Brandon Sanderson Lecture #5 – Worldbuilding Part One

Overall impression – At first I almost skipped the worldbuilding lectures as I’m not that into magic. I’m glad I did watch it as the writing process he uses for his fantasy books is also applicable to almost any genre. He explains worldbuilding by using a lot of examples. His second Law sparks a lot of ideas for me. Huge amount of information, I had to take periodic breaks to process what he was talking about.

Below is the notes I typed while listening to the lecture. Some of it may not make sense to you if you haven’t listened to the lecture. These are merely highlights of what I picked up on during the lecture.


Sanderson’s Laws

  1. Your ability to solve problems with magic in a satisfying way is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic. (deus ex machina is a bad thing) – really a law of foreshadowing.
  2. Flaws/limitations/costs are more interesting than powers. – Characterization building.
  3. Before adding something new to your magic (setting), see if you can instead expand what you have. – Bigger is not necessarily better.

Hard magic vs. Soft magic – Hard is rules based, soft is more a sense of awe. Hard magic has consequences that is evident. Soft is also consequence, but hidden.

Sanderson’s Laws are for him to write. Writers can have their own laws for writing.

Avoiding info dumps when explaining magic systems. Use the try it out to explain it.

  • Flaws – Things characters can/need to fix
  • Limitations – Things characters can/need to overcome
  • Costs – Consequences for the characters choices

Dig deeper into a concept and explore the different ramifications of it rather than throwing a bunch of stuff into a book.

Iceberg theory of worldbuilding. Readers see just the tip of the vast worldbuilding the author has done. In reality, that is false. The worldbuilding below the water is hollow.

Sanderson’s Zero Law – Always err on the side of what is awesome. (Ideas)

All lectures of Brandon Sanderson are now linked on the Storylines page if you wish to follow along in order.