Let’s start at the very beginning…

… a very good place to start.

The other day I was reading Jo Eberhardt’s Blog entitled ‘Begin at the Begining, End at the End’. She spoke alot about being able to define what a story is about and that if you don’t have the ‘beginning’ of your story right it makes the defining part just that much harder.

I have always, and I mean always, had trouble defining what my story, Ankhari, is actually about. I can tell you all the twists and turns, I know the characters inside out, but when is comes to condensing what it is about into three sharp sentences I fail (and I know I fail because I am still unable to produce a query letter that I am 100% happy with).

But Jo helped me to see that it is the beginning of my story that is the problem. As the writer, I know that my protagonist has self-esteem issues; that she would love to travel across the country for college but feels trapped by a requirement to stay close to her single mother; that she has never been kissed; that she would give anything to rise above the throng and be extraordinary – just for one day. I know all these things, but my readers don’t. Because with all the cutting and editing to get into the action of the story faster, I lost all of this somewhere along the way. My story has no beginning. If the readers don’t know who my protagonist is, then how can they appreciate her journey?

Don’t worry I plan to fix it!

While we are speaking of beginnings there is something else I would like to talk about – The Prologue.

I can honestly confess that until a few days ago I had no idea that prologues were such a big no-no. Apparently they are literary C4 (as in put one in your story and watch it spontaneously explode!). In Kristen Lamb’s Blog she details the reasons why prologues are so perilous, so I won’t repeat them here. Save to say that of the three novels I currently have in the works, all three have a prologue!

“Kaboom”

Also, until reading her blog I had no idea that readers tend to skip over the prologue – I have NEVER done this and don’t understand why anyone would. Unlike Kristen I am a big fan of the ‘set the mood’ type of prologue – they help me determine if I am going to bother continuing onto the first chapter.

Let me know your thoughts on beginnings an prologues. Am I just being overly sensitive? (don’t worry, you won’t offend me)

The Exasperated Novelist

p.s. as a side thought I thought I would provide I link to one of the aforementioned Prologues and you can judge for yourselves. Check out my blog Prologue Central.

Prologue Central

Today over on Shelley Watters’ Blog I entered a contest that required, as part of your entry, the first 250 words of your novel. As part of my entry, I posted virtually the entire prologue of my second WIP, ‘Kali Jacobs, Please Take a Seat.” It occurred to me that, perhaps, some of you may also enjoy reading it (or even better might have some ‘constructive’ criticism for me). So here is the prologue from my novel in it’s entirety. By the way this book is a Contemporary YA novel.

Enjoy

The Exasperated Novelist

Prologue

Random thoughts float towards me under a veil of sleep like wisps of cloud drifting across a mountain. I can hear only snippets of their meaning as they zoom past.

‘Life is a vast and meaningless void…’

‘Eventually all pain must end…’

‘Not everything is what it seems…’

The fog of unconsciousness lifts slowly and gradually I become aware of my surroundings.

I am lying on my back on a firm mattress; my head cushioned by a pillow; a sheet tucked securely around my body.

As my eyes flutter open the vision before me comes into focus.

The room I am in is white; pristinely white and painfully clean. Beside the bed is a complicated looking piece of machinery that beeps at regular intervals, an array of tubes and wires from the machine disappear under the sheet that covers me. Above my head a swollen bag of saline hangs on an IV pole, the tube snaking its way to a cannula in my right hand.

My thoughts are still clouded, fuzzy around the edges, as I try to determine where I am. Then as I look down at the misshapen sheet that covers my body everything comes flooding back. In that single heart wrenching moment I remember where I am; I remember why I am here. Invisible hands compress my chest.

I am in The Sydney Children’s Hospital.

I am lying in the recovery suite having just come to following a general anesthetic.

I am not the same person I was just a few hours earlier.

I force my eyes to focus on the sheet that covers my lower body; to look at the spot where less than five hours ago my left leg would have been; to look at the spot that is now nothing but a void.

Then I close my eyes and I cry.