PDA

View Full Version : Heavenly Dragon Prologue (fantasy) (602 words)



Mythos
October 23rd, 2016, 09:04 PM
This is the second version of this piece and has undergone significant changes from the earlier version. It is the prologue of a longer novel that I am working on. Information on the characters and their background will be provided throughout the story. This is written in 'English' English rather than 'American' English. I have noticed, and corrected, a number of missing spaces due to copy-pasting but there may still be some that I missed.


The mountain quivered beneath his feet. The horde was upon them. Grotesque heads appeared above the lip of the plateau, many with fangs too large to fit in their distorted mouths. A symbol began to glow in front of him. At his command, trees grew out of the side of the mountain, sending the creatures plummeting.


His only companion stood a short distance away. A halberd swinging through the air, decapitating the foes that got too close. For every enemy killed,many more clawed their way closer. They swarmed the peak. Two blades appeared in his hands and he stepped towards his foes. Swords sliced through flesh and bone.


Hours passed in a blur of blades, the peak blanketed by fur, scales and hide. Trampling the corpses of the fallen. A waterfall of pitch black blood poured over the edge of the cliff and onto the unfortunate creatures that continued to climb.


He pulled a blade from the eye of one of his victims, the body collapsing to the ground. He glanced over at his companion as she sliced through a group with her halberd, their bodies melting as they came in contact with the axe-headed weapon, lava dripping from its tip.


Huge, feathered,wings rose above the cliff edge, raising the ungainly creature above the battle, looking down upon her. It dropped onto its unaware victim. Talons dug into her back and shoulder as it slammed into her. It struck. Her panicked writhing knocking it off balance, its beak barely missing her throat. It readjusted itself and lunged again.


Blood spurted out of a fatal wound. Claws detached from human flesh as the corpse crumpled. A stone spike, rising out of the mountain, had pierced through the winged monster. Its feathers falling amidst the rubble. She glanced towards him, the relief plain on both their faces. A symbol barely visible in the air around him. She silently thanked him and they turned back to the enemies that had drawn close.


Exhaustion and pain weighed down on her weapon. She slowed, no longer able to keep the surrounding forces back. A huge creature rammed into her back, horn piercing her chest. It raised her body into the air like a trophy, crimson dribbling from her dangling limbs. The surrounding beasts roared and turned towards their final victim.


Sorrow and anger overwhelmed him. The two blades in his hands vanished, replaced by a larger, snow white sword. He raised the weapon and stabbed it into the ground at his feet. Cracks surrounded him, running towards the edges of the plateau. The fissures grew. The mountain disintegrated. Rocks and corpses tumbled down the mountainside, crushing the creatures in their path.


The dull landscape blurred as he fell to his knees. He had lost everything to this war, his home, family, friends and lovers. Now he had nothing, nobody. The human race had fallen and he had been unable to prevent it. His head bowed as tears streamed down his cheeks.


A tear ran down the silver chain around his neck. The droplet was absorbed into a deep blue jewel. An amulet that had been with him through it all. The pendant began to shine, visible even through his closed eyes. He was enveloped in the light before it faded away, its purpose complete.


The remains of the army, barely a quarter of their original number, finally made it to the new peak. A single body awaited them. The man, kneeling, hands still clutching the large sword. His eyes were dull, lifeless. He was already gone.


Thanks for reading. Suggestions are appreciated.

Olly Buckle
October 26th, 2016, 11:20 PM
That works well as far as I can see, a good 'hook'; 'Where can it go from here?'

Jay Greenstein
October 27th, 2016, 02:03 AM
The mountain quivered beneath his feet. The horde was upon them. Grotesque heads appeared above the lip of the plateau, many with fangs too large to fit in their distorted mouths. A symbol began to glow in front of him. At his command, trees grew out of the side of the mountain, sending the creatures plummeting.As you read this, knowing the scene and the character, it works. But as a reader who must create a scene based only on what the words mean to me. Look at the questions a reader might have:

• The mountain quivered beneath his feet.
What mountain, and where are we on it? Bare rock, cliffside, or wooded slope? No way to tell. but not knowing the terrain, how can we place the protagonist into the scene? And, "he?" He, the old man? The kid? The warrior? No way to tell, so no image can come to a reader's mind.

• The horde was upon them.
What's a horde as your protagonist views the term? How many are they in this story? "Upon them" usually means physical contact, so is this really what you meant to say? And "them?" A line ago it was "he." Now it's "them." We know nothing about either he or them. What's going on? No way to tell, or to ask you.

