The Prologue is Never The End

Today is the final instalment of the prologue for my new Work in Progress, The Moon is Made of Glass. If you’ve been following along with the WIPpets today is the day you find out the fate of Carys – the young girl watching the moon in the pond. If you haven’t read the first two instalments and want to get up to speed with the story, you can start here (it isn’t very long). For those of you who just want the summary, Carys is a young girl out at night fixated by a large and unusually behaving moon. She is with her nurse, an old woman who has immediately prior to this scene, shoved Carys.

So here is my belated Wednesday WIPpet (on the assumption it’s still Wednesday somewhere) – seven sentences in honour of the seventh month:

As Carys fell, time seemed to slow until there was only the water, the moon, and her reflection. Gentle hands caught hers as she slipped beneath the surface without a sound.

The woman stepped up to the water’s edge and watched the ripples recede. The pond was as still as glass and as black as the night sky.

As her eyes adjusted to the faint glow of starlight, she touched a hand to her cheek, stroking her skin – now as smooth as the surface of the water. Her face was pale, her eyes large and round, but the full lips pulled back into a triumphant smile.

Shedding the starchy nurse’s uniform, the woman wrapped herself in a pale silver dress of gossamer silk, pulled the pins from her hair and letting the long raven locks fall about her face, turned her back on the pond and disappeared into the night.

Hmm, it was the ending as promised (please don’t unleash the lynch mob).  But of course the prologue is never the end of the story; rather, the small ending before the proper beginning.

Prologues have had pretty bad press over the years, often times having nothing to do the with the story proper. Often they are used as a means to info-dump backstory or to set the scene.

One of my friends bemoaned the prologue at the start of The Game of Thrones made her think it was a book about ice-zombies.  Because this wasn’t her cup of tea she put the book down, and was really put out to discover much later that the ice-zombies were a very small part of the series.

From another perspective I’ve also read a few prologues that are so vague I’ve never figured out what it had to do with the story or what the author was getting at. Trying to be mysterious maybe? I’m not sure.

I may not always be the quickest on the uptake, but the prologue is the first taste of the story a reader gets. So whatever you do, you don’t want to put the reader off.

Agent Kristen Nelson, of the Nelson Literary Agency wrote a great post warning authors about the dangers of using a prologue, especially when you are querying. Agents have strong opinions about this sort of thing.

And yet I’m still partial to the prologue. (Although will think twice about including one if I ever submit to her agency!).

What I like about the prologue is that it can capture the reader’s attention at the outset. The prologue to The Moon is Made of Glass was my way into the story. The title just popped into my head one night, and I started writing out of curiousity to see where the story was going.

Like you (hopefully), I didn’t know what the two characters were doing out at night by the water; the woman didn’t strike me as being ‘very nice’, and the girl didn’t seem to be attached to her. I wondered what was going on with this very present moon. And what possible ending there would be for this child.

The only thing I will give you (which became apparent to me when writing) is that this is a faerie story (does the language convey it might be?); in the tradition of the meeting of the two worlds, the time between times and the cruelty (or different perspectives) of a race if not immortal, with a considerably longer life-span.

The actual story will be about Carys’s sister, born after Carys’s mysterious disappearance.

I’m hoping if this prologue survives (in a more polished form) it will give the reader an insight that the context of this story is a fantasy. So the family dynamic, and rather unusual choices of the parent will make sense to the reader before the character. I’m not sure if it will work, and to be honest it’s on the back burner for a while as I head back to The Fall of the Kings for one big push to the end.

And so, with the promise that the prologue isn’t really the end, I’m going to be taking a break from the blog for a while. I’d hoped to have finished The Fall of the Kings by now, and have realised that while I’ve done a fair amount of blogging this year, I’ve not been making much headway on the novel. Writing about not writing isn’t my grand design at all. And to make matters worse, I’m also falling behind on keeping up with the blogs I really love (you know who you are – and I’m sorry).

So the new plan is to restructure my timetable so I can carve out some solid chunks of full-on writing time (including the hours I typically spend on-line), at least until I’ve made some good progress to the WIP. I’m figuring there won’t be regular posts here for a while, but I’ll still be posting on There and Draft Again once a month, so I might do the odd promo just to keep in touch (and cast my eye over twitter – just sayin’).

On the subject of There and Draft Again check out my last few posts:

The Princess Bride and Narrative Techniques was a shameless excuse to discuss one of my all time favourite movies! And I’m afraid there was another nod to my Star Wars roots in In Need of An Oracle

Click on this linky to check out this week’s selection of WIPpets. Big waves to the other WIPpeteers and *flourishes WIPpeteer hat* to our lovely host K.L. Schwengel.

