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 improved chapter summaries for chapters 9, 10, and 11. I also vowed to get through these summaries faster!
Christopher feels numb. He knows he’s in a bad situation, but he prepares shelter for nightfall and tries to go to sleep.
Instead, he ends up thinking back on his life so far. He considers his motivations and accomplishments, and decides that none of it is particularly special. Eventually, he decides that he’s probably not going to sleep, so he gets up and throws more logs on the campfire.
He spends the night taking in the beautiful scenery. Staring up at the stars makes him feel a peaceful melancholy. He realizes that despite his growling stomach and the looming thread of dying in the wilderness, he is content in this moment.
He decides that he will not cap off an unexceptional life by trying to find his way back to the bunker. Instead, he’ll take a huge risk: he will seek out the next point marked on the map, in hopes of finding people or a way home.
The next morning, he happily packs up and begins hiking, taking care with his ankle. He’s stiff and injured, but beginning to feel used to it. While walking through the forest, he comes across an offering in his path: a rabbit carcass, skinned, gutted, and ready to cook.
- 12.1 – Who left the rabbit?
- Christopher starts at a low point, but he works through it emotionally and makes a risky, but potentially rewarding choice instead of the safe one.
- This is a vital turning point for Christopher. He originally set out with a plan that he thought would keep him safe. Now he is actively choosing a risky path. He is beginning to accept the possibility of his own death with grace instead of fear.
God-Speaker’s tribe trudges on through the blizzard. The stone god compels 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 into the ice and boulders, getting completely turned around.
He shouts, but the voices of his tribe are faint and echo from every direction. Soon, they fade away. He discovers that the stone god was broken in the fall. He is lost and alone.
- Will he find his way back to his tribe?
- God-Speaker is close to success, leading his tribe to a better land. Then he falls, and goes from victory to abject failure, losing the stone god and his tribe in a single moment.
- This chapter stayed mostly the same as the original, being a single short scene. I did pull his discovery that the stone god was broken from the next chapter into the end of this chapter, to really reinforce how bad the situation is.
Christopher shouts and looks for people in the nearby forest, but finds no
Christopher shouts and looks for people in the nearby forest, but finds nobody. He finds a single smudge in the dirt that might be a footprint. He checks for traps, then picks up the rabbit and looks for any signs of tampering. He realizes he has no idea what he’s looking for, and if anyone wanted to cause him harm, they’d probably just do it directly.
He walks back to the campsite, relights the campfire, and roasts the rabbit. He knows that gorging on wild game while half-starved will probably wreck his stomach, and tries to restrain himself. He eats half and wraps the rest in packaging from the food he already ate.
He begins walking again, feeling slightly queasy, watching the trees for any sign of someone else. He wonders why the person won’t reveal themselves. He thinks about everything that has happened to him since he woke on the plane, but still doesn’t understand any of it.
He comes to an open area and sees that he’s close to the distinctive peak of Razor Mountain. Suddenly, bullets pelt the ground and nearby trees, and he’s forced to take cover.
- Will he be shot?
- 14.1 – Who is shooting at him?
- Christopher goes from tentative relief at the food to confusion over who might be helping him, to fear for his life as the bullets fly.
- This is Christopher’s last chapter alone in the wilderness by himself. A good opportunity to recap what’s happened so far, and check-in with Christopher’s emotional state before he gets mixed up with the people from Razor Mountain.
Christopher moves deeper into the forest to avoid the shooting. It’s coming from the direction of Razor Mountain. While hiding and fumbling with the gun he brought from the bunker, he sees Amaranth in the trees.
She is wild-looking and moves with the litheness of a forest creature. She sneaks nimbly between trees to reach him without showing herself. She indicates with hand signs that he shouldn’t fire back, and motions to lead him on a route through the trees and glacial boulders that keeps him hidden from the shooter. After a while, it seems to be safe and they walk.
He tries to talk to her, but she points to scars across her throat, indicating that she can’t speak. She writes in the dirt, “talk later.” They continue to walk.
Nightfall comes, and she finally brings him to a cliff-side entrance, similar to the bunker where he first found refuge. Inside, it’s much bigger than the bunker. She leads him through a sort of ruined office area, with 1950s-era styling, past a blocked stairwell, to a set of rusted elevator doors. She pries them open, revealing a ladder along the side of the shaft. She has him go down first.
At the bottom, he exits the elevator shaft. There’s a long, poorly lit hallway. Amaranth leads him to a doorway at the far end and opens the door. On the other side are a dozen surprised people.
- What will the reaction of these people be?
- 15.1 – What is the place that Amaranth has brought him to?
- 15.2 – Who is the girl who can’t speak?
- 15.3 – Who are these other people?
- Christopher is lost and confused. As he goes further and further into this complex, he becomes more and more worried that he’s making a bad decision. However, he was looking for buildings and people, and he’s found them both.
- This is a good time to play up the mysteries, since some payoffs and revelations will be coming shortly.
God-Speaker gives the stone god a sort of burial, then wanders among boulders, blue ice, and sheer cliffs. After some time, he comes to a place where the ice is black, but it glows strangely. There are wisps of black smoke in the air, and he realizes that this is the smoking mountain.
He hears a new set of whispering voices that he’s never heard before. They remind him of the stone god, but they’re strange and alien. He feels compelled to continue toward the voices and finds a cave. He follows it in complete darkness until he comes to a glowing place.
There, he finds the voices (the artifacts) and bonds with them. He feels a violent electric shock, and receives a sort of enlightenment. He thinks he is dying and going to the spirit world, and he is afraid.
- Will he die?
- 16.1 – What is this place?
- 16.2 – What are the voices/artifacts?
- 16.3 – What is being done to him?
- Everything has been taken from God-Speaker. He thinks he cares very little now what happens to him, but when he faces death, he’s still afraid.
- This is the turning point for God-Speaker. From this point forward, everything he does is to fight against death.
Act I Done
That’s Act I finished!
I only ended up “removing” one chapter, by combining two adjacent chapters that didn’t really stand on their own very well. Although the synopses are longer now for each chapter, I don’t think I added a ton of actual content. I just clarified things that were vague – things that I would have had to work through when writing.
Looking for cliffhangers was a useful exercise. Not every chapter ends in a cliffhanger, and that’s okay. But there were several spots where the opportunity was right there. I think the adjustments I made to create cliffhangers resulted in better-structured chapters, and better flow from one chapter to another.
Paying attention to the episode arc forced me to think more about what the two main characters are thinking in each chapter, and make sure that each chapter really has something meaningful happening to the character.
Tracking the mysteries was less important for structural adjustments than the arc or cliffhangers. However, I’ve been numbering them so that I can easily make a list and ensure that everything gets a satisfying answer.
I managed to get through a couple more chapters this time (even if I ended up with an evening post instead of my usual morning post). I finished revising chapter summaries for Act I.
Next time, I’ll dig into Act II.