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!
I outlined five more chapters for Christopher, while reserving a couple of slots for God-Speaker chapters.
Plot Shape, and a Counting Error
When I went back and looked at the chapter outlines I had so far, I realized that I mis-numbered them and need to adjust the ordering. Chapters 2 and 5 were God-Speaker chapters, and I planned to have two more chapters dedicated to him, up through Chapter 12. However, I had earmarked chapters 6 and 10, and I don’t want two God-Speaker chapters back-to-back.
Although the God-Speaker story and Christopher’s story are very separate at this point, I’d like to have them relate to each other here and there. They might have some similar action, related themes, or happen to cover the same geography around the same time. I think that this will help the stories to feel a little more connected. So I’m going to be looking for opportunities for that.
Because I have fewer detailed ideas for what will happen to God-Speaker than I do for Christopher, I spend some time thinking about what the general shape of his plot should be at this point in the book. For Christopher, the book starts off bad, but things have to start going well enough that he gets up the courage to set out on his journey, only to be repeatedly pummeled by a cruel universe.
I think it makes sense to have his arc at this point somewhat mirror Christopher’s. Since he gets fewer chapters in Act I, that arc will have to be compressed. God-Speaker’s first two chapters are pretty bleak. This means the third God-Speaker chapter should have him overcoming some hardship and getting a reason to have some hope. That hope then gets dashed in his fourth chapter.
Christopher starts out alone, and will only start to meet other people as he gets closer to Razor Mountain. God-Speaker starts out among other people: his tribe. He needs to end up alone by the end of the act. However, I don’t feel much interest in the hypothetical story of the tribe dying off one-by-one to attacks or hunger or illness. A story could certainly be made out of that, in the general trajectory that I want, but I’d rather think about other options until I find something that catches my interest more.
Christopher’s first interaction with other people is coming soon. I think it’ll be signs of Amaranth helping him out, and some of the Razor Mountain soldiers shooting at him from afar. To keep the corollaries going between the two storylines, that would be a great time for God-Speaker to end up alone. One character makes connections while the other loses them. To do that, I’m going to separate him from his tribe.
- At the behest of their god, God-Speaker’s tribe crosses rough terrain and climb to a high place. From here, they can see a path through the vast glacier to a vast grassland. They also see a crater and Razor Mountain, partly encased in ice. This appears to be an evil place to them. They plan to follow the path to the grassland.
- Montage? The tribe travels across mountains and glaciers. They make primitive sleds and find some food, but not enough to be full. They come to a point where they can start the long descent down to the grassland. A blizzard sweeps in and slows their progress.
- The tribe trudges on through the blizzard. The god moves God-Speaker to climb a slippery ridge, and he sees that they are close to the place where the ice opens up. He directs the others, but slips and falls. He slides deep down under the ice, back in the direction they came from. He is lost and alone.
For this to fit with Christopher’s chapters, the discovery of a good path should align with Christopher feeling prepared to go on his journey. The blizzard should hit both characters around the same time, and God-Speaker being separated from his tribe should align with Christopher finding the burned bunker and realizing that he is also lost and alone in the wilderness.
The Story So Far
Here are all of the chapters outlined so far, with the new, adjusted ordering. To some readers, I suppose this may feel like a lot of chapters to not even be done with Act I, but I naturally tend to write fairly short chapters, so I’m not too bothered.
Also, I started annotating my chapter summaries in Scrivener with a (C) or a (GS) to indicate the viewpoint character at a glance.
- (C) Christopher wakes up on a small plane over the Alaskan wilderness. Everyone else is missing. With no parachute and no fuel, he jumps out over open water. He survives the fall with an injured leg and manages to swim to shore. Freezing and hurt, he looks for shelter. He finds a strange door in a cliffside, where he can input numbers. He puts in random numbers, and the door unlocks. He stumbles inside, passing out from cold and exhaustion.
- (GS) God-Speaker and his tribe prepare for the winter migration. He prepares the tribe’s small stone god. Another tribe attacks. They drive the attackers off, but several members of the tribe are killed or wounded, and supplies are stolen. They begin the migration dispirited.
