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 finished summarizing the last two chapters in Act II. I spent some time working on (or at least worrying about) Christopher’s characterization.
As I move into Act III, I’ve built up a nice backlog of mysteries. It’s time to think about resolving them. One of the most annoying problems with “mystery box” plots is when mysteries are set up or unexplained things happen, and then they’re never explained or resolved. Even if the ride up to that point was fantastic, the audience will sour on the whole thing as soon as they realize that a bunch of that stuff that seemed cool and important just didn’t mean anything or matter.
As I’ve gone through the outline, expanding these chapter summaries, I’ve been trying to call out mysteries in almost every chapter (and numbering them by chapter when I remember to). That way I can call out where the resolutions happen, and make sure I’m not missing anything.
I realized this week that I haven’t been noting when the resolution of these mysteries occurred, so I went back and fixed that where I could:
- 6.1 – What are the locations on the map?
- Ch. 11 – At least one is a burnt ruin, but it looks like it was similar to the bunker he came from.
- 8.1 – Who made the little wooden doll and left it in the wilderness?
- Ch. 15 – Amaranth. (Show her carving something similar)
- 9.1 – Was there a person in the woods?
- Ch. 14 – Amaranth was watching him.
- 12.1 – Who left the fresh rabbit for him to eat?
- Ch. 15 – Amaranth. (She carries more rabbits for her fellow exiles)
- 14.1 – Who is shooting at him?
- Ch. 23 – Soldiers from Razor Mountain
- 15.1 – What is the place that Amaranth has brought him to?
- Ch. 17 – A bigger building in the style of the bunkers, where the exiles are hiding.
- 15.2 – Who is the girl who can’t speak?
- Ch. 18 – Amaranth, one of the exiles
- 15.3 – Who are these other people?
- Ch. 17 – The other exiles, who left the mountain compound for some reason.
- 16.1 – What is this place inside Razor Mountain?
- Ch. 25 – The chamber of the artifacts.
- 28.1 – Does Cain intend to betray God-Speaker?
- Ch. 31 – No. Reed is actually out to betray him.
- 28.2 – What will Reed find out?
- Ch. 31 – Nothing interesting about Cain.
This work (along with trying to figure out which mysteries should resolve in the next couple chapters), led me to an unexpected problem. I’ve been focused on building up questions for most of the book. Now there aren’t many chapters left. Trying to lay out all of the necessary information may feel like too much of an info dump. So, I may need to try to seed some more hints and answers in earlier chapters, just so there’s a little less to explain as we approach the end.
Cain leads Christopher to the artifacts’ chamber. It is a cylindrical room of some gray stone or metal, etched with faint markings. There is no ceiling, just darkness above. Cain asks Christopher what he feels (he’s not sure if he has to do something to kick off the process).
Christopher hears whispers, sees ghostly faces, then the chamber fades to blackness around him. He senses the long line of all of God-Speaker’s past selves, and a murky lineage beyond even that: millions of minds foreign to human thought. Finally, Christopher realizes that he is the terminating point of God-Speaker’s lineage.
Christopher opens his eyes and finds himself lying on the floor of the chamber. Cain sits next to him, trying to look patient, but clearly excited. Christopher asks what Cain did to him, even though he’s already beginning to understand. Cain tells him he is God-Speaker, and the chamber has renewed his memories, though it will take some time. Christopher wants to ask more questions, but he keeps having flashes, like visions.
Cain brings him down a zig-zag of hallways. They pass occasional people here and there. One older person looks oddly familiar to Christopher. Cain talks to himself as they walk, apparently debating whether to keep Christopher hidden or not. He seems to come to the conclusion that there will be no way to keep him hidden for long, and it’s better to just move forward with courage.
Cain takes a deep breath and leads Christopher into a locked room. Inside, there is a teardrop-shaped table with many people already sitting around it. They complain about Cain being late, then ask him who Christopher is. Cain just leads Christopher to the empty seat at the rounded tip of the teardrop and tells him to sit. There is a clamor around the table.
Cain tells these people that after many years and much effort, God-Speaker has been restored to his seat as the rightful ruler of Razor Mountain. He says that Christopher has only just undergone the process of retrieving his memory. Meanwhile, Christopher is still trying to sort out his head. The members of his council shout questions (and other things) at him, Cain, and each other. Many of them demand proof.
