What was my old prologue is out, and a brand-new prologue is in. My original Chapter One was moved to later in the story, and what was Original Chapter Three is now New Chapter One.
(Did you all follow that? I’m not sure I did!)
To recap, I now have a New Chapter One—a new beginning. And we all know how important beginnings are. Yes, I have a prologue, but Chapter One is still so important. When I read a book with a prologue, I look at the first chapter as the start of the real story. To me, it still has to grab the reader right from the start, or else that reader could very well toss the book and go to the next book that he or she likely picked up for free or cheap somewhere! (Sorry, got a little off topic there.) I need, and want, something that good. (And I really loved the beginning of Original Chapter One, too....sigh.)
But we soldier on.
This book is a sequel to my debut novel (Surrender to Sanctuary), and New Chapter One opens with one of the main secondary characters from that book. In fact, that same character opened the first book (in the prologue), so in a rare moment of inspiration, I decided it would be clever to parrot that opening.
Here’s the original opening from Surrender to Sanctuary:
Maxwell Davies was lost.
He squinted toward the countryside behind him, down the tattered two-lane roadway he’d just traveled, empty but for the smattering of cows and sheep grazing on the hillsides and an occasional farmer’s cottage. Ahead lay the intersection of a triplet of lanes bordered by a series of hedgerows and flowering bushes that threatened to overrun the dirt-packed lanes.
Should be easy to come up with a complementary opening, right? Not so much. I hated everything I came up with. Like these...
Maxwell Davies was troubled.UGH. Lame! Weak! Wimpy!
Maxwell Davies was desperate.No way, totally out of character.
Maxwell Davies was enraged.No!!! Makes him sound like a lunatic...and it's way too early in the book for that!
So here’s what I’ve come up with so far for my New Chapter One beginning. I’d love your opinion. Would you want to read more? (Remember: This is a first draft. Please be gentle!) :-)
Danger.So that's what I've got. Thoughts?
Maxwell Davies sensed its presence as he stood at the big picture window in his office overlooking the back lawns at Sanctuary, Virginia, a tumbler of Maker’s Mark in one hand and a lit cigar in the other. Members in tuxes and their mates in glittering gowns gathered in groups of four or six, talking, laughing, drinking, enjoying life. Others danced, their arms twined tightly around one another, on a temporary dance floor where a six-piece ensemble pumped out a steady playlist of top hits from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.
The community was in party mode, and he was late, lost in thought over the troubled waters they’d just navigated, and the murky waters that still lay ahead. Maxwell didn’t know the source, or the timing, only that every instinct screamed warning-warning-warning like a clanging bell in the back of his head. (In my head I’m hearing "Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!" ... Might want to change this line.)
Dusk had fallen, layering the sky with streaks of oranges, pinks and blues, casting sultry shadows over the celebrants. Ahead, multicolored lights twinkled in the trees lining the mighty James River, like hundreds of rainbow fireflies lighting the evening sky. Flowers in a dozen shades lined the pathways traversing the property from the river all the way to the gated entrance.
My creation, he thought as he took a puff of the cigar and savored its rich tobacco flavor. Mine to protect. Mine to defend.
Am I worrying too much? Does the first line of the first chapter have the same impact on a reader when there is a prologue?
Or maybe I just need to finish the book before spending too much time on this. I mean, who knows what might happen to Max between now and then!
Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the power of love. She blogs here on the 6th and 22nd of each month. Learn more at leahstjames.com.