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MBNewman
May 21st, 2013, 02:12 AM
Hello fellow writers!
Okay, let's get right down to business here. Prologues, oh yes, the hated enemy of everyone ever apparently. I have run in to a conundrum then. Do they really have such a stigma? I have written a chapter to serve as prologue, as it takes place eight years before the main story when the main character is only a child. It is by no means a world wall of back story, but a very important event in the protagonists life that I felt was the catalyst (and thus prologue) to the actual story.

Any critiques or criticisms are welcomed, but I really want just two questions answered. Does this serve well as a prologue? Should I just bite the bullet and make it chapter one?
Not asking you to read the whole thing, just enough answer the questions at least.
Thank you all!

WC: 3500

Prologue: The Man in Black


Some would call me a murderer, and a thief, and a criminal; to these accusations, I cannot object. I have earned each of them. I am no saint, nor a man of honor. Though, I am not some wretched demon, conjured from the depths of the Infernal Abyss. In truth, I am only a veteran of the cruelty of man, and a survivor of the cold streets.

Town criers, the local press, and two-bit storytellers all offer different variations of my tale, though they gleam with exaggerated half-truths, diluted by word of mouth. The reality of it all, however, is far darker than the story of how the Brookrow Bastard became sealed in infamy.

I was not born a killer. No one is. We are products of our environment, molded by the decisions of others. The clergy would have you told that the gods predetermined the paths of each and every man. That everything happens for a reason. My life, as I would learn at a young age, was destined for suffering, and I saw no reason. I had the makings to become a productive, gods-fearing member of society. Alas, man’s gods had weaved a different path for me, it seemed.

There is no god to whom I can place the blame for my suffering. That condemnation falls upon men alone. I wonder sometimes, when I am alone with naught but a bottle of brandy to keep me company, why things had to end up this way.

In my drunken stupor, my mind always wanders back to my childhood. Back to the days when I had everything I could have ever wanted, and how it was torn from me.
My name is Killian Todd. I am the Brookrow Bastard.

*

I remember the first time I saw death. I was but a boy at the time, having not the slightest inkling of the thin line between living and not. I was oblivious to the ways of the world, but I would be fast to learn the truth.

It began as any other night might. We sat at the kitchen table, eating out supper. My father and mother deep in conversation, and I entranced on spearing the last pea on my plate with my fork. We had fine silverware, fresh food, a mahogany table, and a sturdy roof over our heads. My father provided for our family, and he provided well. He never left us wanting, but he was often busy and was hardly home.

This night, my father had assured me that he would remain.

When I had succeeded in finishing my final pea, I was jubilant as my mother never allowed me to leave a morsel on my plate. I set my fork and knife down across my plate, and announced, “Done!”

“Are we now?” my father asked, casting my mother a smile. “I would be amiss if that did not take you long enough to choke down those peas, Killian. Perhaps next time, you will finish them a tad more hastily.”

“Do you still have time to read, father?” I asked him.

My father chuckled, and scratched at the rough stubble across his chin. He looked to my mother, and she gave it a moment’s thought.

“Well,” she said, drawing out her response, “you were supposed to take your bath tonight.”

“But mother!” I pled. “I do so enjoy when fathers reads to me.”

She gave a reluctant sigh, as she stood up to gather the dishes from the table. “I suppose if you father is willing to read to you, I will allow him.”

I turned to my father, who nodded his head. “Looks like we shall be venturing into unknown territories,” he said, standing from his chair and raising his hands to mimic a monster, “where danger lurks around every corner.”

“Oh, which story tonight, Father?” I asked between laughs as he grabbed hold of me, assaulting me with a barrage of tickling.
“How about I read you the story of the three-headed witch of Giltrase?”

Depositing her burden into the sink, she called over her shoulder, “There will be no ghost stories told to my son, Kieran. A few laughs now, but you will be the one getting up in the middle of the night when Killian has nightmares.”

“I will not have any nightmares, Mother. Father says I am brave and strong!”

“The boy is right. I did say that.” His cheerful grin shined her way, as he said, “Please, Meri, I promise to take any and all responsibility for my actions, on the off chance there are any repercussions for them.”

My mother could never be frustrated with my father for long, and soon she relented. “Very well. Do not say I did not warn you!”

“Here that, Killian?” he asked me, going down onto one knee. “We have an adventure ahead of us!”

I clambered up onto his back, cling tight as he carried me off into the living room.

“Do not believe that you have gotten out of your bath, mister!” my mother called after us. “You shall be taking one first thing in the morning. Mark my words!”

