Razor Mountain Development Journal #18

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 came up with a list of departments in God-Speaker’s cabinet. I thought about what happens among this small group after God-Speaker’s death. I began to navigate the internal politics that develop in his absence.

Rethinking the Cabinet

Coming into this session, I’ve been rethinking my plans from the last session. I initially wanted a very small group of people under God-Speaker who know who he really is. The justification is that he would minimize his exposure and the number of people who could realistically pose a threat to him. It also limits the cast of characters that need to be introduced and developed in Act III.

However, I began to think that the very small group I developed would not be enough to run everything in Razor Mountain. I also realized that as long as the group was small, it would require me to do a certain amount of rounding-out all of the characters. They become important by virtue of how few of them there are.

Now, I’m leaning toward a slightly larger group: something like ten to fifteen people. The unimportant characters in this cabinet can be mostly treated as a loosely-defined crowd, while I provide more detail for the characters that matter in the narrative. These flatter characters make the governance of Razor Mountain a little more believable, and a web of alliances and rivalries helps to explain why it’s difficult for the more powerful cabinet members to simply take over. It also makes it harder for the suspicious loyalists to discover who was really behind God-Speaker’s death.

I’ll probably take cues for these additional cabinet positions from the US presidential cabinet – Razor Mountain does maintain a facade of secret association with the US government. I can include secretaries of agriculture, commerce, labor, health, energy, education, science, etc.

Plot Beats

I have also been thinking about how the plot unfolds in Act III. I think it starts with Christopher being led into this inner sanctum, where only the cabinet and perhaps a small  guard corps are allowed to enter. He is greeted by Cain, who tells him, “Welcome home, God-Speaker.” That strikes me as a good line to end Act II on.

Cain’s first order of business is to bring Christopher to the place where the artifacts are housed. This begins the process of “unlocking” God-Speaker’s memories and personality. Christopher doesn’t realize what’s being done to him until he starts to have flashes of God-Speaker coming through. At that point, he realizes that he’s on a slow, inevitable road to death, or at least something very similar to death as he is subsumed in God-Speaker’s vast, long-lived persona.

Once the process is started, Cain convenes the cabinet and reveals Christopher to them, framing it as a long-awaited return to order.

It’s only after all of this, in private, that Cain really answers some of Christopher’s questions and warns him that the murderer may still be looking for a way to finish both of them off before Christopher remembers everything that happened.

Christopher remembers things piecemeal, and has access to a wealth of records. He worries about the seemingly imminent attack while also struggling with his transformation into God-Speaker. He questions the cabinet officials, gathering information.

When Reed finally makes a second attempt on his life, perhaps through proxies, Christopher already has accurate suspicions and is prepared. His memories of the first attack awaken. I still need to work out exactly how this happens. He stops Reed.

This easy victory feels strangely hollow (to Christopher, and hopefully the reader, since it’s intended to be a bit of an anti-climax). Even though Christopher has now regained control over Razor Mountain and gotten answers to the mysteries that plagued him through the whole book, he is fading away. He is turning into God-Speaker, and discovering that even God-Speaker isn’t excited to be God-Speaker. He’s just propelled onward in an endless malaise by a gnawing fear of death. In one sense he won, but he really had no path to any outcome that feels like success.

The cabinet is relieved that the long interregnum is over. They have spent their lives in Razor Mountain, they believe God-Speaker is a nearly infallible leader, and they were at least partly selected for their acquiescence to his authority. In short, most of them are relieved that they have him above them to be ultimately responsible for the functioning of their little society.

The End

Christopher can feel when the end is near. He knows that within hours he will be just another tiny sliver of God-Speaker. He weighs his fears, and he talks to Cain. He tells him that he thinks Razor Mountain was a mistake. Cain doesn’t understand and disagrees. He tells Christopher that he’ll feel better when he’s back to his old self again.

Christopher then goes to the place where the artifacts are, and sends himself backward through time. He stops young God-Speaker from entering the cave, sending him slipping down the rocks to his death.

Results

I made some changes to God-Speaker’s cabinet, and I was able to roughly outline the plot beats in the third act.

Next time, I need to decide exactly how Reed makes his final, desperate attack on Christopher, and how Christopher stops him. Once that’s settled, I think I have everything I need to work on the chapter summaries for Act III.

Razor Mountain Development Journal #17

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 did some preliminary planning for Act III and the end of the book. I looked at the “scaffolding” like number of chapters, and the topics they have to address, as well as the tone of the ending.

Upper Management for an Immortal

So far, I’ve created two characters to serve in God-Speaker’s inner circle, because these two were important for Act II. They’re not the most rounded characters yet, because they were designed to fit a plot purpose. I also need to figure out what other characters are in this inner council.

God-Speaker understands that one of the best ways he can protect himself is by minimizing the number of people who know or suspect that he exists. He built Razor Mountain to hide himself from the outside world, and he built the internal mythology of Razor Mountain to hide himself from the people within the mountain. However, he is obsessively controlling. He wants a constant feed of information coming in to him. He wants to project his influence across Razor Mountain, and when necessary, the world.

To do this effectively, he created a small group of carefully vetted people who can act as his liasons, bringing him information and carrying out his orders. They necessarily know more about him than anyone else, and he knows that they are the only people likely to betray him. Because of this, he keeps the group as small as possible, and watches them carefully. He develops tools and strategies to discover and weed out disloyal people in the inner circle (which work well up until Reed’s betrayal.)

What Does God-Speaker Need?

What departments does this council have?

  • There must be some amount of management and governance for Razor Mountain itself: the facilities, the people and the goods generated and consumed by those people.
  • The mountain is largely self-sufficient, but trade with the outside does happen, and this needs to be handled in a secretive way.
  • While God-Speaker keeps Razor Mountain hidden, he still sometimes needs to manipulate events in the world, he needs a few carefully trained people to send out and accomplish tasks.
  • Razor Mountain society is largely built around a military hierarchy masquerading as a part of the U.S. Army. The illusion of that hierarchy has to be maintained. It makes sense that a military-style justice and policing system would also be incorporated.

From those needs, I can begin to decide what the positions on this council might be. The term “council” doesn’t particularly fit the actual function of these people. They don’t deliberate – they are more like cabinet heads, or political ministers or secretaries. They serve at the pleasure of God-Speaker, and he can ultimately allow or overrule their decisions.

  • Building and Works Department – Cain Dolus (loyal)
  • Economic Department – New character?
  • Intelligence Department – Reed Parricida (traitor)
  • Military Department – New character?
  • Justice Department – New character?

I think those positions might also sometimes have a senior secretary and an undersecretary who is effectively in training to take over. While God-Speaker is missing from the mountain, a secretary might also die or be deposed, and their positions consolidated under other secretaries.

What Follows God-Speaker’s Death?

As soon as God-Speaker is gone, Reed knows that he is up against the other secretaries if he wants to actually take control of Razor Mountain. He hides his treachery by planting evidence that incriminates one of the other secretaries. This also provides him an opportunity to create an opening that he can fill. The Military and Justice departments would probably be the most useful to a budding new dictator.

