Razor Mountain Development Journal — Chapter 27

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.

The Ol’ Switcheroo

This is it. The big reveal. The timelines have converged.

When I was working on the outline, I knew that I needed to show some of God-Speaker and Razor Mountain’s long history in the middle section of the book, but it quickly became apparent that I would have to limit the number of chapters dedicated to that history to not bog the whole thing down. However, I decided that I needed at least two chapters for this final part with Cain and Reed.

Firstly, I needed some time and words to build up these characters because of the pivotal role they play going into the last act. It also gave me the chance to set up a little twist. I placed Cain as the blatant bad guy, an echo of Strong-Shield, who had betrayed God-Speaker ten chapters earlier. I like to think I was a little more subtle in positioning Reed as a good guy, because he has God-Speaker’s implicit trust. That leads into the “small” twist when their roles turn out to be reversed.

The bigger twist is the nature of the connection between God-Speaker and Christopher. Admittedly, the structure of the book, following their two points of view, makes it pretty likely that there’s a connection there, but depending on how good of a guesser the reader is, it’s not clear what that connection is, or when it’ll be revealed. My hope, in layering the small twist and the big twist, is that the whole thing will be more impactful and feel like a bigger revelation. This, for me, is the most exciting part of the book so far.

This was a fun chapter to write, because it feels like I’ve been keeping a secret for a long time, and I no longer have to worry about accidentally giving it away. I’ve been perpetually worried that I’ll reveal something by accident. (I’ve accidentally swapped Christopher and God-Speaker’s names a few times, but as far as I know, I caught all of these slip-ups before posting. It still made me nervous that I’d miss one.

Beginning the End

This chapter is an inflection point: the end of Act II and the start of Act III. So the first thing it had to do was wrap up the middle of the book with an exciting reveal. But its other job is to usher in the final chapters by getting the reader interested in what is about to happen.

It provides some new questions to ask. How did Cain know about Christopher, and how exactly are Christopher and God-Speaker connected? What has happened between the cabinet members in the time since God-Speaker died, and is Reed still around? What exactly is Christopher going to do about all this?

That last question is a big one, because for most of the book Christopher has struggled to have some agency in what happens to him. A lot of shit happens to him—he’s a pinball in the first two acts. And while he makes decisions, it’s a little hard to tell how much those decisions are helping or hurting him.

My hope is that the reader is willing to accept that, for a while. But not forever. The protagonist has to have some control over what happens to him for the story to feel meaningful. The connection between God-Speaker and Christopher hints that he will have that chance in Act III.

Next Time

Having spent most of the book setting up mysteries, I’m thrilled to pretty much continuously reveal the answers for the remainder of the book. If writing Act II was like biking up hill, hopefully writing Act III will be more like coasting back down toward the big crash at the end.

See you in Chapter 28.

Author: Samuel Johnston

Professional software developer, unprofessional writer, and generally interested in almost everything.

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