A new prologue for an old book


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  1. #1

    A new prologue for an old book

    A few years back I wrote a book...actually I wrote it twice...but despite my best efforts the book totally flopped.
    But I always felt bad because I think I could have written it BETTER.
    So this morning after I finished up all the publishing BS I had scheduled, I took an hour to start the rewrite of that book, starting with the prologue. Eventually I may re-release that book under a new title and author.

    But here is the prologue for your viewing interests. This is rough draft; I wrote it, read it once, then posted it here.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------





    The view out the main viewscreen was positively stunning. In addition to the millions of stars that dotted the sky, there was the bright glowing orb at the center that was the real show-stopper. Burning brightly, Sol was a magnificent example of a main-sequence star in the prime of its life. Undisturbed, it would last for billions of years, bathing its planets with life-giving sunlight and warmth until the very end.

    Standing before the viewscreen, Fleet Admiral Tok watched keenly for their destination. Finally spotting it, he allowed a smile to creep across his scaly lips. With his thermoscopic vision he could see the little blue planet as it rounded Sol. Although it was but a dot on the horizon, he could practically taste the victory ahead. So much water, and an atmosphere that would require very little terraforming to become compatible with his species’ unique physiology.

    It had been a long search for their destination. Gorp scientists had studied the stars for a millennia seeking just the right place to resettle their people and expand the Klamath empire. It would be a glorious conquest that would surely advance his career beyond his greatest childhood fantasies. Truly, he would realize all of his professional ambitions, and more. The only thing standing between him and a seat on the Mutah Council was the pathetic fleas that currently inhabited the little blue planet. But those would cease to be relevant once they began to bio-engineer the oceans. Because the little planet gained most of its atmosphere from the waters that covered nearly three quarters of its surface, it would only be a matter of time before the edits obliterated the species that lived there. Feeling dispassionate about the entire process, Admiral Tok focused on more important issues.

    Deep in thought he almost did not notice as the view before him slowly began to swing around until Sol was centered in the viewscreen. It was the audible alarm that caused him to turn abruptly to the bridge crew behind him.

    “Why are we changing course?” His voice a deep rumble, it was obvious by his bright red veins that he was enraged. “Who ordered a course change?”

    “I did.” Although the voice spoke fluent Klam, there was an odd quality to its tone.

    His three eyes glancing around the room at the heat-blooms that were his crew, Tok looked for the source of the strange voice.
    “Who said that? Reveal yourself!” Hand on his holstered disintegrator, Tok intended to vaporize whoever was responsible for this flagrant insubordination.

    Eyes darting around the room, Tok finally saw the target. But something was wrong; the thermal signature coming from the seat at the science station was all wrong. While his crew members each emitted a gentle orange glow from their body heat, the stranger across the room seemed to almost be afire from all the body heat it emitted.

    Stunned, he had seen that heat signature before. But that was so many years ago…and almost a thousand light years distant. It had been so long ago he had nearly forgotten the encounter.

    “Sir!” The ensign at the navigational station was barely able to contain his terror. “We are on a collision course with the star…and accelerating.”

    Glancing at the readout on the viewscreen Tok could see for himself that it was true. The vision terrified him, though he remained stoic on the outside. How could they be accelerating? The ship had already been travelling at its maximum speed. Who was this stranger that they could do such things?

    “Correct our course immediately!” Roaring the order to the terrified navigator, he made his order clear.

    “I cannot, the ship is unresponsive!” Eyes wide, the ensign continued to try even though it was futile.

    “Admiral Tok, you were told to avoid this solar system.” Speaking in a calm voice, the science officer stood before taking several steps toward the admiral. Slowly morphing to reveal her true form, the young human paid little attention to the officers around her who drew their weapons. Brown hair flowing over her shoulders, she was diminutive compared to the Klamath warriors that surrounded her.

    “What gall! To think that you can dictate orders to the Klamath Empire, or to me for that matter!” Roaring, Tok drew his disruptor only find it no longer functioned. Around the room the other officers stood in dismay as their weapons failed to discharge as well.

    “Your instructions were simple: find another planet to harvest. And yet here you are, with a fleet of war ships on the edge of the Sol solar system. You were given every chance to settle elsewhere and yet you thumbed your nose at my repeated warnings.” Her voice level as she spoke, the woman strode calmly until she was just a foot away from Tok. Looking up into his multiple eyes she gave the barest hint of a frown. “So you have left me no choice but to make an example of you.”

    “You…how dare you address me…dare to issue an edict to me? I am Fleet-Admiral Tok, I have exterminated better species than you for far less…” His shout echoed off the walls as he swung a claw at her.

