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I’ve debated back and forth on whether to start my novel with a Prologue or Chapter 1 (even wrote a post on Prologues here). The story told in Hope and Faith actually begins with Lorraine Dugmore’s wedding. Whether a Prologue or Chapter 1, the opening Salvation is brief at a little over 1000 words. Set 6-7 years prior to the actual story beginning, it provides some history and setting.

I’ve posted it following and would appreciate your feedback.

  • Are you pulled into the story enough to want to read more?
  • Do you care about the characters?
  • Does the dialog feel real?
  • What do you think the story is about?
  • Does Salvation feel more like a Prologue or a Chapter 1?

And without further ado…

_________________________________

Chapter 1 or Prologue

SALVATION

Ten year old Lorraine Dugmore stroked the pedals of her AMF Courier, thankful for her cousin’s hand-me-down with its five-speeds and sleek design. The wind whipped through her chocolate colored hair in a pulsating rhythm. Cally was keeping up; Lorraine heard the reverberating tick from Cally’s bike as the playing card clipped to the frame caught the spokes. Lorraine’s sister lagged behind.

“Wait up, you guys,” Phylis called.

“Hurry up! I want to tell Mom and Dad the good news!” Lorraine coasted just long enough for Phylis to catch up.

“I still don’t see what’s the big deal.” Phylis said as they rode by Cally’s house. Cally waved goodbye and pedaled into her driveway. Lorraine and Phylis continued to the corner of Richland Street, to their home, it’s white aluminum siding and black shutters an alluring backdrop with the white picket fence.

“That’s why they just talked to us big kids. You’ll see when you’re older,” Lorraine said as she hopped off her bicycle and parked it under the carport.

Phylis rolled her eyes. “I hope you’re not turning into a Jesus freak like that girl Cindy. Nobody likes her.”

“Just come on.”

Lorraine heard the TV once inside and ran through the kitchen to the living room. “Mom! Dad! I’ve got great news!”

“Shh,” her mom glared at her. “We’re watching the news.”

“Good luck,” Phylis whispered as she headed down the hall to her bedroom.

Lorraine walked over and sat next to her dad. “Dad, guess what happened at vacation bible school today?”

“Not now, Lorraine, didn’t ya hear your mother?  The news is on. Wait till commercial, OK?” He patted her on the knee without taking his eyes off the television, then itched his nose. He had recently quit shaving his upper lip; the new growth created a shadow of a mustache.

Lorraine turned to the TV.  Lesley Stahl, CBS news anchor, reported from Washington that five men were arrested for breaking into Watergate hotel and office complex, home of the Democratic National Committee offices, while Walter Cronkite warned of higher retail prices for beef.

“But this is really important,” Lorraine said.

“Shh,” her parents chimed.

She sat down to wait, staring at the television screen but not paying much attention.  When finally the commercial came, her father stood and crushed his empty Falstaff can with his hand.

“I have something to tell you,” Lorraine said as she hopped out of her chair.

“Gimme a minute, honey, I need another brewski.  Harriett, ya need one?”

“Yea.” Her mom inverted the can to her mouth and guzzled the remaining liquid, then handed her dad the empty.

“Well, hurry up please, Dad,” Lorraine said as she settled back down and slouched into the chair.

When he reentered the room with two fresh Falstaffs, he popped the tops off and handed one to her mom. “Now what’s it you wanna tell us? But make it quick cause the news will be back on in a minute.” He sat down.

Lorraine stood in front of her parents, shoulders back and head held high. She took a deep breath. “Mom, Dad,” she smiled and looked from one parent to the next, “I’m saved! At vacation bible school today, they asked us older kids if any of us wanted to ask Jesus to live in our hearts, and well, I said yes.  Can you believe it? Isn’t it great?”

Lorraine stared into two blank faces, jaws dropped. “Did you guys hear me? I’m saved.”

“You did what at vacation bible school?” her dad asked.

“I asked Jesus to live in my heart,” she answered quietly.

“So this is what we get when you go to vacation bible school with your little friend, Cally? I knew this would happen.” Lorraine’s dad slammed his can down, beer sloshing onto the coffee table. “I told you this wasn’t a good idea.” Her father pointed at her mother. “But you said let her go.”

