NVDT #85 – Before and After

The Prompt: Prologues and Epilogues. Yes or no?

Part of Open Link Blog Hop

How do I answer that? Key Lime Pie or Lemon Meringue? Tell me sir, have you stopped beating your wife? There is no good answer.

So I figger it’s like them growed up diapers. Depends, don’t it?

Prologues are backstory or in-depth scene setting. Weave backstory into the piece or drop it in when you need it. Unless the prologue is by necessity of length and serves to define some point of “history” or “perspective” for the story. Or as writers, we find ourselves in need of ‘splaining. As my high school Great Books/English/Lit Studies teacher said, “If you must write prologues, study Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s prologues. Not Dryden’s.”

In that light not all prologues are bad. Will had reason enough to set a plain stage with words. Different stories have different set-up and detail requirements.

I thought I needed a prologue to set up book one of my “Whatever the Title” coming-of-age. Wrong. What I needed was the story of causal events for the essential characters, pre liminality. A true part of the story, not tidbits swept into a neat pile of “Before, and then this begat that and that begat those …” Most of that prologue is up  – Deanna, with Two Ns, White Lies and Dirty Laundry. Here’s my favorite chunk –

Heart

From The Hot Girl – Part One

“Daddy?” Deanna watched her father pull another card from another vase of flowers, put it in a stack with others just like it before he tossed the flowers into a rolling trash can, dumped the vase in the sink and set it on a nurse’s cart. “Why are you keeping the cards?”

Doc Collings turned toward Deanna from the other side of what had been her Gramma Cora’s hospital bed. “So your mother can send them ‘thank you’ notes.”

“Mom hates cut flowers. What’s she going to say, ‘thanks so much for sending dying flowers to my dying mother’?” She hadn’t expected him to wince.

“Flowers are okay at our house, DeeDee. Twice a year.”

“I know. Valentine’s and your anniversary. But you buy mom plants.”

“Sometimes what your mother says is okay, and what she really thinks is okay, are entirely different. She pretends tolerance for flowers on days where flowers are the norm. And tolerance for your brother or you giving her flowers or something fattening is different from her fully accepting it as okay across the board. Like with me. I don’t gamble with your mom. If I know where the strike zone is I don’t get fancy and try to throw curveballs.” He held his hand out perfectly flat. “I go straight down the middle. Living plants, in pots, are in the strike zone every time.”

Doc Collings’ stood silent. His sports analogies worked with his super jock son, but here he was lost. Alone, attempting meaningful conversation with his daughter. Who, since she’d outgrown her Sting-Ray bike and Barbies lived on an intellectual diet of Romantic poetry, art books, Medieval versions of fables and fairy tales, and top-forty radio. And until his mother-in-law’s failing health had sent her to live with them a couple of years ago, there hadn’t been anyone else in their house who “got” the post grade school version of Deanna except their black lab, Hayden.

“DeeDee,” He tossed another handful of flowers. “Your grandmother knew you cared.” He spun a guest chair around and sat in front of her. “She had the nurses hang all the art book pictures, all your notes and poems and Polaroids you brought her. She was so sick the last week or so she didn’t open anything.”

“I looked for this card forever…” Deanna stared at the unopened envelope in her lap, a thumb and finger holding it on each side. “If she’d just opened it… Maybe… ”

“There was no magic in that card that would have saved her.” He ran his hand through his hair, left it at the back of his head. “I know how it hurts when you lose someone you love. In ways you can’t explain to anyone. My parents are both gone, my brother died in the war… If you live long enough you lose people… And the truth is there’s nothing anyone can say… or do… to make it easier. I wish I could, but…” He reached out, put his hand on top of hers, took the card and gave it a long look before he handed it back. “Deanna, when things like this happen? The old saying about how ‘it’s the thought that counts’ is true. She knew how you felt, card or no card. Believe me.”

She searched his face, registered the hurt and confusion. “It’s okay, Daddy. She told me before. About her heart and everything.” She glanced around the room, landing in turn on the stripped bed, dying flowers, empty vases and back to her lost father. “And how if I gave myself time, I’d realize the heart that doctors understand isn’t the most important one I have.”

I could have gone back in time from somewhere in the middle for all of those. Not. That’s an old trick for killing time or a transparent excuse to get a (very) slow story moving.

