Writing Practice and The Muse Who Is Always There
Writing Leap #38 Re-Writing the Prologue
With rare exceptions it seems the eyes of literary agents and editors glaze over when they open a fiction manuscript and see Prologue. They may groan.
It’s just an attention grabber, a “look at me I’m a fabulous writer.”
Unnecessary background that could be weaved into the main story.
Not crucial to the understanding of the plot.
If you’ve written a prologue and it’s your “darling,” you might just ditch it. It’s hard to ditch it. But your real story will start with your first line in Chapter One. Then you can turn the prologue into a short short. Or expand it into something longer that veers in a different direction from your manuscript.
The same principles of good fiction writing apply to scenes, chapters, short stories and novels: An opening that captures the reader, a smooth story arc from conflict to resolution and a strong golden thread that holds the basic premise together throughout.
To re-write a prologue into a short short, for example, may just require a few tweaks and shifts. Great practice for your craft.
My prologue to my middle-grade novel was guilty of every prologue no-no. Full of literary self-indulgences. I loved it. I reinvented it into the short short that follows. (for more on the short short: www.writinglikeadancer.com/theshortshortstory)
Two Lizzies But Really Just One
If anyone saw Lizzie twirling round and round along the ocean’s edge, clutching a letter high over her head, they might think she was showing off for the seagulls. But she was protecting her letter from the salty spray of the summer waves as they thundered on to shore.
Imagine, an invitation from the Head of the Art Department at college.
YOU HAVE WON THE STUDENT ART COMPETITION AND ARE INVITED TO EXHIBIT YOUR WORK IN A ONE-WOMAN SHOW THIS OCTOBER.
Lizzie was alone on the beach and headed towards her small cove, a sanctuary since childhood. She rested on the silvery driftwood log, her dreaming place. The sun warmth of the log melted into her bare thighs. A seagull swooped by her. Surely his flapping wings said, “Take a bow Lizzie!”
This driftwood log has survived storms and gales, she thought. Like me. I’ve survived storms, personal storms.
She stretched her legs out onto the warm sand and fanned her feet back and forth like a windmill. Happy, she thought. I’m happy.
It surprised her to see a young girl way down the empty beach walking her way. The access to this beach through the salt marsh was a local secret.
She’s beachcombing. She watched the girl crouch down, gather stuff, examine each find, throw some back and drop some in her beach bag. The young girl walked closer.
Lizzie’s heart clenched. It was herself, her nine-year-old self. Yes, yes. There she was. The blue bathing suit with the white stripes, the red baseball cap, the sad look in her eyes as she raised her hand and waved a shy hello.
A tidal wave of love and compassion swelled in Lizzie’s heart, almost breaking it. She opened her arms wide and ran towards her younger self, enfolding her and whispering in her ear with a tenderness that made her voice shake.
“Lizzie, it’s me. I’m you when you are nineteen. It’s O.K.” She rubbed the young Lizzie’s back with soft caresses. “It’s going to be O.K.” Young Lizzie sniffed back tears.
“See what you are going to become? I’m painting. I know I’m, we’re, really good. This is how you will feel at nineteen and you will be proud of who you are inside and out, I promise.”
“But I don’t feel that way right now,” young Lizzie whispered through tears.
“Oh Lizzie. How I remember those feelings.” She touched Lizzie’s legs. “Dad calling our legs toothpicks in front of people. The teasing all the time that hurt so much. How he squelched our ideas. Fears that maybe drawing all the time was strange. But Lizzie, despite all that Dad loves us. He really does. He can’t help how he is.”
Young Lizzie managed a smile. “You are beautiful and nice,” she said. She hugged older Lizzie for a long time, then began to fade away down the beach leaving footprints in the sand.
“Please remember this moment, Lizzie,” older Lizzie called out. “If only you could. Aches would melt in your heart. You would begin to love yourself so much earlier. You wouldn’t have to wait.”
Older Lizzie sat on the driftwood log, shaken by the vision of her nine-year-old self in pain. Her tears felt hot. She took out her invitation to exhibit her artwork. She read it again. She was still happy. But mostly grateful.
LINKING THE ARTS
The Outermost House by Henry Beston