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  1. #1
    Sheila Leverson

    Your opinions solicited

    Here is an attempt at a prologue, or perhaps it will turn out to be a flashback. It occure several years before the main story begins.

    I would love to hear a general critique, but would also be interested in these specifics (I've never written fiction before): Does the language and hints at setting convey the fact that this is the rural south? Does it sound cliche? Is the evil in the boy portrayed satisfactorily? Does it make you long to know more?

    Thanks in advance...


    Granny Blanche washed potatoes in the kitchen sink, peering with irritation through yellow gingham curtains at her young grandson in the back yard. He was playing with his metal cars behind the farm machinery, smashing them into each other in imitation of spectacular high-speed crashes. "Them movies is a bad influence on the young 'uns," she observed to herself.

    "Elliott!" she called sharply through the open window. "Put your toys away now and come on and help Grady and me shuck this corn."

    Elliott deliberately ignored her: he always did. She had had it up to here with him-- he was a bad boy, come from bad seed, and that was the God's truth. She had happened upon him just three days ago, in the back pasture. Sickened, she watched as he threw seven tiny, frightened kittens high into the air one by one, attempting to ring them like horseshoes onto the horns of the bull. He was a dead aim. The two kittens that managed to escape a sickening death on the sharp tips of horn were trampled by the enraged animal seconds later. Elliott laughed victoriously at each kitten's death, jumping and clapping with glee. When he finally caught sight of Granny Blanche he smiled an enigmatic smile and ran off into the orchard.

    She had scolded him firmly when he returned to the house at suppertime, taken a switch to his legs, sent him to bed early. Two days later she found him with a butcher knife, bathed in blood, cutting the eyes out of a 3-day-old piglet. The old sow was not five feet away, squealing ferociously at the end of her tether. And just yesterday he had set fire to the bedroom curtains while Grady slept. If Emmett Hartshell hadn't come up on the porch right about then the whole house would've burnt down.

    He might be her grandson, but that boy was just a whole lot of bad. Granny Blanche was not about to relive the past.

    "We gonna have us a showdown, son," she muttered to herself. She wiped her hands on the muslin apron, hung it on the peg beside the back door, and stepped outside into the late afternoon sunshine. The big red Farmall caught her eye. "Boy, if you don't get inside the house right this minute I'm goin' to drive this here tractor right over you, you hear me? "

    Elliott shrugged and hunched over the miniature vehicles; made loud vrooming noises with loose lips, splattering saliva on the red dirt.

    Hiking up her calico skirts, Granny Blanche climbed resignedly onto the tractor and observed him for a moment from her high perch. The giant rear wheels towered over the boy, swallowing him in shadows. She pushed the starter. The boy still did not move. The diesel engine sputtered briefly, then settled into a constant rumble. Making peace with her conscience, she put the tractor into gear, pumped the accelerator, and let the bright red beast feed on his stubborn, sinful body.

  2. #2
    Gary Kessler

    Re: Your opinions solicited

    I'd have to see what it's prologuing (meaning how it's used to offset the body of the work). It doesn't read like a prologue to me. I suspect as a prologue it should just be dramatically and baldly showing one of Elliott's cruelites rather than telling us a story about them.

  3. #3
    Sheila Leverson

    Re: Your opinions solicited


    Thanks for your thoughts. I thought I should put several things into motion here. First, there is Granny Blanche's past experience with other evil-- I hoped to make my reader wonder what that was all about.

    Second, I wanted to establish the sense of the south in the late '50s, early '60s as I remember it, highlight attitudes of the grandparent generation of that time.

    Third, it is not every day that a grandmother thinks that killing her grandchild would be better than letting him live an evil destiny.

    The main part of the book would begin a few years later. Elliott survives the "accident"; his grandmother may not. Nevertheless, it is a turning point. Because of his injuries he is held back in school and will graduate at the same time as his younger brother Grady. Also he will attain his interest in medicine because of his relationship with the doctor (that relationship would not have occurred had it not been for the extent and nature of his injuries, or the simple fact that they existed). Also, his experience with his grandmother teaches him that there are, in fact, consequences for his actions; teaches him to be less obvious, and sets his character up for his actions in the future.

    Still not prologue-y? Better handled differently?

  4. #4
    Gary Kessler

    Re: Your opinions solicited

    Yeah, I think it's too much to cover in a prologue. A first chapter can be a "years early" section just as easily.

