Razor Mountain Development Journal — Chapter 14

This is part of an ongoing series where I’m documenting the development of my serial novel, Razor Mountain.

You can find my spoiler-free journals for each chapter, my spoiler-heavy pre-production journals, and the book itself over at the Razor Mountain landing page.

So Many Characters

This chapter felt strange. Suddenly it’s not all about Christopher, and we have brand new characters. I have to think about how other made-up people might talk and think and walk around and point guns at people.

Just when Christopher thinks all his problems might be over, he discovers some brand new problems. These people are weird, and they definitely don’t trust Christopher. They aren’t eager to put him on a plane back to the Midwest. They apparently live in a run-down underground office building in the middle of nowhere.

This new group is big, and it’s not really practical (or necessary) to introduce everyone, so I tried to give the impression of a larger group while focusing on only a couple of characters that will actually matter going forward. This is always a balancing act, because I want to set the scene clearly, but I don’t want to waste too many paragraphs describing people that will never show up in the story again. Firstly, that slows down the story, and secondly, it sometimes gives the reader the impression that they’re going to need to keep track of these characters, only to find out later that they don’t.

Maintaining Tension

I often worry that I’m not making things awful enough for my characters. A lot of characters in fiction are well and truly miserable. Characters need problems to push against, or the story just doesn’t have enough tension. On the other hand, tension needs to ebb and flow throughout the story for it to feel meaningful. A book that mercilessly beats the protagonist the entire time can wear you out. Slowing down before throwing in new problems can make the next big bad thing feel bigger and badder.

At the end of Act I, some of the sources of tension were relieved. Christopher didn’t die in the wilderness (yet). He no longer has to wonder if he’s all alone. In this chapter, the tension comes mainly from not knowing the intentions of these strange new people and the interrogation Christopher receives. So I was a little worried that it would be too easy for him when they let him off the hook at the end of the chapter and don’t keep him at gunpoint.

On the other hand, this doesn’t immediately solve any of his bigger problems, and those are still hanging over him while I set up some new mysteries and resolve or provide breadcrumbs for other mysteries. Plus, I know that there are new problems on the horizon.

Up Next

Next chapter is another Christopher chapter, and it’s going to be another relatively low-key one where a little more info is revealed. If I learned anything from Locke and Key, it’s that mysteries can keep the story interesting even when it’s slow.

After that, we get to return to God-Speaker and do a little bit of jumping through time.

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