PDA

View Full Version : Critique: too short for a prologue?


SFFWorld.com
Home - Discussion Forums - News - Reviews - Interviews

New reviews, interviews and news

New in the Discussion Forum


Pages : [1] 2

elphyon
May 18th, 2007, 05:39 AM
Here's a quickly pumped out prologue to my Tower of Babel Chronicles, book one.

----------------------------------------------

The valley was filled with death, yet it seemed to hunger still.
On both sides two great armies stood, a thousand banners decorating the dusky sky above them. Each army was comprised of many strange creatures of various metaphysics—humanoids, half-humanoids, monstrous beasts—awaiting yet another clash of arms.
Almost at the same time, there came trumpet-like blasts from both sides, and soldiers of armies made world-shaking roars. Yet another charge, one more fray. Arthur steadied his horse Iago and made his lance ready. His lance-arm was sore, and dents in his armor prodded about his chest. There were also few cuts on his hips and an arrowhead in the left shoulder. He shut down his visor. Weary or not, he was ready.
Besides him were hundreds of lean humanoids mounted on large cat-like creatures with long silky fur. The riders had skins of rainbow, the color constantly shifting as they reflected the red-golden touches of the sinking sun. Before too long, before the battle’s end, they’d all be scintillating with yellow moonlight. If they're are still alive, Arthur thought grimly. These men simply shattered into pieces when they died. He never got used to that. It made him uneasy.

The riders were naked save for their loincloths. Arthur envied their hard skin; he was the only one among the Lightriders who bore the cumbersome weight of plates. Good thing Iago was big and strong, Arthur thought. And smart.

“All right, Art. Let’s get going eh?” said Iago, shaking his plate-clad head.

Arthur responded by spurring Iago’s side gently. Since they found each other, the horse and the knight had become of one body and mind. Together they had made a humorous pair on roads; but in the face of the battle, here at the Great Valley of Akroe today, they made a fearsome pair.

Arthur raised his left hand high in the air, readying his men. Through the slits of his helm he could see the enemy footmen beginning to rush down the valley. They’d be taken care of by the Karl’hashtar’s Bladesmen at the Babylonian center, he knew. Not many could stand against these men, whose very limbs turned to deadly blades in battle. They would hold, Arthur judged. Him and his Lightriders, the right-wing cavalry of the magnificent Babylonian army, was needed elsewhere. Wait and flank the enemy? Arthur made a quick prediction of the battle. The enemy’s left cavalry was all but broken. Their center was about to engage his own. There. Arthur found his targets emerging on the far ridge. Crossbowmen. He decided to charge the unsupported from the flanks, once the footmen were locked fast in the middle. Obliterate and withdraw to the right, quick and hard. Good.

"Almighty Lord..." Arthur muttered, out of habit. His God meant nothing, he knew; 'God' was imprisoned. Had been, for aeons. Yet Arthur could not help but make a quick prayer.

"Men!" shouted Arthur, his arm slashing the warm air.

As the bloodstained land beneath shook, the knight and the horse led seven hundreds Lightriders in yet another blinding charge. It was nothing but glory and death, death and glory.

Under the dying phoenix of the sun, blood ran in rivers. Another battle had begun, and the night was long.


----------------------------------------------

Obviously I'm going for the hooking effect. But I could of course go on, through most of the battle ensuing here. Then it'd be about 4-6 pages long, a full chapter's length. What do you think? I'm open to suggestions.



I want to hide next lines for someone who hadn't read the first 5 chapters I put on here. It would be whole lot more interesting if you can read them first then come back for this bit of spoiler.





*spoiler*






I'm hoping that the prologue part will help the reader get through the first few chapters, hopefully thinking that Arthur is the amnesiac "I". After when they find out that "I" isn't likely to be Arthur in chapter 5, I think that in itself could be another hook.

James Carmack
May 18th, 2007, 10:13 AM
To answer your main question succinctly... Is it too short for a prologue? No. You're prologue could be one daggone sentence and still work if you played your cards right.

Can it be longer? Yes. Nothing's stopping you from making it longer, but I would think it better to keep it on the short side, particularly if your goal is to build mystery.

