“Prologue was very dark. Might offend some readers. Would you consider modifying or removing altogether?”
So went the editor’s suggestion regarding the introduction to my bestselling mystery, THE WRITER.
She was right. Some readers were offended. It was an intentionally uncomfortable and dark beginning to what was as a whole, a reasonably family-friendly mystery thriller. I kept it in, convinced it was essential to the primary character of Decklan Stone. Let me explain why.
Decklan is a man tormented by the past. For him, the most painful parts of that past involve water – rather ironic given he’s a man who owns his own private island surrounded by the very thing that has created in him such guilt.
The prologue allows the reader a glimpse of Decklan as a boy watching helpless as his father drowns a bag of kittens in the backyard pond of his childhood home. He feels powerless to stop it. His eyes mark the outline of the kittens’ paws as they struggle to escape from the bag.
That death by drowning is deeply imprinted upon his psyche. It follows him to adulthood and is then the alleged cause of his wife’s death many years later – a death Decklan again feels personally responsible for helping to bring about.
He is haunted by water.
My love of animals runs throughout the story and the entire series and is referenced often via multiple characters – Decklan included. The prologue to THE WRITER. is meant to be uncomfortably jarring. A reader not disturbed by the imagery would be a concern. If we are to understand Decklan the man we must first be witness to something that was so deeply imprinted upon him as a boy.
By the end of the story the death by drowning scenario comes full circle – sort of. (The prologue is in fact linked directly via song.) I don’t want to say more and spoil the ending for those who have not yet read it.
That’s just a glimpse into my own writing process. Hopefully that answers the multiple questions surrounding that particular prologue. Keep those questions coming. I love hearing from my readers!
D.W. Ulsterman is a bestselling, award-winning author and socio-political commentator.
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