Razor Mountain — Chapter 31.1

Razor Mountain is a serial novel, with new parts published every week or two. For more info, visit the Razor Mountain landing page.

Christopher awoke.

Christopher. Not God-Speaker. Not yet.

His inner landscape had changed once again. There were still stray memories, like flags in the wind, untethered and confusing. Others were sorted and collated, slotted neatly into larger narratives, anchored to times, places, and events. The swirl of emotions in his chest had a different timbre, a different color. He couldn’t explain it to himself in less synesthetic terms.

He realized that the desire to return home, to return to Christopher’s life, had faded, even if it wasn’t quite extinguished yet. That life felt impossibly remote, and how could he ever return to it? How could he make sales calls with the voices of the mountain ringing in his ears. How could he visit his parents and talk about how the back-yard garden was coming along?

The things that made him Christopher hadn’t gone away, but they were being diluted by the flood of God-Speaker washing over them. Christopher had thought that the transition might be like flipping a switch. Now he realized it was more likely that he wouldn’t be able to pinpoint the moment when he crossed over. Perhaps he already had. Christopher wouldn’t go away. He would become a few small branches in a very large, very old tree of thought and memory.

He could see now that he wasn’t unique. There were many other branches like his. After all, this was how God-Speaker had always achieved his immortality. He jumped into the body of another. These vessels were typically prepared for the experience, and it would be done with great ceremony when the new host was a few years into adulthood. He didn’t like to make the transition more often than necessary, but if he was going to take on a new body, why not one that was young and healthy?

These new bodies weren’t empty. They brought with them the thoughts and memories of their original occupant. They weren’t wiped out—they were incorporated. And while God-Speaker was the dominant personality, especially with the accretion of years and memories, these others were still present in some way. They could not easily be pried apart; they were no longer their own entities. But Christopher could sense that some of them might be disappointed by what had become of them, while some would hold some amount of satisfaction or pride at being incorporated into this larger whole. Together, they were a power, a unique creature on the face of the earth.

The voices had also changed, or he was hearing them differently. They no longer grated against him or overwhelmed his other senses. They were still present, but he could more easily “tune” them in or out. He could set them aside and listen to the quiet of the room. He could concentrate on other things again. If he focused on them instead, he could hear them with a new clarity.

They still had a neediness, an irritating quality of demanding attention despite being utterly powerless. They were kings without kingdoms or subjects, still issuing opinions and decrees, and Christopher was the only one who could really hear them. Now, though, he understood that they were subservient. If they had some morsel of knowledge, he could take it, and they had no say in the matter. They wanted so badly to strike at him, to make him obey, but they could not. Some trick of evolution and brain chemistry prevented them from entering into him the way he entered into a new host body.

There was a buzzing sound, and Christopher realized it was the sound of someone at the main doors to the apartment. He stood, but he was in no hurry. This internal world was too interesting to set aside just yet.

He focused intently on the voices. There were many of them, but not as many as he had initially thought. They were a choir, not a crowd, even if they didn’t sing in harmony. They were so much like God-Speaker, and of course they were, they were the ones who had taught him the original trick to immortality. Despite their current impoverished state, they were far more than God-Speaker.

Christopher reeled in shock as he saw a flash of them as they truly were. They were so very old—less individual personalities and more geological forces. God-Speaker’s reign of a few thousand years under the mountain was nothing in comparison to them. It was too much time for Christopher to fit in his mind.

They were creatures born in the adolescence of a strange world. They had learned many things, and eventually, a few of them learned the trick to immortality. They had warped their people and their world around them, just as God-Speaker had done with Razor Mountain. They were true kings. They had watched a young world grow old and weary, and finally die. Even then, they remained kings, albeit diminished. They set out into a vast universe, confident in the long arc of time. Eventually, there would be another world, another people who were compatible enough to continue their endless line of immortal rule.