  5. #5
    Jillian Eaton

    Re: Your opinions solicited

    I agree with Gary. It reads a little strangely to me too... not sure why. I love the last paragraph. It gave me the chills!! Something like this would really work (at least for me as a reader -- the first few sentences where more for my benefit, just trying to play around and see where the prologue could go without the first seven paragraphs).

    Granny Blance watched her young grandson playing in the background, her face set in a scowl. She had already called the boy twice for dinner but as usual, he ignored her. The screen door slapped loudly behind her as she stomped onto the front porch and down the steps. Hiking up her calico skirts, Granny she climbed resignedly onto the tractor that was sitting in the corner of the yard and watched her grandson for a moment from her high perch. The giant rear wheels towered over the boy, swallowing him in shadows. She pushed the starter. The boy still did not move. The diesel engine sputtered briefly, then settled into a constant rumble. Making peace with her conscience, she put the tractor into gear, pumped the accelerator, and let the bright red beast feed on his stubborn, sinful body.

    This prologue would really make me sit up and take notice. Why would a grandmother do that to her own grandson? Is she crazy? Has he done something to deserve being mowed down by a tractor? Is he crazy? Etc. Etc. In my opinion, prologues are supposed to make the reader go "what?!" and leave them wanting more... which is why they continue on to read the book. Just my $.02.

  6. #6
    Joe Zeff

    Re: Your opinions solicited

    That's one way a prolog can work, but there are other ways. I remember one, once, that showed a girl being hired as a maid in Victorian London. It gave you the impression of a happy, upper-middle-class family that would treat its servants as people, and give them the respect and consideration they were entitled to. Then, you started the first chapter, and found out that you were wrong. Very wrong...

  7. #7
    John Oberon

    Re: Your opinions solicited

    The boy wasn't trying to ring the kittens on the horns, he was trying to skewer or impale them, right? That whole senario strikes me as highly implausible. To impale just one kitten would be miraculous, let alone five. I'd have him try to impale them, but fail at every attempt. Then let the bull trample three or four, but not all. Other than that, not bad. No prologue though...just chapter 1, and reveal this scene in the course of the story. Why on earth does everyone want to write a prologue?

  8. #8
    Battle Angel

    Re: Your opinions solicited

    I have to agree with John on the 'ring the horns' thing. (My mind stumbled over that too.) Except that the boy is way more likely to be trampled by the bull than the kittens. But then, I guess your book would be over before it started.

    Hmm, I'll have to ask my brother, now, how bulls react to kittens.

  9. #9
    S B

    Re: Your opinions solicited

    I’m no internet troll, but I’ve got to be honest here. This thing you dare to call a “prologue” or a “flashback” is simply terrible. I agree with the notion that kitten-ringing is far-fetched, but that isn't the tip of the proverbial iceberg for me.

    The conglomeration of the paragraphs tells too much and too little. Don't just broadside the readers with bloody incident after bloody incident as if in a frantic attempt to @!#$ on us in as few words as possible.

    I don't get a real understanding of the environment or the characters. The occasional "hot" or "bright" or "square" helps most of us. But what adjectives are used strike me as unnecessary. If their toy cars, they're always slightly metal regardless. Cars bring chrome to mind for a great many of us. So "metal" is awkward, as if you're asserting that these cars aren't like the usual cars. If you must use an adjective their, let it be “big” or “filthy” or something of the sort.

    Plus, the length of it is hideously condensed.

    Also, make the items belong to the people. Why are the cars the boy's or "his cars", but grammy's apron is just an apron or "the apron"? And if its not hers, say "an apron hung over her [adjective] neck", anything to add meat to this scant sliver of fiction.

    And, on another note, don’t you thing the “I’m an evil child and the superstitions were right” is a bit overplayed? There must be thousands of movies and books about this topic. You should watch The Exorcist, or The Ring, or The Omen, or practically any movie on the horror isle, and if you frequent the horror isle, you ought to shut your mind off to obvious influence when you write. Judging by your submission, you should write by the notion: “if it’s been written before, it’s probably been written better than I could rewrite it” or perhaps the notion: “if it makes me feel sick and weak-kneed when I write it, I probably shouldn’t attempt to make a career of it, since I’d essentially be thrusting my pelvis at my potential readers and inviting them to experience an altogether make-believe world of sadism and masochism involving children that I bafflingly choose to spend my valuable time creating”.

    You wanted this writer’s opinion, so let me condense it for you: if putrid, old men like you never write another word in their lives, they’ll have written far too much.

  10. #10
    S B

    Re: Your opinions solicited

    Or putrid, old women... for that matter.

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