Write-a-thon with Brandon Sanderson Pt 2

A recording of the Sanderson Write-a-thon Part 2 is now available on YouTube!  We raised over $1,200 during the live event benefiting Worldbuilders.

During Part 2 of the Sanderson Write-a-thon which aired April 11, Brandon focused on outlining and revising the story we began in January.  The event was hosted at JordanCon in Roswell, Georgia, and features visits by Stormlight artists Isaac Stewart and Ben McSweeney, and award-winning author Patrick Rothfuss.

During Part 1 of the Sanderson Write-a-thon which aired January 17, Brandon explained his writing process to viewers as he developed characters and began writing a new short story.  Viewers got a chance to see Brandon do his magic while participating in the process and helping to shape the story.  We raised $1,390 during the event, with proceeds going to Worldbuilders.

Missed the broadcasts?  Check out a recording on YouTube, and see below to read the story.


Story so far:

Character 1

48 Female  Epic Fantasy (Island World)

  • Ship Captain (Murdered Parents-But doesn’t remember, and is hunting the murderer.)
  • Orphan Ship
  • Liar (Pathological)
  • Curse Moons/Tides.  Ghosts.

Character 4

15 Male  Stone age

  • Tattoo artist. (Blind)
  • DINOS!


Character 2

81 Male  Steampunk (Dark/Noir)

  • Barber (Former Priest)  Powerful enemies in the church.
  • Afraid of blood.
  • Barber for Aliens, where hair is sacred.
  • Alien Hair cult.
  • Spy Who listens as he cuts hair.   Hair holds memories.
  • Leader of church in danger, but Character is excommunicated.  And to reveal what he knows, he has to reveal that he has been reading the hair.
  • Living on steampunk tech.

Character 3

19 Female  Steampunk – heist

  • Taxidermist / Necromancer
  • We’re only doing animals.
  • Thief, with steampunk animal heist superfriends.
  • Link with animals she reanimates. (Use own living energy.)
  • First person to reanimate.  (Normally they just build limbs and things.)
  • She’s a “Magic hair” alien.  Uses her own hair to reanimate.  Hey Isaac, can you look this up for me.
  • Yes, I’ll Google that right now.
  • Can use hair to recapture memories of what they’ve seen.
  • Animals gain a little sentience when reanimated.




Lucius the Hairatic


Lucius shoved his way into the restroom and slammed the door, clutching a fistful of gray and black hair clippings.  With his other hand, he flipped on the bathroom fan, which rattled loudly.  He had, maybe, two minutes.

Barely enough time.

He dumped the sweaty locks of hair into a small dish and pulled out his blowtorch.  He affixed his goggles and folded the capturing tubes out from a hidden compartment in the wall, positioning them so they hung about two feet above the dish.  The broken ceiling fan masked the sound that came as he switched on the vacuum apparatus.

He lit the torch, knelt in the cramped room, and turned the flame upon the hairs.  Tendrils of smoke coiled and writhed toward the ceiling, releasing the distinct citrus-like aroma of burning Jakari hair.

Images accompanied the scents.

They played out in the smoke.  Shadows swirled and churned, forming the shapes of figures, visible only through his lenses. He breathed in the smoke, and with it came impressions, sensations.

He remembered.  Dinner the night before, with a calm older woman.  Days before spent at court, reading reports, making decisions, allocating resources.  Evenings spent listening to music like the sound of fingers on crystal.  Emotions became his–anguish over the lack of offspring despite years of marriage, frustration at being blamed for the mistakes of incompetent underlings.

Two weeks of life came to him in spurts and pieces.  Lucius shivered beneath the sudden weight of it all.

He didn’t pause to worry about which memories they replaced.  His experience, his past, was a patchwork of memories by now.  He was more other than self, and had been for many years.

He had a much larger problem.  The answer he needed wasn’t here.

He needed more hair.

He turned off the vacuum and stowed the tubes, removing a small vial with smoke swirling inside.  He pocketed this, cracking the door, but he left the powerful ceiling fan running.  It wouldn’t do for Lucius’s patron to catch the scent of his own burning hair.  Then, closing the door swiftly behind him, Lucius stepped out of the restroom and rubbed his hands, as if having just washed them following his use of the facilities.

The room beyond was intentionally, and distinctly, individual to him.  Mementos ornamented the walls: his first shears, a small toy dragon captaining a ship, a picture he’d sketched of some mountains. And, of course, the cufflinks he’d been given on the day he’d been ordained to the ministry.  He was no longer allowed to wear those.

He didn’t remember his trip to the mountains or where he’d gotten the toy dragon, though he assumed they had once been important to him.  Memories he’d stolen had wormed their way in to replace those recollections, as they had for names of friends, cherished experiences, and even plans he’d been making for later in the week.

In a sense, this room was more him than Lucius himself was.  He’d worked here for two decades.  The room remembered a person he no longer was.

