I’m toying with the idea of crafting a new prologue for my book, and have written one as a possible. I’m interested in knowing what you think of it in terms of it doing what an opening page should do. That is:
- Story question
- Tension (in the reader, not just the character)
When I was sixteen, I got it in my head that I’d be dead before I turned forty. I don’t know where the idea came from, but I know where I was when it came. Sitting in a pickup truck on a road that straight-edged rows of corn fields. The truck was parked under a tree, although it was night and we weren’t seeking shade. The we included a nineteen-year-old guy, who liked me and I sort of liked, and my friend Karen. It was late, sometime between ten and twelve, on a summer night. The windows were down and we were smoking. Karen and me something menthol, and the boy/man Marlboros. It was warm and the night bugs were in harmony. Crickets sawed their legs in raspy unison, fireflies floated among the tassels against an inky sky, and every now and then a big fat June bug plunged through the open window and made crazy on the dashboard before righting itself and escaping out the opposite side of the truck.
With nothing to do and no where to go, our conversation grew heavy as we tried to peer into our futures, and my sixteen-year-old self turned soulful. I must have, otherwise the notion would have never been allowed in because it’s not safe to think of death when the future appears so shapeless. I wasn’t academic. I didn’t have a talent. I had no dream to follow. But in came the notion like a bull rushing the gate, invading every cell of my being the conviction that I’d die before I reached forty.
Coming in was one thing, not leaving was an entirely different matter. Even when you don’t think about it, a thought like that can shape you. Guiding choices like an unseen hand. But I did think about it. All the time at first. And, talked about it too. People thought I was morbid, and wished I wouldn’t bring it up. Looking back, I wonder if the thought of death somehow gave me power over life. I don’t know that I truly believed I was going to die, but I believed that the feeling was true. I didn’t see myself dead but rather living with death close by. Sixteen year olds are dramatic, however, and the idea of dying propelled me toward life. This story is about finding life.
Be honest. It’s okay as long as it’s helpful.