Take the 2-minute tour ×
Writers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for authors, editors, reviewers, professional writers, and aspiring writers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

In the story I'm writing i have a 2k word chapter that will either be attached to my fourth chapter or be a prelude. (prologue? I'm not really sure what the difference is or if there is one.) My issue is that i don't know if it qualifies as a prelude/prologue. I'm going to post it and i apologize if its too long for what this site normally has. I couldn't find anything that specified a word count. (It hasn't been edited yet beyond myself but i am more interested in the over all story being prologue material.) Quick warning about content - It has action based violence and a couple cuss words.

Takira laid flat against the inside of the dust filled air ducts of the ship that had been her home for the last sixteen years. Three, maybe four family members scoured the room below. They’re not the brightest bunch. Not once had they considered looking up. Takira’s small stature made the ducts the perfect hiding place.

“I thought you said she was in here…” one said in a booming voice that vibrated the thin metal she was laying on.

“I swear I saw her come in here!” Shouted another.

A slight giggle forced its way up Takira’s throat. Desperately she struggled to hold it back. However, as if it were an insect fighting for its freedom she could not keep it at bay. Within her mind she imagined each person below as they stopped and looked up. She could feel their burning gaze as the realization hit them. She was in the vents and now they knew it.

She laid perfectly still, hoping that maybe with their argument that they hadn’t heard her. Takira’s answer came in the form of a loud thud as something hit the side of the duct, it groaned under the added weight. A split second passed and the duct gave way, its far end fell to the floor creating a long dusty slide.

Takira kicked her boots out into the sides of the now slanted duct in an attempt to keep from falling right into their waiting hands. It was a fruitless effort as year’s worth of dust that caked the walls trembled and fell.

“Shit,” she mumbled under her breath as her momentum pulled her towards the ground.

Copious amounts of powderized debris rolled out of the shaft ahead of her, blanketing the room. Takira pulled her limbs close and hoped there wouldn’t be any grasping hands waiting for her the second she was in view. Seconds later, she whooshed out of the shaft and onto the floor, surrounded by four gagging family members. So caught up in their choking and coughing that not a single one noticed she was sprawled out right in front of their faces.

Takira didn’t wait. She jumped onto the air duct and climbed, out of their reach. Each step sounded like she was stomping her way down a hallway, echoing in and around the hollow duct. If they hadn’t noticed her before, surly they would now.

She quickened her pace as hard plastic bullets zipped by her body and the sounds of gunfire deafened her ears. Ahead of her, she spotted her only escape, the doorway to the corridor.

The duct flew to the side as someone below rammed into it, sending Takira tumbling off the edge. On instinct, she grabbed at the first thing she saw, a thin chain that dangled from the ceiling. Its links clanked together as her momentum sent her swinging back and forth. A sharp piercing pain raced down her arm and back as a bullet skimmed over her bare shoulder, splitting the skin and breaking her grip. It was a brutal reminder of just what was at stake: her life.

Her back slammed into the floor, the force compressed her lungs and forced out every tiny morsel of precious air. Takira didn’t have time to lay around gasping for breath however, as bullets ricocheted all around her. She scrambled back to her feed and darted for the safety of the hallway, quietly thanking whichever god was on her side for giving them all such horrible aim.

Takira clamped her hand down over her shoulder wound as she rushed through the opening and into the corridor. She didn’t dare give herself the chance to slow down, the others were right behind her and the corridor was far too exposed.

Rounding the closest corner her eyes scanned for a new vent. A jet of fire shot past her face. Her nostrils filled with the stench of singed hair. Takira jumped backwards, and lost her footing on the smooth deck plating. Falling backwards, she saw standing not more then ten feet up the hallway was her father. A toothy grin spread across his face and a makeshift flamethrower held in his hands, he readied for another shot.

“Hold still for Daddy,” he said, raising the tip of the gun.

If it wasn’t for the fact that he was trying to kill her, Takira might have laughed at the sheer corniness of what he said. Instead, she rolled backwards, springing back onto her feet and ran. Tiny droplets of flaming liquid splashed off the ground onto her pant legs.

She ignored the pain as they burned their way through, leaving hot bubbling embers stuck to her skin.

With the flamethrower constantly spraying fire all around, her there was no way she could get into a vent. Takira grumbled and charged forward trying to move side to side to keep him from getting an easy target.