So, Reed kills God-Speaker, but God-Speaker manages to transfer his consciousness into baby Christopher. Reed plants evidence and accuses the Secretary of Justice. They deny any involvement, but the rest of the cabinet decide to imprison them. There is an Undersecretary, but they are a weak-willed pushover who easily falls under Reed’s sway.

Cain, however, finds the entire situation suspicious. He believes that the Secretary of Justice may have been framed or working with another member of the cabinet. He sometimes talks to them in their jail in hopes of gleaning some new information (and out of pity). Cain is also close to the Secretary of the Military, and the pair effectively block Reed and his puppet Secretary of Justice from taking too much power.

Even worse for Reed, Cain has more of a knack with the artifacts. He discovers that God-Speaker isn’t gone, and can be brought back if they find Christopher and bring him to Razor Mountain. Reed knows this will be disastrous for him, but can’t act overtly. He helps Cain plan to bring Christopher to the mountain, but plans to dispose of him before he can come back and reveal that Reed was the traitor.

Results

I didn’t get as far in this session as I was hoping, but I honestly underestimated the work that had to be done here. I came up with a list of departments in God-Speaker’s cabinet. I’m going to need to flesh out characters for the deposed Secretary of Justice, the weak Undersecretary of Justice (who takes over and allies with Reed), the Military Secretary (who allies with Cain), and the Economic Secretary (who probably ought to play a lesser role just to limit the cast of characters.

Next time, I need to sort these characters out. I think I’ll be lucky if it only takes me one session.

Razor Mountain Development Journal #16

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 finished the chapter summaries for God-Speaker in Act II!

Embarking on Act III

I like to think of the end of Act II as the inflection point of the story. We’ve reached the proverbial mountain top. In act III, we’re headed back down at breakneck speed, toward the end of the book. Everything should be moving toward the finale. The plot needs to be wrapping things up. Emotionally, the characters need to be moving in that direction too.

Going into Act III, the reader knows that Christopher is the reincarnation of God-Speaker. Christopher still needs to find that out. We’ve seen the evolution of Razor Mountain, and the evolution of God-Speaker alongside it. Now we know about his downfall. We know that there are probably enemies here that Christopher doesn’t even know he has.

To survive, Christopher needs to figure that out. As readers, we feel that there’s probably a confrontation brewing, and we’ll definitely know that there’s one on the way when we see that Reed and Cain are both still here.

Once that is dealt with, there is an even bigger question: what happens to Christopher? Does he go back to being God-Speaker, tighten his grip, and try to put his house back in order? Has his journey (and his whole life, really) as Christopher changed him? That’s the question that I really want driving the final act to its ultimate conclusion, where Christopher chooses to reject everything he did as God-Speaker.

Scaffolding

The chapter structure I’ve laid out so far is very consistent. I alternate between God-Speaker chapters and Christopher chapters, with Christopher getting twice as many chapters. Act I and Act II have almost the same number of chapters (17 and 16 respectively), although I haven’t tried to estimate word-counts yet.

I expect Act III to be shorter. There are no more God-Speaker chapters. He’s dead and gone. Christopher is the one alive in the present. However, once Christopher “unlocks” God-Speaker’s dormant personality and memories, I think it will still make sense to include some flashes of God-Speaker’s perspective here and there. It may help convey the feeling that Christopher is losing himself as this ancient god-being starts to take over.

Act III should really have two parts. The first part is about Christopher discovering that he’s the reincarnation of God-Speaker. He meets what remains of his inner circle (which will need more characters than Cain and Reed). He learns about the artifacts. He learns that he was betrayed and murdered, and that his life depends on figuring out who did it before they do it again and finish what they started.

While all that is happening, I need to include the emotional threads of the story. God-Speaker slowly became terrified of death, and bored of life. Christopher starts the book in much the same way, albeit on a smaller scale. He has now risked his life and made dangerous choices. He has accepted the eventuality of his own death, and his limited control of an indifferent universe.

Once he activates the artifacts and God-Speaker starts to slowly seep in, his “death” becomes very real and immediate. Does he want to be subsumed by this other person, who in many ways represents the most extreme version of his own worst attributes, magnified over thousands of years?

The second part of Act III starts when Christopher figures out that Reed betrayed him and kills or otherwise defeats the man. He is the ultimate winner. He came back from the brink of death to continue his endless reign, unstoppable. His other minions are happy that order has been restored. Unfortunately for him, it’s a pyrrhic victory.

Without the distraction of the direct threat to his physical existence, he has to think about the existential threat to his existence. He has to reconcile Christopher and God-Speaker. The final battle is between these two, within Christopher’s mind.

Christopher decides that God-Speaker has wasted thousands of years building a dystopia. He uses the artifacts to travel back to the moment from the end of Act I, where God-Speaker found the artifacts. He accepts death in the service of a good cause, kills God-Speaker, and changes the timeline for the better (or so he hopes).

Tone

The tone will be shaped throughout the book, but the ending is what will have the most impact on what the reader feels about the book. It’s obviously pretty dark – the protagonist kills his worst enemy, then himself, to prevent the terrible things he would otherwise do. It’s tragic by the original definition.

However, that tragedy isn’t so tragic in terms of Christopher’s emotional arc. He overcomes his fear of risk, danger, and even death. He makes a very consequential choice because he believes it’s the right thing to do. He’s satisfied with the outcome, and hopefully the reader will also think he did the right thing. The effectiveness of this is going to depend on how well I build up that arc throughout the story, as much as it will depend on the actual ending.

What’s Next?

I need to figure out what secondary characters come into play in the third act. I have two council members, but I need more for it to really be a council. They need to have some purpose and characterization in their own right.

I need to figure out how Christopher finds out who killed him. It may be as simple as retrieving that memory, but there has to be some tension around it. What does Reed do when he finds out that Christopher is here? What does he do as God-Speaker’s memories are returning?

Results

I did some preliminary planning for Act III and the end of the book. I looked at the “scaffolding” like the number of chapters and the topics they have to address. I also thought about the tone of the ending.

Next time, I’m going to flesh out God-Speaker’s inner council and figure out how he discovers his killer.

Razor Mountain Development Journal #15

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 worked through what I wanted in each of the Act II God-Speaker chapters, but I didn’t get into detailed summaries. Time to get it done.

Names for Secondary Characters

As usual, I hate to have nameless characters for very long. If I’m going to write chapter descriptions, I at least need working names.

Reed Parricida – The disloyal servant who tries to kill God-Speaker. Reed is a sideways glance at papyrus, and he’s a bit of a bookworm. Parricida is a reference to his eventual murder of God-Speaker. (Parricide doesn’t feel like a very commonly used word to me, but may still be a bit heavy handed.)

Cain Dolus – The loyal servant. Cain to bring to mind the biblical betrayer and murderer, Dolus as a reference to the Greek spirit of trickery and guile. He’s meant to appear to be the traitor at first.