If you want the reader to confuse Micah for Arthur (rightfully or wrongfully so), I would close not in the dreamy fadeout you used, but suddenly, in the heat of the battle. Arthur is in a pitched duel when a great shadow overcomes him. His true enemy has arrived. He charges at his mighty foe and... nothing. We're not told what happens.

Turn the page and we've got Micah waking up all thrashed from God knows what and then he stumbles on a dragon in its death throes. Hmmm... Rightly or wrongly, conclusions can be made...

My vote? Micah is Iago. A human outworlder turned sentient horse turned human again. Brilliant. Until you meet the kids, that is, which brings us to the story of that one nut with his equine satyr. ^o^

As a side note, why do I get the feeling I've read this before? I'm either prescient or I've got a really jacked up memory. -_-;

metalhd4ever
May 18th, 2007, 02:36 PM
Certainly I can't or would never disagree with James lol lol. I can say that I do agree that a prologue can be any length. It's whatever you want it to be. For complete mystery, I think the shorter, the better.

I, personally, like to write one of small length. A few pages. Tell a small story that will tie into the main plot later in time. I like to attempt to give the reader something to look forward to learning about when they get to Chapter 1. IE: I wonder what that whole battle in the prologue was actually about??? etc.etc.

Either way it becomes personal preference. That's my 2 cents even if it's worth 1/2 a penny :)

elphyon
May 18th, 2007, 02:44 PM
Nice insights yet again, James!

Actually I had in mind a course of battle in which Arthur and Iago are assaulted by a dragon, kills it but becomes separated from the rest of the cavalry, and surrounded by walls of the enemy. Then the fade out... But it was going to be three in the morning here and I was just tired. :p

The shadow bit might fit better for what I have in mind for Arthur, actually. But in that case I have to justify the force behind the creeping shadow in the long run, right? I do have some power/forces of darkness but for some reason I cannot disclose they cannot be present at the battlefield just yet.

I must say, Micah-being-Iago notion strikes me as something hilarious (and clever too, but I laughed so hard when I read it the first time). Iago is a sentient being turned to a horse, you got that much right. His motif would be the Greek stories of metamorphosis and the horse-famous hero Deomedes.
I'm really trying to work all kinds of myths into my novel... that is a significant and crucial task for the theme I'm trying to get across.

I'm afraid that I don't know the story of the one nut and his satyr. Which one is that? Haha, sounds like fun.

elphyon
May 18th, 2007, 02:50 PM
metalhead forever, I think your 2 cents are worth more like urr, 2 cents.
Haha. Don't be modest in giving feedback. I think your suggestion is excellent.
Short and tight for the mystery hook, with hints of what the heck was going on in the following chapters. Sounds like a solid structure, if not by-the-book. But I suppose that more than often that's a good way to go.
I'll try to work it with a few twists. Thanks again for your feedback!

Holbrook
May 18th, 2007, 03:24 PM
Can I make a couple of suggestions.

The use of "seemed" here The valley was filled with death, yet it seemed to hunger still. weakens the stength of the sentence, you sound unsure.

Maybe better The valley was filled with death, yet hungered still.

Also Almost at the same time, either they were or they were not, one followed the other, by using almost, again is makes you sound unsure of what was happening.

Be positive in your writing!!

elphyon
May 18th, 2007, 03:50 PM
Holbrook, thanks for the comment.
I deliberately chose those words as to convey the mood of uncertainty.
Both armies had engaged each other many times, as the dead corpses and run-down condition of Arthur imply. The battle's not concluded, and it could go either way. Also I'm a bit apprehensive about personifying the valley in such a bold and direct way. I prefer to employ a filtered, realistic view in my third person narrative. My first person narrator in the following chapters will show more directly poetic approach to his surroundings.

I did however fix the trumpet sentence, into "Suddenly there came trumpet-like blasts from both sides, and almost instantly soldiers made world-shaking roars." Almost at the same time was a very dull phrase.

Thanks again for your insight. If you'd like, could you read more of my work?

Happy writing,

elphyon

elphyon
May 18th, 2007, 05:24 PM
So I decided that I like it longer and tighter (no, not like that!:eek:). What do you think?


-------------------------------------------------------------


Book 1: The Golden Bough and The Ivory Gate


Prologue


The valley was filled with death, yet it seemed to hunger still.