“I thought you and mom would be happy,” Lorraine said. She looked from her mom to her dad. This wasn’t going how she had hoped.

“Happy? Hmpf,” he said, “Well, I’m not. We don’t even go to that church and…”

“Yea, I know dad, but we don’t go to any church anymore. And this is a big deal. Jesus is living in my heart now and isn’t that what’s important?”

“Don’t you interrupt me, missy,” he said. “Is that what they teach ya? To interrupt your parents? This whole thing is mighty sneaky if ya ask me. I’ve got half a mind to call ‘em up and give ‘em a piece of my mind. They didn’t even talk to us first.”

“Calm down,” her mom said. “It could be worse.  I mean, getting religion is a good thing, isn’t it?”

“Well, I think our church would’ve been a better place for our daughter to make these type Christian decisions, don’t you?”

“I’m just saying,…”

“I know what you’re saying, but you’re wrong! Do ya hear me? Her decisions about religion should come from our church.”

Her mom started to say something and her dad butt in. “You never thought our church was good enough, did ya?” He staggered a little as he moved closer to her mom. “Well, thanks to you we’ve all quit going, and now our daughter’s being converted to a completely different religion.  For all we know, they’re heathens.”

“You’re getting carried away,” her mom said as she took a step backward.

Her dad’s face turned bright red. “You’ve got no idea what you’re talking about, woman. Why’re you sticking up for those heathens? What’s wrong with you?”

The bedroom door in the hallway flung open and Phylis yelled, “Mom! Dad! Quit fighting! I can’t stand it anymore.” She had tears streaming down her face.

Her dad glared at her mom, and Lorraine watched as the red faded from his face. But his scowl did not soften.

Without a word, he turned and left, letting the screen door slam behind him. Lorraine heard the tires squeal as he raced out of the driveway.

“I’m sorry, Mom,” Lorraine said.  “I didn’t mean to start a fight.”

“It’s OK, it’s not your fault.”

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I’ve mentioned before, I am a visual person. peperwork

As I do my business development work (writers often have two jobs – one for income; the other, writing, is for pleasure), I spread my pitch points, brochures, introductory letters, and notes over my desk so that I can reference these documents during my conversations with prospects.

If I’m calculating whether or not my family can afford the deluxe vacation or something more economical, I will create excel spreadsheets of the expenditures for the visual I need to make the comparison.

And even though I have created detailed character biographies, as they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and so it is with me in my writing. I peruse the internet in search of the perfect picture of my character, print it, and make it available as I write. Sometimes I can just look at the picture, and know that my character would never do what I was about to have them do, or vice-versa, that they would actually take it a step further.

In my last posts, I talked about using questionnaires to develop character, and describing character through actions (showing) versus narative (telling). Observing people in public places can also be helpful. What other ideas or methods are there in creating and developing meaningful and real characters?

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My friend and fellow HFC writer, Gary Denton, has an enjoyable blog that chronicles his journey of writing a modern-day sea-faring adventure novel. His most recent post contains a must-see film clip for anyone that realizes the importance of chosing the correct words. Visit his blog, Journey to Good Hope to watch the film. And while you’re there, take a look around Gary’s blog for any and everything nautical.

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Prologues – Good or Bad?

Are prologues good or bad? There is certainly argument on both sides of the camp, but rather than rehash here, Nathan Bransford has done an excellent job describing Prologues on his blog post, Prologues.

I have debated on whether or not to start Hope and Faith with a prologue. Right now, there is a prologue, but of course, this is a work-in-progress so it may not stay. My reasons for including a prologue are:

  1. It gives a feel for the protaganist’s childhood and family. Since the story starts with the protaganist leaving the childhood/family situation, the prologue gives insight into what that life was like.
  2. There is a major story element that is not re-introduced to the plot until much later in the story, and without the prologue may feel like it was coming out of nowhere.

What are your feelings about prologues? Can they work or are they a distraction? Is it asking too much of the reader to start reading from a prologue and then start again at the 1st chapter? Would love to hear your thoughts.

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