Sky-Watcher – The beloved. God-Speaker’s lover is an iron-age astronomer and mathematician who took the name for her love of studying the night sky.

Strong Shield – Friend/betrayer. The first person who betrayed God-Speaker. He earned his name by protecting Razor Mountain, but he comes to believe that God-Speaker’s desire to withdraw from the world is weak, and that they should grow their kingdom through conquest.

Chapter Summaries

  • Chapter 20 – (GS) God-Speaker introduces a new group of ice-age migrants to the village  build at the base of Razor Mountain, next to the cave. They eat a huge meal, to impress upon the newcomers how good life will be for them. He shows them fields of grain, orchards and livestock. He shows them a mine, a forge, and metal tools. He explains that this “great tribe” is superior to their small tribes. Finally, he tells them about himself and how he listens to the gods of the mountain, who teach him all of these good things.
  • Chapter 23 – (GS) God-Speaker speaks with his military leaders about a small army that is approaching the mountain. He has better weapons and better tactics, and isn’t worried about losing. He dismisses them, telling one to stay behind – his friend, Strong Shield. Strong Shield suggests a counter-attack, to stop the threat for good. God-Speaker explains that he is thinking about stopping all interaction with outside groups, and hiding their knowledge and wealth from the rest of the world to avoid conflict. Strong Shield says this is weak, and tries to kill God-Speaker, but he is ready, and kills his friend.
  • Chapter 26 – (GS) God-Speaker waits on the balcony of his home, which is now within a city inside the mountain. He watches excavations underway. He goes inside, to Sky Watcher, and they go to the chamber of the artifacts. He tries to guide her in listening to the voices and accessing their power, as he has been for some time. She has little success. He helps her up stairs, though she is very weak, and they go outside and look at the stars. They talk about the future. Even while they’re talking, he is worrying about her illness. She dies suddenly and quietly.
  • Chapter 29 – (GS) God-Speaker sits in his modern office within Razor Mountain. He explains to Reed, a member of his inner circle, that he believes Cain may have plans to betray him, and asks Reed to keep an eye on him. Then he speaks to Cain, who has a plethora of ideas for improving Razor Mountain, but also pushes God-Speaker to reveal information that God-Speaker wants to keep solely for himself.
  • Chapter 32 – (GS) God-Speaker tours Cain’s latest project, a geothermal borehole that provides heat and energy. They talk, and Cain apologizes for overstepping his bounds. God-Speaker realizes that the man isn’t a threat, just passionate about his projects. He returns to his office and calls in Reed, asking him to call off the surveillance, then telling him that his work has been poor while he’s distracted with this extra task. Reed unexpectedly attacks him. God-Speaker is hurt, and flees to the chamber of the artifacts. Reed kills him there, and he frantically sends his fading consciousness into a random person: baby Christopher.

Results

I finished the chapter summaries for God-Speaker in Act II!

Next time, I’ll begin working on Act III, and working toward the ending of the book.

Razor Mountain Development Journal #14

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 fleshed out the artifacts, and changed their nature a bit. I worked through the building of Razor Mountain from a natural cave into the hidden city that Christopher finds when he arrives there. I outlined God-Speaker’s emotional evolution, and some of the reasons why he becomes so bitter and indifferent to the people around him.

Supporting Characters

Along with fleshing out the long history of Razor Mountain, God-Speaker’s Act II chapters need to illuminate his own character. To do that, he needs supporting characters.

God-Speaker needs a friend to betray him, and a love interest who dies tragically. He needs at least one loyal member of his most recent inner council and one who betrays and murders him, setting the events of the story in motion.

God-Speaker’s friend betrays him while he’s still building up a kingdom and fending off outside attackers. He is starting to really understand that increasing his fame will bring new dangers and problems to him, and considering a change of course. His friend is one of his best warriors and strategists, who believes that they should keep expanding the kingdom. He sees this change of heart as weakness in God-Speaker, and believes he can do a better job ruling the kingdom.

The artifacts, and the ancient voices that speak from them, give God-speaker some intuition that his friend has the potential to betray him, but he doesn’t want to believe it. Still, when his friend makes his betrayal plain and tries to kill him, God-Speaker is prepared with a hidden weapon and successfully defends himself. He kills his friend, and he and the kingdom begin to turn inward.

His great love comes many years later. Razor Mountain is a self-sustaining city, and little more than a legend to the outside world, conducting careful and clandestine trade. While God-Speaker has had some partners, this love is different. He is completely enamored. The woman he loves is an astronomer, and he uses the knowledge given to him by the artifacts’ ancient voices to help her better understand the physics of the cosmos.

However, she is sick, and getting worse. He knows that she has a form of cancer that has spread throughout her body, but he lacks effective treatments. Desperate to save her, he tries to teach her to use the artifacts to be reborn into another person’s mind. The artifacts are not compatible with most human minds, however, and she is unable to do much more than faintly hear the voices. Every night, they practice together, to no avail. Then he brings her outside to look at the stars. She dies, staring up at the sky.

The final two chapters of the act will revolve around God-Speaker and two members of his inner council, only a few years before the story starts. I’d like to fake-out which of the two is actually going to betray him.

He talks with the first council-member, a gruff but effective administrator that he relies on to plan his new projects. He tells the man that he distrusts another council member, and asks him to surveil his fellow. Then he speaks to the distrusted council member, a bookish intellectual who has a plethora of ideas to improve Razor Mountain, and is convinced that he could do more for God-Speaker if he could know all of God-Speaker’s secrets. They argue over this.

In the following chapter, the intellectual reports on several projects which have been successful. They have another discussion where the man decides that he over-stepped his bounds and God-Speaker decides that perhaps he can be trusted with a few additional secrets. Then he meets with the administrator. He tells him that surveillance can be scaled back, and the man can get back to some of his projects, which have been slipping while he was distracted by this task.

To God-Speaker’s surprise, the administrator betrays him. God-Speaker didn’t think the man had enough of an ego to be a threat. Even worse, the man has been planning for some time. He has removed God-Speaker’s hidden weapons from their hiding places. There’s a nasty altercation.

God-Speaker flees to the artifacts’ chamber, and the man murders him there. As he lays dying, his consciousness is flung out into the world, and into baby Christopher, where it lies dormant.

All of that should fit into four God-Speaker chapters, and I’ve allocated five. I think I can use my first Act II chapter as a look at the early days of Razor Mountain. God-Speaker is introducing a new group of ice-age migrants to Razor Mountain. The first thing they do is eat a huge meal, to remind the newcomers how good life will be for them. Then he shows them the fields of grain, orchards and livestock that the food came from. He shows them a mine, a forge, and metal tools. He explains that this “great tribe” is superior to their small tribe. Finally, he tells them about himself, and how he listens to the gods of the mountain, who teach him all of these good things.