But destiny had a cruel streak, or a sense of humor. Something had gone wrong. They had found a new place, a new people ripe for control, but there was an accident. They had come down in a streak of fire and light, cracking the mountain asunder, bathing it in noxious smoke, and burying themselves deep in its roots. Still, it might have been fine, if not for the other problem. The people of this place, as primitive as they were, were somehow immune to the interlopers’ power. Their minds, so similar to the invaders’, were impenetrable. Most of them could barely even hear the voices howling their futile anger from buried caverns.

There was one who heard better than the others, one who followed the voices down into the darkness. But even that one could not be used. The voices remained trapped. Even worse, they were at his mercy, used for his own ends. They were forced to watch his petty kingdom rise up around them, in defiance of the vast domains that now lived only in their memories.

No wonder they were pissed.


It’s Not Style Unless Someone Hates It

I recently read The Wes Anderson Collection, and it got me thinking about style.

For the unfamiliar, Wes Anderson is the writer and director of numerous films, and he has a very particular style that can be seen in the art direction, special effects, dialogue, and many other aspects of his movies. He’s a critical darling, and he’s managed to collect an impressive array of well-known actors who are eager to work with him in movie after movie, even in small roles that might seem “beneath” them.

There are also plenty of people who absolutely can’t stand him. They think the dialogue is stilted and monotone, the sets are twee, and the man loves pastels more than the Easter bunny.

Whether you love it or hate it, it’s clear that Anderson has a distinct style.

What is Style, Anyway?

Artistic style is nothing more than a pattern in your work. It might be subtle or obvious, and it will probably change over time.

It’s often hard, as an artist, to be aware of your own patterns—the elements of your personal style. This is one way that feedback can be incredibly valuable. Others will often see patterns you haven’t noticed.

If you have regular readers, ask them about any repeated elements they see in your stories. Those ideas, characters or settings might tell you something about the topics you’re interested in exploring, even if you haven’t consciously realized it.

Digging Into Your Own Head

Style doesn’t have to be entirely subconscious. You can probably identify some elements of your personal style without a reader’s help.

Look at the things you’ve written, and the things you’ve thought about writing. Past writing is a map of the places you’ve been, stylistically, and brainstorms, journals, or half-baked ideas will tell you more about where you might want to explore next.

Know Your Influences

It can also be valuable to look at the work that inspires you. What were your favorite stories growing up? Which books on your bookshelf are well-worn? What about other media?

The most fertile ideas are often the ones that you see in your own work and your favorite stories. You might also find inspiration in non-story pursuits, hobbies, and even “regular” jobs. Life and art often intersect in interesting ways.

Follow Your Interests

The reason it’s valuable to think about your own style is because it will help you shape your stories to be exciting as possible for your primary reader: yourself. It’s a bit of common advice that you won’t get anyone else excited about your work unless you’re excited about it first.

Understand as best you can what thing you want to make, then make deliberate choices that project or communicate that to the reader. Depending on what you like, these choices might be intellectual (references, tropes, allusions, subtext), or emotional (feeling, sound, resonance).

Most importantly, make honest work. It’s easy to shy away from the parts of ourselves we don’t like (or the parts we think others won’t like). But those thoughts and emotions are important aspects of style too.

You have to be true to your thoughts and experiences. Don’t shy away from the unpleasant bits, the cringing embarrassment, the weaknesses. Good characters are usually flawed characters, and authors often need some insight and sympathy for the darker sides of our shared humanity.

Writing With Style

Style often plays out in the choices we make without realizing it. If something feels right, interrogate it. Look inward, and understand your loves, hates, influences, and fears. Play to an audience of yourself.

If you’re honest about the things that fascinate you most, it will help you to write stories you love. And if someone out there decides they hate your style, then at least you know you have it.

Becoming a Writer

Becoming a Writer is a slim volume written by Dorothea Brand in 1934, based upon her experience as a creative writing teacher. As Brande is quick to point out, this is not a book about stylistic technique or story structure. She’s happy to guide readers to other books for that (and there are far more now than there were in the 30s). This book is exactly what it purports to be: a book about how to become a writer, and not necessarily how to write well.