- (C) Christopher wakes in the bunker, injured but alive. He explores the bunker and finds food, beds, and geothermal technology that looks like 1950s science fiction. He finds a large, old radio, but nobody responds to him, and the only signal he can find is a cryptic numbers station that continually shifts frequencies. He also finds a map that has several locations marked, but no explanation of those markings.
- (C) Days have passed, and Christopher is settling into a routine. He starts a bonfire outside the bunker and burns green pine boughs to create a column of smoke. He hikes the area around the bunker, but has found nothing but empty wilderness. It begins to snow heavily, and he returns to the bunker for the evening. He is restless, scared, and uncertain what to do.
- (GS) God-Speaker travels with his tribe, carrying the stone god in a carrier on his back. It snows frequently, making travel more difficult. They consult the god to determine where to go. They attempt to hunt, but the hunting party encounters another band of travelers. They have a tense face-off, but do not fight. The hunting party returns empty-handed. Everyone is hungry.
- (C) Christopher decides to investigate the closest marked point on the map. He collects all the equipment he thinks he will need. He tries camping outside the bunker to get comfortable with it. By the end of the chapter, he feels ready to do a test excursion.
- (C) Christopher hikes a half-day out, sets up a camp site, tears it down, and returns to the bunker. He has some troubles with his equipment. He gets a little lost. He’s tired, and it’s very late by the time he gets back to the bunker. He decides to rest up and plan for the actual journey to the mark on the map.
- (GS) At the behest of their god, God-Speaker’s tribe crosses rough terrain and climb to a high place. From here, they can see a path through the vast glacier to a vast grassland. They also see a crater in the glacier and Razor Mountain, partly encased in ice. This appears to be an evil place to them. They plan to follow the path to the grassland.
- (C) Christopher sets out in perfect weather. He travels most of the day, then sets up camp. Everything goes smoothly this time, and he feels good.
- (C) Christopher wakes up when his tent collapses in the night. There has been a huge snowfall He does his best to jury-rig a lean-to, but it goes poorly. He gets no more sleep before morning and is forced to eat and pack in heavy snow. He is cold, wet and miserable. He decides to continue, but is once again full of uncertainty. his progress is very slow, he twists his ankle, and he still hasn’t gotten to his destination by nightfall. He’s exhausted, and he constructs something that barely qualifies as shelter.
- (GS) Montage? The tribe travels across mountains and glacier. They make primitive sleds from birch. They find some food, but not enough to be full. They come to a point where they can start the long descent down to the grassland. A blizzard sweeps in and slows their progress.
- (C) The next day, Christopher feels that he is nearing his limits. He searches for the marked location for most of the day. Finally, he finds it, but it’s ruined. It was clearly smashed and burned decades ago.
- (C) To be determined.
- (GS) The tribe trudges on through the blizzard. The god moves God-Speaker to climb a slippery ridge, and he sees that they are close to the place where the ice opens up. He directs the others, but slips and falls. He slides deep down under the ice, back in the direction they came from. He is lost and alone.
I left an open slot at chapter 13 for Christopher, to keep the cadence of two Christopher chapters per God-Speaker chapter. I like having patterns like that, but I’ll re-evaluate it when I continue Christopher’s outline, and I’ll break the pattern if it doesn’t fit with the flow of the story.
Other God-Speaker Thoughts
I was idly thinking about the story a few days ago, and I thought that God-Speaker’s tribe very likely had much simpler and less expressive language than what we have today. It would likely revolve around the daily tasks for survival and small-group interactions. Using cartoony “cave man language” would be heavy-handed (and unpleasant to read), but I might be able to convey some of that sense in a more subtle way by purposely constraining myself to shorter sentences and short, common words.
It would be a bit like this popular XKCD comic. Conveniently, there’s already a tool that I might try to help with this sort of writing.
When God-Speaker finds the artifacts and starts to learn how to use them, his capacity for complex thought and language is expanded, and that can also be reflected in the style that I use for his chapters.
I outlined three new God-Speaker chapters to catch up with Christopher’s storyline. I fixed the chapter ordering. I thought a bit about the writing style of God-Speaker’s chapters.
In the next couple sessions, I want to finish the chapter outlines for Act I.