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W. Dallas
February 22nd, 2014, 12:43 AM
This prologue "births" the main character into the novel. I know it will not make sense without the context of what follows in the first chapter. Following this section the character finds himself in a tower which is the incarnation of his mind. So, this prologue represents the fracturing of his mind and the initial attempt to find some rationality which will lead him forward.



THE MUSIC OF MIDNIGHT

Prologue

Long before claws came to rip flesh from bone. Long before ice filled winds swept violent through skin and tendon. Long before terror urged action. I stood statuesque at the edge of oblivion, fearing to move, fearing to breathe, transfixed by the freezing cold and the dark.

A darkness so complete it diminished presence to incorporeal thinness. Solidity’s merest outline burned into vision after the light goes out. Moving fingers before my face yielded the same stomach churning nausea as if the fingers were severed, disappearing into the ether, blood turned black to congeal with the onyx hued surroundings.

Absolute darkness gives one an unbearable sense of freedom. After all, anything could be out there in the vast unknown, and there could be inches in front or inches behind; or still, waiting eons away, unnerving in its endless anticipation. With the sense of sight withdrawn only the imagination sees, and what waits in the dark is inevitably dangerous, menacing, evil.

Then again, one might swim through the empty spaces, or run, or even fly, but the risk would be too great. The mind collapsing on itself like an insect crushed in a closed fist, flitting into the nothingness, unable to accept a limitless world with no destination, no end.

Still, there are two sides to the coin. However frightful boundless freedom in an unknowable void, the horror of the finite, of inescapable constraint, maybe the more disconcerting. Each step takes monumental will for each step may lead to pain or destruction. There is no adventurous spirit in the nothingness of pitch black, no quest for discovery. What can be determined with any degree of certainty when navigation finds no tangible footholds?

So there I stood fearing to move, unwilling to embrace the freedom, unable to break the restraints. Within my fear wrought imagination I lost the fight with denial giving way to a nightmare landscape.

I imagined myself positioned upon the precipice of a great chasm. The distance across indistinct and vague like the faint remembrance of memories wished forgotten entirely. The way behind walled high, retreat impossible.

I envisioned an immense cave deep within the bowels of some world far from the one I had known. To the sides rose great rock walls fixed with cutting angles and razor points, ascending into the eternal night, descending into the depths of hell. Stalactites hung down resembling blackened teeth. Droplets of condensation fell from their jagged tips to explode against the rock like rotten melons, the fruits’ flesh once exposed, pungent and sour.

Across the vast abyss stretched a thin slab of stone, no more than two hands width, jutting out into the impenetrable blackness. A structural anomaly in the surroundings which formed a bridge above the falling darkness.

From far below I could hear a soft wailing. The sound of a million lost souls mustering a barely audible moan, as if humiliated by their helplessness, yet unable to stifle their horrible pleas. Their voices, full of sorrow and fury, moved through the expanse as apparitions tethered to this place. Chained captives held against will or control.

Paralyzing fear gave way to urgent need, escaping this place the only goal. The awful realization dawned, there might be no escape. The causeway might end abruptly, spilling into the mouth of the void. Or perhaps, worse still, this might be the world entire. This cold, dark place all that remained of what I once defined as my life.

I edged forward along the narrow path by stiff, minute steps, the yawning hole below promising annihilation. My movements were hesitate and unsure like the fresh arrival of a new born fawn intimidated by the vastness of the world, on fragile legs with no mother’s assurances or warnings. A gentle breeze wafted up, icy, so cold as to seem a solid force just beginning to exude its breath. The wail I heard before seemed to become aware of my presence and drew nearer as if investigating the trespassing. Fear grew with each step, adding desperation to necessity, nudging my progress with urgency.

The first touch sent a bolt of shock and horror through my entire body. The touch was something real, not of pure terror born imagination, but some probing intelligence. The breeze became gusts adding their own bay to the escalating cacophony of ghastly moans, and my own pathetic whimpers. The touches lingered a moment, abated, then returned with more earnest interest. The unmistakable touch of fingers splayed wide, grasping, just out of reach to gain purchase. Dread quickened my pace.

