Lazy, aren’t they? Just eating up a valuable fraction of wordcount you can well do without, detailing an event that is usually explained in detail and context later on. And if you’re using a prologue as an excuse to build tension at the beginning, it’s no better than the dog ate my homework. Your first chapter should tick all the boxes.
Hypocrite, I can see y’all hissing. As if I know what I’m talking about.
Today I said goodbye to the prologue of my long-suffering WIP. Well, that’s what I’m doing now. I dedicate this post to a passage of which I’m proud, but alas know I must let go.
What’s wrong with it? I brace myself for your grimaces. Not only was it a prologue, but a DREAM prologue. Stop reading if you like. I’ll probably cry, but I don’t deserve your sympathy at having dared to write such an atrocity.
Still, I’m not averse to Freudian psychology. I like a few well-constructed dreams in novels. Characters are as human as we are, and I find my own dreams far more illuminating than conscious thought. But perhaps novel dreams are poor technique, if the conflict isn’t enough set-up that it should be conveyed more directly through dreams.
I’m rambling and I don’t know what I’m talking about. I sha’n’t edit that ^^^ bit.
I was supposed to write some kind of obituary on my quondam prologue but I’m really tired (please, dear term, just end!) so I’ll just post below.
Later: in some half-remembered fit of frustration I deleted it, so here’s an earlier version from my memory stick.
The boy never got his birthday present.
Father and son drifted along the platform, anticipating the growl of wheels on the rails, holding hands, skipping cracks, watching and waiting for the train of their dreams.
Again and over again Alix screamed at them—get out! get lost! unmake themselves!
No one skipped when the first blast wrenched through the concrete. Down they slid, down into darkness.
Alix wavered on the brink. Body bleeding dry and no spirit to stem the flow, she watched man and child plummet down a throat of flames. Only her mind could contort in madness, remembering a memory not its own to remember.
Closer and closer the tremors coursed, closer and closer—the screams, the feet, closer and closer…
Then everything shattered.
* * *
Alix awoke in a cold panic.
Her eyes snapped open, seeking nerve in round black pits. Frightwaves shimmered down her nostrils: always there, just eluding her. Inside her head hundreds of dead feet pounded and pounded, a million neural bombs detonating as she pushed herself up.
Gasp by gasp, awareness returned to the dim room. The bedcovers burned grey as broken concrete, sweat smeared across the pillow in gory glowing streaks. For a moment the sound of foreign breathing shocked her, and she considered waking the man beside her and warning him it was near morning.
Then she remembered he was her husband, and they lived together in an apartment in the middle of Manchester. No train; no fire; no boy and his father.
An endless ring of moon gloated through the gossamer curtains. Alix shuffled out of bed, the clammy undersides of her feet smooching the laminate as she crept to the window. Something urged her to defy tactility and diffuse through the glass and up into the void, but Alix sealed immaterial escape with the heavy blackout blind.
Growing somewhere within her was a child: a child destined for life, destined for great and wonderful things. For destiny Alix had only respect. Though the day she found her courage would be the day she died.
A draught sent a shiver up her lean spine, and she glanced at the room’s remaining orifice: electric light smouldered day and night in the apartment stairwell, spilling into the room through the cracks round the doorframe.
Conscientiously she blocked out the light with rags from the washing basket. A backward step. It was enough. It had to be enough.
But no mind can rule its demons. Alix’s pursuers violated every barrier, surrounding her, calling out to her, cursing her child just as they’d cursed her…
The stocky shape in the bed stirred and grunted.
“Herbert,” said Alix, “it’s time to move on.”