Razor Mountain Development Journal #33

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 updated two more chapter summaries — 29 and 30 — and looked for potential plot holes that might trip me up.

Chapter 31

God-Speaker tours Cain’s latest project, a new geothermal borehole that provides more heat and energy for the city. God-Speaker suggests they put more resources behind it, and move up the project timeline. Cain apologizes for overstepping his bounds in their previous meeting. God-Speaker realizes that the man isn’t a threat, just passionate about his projects. God-Speaker advises him to focus on projects with the most impact, and avoid getting distracted doing too many things at once.

God-Speaker returns to his office and calls in Reed. He asks for a report on Cain, but Reed has nothing of interest to report. God-Speaker tells him to call off the surveillance and go back to focusing on his regular tasks. He notes (without much interest) that Reed’s projects have recently fallen behind while he’s distracted with this extra task.

Reed unexpectedly attacks him with a knife. God-Speaker is injured and taken completely by surprise. He fights Reed off and flees to the chamber of the artifacts. Reed catches him there, and he frantically sends his fading consciousness into a random person: baby Christopher.

Cliffhangers:

  • Does he “survive”? (I think it should be unclear whether he succeeds in sending out his consciousness, and not clear that he’s gone into baby Christopher.)

Mysteries:

  • 31.1 – Why did Reed betray him?
  • 31.2 – What happens to God-Speaker?
  • 31.3 – What happens to Razor Mountain with God-Speaker dead?

Episode Arc:

  • God-Speaker is mildly pleased to discover that Cain really isn’t a threat, and may be a useful person to mentor. He is distracted, and completely blindsided by Reed’s attack. He is used to being in control, and can barely believe that he might die from this danger that he completely overlooked. It is in this state of disarray that he sends out his consciousness in a last-ditch attempt to survive.

Notes:

  • Once Reed attacks, this should feel like horror. God-Speaker is hurt, trying to get away. Reed appears emotionless, following slowly and steadily to finish the job. Maybe even play into it a little with something like the doors to the artifact chamber closing, only to have Reed’s hand come through, blocking them as he forces his way in.

Chapter 32

Christopher is still confined, but comfortable. He wonders if being trapped here is any better than being trapped in the bunker. He decides it is, because he has the hope of being able to improve his situation. He also realizes that being around people, even if he can’t interact much, makes a difference in his mental state. He also knows now that he can adapt to a lot more than he would have believed before this ordeal started.

Gabby visits him for the first time in several days. He asks why she hasn’t been interviewing him anymore. He wonders if he’s stuck in administrative limbo. She explains that it took some time for his case to work its way up through her superiors. Sgt. Meadows, Christopher’s former interrogator, has also been fighting every step of the way, making his own unsubstantiated claims about Christopher. Gabby clearly considers him slightly deranged.

Gabby takes Christopher out into the city. She explains that once her report reached a certain level, there was suddenly a great deal of interest in him. Now, he’s going to be moved yet again. He’s out of her hands.

He asks if this means he’ll have any more freedom or opportunity to leave. She doesn’t have that information, but she was allowed to escort him, rather than armed soldiers, so that’s probably a good sign.

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. He is reminded uncomfortably of his arrival at the facility, and how he was treated.

Then, a hidden door in the wall opens, letting him into a hallway (the inner council’s private facilities). There, he is greeted by Cain (now old), who tells him, “Welcome home.”

Cliffhangers:

  • What does Cain want with Christopher?

Mysteries:

  • 32.1 – How does Cain know him? Is Christopher actually God-Speaker?

Episode Arc:

  • Christopher is physically comfortable, really for the first time since being in the bunker. He’s still dissatisfied with his life being largely out of his control, but determined to make the most of what control he does have. Immediately, the ground shifts under him again, and he’s brought to Cain, whose greeting tells him that once again, he has no idea what’s going on.

Notes:

  • This is the moment when the story starts to “wrap around,” introducing a character from God-Speaker’s story into Christopher’s. Some readers will realize at this point that Christopher is God-Speaker in some form or another.
  • This is the end of Act II. Everything should be pushing toward the ending from here.

Finding Christopher

I’m typically a character-oriented writer, but Razor Mountain is built around plot. This particular story evolved from my ideas about structure and making a “mystery box” story that leaves the audience satisfied instead of irritated. Christopher is thrown into bizarre circumstances that he doesn’t understand. He does have agency, and his decisions matter, but I still don’t feel like I have as good a grasp on his character as I’d like.

Christopher starts as someone who’s afraid of taking chances. This mirrors God-Speaker, who progressively becomes this immortal who needs to completely control his surroundings due to his utter fear of facing death. Christopher’s arc involves becoming less afraid, partly because he’s thrust into danger and confusion, and partly because he chooses to move forward into uncertainty rather than move back into stagnant safety. Christopher has to be the one who ultimately overcomes the fear of death, because God-Speaker isn’t able to.

Christopher has backstory. His fears stem from the childhood trauma of losing his brother. He carries guilt, though it wasn’t really his fault, and this is compounded by the way his parents treat him, as they are afraid of losing their only remaining child.

All of that is useful, but a bit cold and clinical. What I’m trying to find is Christopher’s voice. He should be likeable, and while this background might add up to sympathy from the reader, I don’t think it gets to likeability. I think humor may be the key to a likeable Christopher.

I don’t see Christopher as a sarcastic person. God-Speaker is self-important enough that he might go for a bit of sarcastic or even mean humor at someone else’s expense. Christopher is much more likely to be self-effacing, and to use humor as a defense mechanism or a way to process being way over his head in an unexpected situation. He’s the sort of person who might lead with a joke about the situation when meeting someone for the first time.

I’ve never really figured out how to work humor into an outline. For me, it feels like something that has to happen organically as I’m working on description or dialogue. However, I think having an idea of Christopher’s sense of humor can at least point me in the direction of where some jokes might be. He’s willing to make fun of himself, especially when he’s in a ridiculous situation. He’s also liable to joke as a nervous habit. He won’t have other characters to bounce dialogue off of in Act I, but he may crack a joke to himself.

I’ll have to continue to work on understanding Christopher as I wrap up these last few chapter summaries. Ultimately, some of his personality will come out in the writing, but I’m a planner, and I’d love to understand as much as I can up-front, especially for this project.

Results

I finished summarizing the last two chapters in Act II. I spent some time working on (or at least worrying about) Christopher’s characterization.

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