The intended audience seems to be college students or post-school adults who want to get into writing, but aren’t quite sure how to start. Rather than get into all the technical details, Brande suggests what they need is an understanding of how to get into a writer’s headspace, to learn how to think and work like a writer.

While some of the language feels outmoded and there are one or two references to streetcars, Brande’s book stands up well almost a century after its original publication.

Writing Practice

As a first task for a writer to tackle, Brande suggests getting used to writing daily. The prospective writer must embark on a plan of writing immediately after waking up in the morning, before doing anything else. Once this has become habit, she advocates setting specific writing times based on each day’s schedule, and varying them to get used to writing at any time of day.

As a night owl, I am already fairly miserable in the mornings, even when I do get enough sleep. I’ve tried “morning pages” with mixed success in the past. I’ve decided that this is advice I can follow on the weekends, but I’m hit-or-miss during the week.

On the other hand, I have recently tried scheduling mini writing breaks in the middle of my day. It works surprisingly well, and increases my output a small but noticeable amount.

The Mindful Author

Brande is of the opinion that most writers spend too much time discussing the conscious work that a writer has to do, and not enough on the unconscious part of the writing brain. She believes that much of what makes for great writing comes from this unconscious well of ideas, and that great writers learn to effectively use and cultivate it.

To this end, she offers a series of exercises that sound an awful lot like mindfulness and meditation to the modern ear, but must have seemed rather “out there” when the book was first published.

She encourages writers to pay attention to the world around them, observing it with as much child-like wonder as they can muster, and avoiding distractions. This observation, however, should be followed by carefully describing the exciting bits with exacting and detailed language—practice for the unconscious brain in observing, coupled with practice for the conscious brain in relating the raw experience through words.

She also believes that consuming stories while working on a story of one’s own will contaminate it with other authors’ voices. Instead, to release a writer’s inner genius, she suggests some mostly-mindless, hypnotic activity to help free the unconscious—whether that be walking, cleaning, sewing, etc. She essentially recommends cultivating a meditative state with the story as its focus.

Here There Be Writers

A short book with strong opinions, Becoming a Writer tackles the task of writing in a surprisingly wholistic way. On the other hand, it makes sweeping generalizations about artistic sensibilities in almost every word, and I can’t bring myself to believe that those kinds of generalizations ever apply to everyone. But it’s a unique take on the writing book, with ideas that kept me thinking well after I had finished it

Despite being a book of concrete ideas about how to cultivate a good writing process, it is surprisingly romantic—and even borderline mystical—about writers and their art. It treats us as dragons and unicorns, imbued with a certain amount of innate magic, but also gets detailed about the practical care and feeding of these creatures to get optimal results.

If you’re looking for a writing book that is more about getting in the writing headspace, and less about rehashing the hero’s journey for the umpteenth time or tightening up your first five pages, Brande’s book is a good choice.

Razor Mountain Development Journal — Chapter 30

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.

It’s Not Easy Being King

It has only been two chapters since Christopher found out who he really is, and this is the first time he’s had a chance to sit with that information. There’s no conversation or reveals. He spends this chapter snooping through God-Speaker’s house and God-Speaker’s memories.

I wanted to evoke a feeling of melancholy. Most of God-Speaker’s memories and possessions are old and sad. Christopher is beginning to see that even though God-Speaker rules his own little kingdom, being God-Speaker might not be that great.

There’s also the question of what will happen to the part of him that’s still Christopher when God-Speaker takes over, and whether he’ll effectively die or cease to exist.

Planning Out the Rest of the Book

With only a few chapters left, I’ve been starting to look at what it will take to wrap this thing up. Part of that is tracking the unanswered questions and teases from earlier chapters that need to be fully resolved. Part of it is trying to set up the emotional payoff to make the end of the book feel like a proper conclusion, and not just an ending.

I’m pleased with how well my outline has held up across the entire book. As I’ve mentioned before, I went into more detail in this outline than I normally would. I wanted to give myself a safety net, since I knew I would be dropping episodes as I wrote them, and I wouldn’t be able to go back and fix mistakes without making a confusing mess for anyone who was reading each episode as it came out.