Results

Today was a shorter session, so I worked through what I wanted in each of the Act II God-Speaker chapters, but I didn’t get into the detailed summaries. I’ll finish those off next time. Then I’ll probably get into Act III, where Christopher and God-Speaker’s stories finally converge!

Razor Mountain Development Journal #13

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 fleshed out the secondary characters that interact with Christopher in Act II. Then I wrote chapter-level summaries for 11 of his Act II chapters.

God-Speaker Problems

My Act II plans for God-Speaker are a lot more nebulous than my plans for Christopher. There are several things I’ll need to figure out. Once I solve those problems, I need to fit the results into the chapters, or make some modifications to make them fit.

I left 5 open chapters in my Act II outline while I was working on Christopher’s plot. That doesn’t feel like much space, but I’ll start with that. Those chapters need to work like little self-contained stories from different time periods, while still contributing to the overall plot and illuminating God-Speaker as a character.

Before I start on the summaries for those chapters, I need to figure out what information I have to present, what changes God-Speaker undergoes, and come up with supporting characters so all that can happen.

I need to figure out what the artifacts can do, and some back-story for them (even if it’s only hinted at in the story). I need to figure out the progression of Razor Mountain, from God-Speaker alone in a cave to a city-sized hidden society. Finally, I need to figure out how God-Speaker grows steadily more obsessed with and fearful of death, how he evolves into an emotionally hardened despot, how he slowly becomes disconnected from his own humanity as he lives for thousands of years.

The Artifacts

God-Speaker finds the artifacts when he first comes to Razor Mountain. They’ll barely be seen in the story, but their power drives the plot. They are essentially magic, even if they’re masquerading as technology. I need to make sure that I explain clearly what they can do, and also what their limitations are. Otherwise, their effects will feel like deus ex machina instead of being grounded in the world of the story.

The artifacts have three purposes in the story:

  1. Intelligence – When God-Speaker first finds the artifacts in a cave, his mind is altered. He suddenly sees the world differently than his stone-age cohorts. He can make cognitive leaps that are beyond them. He is able to manipulate them and make himself appear to be a god.
  2. Reincarnation – When God-Speaker grows old in body, he doesn’t die. Instead, he transfers his consciousness and memory into another person. For this transfer, distance is no issue. However, his thoughts are dormant in that person until “activated” by the artifact at close range.
  3. Altering the timeline – A person or their consciousness can be sent back to a particular point in time, with the power to alter the timeline. God-Speaker uses this to fix any catastrophic mistakes he might make by ensuring he is sent a warning from the future, before the mistake can ever happen. This also facilitates the ending, when Christopher goes back and stops God-Speaker from initiating the whole chain of events.

Although I’ve been referring to them as “the artifacts,” they could take whatever form is convenient. I think I may prefer them to be more abstract and mysterious. Maybe they’re not items at all. Perhaps there’s a chamber, deep inside the mountain, embedded in some much larger structure of unknown size. A crashed alien ship? A construct of some ancient, extinct race? In any case, it helps to explain why God-Speaker is so bound to the mountain.

The powers of the artifacts need not feel so precise either, as long as they still fulfill their functions. The transfer of consciousness that allows for reincarnation might just allow the transfer back in time. The intelligence or insight given by the “artifacts” might really be due to other consciousnesses or fragments of consciousnesses, trapped in the chamber in a way that God-Speaker can access their collective wisdom.

The Building of Razor Mountain

When God-Speaker emerges from the cave, he suddenly understands a great many things. He has become stone-age MacGyver. Resources are still scarce, but he has advantages in survival. He finds that he has expertise in plants, in the instincts of animals and trapping them. He can create better tools, from finely knapped flint spearheads to spear throwers that increase his range and accuracy.

Having satiated the immediate needs of his own survival, he begins traveling further afield. There are still migrating tribes nearby. Perhaps he even finds members of his own original tribe. He has a better understanding now of social manipulation, and he becomes a leader through careful application of flattery, bribery, intimidation and trickery.

With more labor at his disposal, he can begin to develop technology like agriculture, animal husbandry, mining, smelting, and simple medicine. His group prospers, and he builds up a little kingdom in a harsh environment; far more advanced than the neighboring tribes.

However, his kingdom draws the attention of rivals. He is attacked and even betrayed by some of his own. The bloodshed disturbs and disillusions him. He decides that it’s best not to expand his kingdom or draw more attention to himself. Instead, he and his kingdom turn their focus inward. He begins excavations under the mountain.

From there, things progress in small, incremental steps. His spies periodically go out into the world. The world progresses and he sometimes has people, materials and finished goods brought to the mountain. For the most part, his kingdom stays within a few miles of the mountain.

Turning Inward

To turn God-Speaker into an emotionally deadened autocrat, he needs more than the challenges of managing a small kingdom. He needs personal pain and loss. He needs the person he loves most to die, while he lives on. He needs to be betrayed by a close friend.

If God-Speaker loves someone deeply, he would do everything in his now considerable power to protect her. I think this relationship is going to be cursed. She’s sick. Perhaps with his considerable knowledge he even has some idea of how sick she is, but he lacks the technology and resources to heal her.

Of course, he tries to use the artifacts to save her, but perhaps not everyone can use the artifacts. Perhaps his connection is unusual. (This might also explain why nobody is able to use them in the years when God-Speaker is trapped as a sort of ghost in Christopher’s subconscious). She tries to use them with his instruction, but is unable to send her soul into someone else.

Early on, even as God-Speaker is growing in power, he is still among the people he rules. This begins to change when he is betrayed by someone he considered a close friend. He sees greed and desire for power corrupt this friend. It continues to be an ongoing cycle throughout the years, and God-Speaker builds up defenses against it. His society becomes stratified, with fewer and fewer people able to get close to him. Eventually, only a few even know he exists.

Even when only a handful of people are in any position to threaten him, God-Speaker develops social structures to separate the greedy and power-hungry from those who are willing and loyal servants. He allows the potential betrayers to make their plans under surveillance, then promptly crushes them. The cycles of betrayal and distrust wear at him. He begins to evaluate people by the likelihood that they’ll betray him.

The Recent Past

The final puzzle piece in the history of Razor Mountain is a relatively recent development.

It’s challenging enough to keep this sovereign mountain compound hidden from the outside world through the expansions and explorations of mankind over thousands of years. Where it really becomes impossible is in the modern age of precision satellite imaging and worldwide instantaneous communication.

I could make this a little less challenging for myself by setting the story a decade or three in the past, so the technology isn’t quite so developed. But I think it makes sense that God-Speaker would be planning to handle a world where it’s harder and harder to remain hidden. He also still wants access to the people, manufacturing capabilities, and resources of the outside world.

His first problem is remaining hidden. This is partly resolved by the artifacts’ ability to go back in time and get a do-over. Carefully placed spies, both human and technological, can help. The advent of the internet also potentially allows him to use the skills and knowledge from the artifacts to hack into information systems around the world and adjust things as needed.