From somewhere up ahead I saw a tiny pinprick of light. Hope. If the light was far enough distant it could be much larger, a possible a way out, but the distance was impossible to discern. In fact, the light might be no more than my imagination. Even so, some hope was better than none. Or was it? Without hope would I not accept my fate? Why fight if there was no hope of victory? Why flee if there was no hope of escape?

The gusts were now shrieking winds surging with intense velocity. In my mind I saw the winds whip me from the narrow way, flinging me into the mouth of the madness below. My arms flailed, extended outward fighting to retain balance like a tight rope walker traversing an expansive canon, the taunt cable trembling beneath him.

The hands were now many, reaching, tearing, insistent in their desire to hold this fleeing source of life and warmth. The moans accompanied the hands, no longer quiet in humiliation, but a din of need. There seemed to be accusation in their screams. Blame for some egregious wrong done them.

The light ahead was indeed expanding in size. Now the circle of a coin, and brighter than before. Heartened, I pushed forward seeking desperately to gain some distance from my maniacal pursuers. In the darkness I imagined their demonic visages. Fang filled jaws gaped, drooling venom, hands formed into talons seeking to tear flesh asunder.

I ran with the devil at my back no longer caring if I fell with him into the bottomless pit. My one chance was to make it into that light. Whatever lay beyond must be better than this. Any world where light chased away darkness, which allowed vision to comprehend its horrors, would be paradise by comparison. I must make it into that light!

The winds grew to hurricane force. The wails of the damned rose to sonic in decibel. The fingernails sinking in, holding on with a need that screamed for salvation.

The light, now window sized, cast no halo into the darkness, but held as a portal to another place and time. Just as my mind felt the first tender strands of flesh being ripped away by the hardened nails of grasping fingers, imagining icy gusts eroding skin away to skull and bone, I leapt into the light, and saw blackness once more.

 

 

 

Jake Creamer
February 22nd, 2014, 02:52 AM
I really like what you are working with here. The concept is excellent. Fear of what lurks in the dark is primal. When the darkness is that complete, the imagination is going to supply the input to the brain. I like that, well done!

Your first three sentences are really one long sentence. I heard it in the narrator voice from Conan the barbarian, if that makes any sense.
I think that statuesque doesn't work as well as it should, I always associate statuesque with that incredible grace and beauty that really elegant (statue worthy) people have.

I think that describing the darkness would work better if you changed it from being indefinite, to definite. It's a specific darkness, a special darkness. I like the idea you are putting out about how disorienting and bizarre it is to have no visual reference.

I recommend eliminating the then again, and the after all's

As your character is constructing his escape (in his own private prison right?), does he realize that his imagination is actually coming to life around him?

I think that if you choose to use metaphor, your sentences will be more powerful. You have simile galore, lots of very rich imagery, I think you can make your prose more muscular though. Ex. I was a faun, hesitant and unsure...

Watch carefully to ensure your tenses all agree.

Well done

Hitotsmami
February 22nd, 2014, 04:24 AM
First of all, one thing I really enjoy is how you set the scene. I could definitely see the dark void and empty chasms and I could hear the screams below and everything else you incorporated. I could also relate to the character, for I'd have the same emotions and thoughts running through my head as he. For that, great job. A connection, I believe, is one of the most important parts of writing, because it makes you want to keep reading, to see how that character will make it through all his struggles.

One small note. I imagined that the first three sentences would be separated by commas rather than periods, since they'd be fragments otherwise. But perhaps that is okay in a novel setting if it fits the style of writing? I'm not too sure on this.

Anyway, great job! I enjoyed reading your passage.

Vain Vanir
February 22nd, 2014, 01:35 PM
To me it felt like the the language was rather baroque and somewhat long-winded. I like the feeling that was building up but the writing was a bit to "academic" and not as primodial, don't know if that makes any sense or not, to really transmit this feeling of the most primitive dread that I understood as being what you were aiming for.

Still a good piece and it was very nice to read a text with a varied and extensive dictionary. Or at least it felt like that to me as a person with a native language that isn't English.

thepancreas11
February 22nd, 2014, 03:36 PM
Vain Vanir has his/her finger on it. Most of what you have written here is very poetic, which is good for small segments, but it gets to the point where we're saying to ourselves, "Okay, already with the darkness. We get it." Don't let yourself down by letting yourself go on to long. Stick to a couple of metaphors, a couple of descriptions, and you'll find more success. Often times when you scrape away the excess, the stone that lies within shines brighter.