*

Darkness welcomed me back to the world. I was not sure if I was awake or still dreaming, but I knew that I could think freely now. I could feel myself blink as I stared out into the darkness of the room. I was not sure where I was, or truthfully, if I had perished or not in my unconsciousness. The blackness held no reassurances for me.

As if in response to the truth of my purgatory, the world around me became illuminated with a sudden brilliant flare. As quick as it came, it was gone. The dark returned, and with it came a rancorous clap of thunder.

This sudden and unexpected event was answered by a hasty retreat beneath my covers. It is only a storm, I thought to calm my beating heart. Forcing myself to remove the covers from about me, I sat up in the bed.

The lightning persisted, granting me brief glimpses of my surroundings. It was bittersweet, lo that I could only see the morose and nightmarish shadows cast upon the once black walls.
The shadows were not what struck fear into my heart, but rather the faces I saw in them. I could see them glistening in the black, one upon each head; three lifeless eyes of the three-headed witch of Giltrase. To and fro they wavered in between the brilliant flashes of light.

I closed my eyes, but found no respite in the darkness there. The thunder that rumbled in the night pounded in my head like a thousand drums, and I could do nothing to keep them out.
I had no concept of the passage of time, but I could not bring myself to venture out into the darkness. I knew my mother and father were not far my room, yet I remained. I flinched and grimaced away from my ghostly stalker, and there was no cease to the quiver in my slender frame.

I took slow steady breaths to try to calm myself, but I did so in vain. Clenching my fists repeatedly helped to clear my head, but the incessant moans and groans of the witch echoed in my mind. I found the claps of thunder would not only deafen my ears, but cease the endless cacophony. It was the only sanctuary I had, and it was few and far between.

Please, gods, make it stop, I pleaded. I cupped my hands over my ears, and wanted to scream to drown out the. Scuffling sounded between the bedlam, and I bolted out of bed with the same ferocity of the raging storm outside.

My eyes opened, and I glanced in the direction they sound from. The storm and shadows were all but forgotten as I stared into the matte black of the room. The footsteps were getting closer. From the darkness emerged an inky black form. It howled and shuffled out of the darkness, and I knew not if my mind was only playing tricks on me.

My heart raced, and the dark figure advanced. The heaven-sent lightning had faltered, leaving unsure of what I was seeing. All I knew was that I had to act, nonetheless. I glanced around the room rapidly, and my eyes fell upon the window. I darted from my bed and onto the floor by the window. I did not fear what might lurk in the darkness here. I looked out at the storm and saw freedom. I clasped my hands around the latch of the window, and began to push it open.

The rustling of the door knob came from behind me, and my heart sank to the bottom of my chest. Climbing out the window into the dark, rainy night was not the best of circumstances, but it was better than the alternative. There was a little ledge that jutted out right below the window sill where, if I crouched down, I could hide out of sight

The breeze brought chills into my slender frame, and my shivers would not be stopped. Clinging onto the window sill with white knuckles, I realized that looking down was not the best choice I had ever made. This was not the first time I had ever climbed out of the window, but I never did get used to the height. Every time I looked down, I would tremble, which never did help me keep my grip.

I glanced away from the ground, feeling the blood drain from my face. Looking elsewhere to forget of the looming danger beneath me, I saw a movement by my parent’s window. I blinked a few times and glanced again, but I saw nothing. I came to the conclusion that the three-headed witch was after my family, and I had to warn them.

Peering over the lip of the window, I gazed back into the darkness of my room.

“Killian?” I heard the whisper, and saw the shock in my mother’s face in the light of the lantern she carried. “What are you doing? Come back inside at once!”

I clambered back through the window, and dropped onto the floor. My mother was quickly at my side, grabbing me by my forearm, “Whatever were you doing out there, dangling out in that wretched storm?”

“I saw the three-headed witch of Giltrase!” I shouted. “She went in through the window, she is after Father!”

“Killian!” she snapped, pursuing her lips and narrowing her brow. “There are no such things as ghosts or witches or sprites or faeries. They are just stories, Killian. I knew I should not have let your father read you such ghoulish tales.”

“But, Mother—”

“I will hear no such buts, young mister.” My mother closed the window, and the barrier between us and wind and rain of the storm was sealed tight once more. We stood in silence for a time. From her expression, and they and the way she kept glancing to and fro, told me that she regretted being harsh.

“Are you alright, Killian?” she asked, squatting down my side. Stroking my hair, she asked, “Was it a nightmare?”

I pulled away from her, and cried, “No, I saw her! I saw the witch!”

“Killian!”

My mother would have surely continued, had a noise not come from the other room. My mother’s face fell blank, and she gazed at the door. “Sounds as though your father has roused himself to keep his promise to me.”

