Pawn [number: &9823;]
  • [ ♠ ] black spade suit [name: ] [number: &9824;]
  • [ ♡ ] red heart suit [number: &9825;]
  • [ ♢ ] red diamond suit [number: &9826;]
  • [ ♣ ] black club suit = shamrock [name: ] [number:&9827;]
  • [ ♤ ] red spade suit [number: &9828;]
  • [ ♥ ] black heart suit = valentine [name: ] [number:&9829;]
  • [ ♦ ] black diamond suit [name: ] [number: &9830;]
  • [ ♧ ] red club suit [number: &9831;]
  • [ ♨ ] hot springs [number: &9832;]
  • [ ♩ ] musical quarter note [number: &9833;]
  • [ ♪ ] musical eighth note [number: &9834;]
  • [ ♫ ] musical single bar note [number: &9835;]
  • [ ♬ ] musical double bar note [number: &9836;]
  • [ ♭ ] flat note [number: &9837;]
  • [ ♮ ] natural note [number: &9838;]
  • [ ♯ ] sharp note [number: &9839;]
  • [ ✁ ] cut above [number: &9985;]
  • [ ✂ ] cut here [number: &9986;]
  • [ ✃ ] cut below [number: &9987;]
  • [ ✄ ] scissors [number: &9988;]
  • [ ✆ ] public pay phone [number: &9990;]
  • [ ✇ ] film reel – tape spool [number: &9991;]
  • [ ✈ ] airport jet airplane [number: &9992;]
  • [ ✉ ] envelope mail email [number: &9993;]
  • [ ✌ ] victory sign [number: &9996;]
  • [ ✍ ] signature – sign here [number: &9997;]
  • [ ✎ ] pencil diagonal down [number: &9998;]
  • [ ✏ ] pencil [number: &9999;]
  • [ ✐ ] pencil diagonal up [number: &1000;]
  • [ ✓ ] check mark [number: &10003;]
  • [ ✔ ] heavy check mark [number: &10004;]
  • [ ✕ ] multiplication sign X [number: &100005;]
  • [ ✖ ] heavy multiplication sign X [number: &10006;]
  • [ ✗ ] ballot X [number: &10007;]
  • [ ✘ ] heavy ballot X [number: &10008;]
  • [ ✝ ] Latin Roman Cross [number: &10013;]
  • [ ✞ ] Latin Cross 3D shadow [number: &10014;]
  • [ ✟ ] Latin Cross outline [number: &10015;]
  • [ ✠ ] Maltese Cross [number: &10016;]
  • [ ✡ ] Star of David [number: &10017;]
  • [ ❛ ] quotation mark single turned comma [number:&10075;]
  • [ ❜ ] quotation mark single comma [number: &10076;]
  • [ ❝ ] quotation mark double turned comma [number:&10077;]
  • [ ❞ ] quotation mark double comma [number: &10078;]

Rethinking Thinking

Rethinking Thinking

rethinking             Today I wanted to relate this TED video, Rethinking Thinking, to writing. As writers, we manipulate our readers. It sounds harsh, and maybe even evil, but it’s true. We mislead, give partial information, put a red herring in your path, and leverage any device or technique we can to control the readers thoughts and to achieve the desired outcome or effect. So, what does that have to do with this video? Well, this video outlines how humans think, and how we make assumptions based on our preferences and our experiences. Here is a list of the thought process stages that we go through as we experience life.

  1. Raw data and observation
  2. Filter
  3. Assign meaning
  4. Make assumptions
  5. Develop conclusions based on our assumptions (add emotion)
  6. Adjust our beliefs about the world around us
  7. Take action

As writers, how can we leverage this information in our stories? I believe comedians use this to set up jokes, and we use them to set up our readers to deliver a payoff. I was going to give an analogy, but there is a really good one in the video. Leave your comments below and share your insight into how you can use this to manipulate your reader 🙂  

The Anti-Hero

The Anti-Hero

The Anti-Hero Defined

How would you define an anti-hero? A bad guy? A good guy that is kind of…bad? A deviant? Here’s how the dictionary will define anti-hero for you:
noun: anti-hero
  1. a central character in a story, movie, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes.


So, the anti-hero is the star of the show, but doesn’t have the same trope-like characteristics and/or attributes that we normally identify the hero of a story with. This, in my opinion, is one of the things that makes the anti-hero so potentially appealing. As a writer, we’re always looking for ways to make characters interesting, and fresh. That’s one of the driving factors that keeps readers going. Anti-hero’s feel a little grey, in other words, and that helps add color to the people in our stories. A little shading helps things take on a three-dimensional appearance, right?

The Allure of the Anti-Hero

One of these days I’m going to write a story with an anti-hero. In fact, now that I write that, I think I’ve got one in the current book I’m writing, The Shadow’s Servant, and one that I’ve already written in The Magic Shop. The notion of a protagonist, or supporting character that blurs the line between the traditional hero and villain is curious to me, and from an author’s perspective, is super fun to write. While the idea of the anti-hero may be less common in books and other media, its noteworthy that the literary device has been around for quite some time, and is used.