His second problem is internal. If he wants to send people into the outside world, they can’t be shocked and awed by what they find there. Likewise, he can’t run the risk of occasional deserters finding their way out into the real world and revealing Razor Mountain’s existence. His isolated little city needs to feel integrated into the outside world while still physically separate.

For this, he develops the faux military system that ties into the American military. To the inhabitants of Razor Mountain, the 550th Infantry is a battalion of the U.S. Army. To certain Army IT systems, it may be too. However, the 550th isn’t an ordinary battalion. It’s cut off, with limited supplies. Its soldiers live in Razor Mountain, but so do their civilian families. Travel is strictly limited.

For this, God-Speaker develops a mythological origin for Razor Mountain: it’s a city built under the auspices of secret laws, unknown to the outside world. These laws establish the place as a sort of fail-safe against catastrophe. Should there be nuclear Armageddon, worldwide plague, or devastating meteor impact, Razor Mountain will survive.

Part of this mythology is the secrecy and self-sufficiency of Razor Mountain. In the heart of the cold war, the communists can’t find out about this secret bastion. They’ll nuke it. If civilization is destroyed by plague, it won’t do to let outsiders bring it to the last safe place.

This story reinforces the secrecy of Razor Mountain, but it’s also a story that can be used to instill a sense of pride in the populace. They live confined and limited lives, but the hardships they endure are because they are special: unique in the world. They are important. They might very well be the salvation of humanity in the face of disaster.

Results

I fleshed out the artifacts, although there may still be some work to do there. I worked through the building of Razor Mountain from a natural cave into what Christopher finds when he arrives there. I outlined God-Speaker’s emotional evolution, and some of the reasons why he becomes so heartless and cold.

Next time, I’m going to do my best to distill all of this into a sequence of chapter summaries for Act II.

Razor Mountain Development Journal #12

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 came up with a list of problems that need to be solved to move from my high-level Act II outline to chapter outlines. I tackled two of them: Christopher and God-Speaker’s character arcs.

Questions and Answers

Next, I’m looking at more of the questions that relate to Christopher’s story.

Who are the important exile characters? What are their motivations? How do they interact with each other, and with Christopher?

Ema, the exile leader. She was part of some sort of rebellion that didn’t go well. She’s left feeling responsible for this small group of desperate people. She wants to lead them to the outside world, but doesn’t know how to succeed at that. She’s initially excited to meet Christopher, but he can’t help her get her people out safe, and his description of the outside world is drastically different from what the exiles have been told. Some of the people who followed her are fed up, most notably Garrett. Others are just losing faith that they can succeed.

Amaranth, the hunter. She had a throat injury and/or surgery when she was young, which left her unable to speak. She always felt like an outsider among the people of Razor Mountain, and spent her formative years exploring the wilderness as often as she could. She joined the exiles to escape from Razor Mountain, but she would rather live in the forest than find some outside town or city. She only stays because she feels obligated to help the others. Christopher is another person who needs helping, but he does pique her interest in the outside world.

Garret, the traitor. Garrett is someone who never excelled under the 550th Infantry, but he blames his failures on others, including his brother. He thought it would be easy to escape with Ema. When the going got tough, he immediately blamed her and looked for a way to back out. He sees Christopher as a ticket back into the good graces of the Razor Mountain establishment – a bargaining chip. He ends up kidnapping Christopher and bringing him to the 550th.

Harold, the quiet one. Garrett’s twin. He’s probably smarter than his brother, but Garrett is constantly blaming him for their problems and telling him otherwise, and he’s come to accept that he’s the lesser brother. He goes along with his brother’s plans and makes excuses for his failures.

Misc. Exiles. I’ll need to decide how many exiles there are in total. I think it’s a small group, somewhere between 10 and 20 people.

Who are the important 550th Infantry characters? Again, motivations and interactions.

I had less detail kicking around my head for this, so I had to do some brainstorming. I wanted some sort of mid-level authority figure who will interact with Christopher once he’s in the custody of the 550th. He has superiors directing him, but Christopher doesn’t see them.

Again, I’m a neophyte when it comes to the military, but I did a quick bit of research.

Sergeant Chris Meadows, the interrogator. Chris is probably a Sergeant or Staff Sergeant, in a position to handle interrogation, with a few soldiers under his command. Since Razor Mountain has very little actual interaction with the outside world, I think most of his experience is from training and reading. He’s trying out his interrogation skills. But he also has a short temper that he has trouble restraining. Or perhaps he seems like he does, and Christopher only realizes later that it’s a bit of an act.

The shared name gives them something in common, despite being very different people. Chris tries to get information out of Christopher, but he’s indoctrinated with the Razor Mountain picture of the outside world, and doesn’t believe Christopher even though Christopher is forthcoming and truthful.

Specialist Gabrielle Speares, the good cop. Gabby is the other soldier who interacts with Christopher. She’s brought in to be the good cop to Chris Meadows’s bad cop. However, she genuinely dislikes Meadows, and sees this as an opportunity to out-perform him. She takes the strategy of not judging the merits of what Christopher says, allowing him to talk at length about the outside world. However, she begins to think that his descriptions are surprisingly consistent, and has some doubts as a result. She eventually goes around Meadows and his superiors with these concerns, which is what alerts the inner council to Christopher’s presence.

Chapter Summaries

With these characters and the little islands of world-building forming around them, I think I can get into Christopher’s chapter summaries. For now, I’m still following the 2:1 ratio of Christopher vs. God-Speaker that I used in Act I. Assuming a similar length, that would be approximately 11 chapters for Christopher.

