Seems like every piece of writing advice I stumble upon lately has one thing in common: ditch your prologue.
Especially if you’re a first time writer. Especially if you’re querying (this article sums it up pretty nicely). In my massive (to me) cutting down of my novel, I decided maybe I should follow that advice. I chopped out my prologue.
Then I happened to mention this decision to a few of my beta readers. The response?
“I LOVED the prologue! You need to keep it in!”
Even my friend the self-proclaimed “prologue-hater” said, “You must keep the prologue. It added a lot to the story and I kept thinking back to it as I was reading.”
So I added the prologue back in…
But now, the more I query, the more rejections are coming in (5 so far! Though I’ve also gotten 2 “please-send-me-mores” but those have not yet turned into offers of representation.) So should I cut out the prologue entirely? Cut it out for the query process then try and sneak it back in once I get an agent? Or stick to my guns and leave it in from the get-go?
This is my prologue, for anyone who cares to read. What do you think?
The train whistle blared in the distance, a piercing, lonely cry in the empty gray morning.
The platform was vacant save for a small group of people silently watching the approaching train. A man stood with his arms crossed, his face overshadowed by a wide-brimmed farmer’s hat. His eyes were the color of a storm at sea, the expression in them a hard, weary ferocity. Next to him stood a tall woman in a blue traveling coat, her white-streaked copper hair coiled under a matching blue hat. Her back was straight, her chin held high, but the corners of her pale blue eyes were lined with sadness and the hand clutching the valise next to her trembled.
At the woman’s side stood two small children. The little girl’s chin quaked as she looked up, her red curls whipping in the wind. A tear was threatening to spill down her cheek when the little boy, black hair blown askew, reached out and grabbed her hand. In a stroller next to them a baby with a tuft of black hair slept fitfully, now and then reaching up one tiny fist to rub his eyes.
Neither the man nor the woman spoke. The gray mist swirled around them, wet and cold, colder than usual for that time of year. It was almost as if it knew.
As the train grew closer the man turned to the woman, the fierceness in his eyes gone to be replaced by an aching sadness.
“If I can ever come to you again—”
“You cannot,” she said. “You know you cannot.”
The man tore his gaze from hers. He reached down to touch the top of the little girl’s head, threading one red curl through his fingers.
The woman looked down and smiled faintly. “Mes amours.” Then she looked the man in the eye. “And if anything should happen to me—”
“I will never let anything happen to you—”
“Mon chèr,” the woman said, reaching out to touch the side of his face. “Please let me finish.”
The man was silent. Under her hand his jaw trembled.
“If anything should happen to me, I will send them back here. To you.”
The man looked away. The hardness returned to his eyes. “When I find him—”
The woman touched his chin, forcing his eyes to meet her own. “Listen to me. If you remember nothing I’ve told you—”
“I remember everything—”
“If you remember nothing else,” she said. “Remember this: do not let it consume you.”
The man seemed about to say something else but another whistle pierced the wet gray air, louder now. They watched as the train rumbled into the station and slowed to a stop.
The doors slid open. The man picked up the valises and carried them onto the train. Then he turned to help the children board as the woman pushed the stroller in ahead of her.
He stooped down to kiss each child on both cheeks, swallowing hard as he looked into their small, uncomprehending faces. Then he pressed his lips to the baby’s forehead. The baby’s dark eyelashes fluttered but did not open.
As the signal that preceded the closing of the train doors chimed like a funeral bell the man stood up and pulled the woman to him with a crushing ferocity. She returned his embrace, a tear stealing down her composed face as she pressed her cheek to his.
He released her, stepped off the train and stood looking at her from the platform, his eyes bright. “My love will always be with you. Even though I will not.”
“I love you,” she said simply. “I always have. And I always will.”
The doors closed and they looked at each other through the glass as the train pulled away from the station. The man watched as the train grew smaller and smaller. He did not move even after it had reached the bend in the tracks and began slipping, car by car, over the horizon and out of sight.
As the man watched the last car disappear, a ray of light broke free of the clouds and slanted down to earth, gleaming an instant.
Then it was gone and the sky was dark once more.