Up ahead she spotted her only hope, an open doorway with a pitch-black room beyond. Takira leapt through the door, landing on the hard grate-like flooring. Instantly she heard what sounded like something winding up. In the center of the room, a small object sparked and whirred as it began generating power. She could hear her father right behind her, there was no choice. She kept running hoping to beat whatever was about to happen.

The room lit up as her father sprayed molten fire rained down around her, the room was barren, save for the object in the center. It grew louder and faster with each passing second. Thick blue arcs of electricity began leaping from the device and sparking with loud pops as they connected with the deck. She heard her father break into thick laughter as the arcs continued to grow larger, dancing across the floor in all directions. “Money well spent!” he said.

As she ran by the device, her leg passed through one of the arcs. Her muscles tightened and cramped as she crashed to the floor. Takira’s fingers trembled with panic as she clawed at the grating using all her strength to pull herself forward. More arcs danced across the floor, burning her leg as they passed over her skin.

With droplets of liquid fire, still falling around her she pulled herself forward refusing to give in. Finally, Takira gained enough ground to be free of the electrical device. Up ahead she spotted another door and just as she was getting the feeling back, she heard a loud ‘ding!’ She planted her still weak feet into the deck, and jumped for the opening.

The device exploded.

The shockwave sent her flying through the door, and she slammed into the hallway wall on the opposite side.

Takira’s body shuddered as she forced herself to her feet, there was no time to sleep no matter how exhausted she felt. Her body ached from numerous burns, and at least a couple cracked ribs but she was still alive; if only by a little bit.

She limped forward, using the wall for support. Every step was agony, as if she were walking waist deep in hot coals. It was so much that she didn’t notice a wall directly in front of her, and walked face first into a thick glass window. She blinked, confused as all she could see was her own reflection. Her face was covered in muck and blood oozed from many fresh cuts.

Then she saw something spectacular, behind her reflection loomed a giant green and blue planet, like a gemstone hanging in the blackness of space. They had arrived and in turn, she had survived. The signal blared across the ship.

“Still alive?” her father asked as he calmly walked up the hallway behind her, his voice dripped with disappointment. “A pity…” he said as he grabbed the back of her shirt and began to drag her down the other side of the hall. “Now we have to waste an escape pod….”

Her father had never liked Takira. She was far too petite for what he considered a true Barbarian.

He drug her down the length of the hallway to where an escape hatch hung open, the pod inside was hardly big enough to hold a single person. With a rough flip of his meaty wrist Takira was flung inside, “Do me a favor,” he said as the door began to shut, “Don’t come back.” With that, he turned his back.

“Wait!” An old woman walked toward her father, dressed in fine robes that covered her frame. On top of her head rested a pure white animal skull. “I believe you forgot this,” held in her hands was the reason Takira went through such a difficult trial. The heirloom, passed down through the family, the sentient rifle Thor.

“You were planning to kick her out without this, weren't you.” Her voice shook with anger as she walked to the closing door and slipped the weapon under. “That is no Barbarian!” her father bellowed, pointing back at Takira.

The elderly women punched him across the face. He staggered backwards and Takira’s mouth fell open.

“She survived, that’s Barbarian enough,” the woman said.

The door sealed shut. Takira had no idea who the woman was, but she liked her. The pod rattled as it popped free of the ship. Through the window she could see her home growing smaller as the pod drifted closer to the planet. Black scorch marks littered its hull and large metal patches were strewn about. Barbarians weren’t exactly known for their repairs.

Soon her view vanished behind flame and smoke as the pod began to enter the planets atmosphere.

Takira bounced around inside the pod as if giants were tossing it back and forth. The turbulence would have been enough to make her sick, if she had anything in her stomach. She had no way to tell where she was going or had the knowledge to steer the pod. All she could do was strap herself in, clutch her new weapon in her arms and wait to hit the ground.

The pod slammed into the dirt and Takira caught a glimpse of trees as her momentum shot her forward against the seat straps. A loud explosion took her by surprise as the door blew off and cold forest air rushed inside, bringing with it an overwhelming smell of pine.

With the door off, the pod was no longer safe. Quickly she slung the rifle over her back, and she began to climb out.

“Changing of ownership protocol initiated,” chimed her weapons AI in a dry electronic voice. “Accessing DNA… creating new genetic profile, Takira Wolf… Done… Returning to stand by mode.”