    Never even flinching, the woman stood quietly as a bright flash of blue light seemed to deflect his blow before it even reached her. While the impact had no affect whatsoever on the little human female, Tok found himself on the floor as pain coursed through his arm.

    Bending over close enough for him to discern the mocha tint of her skin, the woman seemed amused by his situation.

    “I had hoped that you would heed my warnings, that I could let you off with a warning and a show of strength, but as I have seen in the alternate timelines, the only alternative that works is ramming you into the sun. So take a good look at it, that’s where you will be interred.” Gesturing to the glowing orb that now filled the viewscreen, she gave a smirk.

    “My fleet…you cannot…there are billions of lives…” Flustered, Tok tried to sway her by pointing out that the very survival of his species relied on this mission.

    “Oh, you misunderstand me.” Straightening up, she showed the first true smile of their encounter. “I am only sending your command ship into the sun. The rest of your fleet is watching this scene right now on their own viewers. After that they will be redirected to the Gort system.”

    “Gort…?” It took the admiral a few seconds to remember the system she spoke of. “But that is…fifty years travel from here, even at top speed…”

    “Yep.” Nodding, she folded her arms before turning to take in the view through the big screen. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Did you know that every bit of matter in this universe, every atom, every complex molecule, was created inside of a star just like that one? I guess sun worshipers weren’t so crazy after all, right?”

    Rising to his feet, the Admiral kept his distance from the woman lest he again encounter whatever shield surrounded her. Glancing at the bubbling plasma that was the surface of the sun, he felt fear for the first time in his life.

    “It does not have to be this way…” Scrambling for a compromise, he was sure that there was a way out of this.

    “Y’know, people always say that.” Half turning her head, she replied over her shoulder. “But today it does have to be this way. Admiral Tok, the time has come for you to meet my maker. I’d like to formally introduce you to Sol.”

    Gesturing to the ball of plasma and fire ahead, the little mocha woman finally turned and strode directly up to Tok.

    “And when we meet on the other side, you will show appropriate respect, or I will lock you in a box for all eternity.” Raising her eyebrows, she reprimanded him gently.

    Tok immediately began to protest before he realized that she was gone. In the blink of an eye the diminutive human female had vanished.

    Turning to the viewscreen for the last time, he felt the absolute terror of seeing Sol fill his view from horizon to horizon. Already there were alarms throughout the bridge as shields failed. Feeling the deck beneath his feet shudder, he knew this was the end for him. In less than a minute he and his crew would be reduced to ashes.

  2. #2
    I liked how bleak the situation looks. I do want to find out what happens next. For character development there is plenty of conflict to force change for the characters. On the one hand one of the characters feels self-important, and is humiliated by someone in the crew a woman.

    Her motivation seems to be that she wants respect.

    I also liked the small touches in dialogue indicating how tok is: "you should avoid this solar system."

    Talk about self-esteem issues, that has got to hurt.

    I am guessing she is an alien, who needs self-respect but that could be a change that is too great a price to pay. Like give up eating meat,and protein and there is a pregnant woman on board the ship.

    Something outlandish.

    I liked the characterization a lot. Good work, it made me think of a lot of plot and character possibilities for your story.

    This is space opera if I am not mistaken? Keep working.
    I would follow as in believe in the words of good moral leaders. Rather than the beliefs of oneself.
    The most difficult thing for a writer to comprehend is to experience silence, so speak up. (quoted from a member)

  3. #3
    This seems like a short story. It feels complete. Although I can see how another story might come out of this, I'm not sitting on the edge of my seat wondering about what will happen next.

    There's a couple spag issues, too, but nothing that bothered me too much.

  4. #4
    She is the Timelord for the Milkyway Galaxy, and Tok is about to invade her homeworld. In the next chapter we go back to her life before becoming a TL.
    I tend to write prologues thinner than the main text. I was reared on old-school prologues that were written to intrigue the reader into reading the whole book. It's a retro style and I am not sure if it works in modern fiction (hence the post for feedback.)

  5. #5
    A few years back I wrote a book...actually I wrote it twice...but despite my best efforts the book totally flopped.
    But I always felt bad because I think I could have written it BETTER.
    So this morning after I finished up all the publishing BS I had scheduled, I took an hour to start the rewrite of that book, starting with the prologue. Eventually I may re-release that book under a new title and author.
    Is this common practice, Ralph? I ask because I've occasionally started reading a book only to discover that after a couple of chapters, the story sounded familiar. I am sure this was the case with a John Grisham book I'd already read a few years before.
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  6. #6
    Reads almost like Gernsback-era pulp. Not to my taste but could be developed.
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    "From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." - Groucho Marx

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    A few years back I wrote a book...actually I wrote it twice...but despite my best efforts the book totally flopped.
    But I always felt bad because I think I could have written it BETTER.
    So this morning after I finished up all the publishing BS I had scheduled, I took an hour to start the rewrite of that book, starting with the prologue. Eventually I may re-release that book under a new title and author.