• Grotesque heads appeared above the lip of the plateau, many with fangs too large to fit in their distorted mouths.
What's a "grotesque head?" Would you bet that the image you held while writing the line is the one the words call up in your reader's mind? I wouldn't. How far away is the "lip of the plateau?" Given I don't know how many "heads" there are, I can't tell what percentage of them have those fangs—or anything about any of the participants.

This confusion continues, as you continue to talk about things for which the reader has no context. So while we have facts without context, nothing meaningful to the reader is happening. But:

Suppose as people read this they knew four things: 1) where we are in time and space. 2) Who we are as a person and our resources/abilities. 3) What's going on. 4) What the protagonist's immediate goal is.

Wouldn't that give the reader context to give meaning to the words?

Were we to know that, the paragraph would make as much sense to the reader as to you. And fair is fair. You did create this for your reader, so shouldn't they know what you, and our protagonist, know? Aren't they with you to be entertained?

I'm not talking about good/bad writing. That's not the problem. nor am I talking about talent and potential as a writer. My point is that there are tricks of the trade and specialized knowledge, like providing the four things I mentioned, that can give your words wings. Not taking advantage of that by picking up a few tricks the pros take for granted would seem not to be the best strategy for success. After all, knowledge can be a really good substitute for genius.

So keep writing, of course. But at the same time, put some time aside to look into the techniques of fiction, a subject our teachers never mentioned because those essays and report assignments we so often got were aimed at making us useful to an employer, not make us professional fiction writers. Hit the local library's fiction-writing section. It's filled with an amazing assortment of advice and knowledge, provided by people who made their living teaching, publishing, and writing. And in the end, doesn't it make sense to spend some time, and perhaps a bit of money acquiring a professional education if you hope to write like a pro?

Olly Buckle
October 27th, 2016, 03:54 PM
Sorry Jay, I am going to disagree, this is a prologue, a taster, a hook. The who, where, when of it all will come in the story I presume, that is why I would read it, because my curiosity is aroused and I want to find out. As for being more specific about appearance, or what percentage have fangs, I really think that would be a mistake. If I say something was 'monsterous and horrible' that will mean something different to each reader, each will make their own picture, a very real one personalised for them, if I say how tall this monster is, what colour his skin, how many eyes and all the other details that make it 'horrible and monsterous' the reader is stuck with my vision of it, which may not co-incide at all with theirs; there is a risk my 'horrible monster' may become slightly ludicrous even. I had no worries envisaging the 'horde', that word in itself has implications, they were not a 'mass' or a 'crowd', or even an 'army'; I knew what genre of beast I was required to imagine. Sometimes less is more.

R.H. Smith
October 27th, 2016, 05:56 PM
His only companion stood a short distance away. A halberd swinging through the air, decapitating the foes that got too close. For every enemy killed,many more clawed their way closer. They swarmed the peak. Two blades appeared in his hands and he stepped towards his foes. Swords sliced through flesh and bone.


Hours passed in a blur of blades, the peak blanketed by fur, scales and hide. Trampling the corpses of the fallen. A waterfall of pitch black blood poured over the edge of the cliff and onto the unfortunate creatures that continued to climb.


He pulled a blade from the eye of one of his victims, the body collapsing to the ground. He glanced over at his companion as she sliced through a group with her halberd, their bodies melting as they came in contact with the axe-headed weapon, lava dripping from its tip.


I completely agree with Oily Buckle. This is a prologue, a teaser. Its sole purpose is to be vague so that the reader is hooked into finding out all that minutiae that I also had. My only critique is that, as mentioned above, the tone is somewhat monochrome. He did this. He did that. I think a little more interjections of dialogue sprinkled with maybe some thoughts from the chars would plump up the action and fill the prologue a little more. Nicely done! :)

Olly Buckle
October 29th, 2016, 12:03 AM
... He did this. He did that. I think a little more interjections of dialogue sprinkled with maybe some thoughts from the chars would plump up the action and fill the prologue a little more. Nicely done!
A few of those 'You feelin' lucky punk?' and 'Hasta la vista baby' phrases, difficult to come up with when pushed, but there are ways. Noticing other people's successes; learning to adapt something that is already in the zeitgeist, practice. People say to improve your writing , read. If you read mindful of these things you will notice how writers do and do not use them. I was reading a short story by Margaret Drabble earlier and she did just what you describe for half a page, and it worked beautifully because the character she was describing fitted it perfectly. I noticed it, however, because my first thought was that it was an elementary mistake for a skillful writer, most readers would notice the overall effect without analysing the cause.