Today’s patron, Master Obollus, was a man in his mid-thirties with visible streaks of grey in his beard and hair, both of which were kept determinedly disheveled.  Jakari men and women sought holiness in uniqueness, and so displayed their individuality with flair.  Master Obollus came to Lucius twice a month to maintain his proper look.  It required great attention to appear this unkempt.

Master Obollus was a minister of moderate import in the government.  Lucius had been his locksman, his holy barber, for going on two years now.  He had spent most of that seeking to uncover one secret.***(Start Revising here.)

“It’s looking well, brother locksman,” Obollus said.  “I think I should like the beard styled now.  A through combing should do; I’d like it to maintain that curl and scraggle that is so distinctive.”

“Very well,” Lucius said, stepping forward and calming his nerves.  He had always thought, in moments of reflection, that he made a distinctly poor spy.  Shouldn’t one such as him have iron nerves?  He had trouble keeping his hands from shaking as he situated his barbering supplies.

This man was a friend, a client, and a confidant.  Beyond that, heresy did not come easily to Lucius.

“Yes, your Exclusiveness,” Lucius said bringing up the comb.  “I must say, your beard is majestic.  You have inspired quite the wave of attention.”

“Mmmm,” Obollus said, leaning back, staring up at the holy mural painted above.  A circular piece, to inspire contemplation during the time of holy shearing.

“Why, I had three young men come in last week, asking for their beards to be styled with the scraggly look, even going so far as to wish for streaks in them in the precise location of your own.”

Obollus shifted.  “You did?”

“Yes, your Exclusiveness,” Obollus said, taking a deep breath, forcing himself to be calm.  He could do this.  “Why, I can remember a time when not one man in ten had a beard?  How times have changed!”

He hummed to himself as he continued, a nervous habit, but one he could not bring himself to stop.  It took only another minute or so.

“Shave it off.”

“Your Exclusiveness!” Lucius said.

“All of it,” Obollus continued.  “I will go clean-shaven now.”

“Are you…certain, your Exclusiveness?”

The minister fidgeted, pulling at the draping cloth around his neck.  “I…  You do see a lot of people with beards these days, do you not?”


Obollus sighed, then nodded.

Lucius wasted no further time.  He attacked the beard with shears at first, getting off chunks.  The older stuff would be useless to him–it was too ancient, the memories too old.  He needed the freshly grown hair, from the last few weeks.  Any hair on the head would do, but he needed it fresh.  Burning it within minutes of the shearing was vital.

This gave him a little time to plan.  He shortened the beard, careful to leave it looking ragged so that when Obollus glanced at the mirror, he didn’t suddenly decide that it struck his fancy short.  Indeed, he winced as Lucius rinsed his shears, obviously wondering if he had made the correct decision.

Lucius knelt and cleaned up the beard clippings, using a blessed envelope.  These would later be burned at a ceremony at the temple, the memories sent toward heaven, and not allowed to infect anyone nearby.  That was a precaution that was mostly ceremonial.  They would see scenes in the smoke, yes, but the memories would not linger.  Most could not do as Lucius did, at least not without extraordinary aid.

Now the tricky part.  He lathered up the minister, then took his straight razor.  For this next part, trembling hands would not do.

Oddly, the thing that calmed him–even after all these years–were memories of the singing in the temple from his youth, the days of his training.  Almost everything from those days was gone.  But not those songs.  Those sweet, blessed songs.

The four-part harmony of holy music rising in the back of his mind, he reached out and struck free the beard from his patron’s skin, pulling the razor in a long streak–filing the chamber with the sound of stubble scraping on steel and revealing pink skin beneath, naked for the first time in decades.

Then Lucius cut himself.

He cried out, dropping the razor and being certain to catch hold of some sudsy locks as he held out the cut hand, distracting Obollus.  The minister sat up with surprise, eyes wide at the sight of red mixing with pristine white lather.

“Your Distinctiveness,” Lucius cried, “my greatest apologies.  I’m sorry.  I can’t believe–”

“By my memories!” Obollus exclaimed.  “Go clean up, man!”

The wound–a gash across the back of Lucius’s wrist–was deeper than he’d intended.  No time for that.  He nodded and hurried to the bathroom.

He struggled with foam, hair, and blood as he tried to get beard clippings into their bowl.  The process was not nearly so neat this time around.  He pulled out his blowtorch, frantic.  Would it burn?  It was so wet.  He tried to dry the hair off, but it stuck to the towel.

He stopped, breathed a prayer, and remembered the songs.  Then, he blowtorched the sodden hair.

Smoke rose.  It was not in pretty, dancing spirals this time, and it did not smell so sweet.  The strands gave off an acrid puff of smoke, which was followed by limp, weak trails.  He could see no full images, and he’d forgotten to turn on the machine to capture this smoke.

He leaned in, holding his hand over his cut wrist, and breathed in.

Memories.  Lucius cutting his hair.  A breakfast of fish and rice.  Lying with Obollus’s wife. The funeral of Obollus’s uncle, with accompanying anguish.  Lucius found himself weeping for a man he’d never known.

