Thursday, February 4, 2010

Prologues n' Pirates

The other day I swapped prologue drafts with Joylene Butler & we each made comments back & forth. Really cool. Hers is awesome by the way. Some writers & readers dislike them, think they're "info dumps". What do you think?

What if you want to explain how something came to be without interrupting the tone & pace of the main story with an early or midpoint narrative? For BAD LATITUDE I wanted to explain how a certain stash of gold & gemstones came to be hidden in an abandoned burial ground on Rattlesnake Island (a real place 2 miles from my home) so I went back to the 1696 shipwreck of The Reformation, used a real person (Solomon Cresson) & created a "story" mixing fact, fiction, action & a wee bit of tension. Provide the info without being dry - that was the goal anyway.

(1st paragraph - click book pic to read the whole thing from the excerpt)

24 September 1696

There was no escaping the hurricane’s fury. Disaster struck when the center mast snapped, toppling with a thunderous crash as the doomed ship listed hard to port, exposing its massive keel. The hull’s planking splintered inward from the pounding of the raging seas, flooding the cargo holds, forcing the crew and passengers to scramble from the shelter below into the teeth of the violent storm. Solomon Cresson, a stout member of the crew, was the last to climb the twisting ladder to the deck above. With the Captain of the ship missing and presumed lost, Cresson took charge. He shouted above the gale, ordering all aboard to stay with the ship for as long as there was a structure to grasp. The listing vessel was aground in the shallows, beam to sea, being smashed by fierce waves and buffeted by driving winds as the passengers clung to the fallen rigging, struggling for survival against the rushing flood, and collapsing timbers.

Now for RECKLESS ENDEAVOR my main character Jack, the descendant of the pirate Calico Jack Rackham, will be, shall we say, spending quality time with his dead anscestor. To set the tone, I wanted to put the reader on the gallows with the old scalawag in November of 1720 but also needed to provide some relevant info to be used later, without interrupting the flow of the story with a 'flashback'. Since the prologue replaces chapter one as "the first impression" the goal is to draw the reader in & make them want more. I guess there's a risk. In my opinion, the prologue needs to impact the story, can't be a cheap down payment followed by a droning bait & switch. So here's the opening paragraph of the prologue for RECKLESS.

 1720 Gallows Point – Port Royal, Jamaica

A thick rope made of hemp and flax was cinched tightly around his neck, biting into the skin while a thinner cord bound the gnarled hands painfully behind his back. Calico Jack Rackham, condemned to suffer a pirate’s death, stood weak-kneed on a wooden platform in the blistering heat facing the sea, his weight temporarily supported atop a trap door. Soon the flap would fall away and he would plummet into the open void beneath the gallows. He prayed that his neck would snap with the plunge, rather than strangle in agony while blood vessels and capillaries burst and hemorrhaged.

So what do you think about prologues? What purpose should they serve? Should they be avoided?

Just wonderin'........