And this is not goodbye, just until the next beginning…

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35 thoughts on “The Prologue is Never The End

  1. I think prologues get a really bad rep, but they can be effective if the author writes them with a purpose in mind. You should always have a reason for setting apart a scene as a prologue…. when that’s the case, I find them intriguing and attention-baiting as a reader. 🙂

  2. Yep, still Wednesday. And because no one I know of has a time portal, tomorrow might actually still be Wednesday somewhere.

    I made my prologue in First of Her Kind Chapter One instead and now wonder why as it probably worked better as a prologue. Gun shy, I guess. But your prologue is wonderful and leads to all sorts of questions leaving me really wanting more. Well done!

    Good luck with the big push. We’re always here if you need us. 🙂

  3. I saved my commenting for this post, since I was one of the ones who needed to catch up. 🙂

    So nice to see you again, by the way. I missed your lovely posts while I was visiting.

    There are so many comments I want to make. 🙂 Sadly, I have not the time to write several paragraphs (nor do you have time to read them all). Suffice to say: I like your prologue.

    1. Aw thanks ReGi. And yes yours is one of the blogs I always try to catch when I can… but have been so behind. It seems the older the kids get the more involved their lives become. But I’m hoping to find a better working schedule so Mama and writing will work well together! (And have missed you too!).

  4. I totally get what you mean about time, and getting too caught up in writing other things that you don’t end up properly getting the time to write what you are really aiming to write. While social networking is so important, I’m such a slow writer, and I’m also a great procrastinator, so I want places that can keep me motivated to write my actual story. A few facebook groups have been great, Adrian introduced me to this WIPpet Wednesday group, and you guys have been great motivators. It inspires me to keep writing so that there is always a new WIP to post. That deadline gives me a goal to set and to accomplish.

    It’s funny you mention the prologue to Game of Thrones, because (though I’ve only watched the series but haven’t read it) it was disappointing that the whole story has very little to do with those ice zombie creatures. Why put that in the front of the story when it’s got so little to do with everything else? Or, take Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ series. My husband has read those books (not me, I refuse), and he says the prologue is usually very lengthy, sometimes upwards of 100 pages. Um… that is NOT a prologue!!

    Like you, though, I’m not against them. I just like them to be relevant to the story and not one hundred pages long.

    So, on to YOUR prologue. Some of the grammar gave me pause to reread a few sentences (are there two different women in this scene? That felt confusing to me based only on what you gave us to read), but the subject matter itself was intriguing and I wanted to continue reading to see where the woman was slipping off to in the night with her gossamer silk dress that I wish I myself owned.

    1. Yes the grammar *hangs head in shame*. Um, will fix that up. (Although I think the whole post is in need of the grammar police today… run on sentences anyone…). I forgot to put the first draft disclaimer on.

      But I’m glad you liked the subject matter. I wish I had a dress like that too.

    1. Thanks – I’m glad you like it. Although it’s going to have to wait for Kings to be finished first. Must make sure my plot notes are written up properly before I abandon it (and then can’t remember where I was going with it).

  5. Taking some time off for getting your writing done is a necessary thing sometimes, Raewyn. Just don’t let the rest of life get you too distracted as well. It’s so easy to tell yourself “yay, I finally have some time to get X,Y, and Z done, and oh, yeah… I’ll write too.” (That’s part of why I decided I wouldn’t stop blogging or posting pieces… I just reduced frequency. Make your posts once a month, or some other less oppressive schedule. Your regular readers will come back.

    (And as a big fan of prologues… I think this covers the needs of one perfectly. It needs some fine tuning, but it does what it’s supposed to do.)

  6. I’m reading this on a Thursday but I’m pretty sure you actually posted it on Wednesday UK time anyway. 🙂

    I think prologues have their place – I used a prologue in The Butterfly Storm although I was very undecided about it for a long time. Apart from the fact your prologue for The Moon is Made of Glass is beautifully written and very evocative (and yes the language seems suitable for a faerie story) the fact that you want to set the novel up as a fantasy should make it work. There’s only one way to find out though – write the rest of the book and see if the prologue still has a place!

    I for one will miss your posts whilst you’re focusing on novel writing so I must head over to There and Draft Again to see what you’ve written (I’ve been meaning to do that for ages). Good luck with getting The Fall of the Kings finished – I can’t wait to read it!

    1. Thanks Kate – I must say I’m going to miss the WIPpeteerly comeraderie. Although I’m sure I’ll still go round the blogs, just after good writing sessions!

      I’m also encouraged the feedback to this story idea has been good. But – Must. Focus. On. Kings…. (If I keep saying it, it will be so).

  7. First of all, I just want to say this: “habblagalabphlughnph! HNNN!”

    …because that was just my actual reaction. That took me totally by surprise, and I LOVED IT. If you kill (or even, dare I say, disregard) this prologue, I may never speak to you again.

