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.

Razor Mountain Development Journal #8

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

Last time, I outlined chapters 3 and 4, continuing Christopher’s story, and chapter 5, continuing God-Speaker’s.

Christopher Takes a Risk

So far, Christopher seems to have gotten lucky. He survived the fall from an airplane and found the bunker. Now, he finds himself safe in the bunker, but lost in the wilderness. He is naturally inclined to avoid risk, but he begins to think he has no choice.

In keeping with his character, he evaluates his options before he does anything. He doesn’t know much about the area. He hikes around the woods near the bunker. He has a difficult-to-interpret map from the bunker, which might point him toward other landmarks. He has a good quantity of food and supplies from the bunker.

He also has no illusions about his lack of skill in wilderness survival. The snow is now fairly deep, especially the drifts that form in this craggy, mountainous terrain. His leg is feeling better, but still not completely healed. He knows it would be easy to overextend himself.

Christopher ultimately decides that he needs to go out exploring, but he is the sort of person who will first engineer some kind of test run to gain confidence. He thinks he may have an idea of how to interpret the map, but if he’s correct, it will entail days of travel to get to any of the spots marked on it. He will need to be able to travel for days over difficult terrain, carry enough supplies to stay alive, and keep himself warm on cold nights.

Christopher’s Story Beats

Getting meta for a moment, there are a few things I want to accomplish with this section of Christopher’s story.

First, Christopher has to overcome his fear and set out. He’ll make some timid progress. This is just enough to push him to take a bigger risk, actually heading out into the wilderness far enough that he can’t get back to the bunker by nightfall.

As soon as he’s in a situation where he can’t easily back out, I want the story to start beating him down. The terrain becomes more difficult than he expected. His equipment breaks. He twists the ankle that was starting to heal. And it snows again.

At that point, I have Christopher good and miserable. Everything is going wrong and he’s more than a day away from the bunker. It will be a long, hard journey just to get back to his safe spot. His prison. That gives him an even more difficult choice: does he continue, hoping to reach one of the points marked on his map, or does he go to all that work just to get back to his starting point, worse-off than he was before?

All of this should lead into him making the tough choice to keep going. We can feel proud of his perseverance in the face of all these difficulties, and fighting against his own personality.

So, he continues, and manages to get to the spot marked on the map. At first, he finds nothing. He searches. Finally, he finds what the mark on the map means. It is another bunker: a different, smaller structure. This one is ruined, broken and burnt. It looks like it was destroyed decades ago.

That forces another decision on him, similar to the first, but with much higher stakes. He still has the choice to continue or go back. The next mark on the map is further away. He doesn’t think he has enough supplies to get to this new place, or to get back to the bunker, and his leg is in bad shape.

Wrapping up Act I

Those beats probably get me more than halfway into Act I. From that point, I need to start moving the plot toward the action that I know should happen before the act is over. Christopher being in dire straits is a good opportunity for Amaranth, the exile hunter, to give him some help, providing the first sign that good things can actually happen to Christopher in this book (even if they’re few and far between).

From there, it’s a matter of Christopher continuing toward Razor Mountain, gaining some confidence in his own ability to solve problems on the fly. He eventually meets Amaranth and she brings him to her people, the exiles. But that’s all for another day. For now, I need to turn some of this into more chapter outlines.

Chapter Outlines

  • Chapter 6 – God-Speaker chapter. TBD.
  • Chapter 7 – 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.
  • Chapter 8 – 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.
  • Chapter 9 – 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. He sleeps.
  • Chapter 10 – God-Speaker chapter. TBD.
  • Chapter 11 – 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.
  • Chapter 12 – 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.

What About God-Speaker?

I chose to not worry about God-Speaker for this session. I know I want to have several more God-Speaker chapters mixed in, but I have a good idea of what I want to do with Christopher, and I’m less certain about God-Speaker. As I get these Christopher chapters worked out, I can look for good places to add a few God-Speaker chapters, and worry about their content later.

Results

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

Next time, I’m going to figure out what should be going on in those chapters, and if those slots are enough. I want to get to a similar point in the God-Speaker storyline where I’m at least within sight of the end of Act I.

Razor Mountain Development Journal #7

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

Last time I came up with brief descriptions of the hunter, Amaranth; the exile leader, Ema; and the exile traitors, the brothers Garrett and Harold. I named the main Razor Mountain group the 550th Infantry Regiment.

What Comes Next for Christopher?

