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Short Fantasy/historical Prologue

This is the prologue of my story (just 461 words). I may turn it into a flashback chapter and make it longer, or I might just scrap it altogether. ๐Ÿ˜‚ This piece was really just me trying to get used to the setting and tone of the book. It's not a final draft or anything yet.

I've written a lot of romance in the past, so I wanted some advice if I'm handling the mystery and suspense elements correctly here? (There may also be some horror undertones in future chapters, so I'm trying to create more tension in general). This story is a fantasy/historical 18th century. Opinions on it would be appreciated. ๐Ÿ˜Š

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Replies (14)
  • Hi Fiona - my honest reactions are: on the one hand, there is little wrong with the writing that the usual self-editing can't fix. It's readable, there are some nice details that augur well for more to come (we need more of the nitty gritty of place and characters, mind.)

    On the other, it's a case of 'suddenly, nothing happened'. It's all very well to create a sense of foreboding, but not at the expense of starting the story. We aren't yet identifying with the characters, so the tension has no focus. It's also implied that actually the story has already started - because surely it kicked off when they found Lady Warren dying? So as a prologue it's confusing, and seems to be in the wrong place on the timeline.

    I'd say dive into the story in the traditional way. Establish place and period. Let us get to know (and like) the protagonist/s. Then get to the inciting incident. There's your opening...

    Also, what is at stake for them? Is finding Lady W a problem? Were they, or might they be held, responsible? Did they see her murderer? Did they witness magic and risk being accused of witchcraft? Was she their benefactor? Or all the above... think of Brienne witnessing Renly's murder in GoT. That kicks off her story big time.ย 

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    • Thank you so much for the feedback! :) I felt something was off, but I couldn't quite pinpoint what was wrong and how to fix it. Think I got too carried away with the whole "mystery" element that the story was just running away from me. ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿคฃ This was definitely a huge help! Thank you again. I'm going to do some serious revising now haha. ๐Ÿ˜

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    • Hi Fiona. I very much agree with Glyn. This felt like an excerpt plucked randomly from a longer piece of writing. If the death of Lady Warren is the start of the story, then set the scene, establish the characters and make that the inciting incident. The story can then unfold chronologically.

      Another consideration is prologues seem to be out of favour with agents at the moment.

      Good luck with it.

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      • Thank you for the advice! I am currently working on setting up the scene more ๐Ÿ˜Š This prologue takes place in the past, and the story really starts in chapter one 5 years after this incident, with subtle hints to what happened to Lady Warren spread throughout the story. I will definitely take into consideration that agents aren't big on prologues. If anything, I can move this prologue further in the story to become a flashback chapter. Thanks for the heads up about that!

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      • Hi Fiona, I really liked this! I do definitely get a sense of mystery out of it. Iโ€™m asking myself who is Lady Warren, why is she dying, who exactly is this Aiden, what faerie curse? And I get a small sense of foreboding too: the fact that someone is dying (and screaming) and Liam and Saige are hiding by a barrel does add up to make me feel things are not good. And I sense thereโ€™s a bigger, darker issue with the mention of the faerie curse, and with the mention of Aiden, but itโ€™s not being revealed, only hinted at which builds up the mystery. I do think though, that it needs a bit more setting for me and a little bit more detail on the characters, and as Glyn put it, โ€˜What is at stake for them?โ€™ But I suppose if you do choose to put it in a chapter later on in the story, Iโ€™m guessing the rest of the story around it will have built up the needed details. I kind of think it would be better written as a longer scene in a chapter just so that we can get the full details surrounding it, but on the other hand I think this does a good job at engaging the reader from the get go and makes them want to know more. Ultimately, I guess I have to suggest keeping it as the opening to the story, but adding more of the detailsโ€ฆ a bit more setting, build the characters a bit, and whatโ€™s at stakeโ€ฆ. Perhaps not a prologue then, but lengthen it to become Chapter 1? It really did hold in me in suspense. Good job! Tammy
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        • Thank you so much for letting me know I managed to get the mood right for the prologue! ๐Ÿ˜ I am currently working on getting more of that setting and characterization in. "What's at stake" has definitely hit the nail on the head for me haha. It will be what this prologue really needed most. I'm not sure how well this would work for chapter one, as this prologue takes place 5 years in the past, so chapter two would immediately jump into the future and remain there for a majority of the story. ๐Ÿ˜… But I will definitely play around with this to see where it fits best in my story. Happy to hear it was a good attention grabber though! Thank you again for the advice. ๐Ÿ˜Š

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        • I can't add much new really, Fiona.