On both sides two great armies stood, a thousand banners decorating the dusky sky above them. Each army was comprised of many strange creatures of various metaphysics—humanoids, half-humanoids, monstrous beasts—awaiting yet another clash of arms.

Suddenly there came trumpet-like blasts from both sides, and instantly soldiers made world-shaking roars. Yet another charge, one more fray. Arthur steadied his horse Iago and made his lance ready. His lance-arm was sore, and dents in his armor prodded about his chest. There were also few cuts on his hips and an arrowhead in the left shoulder. He shut down his visor. Weary or not, he was ready.

Besides him were hundreds of lean humanoids mounted on large cat-like creatures of long silky fur. The riders had skins of rainbow, the color constantly shifting as they reflected the red-golden touches of the sinking sun. Before too long, before the battle’s end, they’d all be scintillating with yellow moonlight. If they're still around, Arthur thought grimly. These men simply shattered into pieces when they died. He never got used to that. It made him uneasy.

The riders were naked save for their loincloths. Arthur envied their hard skin; he was the only one among the Lightriders who bore the cumbersome weight of plates. Good thing Iago was big and strong, Arthur thought. And smart.

“All right, Art. Let’s get going eh?” said Iago, shaking his plate-clad head.

Arthur responded by spurring Iago’s side gently. Since they found each other, the horse and the knight had become of one body and mind. Together they had made a humorous pair on roads; but in the face of the battle, here at the Great Valley of Akroe today, they made a fearsome pair.

Arthur raised his left hand high in the air, readying his men. Through the slits of his helm he could see the enemy footmen beginning to rush down the valley. They’d be taken care of by the Karl-hashtar Bladesmen at his army’s center, he knew. Not many could stand against these men in melee, whose very limbs transformed into deadly blades in battle. They would hold, Arthur judged. He and his Lightriders, the right-wing cavalry of the magnificent Babylonian army, were needed elsewhere. Wait and flank the enemy? Arthur made a quick prediction of the battle. The enemy’s left cavalry was all but broken. Their center was about to engage his own, now. There. Arthur found his target emerging on the far ridge. Crossbowmen. He decided to charge the unsupported line of missle infantry from the flanks, once the footmen were locked fast in the middle. Obliterate and withdraw to the right, quick and hard. Good.

"Almighty Lord..." Arthur muttered, out of habit. His God meant nothing anymore, he knew; 'God' was imprisoned. Had been, for aeons. Yet Arthur could not help but make a quick prayer.

"Men!" shouted Arthur, his arm slashing the warm air.

As the bloodstained land beneath shook, the knight and the horse led seven hundreds Lightriders in yet another blinding charge. It was nothing but glory and death, death and glory.

They rushed down the valley, making a slight curve and avoiding the central battle altogether. The dead bodies and wasted arms of war laying all about the ground were nothing but nuisance for Iago and the mighty panthers of Doriban.

At the flat bottom of the valley, the Lightriders encountered a small group of retreating enemy.

“Art. Should we—?” asked Iago, obviously eager to run down the enemy with his mighty hoofs.

“No, we let them run.”
“Huh… Oh I know! You want to use them as meat shields, eh?” Iago’s neighing was like a chuckle.

Following Arthur’s lead, the Lightriders chased the routing footmen. The slope soon came to an ascent, and as the enemy footmen struggled uphill, the ones that fell behind were ruthlessly thrashed by Arthur’s cavalry.

“Easy, Iago. Don’t press too hard.” said Arthur, slowing Iago down. The riders behind him immediately matched his speed. Moving like a giant snake of pure force, the Babylonian cavalry made a smooth climb up the hill, almost slithering.

Up ahead on the ridge, Arthur saw the crossbowmen loading their weapons. They’re going to kill their own! The realization came as a shock. Arthur spurred Iago with the back of his boots, hard.

“Ouch, Art! If you want to speed up, you could just tell me, man!”

Complaint or no, Iago quickly accelerated, almost doubling the pace. The riders followed behind, making a terrifying, high-pitched shriek as they raised their thin javelins. Momentarily they were running over the routing footmen, cutting them down like blades of crop in a field of bloody harvest.

Arthur looked ahead. The bowmen were gearing up their crossbows, now. Ten seconds, Arthur thought, just ten seconds…

Few stray shots flew toward Arthur, but none caught him. The bowmen were about to launch a deadly volley… We’ll have to make it, Arthur told himself. We’ve got to…

And the charge.