I left off the chapter 1-2 outlines with Christopher in a mysterious bunker in the Alaskan wilderness, and God-Speaker’s tribe starting its migration. I don’t want to make it very obvious this early on, but I think chapter 2 is actually what Christopher sees in his troubled dreams while he’s collapsed in the bunker. Being in close proximity to Razor Mountain is bringing his God-Speaker memories closer to the surface.

I’m planning to intersperse God-Speaker chapters, and since I plan to have a larger amount of Christopher chapters, I think the next two should focus on him. He wakes up, shocked and damaged, takes stock of his surroundings, and has to decide what to do.

The first and easiest thing for him to do is explore the bunker. It’s a relatively small space, cleverly designed, but the decor hints that it’s actually quite old. There are beds, food, supplies and even weapons to sustain several people here almost indefinitely. And yet, it’s empty and unused. This appears to be a safe place for Christopher. Because of his personality, he’s inclined to stay put, but he also quickly realizes that there may be no help coming.

His next thought is to explore nearby, still close to the bunker. There is a radio, but it only picks up cryptic signals. Perhaps there is a high vantage point where he can look for settlements? Or a way to make a smoke signal?

After a few days, Christopher begins to understand (at least subconsciously) that he may be the only one who can get himself out of this situation. He has a stark choice. He can stay safe in the bunker, letting it become his prison, or he can choose to take some serious risks, which is probably the only way he will ever be found or manage to get home.

These chapters need to set up Christopher’s internal conflict, which will drive Act I: his fear of the unknown and his unhealthy aversion to risk vs. his need to act and take chances to get out of his current predicament.

The Next Two Chapter Outlines

Chapter 3 – 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 what those markings mean.

Chapter 4 – Days have passed, and Christopher is settling into a routine. He starts a bonfire outside the bunker and burns fresh 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.

What Comes Next for God-Speaker?

Travel and hardship.

God-Speaker’s Act I ends with him having lost his whole tribe, and being drawn into the depths of Razor Mountain, where he will find the artifacts. His first few chapters should be a succession of devents that wear him down and take away everything he cares about.

The tribe has already suffered loss. Now they are migrating, and since it’s the midst of an ice age, cold weather seems like an obvious challenge for them to face. Along with this, there is a lack of food. This is also what’s driving other tribes to migrate across the area.

I might also be able to use weather to make a small connection between Christopher’s chapter and the adjacent God-Speaker chapter. Christopher experiences a large snowfall, then God-Speaker does as well.

God-Speaker’s Chapter

Chapter 5 – God-Speaker travels with his tribe, carrying the stone god in a carrier on his back. It snows frequently for days, 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.

Results

I outlined three more chapters. I’m feeling pretty good about pushing through Act I chapter-level outlines. I think I will still have a lot to figure out when I get into Act II, so I may try to include some of that work in the next couple sessions.

Razor Mountain Development Journal #6

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 made an initial attempt at God-Speaker’s act-level outline. I also started chapter-level outlines with the first two chapters.

Other Characters

I spent a little time thinking about secondary characters that Christopher will encounter in the first act or early in the second act.

  • Hunter – This girl, a young teenager, was born with a congenital disorder of the throat that prevents her from speaking. She is one of the exiles from Razor Mountain, and the most adept at surviving in the wilderness. She happens upon Christopher while he’s traveling and helps him. I felt like an unusual name, so I’m going to call her Amaranth.
  • Exile Traitors – A pair of brothers who have become disillusioned with the exiles. They’re looking for a way to get back in the good graces of the main group, and attempt to trade Christopher for forgiveness of their desertion. I’m calling them Garret and Harold.
  • Exile Leader – A woman named Ema. She became skeptical of the propaganda fed to the inhabitants of Razor Mountain and led the other exiles to try to escape.

Razor Mountain Factions

So far, I see the need for three factions: the exiles, the “main” faction, and the council who are the shadowy ruling group that knows about God-Speaker. The relationship between exiles and “main” group is straightforward. The exiles left the main group, distrusting the propaganda. The two exile traitors were initially excited to leave Razor Mountain, but their opinions quickly changed once they realized how difficult it would be to survive in the wilderness long enough to find civilization – especially since the residents of Razor Mountain don’t really know much about the outside world.

The interactions of the council and the “main” group are less clear. There are several problems to solve.