There were a few things that changed along the way. Some chapters split in two, and other chapters were cannibalized by their neighbors before they were ever written. Some bits of information ended up coming out in different places than I had planned (usually because it made sense to insert it into a particular dialogue or moment, and I hadn’t anticipated that in outlining). Despite all that, I’m still headed toward the conclusion I planned all along. Everything mostly fit into the shape I planned for it.

I still have a rough draft of the final chapter that I wrote immediately after the first chapter, just as an experiment. I think it was a success. It’s not perfect, and I’m sure I’ll rewrite it when I get to that point, but it was a useful guide for the mood of the book, and the final target that I was shooting for.

I might try writing the last chapter first for all my books going forward.


As I think about the end of Razor Mountain, I’ve also been thinking about my posting schedule. I’ve generally been posting a new chapter every other week, but I’d like to finish this thing by posting the last two or three chapters in quick succession.

To make that work, I’ll want to get all those chapters written in advance, which means I’ll probably have an extra one- or two-week break right before the big finale.

Next Time

Chapter 31 has everything you could ever want: exciting new reveals, arguments about city planning, and some light attempted murder.

Razor Mountain — Chapter 30.2

Razor Mountain is a serial novel, with new parts published every week or two. For more info, visit the Razor Mountain landing page.

There were other rooms accessible from the hall: a living room with luxurious couches, a bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen. At the end of the hall were two more heavy doors, and these led out onto a balcony carved directly from the side of the mountain. Christopher unlocked them and stepped out.

It was drizzling, and the patter of it was a balm to his exhaustion. The balcony was cleverly concealed from below, and a roof of stone kept it mostly dry, but the far end was open to the elements. The small drops ran down the heavy stone railings and ran together, flowing into narrow slits in the floor.

Christopher lay on the cold rock with his head in the rain. He looked up, blinking against the drops. Fast-moving gray clouds streaked the black sky, but he could see a dark sky and a few stars beyond. Instinctively, he reached out a hand for a presence on his left. There was nobody there to grasp it. An aching loneliness filled him. He remembered a woman’s face, but he couldn’t think of her name. Whoever she was, she was gone. Thousands of years gone.

Other faces came to him then, and some he could put names to. Strong Shield, and others who had betrayed him. There would soon be another to add to that list. But really, who hadn’t betrayed him? They all died, all left him behind, going away and never returning. Going where he couldn’t follow. Wouldn’t follow.

He stood and wiped his eyes. Back inside he found the bedroom. He stripped off his wet shirt. There were still clothes in the drawers here, only faintly musty. He found something soft to wear and lay on the bed, on top of the blankets. The images still flickered on his eyelids. He held up a hand. It looked steady, but he felt as though he were shaking.

He stood and walked across the room. There was a long strip of dark glass, a gas fireplace stretching the length of wall. He turned the knob and pressed the ignition switch, setting the flames racing from one corner to another with a satisfying whoosh. It immediately put out heat, more than he really needed in the already-warm room, but the flickering firelight comforted him. He lay down again, imagining himself alone in a cave with a roaring campfire as his only company.

Is that what it had been like, after he lost the rest of the tribe? Had he found some wood while wandering the halls of ice and stone? Had he somehow been able to set it alight? He couldn’t remember. Those ancient caves were a dream place. He couldn’t quite bring himself to believe it had ever been real, even if their remnants still existed, far below him.

He had wanted to give up. That was all he had wanted, really, ever since Makes-Medicine had been taken from him in the warm valley where the tribe had wintered. When he had lost the tribe, there was no reason to keep going. No reason except the voices. They kept pushing him, kept telling him what he could build. He could make a tribe, lead it himself. He could be in control of everything. He could be the greatest shaman anyone had ever known. They would give him secret knowledge of the world.