          Glyn's initial advice is good - it needs tightening but it's well written generally. You do need more than scene setting to open with, though not necessarily a battle or anything huge, just enough intrigue to make people read on.

          As for prologue - Steve is right that agents seem to be jaded by prologues. And you have to ask yourself what this adds - do you really need this snippet before the 'real' story starts. Just start the story and weave back story in as you say.ย 

          Plunge straight in, I say, and be assured you have some solid craft in place to take forward with you

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          • Yes, establishing more of the story does make a lot of sense to me now ๐Ÿ˜Š I'm in a spot where I still have a lot of wiggle room to move things around, so this prologue can easily be placed later on in the story if need be, with a lot more depth added. Thank you for the solid advice!ย 

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          • Hi Fiona, I felt that aspects of this were interesting and intriguing but my take on it (for what it's worth!) is that you need to start the engine. In other words, the reader is not sure what matters or why. Intrigue is good but I think you as the writer have to be certain what is at the centre of it and why you want to put it foremost in your story. ย That can only be to hook the reader, surely. It's hard to work out what that is when you're writing, I know. After I'd finished my manuscript I researched for about the tenth time, first lines in novels, went back and changed the first line and title completely. I may have to do it again, perhaps. ย As the saying goes, first line, first paragraph, first page, first chapter. Keep writing and good luck with your work.

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            • Yes, I'm definitely beginning to understand that the story direction is unfocused here, and therefore confusing. I received similar advice from a teacher a while back when I took a creative writing class, but didn't understand what he'd meant at the time. Now, it's clear! ๐Ÿ˜Š I'm very happy to have received such clear feedback from everyone haha. Thank you for the advice. :)

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            • Hey Fiona, I agree with all the advice above. It's intriguing but doesn't draw me in. I'm a hard nut to crack, I needed more than intrigued because anyone can do that. In the first page, it's about connection. So if you're going to do a prologue, be wary of it. Scrapping it, in most cases, is never a bad idea.

              For starters, I read that first sentence twice because, without context, I couldn't instantly visualize it. It's not against any writing law, but it's those things that can pull a reader away before they're started.ย 

              Anyway hope this helps

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              • Prologues seem to be a big issue with agents and I had no idea before! I've been taking in everyone's advice possibly scrapping it, and rewriting chapter one to work without a prologue. I think it's going well so far, so I'm happy about that :) Working on that new first line. Fingers crossed it doesn't disrupt the flow as the other one did for you lol I always freak out over first lines in novels. This was helpful advice! Thank you for your input. ๐Ÿ˜Š

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              • Hi Fiona,

                I really like your final paragraph it is by far the strongest. I also like some of your details such as the mud caked skirt. I think this piece definitely has potential.

                Something that struck me was that some of your chunks could be broken into smaller, clearer sentences. For example the sounds of the orange sunset are confusing since sight and hearing are being conflated. It would read better, I think, if you gave details about the noise, then said separately something about the time of day/colour.

                I also think maybe saying a simple "she will die soon enough" before mentioning the faerie curse would give more grounded dialogue.

                I liked a lot of the contrasts (rough/kind, dark/colour) they added a lot of texture. I also liked the involuntary frown though I think maybe a simpler phrasing would give better flow.

                My only other comment is to loose some of the unnecessary details. Your world is obviously fully formed in your mind but what are Liam's hairs or clean britches adding to the scene/atmosphere. In some ways they undermine the tension/flavour.

                Good luck and excellent work all over!

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                • Oh that makes sense with the visual and sound confusion lol. I have the kids work by frequently cleaning the roads for people, so I can probably remove those little decriptions about their clothing here and add it to a scene with them working (That way it'll make sense why I'm bringing up those details haha). Thank you for the feedback! It's nice to hear more things I can do to clean up my writing. ๐Ÿ˜

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