Monday, 11 June 2007

Pesky things, prologues...

My heart tends to sink when I open a book and there's a prologue. Frequently one can make little sense of them, and their significance only emerges well into the book.

But yesterday I found myself writing one for the start of Rising Fire, in an attempt to minimise the amount of back story in Chapter One.

It's brief, and not too gnomic. See what you think...


Poised on the balls of her feet, absolutely still and intent, Tor faced Attalor, feeling the unfamiliar weight of her new sword; at thirteen, she was just big enough for an adult one. Rain still dripped from the trees edging the clearing, though the sky had cleared; she was wet to the skin, her threadbare clothes offering scant protection.

Stealthily, Attalor edged sideways, trying to get her to go where the shafts of sun would shine in her face. He was a foot taller than Tor, with a warrior’s strength and speed. His eyes under fierce brows never left hers. She stood her ground, knowing he was choosing his moment to strike, and she must be ready. She grasped the hilt in tense fingers. Now! As his blade came down, hers rose to meet it, blocking his thrust and riposting.

He stepped back, lowering his weapon, and broke into a smile. ‘Well done, Tor. Soon you’ll be too fast for me. That's enough for today.’

‘Let me try again. I can do better, I know. I’m just getting the feel of it.’

Attalor laughed. ‘We’ve been here since dawn, I need another breakfast, and I’m sure you do too.’

‘Just once more?’

‘Have pity on your old grandfather. We'll come back tomorrow.’

‘All right. Let’s get some eggs on the way home.’

‘Sorry, Tor, I’ve no money. We’ve still got some bread.’

Tor grinned at her grandfather and fished about in her deepest pocket, then produced a silver sixpence in triumph.

‘Where did you get that?’

‘The squire’s hawk was stuck up a tree, right near the top, tangled by its jesses. I climbed up and got it. He was grateful.’

‘Eggs it is then. Clever girl.’ He ruffled her damp hair, and they left the forest and set off for Cramble, the small village where they lived.

Attalor went in to the cottage to get the fire going, while Tor slipped next door to their neighbour who kept a small flock of hens. She knocked and went straight in. Maddy looked up from her spinning wheel and tut-tutted.

‘Look at the state of you, Torbraya! You’re filthy, and that tear wasn’t there yesterday when I patched you.’

‘No, it got caught on a branch.’

‘Come here, let me look. You’re wet through! What’s your grandfather thinking of? He should have more sense, you’ll catch your death.’

‘S’okay, I’m fine, I just came to buy some eggs.’ Tor held up her sixpence. Attalor was very particular about paying their way. He did not mind Maddy patching Tor’s clothes, but he drew the line at his granddaughter being given food as though they were beggars. Maddy fetched a bowl and put a dozen eggs in it, grumbling the while.

‘He’s got no idea, that man. He shouldn’t be bringing you up, it’s not right. Teaching you to fight every day as though you were a boy, what’s the good of that? Addling your brains with reading and writing, too, there’s no sense in it. Who’ll marry you, that’s what I want to know, when you can’t cook or sew to save your life? Where’ll you be once he dies and you’re on your own?’

‘He’s not going to die, so it doesn’t matter.’ Tor took the eggs and handed over the sixpence. ‘I’ll bring the bowl back tomorrow, is that all right?’

Maddy took three pennies from her purse and gave them to Tor. ‘Mind you change into dry things the minute you get next door.’

‘Will do. Thanks.’

Tor whisked out of the cottage before Maddy could remember that she only had one set of clothes.


  1. Does it need to be a prologue and not simply Chapter One that occurs much earlier in the story?

  2. Hi Lexi,

    Didn't know you were on-line journaling (I am boycotting the other word). The covers of your books need no apologies, they look great. I am jealous of your verdant workspace.

    I haven't read through all of your excerpts yet, but have enjoyed what I've read so far. I'm a prologue fan, so you know where I stand on this bit.

    Any chance of spacing between the paragraphs for the sake of older eyeballs?


  3. Alan, your wish is my command.

    The spacing has been altered.

    (Older, indeed - the man's a spring chicken).

  4. I echo Alan's sentiment about the cover work (I may have previously echoed, in which case, I will echo my echo).

    I wish I could yodel.

    - Norm

  5. Thanks, Timber.

    As I say to my daughter when trimming her hair, there may be better hairdressers, but you can't fault the price or the convenience.

    (She never tips me, either...)