This chapter in particular was a challenge to write. My experience with Sazed in The Hero of Ages warned me that a character deep in depression can be a difficult and dangerous thing to write. Depression is a serious challenge for real people—and therefore also for characters. Additionally, it pushes a character not to act.
Inactive characters are boring, and though I wanted to start Kaladin in a difficult place, I didn’t want him to be inactive. So how did I go about making scenes of a depressed fallen hero locked in a cage interesting and active? The final result might not seem like much in the scope of the entire novel, but these chapters are some of the ones I’m the most proud of. I feel I get Kaladin and his character across solidly while having him actually do things—try to save the other slave, rip up the map, etc.
Syl, obviously, is a big part of why these scenes work. She is so different from the rest of what’s happening, and she has such stark progress as a character, that I think she “saves” these chapters.
You might be interested to know, then, that she was actually developed for a completely different book in the cosmere. I often speak about how books come together when different ideas work better together than they ever did separate. Kaladin and Syl are an excellent example of this. He didn’t work in The Way of Kings Prime, and her book just wasn’t going anywhere. Put them together, and magic happened. (Literally and figuratively.)