Prologue- Before the Beginning

Prologue- Before the Beginning

A Lesson by L. Fenella

The key is to be vague and not give too much away.


Prologue. The key is to keep it vague and seemingly irrelevant. Introduce something in the prologue that will be key later. In Clive Cussler's 'Sahara', his prologue involves a female pilot struggling to stay alive after her plane crashes in the desert. Irrelevant, right? Later, Cussler's hero escapes from near death with the airplane parts, which only works because the airplane was introduced in the prologue.

Here is a sample.

The black suit jacket was folded neatly on the bed. Beside it were two black metal suitcases, one open, the other closed. On the closed suitcase sat a smaller black case, big enough to hold a flute, which was open. Inside was a black Styrofoam nest. It was empty.
In the bathroom, the tap was running. A tall man in a white dress shirt and black trousers stood at the sink, humming, then broke into song.
“War. What is it good for?”
He took the hotel shampoo container and emptied it into a stainless steel cylinder, then placed the cylinder under the flow from the faucet till foam came up and over the lip. Once the cylinder was clean, he took the last of the towels, smiling at the easel card that spoke about saving the environment by using your towels more than once, and dried the outside of the cylinder. He then took the hairdryer and blew the interior dry.
His eyes were dark and gleamed with intelligence. The skin was drawn tight over his angular cheekbones. Below them, his face narrowed so much that in certain lights you could see the embossing of his teeth on the skin of his cheeks. Even clean-shaven, he was cursed with a dark beard line that only served to make his face more sculpted and severe.
When his cell phone rang on the bedside table, he carried the syringe out of the bathroom and placed it in its black nest and closed the case, before he answered the phone.
“Yes. It’s done. A policeman arrived within minutes of my call. Immaculate? the conception. Send the wire transfer now. We are finished.”
He hung up. Slipping off the back panel of the cell phone, he pulled the SIM card, laid it on the ceramic floor by the straight-backed desk chair, then slammed the metal glide of one chair-leg down on the card. Picking it up, he bent it in half and went into the washroom, where he dropped it into the toilet and flushed. Returning to the bed, he placed the syringe case and the cell phone in his suitcase, and snapped it shut. Humming again, he rolled his sleeves down, buttoned them, and put his suit jacket on, tugging each cuff sharply so that it hung a half-inch lower on his wrists than his jacket’s sleeves.
He wrote a note on the single piece of hotel stationery and propped it on the new vacuum cleaner by the bed. “My wife liked the suction, but she didn’t like the colour. Please, enjoy.”
Picking up his luggage, he opened the door and left the hotel room. “War,” he sang. “What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.”

This story, "Erasing Memory" is a modern mystery that is extremely vague for the first chapter or so. It piques your interest and keeps you reading.

So, now it's your turn. Write a vague, mysterious, gripping prologue, email it around and get feedback. Or, just go to the next lesson. (But you really should write the prologue. Even if you don't use it, it's good practice.)

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Added on January 31, 2013
Last Updated on January 31, 2013

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L. Fenella
L. Fenella

Mesilla, NM