Of course, he wasn’t really a shaman. Perhaps there was something wrong with his brain, something that had once convinced him that a chunk of rock in the vague shape of a man could somehow speak. Something that made him think he could see the magic and spirits behind the ordinary world. Maybe it was that same defect that let him understand the voices of the mountain when nobody else could. He wished they would shut up, even for just a moment.

As Christopher’s consciousness grew fuzzier with sleep, he turned inward. It felt like looking down an endless well. Or perhaps up into the endless blue light above the chamber of the voices. God-Speaker was waking up, and he was a vast ocean of thought and memory. Christopher was just a drop, and his gut tightened with the fear that he would cease to exist.

He was dreaming now, the flickering images still playing across the sky above the endless ocean. He wondered if he would still be himself when he woke.

The mountain was there, in the ocean. It was the mountain of old, its freshly split peak still vomiting black smoke. People, like insects, swarmed over it and built upon it. They scratched its surface and begin to dig. They dug deeper and left the surface altogether. They popped out only briefly, connecting new little structures to their network of holes and tunnels. Soldiers marched around the perimeter, protecting the mountain from a strange outside world. But it wasn’t really the mountain they were protecting. It was the lone figure at the center of the mountain. It was God-Speaker.

He was in his body again. So cold and so tired, his hands were dirty and bleeding, but he couldn’t stop. They called to him. He stumbled and crawled through the rough, uneven tunnels. There was no light. He was far too deep. And yet, there was something blue in the distance. It hurt his eyes, even when they were closed.


Razor Mountain — Chapter 30.1

Razor Mountain is a serial novel, with new parts published every week or two. For more info, visit the Razor Mountain landing page.

Christopher stood before an array of screens. Some of them were tuned to the places outside his apartment: the hall that led to the long staircase, the balcony, the other, secret exits. Some showed areas of the city. Some showed the places above, where only his cabinet and their subordinates could tread. Some showed the places below, the military facilities, the geothermal plants, and all the areas that were generally off-limits to the civilian population. Once, this had been one of the few places in the city where he could be sure he was not watched by cameras. Now, even this sanctum had been invaded, with little gleaming lenses in the corners of most rooms.

There were several keyboards on the console in front of the screen. The keys were familiar. His hands moved across them and the pictures changed. He didn’t need to know what keys to press. His hands knew.

This was the center of the panopticon, where the head jailer had been long absent. Or perhaps he was the head prisoner.

He felt suddenly uneasy in the presence of the screens, as if the too-wide view of his little world would overwhelm his senses and he would lose himself. The irony wasn’t lost on him as he stepped out of the dark room, into the brighter hallway. The process of losing himself was already well underway. Visions of past lives still flashed through his mind   now and then, as something new bubbled to the surface.

He couldn’t escape the screens completely. There was another one on the wall by the main doors, showing the hall and the wide stairs beyond. There were blank screens in almost every room. They were all tied into the ubiquitous system that sent its nerves throughout the walls of his apartments. The phone in his pocket—a parting gift from Cain—could control all of them.

Cain had suggested he sleep, and Christopher knew it was good advice. He was exhausted, and rest would help him deal with whatever was happening inside his brain. It just felt unlikely while his body was vibrating like a plucked string. When he closed his eyes, moments from the past were projected onto his lids. Like an electric current, it was too much, but he had seized up. He couldn’t let go, so he had no choice but to let it flow through him.

Down the hall, he found his office, or at least one of them. The room was paneled in dark wood, with absolutely no stone to be seen anywhere. It didn’t matter. Christopher could still feel it. The weight of the mountain was always pressing down, no matter what clever decorations were used to hide it.

He perused the tall bookshelves along two of the walls. It was an eclectic mix, with many old volumes and even a few carefully preserved behind glass, but several shelves were filled with mundane modern works that had clearly been printed within the city. There were reports and statistics and other dull bookkeeping. Christopher wondered why he had bothered to have these things printed.

One shelf was filled with sheet music. Much of it was from beyond the mountain, again a disparate mix. Some of it was hand-written, and this, he realized, was his own work. Christopher had never been a musician beyond a few piano lessons in grade school. His mother had played sporadically. Even with memories and knowledge from God-Speaker bubbling through his thoughts, he had a hard time imagining the sound of the orchestra from the marks on the page.