  1. The council probably replenishes its members from the main group. How does this happen?
  2. The council has to exercise control over the main group. What propaganda do they use to pacify the main group?
  3. How does the main group see the outside world, and their place in it? Does anyone from Razor Mountain go out into the outside world or interact with it? Even if they somehow remain hidden and are largely self-sufficient, they’ll probably need some interaction with the outside world.
  4. Names. As usual, when I notice myself needing to type vague names over and over (like “the main group”), I know it’s time to come up with a name. What does this main group call themselves?

To enforce order and strict hierarchy, I think it makes sense for the main group to have a militaristic bent, which means military hierarchy and ranks. I don’t know too much about military organization, so I did some searching. Generally, it seems that divisions contain brigades/groups, which contain regiments. Regiments are up to about 5000 soldiers, containing a few battalions.

For a robust, reasonably functional, mostly self-sufficient society, my gut instinct is that hundreds (and probably a few thousand) people are necessary. So a regiment is a good top-end for the size of the main group. I picked a random 3-digit number that’s well above any modern US regiment number: the 550th Infantry Regiment. I’m thinking that the propaganda of Razor Mountain claims that this military organization is a secret part of the US armed services, even though there is no actual connection.

Numeric identifiers don’t stick well in most people’s minds, so my inclination is to give the regiment a nickname. Many of the nicknames of Army regiments are cryptic or related to some obscure historical context. There might be some interesting context for this group at some point, but for now, I’ll just give them an animal appropriate to their surroundings – “the Lynx.”

Moving to Scrivener

Now that I’m into the chapter outlines and I’m starting to gather a variety of different notes – research, factions, and characters, I’m at the point where I generally start moving everything into a Scrivener project. Scrivener is a tool that merges word processor and writing project management. If you’re curious, I just wrote a whole post about Scrivener.

I got my paltry two chapter outlines into Scrivener, and I’ll be adding to character descriptions and other notes as I go.

Results

I came up with brief descriptions for the hunter, Amaranth; the exile leader, Ema; and the exile traitors, the brothers, Garrett and Harold. Amaranth is the most important for the first act. I named the “main group” at Razor Mountain the 550th Infantry Regiment (the Lynx).

Next time, I’d like to get more Act I chapters outlined, and let any challenges that come up dictate what I work on next.

Razor Mountain Development Journal #5

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

Last time, I decided that Christopher has trauma in his back-story: an accident he blames himself for, which killed his brother. As a result, he’s risk-averse to an unhealthy degree.

I also put together the first act-level outline of the story:

  • Act I – Christopher crash-lands, surviving but injured. He finds a bunker, and signs that people once lived here, but the surrounding wilderness seems empty. Lost and alone, he must work up the courage to strike out and search for a way back to civilization. He travels to Razor Mountain, encountering one mysterious stranger who helps him, and others who shoot at him from a distance. He must also survive the wilderness.
  • Act II – 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 ruling council.
  • Act III – Christopher learns that he is God-Speaker. He navigates the politics of the council, trying to learn who is with him and against him. He recovers his memories and has to decide to use the artifacts to undo everything he has created at Razor Mountain.

God-Speaker’s Outline

God-Speaker has his own arc that runs in parallel to Christopher. Christopher’s first act ends with him finding Razor Mountain, and it would be nice symmetry to have God-Speaker first find the mountain at the end of the first act too.

One of the biggest reveals of the story is that Christopher is God-Speaker. It makes sense for God-Speaker’s story to wrap up at the same time as this reveal. After that, Christopher’s arc and conflict merge with God-Speaker’s, and the story wraps up.

The middle of God-Speaker’s story feels like it breaks down into two sections. The first section is about building up everything that Christopher finds at Razor Mountain. God-Speaker spends thousands of years building up and maintaining Razor Mountain, so that portion of the story will need to be told in a handful of vignettes across that huge span of time.

The second part will be about the machinations of his inner circle, leading to his eventual downfall. Comparatively, this section will cover a much shorter span of time.

This is even rougher than Christopher’s, but enough for the first attempt at the act-level God-Speaker outline.

  • Act I – God-Speaker’s tribe is attacked by other migrating tribes. They travel, and the tribe members die off one by one, until God-Speaker is alone and lost in the mountains. The artifacts call out to him, and he follows a cave into the heart of Razor Mountain.
  • Act II – 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 in the lives of the people he rules over, using them to further his own ends, build up his stronghold, and insulate himself from danger. He learns how to use the artifacts to keep himself alive and in power.
  • Act III – God-Speaker manipulates politics among his inner circle, allowing a plot against him to progress so that he can weed out disloyal followers. However, he underestimates his enemies and is thrown into a random new body: Christopher.