Perhaps she was certain in her beliefs, but I was convinced that the three-headed witch was on the prowl. The worst part was that my father was in danger, and my mother would do nothing. I could not stand by idly any longer, and charged towards the door.

“Killian? What are you doing?”

I pulled open my door, and ran out into the hall. The light from the gas lamp hanging on the wall lit the way. I grasped onto the knob of the door to my parent’s bedroom, and took a deep breath. I had to be brave and courageous like the prince who fought the witch in father’s story. I had to be a hero for my father.

I pulled open the door, and stood aghast at what I found awaiting me. There upon the floor lay my father, motionless in a pool of crimson. It was blood, I realized. It was his blood. My mother rushed to my side, but I could not turn away from what I was seeing.

“Killin, whatever are you—” Then she saw it, and the words fell from her lips. Her mouth lay agape, incapable of making a sound. Her eyes, widened with fear as she too gazed upon the morbid sight of her dead husband.

From the shadows came the inky black form one more. In his hand, he held a blade coated with the very same crimson that adorned the floor. Raising the knife towards us, the form advanced into the light.

My mother released the lantern, and took my hand. We fled back into the safety of my room. My mother slammed the door shut, and locked it. She led me back to the window, and flung it open.
“Listen to me, Killian,” she said, placing her hands on my cheek, “you have to go. Go on, climb down and go to your Aunt Elsa!”

“You have to come with me, Mother,” I begged her, grabbing hold of her hand, and pulling her towards the window.

The knob rattled as the shadow tried to enter. The fear showing in her eyes, my mother gazed into mine. “You have to go, Killian, before it is too late.”

Little did she know, it was already too late. The door burst open, broken off its very hinges. Silhouetted by the light in the hall, the shadow advanced on us, blade glistening in the light.
“Stay back,” my mother howled, as she clawed and smacked at the form, in a vain effort to deter it. The shadow struck her away as it made its way to me. My mother leapt onto the shadow’s back, in an attempt to halt it further. The dark form reached about itself, grabbed ahold of my mother and flung her to the ground.

Lighting flashed, illuminating the shadow, and revealing it to be far from that. It was a man, garbed in black who had killed my father, who had struck my mother, and was now coming for me. This was not the three-headed witch of Giltrase, but I knew that I had to be brave nonetheless. I did not run. I could not run away. I let a guttural, primal howl escape my lips, and with no regard for my own safety, I attacked the man in black with a vengeance.

I slammed my fists against him, though I doubt much damage was done. My assault was brought to a swift and sudden end as the man in black grabbed me by my wrist, hauling off my feet with a force that threatened to snap my thin wrist. Slamming me into the wall, and bending my arm in an angle it should not have been, he wrenched the fight from my heart with a swift subordination. There was no mercy in response to my agonizing cries.

I remember these next few moments vividly, though they happened in a matter of a few seconds. The man, his attention on me, had not seen my mother bring a blunt object against his head. My mother charged past him, sweeping me up in her arms as she headed for the door. The man was not so easily beaten, and he already gotten to his feet.
We did not get far before he had ahold of my arm. I flew through the air as he ripped me out of her grasp, and landed hard on the wooden floorboards a few feet away. Brining the pommel of his knife to the side of her head, the man was now free to focus on a single target, namely myself.

Down on one knee he went, with his boot planted firmly upon my chest. He raised his blade to strike, glancing down upon my vacant stare. I looked up at the man, meeting his gaze. A moment’s time passed, and the man lowered his knife.

From behind the black mask he wore, came the sounds of a rough whisper, “The sons shall not pay the penance for the sins of their fathers.”

Removing his boot from chest, the man stood and sheathed his blade. He stepped over me, and made his way to the window. He opened it without a sound, but did not exit through it. He turned back to me, watching me stare back at him from the ground. I did not know what would happen next. I did not even know what else I could do to stop him if he chose to change his mind.
“If it means anything, young Killian Todd,” the man said, his voice hollow and thin. “I am sorry. Take your mother, boy, and leave this city. Do not ever look back.”

Then he was gone. I heard my mother’s quivering breath as she came back to the world, and the sounds of the receding storm. I knew not why this had happened, but I knew that the night was far from over.

*

I stared down at the body, down at my father. A blood coated body that had been so full of life only hours before. Something within me broke that. My mother fell to her knees, tears rolling freely down her cheeks with a rhythm of the storm outside. I cradled her head in my lap, and stroked her hair slowly. The room was quiet now, nothing but the sound of the rain against the glass.
None of this is real. It cannot be real. I wanted to believe those I wanted to believe that this had all been some horrid nightmare. I closed my eyes, begging the gods that when I opened them, I would awake in my bed, and I would find my mother and father in theirs.

