They say, "Start your book where your story begins." Sounds good, right? But what does that mean? In my original draft, I started by introducing Martin and his hometown, his parents, his school, his world. Isn't that where the story begins?
Turns out, not really. It's a book about a boy who finds a frozen egg that hatches and out pops a T. rex—but that wasn't happening until chapter 4! "Hook the readers with the egg right at the start," my critique partners told me.
I grumbled and bellyached and resisted. "I can't do that—it throws the whole timeline out of whack!" But they stuck to their guns, so I finally gave in and put the egg discovery at the beginning—as a prologue. I'd hook 'em with that, then do my setup and get back to it in chapter 4.
Uh, nope. It seems there are a lot of agents and editors—and readers—who don't much care for prologues, considering them a cheat. Dang! I realized that's exactly what my prologue was.So I bound and gagged my inner grouse, rolled up my sleeves, and did the painstaking work of opening with a bang and wrestling the timeline into place. And, after weeks of struggle, I finally had something—and to my shock and delight, it actually worked. Not only was it a good hook, but it turned out to be a pretty good intro to Martin and his world, too. Thank you, stubborn critique partners!
So, here's a sneak peek at the end of the new chapter 1. The chapter starts with young explorer Martin Tinker chasing a butterfly into an abandoned quarry—and barely escaping with his life when an icy wall of rock collapses all around him. But he miraculously ends up in an air pocket, where he finds a strange, cold, oval-shaped stone. And an instant before the whole thing comes crashing down again, he manages to wriggle out and sprint away. And then . . .
Having made it a safe distance away, he straightened up and turned to watch the spectacular scene, slack-jawed and wide-eyed. He stood there, his heart thumping like a tommy-gun, hacking and coughing from the tons of dust, until all the rocks had finally settled. So that’s what it’s like to almost die, he thought. Then he thought of what his mom and dad might do if they ever found out how close he had come to an early grave. So of course, they would never hear a thing about it.
Realizing his fingers and left side were starting to feel numb, Martin looked down at the frozen stone he had forgotten he was holding. He brushed away some frost and dust, held it to his ear, knocked on it lightly, took a sniff—but it was not a thing that would give up its secrets easily.
He knew what he would do: take it home, set it up in his backyard barn lab, and get going on some serious research.
What he didn’t know was that this strange, cold stone was going to change his life forever.
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David Fulk is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter/director, and novelist. He grew up near Chicago and has lived in Missouri, Louisiana, Michigan, California, Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, Belgium, India, and Wisconsin. He currently lives near Boston with his pet T. rex, Rosie.
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