Monday, January 7, 2013

Goodbye, Prologue.



I once read about an author who had cut something like 50,000 words while working on her 70,000-word novel, and I thought, “Ick!” How horrible to have written so much that would never make it into print. Blech. And now, here I am, reworking my own novel (again) and cutting scenes like mad.

Including my prologue.

I am unreasoningly attached to my prologue. I think my book has started with the sentence “I was not the first” since approximately forever ago. Doesn’t it just sound marvelous? Doesn’t it just make you want to read on? Isn’t it absolutely perfect? (The answer here is “yes.”) And yet, it’s being chopped. For reasons that don’t need exploring at this juncture (because that would be nearly a novel itself), the prologue is saying, “Adios.”

So, as a grand farewell, I’m posting it here. *Sniff sniff.* Goodbye, prologue, I’ll miss you.

I was not the first. Yes, I was the Beauty, the breaker of the curse, the one they write the stories about. Just not the first. But the story is much simpler that way, confined and clear. The storytellers have forgotten—or perhaps they never knew—that life is rarely so simple, so neat. So they weeded and thinned and told you a story of roses and terrible bargains and a single lonely girl with the power to break a spell with three simple words. If only it had been that easy.

I cannot blame them for their story, but you should hear the rest of it.

The first young woman to meet the Beast was named Sarah. In rather fairy tale fashion, she was collecting berries in the forest—perhaps even singing to the woodland creatures—when she lost her way. Back then, there were no rumors about magic in the woods, and the only dangers she knew of were easily avoided by watching where she stepped and listening for bears. When she discovered the faint track that led to the Beast’s home, I imagine she felt no foreboding or fear. She would have followed it until a clearing opened before her and she came upon a modest home—no great castle like the stories say—surrounded by a magnificent garden, dazzling with the colors of its summer blooms. I think she must have been surprised; she couldn’t have known that anyone was living here, so deep within the woods. I imagine it was nothing more than curiosity and friendliness that brought her to stand before the big oak door. Nothing would have hinted to her what was behind that door. So Sarah lifted her hand and knocked.

But as I said, this is not her story. It is not really the others’ story either, though I will tell you what I know of them. But without their stories, I sometimes think, mine would not exist. Were they the necessary ingredients, added one by one, to a potion so potent that it could break a terrible curse? Were they simmering together for years until finally the magic was ready for me to bottle? Without the others, would the spell still have been broken by the irresistible mix of beauty and beast? I cannot know what might have been. I cannot know the way the story might have been told, in the hands of another storyteller, at a different time, with different secrets kept or shared.

What I do know is this: This is not their story, but in a way it is. Sarah, Kerrienna, Juliet, Alara, all of them. It is their story, and my father’s and my sisters’. But, most of all, my story. The story of a Beauty and her Beast.