The First Two Chapter Outlines

With an act-level outline for Christopher and God-Speaker that’s more detailed at the start than the middle and end, I can at least start digging into the first few chapters.

Chapter 1 – Christopher wakes up on a small plane over the Alaskan wilderness. Everyone else is missing. With no parachute and running out of fuel, he jumps 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 cliff side, with a number pad. He puts in random numbers, and the door unlocks. He stumbles inside, passing out from cold and exhaustion.

Chapter 2 – God-Speaker and his tribe prepare for the winter migration. He prepares the tribe’s stone god. Another tribe attacks. They’re driven off, but several members of his tribe are killed or injured in the process, and supplies are stolen. They begin the migration dispirited.

Results

I created an act-level outline for God-Speaker and chapter outlines for the first two chapters – one following Christopher, and one flashing back to God-Speaker.

Next time, I’d like to think about some of the secondary characters that will be needed for the first act. I also need to think through the Razor Mountain factions more, and possibly continue developing chapter outlines.

Razor Mountain Development Journal #4

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

Last time, I decided to call the stone-age version of Christopher “God-Speaker,” as the keeper of his tribe’s little stone god figure. I dipped my toes into the research on the first ancient migrants to North America. And I spent some time on the first two chapters – introducing Christopher to the perils and mysteries of Razor Mountain, then introducing God-Speaker and his tribe, who are about to be in desperate circumstances.

What Makes an Act?

When I’m just starting on an outline, the structure I start with is three acts. This is the boring default: beginning, middle and end, but it can change as needed, as the story begins to have its own unique shape. The beginning, the first act, is about setting up the conflicts and getting the characters into trouble. The middle, the second (and usually longest) act, is about the action of the characters in response to the conflicts, and the changes they undergo. The third and final act is about the peak of the conflict and its resolution, happy or unhappy. It’s also about how the characters change after facing it.

There are many ways to break out of the bog-standard three-act structure. For starters, characters don’t need to go through all these steps at the same time. There may be more than one middle act, structured around a series of conflicts. There may be false endings or dangling threads that tie into larger narratives (as with a series).

Some people seem to want to fight against the three-act structure. Nonetheless, three acts are a starting point that feels good, and helps me organize my early thoughts.

Conflicts and Changes

I honestly only have one character in the story at this point. Even if I treat Christopher and his alter-ego God-Speaker as distinct characters, that’s a little sparse to carry the whole book. I’m hoping that as I define their paths through the story, I’ll start to see some holes around that path where other characters can start to fit and develop.

We know at this point that God-Speaker comes to be something of a cult leader, a god-figure, and the “man behind the curtain” in Razor Mountain. He’s backed by the power of the artifacts. He’s a personality and a force to be reckoned with. I like the idea that Christopher, at least in the beginning, is none of those things.

Christopher’s path will be defined by the conflicts he’s up against, and how he changes in response to them. If he starts out mild-mannered, boring and a little unhappy with his lot in life, that gives him plenty of room to grow in response to the considerable hardship he’s about to face.

Like real people, characters are shaped by their experiences. Christopher starts out as a scaredy-cat, someone who always chooses the safe route, the easy way. So, why is that? Perhaps he has some trauma in his childhood that affected him, and this is the result?

I thought for a bit, and came up with this: Christopher was doing something foolish and dangerous as a child, and his older brother saved him from the consequences, but died in the process. Christopher, of course, felt guilty about this. His parents, having lost a child, became overly protective of the one they had left. And Christopher internalized this as an intense aversion to risk and danger. He turns inward and worries more and more about himself.

With this conflict, Christopher’s opportunity to change is to overcome his fears, to become less inward-looking. He is forced into situations where he has no choice but to take risks and face dangers. And ideally, he is forced to look outward at other people, and worry about them instead of just himself.

Charting a Course

Christopher starts out scared and alone after the plane crash. He ends the story having overcome his fear, and realizes that he (as the latest iteration of God-Speaker) is responsible for all sorts of bad things going on at Razor Mountain. (Details to be determined later.) Between these points are the three acts.

I like the idea of the first act being mostly focused on Christopher alone, trying to make his way through the wilderness and overcoming some of his own internal issues. However, I want to introduce another character as we approach the middle of the book. This is a person (maybe a child?) who Christopher barely sees, skulking in the trees or the rocky terrain, but who occasionally helps him out by guiding him to the right path, or providing a freshly-killed rabbit.