What was more strange was how he felt, holding those pages of music. There was familiarity there, but little emotion. Did God-Speaker love music? Christopher couldn’t say with any certainty. Christopher got the impression that the old man felt almost obligated to have hobbies like this. After all, a person had to derive enjoyment from something. It was something with no real, objective measure of quality. Was this great music? Terrible music? Did it even matter? Christopher set it aside and moved on.

There was a large wooden desk dominating the center of the room. A wide screen, keyboard and desk lamp were the only things on its surface. The lamp had a timeless quality that Christopher liked. It was black wrought iron with a shade of stained glass in reds, oranges and yellows. The screen and keyboard looked oddly anachronistic, the sort of thing that would have seemed futuristic in the eighties or nineties.

Christopher wondered how powerful these computers actually were. This one was surely old by Razor Mountain standards. But how far ahead of the rest of the world was Razor Mountain? The buzz of the voices played perpetual counter-melody to his thoughts, and he knew that they could provide him with an understanding of electronics far beyond anything any human had ever built. Still, there were limits to what the small population under the mountain could realistically build. Advanced computers required incredibly specialized factories. For some things, Razor Mountain would have to seed knowledge out into the world, relying on the vast manufacturing capacity of the rest of the planet to produce what they needed.

He sat at the desk, and once again his hands knew what needed to be done to start the system and log in. Some things had changed, but most of it was straightforward. He found himself scrolling through messages, reports and data. He was tempted to scroll back to the day he had died, to see the chaotic flurry of information that would surely follow. Instead, he bounced between random things that had happened in the intervening years.

There were endless meeting minutes, reports and data logs. He noticed a report flagged as a severe problem. He re-sorted the reports by priority. A wave of red filled the screen. Cain had made it sound like the cabinet had kept the ship afloat while God-Speaker was gone, but it was clear that there had been plenty of leaks, and despite whatever patches had been attempted, the whole thing was taking on water. Plenty of things in the list remained unresolved. Christopher wondered how long they could have continued on without him.

Those would be problems to address in the weeks and months ahead. Christopher wasn’t prepared to work on any of those things now. He turned the screen off and stood up.


Reblog: A.I. and the Fetishization Of Ideas — Chuck Wendig

I subscribe to more blogs than I could ever read, and the notifications steadily accumulate in my email inbox. This past weekend, I was making a vain attempt to clear through some of it, and I came across this post from Chuck Wendig.

In his usual rambling blog style, Wendig asserts that the problem with A.I.-generated art—whether that be visual media or text—is the fetishization of ideas and indifference to execution.

But again, the idea is a seed, that’s it. Ideas are certainly useful, but only so far. A good idea will not be saved by poor execution, but a bad idea can be saved by excellent execution. Even simple, pedestrian ideas can be made sublime in the hands of a powerful craftsman or artist. Not every idea needs to be revolutionary. Every idea needn’t be that original — I don’t mean to suggest the plagiarism is the way to go, I only mean in the general sense, it’s very difficult (and potentially impossible) to think of a truly original story idea that hasn’t in some form been told before. The originality in a narrative comes from you, the author, the artist. The originality comes out in the execution.

It is there in the effort.

(And any writer or artist will surely experience the fact that the execution of an idea helps to spawn more new ideas within the seedbed of that singular garden. Put differently, driving across country is so much more than plugging the directions into Google Maps — when the rubber meets road, when you meet obstacles, when there are sights to see, you change the journey and the journey changes you, because choices must be made.)

And herein lies the problem with the sudden surge and interest in artificial intelligence. AI-generated creativity isn’t creativity. It is all hat, no cowboy: all idea, no execution. It in fact relies on the obsession with, and fetishization of, THE IDEA. It’s the core of every get-rich-quick scheme, the basis of every lazy entrepreneur who thinks he has the Next Big Thing, the core of every author or artist or creator who is a “visionary” who has all the vision but none of the ability to execute upon that vision. Hell, it’s the thing every writer has heard from some jabroni who tells you, “I got this great idea, you write it, we’ll split the money 50/50, boom.” It is the belief that The Idea is of equal or greater importance than the effort it takes to make That Idea a reality.