@ R H Smith, Oily by nature , maybe, Olly by name, short for Oliver, as in my website address below in my signature, plug ;)

Mythos
October 29th, 2016, 12:41 AM
Thanks all, yes the details are meant to be filled in as the story progresses. In fact, the appearance of the enemies and characters, or even the scenery is completely useless, as by the time the story gets round to it, the image in the readers mind will hopefully have changed to match those described throughout the story.

You mention that speech would help. Unfortunately, the main character is naturally quiet and independent so they would speak very little. I might be able to fit speech in when they look at each other but I feel that silent communication would be more powerful in the scene.

The section that I have been most worried about (and none of you have even mentioned) is the part where the female character almost dies. I attempted to fool the reader into thinking she dies but struggled with this and an still not sure that I am happy with it. Simply, did you think the bird killed her at first, or did you see through it immediately?

Olly Buckle
October 29th, 2016, 01:01 AM
No, you had me for half a line from 'fatal wound'

Both the characters whose well known phrases I cited are noted for silent, steely determination, nothing wrong with the odd, enigmatic, remark. Another way of generating such things is to think of the cliche, and change it a bit. 'Heads I win' he said parting it from the shoulders with a back handed stroke.

Jay Greenstein
October 29th, 2016, 01:57 AM
Publisher's in general, hate prologues for several reasons.

• Your reader was moved to look at the opening by the blurb, which is the teaser. They expect the story to begin with story. Trying to sell the reader on the idea of reading the actual story with a second blurb before the story opens serves only to slow the narrative. If the story, itself, doesn't sell the reader, that teaser is a waste of time. Per the Great Sol Stein:
“A novel is like a car—it won’t go anywhere until you turn on the engine. The “engine” of both fiction and nonfiction is the point at which the reader makes the decision not to put the book down. The engine should start in the first three pages, the closer to the top of page one the better.”

• The reader is with you to be entertained. Facts and history don't entertain. And an overview, which this is, has no emotional content. Donald Mass, a highly successful agent, and past president of the agent's association, had a comment in his Writing the Breakout Novel, that seems to have been written about this prologue:
I hate most prologues. Typically, they are "grabber" scenes intended to hook the reader's attention with sudden violence or a shocking surprise. Mostly they do neither, not because they lack action but because the action is happening to characters about whom I know little; indeed, it is common in prologues for novelists not to name the players. When a nameless victim is killed by a faceless sicko . . . well, honestly, why should I care? I can see that twenty times a night on television.

• Far too often, especially with hopeful writers, the prologue involves a situation and scene that we abandon after that prologue.

Prologues can be made to work and lots of people use them. But they must be a scene, just like any other scene in the story.

Phil Istine
October 29th, 2016, 04:54 AM
I think that was a decent read and I would want to read more.
The description of gore at the battle scene was effective imagery and I like the way you used lava as a metaphor. Sure, I might have tinkered with the odd word (such as removing 'dull' from the landscape description), but there will always be minor differences like that.
Although your piece was quite descriptive, you also left enough room for a reader to insert pictures of their own. That is often a difficult balance and I think you got it about right.
I feel a bit like Oliver Twist by saying "Can I have some more, please?" :)

Mythos
October 29th, 2016, 08:56 PM
thanks for the feedback. Glad to hear that I have managed to catch your attentions. I will definitely work on trying to feature some speech.

Jay, while I do agree that prologues are generally a waste of time. As long as they do catch the reader's attention and is at least connected to the rest of the story then it serves its purpose. If it is too similar to the rest of the story then it is simply chapter 1. This prologue sets up the main character and the reason behind his attitude throughout the story and the penultimate paragraph (about the amulet) is of significance during the first few chapters of the story.

The Fantastical
November 13th, 2016, 08:11 AM
I think that there was to much confusion as to what was happening to who or why it is all happening at all.


His only companion stood a short distance away. A halberd swinging through the air, decapitating the foes that got too close.

This makes it seem like the Halberd is his companion. Which then later causes confusion when he glances over and now his companion is now addressed as her.