    But here is the prologue for your viewing interests. This is rough draft; I wrote it, read it once, then posted it here.

    I am a little unsure as to how to offer feedback on this because I am unsure of what kind of feedback you are looking for. You posted this in publishing, not a workshop, so I am mostly going to try to ignore issues I see from a broad writing standpoint and focus in on what may or may not draw sales (I am assuming this will be self-published?). If you would LIKE feedback on the style and literary merits I would be pleased to offer it but I don't want to waste your time or mine.

    As a prologue it is all right. My main issue is it does not feel particularly like one. Not one I would care to read, anyway. I have no problem whatsoever with prologues being employed but my general feel for how these things work is the reader will glance at anything labeled a prologue, read a couple paragraphs or maybe a page, and if they don't feel what they are reading is necessary or interesting enough to bother with they will skip ahead. I would hate for that to happen to you as you are clearly a talented writer and the writing here is not bad. I just don't think it electrifies enough to justify inclusion as it is. Especially not as a prologue.

    A lot of it comes down to simple framing and choice-of-language. Having re-read it a few times I actually think the first couple of paragraphs are where the real problem is, and since these would also be where you lose readers that is troubling. For example, this is your opening line:

    The view out the main viewscreen was positively stunning.
    ^We are talking about outer space here, are we not? "Positively" is a meaningless steroid and "stunning" perhaps one of the more overused and insincere-sounding superlatives. I don't see any satire that might justify such a cliche so have to assume this is meant seriously and it is simply not good enough as an opener. I would either think of something that does not sound like the opening gambit from a middle-aged couple's TripAdvisor review or scrap this line as fluff.

    In addition to the millions of stars that dotted the sky, there was the bright glowing orb at the center that was the real show-stopper. Burning brightly, Sol was a magnificent example of a main-sequence star in the prime of its life. Undisturbed, it would last for billions of years, bathing its planets with life-giving sunlight and warmth until the very end.


    ^ So a couple things here. First of all "Sol". I mean, it is just Latin for "sun" and most people are aware of this. It's not really supposed to be a proper noun though, so I'm not sure why it is being used as one. You probably wouldn't name a river "River". Do realize that this is the alien's name for our sun -- but wait a second! -- these aliens happen to name OUR sun using Latin? If aliens speak Latin then why do they themselves have names like Tok and not, I don't know, Adolphus or Romulus or Adrian? Or are they adopting the human name (an obsolete one...) for the sun and that's where they got the word "Sol" from? That I can deal with, but it is not clear and strikes more that you simply decided on using the Latin name to create a sense of gravitas.

    Either way names are not the be-all and end-all by any means but nonetheless it is irksome because...this is a prologue. This is supposed to be showcasing your imagination so why not take the opportunity to make the most of it? I am not even sure I like you three-eyed aliens with names like "Tok" and "Klam" and so on because they sound generic (at least as generic as anything alien can be) but I can live with that because, well, I don't have any better ideas. But what makes this really unpromising as science fiction (again, I am putting myself in the shoes of a potential reader) is the entirety of these three sentences sounds like it has been used before in countless documentaries about space. I can almost hear Carl Sagan's voice saying it! "millions of stars dotted the sky", "bright glowing orb", "bathing its planets with life-giving sunlight and warmth". I love Carl, but what is new here in terms of observation? What insight are you offering? I need to feel that you, the writer, are excited about your work and that there's something in all this I won't get anywhere else. So far, so cliche...

    I could go on but you get what I am saying I'm sure. Thankfully it does get better almost as soon as you introduce the aliens. The dialogue is decent. It flows. I can read it without struggle. So then I would start the prologue with something like this...

    With thermoscopic vision Admiral Tok's three gelatinous eyes observed the little blue planet as it gently circled the burning orb. It was a common star in the middle of its life. A star the creatures who inhabited the little blue planet named 'Sol'.


    Right away we get a sense of other-worldliness and menace and. most importantly, character. All these things you bored me half to death with in the first couple of paragraphs basically explained in a sentence and we are straight into action. You could do better than that I am sure, but what I am trying to illustrate is to hit these triggers as early as possible. Get to the story. I don't need to know how awesome space looks (unless you can think of some mind-blowing way to describe it I have not heard before) but the image of anything with three eyes (especially grotesque ones) is going to entice a reader, as is the notion of an earthlike world being watched by a potentially hostile invader.



    Last edited by luckyscars; August 17th, 2018 at 11:51 AM.

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