I have no idea where this is going, by the way. I'm not sure if this guy is escaping hell or if he's in a coma, or if he's got an issue with drugs or something. A prologue is useful for introducing concepts that aren't immediately discussed in the storyline but are important to understand once we get into the meat of things. The mistake here is that it's completely removed from the story because it does nothing to illuminate what might happen next. I love the ending, by the way, and maybe I would better understand if you posted the first chapter. I would recommend you do that in the Prose Writer's workshop though because that is password protected and if you're planning on publishing, you need to protect your rights as a writer.

W. Dallas
February 22nd, 2014, 06:20 PM
Thanks all. Very helpful. I see I feel in love with the words too much. Way too many similies and metaphors which I liked so much I couldn't bring myself to cut, but now it is obvious I have to. I'll post the first chapter in the workshop after revising this a bit.

Kepharel
February 24th, 2014, 10:14 AM
I think most of the feedback has been on the money, and I particularly agree with ThePancreas11. I do relate to your style because I used to try for that kind of thing in my prose but couldn't pull it off. Using your ability at descriptive narrative appropriately and in context rather than as default will add a lot to the enjoyment of the reader in my opinion... think of it as giving them an occasional treat :)

iron_aufschlag
March 7th, 2014, 06:04 PM
It's very poetic. I have no idea what the story is about though. Perhaps it would be better placed not in the first pages of a book. Perhaps if it were shorter and you let us see where it is going it would be better. But if you don't want to shorten it I would suggest you place it in the second chapter.

Outiboros
March 9th, 2014, 10:29 AM
It's very poetic. I have no idea what the story is about though. Perhaps it would be better placed not in the first pages of a book. Perhaps if it were shorter and you let us see where it is going it would be better. But if you don't want to shorten it I would suggest you place it in the second chapter.
I agree completely. This isn't exactly the material that draws the reader in, even though it may be best suited as a prologue story-wise.

About the piece itself, I feel there's some easy adjustments that could improve it a whole lot: a simplification of the prose and completion of some unfinished sentences.
While the poetic tone might suit it, it gets a bit too thick at places. He doesn't have to be standing 'statuesque', and a sentence such as "Moving fingers before my face yielded the same stomach churning nausea as if the fingers were severed" could easily be reworded as "Severed fingers moved before my face".

Another thing is the unfinished sentences. "A darkness so complete it diminished presence to incorporeal thinness", to pick one at random. That sentence serves its purpose, but when they get longer, they're often a whole lot more confusing. For instance: "The mind collapsing on itself like an insect crushed in a closed fist, flitting into the nothingness, unable to accept a limitless world with no destination, no end." Perhaps "The mind collapses in on itself like an insect crushed in a closed fist, unable to accept a limitless world with no destination or end."

I'm just rambling on at this point. Let's see if there's anything else.

Ah, unfinished sentences again. From far below I could hear a soft wailing. The sound of a million lost souls mustering a barely audible moan, as if humiliated by their helplessness, yet unable to stifle their horrible pleas. Their voices, full of sorrow and fury, moved through the expanse as apparitions tethered to this place. Chained captives held against will or control. That last sentence is simple enough; short and strong, nothing confusing about it. But reading "The sound of a million lost souls mustering a barely audible moan, as if humiliated by their helplessness, yet unable to stifle their horrible pleas" just gets me lost. Instead, perhaps "From far below I could hear a soft wailing - the sound of a million lost souls mustering a barely audible moan, as if humiliated by their helplessness, yet unable to stifle their horrible pleas."

Lastly, on the thickness of the poetic prose, just an example - "With the sense of sight withdrawn only the imagination sees, and what waits in the dark is inevitably dangerous, menacing, evil" -> "With the sense of sight withdrawn only the imagination sees, and what waits in the dark is never inviting"?

dmr400
May 24th, 2014, 07:45 AM
I have always felt that a good prologue should be hard hitting and raise more questions than it supplies answers, used as a device that hooks the reader and engages their curiosity enough to read the first few chapters.

dmr400
May 24th, 2014, 07:46 AM
This seems a bit too heavy on the descriptions, similes, and metaphors to accomplish that goal. It's something that I am very prone to do in my own writing.