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Scarz
January 4th, 2014, 02:37 AM
I've never been sure whether to include a prologue or not in any work of fiction, but I like this bit of text, and I think it frames the rest of my story quite well. I don't want to go into too much detail about the plot, but it's essentially about the rise of an infamous assassin. It might seem a little cliché, with terms like 'the Shadow' cast around, but this is only a nickname for the character, whose real name is known from the beginning and is used throughout. This is actually the first of at least 2 plots I have in my head, whether it becomes one book I'm not sure, but this assassin plays a large role in the historical events of my own universe and, well, let me know what you think of my writing style. All criticism welcome and appreciated!

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Prologue – Thorn, 3086

“I know of him. I see him moving one night, out there among the trees. A shadow ‘e was. His figure flickered before me very eyes. But I knew it were him. The way ‘e moved. With a purpose, a dark one at that. Scary it was.” The elderly gentleman stopped to sip his drink. He told his tale with an honesty in his eyes that let each of his peers know he was being serious. He had been frightened at the time. A shadowed figure in the distance is a sight that no man wishes to look upon, especially a man of his age and frail stature.

His peers were sceptical. They had heard rumours of ‘the shadow’, ‘the dark rider’, but they did not want to believe them. There is always a fear of the unknown in the hearts of men. A fear that leads to denial. But they trusted their friend. They wanted not to believe him, but what reason had he to lie?
The group of elderly men sat, for a moment in silence, reflecting on their friend’s account.

“It’s just a children’s tale.” A gravelly voice came from a nearby table, stirring the men from their thoughts and causing each of them to look and see who had uninvitingly joined their conversation. It was a young man, though the look in his eye was not one of inexperience. He was dirty, his shirt unwashed, stained with filth and what looked suspiciously like blood. Each of the elderly gentlemen eyed him up and down, unsure of what to make of his bold approach. He was tall, taller than any of them, but not so tall that would make him unusual. His height, added with his breadth and clear athleticism made out a daunting figure, a figure one might expect of a knight or at the very least some sort of warrior.

“Of course you don’t believe him, do you?” The approaching man asked rhetorically, a coy grin spread across his face, his unusually perfect teeth on show and his powerful jawline clenched in a way that revealed his distinct cheekbones. He was an attractive man, no doubt, but his arrogance was immediate and the elderly men shared a look of distaste between them as he moved to their side; ever smirking as if he knew something they did not.

“Who are you to question my honesty?” the bearded man, whose tale was under scrutiny, piped up in his own defence, his wrinkled eyes narrowing at the conceited youngster.

“My good friend, it was never my intent to question anything.” The young man’s brow lowered and his expression turned cold, “For I know that these words you speak are meant with no intent other than that of fear-mongering. As for my name, it is Kai. Kai Xerosa and you would be wise to remember it.”

The elderly gentleman recoiled in shock at Kai’s aggression, partially because he was surprised at how sharply Kai had reacted but also in part because of the strange sense of fear that was at the same time inflicted. The elderly man stuttered his words to try a response but one of his friends was too quick and intervened in his stead.

“We ain’t looking for no trouble tonight Mr Kai, we just want to have a drink in peace and mind our own business.”

“Then perhaps it would be in your interest to discuss your fairy tales more quietly” Kai said, the smirk returning to his face before he turned away, leaving the men with the peace they so desired.

yaythisisavailable
January 4th, 2014, 05:06 AM
The beginning of the story kind of reminded me of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner", and I really liked the dialect used between the old men. However, like you said, it was indeed a bit cliche. As far as dialogue goes, you have great conversation, but there is one line that didn't really seem original to me. "...and you would be wise to remember it" is used by pretty much any guy trying to act tough. I think that if you find a better way for him to express him importance, it will sound a lot less jaded. Other than that, I like it a lot. Good job!

Scarz
January 4th, 2014, 06:45 AM
Thanks for your comments. I completely agree regarding that line. It's definitely something I'll change. I was struggling to think of something else to put so I just left it in. It's probably not even the case that it's true, as the old men have no need to remember his name, in fact, it's something better off forgotten - so I'll definitely have to work on changing that around somehow.

Higurro
January 4th, 2014, 10:18 PM
With Kai I ended up picturing Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, which perhaps wasn't the best image to conjure as a way of getting my interest. The conversation with the old men had the germ of intrigue to it but it ended a bit quickly. The same applied to the scene where he was actually describing seeing the strange figure. As a general rule I'm a bit skeptical of prologues as I feel that they can tend to be rolled out when someone doesn't quite know how to just write the first chapter.