When I opened them, I only saw blood. My mother was all I had now, and I decided then and there that I would never let any take her as they had my father.

It crushed me to hear her cry so heavily. I wanted her to smile. “Please, do not cry, Mother. It will be alright, I promise. The man said we have to leave. We have to go.”

She regained her composure the best she could, and got to her feet. She kept whispering to herself, over and over again. At first, I could not make out her words. She scoured the room, searching all about for something.

“Mother?” I called, but she did not answer.

She opened the chest at the foot of their bed, trying not to look at her dead husband lying only a few feet away. I found the lantern miraculously unbroken, and went about relighting it with the lamp in the hall. I brought the light into the room, seeing my mother still earnestly searching.

As I came close, I heard the words she whispered repeatedly, “He said this day would come… He said this day would come…”

When the light shined upon her, she looked up at me. Granting me the ghost of smile, she took the lantern and continued her search. She found what she was looking for, pulling out a lock box from within the chest. She set it aside, and went to my father’s bedside table. Pulling open the drawer, she retrieved his key ring, and began to the keys on the lock.

“What is in their?” I asked.

“Your father kept some coin locked away,” she whispered, trying another key. “He said…he said he was saving it, just in case he…”

My mother did not finish her sentence, as new tears began to fall. After fumbling with the keys, she became overwhelmed once more, and flung the keys onto the floor. I kissed her forehead, and held her for a time, before continuing her search for the key that opened the lock.

After several tries, I began to get frustrated. There were few keys left, and we needed the money that was inside. I did not know what we would do if none of the remaining fit the lock. My mother had gone about gathering necessary items we would need for our journey, to wherever we would go.

I slid the next key in the sequence into the lock, and attempted to turn. To my astonishment, it worked. I heard the mechanism release, and I pulled the lid open. Inside, I found many coins of different shapes and sizes and materials.

“It is open, Mother,” I announced, turning to show the contents.

“Which key opened it?” she asked, and I handed her the key ring by the one she asked for. My mother took the key off the ring, and took the box. Closing the box, she locked it again, and slipped the box into the satchel about her shoulder. Removing her necklace, she threaded the chain through the key, and placed it about her neck once more.
“How much was in there?”

“Enough to buy a new life,” she answered, as she took my hand and led me away from the place I once called home.

It began as a simple enough night, but the decisions of one man shaped my destiny. As I we made our way down the grey cobblestone streets of Irianna that stormy night, I knew that the life I had come to know was over. I was not a child now. I was a man.

That was the first time I saw death, but I knew that it was not going to be the last.

***

Ariel
May 23rd, 2013, 07:31 PM
You can cut the first five paragraphs and not lose anything. I like the feel of the statement "My name is Killian Todd. I am the Brookrow Bastard." But I think that after the whole episode above that there would be a better impact if that statement came at the end of the prologue.

I remember the first prologue. It's changed quite a bit, hasn't it? I like the change up and I'm curious as to what Killian's father did to come to his sticky end.

I, personally, don't mind prologues. I feel they're a staple of fantasy novels and a good one is vital to its story. This works as a prologue, if it is absolutely vital to the story.

I like the ideas behind this story and I would read this based on the prologue.

There are quite a few typos but nothing that can't be fixed with a bit of editing.

MBNewman
May 23rd, 2013, 11:55 PM
You can cut the first five paragraphs and not lose anything. I like the feel of the statement "My name is Killian Todd. I am the Brookrow Bastard." But I think that after the whole episode above that there would be a better impact if that statement came at the end of the prologue.

I remember the first prologue. It's changed quite a bit, hasn't it? I like the change up and I'm curious as to what Killian's father did to come to his sticky end.

I, personally, don't mind prologues. I feel they're a staple of fantasy novels and a good one is vital to its story. This works as a prologue, if it is absolutely vital to the story.

I like the ideas behind this story and I would read this based on the prologue.

There are quite a few typos but nothing that can't be fixed with a bit of editing.

Hey thanks for another read!

Yes, while many details and characters remain the same, the entire plot-line and many characters have been rewritten. It needed a fresh start, and has been a relief and fun to write.

The first five paragraphs, while still needing much tweaking, plays a fairly important role in the story. I had been asked many times why Killian was telling his story, and to whom. After pondering this question, I began picturing Killian confessing to all of his sins to a priest, and thought what better way to begin the book.

Would it be better to do the intro as prologue of the actual scene of Killian's confession, and make the rest of this chapter one?