Read the rest over at Terrible Minds…

The WordPress Twitter Integration is Broken

At the end of April, WordPress announced that due to the changes in Twitter’s API policies and prices, they can no longer automatically tweet out links to our blog posts. Admittedly, I think the majority sentiment these days is that Twitter is a slow-motion train wreck, but it somehow still seems to be the biggest social media platform for readers and writers.

My first thought was that I would have to start manually tweeting my posts, but honestly, I don’t know if I’m going to bother. With my limited following (and limited effort) I really don’t get much engagement from Twitter. It was just the ease of use that allowed me to keep the @DeferredWords account active.

If you have a Twitter integration that’s no longer integrating for your blog, I think the best bet is probably to get one of the many browser plugins that let you click to tweet links. That way you can still tweet out your posts with relative ease. Unfortunately, it’s a manual process now, which means it doesn’t work with scheduled posts. I already have a lot of rigamarole around posting Razor Mountain chapters to multiple services, so I don’t really want to add yet more steps.

At this point, I’m ready for Twitter to die. I hear that maybe BlueSky is the app that will actually get everyone to jump ship, but I’ll believe it when I see it. They said that about Mastodon and three or four other Twitter clones. Mastodon is still around and still sort-of, kind-of, not really active. All the other services are at least twice as dead.

Mostly I’m just trying to spend less time on Twitter, which I suppose is a good thing.

Razor Mountain Development Journal — Chapter 29

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.

You might recall that last time I decided to split the original Chapter 28 into two pieces. That turned out to be a good idea, because this “half” was still longer than my average chapter. Once again, dialogue fills up the pages quickly.

Large Group Dialogue

With Christopher and the entire Razor Mountain cabinet all seated around the conference table, there are fourteen people in the room during this chapter. This kind of large group dialogue isn’t something I have to do a lot, so it was an interesting challenge.

Most of the group hasn’t been introduced at this point, so I used Christopher’s faulty memory as an excuse to keep some of the secretaries anonymous for now. This limits the number of characters I have to introduce, and the number of characters the reader has to try to track.

I find that one of the best ways to keep the dialogue flowing is to be willing to adjust it as I go. I always have an idea of what I want to get across in a given scene, but I often rearrange the elements based on how I feel they would come up naturally in the conversation. I included some things in this chapter that I hadn’t initially planned to, because it felt like it would be strange for the secretaries to not ask certain questions.

Once again, it’s a balancing act in this book, because there are so many reveals to get to before the end. There are six (planned) chapters left, but that may change with some of the things planned for future chapters being pulled into this one.

The Detective’s Monologue

The detective’s monologue is a mystery trope where the main character reveals the answers to all the mysteries in a scene near the end of the story. This chapter felt a bit like that for Cain. He’s not pointing out the killer, but he is helping to explain the strange circumstances that led Christopher to Razor Mountain.

Meanwhile, Christopher reveals things that the other characters aren’t aware of, but the reader is mostly already familiar with. I could have tried to gloss over this, but I thought it might be beneficial to use this as a reminder of things that happened early in the story, so they’re fresh in the reader’s mind. The God-Speaker reveal also casts them in a different light.

Emotional Impact

Although this chapter (like the last couple) is mostly about getting across a lot of information, I did want to include an emotional twist at the end. Christopher has spent the entire book trying to get back home, and now his followers offer to bring him “home” within Razor Mountain. Christopher still isn’t going home. His homecoming is really God-Speaker’s.

In a lot of ways, this is what the remainder of the book is all about: how Christopher feels about becoming God-Speaker, and what he’s going to do about it.

Next Time

In Chapter 30, Christopher will have to start grappling with the changes going on inside his own head. And there’s still the issue of that pesky murderer skulking about.