This is part of my ongoing series where I’m documenting the development of my serial novel, Razor Mountain. Be forewarned, there are spoilers ahead! You can start from the beginning here.
I came up with a list of problems that need to be solved to move from my high-level Act II outline to chapter outlines. I tackled two of them: Christopher and God-Speaker’s character arcs.
Questions and Answers
Next, I’m looking at more of the questions that relate to Christopher’s story.
Who are the important exile characters? What are their motivations? How do they interact with each other, and with Christopher?
Ema, the exile leader. She was part of some sort of rebellion that didn’t go well. She’s left feeling responsible for this small group of desperate people. She wants to lead them to the outside world, but doesn’t know how to succeed at that. She’s initially excited to meet Christopher, but he can’t help her get her people out safe, and his description of the outside world is drastically different from what the exiles have been told. Some of the people who followed her are fed up, most notably Garrett. Others are just losing faith that they can succeed.
Amaranth, the hunter. She had a throat injury and/or surgery when she was young, which left her unable to speak. She always felt like an outsider among the people of Razor Mountain, and spent her formative years exploring the wilderness as often as she could. She joined the exiles to escape from Razor Mountain, but she would rather live in the forest than find some outside town or city. She only stays because she feels obligated to help the others. Christopher is another person who needs helping, but he does pique her interest in the outside world.
Garret, the traitor. Garrett is someone who never excelled under the 550th Infantry, but he blames his failures on others, including his brother. He thought it would be easy to escape with Ema. When the going got tough, he immediately blamed her and looked for a way to back out. He sees Christopher as a ticket back into the good graces of the Razor Mountain establishment – a bargaining chip. He ends up kidnapping Christopher and bringing him to the 550th.
Harold, the quiet one. Garrett’s twin. He’s probably smarter than his brother, but Garrett is constantly blaming him for their problems and telling him otherwise, and he’s come to accept that he’s the lesser brother. He goes along with his brother’s plans and makes excuses for his failures.
Misc. Exiles. I’ll need to decide how many exiles there are in total. I think it’s a small group, somewhere between 10 and 20 people.
Who are the important 550th Infantry characters? Again, motivations and interactions.
I had less detail kicking around my head for this, so I had to do some brainstorming. I wanted some sort of mid-level authority figure who will interact with Christopher once he’s in the custody of the 550th. He has superiors directing him, but Christopher doesn’t see them.
Again, I’m a neophyte when it comes to the military, but I did a quick bit of research.
Sergeant Chris Meadows, the interrogator. Chris is probably a Sergeant or Staff Sergeant, in a position to handle interrogation, with a few soldiers under his command. Since Razor Mountain has very little actual interaction with the outside world, I think most of his experience is from training and reading. He’s trying out his interrogation skills. But he also has a short temper that he has trouble restraining. Or perhaps he seems like he does, and Christopher only realizes later that it’s a bit of an act.
The shared name gives them something in common, despite being very different people. Chris tries to get information out of Christopher, but he’s indoctrinated with the Razor Mountain picture of the outside world, and doesn’t believe Christopher even though Christopher is forthcoming and truthful.
Specialist Gabrielle Speares, the good cop. Gabby is the other soldier who interacts with Christopher. She’s brought in to be the good cop to Chris Meadows’s bad cop. However, she genuinely dislikes Meadows, and sees this as an opportunity to out-perform him. She takes the strategy of not judging the merits of what Christopher says, allowing him to talk at length about the outside world. However, she begins to think that his descriptions are surprisingly consistent, and has some doubts as a result. She eventually goes around Meadows and his superiors with these concerns, which is what alerts the inner council to Christopher’s presence.
With these characters and the little islands of world-building forming around them, I think I can get into Christopher’s chapter summaries. For now, I’m still following the 2:1 ratio of Christopher vs. God-Speaker that I used in Act I. Assuming a similar length, that would be approximately 11 chapters for Christopher.
- Chapter 18 – (C) Amaranth takes Christopher into the exiles’ hiding place. He’s held at gunpoint and brought to Ema. She asks him about the outside world, clearly hopeful, then progressively more confused and worried by his responses.
- Chapter 19 – (C) Christopher is introduced to the other exiles. They all have questions, and have mixed reactions to his responses. They are clearly disappointed. He notices that Garrett and Harold are stand-offish, but constantly watching him.