Regardless of “genre,” the story starts where the story starts. If you don’t have a body, at least be interesting or entertaining.

As regards epilogues, my opinion is if we told the story well enough, done. Judging by a lot of current “literature” I’ve  read it seems to be okay even if there’s plot holes galore. Epilogue material should be handled in the denouement. If that can’t be done rewrite the last couple of chapters. The one exception would be a case of where, beyond the main characters, there’s an ensemble cast that contributed significantly to the whole. Like an American Graffiti epilogue. But that is far from mandatory. Elmore Leonard almost takes an epilogue approach at the end of Touch where he wraps up several main characters in the aftermath of chaos but it’s like American Graffiti, only part of the final chapter. The main players get a couple of lines and the two primaries ride off into the sunset. A “tidying up” denouement. Otherwise, as an editor once said to me, “Don’t cheat. Finish the damn story.”

Check out what others think here on this week’s

Open Link Blog Hop

NVDT Random – Character Bullpen Series – Cosplay Gone Awry

Cotard Delusion – With Backstory Freebie

Goth gone mad. A character, protagonist or antagonist, walks with a slight supination or underpronation, and feels compelled to spend their time hanging out in graveyards, refusing to eat or bathe for extended periods. Known as “walking corpse syndrome.” Or The Walking Dead as pyschosis. This character firmly believes they, or parts of their body are dead.

This is not to be confused with a death obsession or staged death enactments as cleverly explicated in Harold and Maude.

How did this character’s behavior come to be? The walk is the tell. Without standing in front of the mirror or dropping forty lines of head-time backstory between two lines of dialog or going Disease of the Week, there’s Dactylolysis Spontanea. A disease where the little toe (or even another appendage) decides to amputate itself. There is no known cure nor explanation. A disease and the resulting psychology that can be explained in a line of dialog. My toe fell off. I must be dead.

I continue to offer the Character Bullpen Series in an effort to do my part for expanding inclusivity and diversity in fiction. I feel it’s my duty since we have reached a point in extreme political correctness where a person with an incredibly rare one-in-the-whole-of-Earth’s-human-population affliction must be accommodated and granted access to fast food meal delivery through an elaborate device required by law to be installed, at considerable expense, in every greasy spoon on the planet. Just in case that one someone from, say, Zimbabwe or outer Mongolia decides to collect their ICU unit’s complete array of support devices into a van and hit the Steak and Shake in Clermont, Florida.

NVDT #84 – The Faulkner-Buck-Hemingway-Morrison-Eliot American Nobel Add-on Pack Available for Immediate Download

I knew it was coming – We’ve had this in the music business since 1998. Since the 70s if you want to get nerdy about it, since wire and tape and Musique Concrete if you’re history retentive, but let’s stay contemporary. Today it’s Download the DJ Whatsisass Producer Pack! All kits/styles played by real musicians! Up to 8 types of keyswitchable articulations for maximum expressiveness!

Seriously, a program called ACID ph1 was the first to offer operational usefulness in allowing the user to drop, tempo match and assemble slices of audio into “songs.” I’ve been saying it was coming, just like I said back in the 90s that the first people to get hardware synths into computers would be the winners. Been to a music store lately? The keyboard department is a tenth the size of the 80s and 90s. In fact a Music Director friend of mine said he’d gone into GC Hollywood and “I was like where’d all the keyboards go?”

Por exemplo – I was in an empty office the other day, fired up the TV and hit the music channels, landed on some Drum and Bass. I left 3 hours later. It was the same, long, uninterrupted song. A song anyone could download the components of for $10 and “produce” in their bedroom.

Well, what follows is the demise of the indie writers as would be arteests. Not that 98% of us shouldn’t stop polluting the internet anyway. Maybe this will do away with the overabundance of adverbs, inside out sentences, bad dialogue, hiccupping continuity. Won’t do a thing for the plethora of “I’ve got a chef or Danger Barbie and Hunky Ken, too!” clones. Unfortunately we won’t be able to spot the female ESL Hallmark moment poets from T.S. Eliot except from the comments section.

I’m already inspired by the graphic below. I see a series where a dwarf with propecia, a mangled left ear and a wooden leg wanders the underworld carrying a squeeze bottle of Clorox Gel Bleach and a magic brush looking for the one toilet ring he can’t clean. That particular toilet being his portal of escape. That is, if he can find someone willing to flush him.

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