I feel these things are vital to the story, as one of the main story arcs is Killian's struggle over his morality; ala whether he is a good man, or an evil one.

I apologize for any typos, it was burst writing. Had been outlining the story and thinking of details, got my inspiration, and wrote in a single sitting.

Thank you again for the read, and the opinions.

LamentableBard
May 24th, 2013, 06:11 AM
It's nice to see another Brookrow chapter up! As amsawtell said, a prologue is pretty much expected in most fantasy stories and I don't believe they deserve the stigma so often attached to them. While I have read fantasy without them, it always feels a little odd to me when I open the book and jump straight in at chapter one. :P This has everything a prologue needs, good action and major event driving the narrative, but now you've mentioned it, I really like your idea of the prologue being an older Killian approaching a priest for confession. Perhaps have those first five paragraphs implemented into the end of the prologue as he begins his confession (ending with 'My name is Killian Todd,' etc.) and open chapter one with what follows. No matter how you play it, I look forward to reading more.

GWJ Baird
May 24th, 2013, 12:21 PM
Personally, I love prologues (it is epilogues I am not a fan of) but I surrendered to the fact they have an awful reputation so instead I have decided to have a 'flashback' chapter!

My series revolves around some performing arts students so I attempt to make this work in the sense that 'flashbacks' are in almost every TV show and movie so I have my prologue that I wrote only much later in the series!

I think this works as a first chapter though and you can easily get away with calling it such and nobody would be any wiser!

Very well done and I enjoyed it! :)

MBNewman
May 24th, 2013, 06:51 PM
I am glad things are finally coming together smoothly. There has been an endless amount of rewriting, only to have a fresh idea to make it all flow better, and thus another rewritting. Now I have finally dedicated myself to a story-line, set mostly in stone with a few "unimportant" details still in the air.

The prologue is no longer one of those details. I have already started the preparations for the new confessional scene. Sometimes I just need others' opinions before I can really come to a decision.

I am excited to start work on the new prologue now that "the Man in Black" is officially the first chapter.

Thank you all again for you time and opinions. It had been a constant struggle, and needless to say I am tired of arguing with myself :P

PS. Do not worry, GWJ Baird, there has never been an epilogue in any incarnation of my story.

Ariel
May 24th, 2013, 08:49 PM
I think, that if you're writing it as a confession then I think you should write it as a scene and set it up so we see him talking to a priest. Maybe, to emphasize the dangerousness of the character, we could see him in shackles. It should be a story within a story. I can see scenes of his childhood interspersed within scenes of his training or career. This doesn't need to be linearly told.

The reason I don't like the first five paragraphs as they are is because there's no detail, no scene. We're being told what's going on--not seeing what's going on. It's cliché and others will tell you that it isn't necessary but it's still good advice, "show, don't tell."

MBNewman
May 24th, 2013, 09:15 PM
I think, that if you're writing it as a confession then I think you should write it as a scene and set it up so we see him talking to a priest. Maybe, to emphasize the dangerousness of the character, we could see him in shackles. It should be a story within a story. I can see scenes of his childhood interspersed within scenes of his training or career. This doesn't need to be linearly told.

The reason I don't like the first five paragraphs as they are is because there's no detail, no scene. We're being told what's going on--not seeing what's going on. It's cliché and others will tell you that it isn't necessary but it's still good advice, "show, don't tell."

Those five paragraphs are in the process of being transitioned into the prologue as dialogue within the confessional scene. The story will begin with the confession, and end with the final chapter consisting of the prologue and the aftermath of the confession.

There will be much more show this time around. I could drown in the amount of guilt I have for being a teller in early drafts of the story. Fleshing out more character's bios, and having more of that background in dialogue has given my book a much better flow.

I have finished several more chapters, and will update when they are in a more...clean state than what I posted in this thread. I will likely have the confession/prologue up this weekend if all goes well.

GWJ Baird
May 24th, 2013, 09:15 PM
It's not that I hate epilogues, I think the idea is brilliant but I've yet to see it be done right without seeming forced.

MBNewman
May 24th, 2013, 09:37 PM
It's not that I hate epilogues, I think the idea is brilliant but I've yet to see it be done right without seeming forced.

I assume a few people have done them marvelously, but I have had too many problems making a respectable, feasible prologue to add another possibly cliche section. For my story, it is probably best to do without.

Lucidian
May 30th, 2013, 09:59 PM
What's so wrong with prologues? They are a perfectly acceptable way to set the scene for a book. But that's the secret...your prologue should set the scene effectively. I could have done with a lot more description in the writing here. There's a lot to work with in this. Keep writing!