The following is commentary, written by Brandon, about one of the chapters of MISTBORN: THE WELL OF ASCENSION. If you haven’t read this book, know that the following will contain major spoilers. We suggest reading the sample chapters from book one instead. You can also go to this book’s introduction or go to the main annotations page to access all annotations for all books. For those who have read some of MISTBORN 2, any spoilers for the ending of this book will be hidden, so as long as you’ve read up to this chapter, you should be all right.
Vin and Elend discuss going into Straff’s Camp
In the original version of this particular chapter, I had Vin think that Elend’s idea to go into Straff’s camp was terrible. She thought it was too dangerous, even foolhardy. And, since Vin is generally a very competent and trustworthy character, the readers agreed with her. They all thought that Elend was doing something incredibly stupid in this chapter.
Now, what I had been TRYING to do was have her offer strong objections, then get brought around by the end of the sequence to admitting that Elend was right. Unfortunately, that just didn’t work for this scene. The plan was crazy enough that readers were already inclined to thinking it was crazy. When I instead switched the narrative so that Vin had a grudging, yet favorable, opinion of the visit to Straff’s camp. With her weight of trust behind the endeavor, suddenly readers had no problem with what Elend is doing.
Readers trust Vin more than Elend, which makes sense. If she tells them that something is a good idea, they’re more likely to go along with it. It was an important lesson for me as a writer. I realized that Elend needed Vin’s support in these early chapters otherwise he wouldn’t have the readers’ support. He is untrained and is stumbling as he tries to learn. In order for us to trust him, Vin needs to.
Reasons for the Plot Sequence
Even still, I realize that what happens in these two chapters represents a very bold–even crazy–move on the part of the heroes. Part of the reason I devised this plot sequence because I wanted to make book two feel a little more like book one. The first book was all about Kelsier’s crazy plans, and pulling them off. If you remember, it seemed like every other chapter someone found reason to ask him “are you insane?”
I wanted to give this book a little bit of that ‘impossible heist’ feel, if just for cohesion’s sake. In this book, it is represented by Elend visiting Straff’s army, and by the characters doing a few other crazy things.
Trip into Straff’s Camp
Seeing the obligators here is my other nod to the fact that they’re still a small force in the world, that they haven’t disappeared, and that they can be important to the setting and the characters. However, we’re just not going to deal with them much.
I hope that readers buy Straff’s easy dismissal of Vin as they first enter his tent. It was a bit of a stretch that he’d let Elend into his camp with a Mistborn, but I believe it’s important here to remember a few things.
First off, a Mistborn could probably go into the camp on her own, if she wanted, at pretty much any time. If Vin had wanted to attack Straff’s tent, she didn’t need to wait until Elend had an invitation to visit to do so.
Secondly, there is the feel in this world about using Mistborn–it’s a little like the modern idea of Mutual Assured Destruction. If both parties have Mistborn, and one attacks, there will be retribution. People tend to hold their Mistborn back, using them only in emergencies, lest they unleash something dangerous in return.