“Booo-ya!”

As Iago screamed with excited, Arthur’s lance penetrated a bowman in the chest. With a heave Arthur threw the dead man away, leaking entrails and all. Picking up speed once again, he opened a path through the enemy line. His riders followed dutifully, wreaking havoc with the poisoned tips of their javelins.

After the fourth man Arthur’s lance finally snapped in two. Arthur drew out his blade in a quick snap. Time to go now. Decapitating a running enemy in a silvery slash, Arthur issued a command: “Withdraw! Reverse formation! Withdraw!”

The riders responded immediately. With a quick turn, the end of the charging rank became the spearhead. Throwing their javelins to the backs of their enemies, the riders began their withdrawal. Arthur and Iago ran at the very end of the rank, falling all those who fell before their path. With Iago’s speed, Arthur’s blade of the Lake flashed with breathtaking force and precision. The lines it made in the air were as graceful as they were fatal. A morbid piece of poetry in motion.

Just a few more paces, Arthur encouraged himself as Iago crushed a bowman beneath his hoofs. Once out… Arthur decided to make a downhill charge onto the exposed rear of the enemy infantry. That might just win the day, he thought. He was almost out now; the downward slope was closing fast, just beyond a mound of disfigured corpses. He would make it, yet again…

But his optimism was instantly corrected.

“Shit!”

Iago cursed and made a desperate stop, and the inertia threw Arthur off his back. Instantly, the Lightriders just a couple paces before Arthur were struck by a thunderous force from below. Both mounts and riders were sent flying through the air, utterly crushed. Suddenly, Arthur found himself facing a fearsome two-headed wyrm, alone. The enemy line closed shut behind the body of the beast, which was slithering out from underneath the ground. Arthur was surrounded.

“My God…”

The wyrm opened its mouths and let out a dreadful howl. Beyond the claging fangs and red flesh, it was black, so black, as the starless night he had once seen…

“Art! Art! Damn it!”

Iago’s voice was somehow very distant. Arthur saw the beast’s serpentine heads approach, darkness seeping from its throat…

In the middle of the valley, battle waged on. Blood ran in rivers, under the dying phoenix of the sun. Battle was not yet over, and the night was long.


Chapter 1


I woke up without a memory.
I was lying on wet ground, and before my eyes was a net of twigs and leaves, pale light barely leaking through it. Four words came to me slowly: This is a forest. A simple but encouraging thought; my brain was still functioning. I lay there for a while, trying to remember who I was, and how and why I’d awakened in a strange forest. Blank. Whatever was inscribed on the tablet of my memory had been painted over, it seemed. The content was there, I knew, but I just could not reach it. That was good enough, for now.



--------------------------------------------------------------


Hooked? Not hooked?
Thanks for reading, and don't hesitate to leave feedback!

Physics Knight
May 18th, 2007, 07:17 PM
Keep in mind that this is just my preference, so I mightn't be right!

It is not so much the lengh that's the issue, but the subject matter. I don't like books that dump you immediatly in a battle. It's too confusing, and I'm not rooting for anyone. Greg Keye's Briar King opened with a battle. It was confusing, clumsy, and I didn't care about the people in it. I would have put the book down if not for a friend's recomendation, so I kept reading and the book was good after all that prolgoue.

Your opening description is too vague, and clashes with the very selective pov of being in Art's head. You brush with bold strokes and generalities, when I think for prologues something simple and personal is needed. Not that you should have a long and detailed description, because those bog down the books! But a balance. Maybe it'd be easier if you opened with Art in the command tent, or around a campfire with his buddies or something, right before the call to arms is sounded.

Some nit-picks, are metaphysics and boo-yah appropriate to the context? It seems like it is set in a historical world, in which case those words are out of place.

elphyon
May 18th, 2007, 07:36 PM
physics knight, I'll keep your suggestion in mind.
I think I agree that I should begin with Arthur's perspective immediately.
But I also like the beginning lines and the structure it provides in conjunction with the final lines. But I could certainly devote a couple more paragraphs so that the readers will sympathize with Arthur right from the start.
Thank for your valuable insight. I truly appreciate it.