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CasMerlyn(R)
August 31st, 2014, 12:39 AM
Prologue
At twenty four years of age, just graduated from engineering school, Lisa did not expect to die.

No one wanted to die before their time. But she was no trained mercenary. No soldier. The closest thing she had had to self-defense classes had been the two days she had attended with her sister, Elizabeth, at university before quitting claiming that it just wasn’t her thing. Now she wished she had.

“Do you think it can find us here?”

The voice, barely above a whisper, was like water to a fire in how quickly it banked her rambling thoughts. It focused her mind towards an answer. She had spent eleven years of her life answering questions, at private school and through university. It was an ingrained habit, like Pavlov's dogs with the ringing of the bell for dinnertime.

Blinking quickly, trying to rid the sweat from her eyes, she shuffled to the right. It was just enough so that she could see over her shoulder and towards the speaker but without leaving the sanctuary of the little cubby hole that she’d found. Even so she still pressed herself against the wall, hard against the unforgiving concrete as if she was trying to become part of it.

“I don’t know.” Her voice was equally quiet.

escorial
August 31st, 2014, 12:51 AM
more questions than answers...

Gavrushka
August 31st, 2014, 12:56 AM
Trust the reader more... Don't feel the need to overdo explanations. - For instance, end at 'Pavlov's dog' and not a half dozen words later.

And is the prologue really necessary? It's often the way a less secure writer dumps info on the reader rather than disseminating it organically through the story.

theredbaron
August 31st, 2014, 01:24 PM
Trust the reader more... Don't feel the need to overdo explanations. - For instance, end at 'Pavlov's dog' and not a half dozen words later.

And is the prologue really necessary? It's often the way a less secure writer dumps info on the reader rather than disseminating it organically through the story.

Hilarious comment from a guy or gal that deletes and lines out their own work about less secure writers. Kettle [OP] say hello to pot.


To Gavrushka - I read a LOT of stories. Criminal based, fantasy based, etc. The garbage that doesn't include prologues [Harry Potter, of which I read one chapter it was so boring] are often the ones that don't hold any real plot.



A prologue, done right, is meant to draw a reader in.

Reading the OP's prologue it's obviously set ahead of the main storyline.

Flashbacks and diverging from the main storyline to tell something that happened 5 years in the past for example in any great detail is the sign of a writer that is all over the place and shouldn't be writing at all as it merely confuses the reader.

Gavrushka
August 31st, 2014, 03:18 PM
Not quite sure of the point of your post, baron.

This is not a debate forum, so I'll not engage other than to say my advice was offered to the OP with the objective of offering my perspective.

Please if you're ever offended or enraged by anything I write in the future, just walk away, casting a baleful (yet silent) glance in my direction.

LeeC
August 31st, 2014, 05:58 PM
Please all, the point of the creative boards is to offer up one's creative work with the expectation of helpful writing critiques :-)


Here, we do not comment negatively on other critiques, nor do we respond to anyone crossing that line.


Hopefully we are all mature and respectful and don't want to spoil our experience on WF :-)

h'aulian scribe
September 1st, 2014, 12:38 AM
Prologues are tools that can hurt or help respectively. I often find myself writing a prologue then deleting it shortly after because it is a tool I have not mastered but I do enjoy a good prologue that can get me into the story without drowning me with customs or tones I am yet to be introduced to.

Plasticweld
September 1st, 2014, 01:05 AM
Cas, I think you did a good job with setting your scene and giving the reader a idea of who your charters are. The prologue does that very effectively. I often pick up a book and determine whether I want to even read it or put it back on the shelf. I would have an interest in at least reading a few pages after your intro...Bob

TKent
September 1st, 2014, 01:19 AM
Hey there,

I like your prologue! (I am working on a tablet and have started this twice and hit some dang key that wiped out what I was typing - I am hoping 3rd time is a charm!)

You grabbed my attention, just enough tension and mystery to make me read more!

I think you can eliminate some of the description and make this a little tighter. You'll have a lot of time to weave in details later. Example: I might remove the engineering info from the first sentence and just say:

At twenty-four years of age, Lisa did not want to die.

No one wanted to die before their time. But she was no trained mercenary. No soldier.



Also, I am not the best person to talk about this because frankly, everything I learned about grammar in school, I have long forgotten. But the number of 'hads' in this sentence is awkward. I read a great book called 'techniques of the selling writer' and he has a whole section on using the word 'had'. I suggest you read that. He gives some great ways to reword things so they are simple past tense.