  • Chapter 18 – (C) Amaranth takes Christopher into the exiles’ hiding place. He’s held at gunpoint and brought to Ema. She asks him about the outside world, clearly hopeful, then progressively more confused and worried by his responses.
  • Chapter 19 – (C) Christopher is introduced to the other exiles. They all have questions, and have mixed reactions to his responses. They are clearly disappointed. He notices that Garrett and Harold are stand-offish, but constantly watching him.
  • Chapter 21 – (C) Christopher wakes in the night as he’s being roughly bound and gagged. He has a bag put over his head and is dragged and shoved out of the exiles’ hiding place. They go out into the cold. From listening to his captors, he realizes that it’s Garrett and Harold. They eventually remove the bag, and the three continue toward Razor Mountain all night. It becomes clear that they’re mostly worried about Amaranth catching up to them.
  • Chapter 22 – (C) The group finally stops to rest and eat a little. Garrett warns Christopher that they will be going in to the main facility shortly, and that they need to be very careful or they will be shot. He does his best to scare Christopher, telling him that any outside intel he can give could help them with the 550th. Christopher has nothing useful to share, and says as much. Garrett makes a flag from a branch and a white shirt. As the sun comes up, they walk out into a treeless area at the foot of the mountain, hands up, flag high.
  • Chapter 24 – (C) They walk slowly and carefully. As the sun gets higher, a group of soldiers swarms them. All three are disarmed and handcuffed. They’re led through the woods, to a metal door set into the mountainside, and immediately split up. Christopher is hauled down a maze of nondescript halls to a place with jail cells. The soldiers put him inside, remove his cuffs, and leave him.
  • Chapter 25 – (C) Christopher assesses his surroundings. The cell has a bed with no sheets and a steel toilet. The lights are over-bright, and he becomes aware of a faint, high-pitched sound that quickly grates. The temperature, which felt warm compared to outside, soon drops. He is quickly miserable. He thinks about everything that has happened, and is a little surprised to realize that the very real possibility of death doesn’t scare him that much anymore. Despite his discomfort, he begins to fall asleep.
  • Chapter 27 – (C) He is jerked awake by loud banging from an unknown source. It stops, and he’s awake for some time before fading again. Just before he falls asleep, the banging starts up again. He realizes that all of this is to torture and wear him down. Some unknown amount of time passes like this before a soldier arrives and takes him to a room with a steel table and a camera in the corner. A man in uniform enters and says they have a lot to discuss.
  • Chapter 28 – (C) Time becomes a blur to Christopher. He spends time in the cell. He sits in the interrogation room. The man, Sergeant Chris Meadows, asks him about the outside world, asks strange leading questions, and is always dissatisfied with Christopher’s honest answers. Soon, Christopher is uncertain whether he is actually telling the truth. He begins to wonder if he’s lying, or if he’s lost his mind.
  • Chapter 30 – (C) Christopher awakes in his cell, on his bed. The lights are now dimmed. It’s warmer. The irritating noises are gone. He realizes that he has had a restful sleep, and savors the uncomfortable bed while trying to piece together what has happened to him. After some time, a woman in uniform arrives and enters his cell, bringing a chair to sit on. She shows some interest in his well-being, but he doesn’t trust her. She says that he has been deemed non-threatening, but that they still need to get as much information from him as they possibly can, and she has been tasked with doing it. She takes him out of the cell and into Razor Mountain. They walk along streets lines with homes and businesses, all clearly inside caverns within the mountain. In some ways it seems like science fiction. In others, it all looks oddly outdated. She leads him to a small but comfortable apartment, then sits him down and asks him to explain everything to her all over again.
  • Chapter 31 – (C) Christopher wraps up an interview session with Gabby, and they go on a little outing into the mountain city. She asks him questions about what he’s told her, and she allows him to ask her a bit about the facilities. She writes everything down in a little notebook. She relates the basics of the mythology that the mountain’s inhabitants have been indoctrinated with. She seems genuinely nice and curious, but Christopher trusts nobody at this point.
  • Chapter 33 – (C) Christopher has been living a confined, but comfortable life. His interviews with Gabby have petered out, and he seems to be in a sort of administrative limbo. She comes to visit him and tells him that she went around her superiors and brought him to the attention of the higher-ups, and they quickly took an interest in him. Now he’ll be moved yet again. 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. Then a hidden door in the wall opens, letting him into the inner council.

Results

I fleshed out the secondary characters that interact with Christopher in Act II. Then I wrote chapter-level summaries for 11 of his Act II chapters. When I started this session it all felt vague, so this progressed pretty well. These are still rough and will need cleanup.

Next time, I’ll be focusing on God-Speaker’s Act II. Much like Act I, I have less of a grasp on God-Speaker’s story. The act will largely be vignettes spread across centuries, so it will be a difficult structure as well.

Razor Mountain Development Journal #11

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 finished the chapter summaries for Act I!

A Little Meta Talk

I’ve now done ten of these development journals. It has been a lot of fun talking through the process as I figure out what this book is. Having to explain my thought process has helped me get more done, and clarified by thinking. I’ve also been surprised how useful it is to have the session-by-session details available to consult when I’m trying to remember a detail here or there.

These development journals also make it easier to think about scheduling. My original plan for Razor Mountain was to finish the prep work and start posting chapters in Q1 of 2021. However, I’m ten sessions in, and just finished outlining Act I. At my current pace, it looks like I’m probably not going to hit that goal.

Rather than try to cram more work into my weeks going forward, I’m going to just let that rough schedule slip if it needs to. My current pace feels good. I’m steadily progressing, I’m not feeling too stressed, and it’s balanced with the rest of my life.

Questions for Act II

When I made my act-level outlines for the two viewpoint characters, Act II looked like this:

  • Christopher meets the Razor Mountain outcasts, and learns about the main group from them. He’s brought to the main group, imprisoned and interrogated. He comes to the attention of the inner circle.
  • God-Speaker uses the artifacts and his newfound powers to gain control of several migrating tribes, bringing them to Razor Mountain. Over thousands of years, he grows more jaded and disinterested with the people he rules over, using them to further his ends, build up his stronghold and insulate himself from danger. He learns how to use the artifacts to keep himself alive and in power.

These descriptions obviously aren’t detailed enough to start throwing down chapter outlines, so I need to ask questions and figure out answers until I have chapter-level details.

  • Who are the important exile characters? What are their motivations? How do they interact with each other and Christopher?
  • Who are the important 550th Infantry characters? Again, motivations and interactions.
  • What about the inner circle characters? (These are slightly less important for now, as they’re mostly in Act III.)
  • How do I cover the thousands of years of God-Speaker’s story in a few chapters? What are the important points to hit? Do I want a different ratio of chapters between Christopher and God-Speaker? (Act I was 2:1.)
  • Who are the important secondary characters in God-Speaker’s chapters? Are they all one-offs until close to present day?
  • What does Christopher’s character arc look like through the rest of the book?
  • What does God-Speaker’s character arc look like?
  • What are the details of the artifacts? What do they look like? How do they work?

Changes in Character

In Act I, I set up Christopher and God-Speaker to run into a bunch of hardships and challenges. Both are deep in unfamiliar territory.

I’m getting to know these characters better, and now I need to spend more time thinking about their motivations, fears, and how they’ll change over the course of the story.

God-Speaker suffers this trauma, then comes into tremendous power in the form of the artifacts. He begins shaping the world around him into a sort of protective cocoon. The natural progression, as he lives longer and longer, is more detachment from and indifference to the people around him. He becomes insulated.

Ironically, by gaining the ability to continually extend his life through the artifacts, death looms larger and larger in his mind. His fear of death drives him.

For Act II, I think the scenes across thousands of years should show how God-Speaker builds up Razor Mountain and uses the artifacts, but also specific inflection points that reveal changes in his attitude toward death and his disconnection from people around him.

As for Christopher, I already feel like I have several plot points defined for Christopher in Act II. He’s better-defined in my mind at this point, so his story feels like it comes easier.

Christopher’s initial motivation is to figure out what’s going on, at least enough to find a way home. However, he will quickly get dragged into the complexities of Razor Mountain. His risk-aversion and fear of the unknown mirror God-Speaker, but he has to overcome them to make progress. As he gets further into Razor Mountain, he begins to realize that a lot of this is strangely familiar to him.