    I think people are too hard on prologues. Yes, when they’re done badly they’re tedious, and filled with boring backstory that would have been better inserted into the story. But they can be an amazing tool, too. I’m keeping mine (probably, almost definitely), and I’m kind of glad I’m not querying agents and don’t have to stress out about whether to include it.

    I’m sorry you’re taking a break (selfish of me, I know, but I’ll miss you!), but I’m glad you’re making more time for your writing. 🙂

    1. Ah Kate, you have such a way with words (although I know the exact word your reaction pulled out!!!). I’m so glad you’ve liked this little prologue, I’m quite excited about the story too, although it is a bright and shiny distraction when I’m supposed to be finishing the other one.

      Still can’t complain about being inspired.

      And thanks for your kind words. I’m going to miss you too (although will be visiting your blog!!!).

  8. I love prologues, especially ones like yours. They happened before the main story, but are tied to it. But this whole prologue discussion reminds me of one time I was in a crit group with a prologue hater. She out right told me since it was a prologue I didn’t need it. And if it was so important add it later in some other manner. It really rub me the wrong way that she couldn’t respect my writing choices and wanted to impose her own. To each their own!

    Anyways, I do hope you enjoy your break and get lots done! 🙂

    1. Thanks Gloria – I’ve also come across that kind of person who is completely ruled by their own sense of form – and I’ve found it really frustrating. I figure that kind of person will never be totally happy with anything that falls outside of their own rigid framework, so there’s no point getting het up about it. But I agree with you – I wish they’d at least respect my creative endeavours.

  9. Well, that wasn’t quite what I was expecting at all. But I did enjoy it and I look forward to reading more of the story whenever you decide to return to blogging.

    I hate that prologues get a bad rap. I really do, because they can be quite enjoyable if done well – and this is one of those really great prologues that’s mysterious and makes you want more 🙂

    1. Thanks Christina – I wasn’t sure where it was going either, but this woman will turn up in the main story again.

      I’m also a fan of a good prologue, maybe more should be made of what the good ones look like!

  10. I’ve read some great books that have prologues and my current WIP does too. I gasped as I got to the end feeling like I just wanted to reach through the page and save Carys but alas… you did well.
    Although I’ve not read every WIPpet I’ve enjoyed those that I have so I wish you all the luck in finishing your draft – I’m having to review my timetable as well because – even though I feel I haven’t been spending enough time with the blogs I love – my life has taken over my writing time again. *sighs* I truly understand how you feel.

    1. Thanks Alison – I’m aiming to finish something soon. Although starting a new story as well probably wasn’t so smart. And life does have a way of taking over. I must admit with school holidays and a run of birthdays I haven’t done a jot of writing for a few weeks. I’m figuring it’s all about balance, once I’m on top of family life again (look how optimistic I am) I’ll prioritise the writing! Best of luck to you too!

  11. Yours was one of the few blogs I read with any semi-regularity (meaning every few weeks – as evidenced by the fact that I am getting to this post five weeks after it appeared).

    I like prologues, and I use them. In my first book, the prologue gives an insight into what the bad guys are doing as they prepare to start the war. All the chapters deal with the good guys and their actions, and then the epilogue (yes, I use one of those too) returns to the bad guys and concludes with a brief scene of “what else is going on behind the scenes that will majorly impact everything.” Book Two had a prologue that stepped back in time several hundred years to explain some of how the “world” got where it is and an epilogue that set the stage for the next book. Book Three stepped back even further in time to gradually reveal even more backstory, and the epilogue was once again back to the bad guys’ perspective.

    I think those work because they are slices that occur outside the narrative, and they properly fit outside the body of the narrative. The prologue, in my opinion, serves the same purpose as the two minute teaser before the opening credits of a television show (or even some movies – think James Bond). The epilogue fits if it is something that would happen during or after the closing credits (Ferris Bueller turing to the camera and telling folks to go away, Principal Rooney having to ride the school bus home, etc.)

    Sorry for the long reply.

    1. Hi Scott – thanks you have been a regular supporter and I appreciate that (and your comments)!!! I enjoy your blog too, and hope that by the end of this hiatus I’ll be set to get back into a regular routine of blogging & keeping up with my other online writing blog peers.

      I agree with your comments too. I think the thing is that it has to fit, and if I’m honest I’m a bit leery of sweeping comments about any writing technique… although now you’ve got me thinking about epilogues too…

    1. Thanks so much – sorry I have been away on holiday and ‘offline’. A bit scary to come back to an overflowing email inbox (but hooray for blog comments… the blog has been on hiatus too!).

      I’d love to do the Liebster and will zip over to check out your questions soon!… (when I catch up on the back-log). Thanks so much for the nomination.

      1. Don’t apologize! I am just coming back from my own internet-holiday. Take your time and ease back in, otherwise you will get so stressed that you will need to take another right away. 😉

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