The closest thing she had had to self-defense classes had been the two days she had attended with her sister, Elizabeth, at university before quitting claiming that it just wasn’t her thing. Now she wished she had.

I like the mystery of not knowing what 'it' is, but I did want to know who was talking to her for some reason.

Anyway, great start and with some tweaking I think it would be even better!!

jakegenebarnes
September 6th, 2014, 06:57 PM
Your prose is (yet again) good. I still wasn't "drawn in" to the story. Maybe I'm way too picky.

hvysmker
September 21st, 2014, 02:01 AM
Lemme give this a try. Remember, many errors I find are debatable, the advice may not be accurate, and observations are personal and gratis – you own me no money for those. Come to think of it, with all those disclaimers, why the hell am I even here? Jeez! Oh, and I AM a nitpicker. Live with it.
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At twenty four years of age, just graduated from engineering school, Lisa did not expect to die.
*** A good opening line except for one thing, CasMerlyn. I'd change that “just” and replace it with a better and more informative and descriptive word. “Just”, like with “it”, “thing” and a few other words is simply lazy writing, and you don't want that (another one of those words) in your hook. “recently” comes to mind.

The closest thing she had had to self-defense classes had been the two days she had attended with her sister, Elizabeth, at university before quitting claiming that it just wasn’t her thing. Now she wished she had.
*** Oh, oh, oh, oh, look'a all those “hads”. Also, in my mind, a “runaway” sentence. Shorter ones here would better interest a reader. “Her closest had been a self-defence class with, Elizabeth, her sister. Later, she'd quit, claiming college simply wasn't for her.”


“Do you think it can find us here?”
*** This change in scene seems more a part of the story than a prologue.

The voice, barely above a whisper, was like water to a fire in how quickly it banked her rambling thoughts.
*** Fine flowery sentence, invoking a very good mental picture, but superfluous if you follow my advice.

It focused her mind towards an answer. She had spent eleven years of her life answering questions, at private school and through university. It was an ingrained habit, like Pavlov's dogs with the ringing of the bell for dinnertime.
*** I agree with Gavrushka that you should drop the last part. Maybe, just maybe, you could use it in the story itself, but in a prologue you want to catch a reader's attention and give enough information to “hook” him in. Pavlov is off subject.

Blinking quickly, trying to rid the sweat from her eyes, she shuffled to the right. It was just enough so that she could see over her shoulder and towards the speaker but without leaving the sanctuary of the little cubby hole that she’d found. Even so she still pressed herself against the wall, hard against the unforgiving concrete as if she was trying to become part of it.
*** I think this paragraph is what TKent meant about tightening. Let me redo it to show you. It's easier than pointing out each point:
Blinking quickly, wiping sweat from her eyes, she shuffled to the right. Enough to see over her shoulder and towards the speaker without leaving her sanctuary. Nervously, she pressed herself against the wall, hard against unforgiving concrete as if trying to become part of it.

I've found the words “but” and “the” can often be removed without changing the rhythm or meaning of a sentence. I also have a habit of using “a” the first time I mention an object and “the” after that.

As I mentioned earlier, I wouldn't even use this scene in a prologue. It seems more like a part of the story itself. I can't advise exactly what to put in there since I don't know the storyline yet. Since a prologue is similar to a synopsis, which I use when splitting a story for posting, let me look one up and show you. Yeah. One I'm going to post here tomorrow about a man owning a slave in the 40's. A cheap shot, I know, but appropriate:
Synopsis: MaryJane Adams, a street prostitute, has a bad night. First, a customer refuses to pay her. Then he gives her strange pills that get her high as a kite. After that, she's gang raped in an alley, then beaten and thrown into the back of a delivery truck. Lastly, still semi-conscious, she's left out at a rural mailbox. A very bad night, indeed....
------------------
Notice that it tells a reader, rather briefly, what has happened earlier in the story. I could have put more detail in but the purpose isn't to recap the previous sections, only to give a new reader a general idea of what to expect. It's the same with a prologue. You only need enough detail to tell a new reader what to expect – that's all. He can look over that top slice and, if interested, go on past the mustard to the meat.

I don't think a prologue is normally necessary, but if short an concise, it doesn't hurt anything , either. As mentioned by theredbaron, you should be careful of using flashbacks. I confess to occasionally using them at the beginning of a story, but very, very seldom. Almost every time I do they're left behind on the first rewrite. They may work, but not often.

