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BlindingknifeI love a great plot twist. After writing and publishing six big fantasy novels, I’ve become pretty hard to fool with a twist, but every time I hear a reader say, “I never saw that coming, but looking back, it made so much sense.” I get to feel the pleasure anew. It is, of course, merely a vicarious pleasure, but living vicariously is kind of what novelists do.

The Lightbringer Series is, in part, an ass-kicking examination of identity and integrity. Many of the characters have secrets that influence both, and these secrets are revealed not through navel gazing and discourse, but through actions, lies, and inadvertent truths that escape when the characters are under great pressure. Characters do what they don’t say, say what they don’t think, and think what they don’t do. All of which is fertile ground for surprises.

But a plot twist is more than just a character acting in a way that surprises us. A chaotic or insane character does that. (And, let’s be honest, an actually chaotic character might be impossible to pull off. The most famous recent example of a wildly chaotic character is, if one thinks about it at all, actually a master planner par excellence: Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight.) Instead, a great plot twist takes a lot of planning and careful management of what a reader thinks is going on at any moment.

But how do you manage audience expectations when an audience ranges from teens reading the very first book they’ve ever read outside of assigned reading to adults who have been reading fantasy for fifty years? Movies get to cheat on this. If you have a convoluted plot, and something’s always happening on screen, only a tiny percentage of people will be able to think through the plot holes and possible lacunae in the two hours they’re watching. With a big fantasy novel, authors don’t have that luxury. Some readers devour, and other readers savor, thinking through every tidbit, and guessing for weeks where the plot’s going.

In THE BLINDING KNIFE  (US | UK | AUS), I’ve addressed the challenge by layering the plot twists. Some are relatively simple to see coming, some are challenging, and some challenge you in thinking you knew exactly where this series was headed.

And for the future, I have planned a finer subtlety still: the plot twist none of the characters realize, and never find out. I can’t wait until you see it! Or, ya know, for most of you, don’t.

That penultimate one is risky (taking the plot where readers didn’t expect at all), because if you push too far, some readers simply opt out. If they were certain that this series was going to be about Kip becoming the Lightbringer, and I substitute that Zymun is actually the guy (bummer), they may stop following me, even if two twists from now, I was going to give them Kip again, even better than before. So how much trust can I ask? How wildly can I diverge from genre expectations without losing too many of you? My answer is different now than it was when Night Angel hit the stands. In six books, I hope that I’ve earned the latitude to say, “Trust me, that sharp pain in your back isn’t a knife, it’s a Swedish massage. I know what I’m doing, and I would never, ever betray your faith in me.”

Ironfist dies on page 407.

Books one and two of the Lightbringer Series, THE BLACK PRISM (US | UK | AUS) and THE BLINDING KNIFE  (US | UK | AUS), are now available in trade paperback! Look for them online and in stores everywhere.

about the author

Brent Weeks

All Orbit books by Brent Weeks

  1. Kyle

    August 27, 2013
    at 11:40 am

    In for Weeksian plot twists!

  2. Tim

    August 27, 2013
    at 12:25 pm

    In for a penny, in for a pound.


  3. mouse

    August 27, 2013
    at 12:37 pm


  4. Ernie

    August 27, 2013
    at 3:00 pm

    NO! Not Ironfist. Please NO!

  5. Bolbi

    August 27, 2013
    at 3:50 pm

    That is just evil to reveal that in the end!! I love it! Haha.. bastard!

  6. Luke Slater

    August 27, 2013
    at 4:20 pm

    I do hope ironfist dosent die!!! but i’m sure it would be spectacular.

    I met you in Waterstones Leeds in the UK when you came by for The Blinding Knife release, And have just finished reading it (I think for the fourth or fifth time)

    Still I love all your books, and i’ll definetly cling on whatever twists you throw.

    Looking forward to the next installment!


  7. Steve

    August 27, 2013
    at 6:56 pm

    D-did… did Weeks just spoil his own novel?

  8. Brendon

    August 27, 2013
    at 7:17 pm

    Haha! Manipulation at its finest. Well, the spoiler anyway. The Night Angel Trilogy is what got me back into reading and is by far my favourite book(s) I have ever read, out of the hundreds I now have. You bought my loyalty with those masterpieces. The way they normalized dark truths of a fantasy city captured me; no questionably able nobles sons, no princes who have mastered almost every skill and have ‘contacts’ wherever convenient to the plot.

    A scared child who grows into a strong but unsure man, who even though he bests his master once he still misses his cross-bow shot at the bridge. He never really has the image of a god among men but an extremely talented amateur who is still finding his footing in the world. Too often I’ve read stories where once the pupil defeats his master once, just ONCE, and the pupil is now a master himself and surpasses everyone in every way instantly. As if all that was needed to reach his ultimate potential was win one bout he has thousands of attempts at.

    Anyway, I love the stories. You have my loyalty, even with that “Spoiler”.

  9. melissa

    August 27, 2013
    at 11:04 pm

    he’s kidding about ironfist right? right?

  10. Ki

    August 28, 2013
    at 12:09 am


    It’s a good thing that I’m so invested in this…because that was cruel.

  11. Allie

    August 28, 2013
    at 1:06 am

    Very interesting words to think on. As an amateur writer myself it is always interesting to read about how the authors of amazing series describe what they have learned and how they write. Some things to consider in some of my own works.

    No, Ironfist! How could you, letting everyone know like that? (I sense sarcastic irony that will likely be funny later, after the initial sting wears off)

  12. Rachel Pond

    August 28, 2013
    at 3:12 am

    That was a hell of an ending to the post. I trust there’s a reason, but now my boyfriend (and I’ll admit, I am too.)is sad.

  13. Ellen

    August 28, 2013
    at 12:16 pm

    I trust you (even after your reading at Bubonicon) and I love Swedish Massages. But why does it hurt so much? No, I trust you. Really…..

  14. Reiter

    August 29, 2013
    at 11:08 am

    Make him go out with a bang

  15. Daniel

    August 29, 2013
    at 11:11 am

    WEEEEEKKKKSSS!(in best Shatner impersonsation)…You’ve done it again! Ironfist? really? I don’t know if can take this abuse much longer. Really, I may only have the endurance for 7 maybe 8 more books….

    • Daniel

      August 29, 2013
      at 11:12 am

      impersonation* dammit.

  16. Jon Dunstan

    September 3, 2013
    at 1:04 am

    Thankyou for going subtler. I loved the night angel series, but hated the green scar thing. Seemed like it surgically implanted into the story with a dull spoon, whereas everything in the lightbringer series is so well done I have continually been surprised at the direction the story takes. Seriously, some of the best plot development I have ever read.

  17. John David Dunson

    September 7, 2013
    at 5:27 am

    /agree with Jon. The green tattoo thing felt sort of clumsy. Which is just about the opposite of what I would say about Brent Weeks[‘ work] in general.

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