He starts with the exiles, where he sees the results of this oppressive society, and the fracturing that has occurred in the years that God-Speaker has been absent. Then he’s captured by the 550th Infantry, where he witnesses the absolute, cultish beliefs that some of the people maintain, and the extremes they will go to in support of those beliefs.

Finally, he enters the inner circle, near the end of the act. Some of the inner circle are devoted to maintaining and increasing their power and control – most notably those that attempted to kill him and disrupted his reincarnation. But there are also those who are still loyal to him, and have various levels of sympathy for the people of Razor Mountain. He sees all the systems of control that have been built up in service of God-Speaker.

Christopher starts out risk-averse and scared of danger. His journey to Razor Mountain gives him several chances to face his own death (lost in the wilderness, being shot at, and maybe threatened or tortured by the 550th). In the mountain, he has the opportunity to see the huge amount of hardship and suffering of the people there. This should set him up for the shocking discovery that he is actually God-Speaker, and the inner conflict between the two main characters in one head.

When Christopher unlocks God-Speaker’s memories, there is a transition process as he integrates into this ancient mind. The puddle of his personality flows into the lake of memories and experiences that comprise God-Speaker. For a while, Christopher remains dominant. In the midst of this, he has to thwart the plans of the inner circle members who want him dead. Then he has to decide whether he will fix things by reestablishing the status quo, or if he will tear it all down and give up on the idea of immortality. (He will.)

Results

I came up with a list of problems that need solving to move from my high-level Act II outline to chapter outlines.

Next time, I’m going to try to answer some of these questions.

Razor Mountain Development Journal #10

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!

Last Time

I outlined three new God-Speaker chapters to catch up with Christopher’s storyline, I fixed up the chapter ordering, and I thought a bit about the writing style of God-Speaker’s chapters.

Finishing Act I

To keep up my current cadence, I want to finish Act I with one more God-Speaker chapter and three more Christopher chapters. (Check out my previous post in the series to see the chapters in Act I so far. Since I know where I want the characters to end up by the end of the act, it’s just a matter of working through the steps to get them there.

In this final chapter, God-Speaker starts out separated from his tribe, alone, having fallen down the glacier. All that’s really left for him is to find his way to Razor Mountain.

Chapter 17

Because of the way I’m switching between Christopher and God-Speaker, this will be the last chapter of Act I.

To add insult to injury, I think God-Speaker will start the chapter with the discovery that the stone god he’s carrying was broken in the fall. This is the god that he speaks to, the reason for his name; the god that his tribe relied on for guidance and protection. This is the lowest he’s ever been.

He is disconsolate, and wanders in the eerie semi-dark world of tunnels and ice caves beneath the glacier. He feels as though he may already be dead.

After wandering for some time, he comes to a place where the ice is black and glows strangely. He realizes this is the smoking impact crater that he saw from on top of the ridge. He feels compelled to continue forward, in the same way that he felt compelled by the “voice” of the stone god.

He follows this compulsion until it leads him to a cave that descends into Razor Mountain. He follows it in complete darkness. Eventually, he comes to a place that glows in the darkness. This is the crash site. He finds the artifacts here, touches one of them, and his mind is changed forever.

My chapter outline in Scrivener is this:

Chapter 17: (GS) God-Speaker discovers that his stone god was broken in the fall. He gives it a sort of burial, then wanders beneath the glacier. After some time, he comes to a place where the ice is black and glows strangely: the impact crater he saw from above. He feels compelled to continue forward and finds a cave. He follows it in complete darkness until he comes to a glowing place where he finds the artifacts, touches them, and receives a sort of enlightenment.

The Christopher Chapters

Christopher’s chapters are a little more work, but he does have three chapters to do it in. He starts in a bad place, lost in the wilderness, and unsure if his map can actually guide him to anything useful. He’s now too far away to go back to the bunker that was his safe place.

My act-level outline has him receiving some help from Amaranth (unbeknownst to him, at first). He is shot at by soldiers from the 550th Infantry, and finally meeting Amaranth and being led to the exiles. Actually meeting a group of people after being alone for so long seems like a suitable ending for Christopher’s Act I, and a good counterpoint to God-Speaker, who ends up completely alone, also at Razor Mountain.

Chapter 13: (C) Christopher realizes that he is probably going to die in the wilderness. He finds a bit of Zen in this, and decides to just continue traveling toward the next point marked on his map. While walking through the forest, he comes across a rabbit carcass, skinned, gutted, and ready to cook.

Chapter 15: (C) Christopher wakes the next morning. He’s stiff and injured, but beginning to feel used to it. He packs up and walks, thinking about the rabbit. He decides that someone must be watching him and looking out for him, though he doesn’t understand why, or why they don’t reveal themselves. He comes to an open area and sees that he’s close to the distinctive peak of Razor Mountain. Suddenly, someone starts shooting at him, and he takes cover.

Chapter 16: (C) Christopher takes cover and moves deeper into the forest to avoid the shooting. It’s coming from the mountain. While hiding and fumbling with the gun he brought from the bunker, he sees Amaranth. She sneaks between trees to him, without showing herself. She indicates that he shouldn’t fire back, and motions to lead him on a route through the trees that keeps him hidden from the shooter. After a while, it seems to be safe and they walk. Nightfall comes, and she finally brings him to a cliff-side entrance, similar to the bunker where he first found refuge. Inside, it’s much bigger than the bunker. She leads him underground, to the exiles.

Results

I finished the chapter summaries for Act I!

Next session, I’ll probably be getting a little more abstract again, as I map out what happens in Act II. There will be more characters, more interactions between them, and more mysteries.

Razor Mountain Development Journal #9

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!

Last Time

I outlined five more chapters for Christopher, while reserving a couple of slots for God-Speaker chapters.

Plot Shape, and a Counting Error

When I went back and looked at the chapter outlines I had so far, I realized that I mis-numbered them and need to adjust the ordering. Chapters 2 and 5 were God-Speaker chapters, and I planned to have two more chapters dedicated to him, up through Chapter 12. However, I had earmarked chapters 6 and 10, and I don’t want two God-Speaker chapters back-to-back.

Although the God-Speaker story and Christopher’s story are very separate at this point, I’d like to have them relate to each other here and there. They might have some similar action, related themes, or happen to cover the same geography around the same time. I think that this will help the stories to feel a little more connected. So I’m going to be looking for opportunities for that.

Because I have fewer detailed ideas for what will happen to God-Speaker than I do for Christopher, I spend some time thinking about what the general shape of his plot should be at this point in the book. For Christopher, the book starts off bad, but things have to start going well enough that he gets up the courage to set out on his journey, only to be repeatedly pummeled by a cruel universe.

I think it makes sense to have his arc at this point somewhat mirror Christopher’s. Since he gets fewer chapters in Act I, that arc will have to be compressed. God-Speaker’s first two chapters are pretty bleak. This means the third God-Speaker chapter should have him overcoming some hardship and getting a reason to have some hope. That hope then gets dashed in his fourth chapter.