And there.  A day in the offices.  A special day.

Where he saw a ponytail, frozen in ice.

Lucius relaxed, letting out a deep breath.  It was there, securely in his head.  He knew where to find the hairs, the ones from before.

The ones who remembered.

Blood seeped between his fingers, but he closed his eyes, uncaring.  Two years of work to get Obollus as a client.  Then a wait, knowing that he had seen the inner rooms once, and hoping he would be invited again.  Being ready to schedule a trim after it happened.

It had all been for this.

And it was glorious.

A fist pounded on the door.  “Are you all right, Brother Locksman?”

“Fine.  Fine.  Yes, your Uniqueness.  Please.  Just a moment.”  He hurriedly cleaned himself, making a bandage out of his handkerchief.  Hoping that the man was not close enough to catch scent of what Lucius had done, he slipped out to find Obollus wiping his face.  A patchy beard, now short, with one streak cut through it.

“I’ll be right with–” Lucius began.

“I like it.”

Lucius blinked.  “Your…Uncommonness?”

“Nobody has a beard such as this,” Obollus said.  “Distinctive.  Original.  Yes, I shall keep it.”

Nobody had a beard like that because it was wholly unflattering, an offense to Lucius sensibilities.  It was in poor taste both aesthetically and theologically.

“I agree,” Lucius said anyway.

And was left with the image of one of the high ministers of the Jakari government strolling out with a face partially-shaven and a smile on his lips.



  • Lots of déjà vu,’
  • Sees hairstyles.
  • Someone has some of lucius’s original hair? some not tainted by the memories of others?
    • when he got excommunicated from the church they shaved his head
    • Daughter is a necromancer.  (See above.)
    • The leader of the church never cuts his hair. When he dies, his hair is burnt and the memories go into the next leader.
    • Wigs? (Family memories.)
      • interesting potential conflict if what he’s doing is frowned upon – a friend comes in and he doesn’t recognize them because the memory is gone
      • The memories replace older memories first.  (Mental defense mechanism.)
      • RELIGION
      • Collect cool memories.
      • Individuality is worshipped.
      • HISTORY
      • Nobody remembers what happened past a few generations ago.  He’s trying to figure out why.
      • the Grand Dominion of the Pakari’s spans the galaxy. there’s a secret project to look for new dimensions to conquer and new races to enslave. Lucius isn’t bitter, as the world has been this way for all of living memory. he dreams to fly through space, but humans are restricted to their planet. they’ve been left in ‘primitive’ steampunk technology, while the pakari’s have moved far into the future of technologies, to prevent rebellion.
        • Your Uncommonness, Your Originality, Your Inventiveness, Your Creativity, Your Individuality.

The Jakari


Worldbuilding Guide

  • Foreshadow that nobody has memories from the before time.
  • OR: The pony tail is his own.  And he has memories he should not, but they were erased.  And if he gets it, he can restore himself.
  • Pony tail of lost lover or his lost father.
  • Pony tail of the founder of the faith.
  • He doesn’t know why it’s important?
  • It’s not the Pony Tail he thinks it is.
  • It’s human hair.
  • It could be a trap/a fake.

Answers we need to decide.

  • What is the ponytail?
  • What is so important to him that he will sacrifice his memories in order to gain it?
  • Who is he?  What is his stake?  (Is the pony tail his?)
  • Ending: Does he escape?  Does he get caught?
  • What is his goal?  (Steal, replace, burn?)
  • Conflict beyond the heist.
  • What is the religion?  What are its parts?

What promises are we making?

  • We need a heist element.
  • Kind of a spy sort.  (With twists.)
  • Information is what drives the plot.
  • Pony tail has to be involved.
  • Religion is important.
  • Why was he defrocked.
  • Fallout from beard hackjob.(?)
  • His memories. (?)
  • Something he has forgotten should be important.
  • Him finding peace or destruction.


  • Heist
    • Someone needs to burn the hair.
    • Information Plot
    • Time is approaching that the memories in the pony tail will be lost.
      • A ceremony is coming where they will all be burned.
      • In this religion, when you die, your hair is shaved off.  The body is buried.  They keep the hair for 100 years, then the descendants of the person burn it.  This date is coming very soon, so our protagonist has little time.
      • He knows that something terrible will happen with the ponytail.
      • He has left memories of his own that will explain his motives, but not in full.  Reveal at the end is why he was doing this.


  • Magic hair
    • The more you burn, the clearer the memories are.
    • Length of the hair determines how much you get.
    • There are some people who shave their hair.
    • Smoke degrades much faster. (And can’t be frozen.)
    • Hair degrades: If not frozen, it degrades in a few weeks.  If frozen, it lasts a long time.
    • If you are of the race, burning the hair lets you experience life and memories but it is fleeting and vanishes fairly soon.  If you are an alien, like our protag, you are not racially set up for all this and it replaces your own memories instead.