- Chapter 21 – (C) Christopher wakes in the night as he’s being roughly bound and gagged. He has a bag put over his head and is dragged and shoved out of the exiles’ hiding place. They go out into the cold. From listening to his captors, he realizes that it’s Garrett and Harold. They eventually remove the bag, and the three continue toward Razor Mountain all night. It becomes clear that they’re mostly worried about Amaranth catching up to them.
- Chapter 22 – (C) The group finally stops to rest and eat a little. Garrett warns Christopher that they will be going in to the main facility shortly, and that they need to be very careful or they will be shot. He does his best to scare Christopher, telling him that any outside intel he can give could help them with the 550th. Christopher has nothing useful to share, and says as much. Garrett makes a flag from a branch and a white shirt. As the sun comes up, they walk out into a treeless area at the foot of the mountain, hands up, flag high.
- Chapter 24 – (C) They walk slowly and carefully. As the sun gets higher, a group of soldiers swarms them. All three are disarmed and handcuffed. They’re led through the woods, to a metal door set into the mountainside, and immediately split up. Christopher is hauled down a maze of nondescript halls to a place with jail cells. The soldiers put him inside, remove his cuffs, and leave him.
- Chapter 25 – (C) Christopher assesses his surroundings. The cell has a bed with no sheets and a steel toilet. The lights are over-bright, and he becomes aware of a faint, high-pitched sound that quickly grates. The temperature, which felt warm compared to outside, soon drops. He is quickly miserable. He thinks about everything that has happened, and is a little surprised to realize that the very real possibility of death doesn’t scare him that much anymore. Despite his discomfort, he begins to fall asleep.
- Chapter 27 – (C) He is jerked awake by loud banging from an unknown source. It stops, and he’s awake for some time before fading again. Just before he falls asleep, the banging starts up again. He realizes that all of this is to torture and wear him down. Some unknown amount of time passes like this before a soldier arrives and takes him to a room with a steel table and a camera in the corner. A man in uniform enters and says they have a lot to discuss.
- Chapter 28 – (C) Time becomes a blur to Christopher. He spends time in the cell. He sits in the interrogation room. The man, Sergeant Chris Meadows, asks him about the outside world, asks strange leading questions, and is always dissatisfied with Christopher’s honest answers. Soon, Christopher is uncertain whether he is actually telling the truth. He begins to wonder if he’s lying, or if he’s lost his mind.
- Chapter 30 – (C) Christopher awakes in his cell, on his bed. The lights are now dimmed. It’s warmer. The irritating noises are gone. He realizes that he has had a restful sleep, and savors the uncomfortable bed while trying to piece together what has happened to him. After some time, a woman in uniform arrives and enters his cell, bringing a chair to sit on. She shows some interest in his well-being, but he doesn’t trust her. She says that he has been deemed non-threatening, but that they still need to get as much information from him as they possibly can, and she has been tasked with doing it. She takes him out of the cell and into Razor Mountain. They walk along streets lines with homes and businesses, all clearly inside caverns within the mountain. In some ways it seems like science fiction. In others, it all looks oddly outdated. She leads him to a small but comfortable apartment, then sits him down and asks him to explain everything to her all over again.
- Chapter 31 – (C) Christopher wraps up an interview session with Gabby, and they go on a little outing into the mountain city. She asks him questions about what he’s told her, and she allows him to ask her a bit about the facilities. She writes everything down in a little notebook. She relates the basics of the mythology that the mountain’s inhabitants have been indoctrinated with. She seems genuinely nice and curious, but Christopher trusts nobody at this point.
- Chapter 33 – (C) Christopher has been living a confined, but comfortable life. His interviews with Gabby have petered out, and he seems to be in a sort of administrative limbo. She comes to visit him and tells him that she went around her superiors and brought him to the attention of the higher-ups, and they quickly took an interest in him. Now he’ll be moved yet again. She takes him through the facility, to an elevator. They go up. At the top, she hands him off to a pair of silent soldiers and wishes him luck. They escort him to an empty room and leave him alone. A camera in the corner watches him. Then a hidden door in the wall opens, letting him into the inner council.
I fleshed out the secondary characters that interact with Christopher in Act II. Then I wrote chapter-level summaries for 11 of his Act II chapters. When I started this session it all felt vague, so this progressed pretty well. These are still rough and will need cleanup.
Next time, I’ll be focusing on God-Speaker’s Act II. Much like Act I, I have less of a grasp on God-Speaker’s story. The act will largely be vignettes spread across centuries, so it will be a difficult structure as well.