This is part of my ongoing series where I’m documenting the development of my serial novel, Razor Mountain. Be forewarned, there are spoilers ahead! You can start from the beginning here.
I finished 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.)
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.