It's hard for me to say this story has promise because you haven't told anything about the storyline, the plot. Only a bit about one character. I'll go out on a limb and use my own imagination on what might go on to complete your prologue: You mention Lisa, her sister Elizabeth, and that she'd graduated from engineering school. Also that she dropped out and knows damned little about self-defence. Also, you implied an action story. And, of course, that she didn't want to die. That's what I got out of your prologue. Let me try to make up a little more, though that much might be enough by itself without that story fragment.

“As the story starts, we'll find Lisa has used her engineering job to acquire a position driving a gasoline truck to outposts in Afghanistan. Sure, it's a lower-level beginning job, but does pay good. She has yet to realize the danger, but that shouldn't take long as a sniper already has the cab of her semi in his sights. Now, on to the story....

What I wrote, in my heavy-handed way, is a paragraph that might further excite a reader, also placing her in the story and giving an idea of both the plot and why you mentioned “didn't want to die” in the first sentence.

Keep with it. The prologue is only one step farther than the title. I've seen too many beginners that never got past the title. I have to shake my head when I read someone on these sites questioning how to choose a title, so please don't stop at this point.

Charlie

Miles-Kirk
September 21st, 2014, 05:23 AM
I like the ominous feel to it, and the mystery.

However, I would only ever use a prologue to describe an event that is relevant to the story but is either miles in the future or way in the past from the present of where the main story line is situated. Some would even suggest a prologue is not needed at all.

Jean Bathurst
September 22nd, 2014, 08:04 PM
I really like it.

I particularly like the first paragraph/sentence. Death! Doesn't get higher stake than that. Feels a tad awkward, but it's a really strong opening emotionally. Feel invested. One suggestion: a noise, or shadow, or something coming closer. More hint of danger. A clue as to what the threat is. A distinct smell, noise, something to help heighten the tension and make me wonder if she's going to get out alive. It's more of an excerpt you'd run before the story, to give readers a flavour of what's contained within (not even sure if there's a specific term for that), but not quite a prologue; those usually give more setup, do they not?

Tried some edits.

May be helpful, may be not...

cheers,
Jean



Lisa did not expect to die.

Certainly not at twenty-four, just after graduating from engineering school.

Who wants to die before their time?

But she was no trained mercenary. No soldier.

She'd enrolled in a self-defense class at university once, but dropped out. Just wasn’t her thing.

“Do you think it can find us here?”

The voice was barely above a whisper. The question focused her mind. She'd spent the last eleven years answering questions, from private school through university. Answering was an ingrained habit. Like Pavlov's dogs and the dinner bell.

She blinked quickly to get the sweat out of her eyes and shuffled to the right. Just enough so she could see over her shoulder and towards the speakerwithout leaving the sanctuary of her little cubby hole. She pressed herself hard as she could against the concrete wall, as if she could merge into it.

“I don’t know,” she whispered.

tuhsao
September 27th, 2014, 11:46 AM
I like it! As for the whole "should this be a prologue" debate, personally, assuming this is the prologue in its entirety, I would prefer this began the first chapter instead. I usually see prologues as an introduction to the concept of the novel, especially because it's "separate" from the rest of your work.

The only thing I wanted to say is that I agree with Jean, starting out with "Lisa did not expect to die" is a much stronger hook. In describing the reasons that support that clause, you take just a tad too long to give that line its full effect.

Other than that, I was definitely intrigued! Again, I see this more as a good hook for the first chapter than a prologue.

mmuscarnera
October 8th, 2014, 09:26 PM
In this story is the education system different than in our world? I am just wondering because you said eleven years. There are also some private elementary and even earlier private schools so you may want to add another indication there. Maybe something along the lines of "critical questions". Not exactly that but I'm also on my phone so it's a quick thought. I say this because total, excluding kindergarten, we take 16 years of school just to get some sort of college degree above AA. Also someone like me who does not know engineering I would have no idea how long it took her to get a degree. I understand she's 24 so that could mean six, but with running start that could be eight years of just college and that'd leave three years, to get to your eleven, of private school. I could be giving a useless point but I always think the small details is what brings to life a bigger picture. Especially since the qay she approached education earlier in life could explain alot more about who she is as a character even in these circumstances.

Clepto
October 9th, 2014, 06:08 AM
So far I like it. A few minor issues but they have been touched on repeatedly by others.

I will say that, if this is the prologue in its entirety, you should just integrate it into the story. Maybe open the first chapter with it, scene break, and then begin.