In my Magic Shop series, I’ve got a few characters that might fit the notion of Anti-heroes a bit. 

Elba—The crypt keeper. She’s one of the good guys, for sure, but, well, sometimes you’re not sure. If there are two factions in this series, she’s one character that seems neutral most of the time, even though she comes to the aid of the good guys. The result it that you are left wondering how she will respond to certain situations most of the time.

Exum—Here is a character that first appears in The Shadow’s Servant. He’s a smuggler, and a bit of a rouge. He’s in it for himself, and always looking for how he can profit from a situation. That said, he’s one of the good guys…or is he? These characters are fun to write.

Examples of Anti-Heroes in Our Modern Media

Where I’ve given you a couple of examples anti-heroes from my writing, here are some examples of anti-heroes type characters in other literature and media:

  • Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series
  • James Bond
  • Dexter Morgan of the Darkly Dreaming Dexter series
  • Gollum from the Lord of the Rings
  • Artemis Fowl 
  • Jason Bourne 
  • Hellboy
  • Han Solo
  • The Punisher
  • Jack Bauer
  • Saul Goodman from Breaking Bad
  • Sherlock Holmes

…just to name a few. 

Here’s another neat TED video I found on anti-heros. Notice the awesome use of Tron as an example. What about you? Have you ever written an anti-hero? Tell me about it in the comments below.  

The Hero’s Journey Video

The Hero’s Journey Video

The Hero’s Journey Ted Talk Video

When you start out in something you’re serious about you look for patterns or models that have been established to help you understand it better. When I first started writing, or rather, studying the craft of writing, I came across The Hero’s Journey.[/templ_dropcaps]

The Hero’s Journey is a model that Joseph Campbell established in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In short, the book maintains that over the ages, and across cultures, humans have a set core of beliefs concerning our heros that constantly manifests itself in our story telling traditions. The hero has a pattern, or a type that is seen all over the world. Mr. Campbell went on to consolidate these common occurrences (in their various forms), and created a model called The Hero’s Journey.

I found a fun video on TED that depicts The Hero’s Journey and included it below. Also, I’ve included a diagram that outlines the various stages of The Hero’s Journey. Have you used this in your writing, or are you planning to? If so, let me know about it in the comments!

heros JourneyIf you search on the Internet, you will find a ton of resources for The Heroe’s Journey.  There are many graphics depicting the process (the monomyth model) in various forms. Here are a couple Heroe’s Journey graphics for you to consider.




joseph campbells monomyth

Crimson Pact Author Interview

Crimson Pact Author Interview

I was recently interviewed among a handful of other Crimson Pact Authors. I’ve included the interview below, but if you’d like, you can visit the original page on AlliterationInk’s site here.    

Roundtable interview with ten of the Crimson Pact Authors!