Along his journey, Christopher also has brief encounters with the “main” group of people living at Razor Mountain. I’m starting to have some ideas about Razor Mountain society, but I’ll come back to those next session. The main group is an insular and secretive group. Along his journey, Christopher’s only interaction with these people is through mysterious radio chatter, their artifacts and abandoned buildings, and in one case, their people shooting at him from a distance.

In the second act, I envision him arriving at Razor Mountain. The mysterious person who helped him leads him to her people – a group of outcasts from the main group. These are people who wanted to leave, which is not allowed. They hide from the main group, honing their survival skills in hopes of becoming skilled enough to travel to some distant town and make their way from there. Christopher can get a skewed idea of Razor Mountain society from these people, who have their own biased perspective as well as limited knowledge of what’s actually going on.

These outsiders will be excited by his arrival. He’s the only outsider they’ve ever met. But they’re disappointed when they find out he came to them trying to find his own way out.

Some of these outsiders are looking to get back into the good graces of the main group, and they decide to use Christopher as a bargaining chip. They bring him to the main group, where he is promptly imprisoned and interrogated to determine what he knows.

Through his interactions with these people, he tries to figure out what is actually happening in Razor Mountain. He tries to convince these people that what he tells them about the outside world is true. Eventually, his presence comes to the attention of the inner circle that actually wields power.

In the third act, he interacts with the inner circle, finding out more about how the people of Razor Mountain are deceived to control them. He has to navigate the politics of this small group, and eventually figure out which ones were trying to kill him, and which have his best interests at heart. Then he goes through the process of regaining all of God-Speaker’s memories.

At the end of the book, he must decide if he wants to put things back to the way they were, with himself as ruler of this little kingdom, or if he wants to change it and make things better.

There’s still a lot of detail that’s missing here, even in this simple outline, but it’s an adequate starting point. The first act feels most defined, while the latter 2/3 of the book are still mushy. As I create more detailed outline for the first part of the book, it will provide more foundation to flesh out the middle.

Results

I made a first attempt at creating an act-level outline of the story. It’s useful to see where the plot is still really vague. It also helps to determine what the different groups of people are, and illustrate some of the other characters that can be fleshed out: the child-hunter who helps Christopher, some of the outsiders (including those who turn him in), the people he interacts with in the main group, and the secret inner circle members.

Next time, I’ll work on some of these characters, get into the detailed outline of the first act, or think more about God-Speaker’s back-story.

Razor Mountain Development Journal #3

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

Last time, I gave my protagonist a name. I spent some time figuring out how the beginning might fit with the rest of the plot. I started thinking about different factions, and about the mysterious artifacts that are used by the protagonist and are central to the plot.

Another Name

My protagonist is really two characters in this story. Christopher is the viewpoint character in the present. He’s thrown into this mystery and is trying to figure things out. His alternate self is the viewpoint character in the past – the flashback chapters. He’s the paleolithic hunter-gatherer who becomes the nearly immortal ruler of his own tiny kingdom.

The past version of Christopher needs a name too. At first I thought I might be able to research some appropriate names, but this time period is so long before the advent of writing, it will have to be conjecture and guesswork. There is some relatively recent research into the possible links between certain Asian and North American language families around this time period, but it’s still pretty unsettled, and I haven’t found anything pertaining to names of people. While ancient remains are often named, the names don’t necessarily have much bearing on their original languages.

As an alternative, I’m going to fall back on well-known (if sometimes caricatured) North American naming traditions. It’s not too ridiculous to think that hunter-gatherers so far back might have similar traditions.

Typically, they are derived from nature, represented by an animal symbolizing desirable characteristics or a certain trait. A Native American name gives us an insight into the personality of the one who possesses it.

https://www.ethnictechnologies.com/blog/2018/10/2/native-american-naming-traditions#:~:text=Native%20American%20naming%20traditions%20vary,the%20one%20who%20possesses%20it

Native Americans have a fluid naming tradition—i.e., they can earn new names. A Native American wise woman explained this concept to me with nature imagery. Some people are like lakes; they change very little during their lifetimes. Others are like rivers that may change dramatically from their small beginnings to become mighty rivers that travel all the way to the sea. Native American children are given names that suit their personalities. If a name is given and proves to be a bad fit, the child’s name is changed. At adolescence, the given name may be changed again. As the adult progresses through life, new names can be awarded. Family and society award the new names, which provide the individual with a strong social bond to community as well as family. This naming tradition helps to motivate the individual to grow throughout life.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/whats-in-name/201501/the-multifaceted-native-american-naming-tradition-0

Since proto-Christopher has lived for thousands of years, it’s likely that he’s racked up a few names, although more modern Razor Mountain society may not embrace these same traditions. However, he probably has at least a birth name and a name that he acquires for being the interpreter between his tribe and their god. “God-Speaker” and later, when the tribe is forced to migrate, “God-Carrier,” seem like good names.