Standing on top of her pod, she looked across the horizon. The sun was high in the sky, blocked by a belt of thick rain clouds. Each of the many treetops swayed with the cool wind. It was mesmerizing.

Takira forgetting the damage her body had suffered, slipped down off the pod and fell into the moist dirt. She smiled ignoring the pain and hands ran through, for the first time, real dirt. Movement caught her attention as a well-armored figure stepped from the tree line, covered head to toe in body armor. The armor blocked its race and gender from Takira’s prying eyes.

“Who the hell are you?” She drew Thor and jumped to her feet.

A mechanical voice erupted from its helmet, “My employees call me ‘The Doge’ and I’m an explorer, scientist and some times a teacher. And who is it that has so gracefully crashed into my forest home?”

“The name’s Takira” —she took a step forward— “and what the fuck’s a teacher?” Doge laughed raising his hands, “Now now, there’s no need for hostility. Tell me, young Barbarian, do you know anything about Earth?”

Large drops of water ran down Takira’s face as cold rain began to fall. “How'd you know that I’m a Barbarian?”

“Who else would point a gun at the first person they saw?"

Takira’s cheeks flushed and she lowered the rifle. “What’s Earth?”

Doge held his arms wide, “This young Takira is Earth, the lost human homeworld!”

The events of the main story take place four years after this.

share|improve this question
    
Let me ask you: Why do you think it would be dis qualified? A prologue, literally, is "before the words" -- text which you are reading before the story starts. It doesn't have to be chronologically prior, although it usually is. If you stick it before "Chapter 1," it's a prologue. –  Lauren Ipsum Mar 15 '13 at 17:11
    
I had heard that the prologue should pose a "super question" that the over all plot would answer. I assume it should also serve as the hook since it would take the place of the first chapter. I'm just not sure if this would perform that task or not. –  Lokiie1984 Mar 15 '13 at 17:15
    
I have never heard of the prologue posing a super question. I can see how it should be a hook, but if the book has no prologue, the first chapter has to serve that purpose, no? It's not like the prologue replaces the first chapter. –  Lauren Ipsum Mar 15 '13 at 18:10
    
Yea i just meant the hook would be in a different spot. Would that up there hook? Lead you to want to keep flipping pages? Assuming grammar and everything was taken care of. –  Lokiie1984 Mar 15 '13 at 18:24
    
Tightened up a little to make the last line more of a punch, yes, that's a nice hook. It would work fine as a prologue. –  Lauren Ipsum Mar 15 '13 at 20:22
add comment

1 Answer

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Whether you use this section as a prologue (I think prelude is more commonly used to refer to music) or a flashback is ultimately a stylistic and structural decision that depends on the overall flow of your book. I find myself rearranging/moving chunks of text around quite a bit while editing. That said, as a reader I prefer books to be told in chronological order unless there is a clear reason to do otherwise. It's just less confusing. I would suggest you consider the following questions:

  1. Are the style, settings, and characters of this "chapter" so different from the main book that this section could create misleading expectations in the reader (you don't want readers to get attached to Takira and be super annoyed that she's suddenly no longer the focus)?

  2. Does this section create a suitable introduction to the characters/world/themes/problems of your book, or is it more of a narrow info-chunk that shouldn't be given the prominence of a prologue? If it's too narrow, you might want to edit it to include ties to the overall book (for example, including a introductory sentence or two that explains who these people are and how they are examples of the type of folk who people your world). Prologues sometimes contain info that that sets the thematic stage for the book, and introduce that kinds of ideas/personal challenges that the characters will struggle with, even if the main characters aren't in the prologue. Is there a way to do this with your piece?

By the way: Takira is certainly an interesting character. Her extreme casualness in the face of death is a bit startling!

share|improve this answer
    
To answer your first question, Takira is the main character of the book. The story revolves around her and Thor entirely. As for your second, this would also serve as a slight reveal at the end. Doge serves as her mentor and the main villain, which that part could come later through a flash back i think. I actually have an idea for the spot it could go in too. As for Takira herself i'll give you one of her quotes. "Besides what do you think barbarian families do when they aren’t out raiding? Fighting and killing one another is just another Saturday afternoon…" –  Lokiie1984 Mar 15 '13 at 17:18
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.