  As Halloween, All Saint’s Day, All Souls’ Day, and the Day of the Dead swing by, how better to celebrate than demons? Or at least, getting into the heads of authors who brought you the demons of The Crimson Pact. We’ll be running this interview in four parts through Saturday… and check out down at the bottom for a special deal! Participating in this roundtable interview are ten authors, who between them have stories in all four volumes of The Crimson Pact. After reading the interview, stop by their blogs and websites and say hi! The authors in this roundtable are (in no particular order): Chanté McCoy,Elizabeth ShackJM PerkinsKE McGeeJustin SwappMichaele JordanRebecca BrownRichard Lee ByersSarah Hans, and Stephanie Lorée. How do you cope with writer’s block? Sarah Hans: I don’t really believe in writer’s block. If I’m reluctant to write or unhappy with my current project because it has taken an unexpected turn, then I deal with that by taking a few days off and thinking about it until a solution comes to me, and then I return to the project with fresh eyes. Or, if the deadline is coming up, I just power through and keep writing. A lot of writers will tell you to write every day, but I find that makes me miserable. I only write when I have something to say. I frequently take a week or two off from writing if I’ve got too much else going on. Elizabeth Shack: So far, I’ve had no reason to believe in writer’s block. Maybe it’s my journalism training—when you have to fill 10 inches, you have to write 10 inches. Not inspired? Stuck? Too bad. I also juggle multiple projects—short stories and pieces of a novel—so I can jump around when I need a change of gears. Eric Bosarge: What’s that? No, seriously, I’ve never had it last more than a day or two and, usually, if I don’t know by then, I force myself to write and find the answer as I go. Justin Swapp: Change. Writer’s block happens because something isn’t right. Maybe I don’t like something about my most recent writing. Perhaps I get down on myself. Maybe I read a negative review, and I begin to doubt myself. When that happens, I do something different. I try to identify what might need an adjustment, and I add the change. Also, I change what I do throughout the day. Maybe I drive to work a different way so that I expose myself to something new. Maybe I write in the evening instead of in the morning, like I usually do. I just start changing things. I might even just start writing something new. Typically that will get he juices flowing again. Michaele Jordan: I always have several things in process. When I get blocked on one, I jump to another. Sometimes I have to jump several times. Sometimes I have to start a new story. Occasionally I have to write a story about what’s going on in my life that is so thinly fictionalized I can’t use it. But I’m always writing something. Chanté McCoy: Staring at my computer rarely cures my moments of writer’s block. I become frustrated or bored, then wander off and do laundry. The best way for me to break through and brainstorm is to go on a hike by myself or to walk my dogs in the neighborhood. I hit on an idea and – by the time I return home – I have a scene practically written. Once I walk in the door, watch out: I’m hell-bent on getting those ideas on paper before they flutter away. Rebecca Brown: I’m not sure I ever get writer’s block – I’ll just keep reading and writing until _something_ ends up on the page… or else, I’ll take a break, do something else and come back to it. I’ll have blanks on a piece I’m trying to write sometimes. When that happens, I’ll do another quick project, maybe something in an entirely different style or genre. I’ll write haiku to get myself started some days, or sonnets. Limericks about people I know or things I’m going to do. Anything, as long as it gets me going. K.E. McGee: I pick the person in the room most likely to be a serial killer and write a short story about them. While writing, do you take drugs, smoke marijuana or drink alcohol to beef up your creative imagination? Why or why not? Sarah Hans: I write sober. I’m imaginative enough without it. Alcohol makes me tired and silly and easily distracted, which makes writing difficult. Michaele Jordan: No. I have no particular objection to altered states, but those are the wrong states for working. Elizabeth Shack: No. Two of those are illegal, and the third doesn’t help. Alcohol clouds my brain, and I need all the brain I can get. For beefing up my creativity, I prefer sleep. What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer or editor? K.E. McGee: Is coffee an attribute? Elizabeth Shack: Patience, self-confidence, and being a natural optimist. I’d add perseverance, but that doesn’t help with sanity, only with getting the work done. Justin Swapp: Find the part that you love, and try to do that most of the time. For me, its being creative. I like to come up with the ideas, and to connect the dots. I like to create a sense of mystery. I hate editing though. When its time to edit, I try to motivate myself to get through it as quickly as possible by remembering that I want to get back to being creative again. I look for ways I can be creative in my approach to editing as well. Rebecca Brown: Sane? What’s that? I think it’s important to take breaks from your writing and remember that there’s only so much time you can devote to it. There are people who know me who will read that and demand that I listen to my own advice… But then, I never claimed to be sane, did I? Sarah Hans: I avoid reading the bad reviews, but when I do catch them, I take them as a challenge. I try to be better the next time. You can let the bad reviews and rejection crush you, or, as my friend Patrick Tomlinson says, you can let them hone you into something sharper. It’s easier said than done, obviously, but keeping that in mind helps me get back up after each fall. Rejections and bad reviews are, unfortunately, inevitable. Another tip: if opportunity doesn’t come to you, make your own. Reach out to other writers, editors, publishers to see what projects you can get involved in or start. Attending conventions is great for this, but twitter, facebook, and google+ can be great tools as well. There’s so much competition out there, you can’t wait to be discovered. You have to be proactive! How do you react to a bad review of one of your books? Michaele Jordan: Heavy sigh. JM Perkins: I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about… *cough*Try to cycle through the five stages of Grief as quickly as I can*cough*. Can you tell me about a time you worried that someone would recognize themselves as one of your characters? Rebecca Brown: I’m _always_ worried that someone will recognise themselves as one of my characters, even if the character isn’t based on them at all! If I’ve recently had a falling-out with someone, I’m very reluctant to write any character who is similar to them in case they think I’m taking out my frustrations through my writing – which I do, of course. It’s a creative _outlet_ after all. On the other hand, some of my friends know I’ve written characters based on them and they love it. Sarah Hans: I wrote a flash story on my blog called “The Cupcake Tattoo” and included an analog of my cousin. It was a very personal story, and I knew there was a chance she might be offended, but I told myself not to worry about it because I didn’t think she read my blog…well, apparently she does. Fortunately she found the story touching and left me a really sweet comment. It meant the world to me and opened me up to writing about my life, and characters that are more personal to me, which I think makes my writing better. So if you’re hesitating to write about your personal life, don’t. Tapping into those relationships and emotions can give your writing authenticity and resonance, and you might be surprised by the reactions of those whose likenesses you’re borrowing. Thanks again to all the authors in this roundtable: Chanté McCoyElizabeth ShackJM PerkinsKE McGeeJustin SwappMichaele JordanRebecca Brown,Richard Lee ByersSarah Hans, and Stephanie Lorée. Remember, this rountable interview goes through Saturday the third, just like the discount at Alliteration Ink! Use code ALLSOULS for 10% off your entire order of ANY eBook if you buy it directly from the Alliteration Ink digital bookstore (ePub/Kindle formats for all titles, many with PDF as well).

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