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Author of the Night Angel trilogy and The Black Prism

New Writing Advice

(new for January 2015)

Has writing a new magic system changed how you’re going to approach magic when you return to the Night Angel world? How?

I think that broadly speaking, writing The Lightbringer Series is going to have huge effects on whatever Night Angel continuation I do — and that was by design. The reason I didn’t write Night Angel 4, 5, and 6 right after 1, 2, and 3 was because I felt I wasn’t mature enough as a craftsman and an artist to achieve what I aspired to with the rest of the Night Angel cycle.

But that doesn’t mean that my hiatus won’t also cause me problems. In some ways, I think the magic will be the easiest of it. The world of Night Angel is what we might call “low magic”, where Lightbringer is “high magic” (magic is used persistently, commonly, and affects every part of society in the Lightbringer world.) I’ve already defined the Night Angel world’s magic to be much more limited than that. So in some ways, it’s one less thing for me to worry about. I still need to consider the magic and do some mental work regarding societal effects to having a few people in your midst who can do absolutely bonkers stuff that would scare the hell out of you. But it’s much less pervasive and much less work than the magic in Lightbringer, where I could always be missing deeply obvious applications of a complicated system. Others have talked about this as the Refrigerator Problem: if you have a new technology (or to run Arthur C. Clarke backwards, a new magic), people are immediately going to start applying that new power in ways that the creator of it never imagined. So NASA does some tests and some guy in Duluth makes up the microwave oven. It’s sort of the law of unintended consequences as applied to novels. And the more weird powers you make up, the more weird consequences there are.

I think my greater problem when I revisit Night Angel will actually be stuff that I made up and said was true that 10 or 15 years later aren’t that interesting to me, or don’t seem that original. As a trivial example, I’m kind of over the use of apostrophes in names. This was sort of a big thing when I grew up reading fantasy. It was all over the place, and by the time I wrote Night Angel, I didn’t over use it, but we have things like Sa’kagé and Ka’kari. Now, aesthetically, I am over that. Like Picasso after his blue period, I don’t want to use blue for a while! Nothing wrong with blue. I just have seen enough damn apostrophes to last me another twenty years. However! I will be writing about the Sa’kagé and the Ka’kari. So I’m stuck. And there are bigger examples. It’s an inherent problem when you start writing a huge series while you’re still young. Jordan and Tolkien and Martin all started their big series when they were older, and in a way that gives them a really big advantage because their work has a consistent tone. Their own approach to fiction had solidified. As a younger man, I feel that my style is still in flux, and part of my job when I return to Night Angel will be to mimic my younger self, but only in good ways. And only when it helps the books be the best they can.

I like to also think that the process of writing Lightbringer has given me a ton of experience and insight into how to craft a longer narrative than I had when I began Night Angel – and to be honest, than most epic fantasy writers have these days, period.