Christopher feels something stirring inside him. He wonders if this God-Speaker is waking up. He addresses several of the disbelievers by name, but he doesn’t remember others. Some want to quiz him. He answers one person with detail, but doesn’t remember what the next person is talking about.
Cain cuts them off. He says that Christopher needs some time to complete the process, but Cain will be the go-between and make sure any who want to can talk to Christopher one-on-one. Nobody is satisfied, but Cain whisks Christopher out of the room, to God-Speaker’s office.
Christopher studies the office and asks Cain what the hell is going on. Cain explains that Christopher has within him all of the memories of God-Speaker, the immortal ruler of Razor Mountain. He explains that God-Speaker was nearly murdered. Now that he’s back, whoever was behind it will likely try to strike again.
- Could add an episode break at the “rightful ruler of Razor Mountain” bit.
- Will the attempted murderer strike again?
- Resolve 1.4 – What are the strange thoughts that seem to be guiding Christopher?
- The minds that reside in the artifacts and provide their knowledge to God-Speaker.
- Resolve 31.2 – What happens to God-Speaker?
- He went into baby Christopher.
- Resolve 31.3 – What happens to Razor Mountain with God-Speaker dead?
- It falls into slow decay.
- Resolve 32.1 – How does Cain know him? Is Christopher actually God-Speaker?
- Christopher starts out mildly confused, hoping to convince someone to let him go home. Instead, he finds out that there’s an immortal mind living in his own brain, along with the faint voices of a whole lot of aliens. He has an inkling that he might be about to cease existing.
Christopher talks with Cain. Cain explains how Christopher was found murdered, and the imprisonment of the previous Secretary of Justice for the crime. Cain believes there may be another involved, who will want to kill him again before his memories fully return.
They talk about how Cain used what little connection he could make with the artifacts to see Christopher, and the years of work that went into tracking him down. Then he tried to bring Christopher to the mountain, only to have something go terribly wrong in the plane crash. Cain had thought Christopher dead, until his picture came across the desk a few days ago.
Cain suggests Christopher sleep, and gives him a little phone/walkie-talkie device to call Cain when he wakes. He shows him how to access electronic records and a library of paper records. He shows Christopher an attached bedroom, then locks the place up and leaves.
Christopher looks inside, at the process that’s happening in his own mind. He feels God-Speaker “waking up,” but also starting to pull Christopher into that much older, much larger blob of thought and memory. He feels the dread of understanding that he is going to cease to exist.
He is exhausted. He sleeps, even though he’s not sure he will be himself when he wakes up. He dreams of people and places past. He sees glimpses of the mountain compound as it’s built out; of the bunkers and buildings hidden for miles around it. Of patrolling soldiers receiving coded orders and maintaining a perimeter, all to protect God-Speaker. He dreams of the first time he entered the cave and came to the chamber of the artifacts.
- Will he still be Christopher when he wakes up?
- Resolve 1.2 – What is the bunker and why is it here in the wilderness?
- It was built as a perimeter around Razor Mountain.
- Resolve 1.3 – How does Christopher know the door code to the bunker?
- He had access to all the information about Razor Mountain, and an very good memory.
- Resolve 3.1 – Who built the bunker and stocked it so thoroughly. What is the geothermal technology that seems to power it?
- God-Speaker’s workers built it, using technology that combines the alien knowledge and tech from the outside world.
- Resolve 3.2 – What is the numbers station signal on the radio?
- Coded orders to the soldiers that patrol outside Razor Mountain.
- Resolve 3.3 – What are the landmarks on the map?
- The bunkers and out-buildings (like power generation and comms) of Razor Mountain.
- Resolve 19.1 – Can the artifacts actually make him immortal?
- Yup, in the body-hopping brain kind of way.
- Things are finally beginning to make sense.
- Lots to resolve here. These dialogues will be a lot of work.
I started tracking the resolutions to the mysteries I’ve set up, which helped me to think about how I’m going to structure all the info-dumping toward the end of the book. I added two more chapter summaries: 33 and 34.