Razor Mountain Development Journal #29

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.

Last Time

I got through two more chapter summaries, fleshed out Christopher and God-Speaker’s interests, and identified some challenges presenting God-Speaker’s Act II chapters to the reader.

Chapter 21

Garrett, Harold, and Christopher take a break in the forest to rest and eat a little. (They have a paltry amount of homemade jerky. They offer to share with Christopher, but he declines.)

Garrett warns Christopher that they will be approaching the main facility shortly, and they need to be very careful or they will be shot. He does his best to scare Christopher, telling him that now is the time to give them any information he might have about the outside world – anything they can use to negotiate with the 550th Infantry.

Christopher tries to explain that they have a strange and skewed view of the outside world, and that he has been open and honest with them. Garrett doesn’t like this answer, and tells Christopher that their blood is on his hands if things go poorly. Harold seems more sympathetic to Christopher, but follows his brother’s lead in everything. Christopher tries to ask questions about the people in the “main facility.” All he gets from the brothers is that it’s where the exiles came from. They left because they thought they were being lied to, but being lied to is better than dying of starvation.

Garrett makes a flag from a branch and a white shirt. They continue walking. As the sun rises, they walk out into a treeless area at the food of the mountain. Garrett directs them to hold their hands up, while he holds the flag high. They walk out slowly.

The sounds of small animals, birds, and pebbles under their feet seem menacing. Christopher half-expects the sound of gunshots. Instead, just as he’s beginning to let his guard down (and his tired arms), there’s shouting, and fully-equipped soldiers swarm from the boulder-strewn slopes above.

Cliffhangers:

  • What will the soldiers do to them?

Mysteries:

  • 21.1 – What was the conflict between Razor Mountain and exiles? What lies are they feeding their population?

Episode Arc:

  • Christopher has been kidnapped and his captors seem interested in him only as a bargaining chip. Still, he feels sorry for them and the bad situation they seem to be in. As they approach the mountain and he sees them get worried, he starts to seriously worry that he may just die here.

Notes:

  • Yet another chapter where I had an easy cliffhanger available! I just had to pull the exciting bit from the start of the next chapter to the end of this chapter.

Chapter 22

God-Speaker is in a new body, in excellent shape in the prime of life. He stands in a carved cave-chamber, with six other people, around a stone table. This is a war council, and they are his military leaders.

They describe the movements of a small war party that is approaching the mountain. He lays out a very conservative defense. His friend, Strong Shield, complains that they have better weapons and better tactics, and this approaching army stands no chance of defeating them. God-Speaker agrees, but explains that he wants as few casualties as possible, and the best possible defense. Becoming overly-proud and lazy will lead to their destruction.

Strong Shield suggests that once they have destroyed the attackers, they should mount a counter-attack to prevent any future threat. He suggests they send a permanent military presence, and essentially begin to build out an empire. God-Speaker dismisses the others so they can talk privately.

When they are alone, God-Speaker explains that he is thinking about stopping all interaction with outside groups, faking the destruction of the village at the base of the mountain, and hiding their knowledge and wealth from the rest of the world to avoid conflicts like this.

Strong Shield says this is a path of weakness. He thinks he would be a better leader for their people. He tries to kill God-Speaker, but God-Speaker is ready for him, and kills his friend. He weeps over the body.

After a few minutes, he composes himself and calls the others back in. He tells them that this is a man he loved like a brother, and he was betrayed. He makes it clear that if anyone else is thinking of betraying him, they’ll meet a similar fate. The gods of the mountain make him unstoppable.

Cliffhangers:

  • Nope

Mysteries:

  • 22.1 – What are the voices/gods/artifacts? What power do they really give him? (Really a continuation of 16.2)

Episode Arc:

  • The imminent attack doesn’t worry God-Speaker, but he is hyper-vigilant anyway. He fully believes the doctrine he’s espousing – laziness and pridefulness will lead to mistakes and failure down the road. This also applies to his friend, Strong Shield. He loves the man, but the artifacts whisper to him that he’s not to be trusted, and they turn out to be correct. He has taken precautions, and he’s ready, but it still crushes him to be betrayed like this. He’s determined to close off his heart to avoid this emotional pain in the future, and immediately begins to erect walls of fear between himself and his other close lieutenants.

Notes:

  • This is the first big lesson for God-Speaker, teaching him that his fear of others is justified. Only by constant awareness can he avoid death from unexpected directions. The voices from the artifacts can help him.

Results

I worked through two more chapter summaries. (I’d still like to get more done, but I’m slowly coming to accept that this is the average amount I’m likely to get done on this project in a typical week.)

Expanding the original, bare-bones chapter summaries has been a useful exercise, but what I’ve noticed most of all is how frequently I throw away opportunities for cliffhangers! There have been so many places where I put an exciting event with an uncertain outcome at the beginning of a chapter. Pulling it out of that chapter and putting it at the end of the previous chapter gives me that extra suspense without even having to rearrange the plot.

2 thoughts on “Razor Mountain Development Journal #29

  1. I enjoyed peeking at your development journals. I was especially curious because I don’t always reread my process logs because sometimes they are more like a list of tasks completed or problems encountered. Your approach would definitely be more rewarding to reread later to evaluate overall conceptual progress. I really liked your analysis in these journals of cliffhangers, arcs, mysteries, and notes—those are the kinds of things that really help me too. I wouldn’t write as much for a chapter summary (though I can see how you get double duty by posting it on the blog). I do write very short summaries on the index card section of Scrivener for my novels. I also focus more scene by scene rather than chapter by chapter, and I title each scene by a statement of main character, main action, main result, which helps me see the larger picture when I look at a list of scenes. This scene by scene approach also helps me rearrange more easily.

    Like

    • I like the “main character, main action, main result” description. I particularly tend to map out dialogue like that – who are the characters involved, what happens in the conversation, and what’s different for them when it’s done?

      Although I am definitely a planner, I don’t normally go into this much detail in my outlines. I’m trying to do more “up front” work for this project because I’m going to release it episodically, as I write it, so I won’t have the luxury of revising previously released chapters if I think of something further down the road. It feels a bit like writing without a safety net!

      I’m focusing on cliffhangers, mysteries and chapter arcs in particular because I think that will make for better episodes that pull the reader along.

      We’ll see how it all pans out, but that’s my thought process. As Gene Wolfe says, “You never learn how to write a novel. You just learn how to write the novel you’re writing.”

      Liked by 1 person

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