Christopher starts out alone, and will only start to meet other people as he gets closer to Razor Mountain. God-Speaker starts out among other people: his tribe. He needs to end up alone by the end of the act. However, I don’t feel much interest in the hypothetical story of the tribe dying off one-by-one to attacks or hunger or illness. A story could certainly be made out of that, in the general trajectory that I want, but I’d rather think about other options until I find something that catches my interest more.

Christopher’s first interaction with other people is coming soon. I think it’ll be signs of Amaranth helping him out, and some of the Razor Mountain soldiers shooting at him from afar. To keep the corollaries going between the two storylines, that would be a great time for God-Speaker to end up alone. One character makes connections while the other loses them. To do that, I’m going to separate him from his tribe.

God-Speaker Chapters

  • At the behest of their god, God-Speaker’s tribe crosses rough terrain and climb to a high place. From here, they can see a path through the vast glacier to a vast grassland. They also see a crater and Razor Mountain, partly encased in ice. This appears to be an evil place to them. They plan to follow the path to the grassland.
  • Montage? The tribe travels across mountains and glaciers. They make primitive sleds and find some food, but not enough to be full. They come to a point where they can start the long descent down to the grassland. A blizzard sweeps in and slows their progress.
  • The tribe trudges on through the blizzard. The god moves God-Speaker to climb a slippery ridge, and he sees that they are close to the place where the ice opens up. He directs the others, but slips and falls. He slides deep down under the ice, back in the direction they came from. He is lost and alone.

For this to fit with Christopher’s chapters, the discovery of a good path should align with Christopher feeling prepared to go on his journey. The blizzard should hit both characters around the same time, and God-Speaker being separated from his tribe should align with Christopher finding the burned bunker and realizing that he is also lost and alone in the wilderness.

The Story So Far

Here are all of the chapters outlined so far, with the new, adjusted ordering. To some readers, I suppose this may feel like a lot of chapters to not even be done with Act I, but I naturally tend to write fairly short chapters, so I’m not too bothered.

Also, I started annotating my chapter summaries in Scrivener with a (C) or a (GS) to indicate the viewpoint character at a glance.

  1. (C) Christopher wakes up on a small plane over the Alaskan wilderness. Everyone else is missing. With no parachute and no fuel, he jumps out over open water. He survives the fall with an injured leg and manages to swim to shore. Freezing and hurt, he looks for shelter. He finds a strange door in a cliffside, where he can input numbers. He puts in random numbers, and the door unlocks. He stumbles inside, passing out from cold and exhaustion.
  2. (GS) God-Speaker and his tribe prepare for the winter migration. He prepares the tribe’s small stone god. Another tribe attacks. They drive the attackers off, but several members of the tribe are killed or wounded, and supplies are stolen. They begin the migration dispirited.
  3. (C) Christopher wakes in the bunker, injured but alive. He explores the bunker and finds food, beds, and geothermal technology that looks like 1950s science fiction. He finds a large, old radio, but nobody responds to him, and the only signal he can find is a cryptic numbers station that continually shifts frequencies. He also finds a map that has several locations marked, but no explanation of those markings.
  4. (C) Days have passed, and Christopher is settling into a routine. He starts a bonfire outside the bunker and burns green pine boughs to create a column of smoke. He hikes the area around the bunker, but has found nothing but empty wilderness. It begins to snow heavily, and he returns to the bunker for the evening. He is restless, scared, and uncertain what to do.
  5. (GS) God-Speaker travels with his tribe, carrying the stone god in a carrier on his back. It snows frequently, making travel more difficult. They consult the god to determine where to go. They attempt to hunt, but the hunting party encounters another band of travelers. They have a tense face-off, but do not fight. The hunting party returns empty-handed. Everyone is hungry.
  6. (C) Christopher decides to investigate the closest marked point on the map. He collects all the equipment he thinks he will need. He tries camping outside the bunker to get comfortable with it. By the end of the chapter, he feels ready to do a test excursion.
  7. (C) Christopher hikes a half-day out, sets up a camp site, tears it down, and returns to the bunker. He has some troubles with his equipment. He gets a little lost. He’s tired, and it’s very late by the time he gets back to the bunker. He decides to rest up and plan for the actual journey to the mark on the map.
  8. (GS) At the behest of their god, God-Speaker’s tribe crosses rough terrain and climb to a high place. From here, they can see a path through the vast glacier to a vast grassland. They also see a crater in the glacier and Razor Mountain, partly encased in ice. This appears to be an evil place to them. They plan to follow the path to the grassland.
  9. (C) Christopher sets out in perfect weather. He travels most of the day, then sets up camp. Everything goes smoothly this time, and he feels good.
  10. (C) Christopher wakes up when his tent collapses in the night. There has been a huge snowfall He does his best to jury-rig a lean-to, but it goes poorly. He gets no more sleep before morning and is forced to eat and pack in heavy snow. He is cold, wet and miserable. He decides to continue, but is once again full of uncertainty. his progress is very slow, he twists his ankle, and he still hasn’t gotten to his destination by nightfall. He’s exhausted, and he constructs something that barely qualifies as shelter.
  11. (GS) Montage? The tribe travels across mountains and glacier. They make primitive sleds from birch. They find some food, but not enough to be full. They come to a point where they can start the long descent down to the grassland. A blizzard sweeps in and slows their progress.
  12. (C) The next day, Christopher feels that he is nearing his limits. He searches for the marked location for most of the day. Finally, he finds it, but it’s ruined. It was clearly smashed and burned decades ago.
  13. (C) To be determined.
  14. (GS) The tribe trudges on through the blizzard. The god moves God-Speaker to climb a slippery ridge, and he sees that they are close to the place where the ice opens up. He directs the others, but slips and falls. He slides deep down under the ice, back in the direction they came from. He is lost and alone.

I left an open slot at chapter 13 for Christopher, to keep the cadence of two Christopher chapters per God-Speaker chapter. I like having patterns like that, but I’ll re-evaluate it when I continue Christopher’s outline, and I’ll break the pattern if it doesn’t fit with the flow of the story.

Other God-Speaker Thoughts

I was idly thinking about the story a few days ago, and I thought that God-Speaker’s tribe very likely had much simpler and less expressive language than what we have today. It would likely revolve around the daily tasks for survival and small-group interactions. Using cartoony “cave man language” would be heavy-handed (and unpleasant to read), but I might be able to convey some of that sense in a more subtle way by purposely constraining myself to shorter sentences and short, common words.

It would be a bit like this popular XKCD comic. Conveniently, there’s already a tool that I might try to help with this sort of writing.

When God-Speaker finds the artifacts and starts to learn how to use them, his capacity for complex thought and language is expanded, and that can also be reflected in the style that I use for his chapters.

Results

I outlined three new God-Speaker chapters to catch up with Christopher’s storyline. I fixed the chapter ordering. I thought a bit about the writing style of God-Speaker’s chapters.

In the next couple sessions, I want to finish the chapter outlines for Act I.