“Wesley” was all Anton said. Geremiah grabbed for the child as the ferry rocked and spun out of control. Still clutching the saddlebag, Wesley stared bewildered into the big man’s kind face. Geremiah slipped his knife into the bag Wesley held and lifted the tiny boy into the barrel. Anton yelled over the din of screams and cries of the passengers scrambling to cling to the out of control ferry, “Don’t fear my son. Be brave.” Together the men pounded the lid back on the barrel. “Always take care of your mother” Anton continued. “Don’t be afraid!” Steadying themselves and pausing for just the right moment, Anton and Geremiah heaved the barrel with tremendous force toward the north shore. Geremiah held his hand aloft as if willing the barrel toward the land. “Drifan.” His whisper was lost in the gale. The tiny barrel and its precious contents sailed northward over the turbulent waves.
The current smacked the ferry again and a torrent of icy water washed over, (I forget what the rule is but I know you need a comma before the majority of these types of sentences – any readers out there who know this grammar rule?) taking several more passengers with it. Anton made a grab for Broxton but the old man’s arm slid through his wet hands and he was dragged over the side. “The rocks!” someone shouted. Geremiah grasped Benji around the waist just as the ferry was jolted, smashing into the first of the boulders jutting from the frigid swells. Geremiah’s broad back crashed through the railing and both went over into the cold gray surge. The remnants of the ferry spun again exploding into splinters on the rocks.
Shouts of alarm sounded on the shore but already little was left, save debris swirling in the current and drifting toward the land; a plank of wood, a straw hat with pink ribbons, a small flour barrel bouncing off the rocks along the bank and several lifeless bodies.
My first thought is that this is a pretty darn good beginning. There are a number of elements within this prologue that could be expanded upon in the first chapter. The boy, Wesley, the gift for his mother he's supposed to keep safe, another survivor perhaps...that's the fun of prologues. How do they tie in to the rest of the story? That said, I’d suggest thinking long and hard about whether this information – the tragedy – can be imparted elsewhere, because prologues can be a very difficult sell to agents and editors. I happen to like a good prologue, but I think I’m in the minority. Anyway. If you decide to keep it, I would suggest remaining a more distant narrator and lose the description of Geremiah; it isn’t important to know whether he’s good looking. What’s important is what’s happening: the ferry is going to go down and Geremiah has to save his son and the gift – a ring – to “my lady, Mara.” The other option is to see if the information about the tragedy can be imparted another way, either through dialogue, a history lesson, research, family tales, dreams...whatever. The important thing is that if you're going to have a prologue, you have to make it indispensable to the story.
Readers, what do you think?
Oh! To see more of this story, come back on Monday when CD will be critiquing the first chapter. I know I'll be here!