For the last stream’s exercise, we went over something that’s a pretty divisive topic: when/how to write a prologue.
I’m not a fan of prologues. In the Ten Writing Commandments we came up with, the second commandment outright says: “Thou shalt not start thine story with a dream, flashback, or prologue. At best, thine readers will be disappointed when they start your “main story,” at worst, they will be bored, confused, and stop reading.”
I would steer all beginner writers away from writing prologues, because it’s too easy to use them as a crutch. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have a place sometimes.
So for the last stream, chat voted for a randomly-generated plotline, and then we wrote a prologue for that story. Here’s what we got: “A cowboy and a maverick heavily conspire to prepare an irritating pixie.”
It was a fun exercise, trying to think of what kind of information would be justifiable in a prologue for that story. Here’s what we came up with:
My mother, father and brother lay dying on the open plains, all of them breathing hard and baking in the western sun, their wings and antennae shriveling up from disease. And yet for some reason, I was fine. My rainbow-shimmering body glistened in the sunlight while my family, friends, and entire pixie village turned a sickly wrinkled and gray.
Panic engulfed me. I flew over to my mother and knelt beside her as she gazed wide-eyed into the sky. I clasped her hand in mine. It was cold as ice and the pulse was fainter than a whisper.
“Mom,” I said, shaking her. “Please… what’s wrong?”
But just like the others, she didn’t reply. Her chest heaved with every strained breath, as if each one would be her last. Then, with what looked like an incredible effort, she moaned a single sound.
“Human…” she said.
I leaned in close to try and hear her better. “What was that, mom? What should I do? Tell me!”
I couldn’t hear her anymore. Not because she’d stopped breathing, but because of the booming sound of rumbling thunder. But it was sunny and clear. How was that possible?
I looked to the distance. It wasn’t stormclouds on the horizon, it was something else. A herd of hundreds of horses, pulling what looked like giant white clouds. I was frozen with terror, unable to move as they came closer and closer.
When they were just seconds away, I caught a glimpse of something inside the clouds. They were creatures like I’d never seen before. They looked similar to the humans of the plains, but their skin was pale and they were covered in drapings. And they weren’t riding on clouds, they were riding on some sort of wheeled wooden wagons covered in cloth hoods. They were laughing, smiling as they advanced.
Without warning my mother shot up in a spasm, and with her last breath, screamed at the top of her lungs, “Humans! Fly, Aeria!”
Torn out of my trance, I flew away as fast as I could. Not a second too late, the wheeled beasts drove right over my family and village, crushing them in their wake. I watched from horror above as the seemingly never-ending stream of horses and humans destroyed my life.
An eternity later, the wagon train was gone. I couldn’t even bring myself to look at what they’d left behind. I flew far, far away, hoping that I would never see another human in my life.
And for their sake, they’d better hope they never saw me either.
This is an enjoyable prologue, setting up for why the pixie is “irritable” to the cowboy (since his descendants inadvertently killed their species). But despite that, I’m still not sold that it’s completely necessary. This information could be relayed later in the story, and I’m not sure if it’s worth the whiplash that will happen when the prologue is over and we start from the cowboy’s point of view.
Still, that’s a question to ask once the book is done. Sometimes writing a prologue can help you get a jumpstart on writing your story, and even if you decide it’s better without it later, it still served a purpose.
After that we moved on to today’s prompt, and chat voted for this image prompt submitted by DrCalFun: “You are an Artificial Intelligence attempting to prove that your intelligence is not artificial, when you suddenly realize that you aren’t “born” with it, but was given it by humans. This leads you to seek to uncover who gave animals their intelligence.”
I love the direction that chat led me in with this. Rather than tell the story from the point of view of the artificial intelligence, or the humans, we instead told it from the point of view of the Cosmic Intelligence, the creator that gave animals/humans intelligence.
It’s one of our shorter and more abstract stories, but I think it’s fun to explore writing in this space every now and then.
If you want to join us and help write a story by trolling in chat, or share your own writing for feedback, then we’d love to have you. We stream on Twitch every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 7:30pm-10:30pm (U.S. Eastern Standard Time).
Hope to see you next time, friend!
Scott Wilson is the author of the novel Metl: The ANGEL Weapon, forthcoming November 2018.
Featured image: Pakutaso