If I were trying to work out how to go on from here I'd probably have a crack at expanding it with more detail, possibly starting with the actual scene in which the old man sees the figure. This would allow you to introduce the character a little more and the setting in which the story occurs, the things that an old man in this time and place might be doing. All this stuff help the reader to form preconceptions, which if carefully suggested can become a powerful tool for creating tension and surprise later on. That's why I'm not too sure about Kai as he seems from this snapshot to be the bog-standard Disney bad guy, complete with granite jaw, perfect teeth and naff one-liners. Sorry if that sounds a bit harsh but I'm just trying to put across exactly what I felt.

Anyway, it would be great to see some kind of scene in which the old guy is out and about, doing his thing, sees something odd, and then another scene later which concerns the discussion at which a mysterious and enigmatic stranger is present. Of course, that's just how I'd do it, and you might want to write a load of other stuff before coming back to this. On the other hand, I find that just fleshing something out into a full structured chapter (I write quite short chapters of maybe 3000-4000 words) can bring rewards in terms of knowing what you want to do next.

Scarz
January 5th, 2014, 04:27 AM
I totally understand what you are saying, Kai at this stage really isn't fleshed out and I don't think that this prologue does much to help his character at all. My actual first chapter, which is a step back in time (this prologue is set in the future by some ~8 years), starts to explain Kai from a much younger age. I might get rid of this prologue altogether as although I, personally like the idea of the glimpse into the future to set the story up, I realise that to the reader it might be both unnecessary and obscure.

Something that I don't want to give away at the start of the story is that Kai is 'the shadow'. Although to me, this is a well worked concept that is built up over time. With the snapshot the reader has with this prologue, either it is impossible to tell, or it makes it more cliché than ever. I might just drop the prologue altogether.

calpollion
January 5th, 2014, 07:40 PM
All in all, I would say it was very well written. The dialogue between the old men was intriguing and peaked my interest. The intro in particular I liked. I would agree with what most of the other replies have said here, however, that Kai isn't fleshed out at the moment. I think it's a cool idea to have a brief glimpse at the things to come in the far future, and I would say that you should hang onto the idea of a prologue. Personally, I'd enjoy a bit more focus on the old men (perhaps even eliminating Kai from the prologue altogether, minus the mentions of him as 'The Shadow' and perhaps some sightings of him) as I think this is a good way for the reader to enter this story. At this stage, the reader knows nothing about The Shadow, and solely focusing on characters who speculate and pass around ideas about him would be an effective way to peak the reader's interest while keeping the majority of the information out of reach. This creates an eagerness to know more about this enigma, with next to no knowledge on him, making any further information in the future (including the revelation that Kai is in fact The Shadow, should that happen) all the more satisfying.

P.S. This is my first post so I hope it's helpful. Merely saying what I would do.

thepancreas11
January 5th, 2014, 10:30 PM
I agree with calpollion: use the prologue, but lose Kai from it. The great thing about these secondary characters is that you can build his legend and his mystery. The moment he appears, you know that he's The Shadow. If you want to keep it a secret, then give away as little as you can. I might even suggest in your first chapter including several candidates for the position to throw the reader. Keep us in the dark about him as long as you can.

I'm not sold on the name though. The Shadow isn't creative enough. For how well you write, you don't do yourself justice with a simple name like that. It's cheesy and as Higurro suggested, very Disney-ish. Name him after a furtive animal, or give him a name based on the word shadow in different languages, that way, you give him even more mystery.

There are a few sentences that let you down too.

"It was a young man, though the look in his eye was not one of inexperience."

The big problem: this is as close as you come to a double negative without actually using a double negative. Tell us what the look in his eye is rather than what it isn't, and use a better descriptor than one of inexperience. You want to paint a picture for the reader, and that phrase is a little too ambiguous. There are a bunch of those types of adjectives in there that leave the reader hanging. Delve into it. He had a weather-beaten look, he had shrewd eyes, he had a wry grin, all of which might suggest he has a wisdom beyond his years.

I don't mean to harp on the little things, but these are the pieces that build the wall between a good read and a published book. A prologue can be very necessary, but it must be immaculately written if it is to start off the story instead of your first chapter. All in all, it captured my interest, and I thought the first paragraph was exceptional. Keep it coming.