Research Rabbit Hole

At this point, I spent some time searchign out more information about the first migrations of people from Asia to North America. I expect to continue researching these things as I get further along in the novel, but now seems like a good time to get a jump-start on background reading. This doesn’t need historical fiction levels of accuracy (and that’s difficult to achieve considering how far back we’re going), but I’d still like the story to feel grounded.

Here is a brief overview of the wikipedia hole I fell down:

Some interesting facts and conjectures:

  • Migration from Asia to North America seems to have occurred around 14,000 – 11,000 years ago, although there is more recent evidence that some migration probably occurred as early as 33,000 years ago.
  • It is possible that migration occurred by coastal sea travel earlier than by land.
  • Due to the lower ocean levels, there were wide coastal plains in places not covered by glaciers.
  • Hunters in this time might have gone after mammoths, bison antiquus, mastodon, gomphotheres, sloths, tapirs, camelops, and wooly rhinoceros. Diets also included nuts, seeds and fruit; fish and birds.
  • Human artifacts from this time period include stone figurines, digging sticks, shell beads, bone and stone arrow and spear heads, abstract images, rafts and boats, bone needles, paints and pigments.
  • Groups moved from place to place as preferred resources were depleted and new supplies were sought. Small bands utilized hunting and gathering during the spring and summer months, then broke into smaller direct family groups for the fall and winter. Family groups moved weekly, possibly traveling hundreds of miles per year.

Most of what I’m looking for at this stage is general background so I can ask better questions later, and small details that will lend life to the flashback chapters, as God-Speaker and his group migrate.

I think the most interesting take-away I got out of all of this initial reading was that the timelines and theories around the first humans migrating to North America are still very uncertain.

The First Beginning

The book begins in the present, with Christopher in the soon-to-be-crashing plane. My goal with the first couple chapters is that he survives through what appear to be a series of lucky breaks and coincidences, which later turn out to be not coincidental at all. He has knowledge of Razor Mountain and its surroundings, even if it’s sealed away somewhere in his subconscious.

The danger with this strategy is that the luck and coincidences may seem too ridiculous before the reader discovers that there is more to them than it initially appears. I need to make sure this doesn’t just come off as Christopher being unreasonably lucky.

As the plane is going down, Christopher is forced to jump into water. This is more dangerous than it’s made out to be in the movies, but probably the only plausible way he could jump from the aircraft and survive. He might be able to grab something from the plane to slow his fall or lessen his impact. He’ll hurt his leg in the process, to make it clear up-front that he’s not invincible.

He manages to swim to shore, and in the half-light, he finds a shelter. In a shallow cave, there’s a door to a bunker – the first evidence of something strange in the area around Razor Mountain. But it’s locked with a rudimentary, perhaps oddly old-fashioned numeric lock. Freezing and close to passing out, he tries a random code. Amazingly, it works. This isn’t coincidence. It’s an old memory surfacing.

The Second Beginning

Christopher passes out from pain and cold, after (perhaps?) managing to get shelter from the elements. While he is unconscious, the next chapter is the first flashback. There’s no context for the reader, at first. This is a half-dream, half-memory.

The first flashback takes us to the earliest point in the story’s timeline. God-Speaker is with his tribe of hunter-gatherers. The early scenes need to show a bit of their everyday lives, and introduce the fashioned stone “god” that the tribe reveres. They also need to show that the tribe is under pressure to migrate further than usual. Resources are scarce. There is competition, perhaps deadly, with other groups.

My feeling right now is that the flashbacks will be more of a secondary plot, rather than an even back-and-forth between chapters. The first flashback chapter should focus on the tribe in homeostasis, but with accumulating stressors steadily making life harder for them. At the very end of the chapter, an explosive event like a conflict with another tribe heralds the end of their old lives and the beginning of a new, harsher existence.

Results

I found a name for stone-age proto-Christopher. I did a bit of research to get my bearings on stone-age North Americans. I thought more about the first two chapters or so – setting up the present-day story and the ancient-past story.

Next time, I’d like to spend some time on Christopher and God-Speaker’s character arc (arcs?), and perhaps what other sort of characters are needed to play off of them.