Even then it isn't clear that she isn't a Halbert and it brings to mind the image of a soul trapped inside a object, something often found in fantasy novels. Then you mention that she is actually a person but far to late now and the confusion as to what and who she is is really set in.


Blood spurted out of a fatal wound. Claws detached from human flesh as the corpse crumpled. A stone spike, rising out of the mountain, had pierced through the winged monster. Its feathers falling amidst the rubble. She glanced towards him, the relief plain on both their faces. A symbol barely visible in the air around him. She silently thanked him and they turned back to the enemies that had drawn close.

At first you think that the corpse is her's. The mortal wound seems to by in her shoulder yet suddenly the monster is a splatted on the mountainside. How did that happen? What did she do besides panic? Where did she stab it? Why did they have time in the midst of a endless stream of monsters to glance at each other? Was there a lull in the battle when the big monster fell? What is happening!!!


Sorrow and anger overwhelmed him. The two blades in his hands vanished, replaced by a larger, snow white sword. He raised the weapon and stabbed it into the ground at his feet. Cracks surrounded him, running towards the edges of the plateau. The fissures grew. The mountain disintegrated. Rocks and corpses tumbled down the mountainside, crushing the creatures in their path.

The dull landscape blurred as he fell to his knees. He had lost everything to this war, his home, family, friends and lovers. Now he had nothing, nobody. The human race had fallen and he had been unable to prevent it. His head bowed as tears streamed down his cheeks.

I can see that this is the emotional hook of the prologue but I can't get into it enough to feel for him because all I am wondering is - Why didn't he tumble down the mountain as well?


The remains of the army, barely a quarter of their original number, finally made it to the new peak. A single body awaited them. The man, kneeling, hands still clutching the large sword. His eyes were dull, lifeless. He was already gone.

From your comments I am thinking that this guy is your main character, am I right? If so, by showing me how he dies, you have taken away every bit of motivation I have to read the book. I know that a lot of people don't mind sad endings but I don't want to read a 300 page book, get involved, feel for the characters and all that if my commitment to the story and character is just not going to get resolved.

Anyway that is my five cents worth :smile2:.

JaneC
December 4th, 2016, 04:22 AM
I enjoyed this piece and would read more if posted. I'm intrigued, pulled in by it.

My only note is this: you first mention the female by saying: "His only companion stood a short distance away. A halberd swinging through the air," but then say "He glanced over at his companion as she sliced through a group with her halberd"
I was confused by this...is she a helberd or is a helberd a creature that she is riding? It was kind of unclear to me until I kept reading. Also, she couldn't be standing a short distance away if she is swinging through the air. That got me for a moment as well.

But like I said, I really enjoyed it!

Pluralized
December 13th, 2016, 02:49 AM
More dragons, please.

M.R Steiner
December 18th, 2016, 07:16 PM
Hi Mythos, I had a chance to review your prologue, and I have a few suggestions but lets start with what I like to begin with :)

you've got strong imagery, no doubt about that. I have to ask if this prologue is meant to be a little more open than the story as a whole? by that I mean, is this segment more meant to explain more than show?

either way like I said, the imagery and wordage was very visual. 'hours passed in a blur of blades, the peak blanketed by fur' was a stand out sentence for me.

that being said, I feel some more lines like that, with brevity may help this progress over all.

my main complaint is a lack of emotion from your protagonist, I'd like to know more about his emotional state, which will probably get answered in the next one (which I will review after this :)

that being said, I still feel you need to focus more on his emotions and senses. how it feels to cut open a monster, how his wrist nearly shatters sawing off the bone, the taste of the blood splattering in his face, how scared or not, he is and why.

as stated by others, it has a hook, you know story structure, that's for sure :)

Mythos
December 20th, 2016, 07:35 PM
Thanks all who commented.

Fantastical and Jane, your comments on the halberd are duly noted and I will be sure to fix that. Fantastical, My aim was to lead the reader into believing she died at first, before revealing the actual events, I will be sure to make that more obvious in my next version.

Steiner, this prologue is meant to be very open, just indicating at the main characters history as the story progresses and the gaps will be filled in as the story progresses. I have tried to focus mostly on the action and leave it lacking in emotions which would be delayed in comparison. The first chapter will cover those emotions more.

I have been struggling with the first chapter for a while as it is more explanatory than I would like (and rather different to the prologue), however it will answer most of the big questions raised in the prologue. I hope to gave a version of that to upload soon. Thanks again for the feedback