Posted by: Robin Koontz | March 2, 2012

To Prologue, or not to Prologue…

I’ve wrestled for months about using a prologue for Hot Walker. To note, a prologue counts as a chapter. If an agent or an editor asks for “three chapters” and you have a prologue, that means “prologue and two chapters.” Really, if you try to push the envelope, you’ll come off as someone who can’t follow directions and mar your chances with this nice person who has agreed to read your stuff if you simply follow their guidelines. Do I sound preachy? Sorry, but I’ve broken rules over the years and have lived to advise you not to do it.

So. What does a prologue accomplish? It’s usually too much telling and completely unnecessary, as if your reader is not going to figure things out as she gets into your story. But it can also be the grabber that makes the reader get into the story, a little glimpse into what is to come. Me, I love prologues, so even though most editors hate them, I decided to use one for this story. I can easily ditch it if someone says “This ain’t working.” I’m easy.

Here is my prologue. In this case I hope that it sets the mood for how Wiley feels about racing. I don’t want to bring down the reader, but since the story is very positive and fun otherwise, at least at first, it seemed that Wiley’s feelings should be put out there from the starting gate, so to speak. Thanks for reading, and your comments are welcome.

PROLOGUE

My first horse race was also my last. I weaved my way through the crowd and claimed a spot close to the finish line just as the starter pistol popped in the distance. Thundering hooves joined the chanting from the crowd of people around me. As the galloping horses flew past, mud flying and crops slapping, I clamped my hands over my ears.

The race was over in a flash, but the noise still pulsed in my head. Some spectators were turning away in disgust; others were hugging each other and laughing or crying. Still more were shoving people aside to get to the betting windows. The winning team was escorted back to the waiting fans by the finish line.

The jockey was plastered in mud. He was smiling, waving, and accepting handshakes and flowers from atop a glistening black two-year old colt. The young horse’s nostrils flared red, dripping watery snot with every gasp. His long legs quivered with each suck of his breath, and he was favoring his right front. His thin barrel, drenched in sweat and mud, heaved under the tight girth.

But the triumphant look in that winning colt’s eyes revealed nothing about the beating that his young body had just undergone. The look seemed to say: I run to win, or I will die trying.

I slowly nudged my way back through the throng of people and headed to our barn. Randy looked over Jack-o-Lantern as I ducked into the supply room.

“Hey, Wiley. What did you think of your first horse race?” Randy bowed his head to try to get a look at my face as I walked by.

I avoided him and grabbed a rake, concentrating on smoothing out hoof prints from the horses I walked earlier. I obliterated my prints, too, and honed in on sleepy snorting and hay munching. This was the kind of noise I preferred.

Finally I looked up at Randy and tried to smile. “It was okay,” I said.

“Yeah,” said Randy.

I think he knew exactly how I felt.


Responses

  1. I know nothing, except that this grabs me in every way.

    It is a beautiful, moving essay just as it is with nothing needed before or after.

    Just remember, I know nothing.

    • Thanks so much, Shari. If it grabs you, then it’s working! Every reader’s response matters.


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